Verbatim report of proceedings
PDF 1857k
Tuesday, 17 June 2008 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Decision on urgent procedure
 3. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (announcement of motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes
 4. Common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (debate)
 5. Adoption by Slovakia of the single currency on 1 January 2009(debate)
 6. Composition of political groups : see Minutes
 7. Voting time
  7.1. European Network and Information Security Agency (A6-0245/2008, Angelika Niebler) (vote)
  7.2. Lighting and light-signalling devices on two or three-wheel motor vehicles (codified version) (A6-0233/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)
  7.3. Lighting and light-signalling devices on wheeled agricultural or forestry tractors (codified version) (A6-0235/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)
  7.4. Roll-over protection structures of wheeled agricultural or forestry tractors (static testing) (codified version) (A6-0234/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)
  7.5. Mergers of public limited liability companies (codified version) (A6-0236/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)
  7.6. Legal protection of computer programs (codified version) (A6-0237/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)
  7.7. Reciprocal recognition of navigability licences for inland waterway vessels (codified version) (A6-0238/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)
  7.8. Safeguards by Member States within the meaning of the second paragraph of Article 48 of the Treaty (codified version) (A6-0239/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)
  7.9. Veterinary checks in intra-Community trade (codified version) (A6-0243/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)
  7.10. Marketing of material for the vegetative propagation of the vine (codified version) (A6-0242/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)
  7.11. Community procedure to improve the transparency of gas and electricity prices charged to industrial end-users (recast version) (A6-0217/2008, József Szájer) (vote)
  7.12. Nominal catch statistics in certain areas other than those of the North Atlantic (recast version) (A6-0218/2008, József Szájer) (vote)
  7.13. Catch and activity statistics in the Northwest Atlantic (recast version) (A6-0219/2008, József Szájer) (vote)
  7.14. Nominal catch statistics in the north-east Atlantic (recast version) (A6-0214/2008, József Szájer) (vote)
  7.15. Textile names (recast version) (A6-0215/2008, József Szájer) (vote)
  7.16. Accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Convention of 23 July 1990 on the elimination of double taxation in connection with the adjustment of profits of associated enterprises (A6-0194/2008, Mariela Velichkova Baeva) (vote)
  7.17. Exchanges between the Member States of information extracted from the criminal record (A6-0207/2008, Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra) (vote)
  7.18. Protection of the euro against counterfeiting (A6-0230/2008, Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra) (vote)
  7.19. Amendment of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice to specify the language rules which are to apply to the review procedure (A6-0211/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)
  7.20. Revision of the framework directive on waste (A6-0162/2008, Caroline Jackson) (vote)
  7.21. Environmental quality standards in the field of water policy (A6-0192/2008, Anne Laperrouze) (vote)
  7.22. Minimum level of training of seafarers (recast version) (A6-0178/2008, Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou) (vote)
  7.23. Establishment of residue limits of pharmacologically active substances in foodstuffs of animal origin (A6-0190/2008, Avril Doyle) (vote)
  7.24. European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (A6-0173/2008, Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou) (vote)
  7.25. Adoption by Slovakia of the single currency on 1 January 2009 (A6-0231/2008, David Casa) (vote)
  7.26. The impact of cohesion policy on the integration of vulnerable communities and groups (A6-0212/2008, Gábor Harangozó) (vote)
  7.27. Policy coherence for development and the effects of the EU's exploitation of certain biological natural resources on development in West Africa (A6-0137/2008, Frithjof Schmidt) (vote)
 8. Explanations of vote
 9. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 10. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes
 11. Internal market in electricity - Conditions for access to the network for cross-border exchanges in electricity - Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators - Towards a European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers (debate)
 12. Commission Question Time
 13. Composition of Parliament : see Minutes
 14. Import of poultry carcases (debate)
 15. Protection of pedestrians and other vulnerable road users (debate)
 16. Adaptation of a number of instruments to the regulatory procedure with scrutiny, "omnibus" Regulation, Part One - Adaptation of a number of instruments with regard to the regulatory procedure with scrutiny, "omnibus" Regulation, Part Three (debate)
 17. Autonomous Community tariff quotas on imports of certain fishery products into the Canary Islands (debate)
 18. Agenda of the next sitting : see Minutes
 19. Closure of the sitting



1. Opening of the sitting

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


2. Decision on urgent procedure

  President. − First of all, we shall vote on the request for urgent procedure on the proposal for a Council regulation on the conclusion of the Protocol setting out the fishing opportunities and financial contribution provided for in the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania for the period 1 August 2008 to 31 July 2012 (COM(2008)0243 – C6-0199/2008 – 2008/0093(CNS)).

Mr Morillon has the floor to give the opinion of the Committee on Fisheries.


  Philippe Morillon (ALDE). (FR) Mr President, this request – some here in this House are bound to recall, Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council – relates to the fact that at the end of last year we had to renegotiate the practical arrangements for the implementation of this partnership agreement with the Republic of Mauritania.

This renegotiation required close collaboration between the Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, and Commissioner Borg, and I applaud this. It resulted in the setting up of a Joint Committee, which has, in agreement with the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, come up with an agreement that now satisfies both parties: the European Union and the Republic of Mauritania.

That said, it is now a matter of being able to pay the emoluments due to the Republic of Mauritania from 1 August. In agreement with all the political groups, we are asking the Commission if the vote on this report could take place not during this part-session, but during the July part-session. This is simply to allow our appointed rapporteur, Mrs Fraga Estévez, to explain the exact terms of this report to us on the afternoon of Wednesday 25 June, so we can vote on it on the morning of Thursday 26 June, therefore making it possible to put it on the agenda of our next plenary in July. I think this should be satisfactory to all three partners and, of course, to the Republic of Mauritania.


(Parliament rejected the request for urgent procedure)(1)


(1) For further details: see Minutes.

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

4. Common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (debate)

  President. − The next item is the report (A6-0339/2007) by Mr Weber, on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (COM(2005)0391 – C6-0266/2005 – 2005/0167(COD)).


  Dragutin Mate, President-in-Office of the Council. (SL) I am in fact delighted that we are here today and talking about the return directive, which is practically the first document that we have succeeded in producing together – Parliament and Council – in the area of migration. Previously we have not had such an experience, and I must say that exceptionally great efforts were made, both by the Council and by Parliament, and especially by Mr Weber, in arriving at the point we are at today.

The positions that we coordinated in the Council took up a great deal of time. We needed more than two years to coordinate certain basic principles on the basis of which we will actually be able to begin the political trialogue. We started the political trialogue almost at the end of last year, and continued it this year, and the approach we selected and which was also supported by the rapporteur Mr Weber, for which I thank him, was that first we had a majority opinion of the Member States and attempted to harmonise texts, and only then did we seek a qualified majority in the Council for support of the text we harmonised.

Certain points were extremely difficult, or rather hard to secure, and one of the areas of extreme importance – both for Parliament and of course for the Council – is the period for which we may detain or restrict the movement of persons who arrive illegally in the territory of the European Union. It needs to be said very clearly: just ten countries have a period of less than six months. Just ten countries out of 27 Member States have a period of less than six months, and all the other countries will have to adjust their legislation to the period of six months, which we propose in this directive, which signifies major progress in our available options and of course in the area of restricting movement.

It also needs to be said that this has involved exceptional progress and a process of standardisation on the basis of which all countries will be bound to operate. To date each country has operated according to its own legislation, and of course I hope very firmly that we will be able to achieve an appropriate consensus here today in Parliament, and complete a first reading and vote at first reading.

In practical terms the hardest thing of all in our talks was the issue of offering legal assistance to persons. Here in the Council we heeded and took on the arguments and views of Parliament, albeit with great difficulty, through negotiations right up until the final day, the final negotiations relating to this point ended practically on the morning before the Council of Ministers, and we were also able in the Council of Ministers to persuade ministers to adopt the kind of rules desired by Parliament, even though this will involve a significant increase in work and also in investment of finances that individual Member States will provide. The point is, we need to be aware that the situation of illegal migration varies greatly – from the Mediterranean, where there are major daily problems, and even more so in summer, to certain countries that are far from migratory flows and which of course can react to migration in an entirely different way.

I must say that I am of course pleased that we found compromises which will help to improve the situation for migrants, that we focused on the most vulnerable groups of migrants – families and children – and that we are providing them with significantly greater rights than in many national legislations at this moment, and this seems to me extremely significant progress and an extremely significant achievement for the negotiators from Parliament when we debated these issues.

However, I must of course say a few other things. I must say that the compromise reached in the Council was achieved with great difficulty. The negotiations, in which I personally, along with other ministers, was involved up until the final day, were extremely difficult and arduous, and there is now an unequivocal, firm view in the Council that this is a text that is acceptable for the Council. Any kind of revision or amendment to this text will signify a disagreement on the part of the Council, which of course will mean non-adoption of the directive at first reading.

What are the consequences of this? We will not have common standards, we will not improve a situation that we all wish to improve, and the process of adopting this directive will be prolonged and dragged out significantly. Being very optimistic, we can assume that for at least the next three years we will not succeed in coordinating a return directive, and of course in this way we will also significantly exacerbate the situation for all those for whom we could significantly improve matters.

However, that is not the only consequence if this directive is not adopted. Another consequence is that it will affect other directives we adopt in the co-decision procedure, for which the method of negotiation such as was implemented in this procedure could be a good example and could contribute significantly to improving work primarily with directives on the green card and on certain other rights of workers that come to the European Union. I think the path that we have mapped out is the right one and that in this way we will be able to function.

In conclusion, in view of the constructive and fruitful cooperation I would like to thank, in addition to the rapporteur Mr Weber, all shadow rapporteurs, who were present the entire time at all political negotiations, and of course the Vice-President and his staff from the Commission, who helped us on many occasions to find compromise solutions.


  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, I in turn would like to thank Dragutin Mate, our President-in-Office of the Council. I would first like to say that this dossier is genuine proof that the codecision procedure works, even in the case of complex and difficult dossiers.

The European Commission recommends an integrated approach to migration, and this coherent approach requires consolidation of the legal immigration channels, the local integration of immigrants and an effective and generous asylum system. Obviously, if we accept this regulation of the conditions of entry of third-country nationals into the European Union, we also need to provide rules that apply to those who do not meet or no longer meet the conditions.

If not, our migration policy would lose its legitimacy. We need to recognise that there is a risk of a vicious circle here. By doing nothing about illegal immigration, we complicate the lives of those who are at risk of being exploited by unscrupulous employers and we also complicate the integration of legal immigrants. I therefore believe that we have to break this vicious circle through the balance which Mr Mate spoke of.

The directive introduces into Community law the applicable provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. Its adoption will allow us to apply the Community control mechanisms aimed at monitoring compliance with the acquis. Whether it is a question of the priority given to voluntary return, the rights of illegally staying persons threatened with return, the retention of these conditions, the protection of the best interests of children, respect for family life within the framework of return or respect for the principle of non-refoulement, the directive reduces the number of grey areas and makes it possible to combat more effectively the exploitation of children to which illegally staying third-country nationals are subject.

The directive imposes on Member States the obligation either of making the decision to repatriate or of offering the right to stay to a third-country national. This approach means that legal certainty can be improved for all concerned. The directive therefore also has the advantage of offering the Commission the possibility of monitoring its implementation and I can assure you that the Commission and I myself, as the person responsible for this dossier, will ensure compliance with the fundamental principles as regards respecting migrants’ rights. In particular, we will evaluate the impact of certain provisions on detention, the ban on re-entry and legal assistance.

As Mr Mate said, the directive will force all Member States to pay particular attention to the rights of children. The implementation of these rules should comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Commission will be monitoring this in particular to ensure that the specific situation of these most vulnerable people is adequately taken into account.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to extend particular thanks to Mr Weber, as well as to the shadow rapporteurs and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs for the extremely important work that has been done in order to produce a directive that I believe provides effective control while paying great attention to human rights.

The Commission’s ambition is to introduce this coherent European framework for a return policy that is both effective and respectful of rights, and is also under democratic control.

If you will allow me, by way of conclusion I will refer to the three statements that make up the compromise agreed with the co-legislators as set out in the annex to the compromise amendment by your rapporteur, Mr Weber.


  Manfred Weber, rapporteur. − (DE) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, Mr Vice-President, we have been debating this Directive on returning illegally staying third-country nationals for two and a half years now. Before going into practical matters, I would like to express my thanks. This was a complex and very emotional topic that many people in Europe feel very strongly about, and it involved using a new procedure, the codecision procedure, so thank you. Within the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs we had the support of a large majority for our suggestions for a solid, workable proposal. As a parliament, we are capable of reaching consensus. Thank you for working together fairly and thank you also to the Slovenian Presidency of the Council because, in the entire two and a half years, it was the only Presidency that really brought any momentum into the debate.

Now to the point: we are not talking about asylum, as people keep on claiming. The Asylum Directive is quite another legislative matter. We are talking about people who are currently in Europe illegally – millions of people staying illegally in Europe, whose illegal status we want to change. The slavery that exists in this area today must be brought to an end in the European Union. This can be done by legalisation, by issuing a legal residency permit, but it can also be done by returning the person to their own country.

Today I would like to address those in this Chamber who are still sceptical, those who are still asking questions. Accusations have been made in connection with the duration of the period of detention pending removal: six months, which can be extended by a further 12 months. People say there are countries that have 30 days, or 40 days. The Council of Ministers has undertaken not to use the Directive as an argument for allowing conditions to deteriorate; in other words, high standards should be maintained. Why does nobody see that we have nine Member States in the European Union that currently have no limit to the detention period? We are improving the situation in these states.

Why does nobody see that we have written a whole section, a whole article especially for children and families, in order to set minimum standards? It particularly serves unaccompanied children, who are especially in need of our help. We have defined minimum standards here. Why does nobody see the requirement to guarantee access to health care and access to education for children? Why does nobody see the key statement expressed by the period of detention pending removal, which is that we want to keep it as short as possible and that a person may be detained only if a return is legally possible? This means that the tactic of wearing down the authorities that is currently practised will be prohibited in the European Union in future.

Why does nobody see that we have legal aid, that the NGOs have access, that there is the right to lodge an objection? This Directive represents major progress. We have limited the countries to which people can be removed. The European Parliament has enforced the principle of voluntary departure, so that what does not currently exist in all Member States will, in future, be a principle. I read in the newspapers that the Council of Europe has made criticisms. All the Council of Europe’s guidelines on return are now included in this Directive and will therefore achieve force of law in future, so why is the Council of Europe criticising its own guidelines? We are making great progress with this Directive, including on the five-year re-entry ban. Please – think back. It was the Commission that proposed the requirement for a five-year re-entry ban to be declared. We managed to have that requirement deleted. As the European Parliament, we were able to ensure that a better regulation is now in place.

There will be a lot of criticism here again today. Many Members will rise to speak and will describe how dreadful the detention centres are, how dire the situation is inside these centres, how inhumane return by the European Union is these days. We have discussed this for two and a half years now, and I thank you for the exchange of views, but today I say bluntly: if you vote against this Directive, if you vote against this trialogue result, you are preventing the European Union from making any progress in improving the standards of these human rights. Therefore, I would ask, please, that we show ourselves capable of acting. Particularly in the light of the fact that the citizens of Ireland have rejected the further expansion of Europe, we have the opportunity with this dossier, in this topical area, to show for the first time, thanks to codecision, that we are capable of acting, and that we want a strong, humanitarian Europe.



  Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group.(ES) Mr President, I would like to start by offering my sincere congratulations to my colleague Mr Weber.

This proposal for a directive is a strong and decisive step towards the common immigration policy that we need. The directive is an essential legal instrument for safeguarding the fundamental rights of immigrants and a prerequisite for making progress in regulating legal immigration. The proposal establishes the voluntary return of immigrants who are staying illegally in the Member States as a priority preferred objective, providing them with the necessary resources to ensure that they are returned to their countries in an appropriate way and at no cost to them.

The alternative of forced return is considered as a last resort, and always with strict respect for fundamental rights. Legal and language assistance for immigrants and the opportunity to appeal against the return decision before a judicial or administrative body created for that purpose are examples of how the proposal has sought to make forced return subsidiary to voluntary return.

Establishing a maximum detention period is an essential element of the directive. It is hard to understand how in the European Union today there can be places where immigrants can be detained indefinitely, but no Member State can use the directive to tighten up their immigration laws, especially with regard to detention periods.

In addition, there is a clear distinction between return and asylum. Clear legal guarantees are established regarding the detention order. The new Article 15a establishes more and better conditions for minors and their families and, finally, the directive offers the possibility of the Court of Justice having competence in this field.

For all these reasons, Mr President, and once again appreciating the efforts of the rapporteur, the Council and the Commission, I ask for the return directive to be supported.


  Martine Roure, on behalf of the PSE Group. (FR) Mr President, today we are debating one aspect of the introduction of a European immigration policy and there is already one observation we wish to make: here we are, constructing a Europe closed in on itself, despite the fact that to try to combat illegal immigration we should be setting up tools that allow migrants to arrive legally.

My group does not accept the compromise that the Presidency and the rapporteur laboriously arrived at, not because we are opposed to a European return policy but because we feel that the result is very inadequate as regards protecting fundamental rights. In fact, we have always said we are in favour of a return directive because we have witnessed too many horrors on our visits to detention camps. However, we do not want a directive at any cost. I have heard it said that this directive would allow people to come out from underground. This is a serious misunderstanding since this directive merely lays down rules for organising returns and under no circumstances does it give the right to stay.

The rapporteur feels this compromise is balanced because it confers a number of rights. However, these rights conferred by the text, such as access to education for minors and access to legal aid, are not really mandatory.

Furthermore, the directive will not bring about improvements as regards detention in the European Union. For example, bringing the detention period to eighteen months appears to be an improvement in nine of the twenty-seven Member States. However, of these nine Member States, three will not be affected – the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark – because they are not participating in this directive. There will be few improvements in countries such as Malta, where the majority of those in detention are asylum seekers, who are not covered by the directive. Greece’s detainees are mainly people intercepted illegally crossing an external border. These people are also excluded from its scope.

That is why the Socialist Group in the European Parliament tabled a limited number of amendments aimed at establishing a human dimension to this text. This is the first codecision of the European Parliament on the fight against illegal immigration and that is why we have a duty, as MEPs, to champion clear legislation that is not subject to different interpretations by Member States or rulings by the Court of Justice. That is also why I am calling on the European Parliament to make use of every legislative power at its disposal to allow the adoption of legislation that will improve the lot of detainees. That is our duty as MEPs.

This will not excuse us from thinking about a wider, more philosophical question: does the Earth belong to all human beings? Should some of these people really be assigned to living in poverty? Do you not think that is the real issue?


  Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, negotiations with the Council have been long, intensive, complicated and tough. The starting point for most Member States was: ‘How do we get rid of this directive, as we do not want any European standards on the return of illegally staying third-country nationals?’. Clearly Council and Parliament had a very different understanding of what should be a serious return directive with sufficient safeguards. Parliament had to fight for each and every single word and comma.

To everybody, and to the PSE Group in particular, it should by now be crystal clear that the compromise package puts in rules where none exist at present. Member States with more favourable conditions in place should maintain these, or introduce them if they wish to do so. National parliaments have a role to play to ensure this in the implementation of the directive. Moreover, we also secured a political declaration from the Council that this directive will not and cannot be used as an excuse to lower existing standards. Experiences with 10 other asylum and migration directives do show that the fear that there is a tendency among Member States to use the transposition of such directives as a pretext for making their national law more repressive does not materialise.

At present, no EU legislation exists as regards the return of illegally staying third-country nationals. With the adoption of the package, Community control mechanisms will become available. Infringement procedures, competence of the European Court of Justice, Commission reporting, EP monitoring: all these will be available.

Three years of debate have shown that there is no more room for manoeuvre and it is obvious that at second reading no further improvements will be made. Yes, it is unfortunate, I admit, but it is true. Council will start tabling a list with many ‘no-go’ proposals. Pandora’s Box will indeed be opened.

Clearly the current political climate in most Member States will not be of any help. So how to put in place common minimum rules where none exist at present? How to make sure that Community control mechanisms will be available? How to make sure that COE guidelines are made legally binding for all Member States?

At this stage, the fundamental question is: do we want a directive or not? Do we want a directive which is not perfect but undoubtedly a first step in the right direction, or do we not want a directive at all as we consider the current situation to be satisfactory?

Even now, many Member States would be relieved if the directive died out due to Parliament’s fault. So, what an irony that those Members of Parliament trying to break up the compromise package are effectively supporting those Member States not wanting to have any European safeguards on return in the first place!

The compromise package should be seen as a very modest but important first step. The return policy cannot be looked upon in an isolated way, but should be seen as a necessary part of a total package on migration, including legal, as well as asylum. Indeed, in my view, after almost three years of debate and negotiations, it is high time to take up our responsibility.



  Jean Lambert, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, I would like to start by expressing thanks to the rapporteur on this issue for the integrity and openness with which he has approached the questions. I should also like to thank our colleagues, where we have tried our best to find a common approach, recognising the need to treat people as individuals in the process of return and the need for due process and clarity in the law.

Discussions with the Council have shown clearly the shortfalls existing in some Member States for their own citizens at present, especially in relation to legal aid – crucial if people are to have access to the law and some defence against those who have the power – and also where effective systems are not in place to adequately represent lone children and young people in their own right. This has created certain problems in the discussions with the Council.

I regret that, after such long negotiations, my group cannot accept the negotiated position because, while we do not object in theory to such a directive, it certainly does not meet the standards that we set at the beginning. Why not? Because for us it entrenches many of the problems we have been fighting in our own Member States.

One of the issues is the length of detention. While the proposed directive puts limits on that, we know what long periods of detention do to the mental health of individuals and to children who are detained. We have seen it for ourselves, and the research is there. We have seen the conditions in which many people are kept and while the proposed directive makes clear that detention centres should not be prisons, it is not always clear to us what the difference is between those centres and prisons.

We also have questions about the entry ban, and Article 9 makes clear it should be the general rule for anybody who is returned involuntarily. So Member States signing up will have to answer questions like that of one my constituents, Serwa Nouri Yousef, who has refugee status, who is now eight months pregnant and whose husband has been forcibly returned to Iraq and is now missing. Under this directive he would also face an entry ban. So what happens to family life, despite the claims to humanitarian protection?

We also have questions surrounding Article 3(c) about where people should be returned to, and feel that, if the reference to ‘other arrangements’ includes the metaphorical handshakes that we have seen in the past between Mr Berlusconi and Gadafi, this is unacceptable as such accords are made outside of written public agreements.


  Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, the problem we are discussing here today has to a large extent been triggered by EU Member States. If we look at the speeches made by representatives of certain political parties represented here, it emerges that these circles have in the past called for a law enabling the liberalisation of the regulations on the entry of people from outside Europe.

Today, too, we often hear voices in this House calling for legal regulations that strike at the traditional family, or at the Christian traditions of Europe. All we need to do is wait a few more years, and we shall be hearing mass calls and resolutions summoning us to save the identity of our continent, as what once made Europe an example to the whole world is dying out.

The suggestion included in the proposal relating to the setting-up of new offices to deal with returns is not the way forward. These tasks should be implemented within the framework of functioning institutions that have in any case already been expanded.


  Giusto Catania, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this directive is a disgrace and an insult to Europe’s legal culture. It is totally unacceptable and liable to cancel out the culture of welcome we have had for thousands of years, and the deep roots of a European identity that has been forged through the practice of hospitality. The directive is yet another monument to Fortress Europe, the materialisation of a reactionary utopia seeking to obstruct the freedom of movement of men and women.

The right to mobility cannot be checked by shutting men and women up behind barbed wire or inside a foul detention centre. Mr Mate, we are talking about 18 months – the maximum detention period – not 6 months, as you said. That is 18 months without having committed any crime!

I would like to refer to the words of Archbishop Agostino Marchetto of the Council of Migrants of the Italian Episcopal Conference, when he said that a person cannot be detained for a mere administrative infringement and also that persons cannot be kept in inhuman and degrading detention centres such as those visited by this Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

Furthermore, this directive is an inhumane directive because it makes provision for return to a country of transit. Libya is likely to become a mass deportation destination for migrants. It makes provision for the detention and expulsion of unaccompanied minors, it lays down a re-entry ban, thus systematically infringing the right to asylum, and provides for discretionary legal aid. That is the true nature of this directive.

What is more, the directive is being imposed by governments. In this Chamber we have been party to the dictatorship of the Council, which has said to Parliament: ‘like it or lump it’, even issuing threats against the idea of any sort of continuation of the debate on immigration. The European Parliament is passively submitting to this decision. I appeal to the dignity of European Parliament. This is not co-decision. What we are looking at is giving assent to the Council. The truth is that governments want to activate immediately the EUR 700 million allocated by the Return Fund. That is the true nature of the directive.

What we ought to do, though, is to listen to society, to those outside this Parliament, the heads of state of third countries, Amnesty International, the churches, the European Episcopal Conferences, the trade unions and the Council of Europe: all of them are telling us not to adopt this directive. Even the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which according to the Treaty of Amsterdam should be consulted on all matters relating to asylum and immigration dealt with by the European Commission, is telling us not to adopt this directive.

Repressive policies like these are the real cause of the European Union’s greatest tragedy: deaths at sea. Yesterday 150 died, and over the last ten years there have been 12 000 such deaths. The European Union is staining itself with an unacceptable crime and this directive makes it further complicit in these killings that have turned the Mediterranean into a graveyard. It would probably be a good idea, as a tribute to these martyrs, not to adopt this directive.


  Hélène Goudin, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (SV) When all the doors are closed, you can always find a way in at the back. Each year many thousands of people try to get into the EU, which is building higher and higher walls around its territory. These attempts are becoming more and more desperate, and the media regularly report on how many have paid with their lives.

Today’s debate is about those who have succeeded in getting in, whom we are now want to throw out. Many human rights organisations criticise the proposed directive, including Caritas and Amnesty International. We must listen to their warnings, since the proposed directive breaches human rights.

No European added value is created when we decide that persons who have not committed any crime can be detained for up to 18 months. Longer periods of detention will not result in more people returning. It is merely an inhumane and expensive solution to a complex problem. The consequence of a ban on re-entry to the EU for up to five years will be an increase in illegal immigration. Desperate people are forced to turn to people traffickers, and we shall read more and more of the misfortunes befalling refugees, which in turn will feed hatred towards our part of the western world.

The human rights organisations have warned us. It is now up to us to put our foot down and defend human rights, and to do it at national level!


  Frank Vanhecke (NI). (NL) Mr President, the seriousness of the situation regarding the total lack of firm action against the scourge of the millions of illegal immigrants in Europe has become clear from the hysterical reactions to this Returns Directive on the part of politically correct left-wing opinion-formers. I am sorry, but this is not a returns directive. It even obliges Member States to provide free legal assistance to illegal immigrants to contest their expulsion. In addition, at least seven Member States are obliged to shorten their detention periods.

Furthermore, the Directive actually puts the two options – expulsion and regularisation – on more or less the same level, as though it were a case of a neutral choice, whereas the mass regularisations carried out in various Member States in recent years have acted as a massive pull factor and also placed a heavy burden on the other European countries.

In summary, I wish this were a real returns directive, which would stop the pull factor for illegal immigrants once and for all, but unfortunately it is not. I am far from convinced that this will be even an initial small step in the right direction.


  Simon Busuttil (PPE-DE).(MT) I would like to start by congratulating my colleague Mr Weber on his very useful work on this legislation, this compromise that we have managed to reach. Mr President, the result of last week’s referendum in Ireland shows that the people feel that the European Union is not addressing their worries sufficiently, and if we also look at the ongoing surveys, like Eurobarometer, for example, we find that immigration is among the greatest worries of EU citizens; EU citizens want more of Europe, not less, but the answer that we have given so far is not good enough.

Therefore, the European Union will not be taken seriously in the field of immigration if it does not show that it is capable of giving a clear and effective answer in this field. What is this directive’s point of departure? The point of departure is that it applies to anyone in a state of illegality. If you are in a state of illegality, the answer can only be that you need to go back to where you came from. That is the aim of this legislation, and anyone voting against it will be saying and sending out the message that illegality can stay and we can accept it. This is not and should not be acceptable.

For those who have to be sent back, this compromise puts forward a series of conditions, which vary according to detention, treatment, use of force, health services, and other factors. What we have before us is a compromise. It is not perfect, but it is a good compromise to take us forward. We want to show that we are capable of giving an answer on this compromise.


  Claudio Fava (PSE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to address the Council, because it is not our directive or the Commission proposal that we are debating, but the way in which the Council has emptied it of all meaning.

This directive reflects the common direction that the debate on immigration is taking in Europe. The fact that it has been unanimously approved by the Council does not diminish but heightens the message it represents. It is a message that speaks to us of a Europe built on the principle of mistrust. The issue is not the advisability of a directive that creates a joint, shared system. The issue is what this directive lays down.

The day after the death of 150 illegal immigrants who drowned in the Mediterranean, you are asking us to tell the survivors that from tomorrow those who, like them, are already in our countries will be faced with a provision stipulating up to 18 months of detention. We are approving a devastating legal principle that provides for the possibility of depriving an individual of liberty for up to 18 months through an administrative measure and without any crime having been committed. What we would never tolerate in our countries if it were applied to a European citizen, we permit and support for illegal immigrants.

The 18 amendments that restore signs of political civilisation to this measure, tabled by our group, are an attempt to restore dignity in legislative terms to a provision that we believe to be humiliating not only for the European Union but also for our Member States. If they are not adopted, there will be many votes against this, including mine, Mr President.

I do not believe that there is a broad consensus, Mr Weber. There is no consensus on the discretion and judgment that we are giving our countries regarding the way in which the most significant points of this directive will be dealt with. This Parliament is not the guardian of abstract rules. It is a Parliament to which the treaties attribute the duty to protect specific principles, specific principles relating to the law and political civilisation. The Council is asking us to renounce these principles in order to move swiftly. We believe that on this point there is a fundamental mistake. Here you are not asking us to move swiftly, you are asking us to make the wrong move: wrong for immigrants, wrong for Europe, wrong for our Member States, and it is a responsibility that we do not wish to share with you.


  Gérard Deprez (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, it is clear that today we are debating a very delicate issue – one on which Parliament is divided – and at the same time a very sensitive, if not tragic issue, since it can potentially have fundamental consequences for the conditions of existence and even the lives of those seeking to come to Europe, even if illegally, in search of a future that their country cannot offer them.

I will not repeat what other speakers have already said, but I would like to highlight four particular points.

The first is aimed at my colleague and friend, Giusto Catania. It is unjust, Giusto, to speak of Fortress Europe as if it let no one on to its territory and as if it were insensitive to the poverty of millions of people. According to official figures, there are now between 1.5 and 2 million immigrants entering the European Union legally each year, either through regularisation, family reunification or recognition as political refugees. It means that if we continue at this rate for the next 30 years – and I have no objection to that – between 45 and 60 million people will enter the European Union legally.

Secondly, this directive, despite its inadequacies, and I accept that it has some, is not a regulation. In fact, it is practically a framework directive, which leaves each Member State room for manoeuvre in its assessments – apart from the minimum standards it fixes and the limits it sets that cannot be exceeded – and it offers each Member State the possibility of having legislation that corresponds to what the democratic majority in these countries decides. The directive also states that the Commission should report to Parliament every three years and that the Commission may propose amendments. Read the directive!

Thirdly, and I am talking to some of my socialist friends here, we need to stop broadcasting major untruths. The directive does not establish detention as the rule. Article 14 of the directive provides for the possibility of detention in specific cases and it also puts extremely tight legal controls on them. Just read Article 14, paragraph 2. Saying that detention is the rule, and that it is imposed on the Member States, is simply not true. You should not stir up public opinion. There are enough real problems, without coming up with problems that simply do not exist.

My fourth and last comment, Mr President, is a message for Mr Weber and the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats. Despite all the deficiencies, which I acknowledge are there, I will be voting for the directive. However, I would ask the PPE-DE Group not to try to use procedural manoeuvres to settle issues that are in essence political and that could divide Parliament. Whichever way Parliament votes this morning, I think it should be respected.


  Hélène Flautre (Verts/ALE). (FR) Mr President, there is something that is really bothering me. Why did the rapporteur, Mr Weber, decide to deny the European Parliament’s powers by doing his utmost to get us to adopt at first reading a Council common position – moreover one that was basically unacceptable – at a time when we are having difficulty convincing citizens of the value of giving the European Parliament strengthened powers? You must explain this decision to me, Mr Weber.

I really hope that tomorrow we will all live up to the expectations of European citizens and show that we are safeguarding the protection of human rights and the values of the European Union. Why? I do not think we can accept that unaccompanied minors may be locked up and expelled to countries where they have no family, no ties and no legal representative. This is an absolute violation of respect, in all circumstances, for the best interests of the child. Nor do I believe we can accept migrants having to suffer the traumatic and destructive conditions of 18 months’ detention when they have not committed any crime. This is an excessive deprivation of liberty, described as such by the case law of the European Court. Nor can we accept migrants being returned at the whim of re-entry agreements to countries where they have no ties and where, Mr Weber and Mr Deprez, we have no means of guaranteeing their physical or psychological safety. We have no way of guaranteeing the principle of non-refoulement, even if it is writ large in your text.

I therefore call upon all Members to reject tomorrow what is actually only an extension of the repressive, near-sighted policies of the Member States. Europe needs a different ambition for international immigration.


  Roberta Angelilli (UEN).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, making expulsions secure and discouraging illegality and exploitation: that, in brief, is, in my view, the aim of the ‘return’ directive. I would therefore like to congratulate the rapporteur on his excellent work, which laid the groundwork for the compromise reached with the Council.

The text is balanced, and is based on some fundamental assumptions: finally giving ourselves a common immigration policy. We have been talking about it for a long time – too long. It means equipping ourselves with common rules, which are vital for fully protecting the rights of legal immigrants, who constitute a very positive resource, provided that an implacable line is taken against illegal immigration.

There are some other distinctive points that I particularly wish to stress: in the first instance, voluntary return is promoted; faster deadlines are set for return in the case of risk of escape or danger posed by the individual and, above all, a fixed timetable is finally laid down for the period for staying in detention centres in order for all the requisite checks to be made. This is not an insignificant achievement. I would like to point out that, up until now – as many of my fellow Members have already said – every Member State was free to decide whether or not to impose a time restriction on length of stay.

Also, special attention should be paid to human rights, particularly for vulnerable individuals and especially for minors, on the grounds of the best interest of the child. This is a revolutionary point, that takes due account of what actually happens in detention centres.

Finally, the ban on re-entry valid throughout the EU: I see these as common, fair and transparent rules that could form part of a strategy, or of a pact for integration as the next President-in-Office of the EU has termed it, that would see controls at the Union’s external borders stepped up, that would draw up a new policy on asylum, that would give renewed impetus to diplomatic collaboration, but also and above all to development cooperation with third countries.

Finally, on a European code for the integration of legal immigrants, Europe should shoulder its responsibilities, it should be authoritative and credible, it should become a Europe of rights and rules that are complied with. We have a duty to adopt this text which, of course, could be further improved. Everything can be improved upon. In any event, the Member States can do so, but after three years it would be awful to block it for further months or years, in order to find another, infinitesimal compromise that in any case would always be considered a step backwards. While we live in our golden world, which is actually made up of infinite compromises, there are so many people who are being exploited, who are dying in cruel and inhuman ways, as happened yesterday in Italy. Let us, please, have more responsibility and fewer words!


  Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL). - (SV) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Friday is World Refugee Day, when attention will be focused on the situation of refugees across the world. To approve Mr Weber’s report would be a cynical step in the wrong direction, which is why the GUE/NGL Group will vote against the report. We are opposed to the building of ‘Fortress Europe’. The consequence of the proposals in Mr Weber’s report is that the EU will not only build ever higher walls against refugees, but will also lock the gates and throw away the key.

Instead of undermining human rights, the EU countries should work to restore the right of refugees under the Refugee Convention to the provision of legal means of getting into Europe and to the assurance of at least an elementary degree of respect for human rights. Neither the citizens of third countries nor those of Member States should be subjected to infringements of personal freedom or be given custodial sentences for administrative offences.


  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). - Mr President, this proposal would make it much more difficult for Member States to remove illegal immigrants and return them to their own countries. To what extent will it affect the United Kingdom and particularly my constituency, London? London already bears a disproportionate burden of legal and illegal immigrants and asylum seekers. It is stated that Britain has not opted into this area of Community law and the inference is that it will not affect us – but is that true?

Once illegal immigrants have been allowed to stay in Member States, they can then travel to other EU Member States. They could only be excluded on the grounds that they pose an actual threat to security, public health or public policy. And who in the UK, I wonder, is going to enforce that? The British immigration and asylum systems are in total chaos. If Britain indeed is opted out of this legislation, then European illegal immigrants may not have entry by the front door, but this proposal gives them the key to the back door.

Then of course there is the whole issue of the Lisbon Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights. Could human rights legislation be used to enforce parts of this proposal in Britain? Who knows? For that will be decided not by the British Government or Parliament or courts, but by the European Court of Justice.


  Roberto Fiore (NI).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take the opportunity to protest against the unwise and inexplicable words of Vice-President Barrot, yesterday, concerning the possibility of considering illegal immigration to be an aggravating factor in criminal offences, as proposed by the Italian Government. I do not think this has any basis in the law and certainly it would not meet with a favourable reception from the public.

On the Weber report, I would like to say that I think illegal immigration should be considered as ipso facto presenting the possibility that people will abscond. It is fairly clear that an immigrant, since he enters a country illegally, has a liability to abscond. I would also like to say that it is necessary for the Commission and this Parliament to consider the importance , in the last analysis, of making those countries from which these immigrants come – such as Libya in the case of Italy – pay. They should pay the huge costs that illegal immigration is creating at the moment.


  Urszula Gacek (PPE-DE). - Mr President, Mr Weber truly deserves to be congratulated and thanked for his hard work in dealing with a complex, emotive and sensitive subject.

The aim of the returns directive is to bring in basic common standards on how to treat illegal immigrants. Special emphasis has been placed on the human rights aspects of this case.

We are fully aware that many illegal immigrants are victims twice over. Firstly, they are cheated in their home country, often handing over their life savings and more to ensure passage and work in the European Union. However, rather than finding a land of plenty, they find themselves modern-day slaves in Europe. If caught within the Union they are frequently incarcerated, and until this directive comes into force could find themselves detained for long periods of time while their case is dealt with.

Under the directive, voluntary returns will be encouraged; incarceration will be permissible only in cases where there is a clear threat of the illegal immigrant absconding and in other justified cases. Maximum periods of detention are set, legal protection – especially of particularly vulnerable groups – is enhanced and NGOs will have access to the much-criticised detention centres, which will open them to greater scrutiny, as well as ensuring additional services and support for the detainees themselves.

I have a suggestion to my colleagues who have spoken against this directive: this week after the vote, rather than standing up and explaining to an emptying Chamber why they voted against, maybe they would care to explain directly to those illegal immigrants without protection in many states, those detained indefinitely without access to legal assistance. Maybe they can tell them that they voted against the directive because they had their best interests at heart.


  Stavros Lambrinidis (PSE).(EL) Madam President, I am very deeply concerned that for three years the Council of Ministers has been blocking progress by haggling over provisions. These provisions concern the protection of fundamental rights, including those of illegal immigrants, and should be considered non-negotiable. Something is therefore going very wrong with some European governments.

In Europe, it should be a non-negotiable requirement that nobody can be detained for 18 months, especially when it is not because of something they have or have not done, but because authorities in their country of origin, through no fault of their own, are refusing to cooperate with the procedure for their deportation. It should be a non-negotiable requirement that when the ultimate repressive measure of imprisonment is decreed for any of our wretched fellow human beings, they must, without any exceptions or loopholes in the law, at least have the right to legal aid and to a judge’s decision on their imprisonment. It should be a non-negotiable requirement that unaccompanied minors should not be deported to third countries. If they cannot ultimately safely return to their countries, let us keep these children ourselves and protect them here in Europe. At the same time, European solidarity should be equally non-negotiable. Those countries, particularly in the south, that have the largest influxes of immigrants ought to receive substantial financial assistance from other countries to enable them to guarantee the aforementioned human rights. Vague declarations of probable future support from the Commission are not enough.

However, despite the serious efforts of the rapporteur and the shadow rapporteurs in Parliament, none other than these self-evident requirements have become bargaining points in the Council. The end result has obviously been to some extent positive, at least with regard to countries that do not at present offer any protection. On some key points, however, the same countries have imposed on the others a ‘lowest common denominator’ compromise. In many respects, it is extremely problematic and ambiguous because its enforcement is left to the discretion of governments which, Mr Deprez, have shown a lack of sensitivity on their part.

This is a harmonisation that ultimately does not harmonise or conform to the basic European principles and values.




  Alexander Alvaro (ALDE).(DE) Madam President, my thanks also to the rapporteur, Mr Weber, although he might like to overlook me and particularly my colleague Mrs Hennis-Plasschaert, who, together with the other rapporteurs, have pushed this difficult process forward over the last three years through rough seas and into calm waters.

At this point I would just like to be allowed to say that I find it mischievous and dishonourable for people to link the tragedy of deaths in the Mediterranean with this Directive, as, realistically, they have nothing to do with each other. This must not be allowed! This Directive creates legal certainty for people where there is none. The lot in life of people currently living in undignified conditions, who do not know when they are going to be returned to their countries, and do not have access to judicial authorities, will be improved. It sets minimum standards for 27 Member States, and for one third of the Member States, which have no standards at all, this is better than the current situation. It is the first step towards an urgently needed common asylum policy and Europe-wide respect for human dignity. I believe that everyone who wants to take that step with us should take that responsibility seriously and vote in favour of this report.


  Pierre Jonckheer (Verts/ALE). (FR) Madam President, echoing the previous speaker, I remain personally attached to the old European idea of harmonisation while improvement is being made: that is to say, harmonisation upwards. Consequently, I wonder why alignment with the most protective rules is being rejected for these people in difficulty. I think it should be pointed out that Council declarations are not legally binding and that if we are so aware of a risk of alignment downwards, then we should include a legal mechanism in the body of the directive itself. I also think that to help countries in difficult circumstances – particularly financially – in terms of legal aid, a European Solidarity Fund is required and should be set up.

There is a second comment I would like to make on the procedure. Mr Barrot, we have here a twisted codecision procedure. I am one MEP among 780. This is the only time today when I have the chance to speak and to table amendments, and if we do not want detention to be the rule, then, Mr Deprez, you should read Amendments 82 and 95, which specify, for example, what is meant by risk of absconding. Read the amendments and vote for Amendments 79 and 98, which specify the conditions under which unaccompanied minors can be expelled from European Union territory. The amendments tabled aim to improve the text and I think Parliament cannot be confronted with a quasi-assent procedure, which is effectively what is happening at the moment.


  Mario Borghezio (UEN).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the European policy on immigration has a fundamental defect: its single point of departure is a concept of defence of human rights, when it is also necessary to think about protecting the rights of peoples, their liberty, their safety, and their right not to be invaded.

With its do-gooder amendments, the left is setting out a non-policy for the return of illegal immigrants. There is pure demagogy from the institution of the European Ombudsman. Do we want to give the ombudsman to the illegal immigrants too? A serious policy is one that combats the interests of globalism, that wishes to uproot peoples from their territories because it considers them either as goods, or as slaves, or new consumers. We are against this.

If the Mediterranean is a graveyard, the moral responsibility lies with those who opened up the gates to illegal vessels. We have always denounced, for example from Lampedusa, this gross trade in human flesh. It is a disgrace. If these amendments by the left were to be adopted, the European policy on the return of immigrants would be finished before it even started.


  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Madam President, the proposal for a directive is unacceptable and cynically conceals the real inhumanity of the EU and its policy.

You are legislating on the 18-month detention of wretched immigrants, including under-age children, in concentration camps where the living conditions cast shame on human civilisation. You also prohibit any further entry, even legal entry, into EU territory for a further five years. Voluntary return is an absolute joke, as it is nothing less than coercion. You tell them that they must either leave voluntarily, or go to prison and then get deported after 18 months.

You treat those who are victims of your own policy as criminals. You bomb Afghanistan and complain about refugees. You plunder the countries of the Third World and complain about the economic migrants who make capitalists’ wallets bulge.

With these new measures you will, among other things, increase the profits of slave traffickers and trafficking rings because the harsher the measures, the higher the prices. You will make the situation even worse for immigrants and other workers, who will be forced to work without any rights under these new coercive measures based on the threat of deportation.

You can be sure that workers, third-country and European nationals alike, will not accept these measures.


  Carlos Coelho (PPE-DE).(PT) Madam President, Vice-President Barrot, ladies and gentlemen, do we need a European approach in these areas or not? We usually all say yes. How do we approach this issue? There is a large majority in this House that would have it that we have to regulate legal immigration and fight illegal immigration.

A return policy is a vital part of this strategy, as Commissioner Barrot has already stated. We have a directive on minimum standards. Do we want more? Do we want better standards? I am sure we would all want to have better standards, but we came up against the Council’s intransigence and therefore the political question is this: is it better to have these minimum standards or no standards at all?

My answer is: I believe that it is better to have these minimum standards, and I would like to congratulate my colleague Mr Weber on his work and the negotiations he has conducted.

Let me give two specific examples: the re-entry ban, which is set for five years. Others would prefer different time limits, I am sure, but there are currently Member States with no restrictions, as is the case with Austria, Denmark or France.

The case of detention... Nine Member States have no maximum detention period. Only six have shorter detention periods than those provided for in this Directive. One of these six is Portugal, my country, which sets a two-month period and has already stated that it will stick to this. In other words, it does not intend to make use of the Directive to water down standards.

Lastly, Madam President, I should like to underline what Commissioner Barrot has already said about children. Here we have to be particularly careful and ensure that the Directive is applied in a humane way.


  Javier Moreno Sánchez (PSE).(ES) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, this directive is a step forward towards a common immigration policy. This is a necessary step that needs to be accompanied, from now on, by other steps as part of an overall European approach.

We need to develop legislative and financial instruments that will enable us, decisively, to open our doors to legal immigrants and help them to integrate into our societies. In the same way, we need to block illegal immigration and illegal work and help to dismantle the mafia-style networks that traffic human beings.

All of this will only be achieved through close cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. We therefore urge the Commission to make use of its power of initiative, and we ask the Council to adopt as soon as possible all the directives that are still pending, because without a general set of measures, citizens will not understand this directive. Its aim is to bring together 27 different legislations in order to ensure efficient return procedures as well as dignity and respect for the fundamental rights of immigrants.

Through our amendments, the Socialist Group wants to bring the directive into line with the most advanced and protective legislations. We Spanish socialists are placing a particular emphasis on protecting and caring for minors, and we ask that they should have access to education and be received in special reception centres. We also want to promote voluntary return and improve the legal guarantees of the procedure.

Ladies and gentlemen, to conclude, I would like to welcome the rejection of the proposal from the rapporteur, Mr Weber, who was seeking a short cut in the procedure, which would have weakened the power of codecision and the credibility of this House.

In the current times we need a strong Parliament that shoulders its responsibilities.


  Sarah Ludford (ALDE). - Madam President, I have no hesitation in voting for this directive, not because it is ideal, but because it raises standards in some Member States. And indeed, an assessment of the value of this directive comes, perversely, from the very fact that the UK is not opting into it. It does not want to be constrained by the higher standards in the directive, not least the time limits and the conditions on detention, such as the separation of immigration detainees from convicted criminals, which does not always happen in the UK at present, and the fact that coercive measures must be proportional and respect fundamental rights and the dignity of the individual, all valuable elements in this text.

There has been a lot of disinformation and I am sorry that someone wrongly briefed the President of Bolivia who wrote in the British newspaper The Guardian yesterday. Eighteen months is not the standard detention time. The directive says it should not exceed six months except where, in spite of all reasonable efforts by Member States, the removal operation is likely to last longer due to a lack of cooperation by the person concerned or delays in getting documentation from a third country.

I think that the provisions on taking account of the best interests of the child, on family life, on the state of health, on the principle of non-refoulement and on special provisions for unaccompanied minors are particularly valuable and will help migrants under threat of removal. The provisions on reasons for detention and appeals and judicial review are crucial. But while intending to support this imperfect but necessary directive in order to raise standards, I must stress that it is only one part of the picture. We must have a fair refugee acceptance system and a proper legal immigration policy.


  Willy Meyer Pleite (GUE/NGL).(ES) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, it is a disgrace, an absolute disgrace to seek to deport more than 8 million people, on the basis of the concept of administrative detention.

If this decision is taken, as it unfortunately could be, it will be the end of the protective Europe. Many of us Europeans suffered administrative detention under dictatorships, and this is the concept that is going to prevail for the deportation of 8 million people.

The unsupportive Europe is therefore going to be consolidated. The same Member States that are going to seek to revive this concept are those who in this financial year have, for the first time, reduced aid for international cooperation.

It is not going to be possible to achieve the Millennium Goals, and this is going to be our contribution, from the old Europe, the old Europe with values of solidarity, to famine and the food crisis. The deportation of 8 million people with no sort of guarantee: a disgrace!

I believe in and call on the mobilisation of Europe, on those citizens who reject this type of legislation.


  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE-DE). - (RO) Dear colleagues, the European Commission has found that, in 2006, there were approximately 8 million illegal immigrants in the European Union. The Union can no longer ignore this problem. We have to find solutions; we cannot play with the lives of those people, but it is certain that the situation is not going to resolve itself.

The instruments recently proposed by the Commission for the control of illegal immigration cannot generate a positive effect unless the problem of illegal emigrants is also solved. We live in a Europe in which internal borders have been eliminated, a reason why we need this directive so that we could take a first step toward a common policy on repatriation of illegal immigrants.

There are NGOs that consider that the European Union has adopted ever more repressive policies in the field of immigration and appreciate the return directive as a “directive of shame”. I understand the concern of these NGOs for protecting the interests of people without papers, but I urge these organizations to look at the situation from a realistic angle. What solutions would there be for the illegal immigrants entering through Malta, the Canary Islands, Greece, Italy or, recently, through the external Eastern border and who are trying to settle in the European Union? There is a risk of these immigrants becoming victims of black-market labour, illegal trafficking or even terrorist radicalization. This threat is real and this is exactly why it is important to regulate their situation either by repatriation or by granting them asylum or a permit to stay.

The negotiations with the Council have led to solutions that can be accepted without reservation, especially in sensitive fields such as the protection of vulnerable people and unaccompanied minors, the conditioning of repatriation to the countries of origin or countries where the European Union has concluded bilateral agreements in this field. I believe the efforts submitted by the rapporteurs and the Council should be appreciated and the directive should be approved in the form presented at this first reading.


  Wolfgang Kreissl-Dörfler (PSE).(DE) Madam President, I am going to set my notes aside. I had prepared a lot of other things to say, but I must point out that we have certainly not achieved all we can here. I, too, hoped for more or better regulations. I am in two minds: one that wants to have the best and one that, here at European level, must make a decision, including about minimum standards that should apply in countries that have no standards at all. Each of us should look at how things are in our own country, at what is happening there, what standards our country has. Are they really all that great?

As the European Parliament, we can set only minimum standards. The fact that the Council has managed to come to any agreement at all borders on a miracle, because four or five states, including my own Federal Minister of the Interior, did not want to have any regulation at all and said they were happy with the way things were in their countries. Now the challenge is for the national parliaments and the national governments to do considerably better. Nobody is stopping them finding better solutions – where is that written? When I was a student, I learned that ‘looking in the statute books makes it easier to find the law.’ Mr Deprez is right: if you read all the articles together, then what we can achieve here becomes clearer. It is not as if we are going to find the philosopher’s stone. Nobody has ever found that – quite the contrary. However, I want to see this compromise used as the basis, so that in future, the European Union can do it better. My colleagues in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German Parliament, and in each of the German federal states will have to play their part, as our country has an 18-month period of detention pending removal. We have a re-entry ban that is much longer, and in many federal states there have been decisions that are not acceptable. To say that it is a shameful thing – then all I can do is advise that this is not the way ahead. Just to oppose it all the time – heavens above, that has never provided any help at all to the people who have to work in this area and those who are stuck in the countries that do not have any guidelines.


  Marco Cappato (ALDE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the rapporteur, Mr Weber, wondered why this Parliament did not see some of the positive measures introduced by this proposal for a directive.

The rapporteur, however, is talking to us as if this Parliament were faced with the final vote, with the final reading, with the obligation of exercising ultimate responsibility for adopting or rejecting it. That is not the case. We are at first reading. It is therefore hard to understand why, in the face of the proposals for improvements which enjoy a broad consensus in this House, certainly from the right and the left, on further guarantees that may be given on minors, on third countries of transit, and on re-entry bans, we do not seize this opportunity.

You tell us that it is because the Council has decided, and the governments have decided. This – as Mr Jonckheer said – is an abnegation of our powers as co-legislator; this means – and I say this with all due respect for the work that has been done over three years of negotiations – that we find ourselves at the point of not exercising our power to improve the directive.

The governments of Europe need this Parliament precisely in order to make Europe not a place of fear and more effective instruments to protect against immigration, but a place of integration of immigration.


  Patrick Gaubert (PPE-DE). (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, many organisations and political parties are fuelling an absurd ideological campaign against this text, which they are exploiting and misrepresenting for political ends.

With this directive, we are offering people in situations of vulnerability safeguards to ensure that return takes place in full respect for their rights and their dignity. It does not concern the right of asylum, Mr Catania. I get the impression you have not understood this yet.

We will not let our citizens think that their representatives are responsible for a text wrongly labelled the ‘Shameful Directive’. We do not need to be ashamed of a text that introduces new safeguards. The real shame is those who are blind and cannot see, or do not want to see, the progress it allows.

Do we want to incorporate the principle of voluntary return? Do we want to allow Member States to maintain an unlimited period? Do we want justified decisions? Do we want legal authorities to control the conditions of detention? Do we want free legal aid, and NGOs on hand? Do we want to incorporate the principles of family unity, the best interests of the child, and medical assistance? All texts can be improved, but this directive constitutes progress in comparison to what exists today, where each Member State does what it wants, sometimes unacceptably – is this not so, Mrs Roure and Mrs Hennis-Plasschaert?

Ladies and gentlemen, I call upon you to vote for this compromise so as not to give way to the political manipulations of certain people on this text and so as to keep in mind the concrete improvements it brings.


  Inger Segelström (PSE). - (SV) Madam President, let me begin by thanking Manfred Weber and all those who made possible this discussion on a first step towards common rules and procedures for returning illegal immigrants. Compared with previous discussions in committee and in plenary, I think that on certain key issues things are moving in the wrong direction and towards a less humane EU.

To begin with: to keep people locked up for 18 months is not acceptable. People can go mad, and these people are not felons or criminals but human beings looking for a better life for themselves and their families away from poverty. Secondly: if the Council and the rapporteur do not believe in voluntary return, children will be wrenched away from schools and nursery classes, accommodation will be vacated without notice and we shall do more damage than was perhaps caused by all the stress of waiting for a decision, especially to children. Thirdly: after adopting the strategy on the rights of the child in January, Parliament cannot now take a step backwards and lock up children or treat them as proposed. This can leave children damaged for life, and I will not contribute to that. Fourthly: five years is too long for people not to be able to return if they have reason to do so. Not even in the best of worlds can people be lumped together into groups; cases must be treated individually and they must be assessed and examined on their merits, for example as regards women and children in people trafficking.

Many organisations which monitor human rights have presented views, and they have concerns and think that the compromise is inadequate and the human approach insensitive. The amendments of the Socialist Group are to be applauded. Thank you Madam President.


  Panayiotis Demetriou (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, we need to ask a question: is illegal immigration a problem in the EU today or not? The answer has to be that it is a problem, and a serious one at that. We must also ask whether this problem should be addressed at European level or continue to be the concern of each Member State individually. The answer to the second question is no: the problem must be tackled by the EU. We have stated our position on this. Has a comprehensive, general EU policy been applied so far to tackle this problem? Here again, the answer, unfortunately, is no. We are addressing the problem in a fragmentary way, and the debate we are holding today merely scratches the surface of this vast problem of illegal immigration. Nonetheless, we can but proceed one step at a time.

Another question has to be asked today, when we are debating a compromise: is this a perfect compromise between the Council and Parliament? The answer is no. Is it the one we wanted? Certainly not! Is it a compromise we could discuss in the time available to us, with the satisfaction of actually getting somewhere? Again, the answer is no. Parliament has been discussing the matter with the Council for two and a half years.

I congratulate Mr Weber on the work he has done and the result he has achieved, but it is not a result I am entirely satisfied with. All the same, the question is whether the situation is improving. The answer is yes, it is. This raises the next question: can we manage to bring about some improvements as time goes by, instead of allowing the situation to stagnate? My answer is yes, we are in dialogue, and that can only be a good thing. ‘The Earth belongs to all human beings’ is an approach that has moved me. I am moved by the view that we cannot behave unreasonably towards these human beings. We must, however, face reality. Organised societies exist, and come what may, we have to protect human rights, while at the same time protecting the interests and rights of organised societies and organised states.


  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE). – (PL) Madam President, millions of people are staying in Europe illegally, and they are tolerated because they are a source of cheap labour, they do not acquire rights to a pension or to health care, and they cannot voluntarily pursue their rights through the courts. I have no doubt that every person, regardless of his or her legal status, has a right to dignity and to humanitarian treatment. That is why I am pleased to welcome the European Commission’s proposal that is intended to harmonise principles in this matter.

I have no doubt that all of us in this Parliament want transparent and clear Community principles and procedures relating to returns, expulsions and entry bans for illegal immigrants. We have been waiting for them for quite some time. Parliament has already spent two years working on these solutions. Let us not forget that we shall have to wait a further two years for this directive to enter into force, as that is its implementation period in the Member States. Although the directive gives rise to reservations on my part – our reservations regarding, for example, the detention period for immigrants, the holding of children without guardians and the ban on re-entry to the European Union – I want to ask whether illegal immigrants should continue to await a harmonised immigration policy, including minimum standards. Must they witness a discussion that demonstrates that Europe is unable to come to an agreement on this matter? I think not.


  Stefano Zappalà (PPE-DE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, along with many fellow Members who this morning have participated and are now participating in the debate in this House, I experienced this phenomenon at first hand at the beginning of this parliamentary term, visiting many parts of Europe and many preliminary reception centres.

I understand that the phenomenon is complex, and that it has various facets. Each of us, because of our culture, our character and our political position is liable to see it from a particular point of view. We must, however, take into account overall, and I think that this is absolutely vital, the fact that here we are not talking about a few emigrants, as was the case 100 years ago. We are not talking about small or isolated phenomena, but we are talking about immigrations of peoples. We are talking about millions and millions of individuals who move, prompted by varying motivations, very few relating to asylum-seeking, very few to needs of a political kind, but very many in search of better living conditions and better working conditions.

I cannot, although time is unfortunately a tyrant, omit to thank Mr Weber. I cannot omit to thank Mr Deprez, the current chairman of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the former chairman, Mr Cavada, and all the Members with whom we have spent much time involved in working on this phenomenon. I am of the belief that a law that can be improved is better than no law. I am convinced that Europe is right to look after all but, above all, on this complex and serious phenomenon that we are experiencing, it is right to look after its own citizens.


  Frieda Brepoels (PPE-DE). (NL) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to start by expressing particular thanks to our rapporteur for his tremendously hard work, and also for his perseverance in this extremely crucial dossier. At the end of the debate it is very difficult to contribute any new aspects, of course, but I very much agree with those Members who have said that this Directive is only an initial, yet essential, step towards a broad migration policy. We all face the same problems and challenges, and it is clear that our citizens will only accept and also understand legal migration if politicians state very clearly that illegal migration is not acceptable under any circumstances. We have seen that one third of our Member States still have no rules at all in this field and so, in fact, any legislation that we adopt here represents progress for these countries with regard to the protection of the illegal migrants themselves.

I should just like to say to opponents of this Directive that there will indeed be little or no change in countries already offering sufficient protection and that, in addition, the Council has given clear assurances that the Directive will not be used to the detriment of protection going further than that of the Directive, which is the case in some countries. Finally, it must also be made clear that Member States are at liberty to go further than the Directive.

As regards implementation and follow-up, I consider it very important that not only the Commission but also national parliaments bear a major responsibility for this, as it goes without saying that these expulsions must also be implemented effectively.

Finally, Madam President, I hope that the majority of the Members of this House will look beyond political dogma and manoeuvring and will be prepared to contribute to a realistic, resolute, clear, humane solution, not only in the interests of the EU but even more so in the interests of the illegal migrants themselves.


  Manolis Mavrommatis (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, let me first congratulate my colleague Mr Weber on his excellent work and its results, and also Mrs Carlotti on the constructive cooperation we have had in the Committee on Development.

The countries of the Mediterranean face the problem of illegal immigration to a greater extent than others whose borders are not exposed. For example, 112 000 illegal immigrants entered my country, Greece, last year, and 58 000 return decisions were issued. These are record numbers for the EU, which therefore needs to adopt a common strategy to deal with this problem. Accompanying measures must be taken to integrate immigrants, and decent conditions have to be arranged for the return of illegal entrants.

The EU must provide a return policy based on the principle of solidarity and the sharing of responsibilities with developing countries. I endorse and support the enforcement exemption in the Directive: it is based on family relationships, children’s best interests and the state of health of the immigrants. Children’s interests must be safeguarded by the appropriate social services department or by an advocate.

Lastly, the appeal by the Committee on Development against the detention of minors has been accepted, and I am sure that all my fellow Members will accept it.


  Ioannis Varvitsiotis (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, as Mr Mavrommatis has said, 112 000 illegal immigrants entered Greece last year. Most of them, however, did not want to stay; they wanted to go to other European countries. This means that the immigration problem is a European one; it concerns us all, and we must address it jointly.

This is why Greece is in favour of a common immigration policy. Certainly, Mr Weber’s recommendation does not altogether solve the problem, but it is a very positive step, so I wholeheartedly congratulate him. If we continue with the policy mapped out in the Directive, I think that at some point sooner or later, we shall find ourselves in a better situation than at present.

No-one accepts the inhumane treatment of immigrants or the violation of human rights. Greece’s only reservation has been about the obligation of Member States to provide free legal aid. Do you know why? There are two reasons: firstly, the cost is enormous and prohibitive for Greece; secondly, legal aid contains an element of unfairness. If free legal aid is given to illegal immigrants, why not give it to poor, legal immigrants entering our country, and why not to our own poor citizens?

I think that with the addition made to the article concerned, this issue has been resolved and Greece’s reservation has been lifted. We shall therefore definitely support the proposal and recommendation.


  Pierre Pribetich (PSE). (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, negotiations to reach an agreement at first reading have knocked back many of the advances achieved through the work of Parliament.

As it stands, this compromise text is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to treat minors as adults, to leave them without access to education, to allow them to be sent back to a country far from their own relatives. It is unacceptable to have common rules and procedures aligned with the lowest standards in Europe and to pull this directive down; it is unacceptable to leave so many doors open to serious risks of breaches of human rights, to undignified detention periods, and to leave so many people without legal cover for such situations.

How can an enlightened Europe accept such a terrible thing? How can the dream of the creators of Victor Hugo’s United States of Europe be turned into a nightmare after so much hope?


  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE). - (SK) The problems associated with illegally-staying immigrants in the EU call for transparent, clear and just rules. Taking into account how topical this problem is – at present approximately 8 million illegal immigrants are living in the EU – and how complicated it is, I think that creating a common legal framework is unavoidable.

The directive makes it clear that illegal immigrants have to leave Europe. However, we must consider the conditions under which this happens and ensure that human rights, in particular the right to personal freedom, are fully respected.

Since children are an extremely vulnerable group in this situation, I particularly welcome the fact that the key legal principle of the best interests of the child is explicitly mentioned in the directive. We cannot limit the problem of illegal immigration purely to pragmatic coercive expulsion and a re-entry ban. Ultimately, we have to apply a wider political dimension in terms of cutting down the incentives for illegal immigration to the European Union.


  Jean-Claude Martinez (NI). (FR) Madam President, Evo Morales wrote to us about the directive on immigration that in France is known as ‘sans-papiers’. A Latin American head of state writing to Europe is not really a foreigner, it is like a cousin writing.

Obviously, we are States with rules that must be respected; otherwise disorder ensues and in the end everyone suffers. However, since there is immigration from Peru to Chile, from Nicaragua to Costa Rica and from Mozambique to South Africa, immigration is global with global causes. In a globalised economic market, immigration is the supreme stage of capitalist logic, where the person who has nothing to sell can sell only himself. It may be necessary to have a ramshackle continental European legal structure for the effects of global migration, but immigration will eventually have to be dealt with on a global level, as is the case for food, pandemics and basic education, because it is already globalised. That is known as ‘regulating’ the shared areas of global co-ownership.


  Petru Filip (PPE-DE). - (RO) The existence of uniform standards and procedures applicable in the Member States represents a requirement at the level of the entire European administrative system and not only regarding the return of third-country immigrants.

The drawing up of this report, which is undoubtedly of current interest and useful, provides me with the opportunity to raise again for discussion the need to implement interoperable systems for the issue of documents for the public at the level of administration in all countries.

The interoperability of systems for the issue of documents in all countries remains the main premise for limiting the risks arising from excessive authority and provides a functional formula for guaranteeing the use of rights arising from the status of Community citizen.

Appreciating the quality of this report, I would like to emphasize the fact that its effects will be maximized by rethinking the practical conditions of implementation, based on fundamental studies regarding the opportunity of an integrated electronic system of administrative procedures and services. Maybe it is not too late to think about setting up a European electronic identity.


  Nicolae Vlad Popa (PPE-DE). - (RO) Due to the Weber report, a balanced report, the Return directive will represent the first legislative initiative in the field of immigration to be successfully adopted by the procedure of co-decision between the European Parliament and the Council. I am glad that both institutions, assisted by the European Commission, undertook and responsibly fulfilled their duties, establishing a reference for the future files.

The return policy should be regarded as an integral and necessary part of a complete and coherent Community policy in the field of migration and asylum. More efficient rules regarding illegal immigration will make possible more liberal rules for legal migration.

I consider that, at present, clear, transparent and equitable rules have been drawn up to ensure an efficient return policy, as a necessary element of correct management of the migration policy, as agreed by the Hague programme.


  Ewa Klamt (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, we have been calling for an overall plan for all aspects of migration for years, and the Returns Directive quite clearly forms part of this package. Legal immigration into the European Union can be regulated sensibly only if we do not continue to accommodate millions of illegal immigrants and put this situation on a par with legal immigration.

When Mrs Roure points to the ‘right’ of illegal immigrants to escape poverty, I must remind her that there are 922 million people on the continent of Africa alone, most of whom live in poverty, and that there are 1.1 billion people in India, many of whom would like to come and join us in Europe. That is the wrong way of regulating things. Therefore, support this Returns Directive to open the way for us to have really good regulations for legal immigration at last so that we can truly help people.


  Dragutin Mate, President-in-Office of the Council. (SL) I would of course like to add something to what I have been following closely and what you have been saying in your remarks.

Firstly it needs to be stated very clearly that here today we are talking about a return directive, we are talking about illegal migration, we are not talking about asylum, or talking about asylum procedures. There are very big differences between these two things. The directive concerning asylum has been in force since 2003 and is working.

Today we are trying to take a step forward. It is important for us to take this step forward, and in its political declaration, which you can read on the penultimate page, the Council adopted a commitment whereby for those persons that fulfil the conditions for detention, but not everyone across the board, detention may be carried out for six months. Moreover, in exceptional cases, where this is specifically provided, this will be extended for a further12 months. This does is not an automatic process, as we have heard several times today from the floor, of 18 months. This is not true.

Furthermore, in the political declaration the Council made a clear commitment, if I may quote: The Council states that the implementation of this Directive should not be used in itself as a reason to justify the adoption of provisions less favourable to persons to whom it applies.’

This means no country, and there are six such countries – I have spoken about this with all six ministers. In the negotiation process within the Council, all six ministers insisted that this is less than six months. Yet sadly there is a majority of Member States that have much longer periods, even unlimited, and quite a few Member States now have in practice and in theory the possibility of holding illegal immigrants for an unlimited period.

Here is where we wish to make progress. Moreover, it is essential for us to make progress. Here I would of course like especially to mention particularly vulnerable groups of children. I would urge Parliament to look again at Article 5, and once again at Article 15a. It is clearly stated that conditions may not be worse for children, and that they must be afforded access to education and kindergartens. They must be accommodated in special institutions that enable all this. The restrictions are very strict.

On this point, too, negotiations were very tough, by no means simple. I do not know if all Members can picture it, but here is just one tiny detail from the negotiations. For one article, Article 14, we negotiated for four hours, four hours over each word individually.

Member States have grasped that this needs to be resolved at EU level. And what are you deciding about here today? Whether we will resolve this at national level, as has been done to date, or resolve this at EU level. One Member put it very eloquently: illegal migration, it is a problem. Is not a question of whether it is. It is. This area needs to be put in order, it needs to be put in order in the most civilised manner possible. So we need to take the first step. I know that for many people this is not a good compromise, but we need to be aware that for Member States, too, this compromise is on the margin of acceptability.

You need to be aware that very many Member States do not want a common policy in this area. Member States, many Member States will be happy if they can regulate this in their own way, back home with their own rules, without the consent of the European Parliament and without the supervision of European institutions. And the situation we have is worse than what we are proposing today. For this reason I would reiterate that this is an important and decisive step forward.

So what is being decided here today? We are not deciding on the actual wording of these articles that are here, or o the success of the negotiations between Mr Weber and myself on the side of the Council and the Commission and Commissioners on the other side. We are deciding on the integrity of integration policies. If today we get to the point where we say NO to this directive on illegal migration, you can imagine how hard it will be to move on to decision-making, to joint decision-making about legal migration.

We will have to take this first step and if we do not take it today, the future and the method of adopting this is a long way off, a very long way off. I can tell you here today in all responsibility that if the directive is not adopted at first reading, a large number of Member States will fall back on their original negotiating positions, which are extremely rigid and extremely firm. Then, of course, considerable time will pass before we can again sit here and decide whether to adopt some common position.

Ultimately, a compromise will have to be adopted. No extreme position will be adopted. This is a cornerstone of democracy. It is not just that someone’s word prevails, and of course I respect the opinion of all the non-governmental organisations, and all other institutions that have provided opinions and that are fighting to improve the situation. It is right that they are fighting for this, but we must be aware that in the final analysis all of us, we in Council and you in Parliament, are answerable to our electorates and we know what kinds of difficulties arise in these areas. As I have stated several times now in this concluding speech, this is the first step, a very important step, which we must take together on this path towards improving the rights of illegal immigrants and generally in terms of formulating migration policies.


  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Madam President, I am going to limit myself to contributing some additional information to this debate.

Firstly, the return directive, if it comes into existence, will not do so in isolation. It will be part of a series based on the concept of a coordinated immigration policy. Consequently, as a number of MEPs have mentioned, there will in fact be texts on legal immigration and texts to strengthen our asylum procedures and our reception of refugees. There will also be, and already is, a coordinated policy involving the third countries that immigrants come from. I am personally convinced that it is through partnership with a number of third countries that we will succeed in finding the ways and means of this coordinated immigration policy. That is the first thing I wanted to say.

Secondly, I would like to remind you that the value of a directive − and this is very important − is to give us a legal framework to enable us to apply the Community mechanisms that will mean we can control respect for the acquis, namely infringement proceedings, jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, the Commission report, and control exercised by the European Parliament. The advantage of having a directive of this kind is that it opens up channels for much more effective judicial control.

The third point for Parliament to think about is that Parliament has still moved things forward, particularly through the articles concerning children. The spirit of these new articles, Article 8a and Article 15a is that, as far as possible, children should not be detained. If they are ever detained the added value of the directive lies in the fact that it forces Member States who have decided to do this to respect the minimum safeguards defined in Article 15a, which you have just mentioned, Mr Mate.

The fourth point I wish to add is that we also have financial resources that should be used. We have a Return Fund of around EUR 700 million, which should enable us to provide help with legal assistance, healthcare and a number of problems of reintegration into certain countries of origin.

The fifth point I will borrow from Mr Deprez, who mentioned that the Commission would be responsible for writing a report within three years. I want to stress that it is not just this report that will place an obligation on us, but everything that underpins this text: the desire to give the European Union procedures subject to judicial review, procedures that try to balance the need for legality, without which we would not get public opinion to accept legal immigration, against the need to ensure respect for the principles of the Convention on Human Rights. I can tell you that if this directive is adopted, I will be personally involved in its implementation so as to ensure that we do not lose sight of this spirit.


  Manfred Weber, rapporteur. − (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I would first like to thank you for the reasoned debate. With an emotional issue such as this, it is amazing that we are doing this so objectively. I must say that, considering the breadth of topics covered here today, I am proud to be a Member of this Parliament.

There was one lapse: Mr Catania accused us all of being responsible for the mass graves in the Mediterranean. I must reject this strategy of gaining political influence by appealing to popular emotions and fears. All of us here are trying to do our best to help the people there.

I do not want to say any more about the content of the Directive, as this has been discussed thoroughly already. I would like to say something about the process. Our Chairman in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs has spoken very wisely. He advised the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats to proceed fairly particularly in this process. We have withdrawn our amendments. We would like the amendments to be voted on, so we have made our contribution to that. We prepared hundreds of amendments in the Committee on Home Affairs and organised large majorities there. This meant that every Member who was interested in this issue could take part.

I would also like to say something about the NGOs. I understand that they are not happy. When we discuss environmental issues here, Greenpeace will never be happy with the result we achieve. The task of an NGO is to exert increasing amounts of pressure, but already today I can tell you what will happen: if we pass this Directive, then tomorrow, the very same NGOs that are now protesting will make use of these legal opportunities and will be instituting proceedings with the European Court of Justice. I also predict that the Members on the left, who are arguing against this Directive today, will tomorrow ask the Commission, or Commissioner Barrot, to implement what we have passed here. They will try to create advantages for people on the basis of this legal foundation. Therefore, I say: it is not an ideal situation, but we have made a great step forward.

One last thought: alas, Mrs Roure and Mr Fava from the Socialist Group in the European Parliament are not present. They are outside, giving television interviews and trying to present their position. They have not heard what Mr Mate said: that either we will take this step forward – many thanks, again, to the Slovenian Presidency of the Council – or there will be no progress for many years. We will keep on saying that we need to make decisive progress, but we will not achieve anything. Therefore, the question tomorrow is not whether the Directive is ideal or not. The question is simply ‘does it take the European Union forward?’ Tomorrow we can answer this question with a good, clear ‘yes’.


  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.

Written statements (Rule 142)


  Louis Grech (PSE), in writing. The proposed directive on the return of illegal migrants should be welcomed for its effort to adopt common standards and is a step in the right direction. However, it falls short in providing some safeguards relating to refugee and human rights, and fails to address the specific needs and problems of Member States like Malta, which are being affected to a disproportionate degree relative to their size, population and resources.

Once again, I wish to stress and reiterate the point that this matter deserves a common European policy that addresses fundamental ‘issues’, such as a) the adoption of ‘burden-sharing’ policies amongst all the Member States b) the revision of Dublin II c) adequate financial support d) an assessment of the viability, or otherwise, of developing centres such as job centres in countries of origin and transit e) the development of a realistic return policy f) the implementation of timely integration policy and g) the fight against organised crime (involving trafficking in people), xenophobia and racism.

The setting up of an agency specifically created to address all legal and illegal immigration would be highly instrumental in tackling these issues in a comprehensive and integrated manner.


  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE), in writing. (FI) Madam President, the first challenge in this proposed legislation before us lies in the fact that it is our first attempt to establish Community-wide norms in immigration policy. It will be a major effort to create a policy that applies to the Community as a whole.

Immigration policy, if nothing else, is something that is sensitive in terms of fundamental rights and human rights. I agree with those who have said in no uncertain terms that there are some delicate points in the proposal for a compromise as far as fundamental and human rights are concerned.

As legislators, however, we need to look at the complete picture: maintaining the status quo is no option at all. Firstly, this concerns custody terms. In several Member States there are no time limits in the law on custody. Moreover, the criteria for custody are often not adequately regulated either. Secondly, many Member States impose unlimited re-entry bans. For these reasons, many Member States would prefer to see the proposals for a compromise and, indeed, the entire legislative initiative fail in our vote.

It is crucially important that the directive should make the return process subject to the Community’s monitoring mechanisms. In this way we will be able to guarantee that certain minimum standards will soon apply to all Member States.

I am grateful to the rapporteur, Mr Weber, for managing to negotiate major improvements to the Council position, with the result that our humanitarian obligations are guaranteed. Of particular importance are the changes that have been made to protect children, families and minorities.


  Roselyne Lefrançois (PSE), in writing. (FR) The text to be put to the vote tomorrow constitutes a clear step backwards, not only in relation to the Commission’s initial proposal, but above all in relation to the work done within the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, of which I am a member.

We socialists are in favour of introducing minimum rules concerning the return of illegally staying nationals because we support a responsible, humane approach to illegal immigration and realise that some EU Member States are pursuing unacceptable policies in this area from the point of view of respect for fundamental rights.

We have no choice, however, but to point out that the compromise supported by the conservatives and the majority of the liberals does not bring any improvements in this area. It does not apply either to asylum seekers or to those people intercepted at borders. Above all, it gives Member States far too much leeway on key issues such as the rights of minors and detention periods.

Accordingly, the detention period could be extended to as much as 18 months. Like many of my fellow Members, I refuse to support the possibility of locking up, for such a long time, people whose only crime is to have wanted to seek a better life in Europe.

That is why, if the amendments of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament are rejected, I will vote according to my conscience and against this text.


  Vincent Peillon (PSE), in writing.(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow we must vote on a text that Member States and the more conservative amongst us are billing as a compromise. Do not be taken in, however: this text is not a compromise, but it is compromising.

What are the Council and the rapporteur proposing in this return directive if not for us to support Member States being able to lock up a human being, who has arrived illegally but is not guilty of any crime, for 18 months, and then banish him from European territory for a further 5 years?

Parliament finally has the power of codecision on immigration. Consequently we have not just the possibility of pulling our weight against the Council; we have a duty to do so. Let us not waste this opportunity: by adopting the directive as it is, we would be allowing the Council to unpick all the progress made right here on human rights during 3 years of negotiations.

I therefore hope that we will reject this text; it is a real caricature of the withdrawal into ourselves and forgetting of our values that is such a threat to us.

We need a true European immigration policy, not one that consists of the illusory protection of a Fortress Europe.


  Gabriele Zimmer (GUE/NGL), in writing.(DE) A majority on the right of the European Parliament opens the way for massive removals.

The eight million people without a valid residency permit, many of whom have been living in EU Member States for many years, are faced with detention and deportation. The Ministers of the Interior wanted to ‘clear the decks’ before regulating legal immigration to the European Union in a unified manner. Recently, the Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Peter Altmaier, came clean with the television news and said that to Germany’s benefit, in future it will be easier to remove those people that Germany wants to get rid of.

According to the compromise text produced by the Council and Mr Weber, a Member of the European Parliament and of the Christian-Social Union of Bavaria, detention of up to 18 months can be arranged, children can be separated from their families and those deported can be banned from re-entering the European Union for five years. The Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left, a left-wing group, protests against these inhumane practices.

This Directive is catastrophic for the European Union’s attempt to make a name for itself as a body that campaigns internationally for human rights. In a joint appeal to Members, 44 regions of Africa and Latin America demanded that the draft legislation be rejected. President Evo Morales of Bolivia had already reminded Members, in a powerful and emotional letter, that refugees from Europe had found sanctuary from poverty and repression, as well as friendship, in other continents for the last two centuries.


5. Adoption by Slovakia of the single currency on 1 January 2009(debate)

  President. – The next item is the report (A6-0231/2008) by Mr Casa, on behalf of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, on the proposal for a Council decision in accordance with Article 122(2) of the Treaty on the adoption by Slovakia of the single currency on 1 January 2009 (COM(2008)0249 – C6-0198/2008 – 2008/0092(CNS)).

Ladies and gentlemen, let me congratulate Slovakia and our Slovak fellow Members on this success for their country and for the euro area.


  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission. (FR) Madam President, on behalf of the Commission, I would first like to thank the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the rapporteur, Mr Casa, for the excellent work they have done in assessing Slovakia’s fulfilment of the convergence criteria for adopting the single currency.

With Slovakia’s entry into the euro area, this will have sixteen members, four of them from the group of countries that joined the European Union in 2004.

This is the fifth enlargement of the euro area since the single currency was introduced in 1999. It is clear proof that it is open to all Member States meeting the conditions set by the Treaty.

Slovakia’s entry into the euro area represents the crowning of the remarkable progress made by the Slovakian economy over the last decade. It will enable the country to benefit from the important advantages offered by Economic and Monetary Union, as set out in the report adopted by the Commission last May on 10 years of EMU.

This report also demonstrates that, to benefit fully from the advantages of the euro, it is necessary to pursue sound macroeconomic policies to protect a country’s competitiveness once the exchange rate is fixed irrevocably. This includes fiscal discipline, a responsible wage policy and structural reforms, particularly as regards the functioning of the labour market.

Without a clear commitment to this, there is a danger that inflation could become a real and considerable problem. This point is mentioned explicitly in Mr Casa’s report, with which the Commission is in complete agreement.

The Ecofin Council of 3 June approved the Commission’s report on Slovakia’s fulfilment of the convergence criteria. The European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday should, once Parliament’s opinion has been received, confirm the political support for Slovakia’s adoption of the single currency, which will be validated by the Ecofin Council in July.

Next week, the Commission will propose the definitive exchange rate between the Slovakian crown and the euro, which will also be formally adopted by the Ecofin Council in July.

In this respect I would like to thank the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Mr Casa for the work begun some months ago to enable Parliament to give its opinion within the tight deadlines that our three institutions are given to make a sound assessment of the fulfilment of the criteria by the Member State concerned, and to leave it enough time to complete the practical arrangements for adopting the euro on 1 January 2009.




  David Casa, rapporteur. − (MT) We have an important moment ahead of us because in this Parliament we are once again discussing the enlargement of the euro area to include an ex-Communist country, a country that, like my own country, Malta, joined the European Union in 2004, a country that needed to change its economy in order to be able to meet the criteria laid down in the Treaty. This was not easy to achieve. We have been in discussion for months with the Commission, with the European Central Bank, with the Slovak Government as well as with the whole of Slovak civil society to ensure that the process can truly help Slovakia to meet all the criteria laid down in the Treaty.

After the Commission issued its report, we, as Parliament, went through a process of discussion and consultation that was truly a very important moment, even for me, because I could see what the Commission was saying, not only what the European Central Bank or the Slovak Government were saying, but I could understand from the Slovak people how they perceive this historic step that they will take, God willing, next January.

As the Commissioner stated just before me, today Slovakia has a responsibility, because there is a queue of countries behind it, the majority of which, like Slovakia, are emerging from a Communist era and wish to enter this area that is so important for the European Union. Therefore, the country that we are talking about today has a responsibility to remain durable as regards convergence, and especially as regards the inflation rate that was the subject of much discussion even in my report. However, from the statistics we have before us today, it is clear that we have a problem throughout the area and we cannot single out Slovakia, because today we are talking about an inflation rate that actually increased in the 21 countries of the European Union. Therefore, we must not only ensure that Slovakia maintains a durable inflation rate, but also see how the inflation rate can be reduced as much as possible in all the countries already in the euro area. We know about the problems that we are currently facing, the oil problem that is not affecting us in a positive way, and we therefore have to consider how we are going to tackle this very important issue.

As I said, Parliament has visited Slovakia for the first time and I would appeal that delegations from this Parliament are sent to each country that is going to enter the euro area because this provides an opportunity to hear and learn more about how the economy is really faring in that particular country.

As for the Commission, I am slightly disappointed with the reassessment it carried out after the convergence report was officially published. I do not think that this Parliament should be treated in the way the Commission treated it because we should at least have been consulted. I understand that the reassessment cannot be published very far ahead because of the possibility of speculation, but this Parliament requires that when similar measures are taken after the convergence report has been compiled, we as Parliament should be consulted, even if it is not until the last moments of this decision.

In closing I would like to thank all those who assisted me in preparing this report, including the shadow rapporteurs from all the political groups, my coordinator and the committee chairs, who were always very cooperative on this report. Lastly, I thank the Slovak people and wish them well with this historic step they are now going to take. We should vote in favour of this important step, not only for their sake, but also for the sake of the whole of the European Union.


  Alexander Radwan, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I, too, would like to thank the rapporteur. I have been having a few additional thoughts about Slovakia’s accession to the euro area over the last few days.

The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats will be voting in favour of this report. Based on the events surrounding the change from the koruna to the euro, we again submitted relevant amendments and compromise proposals because this change, which was more than the allowable 15% fluctuation, led to a dispute in Parliament too. All we can do is ask of the Commission – and not just ask, but actually insist – that it helps out here so that for future adoptions of the single currency, the criteria that are already laid down in the Treaty will be made specific.

Since becoming a Member of the European Parliament, I have been present every time a new country has adopted the single currency. Each time, we have been presented with new arguments, including the one that ‘after all, the previous states were able to do it this way too’, and this will become a neverending story. I consider it important that we see joining the euro area less as a matter of national honour and more as a goal of making the criteria more objective, which is good for the state that is joining.

The upward revaluation of the koruna by more than 17% is certainly economically justified. Whether it was right to combine the timing of the revaluation with entry to the euro area is another matter. Therefore, we should do everything possible to ensure that the euro and the overall economy achieve something good, rather than restricting ourselves to the point of view of a political situation of limited duration, whether European or national.

Let me mention briefly what happened on Thursday. I think it is wrong for the European Parliament to ignore this repeatedly, and we will have a major debate about this tomorrow. We will vote today on whether Slovakia should join the euro area and ECOFIN will do so in July. We saw on Thursday how one member of the euro area said that it did not want the European Union to be the way it is. High representatives of your home country then chimed in along the same lines, Commissioner.

The euro was never an end in itself. The euro was always just a marker along the way to further development of the European Union. Now – although the Council is not here, unfortunately – everyone is asking the same question: where to with Europe now? What are the next specific steps? Some are talking about the core of Europe, others of alternatives, still others are saying we should stop expanding, but some are behaving as if nothing will change. Therefore, we will try again with the euro, and even try again after that.

However, when we make these decisions, we should bear in mind the political realities in the European Union, so when we vote today, I will have very mixed feelings about whether simply ignoring the vote – the reality in Europe – is really the right thing to do.


  Dariusz Rosati, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (PL) Mr President, I would like to begin by thanking Mr Casa for producing an excellent report. I wish to say that the PSE Group will be supporting this report.

I would also like to emphasise that we are dealing for the first time with the entry of a Central European country, a post-Communist country from the old Soviet bloc, into the euro area. I see this as not only a symbolic event, but also an important step along the road towards European integration. This is a success for the monetary union, as it is being entered by a dynamic and competitive economy unburdened by public debt, and this will surely serve to strengthen the euro area. Secondly, it is also a success for Slovakia, which successfully met all the membership criteria and will be able to benefit from the advantages of a common currency. This success is particularly important and necessary today, when the results of the failed referendum in Ireland have shaken faith in the future of European integration. Slovakia’s accession to the euro area shows that the process of deepening European integration is moving ahead, and I believe that even the greatest Euro-sceptics will not be in a position to hold it back.

Slovakia’s acceptance into the club of States making use of the common currency is confirmation that, when introduced, consistently economic and structural reforms pay off and bring positive results. Today Slovakia is one of the most rapidly developing States in the European Union. Commissioner Špidla spoke about this. One source of these successes is in fact reforms, and here thanks and recognition are due, both to Mikuláš Dzurinda’s government, which brought in these difficult reforms, and to Robert Fico’s current government, which is continuing them.

Slovakia’s adoption of the euro is also a major challenge. In particular, the Slovakian Government must make sure that the change in currency takes place in an organised manner, so that there are no price rises, and so that the Slovak public’s support for the new currency is maintained in future.

In congratulating my Slovak fellow Members on this success, I would also like – as a Polish MEP – to express the hope that my country will soon be joining them.


  Wolf Klinz, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Slovakia has indeed achieved amazing things within a few short years. Who could have imagined that Slovakia would be one of the first of the new Member States to be able to join the euro area? However, the hard work is not over; in fact, it has only just begun. In their assessment and analysis, the Commission and the European Central Bank made it clear that the question of whether inflation can be kept at the desired level over the long term remains open. Indeed, Slovakia is aware of this problem. Otherwise this unparalleled step of revaluing the country’s currency, the koruna, by more than 17% to match the euro makes no sense. I can only appeal to Slovakia not to give us cause to experience a second Slovenia where, almost as soon as the country joined the euro area, inflation became rampant.

The step you have taken of revaluing the koruna shows that you are taking dealing with inflation seriously. It is true that imported inflation, especially in the case of energy products, can be kept somewhat in check by this means. However, that does not mean that measures in other areas cease to be very important; they always will be. As Commissioner Špidla mentioned, restrictive fiscal policies, wage increases that continue to focus on increasing productivity and not on the wishes of employees, and mobilisation of the employment market are all part of it. We know that circumstances vary greatly between Slovakia’s diverse regions. There is above average unemployment in some regions while in others, there are too few skilled workers.

Mr Radwan is absolutely right. Joining the euro area is not just an economic step, but also a political one. Back then, it was designed as entry to a phase that would be completed by a much more extensive integration. I hope that Slovakia, through moderate, correct, structure-oriented policies, will make its contribution to being able to chalk this entry up as a success at the end of the day.


  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, in taking the floor in this debate on behalf of the UEN Group, I wish to draw attention to the following issues. Once again the European Commission is reminding us of the need to meet all of the Maastricht criteria prior to entry into the euro area, with reference to the new Member States. Meanwhile, it is choosing to remain silent regarding the fact that, at the time the euro was introduced, many of the old Member States did not meet these criteria.

Secondly, despite changes in the Stability and Growth Pact that benefit such countries as Germany and France, the characteristic lenient position taken by the Commission with regard to the largest States in the euro area concerning observance of the Maastricht criteria has not changed. The Commission has in the past tolerated both significant budget deficits and, especially, a level of public debt exceeding 60% of GDP, and it appears to be tolerating these still. In 2006 public debt in the Fifteen was, on average, 63% of GDP, and as many as half of the countries in the euro area had a public debt that exceeded 60%. In this situation, Slovakia’s achievements in the form of a deficit of 2.2%, or a public debt of just 29%, with inflation at 2.2%, are particularly worthy of mention.

Slovakia’s entry into the euro area will be an important experience for the new Member States. They all have a relatively low level of GDP per head, a large income differential over the populace, a low level of affluence or a relatively low overall level of prices. The consequences of introducing the euro in Slovakia, especially...

(The President cut off the speaker)


  Hanne Dahl, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (DA) Mr President, Slovakia wishes to participate in the euro, and I do not blame it for that, yet I wish to take this opportunity to call for level-headedness. After all, it could be said that the euro is about to take its first test. For various reasons, we are seeing price increases, not only in Europe but worldwide. Inflation is rising, and inflationary expectations have been generated. The euro as a currency has not faced this test before. The European Central Bank operates on the basis of a maximum inflation rate of 2%. It has no means of enforcing this ceiling other than to raise interest rates in order to reduce the level of activity in an attempt to bring down inflation. If it does this, there is reason to fear recession. The Stability and Growth Pact focuses exclusively on ensuring that public deficit does not exceed 3% of GDP. This restraining of economic stimulation gives us grounds to fear further recession in Europe. If I were Slovakia, I would at all events defer abolishing my own currency in favour of the euro until the latter has passed its first test in economic crises.


  Sergej Kozlík (NI). - (SK) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, we can learn a lot from history. In the 1990s most of the then eurozone members were not capable of meeting the convergence criteria. Most of these countries had problems with excessive deficits, public finances and inflation.

During the reference year, 1997, Germany had problems complying with the criterion relating to the level of public borrowing, and as a result even those countries that had significantly exceeded the criteria values, such as Belgium or Italy, were tolerated. Some countries in the nascent eurozone had even resorted to so-called ‘creative accounting’, i.e. procedures that made their economic results look better than they were. Afterwards, although there were some hiccups, most of the eurozone members solved and continue solving these problems under the umbrella of the euro, a strong single currency. I must point out that these countries have not met all the deficit criteria. Therefore, those who point the finger at the applicants for accession to the eurozone should take care not to cast the first stone.

The Slovak Republic not only met the convergence criteria; it met them well in advance. The development of the Slovakian parameters had been monitored for a long time and was fully transparent. Fears of future inflation, expressed by the European Central Bank, can be generally applied to all eurozone members because the European economy is not developing in a vacuum. The current global price explosion is proof of this.

Consequently, I welcome the positive position of the European Commission and of the European Parliament as highlighted in the report by the rapporteur, Mr Casa, on the adoption by Slovakia of the single currency on 1 January 2009. This position is not only a technical but also a significant political gesture that signals to other applicants for accession to the eurozone that their efforts can lead to a tangible result.


  Ján Hudacký (PPE-DE). - (SK) I would like to begin by expressing my thanks to the rapporteur, Mr David Casa, for his excellent and balanced report, and for his pragmatic approach when evaluating the individual amendments.

Slovakia’s accession to the eurozone has not come about by chance. It is the natural culmination of enormous efforts by the Slovak Governments that created, in particular between 1998 and 2006, a solid economic base through radical economic reforms in the areas of finance, tax and social affairs.

These reforms, together with direct foreign investment, have enabled Slovakia to enjoy constant and high economic growth. Continuous efforts to reach the goal, as well as the responsible conduct of the Slovak Governments and the National Bank, made it possible to meet all the Maastricht criteria necessary for accession to the eurozone, without extra influences such as hidden inflation or the artificial strengthening of the Slovak currency, the koruna.

Some members of the ECON Committee have voiced their concerns about the long-term sustainability of these criteria, in particular a low inflation rate. I am convinced, however, that Slovakia has all it needs to meet these criteria on a long-term basis, provided that at least a standard fiscal policy is in place and further structural reforms are carried out. The developments in the area of energy and food prices are, and will continue to be, a global problem. Slovakia will definitely not be a country that goes beyond the agreed framework.

To conclude, I would especially like to congratulate the people of Slovakia, who accepted these fundamental and radical reforms and therefore deserve the utmost praise for achieving this positive result.


  Pervenche Berès (PSE). (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I believe that thanks to our rapporteur, Mr Casa, we have a balanced report for welcoming the political decision we are going to take: Slovakia’s entry into the euro area. This is the first of the ‘Visegrad’ countries to join the area and I believe that, from a political point of view, it has major significance that needs to be underlined.

For the Slovaks, it is the end of one adventure and the start of another. It is the end of preparation and of reaching a position that fulfils the Maastricht criteria. Experience has shown us that once a country joins the euro, the hardest is often yet to come. In Slovakia’s case, we can see that from the point of view of controlling inflation and pursuing balance, and from the point of view of social cohesion and implementing structural reforms, there is still much to be done. To achieve this, I believe the mechanisms we are discussing so that, in future, the Economic and Monetary Union is better able to support and work together on the way Member States use their currency, will be helpful.

We will not be changing the much-discussed Maastricht criteria. Nobody has asked for them to be changed, and yet they have to be interpreted, to be examined in a changed context. Economic and Monetary Union is now 10 years old, and we know what is still wrong with it in terms of the balance between economic policy, monetary policy and even its external representativeness. It is this Economic and Monetary Union that Slovakia is joining; it is not the same situation as 10 years ago and we all need to take this into account.


  Olle Schmidt (ALDE). - (SV) Who would have thought, when Vladimir Mečiar led Slovakia, that his country would not just become a Member State of the EU but would also introduce the euro some 10 years on. It is truly a Slovakian miracle. The rapporteur points out the advantages which the euro brings but also the risks and problems which may arise. It is good that Slovakia has taken on board the ECB’s view of the risk of increased inflation with the adoption of the euro and I think it was necessary therefore, after consultation, to revalue the koruna. It shows both instinct and confidence for good future economic policy as a member of the euro group.

Mr President, I hope that in the near future my own country will also realise the importance, both economically and politically, of participating fully in EU cooperation. Although referendums are not very popular these days, I hope that over the period 2010-2011 we shall be able to hold a referendum which will vote to introduce the euro in Sweden.

The financial crisis shows what a strong European currency and an effective central bank mean to the protection of the EU’s growth and economy. With the continued application of strict criteria for entry and with constructive assistance available to all those who become members of the euro group, the EU’s economy will become even stronger.


  Zsolt László Becsey (PPE-DE). - (HU) Thank you for the opportunity to speak. A great moment has arrived, since Parliament, and later on the Council in the formal legal sense, are about to decide whether the first of the former Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) and Warsaw Pact countries will be admitted to the single currency area. I congratulate Mr Casa, the rapporteur, for doing a splendid, outstanding job.

I am delighted that Slovakia has fulfilled all the criteria set out in quantitative terms in the EC Treaty as conditions for admission to the euro zone. This achievement is the result of ten years’ work. I believe it is important only to voice an opinion on whether the applicant country has fulfilled the criteria, because otherwise we discriminate among Member States on the basis of whether they joined the euro zone earlier or will do so in future. Loosely defined sustainability criteria – notably with regard to inflation or debt – or real convergence cannot be the subject of separate quantitative analysis in the report, since all Member States in the euro zone, must be trusted equally from the moment they join to implement sustainability. This is especially the case if the Member State in question has a low and falling level of debt compared to its fellow euro club members. This is a vital question for the future enlargement process.

The Slovak Government is taking on a huge responsibility. As soon as its exchange rate is frozen, in other words from July onwards, it must demonstrate that it is not only concerned with its own membership of the euro zone but also carries responsibility for the other countries in the region. In view of this, Slovakia must use all means at its disposal to keep inflation under control, in other words within the reference limit. In doing so it will demonstrate that the understandable and justifiable fears expressed by several Members of this House and the European Central Bank (ECB) – namely that after the massive shift in the central exchange rate occurs, Bratislava may unable or unwilling to keep the brakes on the inflationary pressure resulting from import prices and from closing the price gap – are not compounded by an irresponsible attitude.

Furthermore, this is not the time or the place to address other unresolved issues relating to enlargement of the euro zone. Issues such as ensuring that applicant countries submit their request in time, defining what we mean by discipline concerning the timeframe between the Commission forming an opinion and a decision being reached, or defining the notion of real convergence, or how long we can realistically expect exchange rate stability to be maintained in the event of appreciation, must be addressed separately. These issues should not be addressed here, in a selective and discriminatory way, and this is why I am abstaining today from voting on these issues. Thank you, Mr President, for the opportunity to speak.


  Monika Beňová (PSE). - (SK) In recent years the Slovak Republic underwent many difficult reforms and the present government has successfully compensated the poorer sections of society affected by them. Since the government approached, responsibly and conscientiously, not only the compensation with regard to the reforms but also the task of meeting the obligatory criteria and ensuring a smooth overall process culminating in the adoption of the euro on 1 January 2009, Slovakia today has one of the most successful economies (not only within the Union) and we have also succeeded in increasing the employment rate. All of these facts suggest that the new criterion of permanently sustainable inflation will not be an insurmountable problem for Slovakia in the future either.

It is the sincere wish of the Government of the Slovak Republic that the adoption of the euro on 1 January 2009 should not have a serious impact on the poorer sections of society. Consequently, the government is already taking steps to protect these people and to create for them a comfortable framework for the period of preparation for the new currency and later its use.

For example, the Slovak Government will soon debate a moratorium on the prices of some basic foodstuffs. Another similar step is the attempt by the Slovak Government to reach an society-wide consensus on the issue of the transition to the euro. The government has involved the regional and local governments, professional circles and civil society, as well as churches, in this programme.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to finish by saying that cooperation and mutual respect, rather than unsubstantiated and often populist criticism, are the only successful way forward for the Union, in all respects.


  Ivo Strejček (PPE-DE). - Mr President, it is rather a peculiar day for us. We used to live in the same country, Czechoslovakia, and now, today, we Czechs can wish all the best to the Slovaks in joining the euro.

Slovakia was given the green light to join the euro zone a few weeks ago. The Slovakian Government as well as the Slovak Central Bank are well aware that meeting crucial criteria, not in the short term but in the medium and long terms, will be a demanding task.

The Slovak economy is in the process of catching up with the rest of the European Monetary Union. That may lead to pressure on prices and inflation and I am sure that the Slovaks will cope with it. But that is not what I want to talk about now.

Today I would like to put the emphasis on something different, on something which I would personally call the Slovak story, the way to the euro. The reality that Slovakia will join the euro zone is based on sound foundations and the remarkable results of the Slovak economy. It is fair to stress the positive role of the former Centre-Right coalition Slovak Government, led by its skilful Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda. Having carried out all important structural reforms, the Slovak economy has met all important criteria: reduction of public debt and keeping inflation under control; the author of these reforms was the government and cabinet of Mr Dzurinda. I wish all the best to the Slovaks in the euro zone.


  Vladimír Maňka (PSE). - (SK) In the course of the last six years, the Slovak economy has been growing at an average rate of more than 6.5% per year. Last year growth even exceeded 10%. According to all the indicators, Slovakia meets the criteria with room to spare.

The Slovak authorities are aware of the situation with regard to the real and nominal convergence of the Slovak economy and its potential impact on future economic and inflationary development. In their opinion, Slovakia’s consolidation is in line with the Stability and Growth Pact. In accordance with the approved three-year budget, the primary fiscal goal is to reach the deficit of 0.8% by 2010, so this means meeting the fiscal goal. In accordance with the agreed data, the goal is to reach a balanced budget by 2011. That means budget a surplus of 1.3% leaving aside the second pillar.

The Slovak Government has adopted measures to keep inflation under control. In June it approved a modernisation programme, featuring structural reforms of the labour market, consolidation of public finances and support for education, science and research. Let me emphasise that the representatives of the business community, entrepreneurs, employers, trade unions, pensioners, Slovak towns and villages, and banks all support the adoption of the euro in Slovakia. The government’s social partners signed a declaration in which they undertake to keep wage increases in line with productivity growth. This will significantly contribute to the sustainability of inflation in Slovakia.

I would like to thank the rapporteur and the shadow rapporteurs for their correct approach, based on numbers, facts and analyses. The Slovak officials and the Slovak people wish to contribute to the development of the European economy, and thus to the stability and reliability of the euro.


  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). - (SK) Since the euro is an important symbol of removing barriers and bringing Europeans together, the adoption of the euro by Slovakia is yet another historical step in the process of European integration.

The preparations for the adoption of the euro by Slovakia had begun even before the Slovak Republic joined the European Union. The previous Slovak Government, led by Mikuláš Dzurinda, approved the strategy for the adoption of the euro as far back as 2003. It implemented important reforms that made Slovakia a successful country, economically and politically.

As inflation has increased in Slovenia since the country adopted the euro, the issue of the sustainability of inflation and the public deficit causes anxiety in Slovakia. However, I do not agree with the views of some of my colleagues that additional criteria for monitoring the economic stability of Slovakia are needed.

Slovakia meets all of the Maastricht criteria, which are the conditions for the adoption of the euro. It is too late for a debate on setting the Maastricht criteria for fast-growing economies. Instead I would like to mention the reason for the change in the central parity, which the German Members presented as a negative phenomenon. The central parity shift reflected, on two occasions, the economic development of the country, which was backed up mostly by productivity growth.

I call on the Government of the Slovak Republic to step up the campaign targeted at the citizens, in particular the provision of information to vulnerable groups. I think that dual price display should be obligatory not only for six months before entering the eurozone but also for at least one year after adopting the euro. This will help consumers to get used to euro prices.

I am convinced that a good competitive business environment will result in more choices for consumers, which is the best remedy for rising prices. I believe that Slovakia will also learn from the experience of those countries that have already adopted the euro.

To conclude, I would like to congratulate my colleague, Mr David Casa, for his support for Slovakia’s accession to the eurozone. I believe that his name will go down in the history of the Slovak Republic.


  Elisa Ferreira (PSE).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, 10 years after its birth, the euro is an undeniable success and is today one of the pillars of trust for citizens in the European project. I therefore welcome the enlargement of the euro area. Following on from identical decisions regarding other states, it will now extend to Slovakia.

However, in mentioning the 10th anniversary of the euro, we must include the lessons learned along the way, lessons on the sustainability of the process and on the impacts on real convergence that are linked to the single currency. Perhaps there is some scope for improving application of the accession criteria and perhaps thought should be given to the sustainability and robustness of the process for old and new members. In the case of Slovakia, the 17% revaluation of its currency, albeit planned and in line with the Treaty criteria, gives food for thought.

As I said, these questions deserve a serious debate in which the European Parliament must have an active voice, and the Socialist Group’s wish is for the euro to contribute to more than just financial stability. It must also be an instrument serving to boost the Union’s real convergence, employment and progress. We shall suggest continuing this discussion in more depth during the EMU@10 debate, that is to say the celebration of ten years of the euro.

For the time being, I should just like to congratulate the rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs and recognise and praise the extraordinary efforts undertaken by Slovakia, its Government, and the social partners, and the success they have already achieved. I hope they will be successful in their forthcoming participation in the single currency project and my very best wishes to them in exactly this regard.


  Hans-Peter Martin (NI).(DE) Mr President, it is a good thing that Slovakia has the opportunity to join the euro area. You only have to imagine what it would have been like in Europe over the last year without the euro. The currencies of the individual states would have been a target, just as in the days of Soros. However, as Italy has shown, sometimes being bound so securely to the euro is not quite such a good thing. If it were possible to advise Slovakia – which, of course, would have to make its own decision – then I would be giving some thought to an opt-out clause, especially because of what is now happening at European level. We are running the risk that the EU Summit will not read the signs of the times, that it will carry on as if it is ‘business as usual’. The distance between the citizens and the European elite is growing in such a way that the entire European project is put at risk, whereas instead everyone should be working towards true democracy.


  Milan Gaľa (PPE-DE). - (SK) I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr David Casa, for his work on the report. In the last decade, in particular during the years of Mr Mikuláš Dzurinda’s Government, post-communist Slovakia implemented demanding socio-economic reforms that made it possible for the economy to meet the Maastricht criteria.

Slovakia’s adoption of the euro will bring about changes. It is necessary to prepare the citizens for the changes and to persuade them that accession to the eurozone will be beneficial to them. It is necessary to create a sense of trust in the new currency and provide sufficient information. Several Slovak businesses have voluntarily pledged to observe the so-called Business Code of Ethics for the euro changeover. They have agreed to offer their customers, partners and citizens enough information and pledged not to misuse the currency conversion in any way for the purpose of personal financial gain.

I think that these steps will help us to trust in the common European project. I also believe that the European Parliament will vote for Slovakia’s adoption of the European currency today.


  Miloš Koterec (PSE). - (SK) The new currency is a turning point for the society and its citizens. Like any change, there are some concerns about its outcome. Knowing the situation in Slovakia, I am sure everything will turn out just fine and all worries will disappear a few months into 2009.

My confidence is based on two main elements. Firstly, it is generally known that Slovakia has fully met the Maastricht macro-economic criteria, which is proof of Slovakia’s formal readiness to adopt the euro. Slovakia will also ensure sustainability of the criteria. What is more, the government, the parliament, the social partners and the entire society are making serious plans for solutions to practical problems that might accompany the currency changeover.

Dual pricing will be introduced everywhere, and the regular monitoring mechanism is ready so that the changeover to the euro cannot be misused. A number of other measures are also in place to give the citizens information and help with day-to-day difficulties in using the euro. I believe that from next year onwards Slovakia will be a model stable eurozone member; a problem-free showcase for the European Union.


  Danutė Budreikaitė (ALDE).(LT) I would like to congratulate the Commission on giving Slovakia the green light to join the euro area from 1 January next year. Slovakia’s adoption of the euro is a great example to other states and an incentive to them to increase their efforts and adopt additional measures for achieving the convergence criteria.

Slovakia is to join the euro area at a time when the EU and the world as a whole are experiencing a very complicated economic situation, with rising fuel prices and growing inflation. Therefore, every country that is seeking membership of the euro area or is already an established member should learn from Slovakia’s example.

I would also like to point out the fact that, with Slovakia about to become the 16th member of the euro area, it is essential to ensure that an efficient decision-making procedure is put in place for the European Central Bank’s Governing Council. Alas, the final decision on the rotation system has not yet been made. I would like to point out the importance of not postponing the introduction of the rotation system until the number of members of the Management Board reaches 18 and making sure that it is implemented as soon as possible in view of both the preparations that Slovakia must carry out in order to join the euro area and the further expansion of the latter.


  Simon Busuttil (PPE-DE).(MT) I would like to congratulate my colleague Mr Casa, who I know put a lot of work into preparing this report, and I wish him success. I would also like to congratulate Slovakia, which is about to adopt the euro. I come from a country that introduced the euro this year and I can assure everyone that, despite the difficulties and sacrifices that a country has to make in order to enter the euro area, it is surely a source of satisfaction and pride for such countries.

I would like to say that it is becoming clear in this discussion that it is possible to have a ‘two-speed’ Europe. I say this because last week there was a referendum in Ireland. Everyone knows the result. I think it is important to show that Europe can proceed at a different speed and it is also important that we start to consider this possibility for the future development of European integration.


  Margarita Starkevičiūtė (ALDE).(LT) Lithuania is a country that made a commitment in its Accession Agreement to adopt the euro. Every single time – that is, four times during our term – that we make a decision on whether to give the green light to one country or another to adopt the euro, we keep trying to upgrade the Maastricht criteria or explain them in a different way.

This tends to confirm the fact that we still have doubts regarding the implementation of these criteria. At the very beginning we, as representatives of Lithuania and representatives of other countries, suggested that these issues be dealt with on behalf and at the level of Parliament and the Council. However, all this time these suggestions have been turned down. Instead of sitting down to clarify the nuances and technicalities hindering the successful expansion of the euro area, we would rather play about by making separate, more or less of random decisions for each country.

I would like to point out that it is very clear that we must implement strict fiscal policy and that there is no way we might change our…

(The President cut off the speaker)


  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE). - (CS) Mr President, the reason for the delays with the European unification project, accompanying the ratification of the new Treaty, is probably the fact that the prosperity brought to Europeans by the common internal market is already being taken for granted. It is a pity that our praise for the success of the Customs Union that is now celebrating its 40th anniversary is too quiet. The 10 years of successes and achievements of the common currency are also a reason to celebrate. By forcing governments to maintain budgetary discipline, the eurozone has created an admirably stable macro-economy, immune to all shocks in spite of globalisation. As a Czech Member of this Parliament, I want to congratulate Slovakia on its accession to the eurozone. The lion’s share of this success belongs to Mr Dzurinda and the reforms he implemented five years ago. The left can now celebrate their success because when it entered into government it adopted membership of the eurozone as a national interest. Hopefully it will teach the Czech Eurosceptics a lesson and one day it will be the Slovaks who will be congratulating us. Sadly, this will take at least another five more years and possibly even longer.


  Werner Langen (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Slovakia has experienced an economic upturn and, after this very controversial debate about its fulfilment of the criteria, we will vote on whether it should join the euro area.

I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Casa, because in his report, he took into account the objections that were raised. The reform process and reflections on it do not come to an end when a country joins the euro area; rather, that is when the real challenge begins. Inflation is and will continue to be a problem in Slovakia. Not for nothing have there already been two revaluations – most recently of 17.65% – and I say in advance that before the exchange rate is finally set, there will be a further revaluation of the Slovak koruna. Therefore, we must all play our part to ensure that real convergence occurs. I hope that the Council and the Ministers of Finance take Parliament’s concerns seriously and that the Commission will conduct an open discussion on the process in future.


  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission. (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, Slovakia now has the opportunity to join the eurozone. This is possible because of the Slovak Republic’s socio-economic results. Credit for this achievement is also due to all of Slovakia’s successive governments and their firm focus on this issue. I think that the Slovak leadership has in general shown their will and ability to respond to the necessary changes. This opportunity is also due to the consistency of the European Union’s policies and to the launch of the European project because Slovakia has accepted and met all the necessary criteria. This fact has opened the door for the adoption of the euro and no further doubts were expressed. In my opinion, this is a very important aspect. Enlarging the eurozone to include another country, Slovakia, will definitely lead to deeper European integration. It will not be just the Slovak Republic but also the European Union as a whole that will benefit from this deeper integration when this very successful and fast-developing economy joins.

Fears of inflation were mentioned in the debate. Of course, in some ways these fears are justified. On the other hand, there are equally potent arguments proving that the Slovak Government is consistent in its response and, at any rate, it is not in the interest of any government to set off inflation. Of course the risk of inflation exists, and this matter has been brought to the Slovak Government’s attention in all documents and debates. Regarding the issue of revaluation of the Slovak currency, I must say that it always took place within the expected limits, within the framework of flexibility that each government, each country is allowed in this process in order be able to respond, in the best possible manner, to the extraordinary moment when the euro is adopted. This is not an everyday situation, an everyday affair. It is a truly extraordinary situation and the Member States must be allowed some room for manoeuvre. Although the final setting of the value will be a very serious goal and task, and although it will be an extraordinary operation, it will not be taking place for the first time. The eurozone has been enlarged before and this complicated expert operation has been carried out many times with adequate success.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to congratulate Slovakia on taking this big step and achieving this huge success. I also want to emphasise that this is clearly the result of the work of successive Slovak Governments and the understanding and will of the Slovak people.


  David Casa, rapporteur. − (MT) I would like to thank all my fellow Members for the discussion. I agree that in this Parliament there is consensus about (the fact) that we all agree that Slovakia is ready to enter the euro area. In fact, there are some amendments that have secured the agreement of several political groups.

We have before us as speakers – before me, to be exact – a historic moment. We also have, as several Members have said, a club that not only accepts the largest and most developed countries, but also welcomes anyone who is prepared and ready to accept the rules of the European Union. Therefore, today we have an area that accepts anyone who meets all the criteria laid down in the Treaty. There is no doubt, as my fellow Members have rightly pointed out, that it was not easy for Slovakia, and it will not be easy for the country in the coming months.

I will end my speech by once again thanking all those who have helped me to arrive at this point and I sincerely hope that the Slovak people will be able to build on the success they have achieved up to now. I hope that, in the coming months and years, the same success that their country is making in a number of sectors will also be achieved by these people who have worked so hard to reach this very important level.


  President. − The debate is closed.

We shall now proceed to the vote.




6. Composition of political groups : see Minutes


  Nigel Farage (IND/DEM). - Mr President, I rise on Rule 103(2). In response to the historic and – some would say – joyous expression of democratic will in Ireland last week, you said yesterday from the Chair that ‘it remains our goal to see the Lisbon Treaty enter into force before the elections of next year. Provided that you agree to this, I shall resolutely defend these principles in the Council at the end of the week’.

(Applause from members of other groups)

You have asked us for a mandate. I would suggest to the House that simply having the mandate of the Conference of Presidents is not enough for this and that we ought – under Rule 103, which clearly says that ‘Parliament shall decide whether or not to wind up the debate with a resolution’ – to finish our debate tomorrow with President Barroso with a vote to see whether we should give you that mandate or not and to see whether Members of this so-called democratic Chamber are prepared to respect the Irish result and to find out whether ‘no’ really means ‘no’.

(Applause from members of the IND/DEM Group)


  President. − Mr Farage, I gave you the chance to speak because you asked for it, but I have to tell you that your request has come too late. It is the Conference of Presidents that decides whether there is a resolution. The matter can be raised again in plenary, although that should have been done earlier. You are now too late, so there will definitely not be a resolution. That is the situation according to the Rules of Procedure, and we keep to the rules. Your loudness does not make up for your arguments.


7. Voting time

  President. − We shall now proceed to the vote.

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


7.1. European Network and Information Security Agency (A6-0245/2008, Angelika Niebler) (vote)

– Before the vote:


  Angelika Niebler, rapporteur. − (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are about to vote on extending the duration of ENISA’s mandate. Just to remind you, ENISA is the European Network and Information Security Agency, which we, together with the Council, brought into being five years ago. ENISA’s mandate expires half-way through next year by rotation. My report proposes extending the mandate by three years, to 2012, which also matches the Council’s decision.

ENISA’s aim is to contribute to Internet security. However, with the increase in Internet crime, this is not possible with the available staff and the limited funding it gets so that, in the next three years by which we have extended the mandate, we need to think about what tasks ENISA should take on in the future and what role it can play, and then we will need to provide appropriate staff and funding.

I would ask you all, most urgently, to again approve this three-year extension and then to make an effort to get involved in the debate on the future of this Agency.


7.2. Lighting and light-signalling devices on two or three-wheel motor vehicles (codified version) (A6-0233/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)

7.3. Lighting and light-signalling devices on wheeled agricultural or forestry tractors (codified version) (A6-0235/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)

7.4. Roll-over protection structures of wheeled agricultural or forestry tractors (static testing) (codified version) (A6-0234/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)

7.5. Mergers of public limited liability companies (codified version) (A6-0236/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)

7.6. Legal protection of computer programs (codified version) (A6-0237/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)

7.7. Reciprocal recognition of navigability licences for inland waterway vessels (codified version) (A6-0238/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)

7.8. Safeguards by Member States within the meaning of the second paragraph of Article 48 of the Treaty (codified version) (A6-0239/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)

7.9. Veterinary checks in intra-Community trade (codified version) (A6-0243/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)

7.10. Marketing of material for the vegetative propagation of the vine (codified version) (A6-0242/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)

7.11. Community procedure to improve the transparency of gas and electricity prices charged to industrial end-users (recast version) (A6-0217/2008, József Szájer) (vote)

7.12. Nominal catch statistics in certain areas other than those of the North Atlantic (recast version) (A6-0218/2008, József Szájer) (vote)

7.13. Catch and activity statistics in the Northwest Atlantic (recast version) (A6-0219/2008, József Szájer) (vote)

7.14. Nominal catch statistics in the north-east Atlantic (recast version) (A6-0214/2008, József Szájer) (vote)

7.15. Textile names (recast version) (A6-0215/2008, József Szájer) (vote)

7.16. Accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Convention of 23 July 1990 on the elimination of double taxation in connection with the adjustment of profits of associated enterprises (A6-0194/2008, Mariela Velichkova Baeva) (vote)

7.17. Exchanges between the Member States of information extracted from the criminal record (A6-0207/2008, Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra) (vote)

7.18. Protection of the euro against counterfeiting (A6-0230/2008, Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra) (vote)

7.19. Amendment of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice to specify the language rules which are to apply to the review procedure (A6-0211/2008, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg) (vote)

7.20. Revision of the framework directive on waste (A6-0162/2008, Caroline Jackson) (vote)

– Before the vote:


  Godfrey Bloom (IND/DEM). - Mr President, I rise on Rule 9, specifically Annex I, Article 1. I did try to catch the eye last night in the debate, I am afraid to no avail. There were only three or four people in the Chamber. The rapporteur, Mrs Jackson, has been getting money from a recycling company or a waste-disposal company, which was undeclared, when she was actually rapporteur of this committee. I find this a little fishy, even by the standards of this House, so I do not think she was the right and proper person to be rapporteur for this report.


  President. − Mr Bloom, I cannot say anything about the circumstances to which you are referring. However, when you say something like that here, it is a very serious matter and you should be aware of the import of your remarks.


  Caroline Jackson, rapporteur. − Mr President, I made a full statement about this last night. Mr Bloom may not have been able to hear it because his colleague, Mr Batten, was trying to get the attention of the House on the question of the referendum and spoke throughout the early part of my speech.

I made a full declaration at that point. There is a full declaration in the Register of Members’ Interests. I have referred to this in the debates in the Environment Committee. I am a member of the Environmental Advisory Board of a company called Shanks plc in the UK and have been for the past three years. The Environmental Advisory Board includes amongst its members a member of the Green Alliance and the chairman of one of the EU Scientific Advisory Committees. The Environmental Advisory Board is solely concerned with the environmental audit performance of the company’s sites within the terms of EU legislation. I am completely open about that and always have been.

I feel that my experience on the Board has helped me put together a reasonable report which does not favour any particular sort of waste treatment. I hope that my colleagues will support me when I say that I have always been open about this and that I have tried to put together a balanced report, taking account of all points of view in the Parliament.

(Loud applause)


  President. − Mrs Jackson, I have known you personally for many years and I have no doubts at all about your personal integrity. Furthermore, the wording of your declaration can be viewed and has been properly noted in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.


  Monica Frassoni (Verts/ALE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I do not want to make any comment on what Mrs Jackson has just said. I think, however, and this is something that the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance has always called for, that we should have better regulation on the issue of conflicts of interest, given that this Parliament, as a co-legislator, will in the future need to be and increasingly today needs to be transparent and correct: not only transparent, that is to say, but also correct, with regard to its Members’ conflicts of interest.


– After the vote:


  Daniel Hannan (NI). - Mr President, I do not care for the way some of these votes are going. Can I suggest, in the light of our reaction to the French, Dutch and Irish referendums, that we simply disregard the votes and carry on as we wanted?


  President. − Mr Hannan, when you speak, it must be in accordance with our Rules of Procedure. I declare the standpoint thus amended to be accepted.


  John Bowis (PPE-DE). - Mr President, I am sorry to interrupt the voting at the end but I think there was one error. We have been checking during the course of the votes and I think all the groups agree that you may mistakenly have announced that Amendment 27 was carried. Amendment 27 could not have been carried. I would be grateful if you could go back to that and ensure that it was rejected. The point is that you did not then go on to the next amendment.


  President. − Amendment 27 was accepted; Amendment 92 was therefore invalidated. We will check it again, but that is what we determined here. We can vote again on Amendment 27; that is possible.


  Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, I just wanted to tell you that we can check whether you are allowed to repeat a vote that has already taken place, after you have announced the result. It seems to us that, according to the rules of Parliament, that is not possible.


  President. − Mr Cohn-Bendit, anyone can make a mistake and if I proceeded too quickly or was incorrect in what I stated, then I take responsibility for that. Naturally, I regret it, but let us not make a big deal out of it. We will look into it.


  Hannes Swoboda (PSE).(DE) Mr President, as we understood it, it was an electronic check of a vote that had already taken place. To that extent, the intention was clear.


  Paul Marie Coûteaux (IND/DEM).(FR) Mr President, I think that you are going rather too quickly. In the same way as you did on other days, and again during the amendment to the Jackson report, you said: ‘those in favour’, ‘abstentions’, and ‘carried’. In other words you exclude the possibility of voting ‘against’. Mr President, I know how much you like Mrs Jackson and that what happens here does not have much to do with democracy, but all the same, please observe the proper conventions!



  President. − Mr Coûteaux, anybody can make a mistake, even within your group. If you accept that that is true even for you, then we are on the same level. I will try not to do it so quickly in future, so that you can see when you have not won. Is that okay?


  Bernard Lehideux (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, I beg your pardon, but I am undoubtedly the victim of a secret lobby. My machine allows me to vote ‘for’, but not ‘against’. This could be awkward.



  President. − Thank you very much, Mr Lehideux. I am glad that you do not hold me responsible.


  Guido Sacconi (PSE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I just wanted to say that the chance you have given us to vote again on Amendment 27 has made it possible to put right an injustice, because in this way we were able to vote for Amendment 92 which, if Amendment 27 had really been adopted, would have lapsed. It therefore seems to me that this decision was extremely wise and democratic.


7.21. Environmental quality standards in the field of water policy (A6-0192/2008, Anne Laperrouze) (vote)

7.22. Minimum level of training of seafarers (recast version) (A6-0178/2008, Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou) (vote)

7.23. Establishment of residue limits of pharmacologically active substances in foodstuffs of animal origin (A6-0190/2008, Avril Doyle) (vote)

Before the vote:


  Avril Doyle, rapporteur. − Mr President, this legislation is very necessary as the current legislation on residue control has led to a serious decrease in the availability of authorised veterinary medicines, creating adverse effects for public and animal health and welfare.

I would like to urge the presidency, particularly the incoming French Minister, to make this dossier a priority to help to resolve the crisis in availability, especially for what we call minor uses and so-called minor species, which include sheep, horses, bees, fish and many other animals that are not so minor in many of our countries.

However, there is an urgent need to review the Veterinary Medicines Directive according to the outcome of the task force on the availability of veterinary medicines.

This legislation is just a Band-Aid in terms of the necessity out there. While I welcome it, I urge the incoming French Presidency to give it the priority it needs.


7.24. European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (A6-0173/2008, Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou) (vote)

Before the vote:


  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou, rapporteur. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have reached an agreement with the Council and the Commission concerning Amendments 37 and 52. The compromise refers respectively to the financing of small non-governmental organisations and the maximum level of financing of NGOs. The Commission and the Council have agreed to include a statement with the first-reading agreement and I would like to ask the Commissioner, whom I do not see here, but he made the declaration last night during the discussion; he presented the statement included with the agreement... I do not know if there is anyone here who wants to present the agreement on behalf of the Commission. In any case, I would like to ask my colleagues, provided that they agree with this statement, to vote in favour of the report so that we can proceed with the first reading vote.


7.25. Adoption by Slovakia of the single currency on 1 January 2009 (A6-0231/2008, David Casa) (vote)

7.26. The impact of cohesion policy on the integration of vulnerable communities and groups (A6-0212/2008, Gábor Harangozó) (vote)

7.27. Policy coherence for development and the effects of the EU's exploitation of certain biological natural resources on development in West Africa (A6-0137/2008, Frithjof Schmidt) (vote)

− Before the vote:


  Carmen Fraga Estévez, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group.(ES) The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats had asked, in accordance with Rule 168, for this report to be referred back to committee. After the compromise reached with the political groups to adopt Amendment 1, tabled by our group, the PPE-DE Group is withdrawing its request for referral back to committee.


8. Explanations of vote

Oral explanations of vote


- Report: Caroline Jackson (A6-0162/2008)


  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, the new directive on waste is intended to provide a basis for the creation of a society in Europe that is universally engaged in recycling. Some very ambitious aims are to be set for the Member States. Are the aims that we wish to set for ourselves not too ambitious, though, and can the Member States, especially the new ones, manage to meet the rigorous requirements? It is worth pointing out that the old Member States have had far more time to adapt their waste management systems to the stringent requirements, while the new ones are being forced to introduce legal mechanisms and build the necessary infrastructure a lot more quickly.

The proposal for a new directive on waste is causing much controversy in many European countries. I do not think we should be surprised, then, that it was so difficult to reach a compromise with the Council. During yesterday’s debate, many MEPs said they were not happy with the compromise on the directive. I fear, though, that the introduction of still more stringent requirements could cause problems with the implementation of this law. The new directive on waste will force countries that have neglected municipal waste management to take decisive action. These countries will be forced to introduce legal and economic mechanisms in order for their effect to be one that stimulates rather than burdens the economy. The new directive should be a stimulus to the development of new ways of creating jobs. That is why I voted in favour of the report.




− Report: Caroline Jackson (A6-0162/2008)


  Gyula Hegyi (PSE). - (HU) Thank you, Mr President. The waste directive that we have now adopted contains compromises, and is therefore liable to come under attack from many quarters. I understand the concerns of all those environmentally-aware citizens who petitioned me, too, with requests not to support the directive. At the same, however, I should also point out that many of my private member’s amendments, formulated in a progressive spirit in cooperation with the environmental organisations, have been included in the text. The greatest virtue of this directive is the adoption of the waste hierarchy. Primacy is given to waste prevention, followed by the different forms of reuse/recycling, and lastly disposal, which must be avoided where possible and at the very least reduced. I voted in favour of the directive basically because it adopted the hierarchy principle, and I hope that in future we can improve on it.


  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). - (SK) The consumer society produces a huge amount of waste that makes people’s lives a misery, particularly in large European cities. Although recycling and the use of secondary products have been increasing in recent years, there is still too much waste in EU landfills.

While the approved compromise package is not perfect, I consider the text of the directive to be a politically ambitious instrument in the area of waste management for future generations of Europeans, which is why I supported the report by the rapporteur, Mrs Caroline Jackson.

The Member States will have to improve their waste management in accordance with this directive. I welcome the fact that the directive also covers issues concerning the disposal of hazardous waste and oils. I believe that the Member States will meet all the ambitious goals in keeping with the adopted text, in particular the objective that by 2015 they will have set up separate waste collection schemes for paper, metal, plastic, glass, textiles, other biodegradable waste, oil and hazardous waste.


  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE). - (CS) Mr President, I supported the revision of the framework directive on waste today. One of my reasons for doing so was that after the adoption of the directive the Czech Republic will be able to ban the import of waste although it will contradict the national plan. Thanks to the intervention of Parliament, the revised text also contains new goals in the area of recycling. The southern European countries consider them to be too ambitious while the Scandinavians, as well as the Czechs, think they do not go far enough. I welcome the compromise that was reached. Different countries have different starting points and this directive is a common beginning. Today’s waste production is 3.5 tonnes per person and in the southern European countries up to 90% of waste goes to landfills. The five-stage waste hierarchy is being incorporated into European legislation for the first time: first comes prevention, then re-use, then recycling and only then incineration as a means of energy production. Landfills are the last resort for residual waste. I very much value the work done by Mrs Jackson. Thanks to her, this beneficial compromise for Europe was reached.


  Jan Březina (PPE-DE). - (CS) I, too, welcome the adoption of the directive. Few are likely to be satisfied with the goals of recycling a minimum of 50% of household waste and 70% of industrial waste. Some see it as not ambitious enough; others think it is unrealistic. The Czech Republic is likely to see it as a step backwards but the important thing is that the directive does not prevent countries from adopting stricter and more binding national legislation, which I think is very desirable in this case. Looking at the matter from the perspective of the Czech Republic, I consider the provision allowing the reclassification of municipal waste incinerators as waste-using facilities to be highly unsatisfactory. This might mean massive imports of waste from neighbouring countries since importing waste for the purpose of using it is allowed in the Union. I find it difficult to imagine what kind of effective control mechanism would be able to determine whether the imported waste was really used or incinerated. Consequently, the countries that do not wish to become the incinerators for the whole of Europe should do everything in their power to make sure that this provision is removed from the directive.


  David Sumberg (PPE-DE). - Mr President, I rise to explain the vote that I made on the Caroline Jackson report, but before doing so I want to pay tribute to my Conservative colleague, Caroline Jackson, and the work she has done on this excellent report.

The provision for waste disposal is absolutely vital in every European country, not least my own, and I think this is a happy compromise. It is one of those rare instances where Europe can act together in this way. There are not many of them and maybe the people of Ireland were saying something about that in the decision in the referendum which they recently made.

But this is a good report. I will hope it will inspire the British Government to take a lead in these matters. That will certainly be the case if in hopefully two years time in Britain we have a Conservative government: Mr Cameron, our leader, has made it absolutely clear that green issues will be at the forefront of our affairs and therefore this vote today will set a good example, as indeed would be a good example the way Conservative Members of the European Parliament have voted.


− Report: Anne Laperrouze (A6-0192/2008)


  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE). - (HU) Thank you very much, Mr President. It gave me great pleasure to vote on the directive on environmental quality standards in the field of water policy, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank my 610 fellow Members who supported the adoption of this directive by voting in favour of it. Once again we have succeeded in producing a good and forward-looking directive, a proposal that reinstates the principle of shared responsibility and joint regulation by Member States of water courses that cross national borders; it is also a proposal that shifts the emphasis from emissions to immission, in other words it shifts the priority from the interests of industry to those of the river biota. It is a directive that introduces rigorous limits on the use of 33 substances, notably insecticides, chemical and industrial substances and heavy metals. Now it is the turn of the Council. Will the Council support the directive and thereby help to clean up our river – our rivers? It is now up to the governments whether or not we will be able to put an end to the over-pollution of the River Raba and other European rivers in a similar situation. Thank you very much.


− Report: Avril Doyle (A6-0190/2008)


  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE). - (SK) A high level of protection of human health and consumer safety are the fundamental interests when it comes to establishing residue limits of pharmacologically active substances in foodstuffs of animal origin. In production-bred animals, veterinary medicines can leave behind residues, which has already started to have a negative impact on both human and animal health.

I welcome the report by my colleague, Mrs Doyle, and I voted in favour of it today. A more consistent approach to controlling the residues of all pharmacologically active substances, and analyses of the risk they represent, are crucial. I believe that we need to change, amend and unify the legal framework for setting maximum residue limits. I share the rapporteur’s view that by doing so we can ensure that veterinary medicines are used correctly and are more accessible, see to it that the trade in foodstuffs of animal origin functions properly and, above all, achieve optimum protection of public health.


− Report: Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (A6-0173/2008)


  Neena Gill (PSE). - Mr President, I voted in favour of this report because, having worked for 18 years combating poverty and social exclusion, I strongly support the designation of 2010 as a European Year on this issue. It is totally unacceptable that 78 million people in Europe are currently living at risk of poverty. It is shocking that in this day and age children and the elderly are unable to feed themselves or keep themselves warm across many Member States. Recent figures show a widening gap between the richest and poorest families in some countries as a result of the unequal distribution of European economic progress.

I hope that in this year the Commission will focus on regions where poverty and social exclusion are at their most acute. For example, a recent report by Channel 4 in the UK highlighted that the region I represent, the West Midlands, has the second-highest level of poverty and the second-lowest standard of living nationwide.

Therefore, whilst I welcome this initiative because it will raise awareness of poverty and social exclusion, I am disappointed that it does not offer any clear solutions on the directions that Member States need to take and I believe that unless this year is used as platform to move forward, it will be just another talking shop, a missed opportunity to actually make a difference on a very important issue.


  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, we have adopted an exceptionally important report on the problems of combating poverty and social exclusion. This document is an example of the social sensitivity of the European Union and the creation of a European social model that we are building in parallel with actions promoting greater economic growth and a functioning market economy.

It is important for us to devote so much space to countering exclusion and poverty among children, the elderly and the disabled, in other words those who are not in a position to avoid this situation. We should bear in mind that poverty increases in areas where natural disasters have struck, or as a consequence of other situations that we are currently observing, namely a significant rise in food and energy prices. In this situation additional actions are needed to limit the impact of these harmful factors on the revenue situation of the poorest social and occupational groups.


  David Sumberg (PPE-DE). - Mr President, I supported this report because of course all of us are in favour of motherhood and apple pie. None of us here wants to see an increase in poverty; none of us here wants to see an increase in social exclusion. So, the words are good and in a sense I echo my colleague on the other side of the Chamber in that.

The question is what we do about it. And that is a question for each national government in the Member States. In my own country’s case, it is up to the British Government to do something about it, and it is up to each national government, because the situation, the economic conditions and the social conditions apply differently throughout the European Union.

In Britain today, maybe in other countries too, we face a threat of a real recession, real poverty and real social exclusion getting worse, and it is now up to our Government in Britain and to the governments of all the Member States of the European Union to recognise this factor and to act accordingly.


− Report: David Casa (A6-0231/2008)


  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). - (SK) I am taking this opportunity – which is so precious for myself and for my country, Slovakia – to say thank you to all the Members who voted for Slovakia’s accession to the eurozone.

I am glad that all the Slovak Members managed to persuade the European Parliament, with the help of the balanced report by our colleague, Mr David Casa, that Slovakia belongs in the successful ‘e’ club. It is up to Slovakia now, and particularly the Government of the Slovak Republic, to continue to take strict macro-economic steps and continue with restrictive fiscal policies, so as to be able to comply with the Maastricht criteria in the future as well. Slovakia’s accession to the eurozone is also a signal for other Member States to continue with their reforms and meet the Maastricht criteria.

Today I want to make use of the floor to thank the Slovak citizens, who put their lives at stake when helping to bring down the Iron Curtain in 1989, and those who understood the importance of the reforms, though it was not always easy. It is because of them that the Slovak people can build a strong Slovakia in a strong Europe today.


  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE). - (CS) Mr President, I sincerely congratulate Slovakia on its accession to the eurozone. I also want to express my gratitude for the work done by the rapporteur, Mr Casa, who in Parliament had to deal with arguments concerning the justification for the revaluation of the Slovak currency and so on. The debate demonstrated that many other requirements, which can affect the long-term stability of the single currency, are justified. While they do not represent an obstacle to Slovakia’s accession today, they are a challenge for the agreement on amending the rules. I do not agree with those who rejected in the course of today’s debate the possibility of changing the Maastricht criteria in the future. Once more I would like to express my gratitude to the Government led by Mr Dzurinda that launched the necessary reforms in Slovakia five years ago. Slovakia would not be celebrating its economic and political success today if not for them. The Slovaks are now showing the Czech Republic the right path.


  David Sumberg (PPE-DE). - Mr President, I would like to explain to the House why I abstained on this particular resolution. I abstained not because I am in favour of the single currency so far as my country is concerned; in fact, I am absolutely opposed to it. It would be a disaster for the British political system and for the British economy if we entered into the single currency.

I abstained because I believe that this is a matter entirely for the Slovak Government. If they decide it is in their country’s interests to enter the single currency, that is their national entitlement and they have made their decision accordingly.

It is issues like this which demonstrate how Europe should proceed. It should proceed by countries making decisions which are in their interests, and to berate the people of Ireland as has been done in this Chamber over recent hours is wrong. The people of Ireland have made a decision in their national interests. It is for them to make that decision and their democratic vote should be respected.

Winston Churchill said, ‘Trust the people’. That is what we should do.



  Christopher Heaton-Harris (PPE-DE). - Mr President, firstly can I completely concur with what Mr Sumberg has just said. I just have to say thank you to the people of Ireland for giving democracy a chance again in the European Union.

I rise on this because I too abstained, since it is my party’s policy not to vote on these matters as we are not included in them. But I was interested in the report itself. Paragraph 6 recommends that ‘the Slovak Government set up an observatory to monitor the price of a selected number of basic goods on a weekly basis so as to fight false perceptions about price increases’.

Well, in the UK we measure inflation and our inflation rate has supposedly gone up to 3.3%, as announced earlier this morning. However, if you meet a humble punter living in Daventry or Long Buckby, they will tell you that the price of their petrol has increased by way more; the price of their food has increased by way more; the price of their Council tax has increased by way more. And so I wonder about the quality of statistics.

There are other problems in paragraphs 8 and 9, but these all go to explain why it is a very good idea that Britain is not in this club. Nevertheless, I wish this country well.


− Report: Gábor Harangozó (A6-0212/2008)


  Filip Kaczmarek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, I abstained from voting on Mr Harangozó’s report. One of the aims of the European Union’s cohesion policy should be to bolster the instruments of solidarity and integration. Vulnerable groups and communities should receive our support in the fight against exclusion and inequality. This should not, however, be seen as a counter-argument to the development of urban areas, as one does not preclude the other. A territorial approach is important but does not, after all, invalidate the significance of effectiveness in cohesion policy.


  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, the Harangozó report accepted today raises the exceptionally important problem of the impact of cohesion policy on the integration of the most threatened societies and groups. This report unambiguously stresses the need for a continuation of cohesion policy in areas that are less developed, neglected, where there are difficult farming conditions and where there is weak or outdated infrastructure.

Particular support should be provided for regions and for areas where there is historical developmental retardation, where the local people are less well prepared to meet the difficult challenges of a market economy. Intra-regional differences in the level of development are very great. It is therefore necessary to create a factual image of the state of development of our regions and to use this as a basis for getting to grips with difficult areas within individual regions. We can say right now that this concerns mountainous areas and a significant proportion of rural areas. We have to put together a sustainable development process so that enclaves of weaker development or backward enclaves are not left behind or created.


  Christopher Heaton-Harris (PPE-DE). - Mr President, I also abstained on this report. I would like to make two or three points as to why I did so.

Firstly, I have struggled to believe that the founding fathers of this place, when they were laying the basis for their European Union for freedom and for freedom of movement etc. thought that the detailed policy that is set out in this report would be one of the things that would come forward in years to come.

Secondly, I am not convinced that this should be done at European level – perhaps it could be at national level, but most certainly it should be at the most local of levels.

Finally, I would like to wind up by saying that in my constituency the City of Leicester is an example of how local action in this field can work. Leicester is one of the most diverse cities in the United Kingdom for all sorts of different reasons – it has both rich and poor, of many different nationalities – and yet, because of individual and local action, Leicester has one of the most coherent strategies for the cohesion and integration, as we say here, of vulnerable communities and groups. It is an example to us all that local action is best, and I worry when we talk about it at an EU level.


  Syed Kamall (PPE-DE). - Mr President, my comments echo those of the speaker before me.

My comments are also relevant to the Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou report on poverty and social exclusion. If we take these two reports together they clearly represent a flaw in the thinking of European politicians, namely that whatever the problem appears to be, Europe is the solution.

I urge all of us really concerned with the problems of vulnerable communities to look instead at local-community-led solutions and not the proposals of some distant Eurocrat or some distant Member of the European Parliament.

Please look at the excellent work, for example, of the Centre for Social Justice based in London in my own constituency and led by Iain Duncan-Smith and his wonderful team, who are building an alliance of local community organisations tackling poverty and social exclusion: organisations such as the Croydon Caribbean Credit Union or the London Boxing Academy, attracting some of the most vulnerable people in society.

While the issues in the report are all serious problems, we should remember that the solutions are often to be found closer to home, and for this reason I abstained on the Harangozó report.


− Report: Frithjof Schmidt (A6-0137/2008)


  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE). - (CS) Mr President, the sustainable development policy has no chance of succeeding unless it assumes a global dimension. The UN Millennium Declaration may call on all states to ensure policy coherence for development but developed countries do not take many practical steps in this regard. Therein lies the contradiction of the undertaking by the European Union, urging us to assess the impact of our European policies concerning the Development Goals. This makes the fact that we add restrictions to our fisheries policy for the benefit of developing countries even more valuable. I would also like to mention timber logging in West Africa, where only 5% of forests are managed sustainably. Of course it is important for the Commission to financially support the launch of national strategic plans in Africa but we will also be able to prevent the plundering of tropical forests if we prohibit the timber from being imported into Europe unless it has a clear eco-label. I believe that the Commission will soon table such proposals and that we in this House and the Council will adopt them, without looking for any excuses.


Written explanations of vote


− Report: Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (A6-0233/2008)


  Toomas Savi (ALDE), in writing. − I supported the reports of Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg and I welcome the idea that at times when the European Union is facing major political decisions, we should not occupy ourselves with technical issues in excessive depth. Although I would be intrigued to hear the Members of this House fiercely debating the political significance of lighting and light-signalling devices on wheeled agricultural or forestry tractors, I fully support using the accelerated working method for official codification of legislative texts in such matters. When the EU is once again in deadlock, we need to concentrate all our attention on finding a way to save the Treaty of Lisbon.


− Reports: Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (A6-0233/2008 - A6-0235/2008)


  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE), in writing. (SV) I vote against this report, because detailed regulation of this kind should not be dealt with at political level. It is unnecessary to codify legislation which should be withdrawn in favour of regulation through technical standards drawn up by technical committees.


− Report: Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (A6-0234/2008)


  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE), in writing. (SV) I voted against the report, because detailed technical regulation of this kind should not be handled at this level. It should be dealt with by technical committees through technical standards (there should be no codification of legislation, which should be withdrawn in favour of technical standards).


− Report: Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (A6-0237/2008)


  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski (UEN), in writing. − (PL) I voted in favour of the report by Mrs Geringer de Oedenberg on the legal protection of computer programs, as I feel that, since they play such a massive role in the functioning of modern society, they should be guaranteed appropriate legal protection that is recognised as complying with copyright regulations, like literary and artistic works in the sense of the Berne Convention. Only computer programs expressed in the proper form should be subject to protection. The actual concepts and principles on which individual elements of an IT program are based cannot be subject to such protection.

Naturally, mathematical procedures, programming languages and algorithms cannot be subject to such protection. This protection should be afforded to both natural and legal persons, in accordance with national copyright legislation. The point should be made that if a program has been written by employees as part of their work duties, the employer or customer has a right to enjoy property rights arising from this program (unless otherwise stipulated in a contract).


− Report: Mariela Velichkova Baeva (A6-0194/2008)


  Monica Maria Iacob-Ridzi (PPE-DE), in writing. − (RO) I voted in favour of the resolution regarding Romania’s accession to the Convention of 23 July 1990 on the elimination of double taxation in connection with the adjustment of profits of associated enterprises, because I consider it necessary to reduce the fiscal burden for tax payers.

It is very important for Romania and Bulgaria to join the Arbitration Convention as soon as possible and, consequently, to join the other Member States for which the Convention is already in force. Their non-participation in this system presently generates significant costs for the economy and represents an obstacle in the operation of the European common market.

According to the EU Treaty of Accession of Romania and Bulgaria, the Council has to set the date for the coming into force of this Convention, based on the recommendation received from the Commission and after having consulted the Parliament. I would like to express my concern regarding the retroactive implementation of the Arbitration Convention as of 1 January 2007 and, for this reason, I support the proposal for the effective date to be the day following the date of publishing the Decision in the EU Official Journal.


− Report: Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (A6-0207/2008)


  Charlotte Cederschiöld, Christofer Fjellner, Gunnar Hökmark and Anna Ibrisagic (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) The Moderate Delegation in the European Parliament has today voted in favour of the report (A6-0207/2008) by Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (PPE-DE, ES) on the exchange of information from criminal records between Member States and on the content of the information exchanged.

When crime moves across borders, measures to combat it must be adapted accordingly. We therefore support the framework decision and increased cooperation to simplify and render more effective the exchange of information on convictions between Member States.

However we take strong exception to the article relating to the processing of personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs and the like.


  Carlos Coelho (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) This proposal regarding the organisation and exchange of criminal record information between Member States is intended to improve communication between judicial authorities.

It is important to ensure that extracts from criminal records are easy to understand and that the information contained in them is put to proper use.

I therefore support the excellent report by my colleague Mr Díaz de Mera, as well as the proposed amendments, namely regarding data protection.

It is essential that a general set of data protection principles is applied, which should be borne in mind when collecting, processing and transmitting data. Additionally, the data protection authorities should be systematically informed of the exchange of personal data under this Framework Decision.

It is also important that this system should operate effectively, thus becoming a useful tool in preventing and fighting against crime, particularly that of a sexual nature. To ensure greater protection of children, for instance, it is fundamental that schools have access to information on their staff or potential staff, in case they have a criminal record relating to offences against children.


  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. (FR) It is outrageous that a dangerous criminal should be able to hide behind a lack of information about his criminal record so as to evade justice or commit crimes in other Member States. The Fourniret affair is a distressing and painful example of this.

In these conditions, allowing the preparation of complete and readily available criminal records, which include convictions handed down in different states, seems a welcome improvement.

However, this laudable initiative does not just target paedophiles, murderers and armed robbers. Simply by including the words ‘disqualifications arising from a criminal conviction’, it also covers international persecution for holding certain views. We know only too well who the target is, in this madness that is Europe, open to the winds of uncontrolled immigration, perpetually repenting for what it was, what it is and what it could be: patriots attached to their identity, proud of their people, their nation and their history, and who dare to proclaim out loud their intention to defend them.

Therefore, we are abstaining because we fear that, apart from the legitimate repression of crime, this text will allow the extension to the entire Union of laws that destroy freedom and do so much damage to the democratic life of our countries.


  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The transmission of information extracted from the criminal records of citizens of one Member State to another must be conducted on the basis of (bilateral) cooperation established between the parties involved.

This initiative sets out to improve communication between judicial authorities and to ensure that Member States’ requests regarding the criminal records of citizens of other Member States ‘are replied to properly and in a comprehensive, exhaustive fashion’.

However, we disagree with the harmonisation of laws and the adoption of common procedures, namely as concerns the obligation to transmit ‘full information concerning the convictions handed down on its nationals’, or the obligation to ‘store and update all information received’, as well as the harmonisation of procedures – all the more so as, in the absence of clear guarantees on the protection of these data, in our view this proposal becomes even more questionable.

We recognise the need for mechanisms enabling the reciprocal transmission of information on criminal records between different Member States, yet this needs to be done on a case-by-case basis and within a framework of cooperation between the said States.


  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I voted in favour of the Díaz de Mera García Consuegra report on the exchange of criminal record information between Member States. With increased mobility in the EU, it is important that Member States are able to keep each other informed of the criminal histories of EU citizens resident within their territories. Safeguards must, however, be applied and I welcome the proposed general prohibition of the processing of personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, party or trade union membership and data concerning health or sex life.


  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. − (DE) In a European Union with open borders, good cooperation between the authorities is necessary in order to be able to keep up reasonably well with the fight against crime. The goal of a European Internet portal that citizens and businesses can go to to obtain information about their rights as a consequence of criminal proceedings seems worthwhile.

The setting up of an electronic register that simplifies the exchange of criminal records across borders can be welcomed only when data protection requirements are sufficiently incorporated. In practice, much will depend on the management of acts that are liable to prosecution in one Member State but not in another. In my opinion, these questions were not dealt with properly in the early stages, so I have abstained from voting.


  Luca Romagnoli (NI), in writing. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I voted in favour of the report by Mr Díaz de Mera. It is vital to improve communication between the judicial authorities and to ensure that requests for information from Member States concerning criminal records are replied to properly and in a comprehensive, exhaustive fashion.

Open borders, in fact, permit not only the free movement of honest citizens but also of criminals who often escape the net of justice by taking refuge in other states in which they commit further crimes. Owing to inadequate exchange of information, however, neither their potential to re-offend nor the real danger they represent are taken into proper consideration.

In particular, as reported in the newspapers every day, sex criminals and other extremely dangerous individuals benefit from the lack of an effective information exchange system and take advantage of the limits imposed on the EU’s current powers.


  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE), in writing. (SV) The European Parliament’s amendments improve the legislation, but at the same time I do not want to vote for its implementation. I therefore abstain in the vote.


− Report: Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (A6-0230/2008)


  Carlos Coelho (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) This Regulation aims to ensure a high level of protection against counterfeiting and falsification of the euro, laying down measures necessary for its protection through checking notes and coins for authenticity and fitness for circulation.

According to the most recent statistics, roughly 561 000 counterfeit notes and 211 100 counterfeit coins were withdrawn from circulation in 2007.

Now that the European Central Bank and the Commission have laid down the definitive procedures for the detection of false notes and coins, it has become essential for the 2001 Regulation to be amended, as the establishments involved in the distribution of cash to the public have the tools they needed to carry out these checks.

I also welcome the explicit obligation for credit and other relevant institutions to check the authenticity of the notes and coins they have received before putting them back into circulation. At the same time, they will have to adapt their internal procedures and upgrade their equipment as needs be.

It is also important for the authenticity of the euro to be guaranteed in the Member States which do not belong to the euro area, but where the euro circulates as a transaction currency, although control methods cannot be applied in the same fashion, which therefore means that specific verification procedures need to be established.


  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. − (DE) There is a constant stream of fake banknotes of excellent quality from Eastern Europe. After all, the European Union is, by its very nature, very attractive to counterfeiters, because the people are not particularly familiar with the new currency and even cash machines are not immune to fraud.

Improving the protection of the euro against fraud is a welcome development, which is why I, too, voted in favour of the Diaz de Mera report. Constantly working on making the euro safer is one thing, but it achieves nothing if people still know very little about security features. The European Central Bank and the Member States therefore need to increase their efforts in the area of education. In addition, we must also see to it that it is possible to catch professional counterfeiters quickly anywhere in the EU. Continual retrenchment in police services at the same time as borders are being eliminated is counterproductive, and not only in this area.


− Report: Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (A6-0211/2008)


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This draft Council decision, stemming from a request from the Court of Justice, is intended to add a provision to the Court’s Rules of Procedure concerning the use of languages in the review procedure in accordance with Article 64 of the Court’s Statute.

The procedure allowing the Court of Justice to review decisions of the Court of First Instance, as provided for in Article 225(2) and (3) of the EC Treaty and Article 140a(2) and (3) of the Euratom Treaty, may be used when the latter Court has ruled on appeals against decisions of judicial panels.

Under the Statute a review may be carried out in cases where questions referred for a preliminary ruling fall within the jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance. Although this possibility has not yet arisen, the Court of Justice has nevertheless taken the view that its Rules of Procedure need to be amended to enable it to apply its language arrangements to the new review procedure.

This provides for proceedings to be conducted in the language of the particular decision (i.e. of the Court of First Instance) being reviewed, which we believe to be right.


− Report: Caroline Jackson (A6-0162/2008)


  Jan Andersson, Anna Hedh, Inger Segelström and Åsa Westlund (PSE), in writing. (SV) We have chosen to give our full support to the compromise which has been worked out between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The compromise means that binding recycling targets will be introduced, which is extremely positive. However, we would have preferred to see a more exact definition of by-products and even higher recycling targets.


  Liam Aylward (UEN), in writing. − The objective of any waste policy is to minimise the negative effects of waste on human health and the environment. Decoupling waste from our growing economies is vital. We produce 1.3 billion tonnes of waste annually, some 40 million tonnes of which is hazardous.

This EU legislation aims to move us closer to becoming a recycling society. Parliament has insisted on targets for re-use and recycling of waste. These targets are ambitious. By 2020 Member States need to increase recycling and reuse of household waste by 50%.

We need to reduce amounts of waste in landfill and incineration. The hierarchy system as a priority order forces legislators in waste prevention and management policy to apply prevention as key, followed by re-use, then recycling, with recovery and disposal at the lower end. Only incineration with high standards of energy efficiency will be defined as recovery.

We need to engage with citizens, producers and consumers regarding reduction, reuse and recycling of waste. Community and local authority recycling facilities need to be practically located and accessible for maximum impact.


  Adam Bielan (UEN), in writing. − (PL) Mr President, I agree with the rapporteur that in some states, and especially where the move away from tipping has only just begun, obtaining energy from waste may be dominant and may discourage investment in other processes, such as recycling or reuse.

Poland currently recycles the smallest amount of waste of any EU country – just 4%. In Małopolska, 7% of refuse is recycled. Meanwhile, there are plans to build incinerators to handle 250 000 tonnes of waste a year – more than is produced by a city. For an incinerator to be efficient, it must be suitably filled. The project financed by the European Commission will thereby destroy any enthusiasm for segregation, as everything will be combustible.

It is estimated that tens of thousands of tonnes of illegally imported municipal waste, foil, scrap, used tyres and batteries regularly find their way to Poland. On a selected southern sector of our western border, as many as 16 shipments bringing a total of 40 tonnes of waste have been stopped since January this year. Some local authorities near the border have had to increase their budget by 30% to clean up illegal dumps.

I would appeal for specific steps to be taken as soon as possible with a view to stopping these practices. Endless regulations on waste sorting or recovery methods are of no value as long as it is cheaper for firms to dump refuse in the fields of a neighbouring state.


  Konstantinos Droutsas (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The compromise proposal of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on waste management is a significant volte-face for the sake of the huge, hidden financial interests involved in refuse and waste.

The proposed directive does not contribute to an overall reduction in the volume of waste. Its targets and means are deliberately vague. It exempts industrial waste and confines itself to certain types of urban waste, in the interests of cost-effectiveness and competition rather than the environment and public health.

One example of the general climb-down is the undermining of the hierarchical structure whereby recycling must precede energy recovery. Another example is viewing energy combustion of composite waste as energy recovery in cases other than those already specified, such as the production of biogas.

Toxic and other hazardous substances discharged into the air, penetrating the soil and the water table, and affecting nutrients, have a direct effect on the health of employees in the waste management sector, and the population as a whole.

What is needed is a reduction in the volume of refuse, as well as its planned management and properly organised transport. Responsibility should be taken at government, regional and local level to sort and separate toxic and other hazardous substances (dioxins etc.) and there should be as much recycling as possible. Composite waste must not be burnt. There ought to be an environmental upgrade of landfill sites and safe final disposal of the residues from them.


  Edite Estrela (PSE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of Mrs Jackson’s recommendation for second reading on the revision of the framework directive on waste, as I believe that this proposal will help reduce the environmental and socio-economic impacts of waste management, bearing in mind that the reduction, prevention, re-use and recycling of waste need to be priorities throughout the European Union.

I voted for Amendment 82 because I support more ambitious targets for waste recycling for all Member States, in order to ensure an effective European waste prevention policy.


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) In this second reading, the European Parliament is insisting that the Council accept amendments that were already adopted at first reading.

Key amendments were the introduction of targets for recycling and waste prevention and the setting up of a five-stage waste hierarchy as a general rule.

The Council removed all references to targets but the rapporteur has restored Parliament’s amendments in a modified form. In the rapporteur’s view, it would be wrong to miss this opportunity to ensure that this directive does more than supply a set of definitions. There should be a real link between the directive and the aspirations about recycling and prevention set out in the Thematic Strategy on Waste Prevention and Recycling.

One important aim of the directive is to draw a clear distinction between what is considered ‘recovery’ and what is ‘disposal’ of waste, since Court of Justice judgments put the question in doubt.

In any event, we believe that waste reduction, recycling and recovery must be the priorities. However, deeming coincineration a method of recovery and therefore a lucrative industry is very dubious indeed. The question is, if this is the case, who is going to reduce production and increase recycling and recovery?


  Ambroise Guellec (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) According to OECD figures, between now and 2020 we will produce 45% more waste than in 1995. Therefore, the European Union urgently needs to define a new waste management strategy allowing all types of waste to be seen not only as a source of pollution to be reduced, but also as a potential resource to be exploited.

The compromise adopted at today’s plenary will help to shift the focus towards prevention and recycling – with the aim of stabilising the volume of waste produced between now and 2012 and meeting the recycling targets of 50% of household waste and 70% of construction and demolition waste by 2020 – with separate waste collection schemes being mandatory by 2015, at least for paper, metal, plastic and glass, and tighter regulations for hazardous waste, mainly through separate collection and traceability. Separate waste oil collection will also have to be arranged, as well as distinguishing between incineration operations aimed at the ultimate elimination of waste and those that recycle through energy recovery. Therefore, by applying an energy efficiency formula, only the most energy-efficient municipal waste incinerators will be classified as recycling plants.


  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − The second reading on the Waste Framework Directive represents a wasted opportunity. The EU should be setting firm targets for waste reduction, not producing non-binding aspirations for some far-distant future date. My own group's amendments would have strengthened the proposed legislation and it is a matter of some regret that they were unsuccessful.


  Jaromír Kohlíček (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (CS) Forward-looking politicians in almost all countries of the world have for years been monitoring the avalanche-style increase in waste generation. One good solution to this disastrous trend is legislation imposing a high percentage of recycling of individual materials. Unfortunately, even when the waste is separated, there is still a constant increase in the amount of materials that are collectively called ‘mixed waste’.

I welcome Mrs Jackson’s effort to find a correct and valid solution in her report. Although some of the suggestions put forward in the amendments are interesting and we will support them, I cannot accept that waste incineration should be seen as an energy use equal to sustainable energy sources.

Consequently, although the report contains some positive aspects, I cannot vote for it; nor can the majority of the GUE/NGL Group. We cannot support the re-classification of incinerators of municipal waste to put them on a par with ecologically pure energy sources.


  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE), in writing. (FI) Mr President, I had a number of reasons for supporting the compromise that my colleague Mr Jackson negotiated, and I wish to thank her for the outstanding work she has done. We had good reason to be satisfied with this outcome because more and more waste is ending up at landfill sites. That is a pity in these times, when Europe is aware of the importance of policy on resources and raw materials. On average only just under a third of household waste in Europe is recycled or composted. About half is dumped and just under a fifth is burned. In some Member States as much as 90% of household waste ends up at landfill sites.

We need quantitative targets for the recycling of waste whilst at the same time focusing on the importance of waste prevention. I would nevertheless like to point out that we need to make drastic improvements to the way we use energy. It is high time we stopped applying the mistaken logic that says that the use of waste cannot be developed because it would result in more waste. As that sort of logic only seems in practice to lead to an increase in the number of landfill sites, it has already shown its weakness.

I must therefore admit that I supported the Council line on the waste hierarchy and championed its guiding principle. It would have made for a more flexible waste policy which took account of circumstances. The guiding principle was also the approach I adopted in my amendment, and I thank Mrs Jackson for her support in different ways during the whole process.

I am therefore grateful to Mrs Jackson, who showed herself to be a little more rational than might be concluded from the final outcome. She realised that energy from waste treatment plants is only a partial answer to the EU’s energy shortage, and felt compelled to say that in some of the Member States energy use is regarded as a threat to recycling.


  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I welcome Caroline Jackson’s report on the revision of the Framework Directive on Waste. To adequately contribute to our climate change objectives, the EU needs to renew its commitment to waste reduction and recycling. We would make considerable progress on this by introducing binding recycling and re-use targets by 2020 of 50% for household waste and 70% for construction and demolition. These views are reflected in my vote.


  Rovana Plumb (PSE), in writing. − (RO) The purpose of revising this directive is to create a homogenous and coherent legislative framework, connected with the objectives of the Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste so that Europe becomes a recycling society with an increased level of efficiency in using waste resources.

The following shall be established:

• A 5-step waste management hierarchy: prevention, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and waste disposal (including storage);

• Measures/plans for the prevention of waste generation;

• Mandatory recycling targets for municipal waste, as well as construction and demolition waste;

• Increased responsibility of the manufacturer to supply information to the public regarding the possibilities to reuse and recycle products.

The actions to be taken in the Member States in order to achieve all the above-mentioned objectives should encourage the modernization and creation of new units for waste recycling, conditioning for reuse, namely “the green industry”.

I voted for the revision of the Waste Framework Directive because all these measures shall contribute to the creation of new jobs, safer and more durable waste management, rational use of national resources and adjustment to climate change (development of non-ETS sectors).


  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PL) I am supporting Mrs Jackson’s report because the new directive on waste is intended to provide a basis for the creation of a ‘recycling society’. Europe has been faced with some very ambitious targets. Are they too ambitious, though, and can the Member States, especially the new ones, manage to meet the rigorous requirements? I would like to make you aware that the new Member States already have problems complying with Community standards for municipal waste management.

It is worth pointing out that the ‘old’ Member States have had far more time to adapt their waste management systems to the stringent requirements, while the new ones are being forced to introduce legal mechanisms and build the necessary infrastructure a lot more quickly. The proposal for the new directive is causing much controversy in many countries, as its implementation will have major consequences for the economy.

I do not think we should be surprised, then, that it was so difficult to reach a compromise with the Council. During yesterday’s debate, many MEPs said they were not happy with the compromise on the directive. I fear, though, that the introduction of still more stringent requirements could cause problems with the implementation of this law. The new Directive on waste will force countries that have neglected municipal waste management to take decisive action. These countries will be forced to introduce legal and economic mechanisms in order for their effect to be one that stimulates rather than burdens the economy. The new directive should be a stimulus to the development of new ways of creating jobs.


  Bart Staes (Verts/ALE), in writing. – (NL) The Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance supported some 30 compromise amendments, but also tabled further-reaching amendments seeking to tighten up the text with regard to hazardous waste, the treatment of bio-waste, ‘end-of-waste status’ and the concept of by-products and waste that has ceased to be waste. Above all, we wanted binding targets, to reduce the total amount of waste generated and to focus on recycling and re-use.

We oppose the contention that domestic-waste incinerators can be regarded as recovery on the basis of an energy-efficiency formula. The text ultimately adopted lays down no legally binding target for waste reduction. The proposal to fund a study on means of preventing waste is totally inadequate in this regard.

Recycling and re-use targets may have been laid down at 50% and 70% and Member States may well be required to take legislative action, but the targets are not legally binding in themselves. This is irrefutably a missed opportunity. In my electoral district, the danger with this revised framework directive is that some could seize upon the ‘weaker’ European standards in order to defer somewhat the efforts we are already making. Flanders is something of a world champion in this field; we are right at the top. Yet this revised framework directive is no real incentive to us to do even better. It is a shame.


  Marianne Thyssen (PPE-DE), in writing. – (NL) Mr President, Belgium has been a forerunner on waste policy for years and so, personally, I would have preferred a rather more ambitious text. Nevertheless, I believe that the agreement that Mrs Jackson managed to conclude with the Slovenian Presidency reveals excellent negotiating skills and a feeling for compromise on her part. For the first time, a European waste hierarchy is being introduced. Besides, substantial progress is being made on prevention, recycling and selective collection of domestic waste.

Gambling on a third reading and jeopardising the existing agreement again is too risky, in my view. Since the most important thing is that the Directive is actually brought in, I voted in favour of the agreement.


− Report: Anne Laperrouze (A6-0192/2008)


  Konstantinos Droutsas (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) Big business and industries unrestrainedly polluting rivers, lakes and water tables with untreated toxic waste are unaccountable. They cannot be curbed by legislation that essentially allows companies to pollute and pay negligible fines – if and when a legal infringement is discovered – while making huge profits at the expense of public health and the environment.

The EU and governments are aware of this but maintain a wall of silence about it. With the prospect of increased profits, they endanger the lives of workers by pretending to be ‘competitive’, while requiring them to fund anti-pollution measures through taxation.

The contamination of the water table in the Asopos River region with hexavalent chromium from unmonitored industrial activity highlights the substantial shortcomings in the legislation, which confines itself to setting the upper limit for chromium content and makes no provision for such a demonstrably dangerous carcinogen.

The EU’s proposed measures, even when they limit the content of hazardous substances, are invalidated by the absence of effective checks and pollution-deterrent measures that would affect industries’ profits. Only the worker’s struggle against the profits of the plutocracy can safeguard the inalienable right to health and life.


  Edite Estrela (PSE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of Mrs Laperrouze’s recommendation for second reading on environmental quality standards in the field of water policy, given that good surface water chemical status in the European Union is an essential condition for protecting human health and the environment.

This Directive is positive, as it sets limits for the concentration in water of particular pollutants that are harmful to health, as well as clarifying further Member States’ obligations in terms of transboundary pollution.


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The adopted amendments somewhat improve the Council’s proposal. The justification for this Directive derives from a requirement contained in the Directive establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, and contains aspects with which we disagree. Such is the case with the polluter pays principle, which may just serve to protect those who have the money to pay for pollution. All they will need to do is pay up and then create clean-up industries to be able to carry on with their lucrative business at the cost of pollution that they have, meanwhile, been authorised to create, possibly destroying rivers, forests, etc.

We believe it is essential to act in the area of pollution prevention. Yet we know that Article 16 of the Framework Directive, lists various obligations relating to the Commission’s drawing-up of proposals, including specific measures to combat water pollution by individual pollutants or groups of pollutants that pose a significant risk to or via the aquatic environment, establishing a list of priority substances, including priority hazardous substances and also setting quality standards applicable to the concentrations of priority substances in surface water, sediment and biota.

We also know that the Council has failed to meet the expectations of the European Parliament as regards the reclassification of certain priority substances as priority hazardous substances and as regards other important areas. Hence our abstention.


  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of this text, which sets out the environmental quality standards for priority substances and certain other pollutants in order to ensure a high level of protection for the aquatic environment.

In total, 33 pollutants (mainly pesticides and heavy metals) found in rivers, lakes and coastal waters will be subject to environmental quality standards. Not only do these substances threaten the survival of ecosystems, but they also – through the food chain – endanger human health. The compromise that has just been voted on will enable Member States to ‘make progress’ so that they comply with these standards by 2018.

The decision to classify new substances as ‘priority’ or ‘hazardous’ should be taken by the Commission as quickly as possible.

Close to sources of pollution, it will take longer to meet the environmental quality standards. In these ‘mixing zones’, concentrations of pollutants could exceed the limits set. We must surround ourselves with the necessary safeguards so that Member States can have the best water treatment techniques available when identifying ‘mixing zones’.


  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. − (DE) When it comes to water, our liquid gold, it is essential for the future that we preserve its quality and never slacken our efforts to protect it. If, in practice, it turns out that water quality in the new Member States is lower, and that there are problems with non-Member States, we here in Parliament will have to intensify our efforts to find solutions including, in particular, putting a stop to the illegal dumping of waste and dealing with waste water. Since intensive fertilisation in agriculture can put a strain on water, this should provide an incentive to adjust measures to promote agriculture in such a way that greater support is given to traditional, environmentally friendly growing methods, such as those used by organic farmers.

I believe that this report will lead to better monitoring of water quality, and that is why I voted in favour of it.


  Rovana Plumb (PSE), in writing. − (RO) The main elements of the proposal for directive are:

- establishing water quality standards (EQS) for priority substances and priority hazardous substances;

- introduction of the “mixing zone” concept – in whose area EQSs may be exceeded;

- setting an inventory of discharges, emissions and losses of priority and priority hazardous substances, which facilitates the monitoring of the way in which the objectives of the Water Framework Directive are achieved at the relevant point sources of pollution, as well as the assessment of the impact of implementing the principle of “the polluter pays”;

- introduction of the provisions regarding cross-border pollution. They exclude the sole responsibility of the Member State for exceeding EQS in case it proves that the excess was due to cross-border pollution, but requires the taking of joint actions.

I voted for the environmental quality standards in the field of water policy because the introduction of the provisions regarding “cross-border pollution” is welcomed, especially in the case of Romania, taking into consideration that we border non-EU countries, which are not forced to comply with the standards imposed at the Community level.


  Luca Romagnoli (NI), in writing. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I voted in favour of the report by Mrs Laperrouze. We do need to strengthen the European strategy and action on water protection. I believe that specific measures are needed to combat the water pollution produced by individual pollutants, or groups of pollutants, that pose a significant risk to the aquatic environment. This proposal aims to ensure a high level of protection against the risks that such priority substances (and a few other pollutants) pose to the aquatic environment and it therefore lays down some environmental quality standards. I applaud the various measures relating to standards and biological species. I also congratulate the rapporteur on the approach she has taken in dealing with this issue, which is in many ways decidedly technical and complex.


− Report: Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (A6-0178/2008)


  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I voted in favour of the Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou report and in particular welcome the additional role given to the European Maritime Safety Agency. EMSA was established in the wake of a number of serious maritime incidents and has an important role to play in minimising such future occurrences. It is right that EMSA's interests should extend into the field of ensuring adequate training for seafarers.


  Fernand Le Rachinel (NI), in writing. (FR) In the light of the recent Erika and Prestige disasters, human error has emerged as a serious aspect of maritime safety. Good training for crews is therefore essential.

In this regard I should like to raise two aspects that I consider fundamental.

The first concerns the very logic behind Europe’s approach: the refusal to promote in any way whatsoever the recruitment of seamen from Member States. Indeed, far from showing a Community preference, as in all economic and social areas, the recruitment of non-EC seamen is encouraged. This deliberately anti-national approach can only increase the current shortage of qualified seamen in the EU and the lack of interest which is emerging for this difficult and dangerous profession. All of this in favour of under-qualified, cheap labour from Asia.

Secondly, we need to safeguard ourselves to the maximum, in terms of quality of training, its supervision and the issuing of certificates. Instead of mutual recognition of qualifications based on minimum, non-EC technical standards, we should recognise the true value of our existing qualifications and save our marine professions in the name of maritime safety and the protection of our national jobs.


  Bogusław Liberadzki (PSE), in writing. − (PL) I am voting in favour of the report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the minimum level of training of seafarers (COM(2007)0610 – C6-0348/2007 – 2007/0219(COD)).

The fine-tuning of the provisions of the directive on the minimum level of training of seafarers raised in Mrs Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou’s report seems right and appropriate, as it will enable more complete fulfilment of the provisions of this directive, which is aimed at improving the level of knowledge and skills of seafarers and also at providing greater guarantees of safety and prevention of maritime pollution.


− Report: Avril Doyle (A6-0190/2008)


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) As veterinary medicinal products used for the therapeutic treatment and the welfare of animals which are destined for human consumption may give rise to residues of such products in food-producing animals, a risk assessment of the safety limit of residues of all pharmacologically active substances contained in veterinary products needs to be carried out.

The Commission’s proposal to repeal Regulation (EEC) No 2377/90 seeks to resolve the difficulties encountered in the application of the existing legislation. It proposes alternative ways to achieve a high level of consumer protection, coupled with the continued availability and development of veterinary medicinal products for the European market and good functioning of the intra- and extra-Community trade in food of animal origin.

The rapporteur also points out that as the ultimate goal is human health protection, a more consistent approach is required for the risk analysis and control of residues of pharmacologically active substances, which may appear in food produced in or imported into the European Union.


  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − The proposed simplifications of the regulations dealing with pharmacologically active substances in foodstuffs of animal origin are to be welcomed and, accordingly, I supported Mrs Doyle's report.


− Report: Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (A6-0173/2008)


  Charlotte Cederschiöld, Christofer Fjellner, Gunnar Hökmark and Anna Ibrisagic (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) We expect the Member States of the EU to act continuously to combat poverty. Both decision-makers and public and private agencies must take up their responsibilities and act to improve opportunities in employment, business enterprise and education and to prevent social exclusion and combat poverty.

On the other hand, we do not think that the EU should conduct information and PR campaigns directed at the public. The EUR 17 million set aside for the European Year would do more good in the hands of the poorest members of society.


  Titus Corlăţean (PSE), in writing. − (RO) I supported, by voting, the proposal for a decision regarding the designation of the year 2010 as the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.

In addition to the priority actions mentioned in the proposal for a decision, we consider it absolutely necessary to introduce a minimum guaranteed salary in all the EU Member States for an efficient fight against poverty.

In the country where I come from, Romania, after 3 years of right-wing government, 40% of the Romanian employees live below the poverty threshold because they cannot afford to pay the costs of the minimum consumer basket and of the current bills during winter.

Due to the 2005 introduction of the single tax rate by the right-wing government, an excessive polarization of society has occurred, as well as an increase in poverty. In 2007, only 5% of the Romanian employees earned more than 2000 RON, approximately 500 Euros.

In the case of Romania, it is necessary to give up the single tax rate and adopt the progressive rate, at the same time with exemption from the tax on reinvested capital. In this way, the society polarization would diminish and fair taxation would be achieved and people with low income would be taxed less than those with high and very high income.


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Although we know that it is not enough to devote one year to fighting poverty to ensure that the appropriate measures are taken, we voted in favour of the report to try at least to raise the profile of this issue.

Nevertheless, we would like at the same time to warn of the gravity of what is happening and of the consequences of measures that continue to promote the liberalisation and privatisation of key public sectors and services, labour deregulation, precarious and poorly-paid work and rising prices of essential goods, which is helping economic and financial groups to boost their windfall profits at the cost of increased poverty.

For this reason, whilst giving our approval to the report, we insist on an end to the neoliberal policies of the Lisbon Strategy and the Stability Pact, and we demand alternative policies guaranteeing the social inclusion of children, women, workers and their families. We need measures that value work, increase employment with rights, ensure quality public services for all, decent housing, public and universal social security, an agricultural policy that boosts production and the incomes of those working the land and guarantees a decent income for fishermen.


  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. (FR) Each ‘European Year’ is an excuse for the EU to spend vast sums on its own propaganda, on a theme considered to be of media interest.

Therefore, 2010 is to be the year for combating poverty. Will it also be the year for combating globalisation, which causes unemployment? Will it also be the year for combating immigration, which forces wages down in Europe? Will it also be the year when we abandon the economic, trade, financial and fiscal policies that are dragging Europe’s middle classes into poverty? Will it even be ‘European’, caught as it is between combating global poverty and the inevitable priority given to non-EC migrants who are classed as amongst the most vulnerable people in the world?

Increasing and persistent poverty in Europe is a scandal. It deserves more than a ‘European Year’ promoting eurocracy. It deserves to be the focus of all the decisions that you make. Unfortunately, experience has shown that, regardless of prepared statements, this is not the case.


  Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) In March 2000 the European Council invited Member States and the Commission to take steps to make ‘a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty’ by 2010. This would happen through the Open Method of Coordination, which is in itself positive since the method adopts a decentralised approach.

Action to combat poverty is an extremely urgent matter. However, this work should be carried on in all essential respects by the Member States in cooperation with international organisations having broad democratic legitimacy, such as the United Nations.

We take a negative view of several points in the Commission’s proposal and, not least, in the European Parliament’s report which, among other things, highlights the value of structural support and the need for the EU to provide support to extremely remote regions. We also take a critical view of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, an awareness-raising year which features prominently in the report in question. There have already been international years and campaigns of this kind. We must ask ourselves whether it is worth appropriating EUR 17 million for such an EU Year and what the concrete added value is. We are convinced that these financial resources would do more good in the national budgets of Member States, where they would make a real contribution to the urgent fight against poverty and social exclusion.

On the basis of the above arguments, we have voted against the report.


  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − It is to be hoped that the designation of 2010 as "European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion" will lead to real progress across the EU in tackling inequalities. The report correctly notes that the successful work in this area requires cooperation at European, national, regional and local level. My own nation, Scotland, still has levels of poverty which are quite shameful particularly given the country's immense wealth. Fortunately we now have a government which is committed to tackling the social exclusion that they inherited from successive unionist administrations. The Scottish government's commitment is wholly in keeping with the principles outlined in the Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou report which I happily supported.


  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE), in writing. (FI) Mr President, I am in favour of the proposal for the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (2010). In her report, however, my colleague Mrs Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou has added what I think are a few essential elements to the Commission’s otherwise excellent draft text.

First of all, the report legitimately reminds us of the complexity of the structures which lead to poverty and social exclusion and broadens the definition of groups at risk. Secondly, it rightly gives greater attention to the importance, not just of social security, but also improved employment levels, and it also emphasises the importance of focusing on the need to make work pay as a way to combat poverty and exclusion. Thirdly, Mr Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou’s report understands the importance of lifelong learning and stresses the need to give everyone equal opportunities in order to hone their skills to reflect changes in the labour market.

There is an urgent need to address the issue of combating poverty and exclusion in a new way. To my delight I noted that the appropriation granted for the European Year, EUR 17 million, is the largest amount ever granted for a European Year. That too demonstrates its high political importance.


  Carl Lang (NI), in writing. (FR) The European Commission is proposing to make 2010 the ‘European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion’. With the largest ever budget for a European year, the political connotations of the project are all too clear. This year of ‘combat’ will serve merely to boost the image of a European Union which is witnessing the complete failure of its Lisbon Strategy.

Although the fight against poverty and social exclusion is a priority and must be supported, despite all of these pious hopes, Europe will have done nothing to improve the lives of the 78 million Europeans living below the poverty threshold. This is why I will be voting against this report, the sole acknowledged political aim of which is to pander to the propaganda of the euro-globalists.

Following the Irish ‘no’ vote, it is time for the arrogance of the ultra-Europeans to be replaced by an objective review of current European integration. This absurd system urgently needs to be reformed if we are to maintain a Europe of cooperation and not one of submission. A Europe of nations must finally emerge that fosters Community protection and preference for Europeans.


  José Ribeiro e Castro (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) Growing concerns over unemployment and the rising prices of essential goods and fuel throughout the continent are a serious reason for confronting the problem of poverty and social exclusion, which affects around 16% of the population.

I should like to congratulate the rapporteur, who is the President of the Intergroup on Family and Protection of Childhood, of which I am Vice-President, on her work. I share her concern for those who are most exposed to this scourge and who are experiencing the greatest difficulty in overcoming it. I should like to second her recommendation that the difficult circumstances of outermost regions, island regions and areas in industrial decline must always be taken into account.

The European Commission’s proposal gives us hope of more collective, public and private, individual and Community awareness of this phenomenon and a commitment by the Union and the Member States to seek solutions whose cornerstone has to be the intrinsic and inalienable dignity of every human being.

The Lisbon Strategy sought to affirm European global competitiveness by ensuring social cohesion and investing in employment. Despite its lack of success, I hope that 2010 will help awaken Europeans’ awareness of the need for greater social cohesion.

I voted in favour of the report.


  Catherine Stihler (PSE), in writing. − 2010 will be the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. I hope that the subject of child poverty across the EU will be highlighted and concrete action taken by Member States to eradicate child poverty.


  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE), in writing. − (PL) Do we all appreciate the importance of the problem of poverty and social exclusion? Are we aware that in 2006 16% of the citizens of the EU-25 (78 million people) were living below the poverty threshold?

I am in favour of 2010 being proclaimed European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. It is our moral duty to increase social awareness of this matter. The European Year should make people aware of the existence of poverty and social exclusion in Europe and convey the message that they have a destructive impact on social and economic development. It should endorse the significance of collective responsibility, embracing not only decision-makers, but also participants in the public and private sectors. Our task is to achieve stable economic growth by 2010, with a greater number of better jobs and greater social cohesion.

I am voting in favour of Mrs Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou’s report.


− Report: David Casa (A6-0231/2008)


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The European Parliament decided to support the position of the Commission and the Council on Slovakia’s wish to adopt the single currency on 1 January 2009, although it does have some concerns about discrepancies between the convergence reports of the Commission and the ECB as regards the sustainability of inflation.

It is also interesting that the report expresses concern about what it considers to be ‘low support for the euro among Slovak citizens’. Furthermore, instead of trying to address the reasons for this low support, it calls on the authorities of Slovakia to step up the public information campaign aimed at explaining ‘the benefits of the single currency’, whilst nevertheless still exhorting them to take all necessary steps in order to minimise price increases during the changeover period.

Once again, it is a shame that we cannot know exactly what the majority of Slovak citizens think about all that is happening, particularly their joining the euro. Hence our abstention.

The consequences in Portugal are well known and prompt us to oppose this in a clear-cut fashion.


  Glyn Ford (PSE), in writing. − I will be supporting the report on the adoption of the single currency by Slovakia on 1 January next year. Since its introduction the euro has been a global success story rapidly establishing itself as a global reserve currency that has challenged the dollar’s monopoly. All the evidence is that it will continue to go from strength to strength. As a firm supporter I only wish my own country England was on the verge of joining. It was difficult for me to imagine that countries that were not even Members of the Union when the single currency was adopted would themselves introduce the euro before the UK. We are in danger of being left behind as a semi-detached part of the Union.


  Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PL) Slovakia is the first country of the former Communist bloc to wish to enter the euro area, as of 1 January 2009. The dynamic Slovak economy meets the convergence criteria stipulated in the Maastricht Treaty. Accession to the monetary union will enable Slovakia to take advantage of the numerous benefits that the common currency confers, and this will surely be an additional stimulus for the economy.

It is true that doubts have been raised as to whether Slovakia will be in a position to sustain a low inflation rate or budget deficit. As the rapporteur correctly observed in his speech, though, rising inflation is a problem not only for Slovaks, but also for the entire European Union, including the euro area. Like all the states that already belong to the monetary union, Slovakia must continue a macro-economic policy that ensures that the convergence criteria are maintained.

Certainly Slovakia’s experience in introducing the common currency will be excellent training for Poland. We must observe our southern neighbour attentively.

As the rapporteur points out, adoption of the euro does not enjoy great support among the Slovak people. I hope that Slovakia’s accession to the euro area will be preceded by an information campaign that will convince and above all properly prepare Slovaks for the change in currency.


  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I voted in favour of the Casa report relating to the adoption of the euro in Slovakia. Slovakia, a country of just over five million people, has been independent for a mere 15 years. In that short time, Slovakia has developed both politically and economically and now the country is in a position to join the eurozone. The Slovak experience gives the lie to claims that Scotland is too small to become a successful and independent nation within the EU.


  Astrid Lulling (PPE-DE), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of the Casa report on the adoption by Slovakia of the single currency on 1 January 2009, in which the European Parliament is won over by the positive recommendations of the Commission, the ECB and the Council.

Slovakia has in fact made huge efforts to meet the Maastricht and convergence criteria. The growth of the Slovak economy since the fall of its Communist regime is remarkable and Slovakia’s entry into the single currency will be a just reward for the country, which has implemented a strict reform agenda.

In terms of inflation, the European Parliament has expressed its concern over the sustainability of inflation in Slovakia in the medium and long term, as identified in the last ECB Convergence Report. However, it is our view that the Slovak Government could take the necessary measures to avoid inflation escalating after it joins the euro area.

Bear in mind that inflation forecasts for the euro area for 2009 are well above the ECB’s 2% target. It would therefore be unfair to penalise Slovakia for its struggle to meet criteria that even euro area members will not fulfil in 2009.


  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. − (DE) At the end of April, 53% of Slovaks were still against the introduction of the euro. Their fears, such as loss of sovereignty to the European Central Bank, and price rises, should be taken seriously. A later entry to the euro area gives the countries affected the opportunity to carry out the necessary reforms at a more leisurely pace and allows people more time to adjust.

If countries such as the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden retain independence in terms of currency policy, then we should accord this right to other countries too. In any case, the sovereign – the people – should decide. This decision should then be respected and not tinkered with, as happened with the Constitution, which is being discussed yet again. In my opinion, not enough consideration was given to the will of the people here, so I have abstained.


  Gabriele Stauner (PPE-DE), in writing. − (DE) I abstained from voting on the introduction of the single currency in Slovakia on 1 January 2009, because I have doubts about whether Slovakia’s currency policy is free of manipulation. Furthermore, given the current uncertainty about the future of the European Union after the outcome of the Irish referendum, I think it would be appropriate to first analyse the causes and not to continue with the currency policy integration process as if nothing had happened.


  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE), in writing. − (PL) I am voting in favour of Mr Casa’s report on the adoption by Slovakia of the single currency on 1 January 2009.

The rapporteur has presented a very good and solid report.

We must agree that the creation of the euro area is a success along the path towards deepening European integration. Therefore, further enlargements of this area are necessary and it is pleasing that another country will soon be joining this circle.

I would also like to mention that with every enlargement of the euro area we should make sure that there is social support for this European project, and we should also make sure that these enlargements point towards a reinforcement of common European economic policy.


− Report: Gábor Harangozó (A6-0212/2008)


  Adam Bielan (UEN), in writing. − (PL) Mr President, I agree with the rapporteur that significant disparities occur within individual regions and that analyses serving as a basis for the division of Union money should take this problem into account.

It is clearly visible in the new Member States. In Poland, for example, the most important social division affecting Poles is the growing gulf in their affluence. Currently as much as 12% of the population is living in extreme poverty. The greatest differences continue to be between the town and the country.

Although Małopolska is ranked fourth in the country in terms of GDP, unemployment is a problem there – and it mainly affects the rural populace. In the neighbouring Świętokrzyskie province, country dwellers account for 55.5% of the unemployed (88% of them are unemployed and have no benefit rights).

The prolongation of such situations means that these people’s chance of overcoming the ‘social exclusion’ that has been discussed so extensively during the current parliamentary session is dwindling.


  Charlotte Cederschiöld, Christofer Fjellner, Gunnar Hökmark and Anna Ibrisagic (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) The Moderate Delegation in the European Parliament has today voted against the own-initiative report (A6-0212/2008) of Gábor Harangozós (PSE, HU) on the impact of cohesion policy on the integration of vulnerable communities and groups.

We do not think that cohesion will be strengthened by the definition of further vulnerable groups in society or by establishing further statistical categories. On the contrary, we think that the formulation of distribution policy is a national responsibility. Moreover, the European Parliament should not at this stage call for an extension of support after 2013, since that would be to disregard the results of the policy.


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) I regret that proposals contained in my opinion that we put forward in plenary and that the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development adopted, particularly on the need to revise the CAP to reverse the objectives of its previous reforms. They have been responsible for loss of income for small and medium-sized farmers, absenteeism and the abandonment of agricultural activity, favouring large landowners only.

I also regret that not enough importance has been given to the continuing provision of high-quality public services in rural areas (including in mountain and extremely remote areas) in order to combat isolation and to provide universal access to education, healthcare, transport and communications, culture and a decent life for farmers and their families.

Lastly, I am also disappointed that there is no inclusion in the final resolution of the need to boost support for farmers’ associations, cooperatives, wine cooperatives and other local institutions in the field of crafts and other activities that are complementary to farming so as to facilitate the marketing of products, the creation of local markets and closer links between producers and consumers.


  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) How does the majority in Parliament intend to use cohesion policy to promote the integration of vulnerable communities and groups when:

- it conceals the fact that there are countries in economic divergence with the EU in the name of ‘nominal convergence’ under the Stability Pact and the euro?

- it refuses to emphasise the fact that regional policy is an indispensable instrument for promoting economic and social cohesion whose priority objectives are reducing regional disparities, promoting real convergence and stimulating growth and employment, which also serves as an instrument for redistribution and compensation as regards the costs of the internal market, Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and liberalising international trade for regions lagging behind?

- it declines to underline the need to support less-favoured regions, areas with permanent structural disadvantages, outermost regions and areas affected by industrial restructuring, relocations or company closures, in order to strengthen economic and social cohesion and the social inclusion of vulnerable communities and groups?

or when:

- it refuses to emphasise the vital importance of public services to economic and social cohesion or to state that the proximity factor is essential in ensuring the accessibility and availability of these services to the whole population?


  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − The Harangozó report makes some important points on social exclusion. The report rightly highlights that social exclusion and impoverishment exist in both urban and rural areas. It also notes the importance of regional and local authorities as well as the economic and social partners and relevant NGOs in developing strategies to combat social exclusion. However, this house failed to adopt my own group's amendment relating to the Social Agenda and, accordingly, to citizens' rights to a minimum income and to access to education and training. Accordingly, I abstained on the final vote.


  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) Cohesion policy is an EU priority that occupies a prominent place in the budget − a third of the EU’s budget. It is based on the principle of solidarity and is intended to reduce economic, social and territorial disparities between Member States and their 268 regions. Yet despite everyone’s best efforts, these disparities persist.

There are increasing signs that the most underdeveloped regions are still finding it difficult to break out of the poverty cycle. More specifically, the increase in vulnerable groups surprises us, given the investment in these regions. We are also aware that the shift from poverty to social exclusion and segregation can be rapid. It would increasingly seem that this issue is rooted in spatial and territorial development itself. We therefore need relevant information to solve a problem that is hidden behind various layers of exclusion – for instance, long-term unemployment often results in prolonged inactivity that reduces the capacity of those affected to overcome their social exclusion and economic difficulties.

I believe it is essential to look as a matter of urgency at the way territorial development and the phenomenon of exclusion interact, so that we can meet the goal of sustainable development, using the existing financial instruments more efficiently to tackle the disparities that still persist.


  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE), in writing. − (PL) I am voting in favour of Mr Harangozó’s report on the impact of cohesion policy on the integration of vulnerable communities and groups.

I agree that there is a need to introduce an approach that takes account of the micro-regional level and concentrates on intra-regional disparities and the most sensitive areas. In some cases intra-regional inequalities are of greater importance than disparities between regions. The lack of such an approach may give rise to a deepening of regional divisions and to a further deterioration in the situation in excluded areas. Let us not forget that the objective and founding principle of European regional policy is to reduce developmental differences between individual areas in the European Union, and the phenomenon of territorial exclusion has still not been properly taken into account in political instruments.

In the new Member States, social segregation and deficiencies in the sphere of ensuring equal opportunities arise most often in rural areas, whereas economic and social initiatives in regions are usually focused on dynamic targets – mainly urban centres.


− Report: Frithjof Schmidt (A6-0137/2008)


  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) There is no doubt that this is an EP own-initiative report that is highly relevant and topical, yet, despite raising pertinent questions on timber and fish exploitation and trade, it does not call into question the framework of trade relations between the EU and these countries, in particular when it mentions again the ‘not yet fully agreed and signed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the West African countries’. The resolution ‘exhorts the Commission once again to act on the ultimate objective of the EPAs, which is advancing regional integration and strengthening the economic position of the ACP countries, and in this context stresses in particular the position of the West African countries’, that is, in an attempt to sell these countries ‘a pig in a poke’.

Furthermore, among other important points, while drawing attention to the ‘insufficient means to survey and control the activities of fishing vessels’ in these countries, it recommends ‘monitoring and surveillance services, since these countries lack the necessary technical and human resources to carry out these tasks, by setting up monitoring centres, training inspectors or acquiring patrol vessels and airborne resources’, measures which, if they go ahead, will have to respect fully the sovereignty and the exercise of that sovereignty by these countries in terms of their EEZs.


  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I welcome the general thrust of the Schmidt report. The EU's policies have a profound impact on the economies, environment and societies of West Africa and it is imperative that we take responsibility for our actions in dealing with West African nations. I deplore, however, Parliament's decision to adopt amendment 1 and remove the reference to avoiding over-capacity in the fisheries sector. It is abundantly clear that over-capacity in any fisheries should be avoided and it is shocking that Parliament has voted in such a way to appease politicians in certain Member States.


  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE), in writing. (FI) Mr President, Mr Schmidt’s report on policy coherence for development highlights perfectly one major flaw in the EU’s development cooperation policy in the wider context: it is not sufficiently coherent and it frequently does not cut across all the essential sectors.

The report focuses on the effects of the EU’s exploitation of biological natural resources on West Africa. The most important natural resources for the region’s Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are wood and fish, and more than 80% of exports of these go to the European Union. Although agreements have been made in both sectors that are built on the principles of sustainable development, they have not been comprehensive enough. There are clear signs that many species of fish are being overfished, and a lack of regulation and control has resulted in forest being cut down illegally and unsustainably. The resultant impoverishment in the region can also be linked directly to large-scale migration.

I voted in favour of Mr Schmidt’s report and I believe that the coherent EU policy it calls for could have a significant impact in West Africa, the EU being the region’s biggest purchaser of the region’s key products. It is worth remembering, however, that trade policy alone is not the answer. It has to be closely connected mainly with development cooperation, so that the region can enjoy the sort of political and socioeconomic conditions for the countries concerned to be able to exploit the full potential of their biological natural resources themselves. Another essential factor here is that the coherence of policies that impact on development can only come about properly if they begin to be implemented at the highest political level.


  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PL) What is needed in EU policy on West Africa is coherence between development policy for these regions and fisheries policy in the area, and the level of utilisation of timber resources, which is linked to the afforestation of this area and its impact on climate change.

EU fisheries policy for the African states needs to be strengthened and further expanded. Given that the seas of West Africa are among the most heavily exploited marine areas, and some species are being caught to excess, the European Union should help to develop and introduce special programmes to monitor and control these waters. It is extremely important to exchange knowledge and experience in this area, particularly where scientific studies of water resources are concerned.

The priority for the EU and West African states should be to restrict illegal fishing and prohibit excessive depletion of fish stocks. Let us not forget that many people support themselves specifically by fishing. Smaller catches mean greater poverty and problems with food security in this region of the world.

Improper exploitation of forestry resources is giving rise to climate change. We should take steps to equip these states to combat climate change. We must be aware that the difficult financial situation of this region is causing these and not other actions. We should therefore help them to create conditions for development that would bring about new production opportunities and would create new forms of activity that would improve the standard of living.


  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE), in writing. − (PL) I was interested to read Mr Schmidt’s report on policy coherence for development and the effects of the EU’s exploitation of certain biological natural resources on development in West Africa, and I am voting in favour of the report.

The ‘European consensus on development’ of December 2005 jointly agreed by the EU institutions and Member States declares their common objective of ensuring policy coherence for development.

Timber and fish can be said to represent two key products for West Africa’s economic and social development. As the main destination for these products, the EU can play a significant role in the region’s further development in these areas.

I express my satisfaction that seven countries of West Africa have signed fisheries agreements with the European Union under the new formula of partnership agreements in which, in addition to the initial objective of protecting the interests of the Community fleet, clauses are included by means of which the third country must establish plans that will guarantee the sustainable exploitation of its fishery resources.


9. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes

(The sitting was suspended at 1.15 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.)




10. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes

11. Internal market in electricity - Conditions for access to the network for cross-border exchanges in electricity - Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators - Towards a European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers (debate)

  President. − The next item is the joint debate on

– the report (A6-0191/2008) by Mrs Morgan, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2003/54/EC concerning common rules for the internal market in electricity (COM(2007)0528 – C6-0316/2007 – 2007/0195(COD));

– the report (A6-0228/2008) by Mr Vidal-Quadras, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 1228/2003 on conditions for access to the network for cross-border exchanges in electricity (COM(2007)0531 – C6-0320/2007 – 2007/0198(COD));

– the report (A6-0226/2008) by Mr Chichester, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing an Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (COM(2007)0530 – C6-0318/2007 – 2007/0197(COD)); and

– the report (A6-0202/2008) by Mrs De Vits, on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, on Towards a European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers (2008/2006(INI)).


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office of the Council. (SL) During the Slovenian Presidency of the Council, energy issues have been high on the agenda. Reliability of supply, the functioning of energy markets and sustainable management of the environment are indeed issues that are of strategic importance for the European Union and its citizens.

It is also becoming increasingly clear that energy is a field that must offer new knowledge and new services, if we wish the European economy to remain competitive in the world. More than a year ago the representatives of governments and Member States committed themselves to sustainable goals and to strengthening effective energy markets. The European Parliament also supported the targets set then and formulated proposals which the Council studied with great interest.

The third package on the natural gas and electricity markets was a very important legislative dossier for the Slovenian Presidency. Its main purpose, the main purpose of this package, is to continue the process of liberalising energy markets and increasing their efficiency and transparency. In line with the Commission’s proposal, in studying this dossier the Council treated all five legislative proposals as one complete package, and therefore where it was logical retained the same solutions for documents relating to the electricity and natural gas markets.

At the meeting of the Energy Council on 6 June, the Slovenian Presidency secured broad support for key elements of the package of five legislative proposals. The most important element of this broad consensus is of course the third option of the organisation of energy undertakings. Here, at the same time, the two original proposals from the Commission were adopted. These proposals define either full ownership separation, or an independent system operator, while Member States also agreed with the third option, which enables an independent operator of the transmission network to be established.

Permit me briefly to summarise the more important and perhaps also the more sensitive points of this agreement, which you will also be addressing in this esteemed House. The option of an independent operator of the transmission network may be used by countries in which, on the entry into force of the new directive, the transmission network will fall to a vertically integrated undertaking. It can be applied both to the natural gas sector and to electricity. This option allows undertakings to retain ownership of the transmission network on the condition that it is managed by an independent operator.

Regarding the organisation of the transmission system and the system operator, in the context of a vertically integrated undertaking a range of requirements have been established that define the independence of the system operator, balanced and impartial operation, the safety of carrying out necessary investment and also protection of the interests of the vertically integrated undertaking itself.

This will ensure the following:

1. independence of the operator, managers and supervisory authorities,

2. avoidance of any conflict of interests,

3. fair and non-discriminatory access to the network,

4. fair encouragement of investments including for international connections,

5. independent access to means and resources for the work of transmission network operators, and ultimately, this will ensure additional jurisdiction for national regulators regarding independent operators of transmission networks.

Another element of the agreement reached in the Council concerns investments by third countries in the European Union. The Council believes that the text should ensure such an approach to third countries controlling networks that will not be protectionist. At the same time, a guarantee must be given that companies from third countries will observe the same rules that apply to European Union undertakings. Here we need to take into account the interests of third countries and their undertakings seeking good partner relations with energy undertakings in Member States. Moreover, we will also need to analyse a range of energy investments already initiated on both sides.

Another very important area is investments and network development planning, especially the formulation of the European Union’s ten-year plan for network development. A consistent and effective approach is ensured at all levels, especially as regards transmission network operators, in an open and transparent consultation process, as well as all the main players and the agency.

In this latter connection, the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, the Presidency takes the view that we have succeeded in creating a truly independent agency with an effective management. Its tasks are focused on the areas of international and regional cooperation, and it will address in particular the issue of transboundary connections.

Other important elements of the agreement relate to public ownership, the treatment of transboundary cases, enhanced regional cooperation, operation of the market, consumer protection and guidelines that should be adopted by committees of the Commission in comitology procedures.

In these few points I hoped to present you with a brief overview of the main elements of the consensus reached in the Council. I am convinced that the compromise text is also a fine basis for the next Presidency trio and cooperation with this esteemed House.


  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I would like first of all to congratulate all the rapporteurs, Ms Morgan, Mr Chichester, Mr Vidal-Quadras and Ms De Vits, on their excellent reports, as well as the shadow rapporteurs and all the members of the committees involved. The deadlines have been very short and the package is challenging and complicated. I have greatly appreciated all the work done over these few months and the very high level of involvement of the Members of the European Parliament.

Let me again highlight the key challenges that we are facing. I know that they are of particular concern to this House.

With this far-reaching package, the Commission has one objective in mind: the interests of the citizens of the European Union.

Of course, market opening cannot as such stop oil prices from increasing. However, exactly at a time of high prices, we need to ensure truly effective competition on our energy markets to guarantee that the effects of these prices on our citizens are as limited as possible. Already now, some of Europe’s citizens have benefited from more choice and from more competition to keep prices as low as possible, as well as increasing standards of service and security.

For far too many of Europe’s citizens, however, the process of developing real competitive markets is far from complete, and they are not in a position to make a real choice of supplier.

This is not just about better prices and more choice. Ensuring security of supply will need massive investments in new networks over the next couple of decades. If we allow the status quo to continue, these investments will just not be made to the extent needed.

Furthermore, a functioning internal market is one of the key elements of the EU’s efforts to tackle climate change. Without competitive electricity and gas markets, an emissions trading scheme will never work properly and our aims regarding renewable energy will quite simply fail.

We all agree on the need for legislative reforms to remedy the numerous shortcomings of the current legislative and regulatory framework. Indeed, in the Vidal-Quadras report of 10 July 2007, the European Parliament showed its determination in achieving such an ambitious policy in the field of energy.

Let me now turn to some of the issues of the reports in more detail. Of course, the reports are very substantial and I will, therefore, focus on only some elements.

Many amendments that are being proposed can be supported by the Commission. The majority of amendments on strengthening consumer rights in Ms Morgan’s report are welcomed, and go hand in hand with the intention in the report from Ms De Vits. The emphasis on stronger regional cooperation of network operators is also welcomed. A number of amendments also usefully clarify or complement the Commission’s proposal, in particular as regards the role of the network operator, the powers of national regulators and an effectively well-functioning and secure internal energy market.

On a number of issues, the Commission also supports the overall objective of the committee, although it may have some reservations about the precise wording of the proposals.

I again would like to emphasis that the protection of vulnerable customers and the fight against energy poverty are essential to the implementation of market opening and should definitely be strengthened. The Commission will look carefully at the wording in order to respect the principle of subsidiarity. Price regulation should also not prevent proper investment signals and market entry.

Further, as regards the report by Ms De Vits on the Consumer Charter, I find the report and most of the proposed amendments very relevant. Many of the ideas have also been taken up in Ms Morgan’s report, and the Commission can agree with many of these, not least on the need for better information to be rapidly delivered to consumers. As you know, the Commission will shortly propose to Member States an energy consumer checklist designed to help collect and deliver relevant information to consumers about their energy markets.

Indeed, I agree that possible new consumer rights need to be introduced into the ongoing legislative process and that the purpose of the charter is to better communicate on energy consumer rights and thus render them more well-known with consumers.

It will be difficult to attempt to harmonise all public service obligations at EU level. However, the Commission will monitor the correct implementation of the directives, especially to ensure that vulnerable consumers are being defined at national level and that national support schemes are being made available in a transparent and effective way.

In addition, the Citizens’ Energy Forum will be the driving force to establish competitive retail markets in the EU, while at the same time ensuring that vulnerable consumers are protected. Following the Conference on the Rights of Energy Consumers on 6 May, the Commission has launched a process of consultation with all parties concerned.

On energy efficiency and promotion of renewables, the Commission fully shares the concerns of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, but we believe that the Internal Market Directive is not the best place to discuss this subject. We believe the objectives of the committee can be pursued in the context of the new renewables directive presently under discussion.

Regarding the fight against market concentration, we share the committee’s view that this is essential, but consider that the Commission’s proposal already gives the right and powers to regulators to take measures to ensure proper market functioning.

On two important points, however, we do not fully share the conclusions reached by the committee: the use of comitology and some issues on the role of the Agency.

On the use of comitology, the general deletion of this procedure would render ineffective the whole process of developing rapidly and efficiently new, very detailed market codes. They will be essential for moving towards truly integrated energy markets in years rather than decades. The most important issue is the ability to make legally binding on all network operators the technical codes adopted under the oversight of the Agency. For this purpose, the Commission needs to be able to adopt them in a fast and effective manner through the comitology procedure. Otherwise, they could not be legally binding within a reasonable timeframe.

In more general terms, guidelines are needed, precisely to have a strong Agency, in line with the position in the reports by Mr Chichester and Mr Vidal-Quadras. Without guidelines to frame its powers, the Agency would simply be unable to issue binding individual decisions on market players.

Provided these essential elements are preserved, in order to take account of the committee’s concerns, the Commission could, however, accept the deletion of some of the comitology procedures which, in our opinion, are less essential.

On the Agency, the Commission wants to establish an Agency with strong powers. The Commission can accept amendments which give general tasks to the Agency, and also ensures more open and transparent consultation with stakeholders. However, it is not possible to go beyond the EC Treaty.

A number of amendments proposed by the committee regarding the decision-making powers of the Agency are not compatible with the principle established by the Meroni judgment. This concerns in particular the degree of discretionary power conferred to the Agency. I fully agree with the need for a strong and effective Agency and believe that this can be achieved through the approach suggested by the Commission where the Agency will develop codes that involve real substantive discretion and that these are then adopted through comitology.

I will not end without tackling the issue of the effective unbundling of network operation from generation and supply. The current rules mean that a large number of network operators can effectively discriminate against new entrants. This has an especially stifling effect on investments in the grid and the introduction of new capacity.

The objective that we face, therefore, is to find an approach that will fully remove the inherent conflict of interest of vertically integrated network operators while providing them with the proper incentives to invest and to manage the grid in a non-discriminatory manner.

The Council reached a broad agreement on all essential parts of the package at the Energy Council of 6 June. The objective, following your vote, is to be in a position to achieve the adoption of the package at second reading at the end of this year. If the process is delayed, the package would be at risk of not being adopted before the 2009 elections. I count on Parliament and on the incoming French presidency to make full use of the months ahead in order to reach an overall agreement.

Let me stress that at the Energy Council of 6 June the Commission formally reserved its position on the package, notably to take into account your vote tomorrow.

Honorable Members, you have provided a strong input to this process since its beginning. I look forward to continuing to work together with you on these proposals in the coming months in the interest of European energy consumers.


  Eluned Morgan, rapporteur. − Mr President, I hope that if Parliament adopts the electricity report tomorrow, it will be an indication to energy companies all over Europe that we want the consumer back in the driving seat.

Before talking about the most controversial aspect of this directive, I would like to dwell on some of the areas where we have managed to find a consensus within Parliament so far.

There cannot be anyone within the European Union who has not noticed the massive increase in energy prices in recent months. All over the European Union there are people struggling to pay their energy bills so we believe that the issue of ‘energy poverty’ should be placed firmly on the EU agenda. After all, the ETS system and the renewables targets are European and they impact on energy prices.

We have respected subsidiarity, Commissioner, in our request that Member States should come up with their own definitions of energy poverty and an action plan for dealing with the problem. So, if the Council want a deal on this package, they need to understand that this is a central requirement of Parliament.

Already many rights for consumers exist in the energy field but they are not enforced. So we have asked the national regulatory authorities to use incentives and sanctions to ensure the consumer is protected.

We have also listed additional rights which should be enjoyed by the consumer such as affordable prices for low-income families, an easier way to switch suppliers, increased representation for the consumer, especially when they have complaints, and a fair deal for people in rural and remote areas.

We believe there should be a roll-out of smart meters within 10 years, which should boost energy efficiency, and companies should be creative in the way they charge for energy and not reward people who use more as is currently the case. Priority access should be given to renewables to enter the grid so that we can reach that 20% target.

We have got to understand that when we talk about transmission systems we are talking about monopolies, so clearly there is a need for very strict regulation.

We would like to see much better cooperation between national regulatory authorities and competition authorities. In this way, we might get to a point where we do not have almost half of the countries in the EU where one company dominates over 70% of the market.

Now to the most controversial part of the report – the issue of unbundling. The clear thing is that the current system has not worked. There is a suspicion that some are not playing fair. They are giving priority access to their own company; they put obstacles in place which could stifle competition. That is why I believe, as rapporteur, that total separation of energy supply from transmission companies or full ownership unbundling – as was suggested initially by the Commission – should be the only option for electricity companies.

It is only in this way you will remove the conflict of interest. You can build as many Chinese walls as you want, but there will be no incentive for companies to encourage competition in the market if they also own transmission companies.

We need a level playing field: we need easier access for renewables and SMEs, but, probably more than anything else, we need a stable regulatory framework for the one trillion-worth of investment that is necessary in the EU market. If we fudge this issue now, we will not be giving a clear signal to those investors and the lights could go off in Europe. This issue will not go away and, if the lights go out, governments can fall.

So, who is resisting this? Germany, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Greece and Bulgaria: they think that strengthening these Chinese walls will be enough. Some suspect also that there is an effort to protect national champions who are happy to invest in other markets but are reluctant to allow others into their markets. We should not oversell the model however, we are not likely to see a reduction in prices under any model.

We know that the Council has come to an informal agreement on this issue. They have suggested the strengthening of these Chinese walls. Many of us, however, feel that this will not be enough for European consumers and have suggested sticking to a tough position.

I would like to thank the shadow rapporteurs in particular and everybody involved in this package for the cooperation on this very complex dossier.


  Alejo Vidal-Quadras, rapporteur. (ES) Mr President, energy is still, for many reasons, one of the European Union’s Achilles heels, mainly due to the unwillingness of some government or business elites to recognise that in order to achieve a common energy policy we need to have an integrated internal market that is open to competition, in which consumers can freely choose their suppliers and in which energy flows from Stockholm to Athens and from Lisbon to Vienna with no major obstacles. In order to achieve this objective, which is still a long way off, we have much ground to cover and many barriers to remove.

In the report on the regulation for which I am the rapporteur, which was almost unanimously adopted in committee, we highlighted the importance of increasing interconnections between Member States, the need to harmonise technical rules at European level, the advisability of giving greater power to the regulators’ agency, of better allocation of the responsibilities of system operators, so that they take charge of drawing up network codes and consulting with interested parties during the drawing up of the codes, also giving them the opportunity to propose codes for themselves, provided that they do not contradict the framework guidelines.

These proposals arise from the desire that Parliament has already expressed, to have a European coordination body for national regulators, with the capacity to make decisions on matters with a European scope, avoiding duplication with decisions taken at national level, and to set up a European network of system operators to develop the necessary technical rules to ensure the fluidity of the European market. In this respect, my report is entirely consistent with the Chichester and Paparizov reports.

In order to achieve an internal market for electricity, we need to establish harmonised rules and regulations, ensure that all the players are using the same rules, promote interconnections and have independent regulators with sufficient powers to guarantee investments.

The report by my good friend Mrs Morgan largely contains the right answers to deal with these problems. The subject of ownership unbundling has been cause for a great deal of debate between us, which at times has been quite fierce. However, we are still friends, which shows that Europe has a future.

I think that we are talking about a subject in which the national interest plays a principal role, in which different market models are contrasted, and in which there are established situations that we have to take into account. However, it is precisely these disparities that are largely preventing us from making progress, and I do not think that drawing up a varied à la carte list of models is the solution.

Ownership unbundling is not a panacea, but it is a necessary condition, although definitely not enough on its own, for achieving an integrated single market.

Some of Mrs Morgan’s ideas are more debatable, such as social tariffs to deal with the problem of energy poverty, because by doing this we would run the risk of interfering with the markets.

The Council reached a general agreement on the package more than a week ago. We will complete our first reading before the summer. However, to conclude, I would like to convey to the Council representative, our dear and respected friend Mr Lenarčič, Parliament’s wish to negotiate an agreement at second reading that is satisfactory for the European Union as a whole.

The parliamentary term is coming to an end, and ‘take it or leave it’ approaches would be wrong, because, President-in-Office of the Council, Parliament reacts very badly when it is not respected or feels that it is being put under too much pressure.

This is not the time to divide ourselves into those who take a hard line and those who take a softer line or to act solely from the perspective of national interest. It is the time for sensible, balanced, and, in the best sense of the word, European approaches.


  Giles Chichester, rapporteur. − Mr President, first of all I would like to acknowledge the major contribution of my immediate predecessor and, as it were, co-rapporteur, Mr Brunetta, who had to leave this House for another post in his mother state. I would like to thank the shadows for their constructive cooperative approach, which enabled us to create a broad consensus.

It is an interesting challenge to find the right balance between leaving the national regulatory authorities alone to do their own thing and to create an EU regulator. For markets to function well, the role of regulator is absolutely crucial. This agency would complement at European level the regulatory tasks performed by the NRAs and do so by providing a framework for them to cooperate with each other by regulatory oversight of the cooperation between transmission system operators by giving the Agency individual decision powers and by giving it a general advisory role. The Agency would have an advisory role vis-à-vis the Commission as regards market regulation issues and that is an important function.

In the course of the debate on this regulation we have become more convinced of the need to go beyond the Commission’s proposals for the Agency to create an agency with more independence and more decision-making powers. If the Agency is to contribute effectively to the development of an integrated competitive energy market for the European Union, the Agency will need more extensive powers and be independent of the Commission in order to handle cross-border situations and deliver effective cooperation between the TSOs and the NRAs – the National Regulatory Authorities.

So we proposed new decision-making powers for the Agency, in particular over the development of the technical codes which my colleagues just mentioned, and the investment plans of the TSOs and a greater regulatory and financial independence. However, with that greater power and independence should come greater accountability to Parliament in particular, but to stakeholders as well. We have therefore proposed to increase the Agency’s requirement to consult, its requirement for transparency and its accountability to Parliament.

I should emphasis that we have sought to ensure coherence and consistency in this report and this regulation with the other parts of the package. We have been aware of the issues raised by the Meroni judgment, but nevertheless are of the view that our proposals are appropriate.

The proposed changes to the structure are designed to secure the most effective balance between the needs for regulatory independence and appropriate political control on the other hand. A key principle for me, and for us, is that the independence of the Agency is critical, not only for its effectiveness, but also for its credibility. We therefore propose a stronger role for the board of regulators, a time limit to ensure speedy decision-making and increased financial independence for the Agency.

The future of the European energy market and its development after the implementation of the third energy package will require an important role to be played by the Agency, and that is why the power and independence of the Agency must be enhanced over and above the level proposed by the Commission.


  Mia De Vits, rapporteur. – (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I think that the Morgan report and my report on a European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers must be considered together. Today the structural unbundling of the energy sector is more necessary than ever, but it cannot be an end in itself. The question is and remains: is it to the consumer’s benefit? That is not self-evident. In this connection, I note that in my country, Belgium, consumers’ energy bills will be on average EUR 300 higher in 2008 than in 2007. I realise that rising oil prices are largely responsible – but certainly not entirely.

Commissioner Kuneva’s figures reveal, for example, that 20-32% of Britons who have switched provider since the opening of the market are now worse off than before. This is why it is essential that consumers know their rights with regard to the energy sector. This is absolutely not the case at present. There is a real lack of comprehensible information on these rights, hence the need for a strong, clear, comprehensible document enumerating existing rights: a charter.

Mrs Morgan has already talked about what this must contain. I should like to add a couple more elements. Consumers must be able to switch provider: of course. Free of charge and within one month: certainly. This means that they must be able to compare offers, however, and that is why it is important that contracts and invoices be standardised. To be able to make a comparison, consumers need to have an overview of their current energy consumption and to be informed of such consumption at least four times a year. Mrs Morgan also talked about this – and I support these ideas, which are also contained in my report – the ‘smart meter’, and the addressing of energy poverty and the National Energy Action Plans that must be drawn up to this end, are a substantial step in the right direction.

As regards the social tariffs, I should like to say to Mr Vidal-Quadras that, in our view, application of these must be possible, must be an effective instrument, for the Member States. That is the only thing we would say with regard to social tariffs, Mr Vidal-Quadras. Thus, it does not strike me as impossible to support that.

In addition, it would seem important to have physical points of contact where information can be obtained. After all, the digital divide remains incredibly real today.

I should like to conclude with what may well be the most important point. In our view, if consumers wish to be aware of their rights and thus well informed, they need to be sent a copy of a charter enumerating their existing rights clearly and comprehensibly when concluding contracts. This is what our group is calling for, no more and no less: that existing rights be compiled and that consumers be provided with these in the form of a readable document. Therefore, I cannot understand the position of the Commission, Commissioner Piebalgs, or of the other groups. A few months ago, the Commission announced a charter; now, a few months on, all we have ended up with is a simple, informative checklist. It strikes us as necessary to go further. For this reason, I would appeal to the other groups to support the amendment tabled by the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. We are not reinventing the wheel; we are merely asking that consumers be informed of their existing rights by means of a copy sent to them when they conclude a contract. If the most serious problem today – as noted by the European Commission – is clear information, or rather a lack of it, I believe that our proposal offers a solution.


  Ján Hudacký, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. − (SK) The energy situation in Europe and throughout the world is forcing us to seek new effective solutions for a secure supply in the Member States at reasonable prices, subject to further liberalisation of the energy markets, greater market transparency and non-discrimination.

I welcome the European Commission’s effort to achieve progress, to create a space for clear-cut rules and relations between the relevant parties within the energy markets. On the one hand, this should lead to the creation of a better competitive environment, and on the other hand it should create an effective regulation mechanism capable of preventing crisis situations.

However, intentions and reality are two different things altogether. Although it has been the subject of many debates and compromise proposals, the energy package still gives rise to many question marks and uncertainties. We all know very well that the biggest stumbling block is the Commission’s proposal regarding ownership unbundling of production from transmission within the framework of vertically integrated companies.

Is this really the most effective model to ensure more competition, less discrimination, lower prices and higher investment? The numerous analyses that are supposed to confirm these benefits are matched by a number of counter-arguments that cast objective doubts over these benefits.

My opinion is rather simple but backed up by discussions with both the supporters and the opponents of ownership unbundling. Those Member States that have other models in place must surely be able to make a choice. Eight of them suggested the so-called third way, which I suggested as draftsman of the opinion of the ECON Committee, as an alternative to the ownership unbundling model.

Indeed, the above-mentioned committee has already adopted this proposal. Before reaching the final conclusions, we should ascertain whether each proposed model is functional, provides a continuous energy supply, is transparent and non-discriminatory, and whether its transparency and non-discriminatory character can or cannot be achieved through more effective regulation.

We also have to clearly establish whether or not the proposed solution represents a breach of the right of private ownership. In this context, I think that compromise Amendment 166, tabled by 40 Members, which enables the application of the so-called third way, represents an optimal solution under the given circumstances and respects the demands of a significant number of Member States.


  Mariela Velichkova Baeva, opinion draftswoman for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. − (BG) The proposed Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council to amend Regulation 1228 concerning access to the network for cross-border exchanges in electricity aims to accomplish the setting up of the Community energy market. The opinion of the Committee on Economic Affairs underscores the improvement of competitive environment, overcoming existing barriers for new market entrants to access the network and promoting investment which is crucial for national economies and individual consumers. Regional cooperation and interaction among network operators help channel resources towards interconnectivity and diversification of supplies. For my country, Bulgaria, being a border of the European Union, this is an opportunity to integrate actively in the European electricity network. The energy area is driven by demand, supply and environmental impact. Any decisions should take into account the impetus gained in the energy sector, and its strategic importance for the development of modern economies.


  Alain Lipietz, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs went to Paris to examine all these directives. We also met with both trade unions and electricity transmission system operators.

Everyone has campaigned for a stronger agency than the one proposed by the Commission. We are familiar with the case law of the Court of Justice and we are fully aware of the fact that the Commission was proposing not to change the Treaty in order to avoid creating difficulties.

That is why in its opinion, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs recommends strengthening everything to do with monitoring, recommendations and suspensive power, but advises against giving the agency the power of administrative policing that goes as far as imposing fines.

Only the Commission has this administrative policing power. I believe that in this respect, we can take account of the Treaties in their current state and also the needs for market regulation.


  András Gyürk, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. (HU) Thank you for the opportunity to speak, Mr President. Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, dissatisfaction among energy consumers has increased noticeably in recent years as a result of rising prices and a lack of regulatory transparency. It is for precisely this reason that it is so important that the European Parliament will shortly be giving its blessing to a legislative package that will help to ensure that the electricity market functions more effectively. I am convinced that the sharp rise in prices and the increasing helplessness of consumers has largely been due to the inadequate functioning of the market. In many Member States, it is still the case that consumers compete for suppliers rather than the reverse.

In Hungary, for example, market liberalisation at present means higher prices and deteriorating standards of service, thanks to the hotchpotch manner in which market liberalisation is taking place as a result of mistakes by the government. Adoption of the package of reports we are debating today could put an end to this situation. The new legislation may at last enable genuine competition to take place in the energy market, and suppliers may finally find themselves in the position of actually having to compete for the consumers.

In addition, the energy package also creates better conditions for the kind of investment that is absolutely vital for the future of Europe’s energy supply. It will provide a stimulus for energy efficiency and, I believe, also facilitate the spread of renewable energies. Another welcome feature of the proposals is that they reinforce consumer protection provisions, compliance with which is often lacking at present. One of the reasons why this is particularly important now is because runaway energy prices are a major cause of poverty. In my opinion, efforts in the field of energy policy should always be assessed in the light of consumer satisfaction. We are taking an important step towards more effective regulation. The package of proposals will boost competition while at the same time improving security of supply. It is our hope that the adoption of this package will ensure that in future Europe’s energy consumers will not face unreasonable prices as a result of regulatory inadequacies. Thank you very much, Mr President.


  Gabriela Creţu, Rap avis IMCO. − (RO) Dear colleagues, the initial project of the Agency for the Cooperation of Regulators provided two possibilities to the Parliament: to reject a useless institution or create a more efficient one.

It has opted for the second solution, not despite the Meroni clause, but within the limits of the Treaty provisions. The amendments adopted in committees, generally convergent, have changed the initial prerogatives significantly. Consequently, at this moment, we are expecting that, by its activity, the Agency shall strengthen the role of national regulators and support their operation, allow the technical harmonization of European networks, as a condition for a real internal market and make possible the mutual supply of energy among the Member States, take into consideration the consumers’ interest and carefully monitor the developments on the energy market.

We are expecting the Agency to be a useful instrument of the common energy policy. We are not expecting either the provision of these prerogatives to reduce the possibilities of the European Commission compared to the Parliament and in fulfilling the energy policy, or the decisions of a technical nature to substitute the political ones. Our final goal remains the provision of sufficient energy at an accessible price for everyone.


  Leopold Józef Rutowicz, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. − (PL) Mr President, deriving benefit from the energy package that has been adopted will depend to a great extent on political decisions. Only France’s leaders have made energy and the economy independent of gas and oil imports to a great extent. The leaders of the other countries lacked imagination.

The unforeseen massive rise in gas and oil prices is forcing us to decide on the scope we should give to developing atomic energy and other sources. How should we exploit the network in order to ward off a crisis? The proposed regulations on access to the network in cross-border electricity exchange and common principles on the internal energy market should promote full synchronisation of the networks of the countries of old Europe and the new countries. This will ensure greater security of energy supplies and may bring about a limitation of energy prices by increasing competition.

The Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators that has been set up should, in cooperation with entities acting in the market, ensure that the market functions properly. The Agency’s powers should be increased to meet the needs of the market.

I support regulation that promotes competition and the expansion of power generation.


  Gunnar Hökmark, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Mr President, I would firstly like to congratulate Mrs Morgan on her efficient work on the report.

I would just like to say one thing in response to her intervention earlier today: do not let Member States run away from their responsibility to fight energy poverty and secure the well-being of their citizens; do not let any government abdicate that responsibility.

Having said that, I would like to emphasise what I think is the most fundamental question in this discussion, namely: Are the European energy markets good enough? Are they functioning well enough? Is the legislation good enough regarding consumers’ well-being, low prices, industry and competitiveness, and the opportunities to make the best use of all energy sources, not least renewables?

I think it is fair to say that the answer is ‘no’ if we are to respond to the challenges of climate change, to decrease energy dependency and to connect the European energy markets with each other.

That is why we need reform and why it is important to get a level playing field opening up for new entrants, ensuring that we have open and fair competition. It is in this perspective that we need to look at the discussion about ownership unbundling. I think the Council has a responsibility to make a compromise among its members. Parliament also has a responsibility to try to contribute to the best possible solution and we have a common responsibility.

I ask both the current presidency and the incoming presidency to take this question seriously. The energy markets of today are not good enough. We have a common responsibility to achieve the best possible solution and that is why I hope you will listen to Parliament and we will listen to you.


  Reino Paasilinna, on behalf of the PSE Group. (FI) Mr President, I wish to thank the rapporteurs and everyone else, but especially Mrs Morgania, who has seen though to its end what was a burdensome task. We are proposing, among other things, that consumers should have the right to compensation if an agreed service and its quality are not delivered. Consumers should have the right to change supplier quickly and have access to information on a product’s energy background: for example, its effects on the environment.

Both my group and the majority of the committee supported the Commission in the matter of ownership unbundling. There should be a system of unbundling for energy producers, making them system operators independent of the owners of energy networks. In other words we have no faith in the ‘big’ model. It lost by a narrow margin in the vote.

In some countries competition works, and it is easy for consumers to make choices. In others, though, this is still virtually impossible. Most countries have opened up their markets; but a few continue with their decades-old protectionism policy, whilst they take over the markets of others at the same time.

In many countries it is in practice impossible for new energy companies to compete fairly in the market. We want to do something about this. The situation has led to the distortion of competition, poor investments and unreasonable consumer prices.

As much as 77% of energy in the European Union is produced from fossil fuels. Current wasteful ways of using energy have come to the end of the road, as fossil reserves are meagre and they are becoming scarcer, with fewer and fewer controlling them. Only in a viable and successful market is it possible to develop an effective emissions trading system, industry based on emission-free energy sources, and a European Union which is self-sufficient in energy.

The agreement reached last Friday in Luxembourg could be something approaching what Parliament wants to see, though with a few extra features. For example, consumer protection needs to be strengthened. This is Parliament’s wish. The Commission still has too many powers in the proposal before us. The comitology procedure must not become a basic principle in lawmaking. It is not a basic principle.

We need separate rules on sanctions in connection with the implementation of new directives. The Union’s infringement proceedings are ineffective, too slow and too political. Our aim is to achieve harmony during the French Presidency, and I hope that the forthcoming Presidency assumes its duties successfully, so that the present issue can be wrapped up before the end of the year.


  Šarūnas Birutis, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (LT) I would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mrs Morgan, and express my gratitude to my fellow shadow rapporteurs for their constructive work. This document is an important step towards the creation of a united and competitive EU energy market. We have to take this step, as it is an essential condition for guaranteeing competition within the market and the interests of consumers.

In my opinion, the amended agreement is for the most part in line with the strategic goals of the energy policy of most Member States, that is the creation of an efficient, integrated EU internal market.

There are just a few things I would like to point out. Firstly, in the context of the Directive, the issue of energy security continues to be of great importance. In terms of energy projects intended to eliminate energy islands, such as Lithuania and other Baltic states, as well as certain other regions, the political willpower is vitally important, together with general EU policy based on common finances.

It is essential that the idea of cooperation between transmission system operators with a view to developing an integrated European energy market is actually put into practice and does not simply remain a topic of discussion. I would therefore like to call on my fellow Members to support Amendment 168. That would help us reach a decision on the issue of connections.

Secondly, there is no doubt that the principle of mutuality remains vital in relations with third-country players.

Thirdly, the introduction of a European Agency would greatly facilitate cooperation between national regulators and the consolidation of the internal market. The Agency should be given sufficient decision-making powers.

Fourthly, the issue of the independence of national regulators cannot be overestimated. Their appointment must be transparent and open and their activities free from any influence by politicians or executive governance. The authority of all the Member States’ regulatory institutions should be coordinated.

Step by step, both the common energy market and the common energy policy would then be developed, which would ensure security of supply along with the highest acceptable price for all consumers. The sooner this is done, the better.


  Rebecca Harms, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I would like to join my fellow Members in expressing thanks for the very good cooperation between the rapporteurs on this package and would like to be the first to respond to an accusation that played a major role in the German discussion about the energy package and particularly about the unbundling of production and transmission networks.

We Europeans are constantly being charged with wanting to make life difficult for large, successful companies. I did not find any such negative orientation in the debates held in the committees – not at all. In my view, it is a positive list that cannot be represented often enough by Brussels. We want fair prices for energy, particularly for electricity. We want transparent pricing, fair market conditions – including for new and smaller production companies. We also want better conditions for decentralisation – an important precondition for the organisation of transmission networks in order to be able to effectively take account of renewable energies and efficiency. What also matters a great deal to us is to put an end to the wastage that is occurring everywhere in the existing network structures. If that is not a positive list of goals for this energy package, then I do not know how it could be improved.

Many fellow Members who do not agree with the majority decision by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy say that the market, if it is functioning and is left alone politically, can achieve all these goals itself. However, so far, the so-called energy market in Europe has pushed prices up to the highest possible level, and they are still rising. In some countries, there is absolutely no transparency at all for price formation. There is continuing concentration in the energy market and climate goals, environmental goals, are being met either in an unsatisfactory or at best in a mediocre way.

The unbundling of production and transmission networks is an important step towards bringing us closer to the positive goals in this energy policy. In the light of the Irish vote last weekend, it is also undesirable for a German-French political cartel to work against the suggestions of Parliament and against the original suggestions by the Commission, as that is a classic trade-off issue. The Germans and the French, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, are supporting domestic companies at present.

What we want to see taken into account are the interests of consumers and the question of whether we are really future-proofing our energy sector or not. The majority of citizens would not choose a Europe of companies but, at this point, would choose a Europe of consumer protection and fairness. Thank you for your attention.


  Romano Maria La Russa, on behalf of the UEN Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in spite of the fine proposals adopted by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, which warmly welcomed the position put forward in the Morgan report – and I would also like to congratulate the rapporteur for the excellent work she has done – I am sorry to say that recently positions have emerged that in my view are designed to change the fine achievements of the committee.

I refer to the Council’s conclusions, which leave little space for a concrete change of approach to create a competitive and competition-based energy market. The Council is proposing the ITO model, which is in fact very similar to the third way. This position does not seem to me to be at all consistent with the work done by the committee, which has endorsed by a considerable majority full ownership unbundling and total opposition to the establishment of alternative systems, not to mention the marginal role of the agency. I wonder, therefore, what is the point of creating an agency if it is only supposed to play a purely advisory role?

If we tried to overcome the current diversity of legislative frameworks, according to the Council we would exacerbate the situation and create even more distortion. I therefore hope that Parliament will exercise its vote with awareness and will stick to the line set out by Mrs Morgan.




  Miloslav Ransdorf, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (CS) I would like to say that Commissioner Piebalgs is in a bind, and has basically become a victim of the bureaucrats who are making us take an action in a hurry, without giving it enough thought. It is also true that the data available to us is not reliable. The data they made available to us come from 2003/2004, while the energy markets were in fact only fully liberalised in June 2007, and the practical information concerning the differences between the old and the new Member States has not yet been evaluated. It also has to be said that the practical information gained from the first two energy packages has not been evaluated. I believe that in addition to this criticism, which also applies to the underestimation of the risks as regards the Member States’ energy security – risks that are too high because an absolute fortune was dumped on the market without any safety mechanism ensuring that it would not end up in the wrong hands – some positive solutions must be provided, too.

I think that the Agency should have the competences that would enable it to prevent electricity blackouts, and that the Commission should have the power to impose a price moratorium in case year-on-year average energy prices rise by more than 30% in all the Member States. If the average growth in Member States reaches 30%, Commissioner Piebalgs and his colleagues should be able to impose a price moratorium, as the experience of some European Union citizens, namely fishermen and road hauliers, shows at present. I think that this measure would receive a positive response in the EU Member States and would enhance the prestige of our Community.


  John Whittaker, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Madam President, these reports bring the usual wish list of incompatible objectives: security of energy supply, an efficient energy market, reduction of CO2, harmonised rules for all countries and cheap energy for pensioners. Well, cheap energy for some means that the rest of us pay for it.

Perhaps we think we shall win friends by forcing governments to provide subsidised energy to those suffering from so-called ‘energy poverty’. Is there no area of activity in which the EU will trust national governments to do what they think is best for their own peoples? One thing that these reports should highlight, but do not, is the foolishness of the targets for carbon and renewable energy. The oil price is high and likely to remain high, yet the cost of energy to consumers is going to be higher still in order to subsidise renewables.

Ironically, sustained high oil prices are just what is needed to reduce CO2 emissions. They will reduce consumption and stimulate the development of alternative sources far more effectively than any number of targets and directives. Who knows? We may eventually find that wind power becomes viable.

In the end it will be very hard to impose harmonised unbundling rules across 27 Member States, irrespective of the benefits that this may or may not bring. Countries would indeed be foolish to rely too heavily on their neighbours for energy supplies. When the lights go out, when hospitals have no power, national interests are going to prevail irrespective of orders from the proposed EU regulator. That is how things are.


  Jana Bobošíková (NI). - (CS) I very much agree that the Member States should retain their power to freely establish ownership relations between energy producers and transmission networks. I also welcome the strengthening of the independence of the rights and duties of national regulatory authorities. Regarding access to the trans-European networks, I see explicit auctions as a good solution. Of course, the proceeds from auctions should be invested in tariffs. I also agree that the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators should operate on the principle of each country having one vote.

However, ladies and gentlemen, I must say that I am not convinced that ownership unbundling, auctioning or launching another Agency are the best ways of achieving better electricity markets. We are facing the reality of rising energy prices and energy consumption, and this, in my opinion, calls for more power stations to be built and, in particular, for massive strengthening of the transmission networks. It is also necessary to support and promote the nuclear option as a clean and safe energy source. We have to stop fearing nuclear power.


  Nickolay Mladenov (PPE-DE). - Madam President, I believe that this House, along with the Council and Commission, believes very strongly that consumer rights in the energy sector in Europe should be clearly stated and well protected. We are all convinced that mechanisms need to address the shortcomings that currently exist in our systems across the European Union.

We also all agree that we need a tool with which to clarify and consolidate energy rights that exist in European and national legislation. We agree that this tool should be part of a broader communication strategy, of which the Commission’s checklist is an important part as well.

The report that Mrs De Vits has authored – and I would like to commend her on her work along with the work of the other shadows – is an important step contributing to this debate. It answers some of the key questions that European citizens are asking us and I would like to focus very briefly on some of these questions.

European citizens want to pay for what they consume and they want to know what they pay for. So firstly, the report talks very strongly about the need to have transparent prices and insists that these prices should be based only on consumption, that invoices should be developed along best practices existing in the European Union, that they should be comparable and that tariff simulators should exist so that consumers can see which company offers them a better choice.

Consumers want to have a choice and they want to be protected from the fear of being disconnected from the grid, and that is why the report focuses special attention on this. It talks about the need to provide safeguards against disconnection and to use this only as a last resort in Member States.

Finally, it addresses the question of vulnerable consumers. I agree very much with Gunnar Hökmark who said earlier that we should not let Member States get away from their responsibility. The responsibility to protect vulnerable consumers lies with the Member States: that is what we pay our taxes for.

Ladies and gentlemen, I call on you to vote tomorrow in favour of the report as it has been submitted to plenary.


  Anne Laperrouze (ALDE).(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, my speech will focus on the issue of ownership unbundling, although I do not think that this is the most important issue. Actually, I think that we have wasted too much time on this issue.

To unbundle or not to unbundle, that is not the question. Managing a network requires industrial expertise. Electricity cannot be stored; the frequency and voltage of the grid must be maintained according to market demand. With ownership unbundling, the Commission still faces the risks of speculative or political system operation. The question of ownership, industrial management and network security has not, in my opinion, been sufficiently analysed.

That issue aside, we have managed to promote the role of one of the key players in the functioning of the internal market: the regulators. They must be given real powers so that they can exercise their rights and responsibilities. Through the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, regulators will have a pivotal role when it comes to cross-border issues and the harmonisation of technical codes to ensure that our networks function better and are more secure.

The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe has tabled three amendments: the first is to underline that the functioning of the internal market must hinge on the interests of the private and industrial consumer. This is self-evident, but it is still worth repeating. The second concerns long-term contracts which are subject to compliance with certain principles. These should be seen not as a barrier to competition but as a stabilising factor. It should be stressed that this is requested by industrial consumers. Finally, the third is there to provoke discussion. It is a question of the Commission, in consultation with all the market players, contemplating the move to a European transmission system operator. This may be a long way off, but it is an interesting point to consider. The future of the internal electricity market could be guaranteed with a European electricity transmission network.


  Claude Turmes (Verts/ALE). - Madam President, this market is not a market, but a hold-up: one costing EU consumers something like EUR 70 billion a year in undue windfall profits going to 10 or 12 big energy oligopolies in Europe. I can fully understand that these companies want to keep this going. How do they keep those undue windfall profits? First, you prevent ownership unbundling. I am sorry, but France and Germany are not small peripheral EU Member States. If they do not unbundle, we will never have a really integrated grid and we will never solve the conflict between producing electricity, trading it and facilitating competition through your grid.

The second issue – and that is what is happening now – is that they are trying to escape regulation both from the regulatory authorities and from the cartel authorities. Therefore they want to create regional markets. However, if we do not have a strong EU agency, these regional markets will be a regulatory no-man’s-land: E.ON, RWE and EDF are too big for a regional market – France, Germany and the Benelux countries. Therefore, without a strong EU agency and a better interface between regulatory agencies and cartel authorities, this EUR 70 billion hold-up will continue.


  Eugenijus Maldeikis (UEN).(LT) I would like to start by thanking the rapporteurs for their balanced work and excellent cooperation. They had to face a rather difficult challenge, as the Commission had proposed a very complex, novel approach towards the document, the package of documents. The European electricity market (the model established over the decades) was based on national vertically integrated companies, which operated within their markets, protecting them.

To my mind, we have three main vectors and three main ideas: the development of the process of concentration on a European scale, the lifting of national restrictions through the implementation of the principle of unbundling activities; I see the second principle as the enhancement of the process of centralisation by establishing a European Agency, with the aim of achieving better coordination with national regulators, which is very good, and most of us are in favour of this.

The third principle, which was not clarified and, to my mind, remains quite obscure and raises quite a few questions, is the principle of isolation from third-party investments in European transmission systems, which could possibly… The Commission failed to supply clear answers regarding its vision for the future and what political, financial and economic hazards might ensue as well as how the consequences of implementing this principle could affect the energy policy or general EU policy.

There is one more thing I would like to mention: the market impulses referred to and the principle of unbundling activities are not strong enough to change the nature of a natural monopoly in an energy market, as some isolated markets still remain, as well as regional markets; therefore, political agreements would have to be achieved on a wide scale in such circumstances…

(The President cut off the speaker)


  Esko Seppänen (GUE/NGL). - (FI) Madam President, Commissioner, the most certain end result of the liberalisation and harmonisation of the European Union’s energy markets is a hike in the price of electricity. That will be because of electricity’s pricing mechanism, as Mr Turmes showed.

The market price is determined in the wholesale power exchanges. There the price of all electric power is determined by the most expensive production cost of the most expensive product. When the most expensive form of energy is coal-based, the exchange is a profit machine for the producers of hydroelectric and atomic energy. The same companies will also gain from the EU’s emissions trading system. Emissions rights at the exchanges will also be added to the price of the electricity for whose production they are not needed.

We need to learn a lesson from the experiences of the United States of America. The NGO known as Public Citizen has estimated that in the 14 states in which the price of electricity is not regulated it is 52% higher than in the 36 states where it is. The problem with the electricity pricing mechanism has been ignored in Mrs Morgan’s report.


  Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM). - (SV) The electricity market has been more or less monopolised in all the industrial countries. Economic research has shown that national economies stand to make large gains from the introduction of competition into the electricity market, but in that case it is important to break up vertical integration structures. The electricity producers should not also handle electricity distribution to customers; there is a need to unbundle the electricity sector. A small number of EU countries are carrying out such reforms. These are the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain. The EU institutions were not required. The countries are doing it in their own manifest interests. Opposition is considerable in many major countries, for example France and Germany, which are more interested in an EU state than in the prosperity which a free internal market offers.

There are strong reasons for the EU to force the pace. Effectiveness and prosperity will increase for all Europeans if competition in the electricity sector encompasses the huge EU market in its entirety. Political pressure needs to be brought to bear on the Member States which do not want competition.


  Hans-Peter Martin (NI).(DE) Madam President, whether you like it or not, Ireland has voted. Now you must respect their decision. Europe has the opportunity of the century, by which I mean that Europe must finally become democratic and efficient. For the energy market, this means not holding back. Get stuck in to the big tigers, the RWEs, the EDFs – get right into the thick of things, where the problem lies, unbundle and apply subsidiarity. It is possible, it would be visionary, but it has nothing to do with the EU to date, controlled as it is by lobby interests and their centres of power. On the other hand, if you do not change anything in this area, and if you do not take the vote in Ireland into account and pronounce the Reform Treaty dead, then the chance of the century for a democratic Europe and for a fair energy market will become a world in which extremists, on both the left and the right, call the shots.


  Herbert Reul (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, we had all agreed that this was about better prices, more investment in transmission networks and cross-border connections to create more competition and a market that is not so much controlled by one or a few companies.

Then, when weighing up the facts, we found that those provided by the Commission do not add up at all. There is no evidence, no facts to prove that ownership unbundling leads to better prices and greater investment. It is not true – or can you tell me why prices are higher in the United Kingdom? Is there more investment in Spain? Is there less, or more, competition there than in other countries? The facts show conclusively that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

The sensible thing to do, therefore, is to seek a compromise whereby Member States that wish to achieve this goal – which must be achieved – by taking a different route are free to do so. That is the background to the attempt at a third option, a third way. Incidentally, it is interesting that we in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy have moved some way on this over the last few months. There are other committees that have voted against ownership unbundling. In our committee, there is a new compromise on gas, worked out by Mrs Laperrouze and Mr Vidal-Quadras. There is also a new compromise within the Council. We are serious about voting again tomorrow on electricity to re-establish the way things were many months ago. However, that has been superseded; that will not be the result.

A parliament that wants to be taken seriously must be open to these new conditions and changes. We have been rushed through the entire process and I was constantly told that we had to work fast, we had to hurry, we could still try the experiment of finding clever solutions that move in the direction of Parliament’s decision. Therefore, I urge you to go beyond party lines and vote for the proposals we have presented here, to find compromises along the lines of what we voted for regarding gas and what the Council voted for.


  Edit Herczog (PSE). - (HU) Madam President, Commissioner, we have taken an enormous step this past year, because establishing a common energy policy represents an enormous step for the whole of the European Union. We are talking about the kind of energy policy that simultaneously promotes the strategic interests of the EU Member States, the rights and protection of Europe’s residents, competitiveness and growth of the European economy, and conservation of our environment. These five proposals raise the prospect of achieving the kind of market integration which will not only transform the way in which companies in the energy sector operate, and separate and increase the transparency of energy generation, transmission and supply functions, but also give greater priority than ever before to the fundamental rights and protection of energy consumers. In the context of European coordination, the task of monitoring fair market competition, stimulating cross-border energy trading, and ensuring that high standards are met in response to consumer demands must be given to an authority invested with broader powers than hitherto, and which is independent both of governments and of the energy sector. This is why the European legislature has moved decisively towards establishing an Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators. The draft report produced by my fellow Member Mr Brunetta and later taken over by Mr Chichester has this as its aim. I was pleased to have the opportunity of working with them as shadow rapporteur representing the Socialist Group in the European Parliament (PSE). I consider it a great success that, by establishing a responsible, independent and strong European agency, this jointly-produced draft regulation will not only promote cooperation among regulators in the Member States but also help to achieve the primary goal of fostering regional markets and developing the networks. As socialists we insisted on the creation of a strong and independent authority, since we know that in a liberalised European market everyone wants to buy where it is cheapest, and to sell where it is most expensive. We therefore really need the kind of regulatory authority that will take action to combat any market distortions that may occur. It is in the interests of Hungary and of all the other small Member States to create a strong authority, thereby helping to ensure its independence, establish cooperation, enhance market transparency and secure investment for development.

Mr President, I would like to remind everyone that European energy supply is not an ideological issue. The world has changed for ever. Whole continents are beginning to compete in the energy sector, and let us be candid about it: no one can remain isolated from electricity or motorisation. The goal of energy policy is to ensure Europe’s supply security and competitiveness. I would nevertheless like to conclude by saying that the PSE Group believes that consumers should be treated as the key component of European energy policy. We very much regret that our conservative fellow Members do not support making the Consumer Charter mandatory. Thank you for your attention.


  Wolf Klinz (ALDE).(DE) Madam President, in the last few minutes we have talked a lot about industry. I am glad that Mrs De Vits addresses the rights of energy consumers very directly in her report. Indeed, it is vital to ensure that consumers are aware of their rights and that they can also be certain that their rights will be observed.

Unlike Mrs De Vits, however, I do not believe that we need completely new laws –certainly not at European level. It is more a matter of properly and appropriately implementing existing legislation into national law. We therefore need strong supervisory authorities that take care of this, and we must ensure that we have sufficient transparency so that consumers really do know their rights. The Charter can provide a meaningful supplement to this, not in the sense of becoming a binding legal document, but simply in the sense of providing a point of reference for politics and the economy by summarising consumer protection legislation relating to energy.

We all know – it is a matter of course – that our citizens can play a meaningful role in society and the economy only if they have access to appropriate provision of energy. To that extent, it is certainly important that we ensure that everyone, even the poor and the poorest of the poor, gets what they have a right to. However, I do not believe that it is for Brussels to prescribe social tariffs. We should leave that to the Member States and industry in the Member States. Otherwise we are not introducing anything more than a redistribution mechanism. The best scenario would be to link protection of the poor with the efficiency measures that are required to achieve our climate protection goals. Intelligent solutions such as digital counters can be very useful here. In that respect I have nothing against encouraging the industry to introduce these within 10 years. Then consumers will know exactly how much they are using and can plan around that and economise.


  Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE). - Madam President, I echo the congratulations to our rapporteurs made by previous speakers. I think Parliament has done a good job today for Europe’s consumers, but I focus particularly on one issue and one amendment. That is Amendment 161 to the Morgan report, pushing for better access to the grid for renewable operators. I hope that amendment will be successful when we vote on it tomorrow. I call now for stronger action on the part of the Commission in cases where the national authorities are actually part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

By way of example, in the United Kingdom we have Ofgem, our national authority, which has a locational pricing mechanism for access to the UK grid that actually discriminates against renewable operators within Scotland, my country. I would like to see a greater degree of European coordination and action against the individual Member State operators where they are part of the problem. I think we have made a good start towards that today and look forward to seeing more of it.


  Konrad Szymański (UEN). – (PL) My congratulations on the reports, which tackle the most important consumer and political problems facing our continent. The unbundling of distribution from generation and trade in energy is of key significance for both individual and industrial customers. Where unbundling is introduced, energy prices fall, or rise more slowly. In countries where unbundling has been carried out, the mean rise in energy prices for domestic users was 3% during 1998-2006. Where this was not done, energy prices rose by 28%. Similar trends are visible in the industrial customer market.

Energy these days, though, is also about security of supply – in other words, politics. The Russian state monopoly has increasing investments in 16 EU countries. In Germany, in France and in Italy Gazprom even has access to individual customers. This is sufficient reason for execution of the principle of mutuality in commercial relations with third countries. Otherwise we shall be defenceless, and we shall pay for it with our security.


  Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL).(EL) Madam President, the common theme of the proposals for the energy market is its restructuring in favour of private enterprises, while public energy suppliers are being weakened, despite being left to bear the underlying costs.

In my country, where the energy market is controlled by public suppliers for the public good, anything like this will have very unfavourable consequences. The EU is asking for the base of the pyramid to be entrusted to capital enterprise so that the prices for other goods can be set. This is because, to a large extent, energy determines the cost of the production process, which will be passed on incrementally to the consumer.

In these times of ever-increasing energy demand and steadily rising oil prices, leaving the energy market to the mercy of the private energy giants will be disastrous and cartels are likely to be formed. The theory of price regulation through competition is simply a myth: in practice, it has led to the creation of powerful monopolies in a number of sectors of the economy, with devastating effects on the market and consumers.


  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Madam President, surely, given the record prices for petroleum, energy independence for Europe finally has to be a top-priority issue! The EU must reduce its current dependency on the Gulf States. We need to improve our relationship with other countries besides Russia without becoming excessively independent. We will also need to consider what to do about Iran in the long term. If a study comes to the conclusion that we are putting too much faith in the vague promises of Central Asian dictators and unconfirmed reports of petroleum stores in relation to the Nabucco pipeline project, then we will have to develop a constructive relationship with Iran which, after all, has the second-largest petroleum reserves in the world.

It must not be forgotten that the ever-increasing profits of the Gulf States, thanks to rapidly rising petroleum prices, are also used to promote Islamic fundamentalism around the world. This is another reason why, in my opinion, we in the EU must invest more in alternative energy suppliers.


  Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I congratulate the Commissioner, and also the rapporteurs on their excellent reports and their good work in drawing up directives that might unify the European energy market. Long-term investment, the principle of solidarity, market access, regulation of cross-border flow – the important objectives of these regulations are all about this. Let us not forget that at the end of the day the consumer is number one – and that is what all these regulations are about: protecting the consumer, users’ interests and energy in the European Union. Let us also keep in mind that our regulations will not provide a solution to every problem, such as the rise in oil prices, nor will they prevent a rise in energy prices linked to the introduction of CO2 emission costs, but they will significantly simplify and support our actions to the benefit of energy users.

Let us tell ourselves that, yes, we know the solution proposed in Mrs Morgan’s report will probably not be final. What we have here is a very good basis for discussions with the Council on the subject of a final solution. This final solution, where electric current is concerned, must be moderately distant from the solutions in the second package, otherwise the introduction of the third package would not make sense. At the same time the solutions for gas must be similar to the solutions for electricity, but they must definitely not be identical. Today we are clearly seeing that ownership division for the energy market will be greater more and further-reaching than for gas. We must accept and respect this.

This point is also very important – third party access to the market, access to parties from third countries. That is why this is also a key issue, in order not give privileges to investors from outside the European Union.

Just to conclude, I would like to say that this is one of the most difficult discussions that we have had, and it has been conducted very properly and with respect for all parties.


  Evelyne Gebhardt (PSE).(DE) Madam President, I am delighted that, in the De Vits report, we have a very good report before us and I am delighted that all our fellow Members are of one mind regarding solidarity, transparency and consumer protection. I think this is wonderful.

However, I must say one thing: I find those on the right of the Chamber both cynical and hard to believe. It is hard to believe them because they are not in favour of a binding charter on the rights of consumers – something that is incredibly important if citizens are to know what rights they have. I find them cynical because everyone in this Chamber was united in backing the idea that air passengers should be aware of these rights, and air passengers are not exactly the poorest people in our society. For the poorest, however, who really do need to be aware of their rights, this will not be provided.

Therefore, I ask you earnestly to reconsider. Please ensure that we make this Charter obligatory.


  Patrizia Toia (ALDE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, this package is arriving at Parliament right in the midst of the great challenge that energy is posing for our society’s future.

What the unsustainable and unstoppable rise in crude oil prices, the perverse effects of the use of biofuels on the availability of food and the large energy demands of the developing countries are telling us is that action by the European Union is no longer just a necessity but is absolutely crucial. Above all, we need a legislative framework that will finally create a European market in electricity and gas, a market that is able to regulate itself in a balanced manner, that has national and European regulators, that guarantees competitiveness, openness, transparency and efficiency for consumers too, that allows large businesses to remain strong and at the same time allows new entities to be set up and to grow, that makes progress instead of going backwards. In this sense we hope that, for electricity, unbundling will not mean a step backwards, that is, that ground will not be lost as regards the good practices already in place in many countries in terms of separation of the network. What we need is a market that provides certainty for investors and operators, but also real opportunities for consumers, whether they are businesses or individuals. I would like to finish, Madam President, by saying that we must genuinely strengthen the hand of consumers by offering certainty, guarantees and fair prices.


  Roberts Zīle (UEN).(LV) Firstly, I would like to thank the Commissioner and the majority of my fellow Members for truly liberal access to the electricity market, which together with energy efficiency measures will really allow us to reduce prices in the future. Two theses unbundling of ownership and transmission are and will remain the basic model for genuine decentralised production and security for networks providing access to electricity produced from renewable resources. I also have one more dream I would like to see this package fulfil: that finally a unified European electricity network will be created and that the Baltic States will also be among the members of this electricity supply network partnership, on which we have experienced an endless number of obstacles both within the European Union and outside it. Thank you.


  Luca Romagnoli (NI).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I think that in a Europe that every day is suffering from ever greater inflation and from galloping prices due in large part to the cost of energy, talking about a European charter of consumer rights is our clear duty and I therefore endorse the report and thank both my fellow Member and, of course, the Commission.

It is right to stress that an energy supply is a vital pre-requisite for participation in economic and social life. Nonetheless, one point is that there is already legislation in force, but often citizens’ rights are not being respected with in terms of prices, tariffs or tariff transparency, with discriminatory rules that often prevent the comparison of tariffs.

I can therefore only hope that joint action by the EU and the Member States, always abiding by the vital principle of subsidiarity – as the excellent report by Mrs De Vits also stresses – is crucial. The adoption of the third package, in my view, will also serve to ensure better protection for consumers as well as small and medium-sized professional users.


  Nikolaos Vakalis (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the fact is that the third energy package has divided the political groups, especially on the issue of ownership unbundling.

Clearly, this split is due not to ideology, but to the differing internal situations and starting points of the various Member States; it arises from corresponding splits among the Member States in the Council. These internal situations should be respected if we wish to avoid internal social upheavals.

Personally, I fully endorse the idea of ownership unbundling, but I am well aware that unbundling could under no circumstances be imposed in my country at this time. There has to be an interim period to allow all parties involved to adapt to the new circumstances.

After lengthy and laborious negotiations, the Council has achieved conciliation on the ‘third way’. I therefore think we have a duty in this difficult issue to support the conciliation by possibly improving it on certain points in the light of experience.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is important that we all come out of conciliation with our heads held high. This can be achieved only if the vital interests of certain Member States are not put at stake. We must make no compromises on the basic principles of independence and effectiveness that should govern the activity of energy transmission system operators and energy regulators.


  Teresa Riera Madurell (PSE).(ES) Madam President, I would like to congratulate all the rapporteurs on their good work, and in particular express my support for Mrs Morgan’s position with regard to full ownership unbundling between generation and supply activities on the one hand, and network ownership and operation on the other.

Large vertically integrated companies obviously make it difficult for new competitors to come onto the market and, in particular, for renewable energy sources to be developed and installed. All of this takes us further away from the objectives on competitiveness and combating climate change that we Europeans have set ourselves.

I would therefore like to invite the minority that is against unbundling to leave aside national interests, which disappear in the short term, and to take steps towards joining in building a Europe that is strong and secure in terms of its energy supply.

To conclude, I would like to point out that while network access for renewable energy sources is essential for achieving our objectives, developing electricity interconnection capacity is no less essential, especially for the most isolated countries in our energy market.

I would also like to thank the rapporteur who took this issue into account.


  Adina-Ioana Vălean (ALDE). - Madam President, the European energy market today continues to reflect, in my opinion, an old market structure dominated by national or regional monopolies, and this in spite of the evident benefits that liberalisation brings for European customers in terms of price, cost reduction and efficiency. This is to say that liberalisation of the gas and electricity markets is still a work in progress. For instance, we still need to move forward in eastern European countries to end state-owned domination of electricity production and to liberalise it, as we did in the distribution sector. I also welcome the steps that we are taking to ensure ownership unbundling as a necessary measure to finally complete our liberalisation of the energy market.

In addition to liberalisation, Europe must also support the development of LPG and LNG terminals and technologies. We need to encourage the creation of a world trade market for LPG and LNG to ease Europe’s dependency on a single source for natural gas. Diversification and security of energy supply must now be as high on our agenda as liberalisation.


  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE-DE). - (SL) Firstly I would like to congratulate the rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs for the fine work they have done. Europe started liberalising the electricity and gas market a decade ago, and right now we are closest to those genuine, long-desired results. The proposed measures place at the forefront the consumer, who in a well functioning internal energy market will be able to choose from among suppliers and opt for the best one based on his own judgement. I anticipate that an open and transparent internal market will also ensure access to the market for small companies and in this way increase competitiveness, improve conditions for investment in power stations and transmission networks, increase the security of supply and promote sustainable development.

The main precondition for a well functioning internal market is standard and clear rules that apply to all participants in the market. Different models in individual Member States will certainly not lead to the goal that has been set.

Allow me this opportunity to congratulate the Slovenian Presidency. Indeed the Presidency has been focused entirely on coordination and finding a compromise, and despite the strong national interests of Member States, it achieved agreement in the Council.

In the European Parliament, too, the path to compromise is not easy. The pressures, including from Member States, are great. I trust that Parliament will confirm the compromise we drew up in the ITRE Committee. Despite the differences in the positions of the Council and Parliament, I believe that the compromise proposed by Parliament is a good basis for further negotiations and coordination among European institutions.

Finally may I also express my anticipation that in fulfilling the objectives of the third liberalisation package, the French Presidency will invest maximum effort in coordinating work, seeking a compromise and pushing private interests entirely to one side. I also anticipate a similar commitment to finding timely common solutions on the part of the Commission. In this context I am grateful to Commissioner Piebalgs, who stated at the beginning that we must reach a common agreement by the end of this year.



  Hannes Swoboda (PSE).(DE) Madam President, what particularly surprises me about this debate is that even though some of our fellow Members want to prescribe in detail how competition should take place – and there are several possible ways of doing this – they are not prepared to talk about more transparency, more incentives to save energy, opportunities for energy consumers to lodge complaints or the fight against energy poverty. These are precisely the points that I believe are crucial in the Morgan report and naturally also in the De Vits report. This is the signal we need to give to the citizens of Europe tomorrow: we have to say that people must not be affected by the full force of price rises but that there must be opportunities to avoid them by increasing the amount of energy saved and particularly by having more transparency in order to be able to choose other energy providers. I believe it is crucial to give citizens this freedom of choice and also to give them the opportunity to complain when malpractice occurs. I am very thankful to Mrs Morgan for this part of the report.


  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE).(FR) Madam President, listening to all my colleagues this afternoon, I am quite surprised that we all agree on the need for a European single energy market, although I feel that we must work on energy efficiency so that consumers pay as little as possible. We are therefore all agreed on the objective to be achieved, but not on how to go about achieving it.

I have not heard much talk or mention of the agreement secured by the Council on 6 June, which does not necessarily require the unbundling of ownership, production and distribution. Now, if unbundling and the single market had triggered a fall in energy prices, it would be apparent. This is not the case in Spain or in the UK, and the Commission has never been able to prove it.

Therefore, let us stop demonising certain companies which actually have the industrial expertise and have shown that they can operate efficiently. When we want interconnection, when we want solidarity, it is doubtless preferable for Member States to be free to choose from several models.

Let us put an end to that single way of thinking that rejects the third way, that makes accusations of a ‘Franco-German cartel’. We know that the market alone cannot solve the issue of monopolies, which in any case exist everywhere. The Member States have taken a step towards an acceptable package that can be fine-tuned. If we do not accept it, we risk having no text at all, while our citizens are kept waiting. More importantly, I do not want to see good guys on one side of this Chamber and bad guys – i.e. those who still want to reach an agreement with the Council – on the other.


  Angelika Niebler (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I believe we all feel the same about the situation on the European internal market. We do not yet have a European internal market; we have national markets and we have monopolies or small groups exerting control over national markets. We have a situation where energy prices are rising every day and we are dependent on imported energy. We all see the situation in the same light and we also agree on the goal.

Many Members have spoken about this. We want more competition, falling prices, and more investment in transmission networks. We want interconnectors to be extended in order to permit cross-border exchange. We do not want the market to concentrate around only a few large suppliers. The big question is how we want to achieve that, and that is where we come to a parting of the ways. Many Members, including some who have spoken today, believe that ownership unbundling is the universal remedy. I say that if we go down this road only, then we are not seeing the full picture. This is not the way to go!

Allow me to refer to certain countries; Mrs Grossetête also mentioned the situation there. In Spain, two companies, Endesa and Iberdrola, produce 48.3% and 28% of the electricity respectively. In Sweden, Vattenfall is boss, also producing almost 48% of the electricity generated; while in Italy the market is concentrated around ENEL, which has a 43.9% market share. Nobody can tell me that ownership unbundling will achieve what we want, which is to break up the market and create competition.

Therefore, I would ask all fellow Members to support Amendments 165 and 168 tomorrow rather than continuing to see only half the picture. As for everything else in the Morgan report, I find it very satisfactory. My compliments to Mrs Morgan; she has shown a great deal of energy and commitment. However, on that particular matter, I think we should also open a second way for the countries that have unbundled in a different manner. Countries in which the state still owns 100% of the production and transmission systems – such as Sweden, for example – should not be required to change this. However, nobody can say that tomorrow we will be passing a package that includes equal competitive conditions. That is a fallacy.


  Norbert Glante (PSE).(DE) Madam President, I do apologise for my late arrival. There are some very long distances to walk in this building and the lifts can be very slow sometimes. The matter we are discussing today and will vote on tomorrow is not necessarily a question of left or right – although it is true that we also have that type of debate in this Chamber – but rather a disputed question about what instruments will achieve our goal. We are agreed on the goal, and Mrs Niebler has just underlined it: we want more competition on the European market; we want prices to be more transparent; we want pricing that is easy to understand. The instruments to achieve this vary greatly, however.

I am among those who proceed on the basis that the option of finding a third way can also be an instrument. We have included these suggestions here and emphasised repeatedly that this has not only initiated the third way, the Council’s original suggestion, but that we have also introduced additional regulatory components because the third way that came to us from the Council was not enough for us.

From this angle, we should talk about it again, take stock of ourselves and allow this second and third way as an additional option. What is even more important is that we in Europe achieve uniform regulations, and that the regulatory authorities in the Member States are given consistent competences and independence to implement what we decide here, because in the end, they are the ones who have to respond on the ground.

Recent weeks have given us two succinct examples of the Commission’s function of overseeing cartels and competition, although the timing does allow pause for thought. However, a company that violates antitrust law deserves to be punished; that is all there is to it. I do not make any concessions here. Nevertheless, we should discuss whether ownership unbundling is really the instrument we should be equipping ourselves and the regulators with, or whether we should offer more flexibility.

I hope that tomorrow’s vote will be such that we still achieve a compromise. Otherwise, we will definitely have to work with the Council to seek and find a compromise. Thank you very much and apologies again for being late.


  Ieke van den Burg (PSE). (NL) Madam President, speaking on behalf of the Dutch delegation of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, I should like to compliment rapporteur Mrs Morgan most sincerely on the way in which she has prepared this opinion. We are in favour of unbundling. Indeed, this has already clearly been put into practice in the Netherlands with good results, including with regard to investment and the well-functioning market in both the gas and the electricity sector. I think it very important to carry this through at European level, too. I should also like to mention in this connection that Mrs Kroes, the Commissioner for Competition, has done her bit for this development, including by means of what she is currently doing with RWE and E.ON. I think that this is an important development, therefore.

The other aspect is energy poverty, and that is why we consider this a most excellent report by Parliament and hope that it goes through.


  Arlene McCarthy (PSE). - Madam President, I should like to give an example of where the Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers can make a real difference. A small community organisation in Manchester asked for my help in resolving a complaint with its energy supplier. For five years the company was reading the meter but failing to send any bills. In March 2008, the group received an invoice for five years’ electricity use totalling GBP 7 540.37, pushing them into debt.

Ensuring consumers are aware of their rights – in this case the simple right to receive a regular bill – is fundamental to putting consumers in control of their energy consumption. At a time when every consumer in every country across Europe is facing soaring energy bills, we must give consumers the information and tools to manage their bills, cut their use and costs and, at the same time, contribute to cutting CO2 emissions.

I urge the Commission to be bold in taking forward a charter of rights, working with regulators, Member States and companies to proactively promote and publicise these rights, and to abandon the notion of a watered-down checklist, which will not deliver a fair deal for consumers faced with today’s complex energy challenges and prices. If we can have a charter of rights for air passengers, why can we not have one for energy consumers? Commissioner, I should like you to answer that question.


  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, the European Energy Agency in Paris has determined that we will experience an energy shortage in 2012. It is therefore vital that we devote our urgent attention to creating incentives and investing more in transmission networks and production. The present Electricity Directive provides a good incentive to also shorten the approval periods so that it does not come to a blackout in 2012.

It is also important to strengthen the national regulators so that we can accordingly push for the interests of our own industry in neighbouring countries. It would also be good if we had a regulatory agency for nuclear matters that could make pronouncements on safety and security according to the French model. That is something that ought to be discussed this week in the Council too.


  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE). - (RO) I congratulate the Rapporteur Ms. Morgan. The certainty of energy supply for the Union requires huge investments and investors need a predictable environment, which encourages long and medium-term investments.

In the context of climate change, the Union intends that, by 2020, at least 20% of its energy shall come from renewable sources. Access to the network for energy transport is essential. In recent years, we have had a rapid increase in energy prices and the European citizens are expecting an answer to their problems from the European institutions. The accessibility and availability of energy are essential for economic and social life.

The setting-up of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators will ensure better protection of the energy consumers’ interests. I consider amendment 18 of the Chichester report to fall under the competence of the Council.


  Danutė Budreikaitė (ALDE).(LT) I would like to congratulate the Commission on the proposed package of documents for the creation of a realistic EU internal energy market, as well as Mrs Morgan, who, in her report, has presented us with an expert assessment of the market situation along with possible solutions.

I am glad that attention has been drawn to the existence of ‘energy islands’. Lithuania is part of such an ‘island’ in terms of electricity and, in fact, gas supply. This country’s situation after the closure of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in 2009 will become unpredictable because of its sole dependency on Russia. Therefore, integration into a common EU transmission system is vital.

The suggested implementation of ownership as the sole means of guaranteeing the independence of transmission operators along with the exclusion of third countries from controlling the transmission systems and transmission systems operators, the priority of the protection of consumer interests – these are the means that will guarantee energy security in the EU and the wellbeing of its people.


  Vladimír Remek (GUE/NGL). - (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, as shadow rapporteur for the report by my fellow Member, Mr Chichester, I was one of the supporters of the proposal that in the event of a vote in the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, the Commission’s original plan of one vote per country should remain unchanged. Putting into practice the so-called ‘weighted’ voting procedure would give an advantage to the bigger Member States, to the detriment of the smaller ones. The majority in the ITRE Committee supported the fairer principle and I believe that the same will happen during the vote in plenary. The majority of national energy market regulators also favoured the launch of an agency that would be more than just another bureaucratic debating club with no powers. Applying unequal conditions to the individual countries would basically devalue the effort to create a respected and functioning agency. Different national energy markets came into being under different circumstances and still have not been efficiently linked up. The Agency has the opportunity to help to achieve real interconnection.


  Jim Allister (NI). - Madam President, I strongly support unbundling between generation and transmission, but I would say that it needs to be thorough and I question whether it can sit comfortably with any state ownership in either sector. I say that in part from the experience of my own constituency, Northern Ireland, where we have recently entered a single electricity market on the island of Ireland, with much promise about what that would do for stability of prices.

The experience has been rather different. A couple of weeks ago I visited one of the largest consumers in my constituency. Three years ago they were paying just marginally more than the average UK price. Today, under the single electricity market in Ireland, they are paying 76% more than the average UK price. In effect they have been decoupled without gaining any advantage, and the primary reason is, I believe, because that single market was created without adequately dealing with the issue of the state monopoly of the ESB.


  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE). (NL) Madam President, to be brief, there has been a real decline in investment in the electricity market, particularly in cross-border grids, in recent years. A new legislative package is now needed, therefore, and Commissioner Piebalgs knows as well as my fellow Members how important the level playing field is to me. Splitting ownership is the best option, then. Fortunately, the Energy Council has realised that this level playing field does not exist at present.

The ban on takeovers by horizontal non-split undertakings in the coming years is justified, therefore; there is to be no cherry-picking of smaller-sized vital undertakings by non-split organisations. This gives organisations in the Netherlands, producers such as Nuon and Essent, the opportunity to develop a European outlook. It creates breathing space for the coming period. From this point of view, I wholeheartedly support the splitting of ownership now being proposed in Mrs Morgan’s report.


  Neena Gill (PSE). - Madam President, I congratulate the rapporteur on her excellent work and support her position on getting a fairer deal for consumers.

Mrs Morgan has rightly indicated that this is best achieved through ownership unbundling and that means we need to reduce the concentration of power of large companies and allow better access for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Better regulation of electricity and gas markets is critical to ensuring fair competition and better prices for consumers and I am deeply concerned that soaring energy prices are putting Europeans increasingly at risk of energy poverty, especially the elderly, who are the most vulnerable.

Given the current conditions in energy security, we absolutely need a well-functioning gas and electricity market in Europe. Recently we have experienced problems with the supply of energy and this report rightly seeks to resolve some of these.

I have received a number of letters from my constituents in support of Amendment 159 which would prohibit Member States from authorising the construction of new power stations that emit more than 350 g of carbon dioxide per kilowatt produced.


  Joel Hasse Ferreira (PSE).(PT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the regional integration of cross-border electricity markets must be seen not only in the light of what is being discussed today, but also in terms of creating a single European market for electricity.

Furthermore, the range of energy issues in the European framework deserves a more comprehensive and forward looking approach. Hence the initiative we took on Parliament’s STOA Panel, drawing up energy scenarios for the coming decades, using 2030 as a base reference. Parliament and some parliamentary groups are divided on the question of unbundling energy transmission networks and energy companies. This is sometimes of more relevance to national situations than to political and strategic choices.

However, I would like to be perfectly clear on this matter, ladies and gentlemen. Personally I am in favour of a clear unbundling between the networks/companies operating on the electricity grid and the company or body managing the grids. I believe that this is the most beneficial solution for consumers that guarantees the possibility of setting up a truly internal market for electricity, which should be one of our objectives as MEPs and European citizens.


  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). - (SK) European electricity and gas consumers have the right to a universal service, that is, the right to be supplied with a specified quality, at reasonable prices that are easily and clearly comparable and transparent.

I welcome the fact that the report by my fellow Member, Mrs De Vits, on the proposal for a Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers, is also included in the debate on the third energy package. At present, energy consumer rights are laid down in various EU documents, but are often not transposed into national legislation. I welcome the rapporteur’s effort to make consumer rights more transparent. Consumers must have freedom of choice and the possibility of changing their supplier free of charge. They must understand what they are paying for. I want to thank the rapporteur for incorporating in her report my amendments in which I called on the Member States to provide financial support to consumer organisations in the area of consulting services. Consumer organisations do a great deal of work on behalf of energy consumers, especially vulnerable consumers.


  Anni Podimata (PSE).(EL) Madam President, let me first endorse what the rapporteur, Mrs Morgan, has said about the need to protect the more vulnerable consumers in particular against rising fuel prices. I also agree on the need to combat energy poverty and vigorously promote investment in renewable energy sources.

However, as for the major question of creating a single internal energy market, achieving this aim depends not only on mapping out and applying a single strategy, but also on awareness of the specific characteristics of each participant.

Complete ownership unbundling is not an unconditional, essential precondition for investments in improving the network. The delays in modernisation may be due to a misguided energy policy that treats energy as a product to be distributed primarily with the aim of increasing profits rather than improving the system.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office of the Council. (SL) Permit me first one general thought. The fact is that in the Council we most certainly agree with the finding that the situation in the internal energy market is neither good nor satisfactory. For this very reason we have spent long years striving to reach an agreement on establishing a proper internal market in gas and electricity in order to establish true competition and equal conditions for all players in this market.

On 6 June, as I have already said, major progress was achieved in the Council. Today several speakers, including Mrs Morgan and numerous others, have stressed that complete ownership separation is the most effective method of establishing a proper internal market for gas and electricity. This is also the view of the Commission, and it is also the view of the majority of Member States. Nevertheless, a compromise was necessary to reach an agreement. This compromise was not easy, but we were able to secure it.

The compromise means that three options are available, and the Presidency’s assessment is that the application of these options in line with the envisaged rules can lead us to a situation where equal conditions will be established for all players in the internal gas and electricity market, once true competition is established.

Allow me to make some other points. Mention was made several times of the issue of poverty, or rather energy poverty. This is a very important issue, especially in circumstances where energy prices are rising in leaps and bounds. The fact is, however, that this is the responsibility and duty of individual Member States in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity – and as was emphasised by Mr Hökmark and certain others, Member States are duty bound to ensure access to energy for the poor.

The issue of consumer protection was mentioned several times. In fact a considerable number of speeches discussed this. May I underline that the text of the Presidency, or the Presidency’s compromise, contains a most important provision in the area of consumer protection. It requires that consumers are adequately informed about their consumption of energy, about the costs arising from this, and that they are informed with sufficient frequency to be able to settle their spending obligations. Moreover the possibility is of course envisaged of changing supplier at any time and also of being promptly and regularly informed of prices set by suppliers.

Several speeches, including that by Mr Turmes, mentioned the powers of the Agency. The Agency will be no paper tiger. Particularly with regard to matters involving two or more Member States, the Agency will have the option of making binding decisions, which is a major innovation.

Several speeches, especially those by Mr Biruti, Mr Zile and others, mentioned the problem of small and isolated systems. I should point out that the text of the agreement reached in the Council envisages derogations or exceptions for such countries and for such markets, up until their isolation is remedied.

A word or two perhaps regarding renewable sources. Our package, the Council’s package, envisages priority access to networks for energy generated from renewable sources.

May I conclude with the following: I would like to salute the determination shown by Mr Vidal-Quadras to ensure that Parliament and the Council should reach agreement in the second reading. This is also the wish of the Council. The Presidency agrees that the agreement secured on 6 June has created the possibility of such an agreement being reached by the end of this year. This is especially important in the light of our ambition to achieve an agreement on the climate and energy package as early as possible in 2009.

I have ascertained from this debate that the positions of the Council and Parliament are not that far apart. I would like to thank the rapporteurs and everyone who participated in the debate. I think this debate will be most useful for the Council in its further work and in reaching our common agreement within the desired deadline.


  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, today’s debate very much focused on households, and the Commission proposal goes beyond households: it is definitely also industry. With all due respect to vulnerable consumers, what we are trying to achieve is a well-functioning market. You cannot ever subsidise everything because it means taking from somebody to give to someone else; I know that there will be vulnerable consumers that we should pay due attention to, but basically what we are trying to achieve is a well-functioning interconnected European market based on the values and experiences that we have in other fields.

The energy market has only recently started to develop and it takes some time to put into place, but I believe that today’s debate really shows that the Commission proposal addresses all the main areas correctly.

There have been slight doubts about whether the change is necessary. I believe that change is necessary: not only the Commission’s annual reports, but also the competitive sector inquiry has demonstrated this. Parliament’s Vidal-Quadras report said that we need a change and we need proposals.

On the ground we have also had some developments in competition law recently. The difficulty is that if you can discover anti-competitive behaviour, it is all ex-post: you impose fines but the consumer has already paid the price. So it is structural change that is necessary and I believe that the proposals we have made are a response to it.

There are a couple of issues where I believe we are going beyond just an energy market proposal. Let us start with the Agency. I completely agree that an independent Agency is a key. The difficulty I have is that we also have case-law which draws boundaries, and the Commission is made as strong as possible, within legal boundaries, if we have an Agency.

On comitology, I understand Parliament’s questions about comitology but this is the procedure that we have and we should use this procedure to achieve the result.

On infringement, it was Mr Paasilinna who said that this is the procedure we have, and we should use it because we do not have another procedure.

There was a question about consumer rights. There is subsidiarity, but aviation is more of a cross-border issue. I believe the Energy Charter is more closely related to subsidiarity. We set a good example, but should we really bring in European legislation? I have some doubts. I am not necessarily against it, but there is a boundary between where European legislation is needed and where national law starts in this respect. At any rate I believe these are the issues, and Parliament will surely find the right approach.

I shall finish by thanking Mrs Morgan, Mrs De Vits, Giles Chichester and Alejo Vidal-Quadras once again for their excellent reports. I think that the debate clearly showed that there was a lot of internal debate, and I am looking forward to the vote tomorrow, because the Vidal-Quadras report paved the way for us to make the proposal. I know that Council and Parliament will need to work to find a balanced solution. Both sides are ready. Much depends on the vote tomorrow where Parliament will stand, but I clearly understand that there is political will to find agreement and we will have the proposal adopted during this legislature for the benefit of our consumers, and I think that is great.

Commission’s position on amendments by Parliament

Morgan report (A6-0191/2008)

The Commission can accept Amendments 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 29, 30, 33, 34, 35, 36, 40, 44, 46, 48, 50, 54, 56, 57, 58, 61, 65, 70, 71, 73, 74, 77, 83, 84, 88, 89, 92, 93, 94, 97, 99, 101, 102, 105, 106, 107, 108, 111,112, 113, 114, 118, 119, 120, 122, 123, 124, 126, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151 and 152.

The Commission can accept Amendments 10, 11, 16, 24, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 45, 47, 55, 59, 60, 66, 68, 72, 79, 80, 82, 85, 86, 87, 95, 98, 100, 109, 110, 115, 117, 121, 125, 127, 138, 153, 155, 165, 166 and 167 in part.

The Commission cannot accept Amendments 3, 7, 9, 13, 27, 28, 31, 32, 37, 49, 51, 52, 53, 62, 63, 64, 67, 69, 75, 76, 78, 81, 90, 91, 96, 103, 104, 116, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 154, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 168, 169, 170, 171 and 176.

Vidal-Quadras report (A6-0228/2008)

The Commission can accept Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 21, 22 and 29.

The Commission can accept Amendments 6, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 24, 25, 28, 31 and 32 in part.

The Commission cannot accept Amendments 13, 19, 23, 26, 27, 30 and 33.

Chichester report (A6-0226/2008)

The Commission can accept Amendments 1, 6, 9, 10, 12, 16, 45, 48, 49, 53, 54, 64 (regarding paragraph 3), 64 (paragraph 4), 66, 72 and 75.

The Commission can accept Amendments 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 13, 14, 15, 19 (paragraph 1a), 19 (paragraph 1da), 19 (paragraph 1db), 19 (paragraph 1de), 19 (paragraph 1df), 19 (paragraph 1dh), 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 35, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 47, 51, 57, 58, 59, 61, 64 (paragraph 1), 68, 70, 74 and 76 in part.

The Commission cannot accept Amendments 8, 17, 18, 19 (paragraph 1c), 19 (paragraph 1d), 19 (paragraph 1dc), 19 (paragraph 1dd), 19(1dg), 20, 21, 22, 25, 29, 30, 34, 36, 37, 38, 46, 50, 52, 55, 56, 60, 62, 63, 64 (paragraph 2), 64 (paragraph 5), 64 (paragraph 7), 64(8), 65, 67, 69, 71 and 73.


  Eluned Morgan, rapporteur. − Madam President, I should like to thank all those who contributed to a very interesting debate.

I would like to reflect a little on what Mr Hökmark said about developing the best possible system to ensure security of supply, sustainability and competitiveness. I must say that the position the Council has come up with goes too far. I am disappointed with the informal agreement in Council, because it has bent too much to the will of the minority. I understand, of course, that there is a time and a place and a need for compromise, but I think it has gone too far.

I am also disappointed with the Commission for not being firmer in defending its own position – do not forget that it is your own position that we are defending now. I would just like to remind you that you have backtracked and we have not – we are defending your position.

What we have at the moment is not good enough. We have large industrial energy users coming up to us and asking us privately to unbundle, but when we tell them that we will try to do that and ask them to come and say that to us publicly, they say they cannot do that as they are vulnerable! That means that the consumer is not in charge – the consumer is not in control of the marketplace – and that is problematic.

I think there has been a misunderstanding on the matter of special tariffs for vulnerable customers. I stand by this issue. I want to see special tariffs for vulnerable customers. However, we are not asking the EU to do this: we are asking Member States to do it and to take this issue seriously. We, the Socialists, in particular, have listened to what our constituents are saying: that high prices are hurting and that they are really suffering at the moment, and we want the issue of energy poverty put on the agenda in the Member States. It is not even there at the moment. Only one country in Europe has a definition of energy poverty. Put it on the agenda in your Member States because it is not there now!


  Alejo Vidal-Quadras, rapporteur. (ES) My first words should be to say thank you for the excellent cooperation and the wonderful atmosphere that there has been in the work of preparing these reports, especially with Mrs Morgan, Mr Chichester and all the shadow rapporteurs.

We will see, ladies and gentlemen, that what this is about is knowing what we want and whether we all want the same thing, because what cannot logically be said is that ownership unbundling is some sort of magic master key that opens every door and is going to give us the solution to all our problems. No one has said this.

Ownership unbundling of the transmission system and generation is a necessary requirement, which helps, facilitates and makes it possible for the market to function correctly, for third parties to enter the market and for investments to be guaranteed. It does not, of course, solve all the problems. Who said that it would? No one did.

In my country, for example, where we have ownership unbundling, there are many problems. The regulators’ agency is not independent enough. There is a tariff deficit, there are regulated tariffs that distort the market. We are an energy island that needs more interconnections. Does this mean that if we have ownership unbundling all of this will be solved? No, because this is due to other causes that have nothing to do with ownership unbundling. We will see if we use logic, aside from politics and national interests.

Consequently, President-in-Office of the Council, I cannot speak on behalf of Parliament, because I am one MEP among 785, but I can give you an impression, after 9 years in this House, and I can tell you one thing: there is a will to reach an agreement, there is a will to negotiate, there is goodwill, President-in-Office of the Council, but tell the Council that this goodwill needs to be mutual. If it is mutual, as occurred in the case of the gas market, we will be able to arrive at formulas that fulfil our objective.


  Giles Chichester, rapporteur. − Madam President, this has been a fascinating debate, the House is divided on a different basis from our normal left/right or even north/south antagonism and it has been intriguing to me, particularly as a British Conservative, to see how my colleagues from certain Member States have wriggled and twisted and turned in their desperate efforts to prevent change. I never thought my German colleagues would be much more conservative (with a small ‘c’, as in ‘resistant to change’) than myself.

When I first came to this Parliament, I was a strong supporter and advocate of something called privatisation – Mr Allister mentioned this a while back – that is to say, removing ownership of these enterprises from the state and allowing private enterprise to run them more efficiently than a state monopoly does. Now I appreciate that this is an alarming concept in Europe, but it may be that the ultimate direction in which we should go is beyond ownership unbundling to privatisation.

Can I say that I personally am persuaded of the importance of addressing fuel poverty: I think that block tariff reform could be a way to go. It seems quite extraordinary that we should be putting the marginal price of energy lower than the initial price, and thereby encouraging consumption when surely we live in an age when we want to encourage conservation and efficiency and make it more expensive to consume more.

It may be that market forces will do the business for us: the oil price is making people in my country change their habits and I notice – and I enjoy reminding my German colleagues of this – that E.ON has seen the benefit of market forces in its decision to unbundle its distribution service.

We may need a fourth package in the future, but I congratulate Mrs Morgan on what she has achieved so far. Hold the line: we look for a big majority tomorrow, because eventually those who are consumers in markets which are not unbundled will look to the other markets that are unbundled and say: ‘We want that please’.


  Mia De Vits, rapporteur. – (NL) Madam President, I am pleased that today speakers have discussed not only unbundling but also consumer rights. Looking ahead to Thursday’s vote, I should just like to request support for three amendments seeking to further improve these consumer rights and to inform consumers regularly about their consumption. I do not think it too much to ask that this be done four times a year. There is also the concept of smart meters and the imposition of a deadline for their roll-out, namely 10 years after the entry into force of the Directive.

Finally, on the subject of the national action plans to tackle energy poverty, I should just like to say to Mr Vidal-Quadras that we are only citing the social tariffs as an example to Member States of a possible instrument. These are three amendments for which we request support in order to improve consumer rights.

To conclude, Madam President, I am disappointed with the Commissioner’s response, in which he leaves the areas of consumer rights to Member States in the name of subsidiarity. I would say to him that we are moving towards a European market in energy, and so tomorrow British citizens will be faced with a German supplier. As I see it, this European market in energy means that we must also be able to give consumers a European answer.


  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote on the Morgan, Vidal-Quadras and Chichester reports will take place tomorrow.

The vote on the De Vits report will take place on Thursday 19 June 2008.

Written statements (Rule 142)


  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE), in writing. (RO) As regards the “Chichester” report regarding the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, I support the setting-up of this Agency and its provision with increased competences.

As regards the amendment for establishing the headquarters of this institution in Brussels, first of all, I would like to request the opinion of the legal service regarding our competence, of the European Parliament, to make a decision in relation to this subject because, personally, I have the feeling that this subject falls under the competence of the Council.

As regards the city of Brussels, I confess that I have nothing against the city itself.....I even like it.

Nevertheless, I believe the vote the Irish gave last week is a new extremely important political signal, including in relation to the opinion citizens have on the Brussels bureaucrats and the way in which decisions are made in the “closed” circle in Brussels.

All the European citizens must feel part of and close to the European decision-making process. It is important that all the European citizens feel they are represented and the institutions should have locations across the entire Union.

Let’s bring the institutions closer to citizens and to get the citizens involved into the European debate! If we centralize everything in Brussels, we will jeopardize the European construction.

I definitely reject the idea of establishing the headquarters of this new institution in Brussels.


  Desislav Chukolov (NI), in writing. (BG) Mr. President, Dear colleagues,

the notion of ‘energy mafia’ exists in quite a few countries in the world. This is a blanket term we commonly use to refer to things in energy that are unclean. Unlike in other countries, however, the energy mafia in Bulgaria is making a clear sign that it is about to enter politics, and that, not by going through fair and transparent elections but in the way it has always acted, buying its way in.

The newly established Leader Party is entering the political arena in my country in an exceptionally aggressive way, now and then coming close to the style of the Movement for Rights and Liberties in terms of roughness and ruthlessness. Both parties are buying votes but while the MRL operates exclusively in the interest of Turkey, the Leader Party and its leader, Hristo Kovachki, operate solely for their own benefit.

During the most recent elections in my country, citizens were notified by mail that their utility bills would be wavered provided if they voted for that party.

Mr. President, do exercise your influence over Bulgarian politicians to prevent a situation that might, after the 2009 election, return MEPs to this House who would have been elected in this unfair and ugly way.


  Glyn Ford (PSE), in writing. I fully support my colleague’s report, and would have done so in person had it been possible. However, I do not believe that this means we cannot build new coal-fired power stations.

The coal industry is once again at the forefront of a revolution, with the 25th anniversary of the miners’ strike fast approaching. This revolution is based on the clean coal and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that are being developed at the Hatfield colliery near Doncaster. CCS technologies would mean that 90% of a power station’s CO2 emissions are captured and then transferred to geological storage. Such technology could revolutionise the way in which the UK satisfies its energy requirements.

In addition to the benefits of using a natural resource that we possess in abundance, the jobs created within a nascent clean coal agency could give a lifeline to mining communities that have seen a quarter of a century of economic and social decline.


  Urszula Gacek (PPE-DE), in writing. – (PL) I am very pleased to accept Parliament’s position on the European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers, particularly the proposal that the consumer be charged on the basis of actual energy consumption.

I hope this will lead to bills for all individual gas consumers being drawn up in kWh, and not, as in Poland, for example, in cubic metres.

Billing according to the energy value and not the volume of gas consumed would definitely meet with the approval of consumers, who suspect, justifiably or not, that they are paying for ‘air’.


  Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE), in writing. I agree with the Commissioner that if we agree to continue with the present status quo, protecting national interests more than standing up for common European interests and values, then the EU will be unable to address the dramatic challenges we face.

That is why the EU needs real reform.

I strongly advocate a national regulator – an efficient Agency having sufficient authority to supervise the fair functioning of the common electricity market.

However, my key point is this: as the EU is based on the principles of free competition, we are committed to ensuring, not only in theory but also in real life, that in each Member State the consumer will be able to choose freely and without any difficulties between different electricity producers and distributors and to decide which is the best offer. So the real challenge for the Member States is to decide between consumers’ interests and those of the big companies. Hesitations about putting the individual, the consumer, into the centre of our activities lead logically to events such as the Irish negative vote and the increasing indifference of our citizens towards the EU.

Full ownership unbundling is a key condition for reform. The ‘third way’ is not a credible solution.


  Janusz Lewandowski (PPE-DE), in writing. – (PL) Madam President, the way events are developing, EU energy priorities – environmental protection, security and market liberalisation – continue to be important, but their hierarchy needs to be re-evaluated. Spiralling prices for energy carriers, with social tensions and anxieties, plus the Gazprom offensive – all this requires quick reactions and exposes the need for security and cheapness of supplies. Meanwhile, the ambitious aims set for environmental protection and the battle against global warming are of a longer-term nature and bring with them challenges that could lower the competitiveness of the European economy and multiply social tensions.

One might regret that in our circle of 27 countries there is no determination to create a common and competitive energy market. Demonopolisation is meeting with resistance in several countries that are otherwise considered to be leaders in European integration. There is also a lack of solidarity in contacts with external oil and gas suppliers. Bilateral negotiations, such as those entered into in the west and the east of the European Union with Gazprom, are weakening our bargaining position. They are making it easier to engage in energy blackmail with those Member States that were historically linked to a monopoly supplier.

Differences in national interests are making themselves felt in the construction of a single energy market. The European Union needs proof that it will be able to arrive at satisfactory compromises despite differences. There is no area more important than energy, in which the capacity to build unity over and above divisions must be demonstrated.


  Bogusław Rogalski (UEN), in writing. – (PL) Madam President, access to energy at manageable prices is one of the elements accelerating social integration and access to knowledge and education. Energy supplies have a significant impact on the way citizens function in social and economic life. Unfortunately, it is often the case that consumers, particularly private individuals and small- and medium-sized enterprises, have limited potential to make their interests effectively known where energy access is concerned.

According to the data available, the Member States have not satisfactorily discharged their duty to provide targeted public services that reach the least privileged social groups. The European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers should resolve some of the problems that exist in this area. This Charter is supposed to be based on the idea of cooperation between Member States with full application of the principle of subsidiarity, bearing in mind that certain practices in the sphere of consumer protection may result in different outcomes in different Member States.

Energy suppliers and network operators should place themselves under an obligation to function with respect for the environment and to restrict radioactive waste as far as possible. Using renewable energy sources and guaranteeing consumers the right to make a conscious choice of energy source should also be made a matter of priority.

Limits should also be placed on the formalities arising from a change in supplier; consumers should be protected against dishonest sales practices and consumer organisations should be set up. Above all, though, a solution must be found to the problem of energy poverty in order to enable all citizens to take part in many important areas of life.




12. Commission Question Time

  President. − The next item is Question Time (B6-0161/2008).

The following questions are addressed to the Commission.


  Miloslav Ransdorf (GUE/NGL). - (CS) I would like to ask the Commission the following question: to what extent is it binding… (the President cut off the speaker).


  President. − I am sorry, but the questions are as printed on the paper. There is an order and I am afraid you cannot come with a spontaneous question.

Part one


  President. − Question No 25 by Lambert van Nistelrooij (H-0379/08)

Subject: Mobile termination tariffs

On 4 April the Belgian courts (Case 2007/AR/3394) suspended a decision by the Belgian national post and telecommunications regulation body (IBPT) setting mobile termination tariffs. One of the main arguments put forward was the fact that large operators’ economies of scale must be taken into account in setting mobile termination tariffs.

Does the Commission look upon the Belgian court’s arguments as a guiding principle for its upcoming communication on mobile termination tariffs?

Does the Commission share the view that the telecommunications companies which are now largely responsible for competition in the mobile phone market – the ‘challengers’ – should be allowed enough time in the communication to bring themselves into line with any new rules?


  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. − The question posed by the Honorable Member concerns the decision of the Cour d’Appel de Bruxelles of 4 April 2008 to suspend IBPT’s regulatory decision of 18 December 2007 regarding mobile termination tariffs in Belgium. This regulatory decision was previously notified to and assessed by the Commission under Article 7 of the Framework Directive. The Commission is aware of this court decision and was informed by the national regulatory authority, IBPT, that, following this annulment, it had launched a national consultation on a draft decision resetting mobile termination rates at the same asymmetric level as in its previous regulatory decision of 11 August 2006.

In the context of the Community consultation mechanism (the ‘Article 7 procedure’), the Commission has expressed its view on numerous occasions that the termination rates should be reduced to the level of the efficient cost. This is to ensure a level playing field amongst different operators, to provide operators with the incentive to become efficient, and to bring more benefits to consumers, including lower prices. The Commission has recognised the need for a transitional period for operators to achieve the efficient cost level. However, the persistence of a higher termination rate would not be justified after a period long enough for an operator to adapt to market conditions and become efficient, unless there are objective cost differences which are beyond the control of the operators concerned.

The Commission is mindful of the fact that differing approaches to the regulation of termination rates have the potential to hamper the consolidation of the internal market and the realisation of consumer benefits from cross-border competition and services, and this is why the Commission has made it a priority to provide guidance and greater legal certainty to both operators and national regulatory authorities in the regulation of the termination markets. To this end, the Commission is working on a recommendation on a common approach to both mobile and fixed termination rates which aims at promoting greater clarity and consistency in this important but also very complex area, ensuring maximum benefits to consumers in terms of affordable prices and efficient development of innovative services. Such a recommendation may also give guidance to national courts.

Consolidation of the internal market could also be hampered if court decisions in different Member States result in a situation where different interpretations are given on how similar competition problems need to be addressed. In any case, the Commission closely follows all court decisions and judgments, including in the area of termination markets such as the decision of the Cour d’Appel to which the Honorable Member refers in his question.


  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE). (NL) Madam President, I should certainly like to thank the Commissioner for her answer, as she analysed the situation very well. My follow-up question is as follows: where do you see these differences between Member States? The judgment in Belgium would seem to indicate that there is still no effective level playing field between large operators and newcomers on the market. Could this mean an extension of the transitional period? Could it mean more time being offered for such adaptation Europe-wide, as it were? After all, we are now seeing that it is the small operators who are the victims on this market.


  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. − The Commission from the very beginning has recognised the need for a transitional period for operators, as I said in my first speech, to achieve an efficient cost level.

However, temporary asymmetries should be phased out within a reasonable timeframe. The persistence of higher termination rates would not be justified after a period which is long enough for the operator to adapt to market conditions and become more efficient, unless – as I said before – there are objective cost differences that are beyond the control of the operators concerned.

Allowing prices above an efficient or cost-based level can reduce operators’ incentives to innovate and to try to minimise prices. Furthermore, consumers may end up paying higher prices than would otherwise be the case in a situation of cost-based symmetric termination rates. And thus termination rates should be reduced to the level of efficient costs as soon as possible without – as I said before – hampering either the position of the companies or the position of the consumers.


  President. − Question No 26 by Katerina Batzeli (H-0386/08)

Subject: Crisis management policy to deal with high prices on the market

The high prices on the market brought about by the increase in oil prices, the recent food crisis, profiteering and ineffective checks continue to have a negative impact on inflation and household incomes. This critical situation calls for a concerted European response.

How and by means of what measures does the Commission intend to deal with the current crisis which is now damaging the development of the national economies and reducing household incomes, leading the public at large to call into question the role of the euro in relation to the price of oil?

What measures will the EU take to stem the international surge of profiteering on goods? Will it set up a crisis management mechanism at Community and national level? How and by means of what measures will national bodies be assisted to deal with profiteering, which is primarily occurring owing to the dominant position of certain companies?

Do the Commission's priorities include setting a maximum selling price for certain basic foods?

Is it acceptable that some governments are currently increasing indirect taxes in a bid to boost public revenue? Is it appropriate to lower VAT and indirect taxes on some basic foods and products at European level?

Question No 27 by Leopold Józef Rutowicz (H-0399/08)

Subject: Price rises in the EU

Demand for biofuels and the growth in demand for food are among the causes of a significant rise in the price of such commodities, which is hitting EU citizens with low incomes particularly hard. At the same time, production restrictions on a range of items leave no scope for competition, which could keep price rises down. What action has been taken with a view to restricting food price rises on the EU market?


  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. − As the two questions, as rightly said by the President, are more or less linked, I would like to take the opportunity to give a joint reply to both questions.

If we look at the euro area, inflation has actually come down from 8-10% in the 1970s and the 80s to 3% in the 1990s and has actually averaged at a bit over 2% in the first decade of European Monetary Union.

But since the third quarter of 2007, global shocks both to energy and food prices have put upward the pressure on inflation not only within the European Union but throughout the whole world.

The strong euro had mitigated to some extent the effect of rising or increasing prices of fuel and oil. But we have to face reality that the inflation rate has actually increased from 1.9% in August last year to 3.6% in April 2008.

The Commission has set out its views concerning the recent increases in food prices in the communication on ‘Tackling the challenge of rising food prices: Directions for EU action’. Beside a set of other factors, higher oil prices have led to increasing agricultural market prices within the European Union; both through higher agricultural input and also logistic costs.

Although demand for agricultural commodities is influenced by the biofuel market, all the analyses that the Commission has made indicate that the causes of the rise in global food prices are varied. They spring both from structural and temporary factors – and the current EU biofuel production has actually very little impact on the current global food prices, with the latest estimations we have stating that approximately 1% of the land within the European Union is used for biofuels.

But it is clear that the recent increase in agricultural prices can only partly explain the observed food-price rise at retail level so sometimes you can see a discrepancy between the price at the farm gate and the price at the supermarket or in the shops.

As the current crisis actually has many different aspects, the response proposed by the Commission is equally comprehensive and is designed to tackle both the short-term consequences and the long-term drivers of soaring food prices. In order to mitigate price pressure in the agricultural sector, within the common agricultural policy (CAP) we have already set further incentives to enhance market orientation and to try to boost production: with mandatory set-aside put at zero for this production year and also an increase in the milk quotas effective from 1 April 2008, we have actually been reacting very quickly. Furthermore, the European Union has decided to suspend the import duties on cereals for the current marketing year, for most cereals.

It is obvious that we will tackle further these questions in the upcoming discussions on the health check of the common agricultural policy.

In order to be able to particularly address the needs of the most deprived people in the EU, a modernisation and an upgrade of the scheme are envisaged and we will be presenting a proposal later this year.

I think it is also important that we continue to encourage and promote investments in agricultural research, to enhance sustainable productivity growth in the agricultural sector, not only in Europe but worldwide.

Regarding agricultural market price formation, the Commission is committed to monitoring activities by speculative investors in commodity-related financial markets and also on their impact on price movements.

As regards the question of the dominant position, any abuse of dominant positions is subject to Article 82 of the Treaty or its equivalent in national laws. The Commission and the national competition authorities are vigilant to any infringement of the European Union’s competition law.

The Commission takes specific care to ensure that concentration of a Community dimension will not significantly impede effective competition to the detriment of consumers and of different businesses. In this context, the Commission will also examine the functioning of the food supply chain in parallel with the monitoring of the retail sector established in the context of the Single Market Review.

As provided by the Treaty, the measures taken by the Member States and the Community shall be conducted in accordance with the principles of the internal market and cross-border competition. The setting of maximum selling prices for certain basic foods is not foreseen at the moment.

The Commission is aware of governments currently increasing indirect taxes in a bid to boost public finance. Moreover, the Commission shares the view expressed by the Finance Ministers that distortive fiscal and other policy measures that prevent the necessary adjustments should be avoided.

Finally, the Commission considers that short-term targeted measures taken to alleviate the impact of higher energy prices on poorer sections of the population might be justified. However, they should of course not have a distortive effect or delay the necessary structural adjustments. A general decrease – I think we can all agree on that, in taxes or in VAT – is by definition not targeted at poorer sections of the population.

The Commission’s actions are not only concerned with domestic impacts (I think we all have a commitment to securing a level playing field also when we talk about developing countries and so far the Commission has mobilised more than EUR 300 million in food emergency aid and we are actively promoting a coordinated response at international level in line with the conclusions of the FAO summit that took place only two weeks ago.

So I think we have reacted to the challenges that the new situation is posing all of us.


  Katerina Batzeli (PSE).(EL) Madam President, my thanks first of all to the Commissioner for the comprehensive answer she has given to my question. Let me, however, highlight two issues that the Commission should address immediately rather than in the mid-term.

The first is price control, for food products in particular, as you have very rightly said. This is not a matter so much of setting a maximum selling price, but of fixing the production cost and the percentage of profit that companies should receive, provided this limit is not an obstacle to the internal market or imports.

The second point I should like to make is that increasing the set-aside and milk quotas is a welcome measure, but in my opinion increasing the production cost of pesticides, in view of rising oil prices, may be a measure that will not pay off.


  Leopold Józef Rutowicz (UEN).(PL) May I begin by thanking the Commissioner for a very comprehensive response on this subject.

There are several problems I find interesting. The first is the trade in sugar production limits. Sugar production trading is known to limit the potential for the use of certain production capacities in various countries, and here concerns are imposing a certain policy in this sphere. If sugar production is restricted, competition automatically disappears.

The second matter is that certain duties are applied to a number of basic items from which the poorest people benefit, such as bananas. These duties need to be examined. Bananas, after all, are eaten by children; they are eaten by the children of poor families. The imposition of duties on such necessities, which are not spirits, also needs to be examined. I agree that the market must be monitored and controlled, just as market prices must be monitored, but does the Commission benefit from imports of some kind in order to lower the prices of certain items from the import of cheaper items onto the national market that have (…).

(The President cut off the speaker)


  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. − Mrs Batzeli, I think it is important that we have a control system in place to see that prices are not going through the roof, and that is exactly the duty of the national competition authorities – that they keep an eye on this. I can tell you, internally in the Commission as well, that we have had a discussion with the Commissioner responsible for competition and that we are very much aware of these problems.

To Mr Rutowicz: I do not know if you are referring to the sugar reform where we decided to reduce the production of sugar within the European Union by 6 million tonnes and finding a possibility to give the farmers that were stepping out of sugar production a very decent package. However, this is a decision which was taken a few years ago.

On the price of imported products: yes, it is true that it depends on import duties and that is exactly what we are discussing these days within the WTO Doha Development Round – whether we can find an agreement on reducing duties in general.

And finally, on the benefits of eating fruit: I do not disagree with you, and that is the reason that we are presenting – in the next meeting taking place here in Strasbourg – a fruit and vegetable scheme for school children, which I am quite sure will be very valuable in giving young children good habits.


  Danutė Budreikaitė (ALDE).(LT) My question concerns excise duty. During the debates on excise duty on alcohol there were suggestions that zero excise duty be applied. What is your opinion on excise duty on fuel, as the current situation is not suggestive of any temporary solutions such as this? Would it be possible to reduce excise duty on fuel, if only temporarily, in order to prevent price increases in the food and other sectors?


  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Commissioner, rising food prices is an EU-wide phenomenon and a particular problem for low-income families and low-wage earners; it is driving them almost to financial ruin. To what extent will the planned European Food Aid Programme for needy social groups be pushed ahead to provide rapid help to those people who are threatened by these increases in food prices and even facing hunger?


  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. − First of all I do not see a reduction of VAT as a possible solution. Today we have oil prices of approximately USD 136-137 per barrel; if we were to reduce the VAT what would be the next question if we then had an oil price of USD 160 – would we reduce it further?

We have to be much more forward-looking when trying to find solutions and here we have encouraged investments in reducing the dependency on oil. That is possible within the agricultural sector and we are now discussing it for fisheries as well, because fisheries is even more dependent on oil prices. Therefore, investments in new technologies is much more forward-looking than just reducing the VAT.

In response to the other question raised, we will present a proposal this year for the most deprived people within the European Union. We have a scheme in place already, but its survival is based on surplus stocks – intervention stocks of agricultural products – and we do not have anything on intervention any more. Therefore we need the legal basis for a new scheme and I hope that the honourable Members will be satisfied when they see what we are considering as a way to continue or even increase the economic basis for such a scheme. I completely agree that we need to find decent solutions.


  Jim Allister (NI). - Commissioner, in answering Question 27, you told us that only 1% of EU land was in biofuel production. Perhaps the more relevant percentage, given how much we import cereals from there, would be to know the percentage figure that is rising in North America, causing many of us to believe that biofuels is indeed an animal feed price accelerator. So could you enlighten us about that?

Secondly, another accelerator in that regard is the continuing dilatory and reluctant attitude by the Commission to approve GM varieties, which would be much cheaper. Could you update us on the progress there? Are we any closer to synchronised approvals in terms of key areas which also supply?


  Ewa Tomaszewska (UEN).(PL) Madam Commissioner, I would like to ask whether the Commission intends to consider a reduction in VAT on children’s clothing, which would alleviate the tax burden on large families but not on affluent families.


  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. − First of all I think it is important, when we have a discussion within the European Union on biofuels, that we do not point the finger at the European way of handling this issue. This is because, if as a result bioethanol/biodiesel becomes a scapegoat, we will see a situation where nobody wants to invest. Then we will be left totally behind, being dependent on imports of ethanol and biodiesel; because if we do not have these in place we will not be able to meet the targets of 20% greenhouse gas emission by 2020. So we need to find a solution, and today first-generation biofuel is the only solution.

But we need – and I think we agree on this – to give as much encouragement as possible to research and development for the second and even third generation of biofuels produced from waste, from slurry, from straw, from other products – such as wood chips – from the agricultural sector that are not used for anything today. This is the future, but we need to be part of this development, and therefore we need the first generation as a stepping stone.

On GMOs, I know that in this House there are differing opinions, but it is obvious that we need to have a situation where we can import feed for our animals, for our meat production, at reasonable prices. Otherwise – and this includes, by the way, GM cereals, mainly maize – if we do not find a solution, you will see that the production of meat in Europe will go down. Then we will need to import meat from Brazil – meat or animals that have been fed with the GMs that we do not like, or that consumers do not like, but they will get it via the back door. Then I think we would really be cheating the consumers.

So we need our own approval system to be in place and I think that progress is being made to claw back the applications that are not yet approved, speeding up the procedure in EFSA without losing the quality.

Finally, Madam President, could I say bluntly that I am not a specialist in VAT on children’s clothes so instead of giving a wrong answer I think it is better to put the question in writing.


Part two


  President. − Question No 28 by Ioannis Gklavakis (H-0381/08)

Subject: Fish farming strategy

According to forecasts by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, consumption of fisheries products is set to increase by 50% by 2030, the bulk of demand being met by fish farming, which would mean an increase in output of around 40 million tonnes. In view of constantly diminishing fish stocks and rising world demand for fish and shellfish, fish farming is assuming ever-increasing significance.

In view of this, does the Commission's EU fish farming strategy review include marine planning guidelines for the fish farming sector? What measures does it intend to take to make Community products more competitive with those of third countries, where production standards are less stringent? Is it envisaging other innovatory measures with a view to developing this sector?


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. − First of all, I would like to thank the honourable Member, Mr Gklavakis, for raising, throughout his question, the importance of aquaculture, and I am very pleased to provide the Commission’s view on this issue.

As you rightly pointed out, and as highlighted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the global aquaculture industry is gaining increasing importance and plays a key role in bridging the gap between a growing demand for seafood and the supply of fish products, especially in a context of diminishing wild fish stocks.

The Commission is at present preparing a communication on a strategy for the sustainable development of EU aquaculture, which should be finalised by the end of 2008. The strategy will seek to create the best environment for the sustainable growth of aquaculture, ensuring both adequate supplies of seafood to the European Union’s citizens and compliance with high environmental and public health standards.

Access to space for aquaculture has indeed been identified as a key obstacle to the development of aquaculture and marine spatial planning can play a role in addressing this issue. The forthcoming aquaculture strategy will cover this issue.

The issue of competition from third countries with lower production standards could be addressed through market differentiation schemes such as certification. Consideration will be given to this matter in the drawing-up of the strategy.

More generally, competitiveness and innovation will be central issues to be addressed in this strategy.


  Ioannis Gklavakis (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, may I thank the Commissioner for his answer.

Let me also make the following point. As you yourself have pointed out, Commissioner, consumers increasingly want to eat seafood – fish, shellfish and the like. In recent years, there has also been a big swing in popularity towards organic products among consumers. We see that many in the trade are turning to organic fish-farming, which not only provides healthier foods, but is also more environmentally friendly, and this is a very important consideration.

Is the European Commission considering taking measures to promote, strengthen and support organic fish-farming, and if so, could you tell us what these measures might be, and how to support this very important issue, which we want to promote?


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. − With regard to the question concerning the increasing demand, there is undoubtedly an increase, an exponential growth, in consumption of aquaculture products, seafood and farmed fish and this is certainly welcome because, as we all know, fish stocks in various Community waters and worldwide are over-fished. We have reached a situation where in the short to medium term it is impossible to envisage that there will be an increase in catches and therefore the increase in demand has to be met from increased production of farmed fish.

Having said that, this in itself can create problems with regard to special considerations, as was indicated in my response, and also problems with regard to the supply of fishmeal, since fishmeal itself is based very much on the catch of lower-quality, industrial fish, stocks of which are also being exploited at significantly high levels.

As regards organic aquaculture, we are ourselves encouraging its development. The exercise that we have carried out in the public consultation process has indicated the need to further develop organic means of production and we are looking at ways and means to ensure that in the communication, in the package which will be coming forward later, there will be specific reference to organic aquaculture: to how we can help promote it further and what sort of measures, such as eco-labelling schemes, can be taken so as to increase consumer awareness that it makes sense to eat organic products. We hope in this way to facilitate further the development of this important industry.


  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, at the close of your speech you indirectly mentioned eco-labelling. The question that I also wanted to ask, indirectly, was whether we have any guarantee that not only the origin of the fish but also the production and production description will be transparent for consumers, so that consumers know where the fish come from and where they were farmed. This is not about whether this process has biological merit, but rather about the question of origin as such. Are there consistent regulations on this?


  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE).(DE) Commissioner, on the same matter, I would immediately add the following: I have recently been approached by several Austrian consumer protection organisations regarding the apparent increase, particularly with regard to shellfish imported into the European Union, which also come to Austria, in the treatment of these shellfish with antibiotics and other undesirable medications for economic reasons – perhaps because it makes it easier to farm them. These substances are then passed on to humans through the food chain. Is the Commission taking measures designed to limit or prevent this in future?


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. − On the question of the provenance of fish, I would like to point out two facts. First of all, with regard to fish caught in the wild which often then end up in the processing chain – fish that are caught in the wild by third countries in particular, but also by our own fishermen – we are in the process of adopting a regulation in order to curb illegal fishing activities. This in itself will strengthen our regime considerably, so that any fish that is illegally caught will not be permitted to enter the Community market, either in its original state or after processing. That is one aspect of it.

With regard to aquaculture, we are looking at ways and means of ensuring that aquaculture fish that are imported into the Community meet the required health standards and requirements, so that our consumers can be guaranteed that the product that they are eating meets the levels of health protection that we apply to our own products. That is something which DG SANCO is looking into, and there is also a certification scheme in order to certify that products that enter the Community market conform to the required health standards.

On a question also connected with all this, it is important to underline that we are looking at the possibility of eco-labelling aquaculture products, as I said before. At first the discussion concentrated only on eco-labelling of fish caught in the wild because the parameters are different. There, the main scope of eco-labelling is to guarantee that fish are sustainably caught and therefore if fish being sold are fish which are over-exploited, they should not benefit from any eco-labelling.

With eco-labelling of aquaculture fish the parameters are different, so here the basis should be other reasons, such as the fact that the fish are bred in conditions which meet certain environmental, health and sanitary standards. We are looking at the parameters and obviously we will be coming back to Parliament later with proposals aimed at introducing or facilitating the introduction of, or establishing minimum criteria for the operation of, voluntary eco-labelling schemes in this regard.


  President. − Question No 29 by Brian Crowley (H-0416/08)

Subject: Safety tonnage application

On 13 June 2006, the Court of First Instance ruled in favour of 20 Irish applications seeking safety tonnage, which annuls Commission Decision 2003/245/EC(1) of 4 April 2003 for 20 safety tonnage applications. The Court found that the Commission had used criteria not provided for in the rules (i.e. vessels have to be at least 5 years old before being eligible to apply for safety tonnage) and that it had exceeded its power.

All the safety tonnage applications were submitted to the Commission before 31 December 2001, as required under Council Decision 97/413/EC(2) (see Article 4(2))

The Court found that the Commission had not applied this article correctly in refusing the safety tonnage application for these individuals. Could the Commission comment on why this decision was not appealed and why the successful applicants are still awaiting an answer from the Commission, almost two years later, on how it intends to comply with the Court ruling?


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. − I would like to thank Mr Crowley for his question, which gives me the opportunity to address the question of the follow-up to the judgment of the Court of First Instance of 13 June 2006 concerning Ireland’s request for increase in capacity for fishing vessels on grounds of safety improvements.

The Commission decided not to lodge an appeal against the judgment of the Court of First Instance of 13 June 2006. The Court had stated that there was insufficient analysis of all relevant matters in the Commission’s decision of 4 April 2003. Following this judgment, the Commission opted to adopt new decisions based on a fuller analysis and providing clearer findings for each of the cases in question.

It is correct to say that the applicants are still awaiting the new decisions by the Commission. It must be noted, however, that the Commission services have asked Ireland to send specific additional technical information in for all the requests for increase in capacity. Despite reminders, Ireland sent such information only for a few of the requests.

The lack of complete answers by Ireland has delayed this new assessment. The Commission is now finalising the new and thorough assessment of each of these requests. It expects to inform Ireland of its results in July of this year.


  Brian Crowley (UEN). - I would like to thank the Commissioner for his response. In saying that, however, there is some doubt as to whether the decision on safety tonnage will be based on automatic granting of the safety tonnage because of the incorrect decision originally taken by the Commission, or whether a fresh application has to be made. That is why there is some dispute as to whether or not the information is coming forward.

Maybe the Commission could clarify for us the likelihood of a positive result from the new applications from the existing applicants´, who were proven right in the Court decision.


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. − The decision of the Court of First Instance did not, as such, establish that the applicants were right in substance but that the Commission had taken a decision which was based on an insufficient analysis of all the relevant matters. As a result of the fact that the decision that we took was not based on solid enough grounds, we required Ireland to provide us with additional information so that we would be able to base our decision on a more solid basis.

Because the first decision was taken with regard to all operators as a whole, we have asked for individual information to be provided on the individual operators. Our forthcoming decision will relate to each individual operator.

If no further information has been provided with regard to particular operators, I do not envisage that there will be a change in the Commission’s position. Where there is additional information, we are assessing that, and if, on evaluation, we see that that merits being upheld, then it will be upheld. If we see that, notwithstanding the additional information, that does not merit being upheld, our decision would still be negative.


  President. − Question No 30 by Seán Ó Neachtain (H-0420/08)

Subject: Impact of North American imports on Irish shell fishermen

Shell fishermen in Ireland are being negatively impacted by cheap imports from the United States and Canada due to the weak dollar. Prices of shell fish are continuing to spiral downwards. What plans does the Commission have to help these fishermen, who are very important to Ireland's local coastal economies?


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. − I am aware that the market for certain fish and shellfish products has dropped recently in Ireland and elsewhere in the Community. I am informed that this question principally relates to the price of lobsters which normally would exceed EUR 15 per kilogram at first sale in Ireland but has now dropped to EUR 10 per kilogram.

In the specific case of lobsters the trade figures show an upward trend in imports in 2006 and 2007 as compared with the previous six years. Total Community imports from Canada increased by 12% in 2006, compared with the reference period 2000-2005 and 7% in 2007; in the case of the United States imports increased by 27% in 2006 and 26% in 2007 versus the same reference period.

Yet there are very few direct imports of lobsters into Ireland from the United States or Canada; a total of 2.5 tonnes and 118 tonnes, respectively, in 2006. This does not mean, however, that North American lobsters have not reached Ireland via other Member States.

The price in euro has not declined over the past three years. The average import price for the US in the period 2005-2007 was EUR 12.45 per kilogram; for the first quarter of 2008 the price actually rose slightly to EUR 13.6 per kilogram.

In the case of Canadian lobster imports to the Community the price has risen slightly for the past three years and the average for 2005-2007 was EUR 12.12 per kilogram. For the first quarter of 2008 the prices actually rose to EUR 12.48 reflecting a strong Canadian dollar.

Given the above, it would not appear that the current drop in the price of lobsters is strongly linked to imports from North America. The drop may well be due to uncertainty on the market due to protests in certain Member States in recent weeks.

Because of the decline of sterling versus the euro it is also possible that Irish producers are facing competition from UK lobsters in the traditional continental markets.

There are no provisions under the common organisation of the market to compensate producers for a fall in the price of lobster. However, lobster producers could set up producers’ organisations in order to strengthen their position in the market. The European Fisheries Fund provides financial support for the creation of these organisations as well as for the implementation of plans to improve the quality of products. For further action in the medium to longer term, aid is available under the European Fisheries Fund for collective action to promote fisheries products such as lobster which could help in attracting higher demand and better prices.


  Seán Ó Neachtain (UEN).(GA) Madam President, I would like to thank the Commissioner for his answer and I would like to ask a supplementary question.

As you know, Commissioner, the fishing industry has changed dramatically with the massive increase of late in the price of oil. I would like to ask; does the Commission intend to present proposals to support fishers in coastal areas, such as lobster fishers and the aforementioned fishers who are impacted by the reduction in the price of shellfish?


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. − The problem concerning the huge increase in the cost of oil and its impact on fishers is very specific and very particular – I would say almost unique – when it comes to fisheries. This is because we have a combination of factors that impact the fishers very negatively.

On the one hand the cost of fuel as a percentage of the total earnings of a fisher can go up as high as to represent 50-60% of his total earnings. In particular this would relate to distance operators because of the huge journeys that they have to undertake and also with regard to specific fishing activities like beam trawlers that consume a lot of fuel.

Apart from that, there is also the fact that fishers cannot, because of certain market constraints, pass on down the line the increasing cost to further operators involved in the marketing of fish products. This in essence means that the increase in cost is actually borne by the fisher himself.

Adding to that, there are various measures that we have introduced in order to regain sustainable fishing, and that means that the fisher cannot try to improve his performance by catching more, because if he catches more, he creates further pressures on fish stocks which would then be, in the long term, counterproductive. So fishers are faced with this enormous problem.

Today, in actual fact, I have presented to the college an information note on what we consider to be the way forward in order to engage with fishers in the very short term in a way whereby we give them assistance with a view to restructuring the whole sector and addressing the specific concerns of different fishers. In this information note we have outlined a number of specific measures that we can propose. Member States would be in a position to decide with their own fishers which of those measures would be best suited for the realities faced by the particular fishers. Whether this could be available to lobster fishers and to what extent – one would need to look into it.

However, I have been authorised by the college to move forward on this. I will be presenting these details – the basics of what we will be proposing in the very short term – to Council on Tuesday next week in Luxembourg. I will then be going back to the college with the details of the changes that need to be affected to the European Fisheries Fund regulation and other measures that we are looking into, the possibility for example concerning de minimis. I will then go back to the Council, hopefully as early as July, with the proposals adopted by the Commission so that – depending on the speed that both Council and Parliament would be prepared to take this – we would have the necessary measures in place hopefully in a question of a few months.


  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, the question of agriculture played a relatively important role in the Irish ‘no’ campaign. Did the problems in relation to fisheries that we have been discussing here also play a role in that ‘no’ campaign? If so, did the Commission attempt any publicity initiatives to mitigate this?


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. − I understand that fisheries did also play a role in the ‘no’ vote, particularly because, if one looks at the results in the various Irish counties, the results were particularly negative in the western coastal areas, where the majority of fisheries in Ireland are based.

We have been aware of the fact that the Community measures seeking to restore sustainable fisheries are affecting fishermen and impacting on their livelihood. The cost of fuel certainly did not help.

We have been trying to address this in a number of ways, including by trying to highlight the uses of the European Fisheries Fund in order to create more awareness of what the situation is. I myself have been to Ireland on a couple of occasions to talk directly to the fishermen. We have formed regional advisory councils. In the areas around Ireland in particular we have the North Western Waters Regional Advisory Council, and the North Sea Regional Advisory Council, in which the fishermen themselves take part in discussions which will lead up to decisions that we are required to take in December.

Notwithstanding all this, in spite of all the efforts made, my guess is that the Irish fishermen’s vote in the referendum was substantially significantly negative.


  President. − Question No 31 by Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (H-0347/08)

Subject: Promotion of environmental protection through enterprises

How does the Commission promote the integration of the environmental dimension into policies on behalf of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the adjustment of the latter to the requirements of the new European legislation on the environment?

What scope will SMEs be given to exploit the opportunities afforded by the new environmental policy in order to extend their activities?


  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. − (EL) Madam President, SMEs represent 99% of European companies. It is therefore obvious that without their participation no environmental policy can be effective.

SMEs face greater difficulties in complying with environmental legislation and in reaping the benefits of higher environmental performance. In many cases, they do not have the information, specialisation, manpower or financial resources necessary to deal with environmental problems, risks and impact. For precisely this reason the Commission has drawn up the programme to help SMEs comply with environmental legislation. In view of the complex problems faced by SMEs, the Environmental Compliance Assistance Programme (ECAP) proposes a multiple action plan:

Firstly, improving and simplifying the legislation and its enforcement. The aim is to reduce the administrative burden and to release funds so that SMEs can concentrate better on complying with environmental legislation.

Secondly, environmental management systems that are more affordable and better suited to the needs of SMEs, so that matters of environmental concern can be incorporated economically into the main business activities.

Thirdly, targeted financial assistance to promote initiatives undertaken by public authorities or business support networks with a view to sustainable production.

Further measures are included in this action plan. The Commission aims to use them not only to secure the compliance of SMEs with production legislation, but also to help them take advantage of the financial benefits of better environmental performance, such as energy saving and improved resource efficiency.


  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, may I thank the Commissioner for his answer. This programme declaration bodes well for the action plan, and we hope it will produce concrete results. However, we have one query: what responsibility is being placed on public bodies to provide SMEs with environmentally friendly infrastructures, and to what extent is this included in your plan?


  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. − (EL) Madam President, there are many possible courses of action, and it is up to the Member States to implement them. One example is to form a local environmental expert committee for SMEs in response to the lack of know-how at enterprise level. This is a measure that the Member States can promote. Another is to improve communication and more effectively target information to cover specific information gaps. There are also special provisions for SMEs in various types of legislation that we are proposing. One example is the new legislation we are proposing on a reform of the CO2 trading system: here we have special provisions on SMEs, as we define them in that particular legislation, so that they are not burdened by inclusion in the trading system, in cases where such an option exists in a Member State.


  Georgios Papastamkos (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, Commissioner, you rightly said that SMEs are the backbone of the European economy. However, as we know, European SMEs are exposed to global competition. SMEs are sensitive to competition from other SMEs from different parts of the globe practising environmental dumping. Would you agree with the idea of imposing a green tax on imports from countries jumping on the bandwagon of the international agreement on environmental protection?


  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. − (EL) Madam President, this is essentially an issue that concerns not only SMEs, but all enterprises facing this kind of competition. This is not only on purely environmental matters but, as has been debated a good deal lately, also in terms of the restrictions imposed and the resulting burden on European industries in connection with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. There has been plenty of debate lately; various views have been expressed, and my fellow Commissioner Mr Mandelson has expressly voiced the Commission’s opinion on this issue.


  President. − Question No 32 by Georgios Papastamkos (H-0349/08)

Subject: International deliberations on the environment

What are the reasons for the lack of international deliberations on climate change for the post-Kyoto period and why has global environmental governance been only partially effective?


  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. − (EL) Madam President, this question gives me the opportunity to state exactly what point we have reached in the negotiations.

The work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and reports in November 2007, and world leaders’ recognition of the urgent need for collective action to combat climate change, resulted in the agreement achieved last December in Bali. The EU played a leading role in the agreement on the commencement of negotiations for the post-2012 framework for tackling climate change.

The Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have agreed on the Bali roadmap. The roadmap sets out the subject matter of the negotiations, which will deal with four key issues: the limiting of climate change; adaptation, given that climate change has occurred to a greater or lesser extent and will be inevitable by 2050; technology and the relevant funding, both for adaptation and for reducing CO2 emissions.

The Parties also agreed that the negotiations should be completed by the end of 2009, in view of the planned Copenhagen Conference of the Parties. This will allow enough time for the process of ratifying the future climate agreement by the end of 2012, when the first Kyoto Protocol compliance period ends.

The agreement reached in Bali took full account of the conclusions of the IPCC report. It also recognises that a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will be necessary worldwide to prevent a dangerous increase in global temperature. This increase, according to the report, must not exceed 2°C in 2050.

Work has already begun; four negotiating sessions have been scheduled for this year, and two of them have already taken place, in preparation for the Poznan Conference of the Parties. This year’s Conference of the Parties will be particularly important for an assessment of the situation. On the basis of this assessment the negotiations proper can begin next year.

The negotiation process will be particularly difficult if we bear in mind not only the complexity of the issues to be discussed, but also the tight schedule owing to the urgency of the matter. Until last Friday, experts from all the Parties were taking part in discussions in Bonn on all the items on the agenda. Although limited, the progress made will contribute towards a successful outcome to the Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen.

You also know that discussions are under way within the framework of the G8 and the Major Economies initiative (the Major Economies Process) launched by the United States. The EU is actively participating in order to exert a positive influence on the negotiations on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the same time, it is sending out a clear message that the developed countries will continue to set an example. They are committing themselves to a further reduction in emissions, in line with their historical responsibilities, and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

Achieving a comprehensive and ambitious post-2012 agreement on climate change is indubitably one of the greatest challenges for global environmental governance. However, we are not starting from scratch. I should mention that a few days ago the French Minister for Ecology and Sustainable Development described the Copenhagen Conference as the greatest opportunity for an agreement on the future of the planet.

We must make use of the mechanisms we already have, namely the UN Framework Convention and the corresponding Kyoto Protocol. Under the latter, up-to-date means of enforcement have been developed, such as the Clean Development Mechanism made up of two flexible mechanisms, and the scientific expertise of the IPCC has also been developed.

I repeat, the negotiations will be difficult, but with the necessary political will and a shared sense of urgency, we shall be able to reach an agreement in Copenhagen. Common sense demands an agreement in Copenhagen. The work the EU is doing, the support we enjoy from public opinion in Europe, growing awareness worldwide, the backing of the European Parliament and the prospect of an agreement by the end of the year on the package of measures we have proposed in order to strengthen the EU’s negotiating power – all this will enable us to reach an agreement in Copenhagen in order to tackle climate change effectively.


  Georgios Papastamkos (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, may I thank the Commissioner, Mr Dimas, for his thorough, detailed answer.

Will the United States and China cooperate? Climate change reflects a situation whereby ‘the underlying causes are in one place and the effects somewhere else’. The question therefore arises as to what position the EU will adopt in the unfortunate event that countries with a high environmental debt according to the international regulatory agreement for the post-Kyoto period fail to cooperate. The primary cost is self-evident. The derived cost – and here I am referring to assessments made by Mr Verheugen – would be the tendency for European enterprises to relocate in countries with a lax environmental protection framework. Do you agree with this assessment?


  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. − (EL) Madam President, for a start, not only Mr Verheugen, but I, too, am very concerned that there should be no carbon leakage. This is for the very simple reason that if enterprises relocate from the EU to countries with no restrictions on CO2emissions, the environmental result I am seeking will not be achieved.

The problem of energy-intensive enterprises is above all environmental, and we should therefore not be creating the kind of competitive problem that forces them to relocate. This is why we should be directing all our efforts towards achieving an international agreement, as therein lies the solution. A key item in an international agreement would be the question of what happens to energy-intensive enterprises.

If such an agreement is not achieved – and I cannot believe the international community will be led to make such an irrational decision – we have in the proposed legislation all the provisions necessary to reform the CO2 emissions trading system so that industries exposed to international competition will regain their competitive capability. As a result, without resorting to measures contrary to WTO principles or the UN climate change principle of a common but differentiated effort, we shall be able to provide the necessary guarantees that there will be no carbon leakage and that this kind of migration of enterprises will not occur.

However, I repeat, our plan of action must be to work towards an agreement. I believe that we can join with the United States, especially under the anticipated new Administration, which takes over next year, given that both candidates have fully committed themselves to introducing a CO2 trading system, reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 and taking decisive action against the greenhouse effect in cooperation with the EU. Together, I believe we can persuade those who may have different views on this issue, and also with the cooperation of countries such as China. As you have said, China fully understands the problems created for its own population by the greenhouse effect and has agreed to make its own effort, which will not be similar to that of the developed countries, but will be a reduction in the rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions. All of us together can achieve an agreement in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

I believe in this agreement, and I believe that all of us here together (and the European Parliament has played an enormous part in this), with your continuing support, will achieve such an agreement.


  President. − Question 34 has been withdrawn and Questions 33 and 35 to 44 will be answered in writing.


  Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Madam President, as far as I know, we allow each Commissioner 20 minutes. I have timed their contributions, and Mr Dimas, together with his colleagues, has not used even half of that. I therefore request that Question 33 be answered in accordance with the procedure we have decided upon. I take it that the Commissioner himself will have no objection.


  President. − We time it up here and he started at 18.32. That being the case, I am afraid we have had our 20 minutes, and it is only fair to colleagues who have asked questions of Commissioner Barrot. I am sorry for that, but that is the position we are in. It is always a question of trying to find a balance, and that is what we have to do today.


  President. − Question No 45 by Armando França (H-0344/08)

Subject: Frontex

The management of the European Union's external borders and operational cooperation between the Member States as part of Frontex are vital for the EU's security and may even prevent situations from arising.

The Agency needs to be effective and achieve concrete results.

What pilot projects and training actions are scheduled to be carried out in 2008?

With regard to Rabit, have any Member States requested the deployment of a rapid intervention team? Do the Rabit teams have their own equipment for border control and surveillance?


  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission.(FR) Madam President, I would like to reply to Mr França. The 2008 work programme of the Frontex Agency includes several pilot projects and training actions in the fields of operational cooperation and research. Given that this question of controlling external borders concerns the powers of Frontex, the Commission has obtained a detailed response from the Agency, which is attached.

In terms of training, Frontex has three objectives in 2008. Firstly, to implement the common curriculum throughout the European Union; secondly, to offer specific training actions according to operational requirements; and finally to establish a European network for border guard training.

For 2008, Frontex plans to conduct around 13 pilot projects at external borders: four pilot projects for land borders, three for maritime borders, three for air borders and three in the context of return operations. These projects will allow us to test the working methods used during joint operations and to test relations with third countries for return operations and the acquisition of travel documents.

On the subject of RABIT – Rapid Border Intervention Teams – no Member State has as yet requested the deployment of a rapid border intervention team, Mr França.

In the communication of 13 February, the Commission emphasised that the deployment of a rapid border intervention team might be accompanied by technical assistance in accordance with Article 8 of the Frontex Regulation. Consequently, the Commission has recommended that the Agency should make this provision more operational by purchasing or leasing its own equipment and that it can use the equipment listed in the central inventory of technical equipment.

To conclude, I would say that with Frontex we now have a tool which seems to work. We will look at what improvements can be made to Frontex and to its operations as the need arises.


  Armando França (PSE).(PT) I should like to thank Commissioner Barrot not only for his answer, but also for the detailed information.

There are two points that I would like the Commissioner to shed some light on for me. Cooperation with third countries is obviously very important, and is paramount for us as well, and I know that developing pilot projects with third countries is on the Commission’s programme. With regard to North Africa, we would like to know if any countries are covered by pilot projects of this type to which the Commissioner referred. Additionally, I would also appreciate it if the Commissioner could fill us in on the state of development of the European Border Surveillance System, Eurosur, that has been announced that is an important and necessary complement to Frontex.


  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission.(FR) Mr França, for Frontex to provide technical assistance in a third country, its regulation must be adapted for this purpose. At the moment there is no legal basis. However, I believe that there is justification for this, because we will receive requests from the third countries that we work with. You mentioned certain Mediterranean countries; I believe that Frontex will be asked to provide what technical assistance it can, but we have not reached that point yet.

As for the rest, in terms of border surveillance, we have, as you know, the Schengen Information System (SIS), which is already in development. We hope that this will be operational by autumn 2009. We will also continue to look at everything else that can be done to improve border surveillance.


  Wiesław Stefan Kuc (UEN).(PL) Because Frontex is in Poland, and I am a Pole, my attitude towards Frontex is rather personal. Many unreliable opinions on Frontex are currently circulating, saying that sometimes it operates and sometimes it does not. I would also add that this is the agency with the largest budget. Could you please specify in a few words whether Frontex is operating and meeting expectations, or whether it still has a great deal to do to improve the way it operates?


  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission.(FR) I think I can say that the initial actions of Frontex seem satisfactory, although admittedly the Agency does depend on Member States when it comes to the technical equipment needed for the operations that it coordinates.

It is true that this often involves very expensive equipment that the Agency is unable to purchase, given its limited budget. The purchase of a helicopter would be equivalent to the annual operating budget of Frontex, i.e. EUR 40 million to EUR 50 million. Frontex has therefore signed technical agreements with the majority of Member States on using the equipment made available to it.

In its evaluation report, the Commission recommended that Frontex should be able to buy or lease its own equipment, at least for certain small items of equipment.

That is all that we can say at present. Thank you for reminding everyone that Frontex is based in Warsaw and that it has highly motivated people there. I would like to thank you for establishing a link with Frontex. I believe that in view of what Frontex currently does, we will be able to see, as the evaluations are carried out, what functional improvements can be made to it.


  President. − As the author is not present, Question 46 lapses.


  President. − Question No 47 by Gay Mitchell (H-0369/08)

Subject: Measures to combat terrorism and the fundamental right to privacy

There is a concern that certain EU policies to counter terrorism, particularly related to data retention, are not balanced against EU citizens' fundamental right to privacy. Will the Commission comment on how it is seeking to achieve a fair balance between respect for fundamental freedoms and measures to combat terrorism?


  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission.(FR) Madam President, obviously every measure taken by the European Union and its Member States to combat terrorism must take fundamental rights into account. Counter-terrorism instruments or policies which do not respect fundamental rights often play into the hands of the terrorists themselves.

The Data Retention Directive requires Member States to force providers of electronic communications services or of public communications networks to retain data concerning the exchange of communications for a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 2 years. This directive provides important safeguards against the misuse of data. The directive states that retaining the content of communications falls outside the scope of the directive. The directive further states that access to retained data must be defined by the internal laws of each Member State, that these provisions must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and must, of course, respect the principles of proportionality and necessity.

This means that data retained under the directive cannot be used by the authorities in a Member State to interfere in a person’s private life, except where this is justified for the purposes of detecting and prosecuting serious criminal offences. The directive states that retained data can only be accessible to the competent national authorities. Evidently this means that retained data cannot be used by companies or private individuals. The fact that access to retained data is restricted again means that it cannot be used for public surveillance.

In addition, Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and Directive 2002/58/EC concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector also apply to data retained under the directive.

To conclude, the Data Retention Directive is essential for making the work of the police more effective and for monitoring, detecting and investigating terrorists, while guaranteeing respect for the private life of individuals and the protection of personal data. The Commission will ensure that the Member States implement and enforce the directive in accordance with fundamental rights.


  Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE). - I thank the Commissioner for his reply. The Commissioner will be aware that the Shadow Home Secretary in Britain, former Minister of European Affairs, David Davis, resigned his position in Parliament last week on a principle in relation to the intrusion of the state into the privacy of the individual. Whatever the merits of his resignation, I share the concerns that he expresses. The state would never bring before a parliament or the European Parliament in one measure some of the extreme things the state or the European Union wants to do, so it is done incrementally. I want all terrorists to be brought to book.

I grew up in a country where for 30 years terrorists wreaked havoc on our country, but we also had the rule of law which protected the privacy of citizens. I want to know from you, Commissioner, what steps you are taking proactively to ensure that the rights of individuals to go about their business and their privacy is protected.


  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission.(FR) Madam President, I must say that 15 Member States have notified the Commission of their instruments transposing the Data Retention Directive, and the Commission has initiated infringement proceedings against all Member States who had not notified it of these measures by the end of November 2007.

In answer to your question, the Commission has set up an expert group to assist the Commission with analysing the effectiveness of the directive and achieving the balance that you ask for. The Commission will produce a report in September 2010 to review the contribution made by the directive to investigating, detecting and prosecuting serious criminal offences. For this purpose, the Commission will evidently examine any observations submitted to it by the Member States or by the Working Party established under the directive.

We really need to make sure that this is in accordance with the directives on data retention and the directive on data protection. I think that even if there is the odd infringement of data protection, we will immediately be able to draw conclusions from that.

It is my belief that we have really tried to satisfy the requirements of the fight against terrorism and to reconcile this with protecting fundamental rights. In any case, this is what I must now focus on and, Mr Mitchell, I will take great care in doing so.


  Armando França (PSE).(PT) As we know, this is an area of potential conflict between fundamental rights, respect for fundamental rights, and security. Yet it also appears to me that this is an area where cooperation is very necessary.

I should like to ask the Commissioner what level of cooperation there is in implementing the directive between national data protection authorities as regards data retention. There are specialised national authorities in each Member State, and it seems to me that it is the Commission’s role to kick-start and encourage this cooperation between the respective bodies.

What news is there on this, Commissioner?


  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission.(FR) Madam President, you are right: we must ensure respect for data protection. In any case, along with us, the European Data Protection Supervisor has the task of monitoring all of this. You are right, we need cooperation: there is the Article 29 Working Party, which brings together the authorities in the various Member States and is specifically working to further improve respect for data protection, to which Mr Mitchell has drawn my attention.

I believe that this cooperation is progressing. We call this Working Party the ‘Article 29 Working Party’, because Article 29 of the Directive states that the independent data protection authorities of each Member State must meet. I think that this is a good tool and that it should be used. That is all I can tell you.


  President. − Question No 48 by Claude Moraes (H-0380/08)

Subject: European Arrest Warrant

The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is now widely used to secure the arrest and surrender of suspected criminals across the European Union and has a key role to play in the fight against terrorism and in bringing those accused of serious crimes to justice. However, at least in its initial stages, a degree of legal uncertainty seemed to sometimes surround it. An earlier report by the British House of Lords warned that, until this uncertainty was resolved, the EAW might not be fully effective between Member States.

Could the Commission give its view on how effectively initial problems have been overcome and how effectively the EAW is now operating? Which, if any, issues does the Commission still consider problematic, and how does it intend to address them?


  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission.(FR) I would like to thank Mr Moraes for raising this important issue. The European Arrest Warrant has really delivered significant results. The main change lies in the mutual recognition of judicial decisions, and the dual criminality requirement is no longer in place for 32 serious crimes. Proceedings therefore take much less time.

Compared with the lengthy extradition procedure, which generally takes more than a year, under the European Arrest Warrant a surrender procedure takes only 43 days on average. All of this is in fact handled by the courts.

The new procedure is widely used by Member States. In 2006, 6 752 European Arrest Warrants were issued. A total of 2 042 people were arrested with the EAW and 1 892 people were effectively surrendered. More than a fifth of the individuals surrendered in accordance with the EAW procedure were nationals from the executing Member State.

When you think that in 2006 we had practically as many arrest warrants as there were procedures over a 10-year period, it is clear that the European Arrest Warrant has been a success. The initial constitutional problems of certain Member States have been overcome.

Nevertheless, Mr Moraes, we need to recognise that in terms of the surrender of nationals, we are occasionally seeing old extradition procedures being used which is a sign of the residual lack of confidence in some Member States and in certain criminal justice systems. However, we think that this will disappear and that the system will be able to function optimally.

Based on an analysis of the transposition of the framework decision into Member States’ legislation, the Commission reported in 2005 and 2007 on the functioning of the European Arrest Warrant. This revealed that certain adjustments had been made in Member States.

Currently, a series of peer reviews are being carried out, in which the Commission is involved as an observer. These reviews will conclude in early 2009. It will be at that point, based on the results of the reviews, that the Commission will present a new report identifying the different practices, flaws and issues examined at European Union level in order to further improve how the European Arrest Warrant works, although it seems to me that this still remains one of the main success stories as regards the principle of mutual recognition.


  Claude Moraes (PSE). - The Commissioner is right to say that the EAW is the kind of measure which European Union citizens expect to see from the justice and home affairs portfolio. It makes sense to emerge from very long drawn-out extradition proceedings.

May I, however, ask him to take a personal interest and personal involvement in this problem of the way that the framework decision has been transposed by some Member States? (The Commission has been critical of that.) May I ask him to take a personal involvement in the fact that some Member States are sticking to old procedures and, as a result, the EAW is not as effective as it could be?

There have been some very important successes, but unfortunately these have been dragged down by this lack of good transposition and good implementation of what could be a very important directive for the future in the field of justice and home affairs.


  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission.(FR) Mr Moraes, first of all I should like to remind you that, based on the current Treaties, the Commission does not have the power to initiate infringement proceedings against a Member State if incorrect implementation of the framework decision is discovered during the monitoring and review procedures. Despite this, I can tell you that I will pay close attention to this implementation of the European Arrest Warrant. The Justice Forum, which we will make a regular event, will be a chance for us to encourage magistrates from all Member States to work together. We will also seize this opportunity to promote proper use of the European Arrest Warrant. I would like to thank you for asking this question and I can tell you that we will do everything we can. I should like to add that the strengthening of Eurojust will also allow us to make better use of the European Arrest Warrant.


  Armando França (PSE).(PT) Madam President, Commissioner, I spent 17 years in courts as a lawyer and I am therefore well acquainted with the situation as regards justice in Europe, which, generally-speaking, is characterised by its slowness, by its extreme slowness. This is something that we all need to overcome.

The European arrest warrant is very important – in fact, of the utmost importance. Moreover, it is crucial that Member States understand how important it is and take this on board.

We know that the Commission has no powers to impose sanctions, but it can galvanise and stimulate matters and I fully support my colleague’s words, yet there is one further aspect of great importance, Commissioner, which is probably in your hands, which is to foster cooperation between police and judicial bodies. It is vital that police and judicial cooperation is promoted in the Member States and between the Commission and the European institutions.


  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission.(FR) You are absolutely right – the European Arrest Warrant must be a success, because it means truly embracing a system of mutual recognition. This means that at this point, the various judicial authorities are really beginning to work together in a climate of confidence. This is why proper use of the European Arrest Warrant – which has greatly expedited and simplified procedures – must exemplify this new justice, which you want to be much faster and clearly much easier to use.

That is all that I can tell you. We will keep a close watch on the use of the European Arrest Warrant which, to my mind, is one of the best tools that we currently have for judicial cooperation in criminal matters, which clearly needs to be improved still further.


  President. − Questions which have not been answered for lack of time will be answered in writing (see Annex).


  President. − That concludes Question Time.

(The sitting was suspended at 19.20 and resumed at 21.00.)




(1)OJ L 90, 8.4.2003, p. 48.
(2)OJ L 175, 3.7.1997, p. 27.

13. Composition of Parliament : see Minutes

14. Import of poultry carcases (debate)

  President. − The next item is the Commission statement on the import of poultry carcases.


  Androula Vassiliou, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, on this issue I had exhaustive discussions with my colleagues on the authorisation of the use of AMT substances as a decontamination measure to clean the surface of poultry carcases, during the college meeting of 28 May. As you know, the possibility of removing surface contamination with substances other than potable water was approved by Council and Parliament in 2004 in the hygiene regulations.

In order to approve substances for use in decontamination of any meat, the applicable law requires a positive, evidence-based finding in comitology, indicating that the use of the substances does not pose risks to health or the environment.

Let me remind you that there was a long-standing request by the USA for approval of four AMT substances for use in decontamination of poultry carcases. Against this background, we have requested various scientific opinions which have assessed the risk of the use of the four AMT substances from the point of view of health, environment and anti-microbial resistance.

On the basis of the outcome of the various scientific opinions, we decided to present a proposal. The scientific opinions allow us to proceed with a proposal for authorisation, but not at any price. Pursuant to the scientific opinions, a number of risk-management conditions had to be formulated. In proposing this text, my bottom line is very clear: no matter which commercial partner is at stake, no international commitment can be allowed to undermine the principles of food safety and the health of EU consumers.

Hence the need to ensure that any use of such substances would not replace the obligation to comply with the hygiene conditions along the food chain as set by Community legislation, and that such use would not make up for prior poor hygiene conditions. In fact, in its opinion, EFSA has indicated that AMT could be considered as a useful tool to complement the hygiene practices already implemented in the European Union.

This is why I have imposed strict, yet proportional conditions. Under these conditions, we can assure a proposal which is defensible from the point of view of public health and safety. The conditions that we propose are the following. First, one single substance is applied. Time of exposure and concentration of the substances are defined. The poultry carcases are rinsed with potable water. No residue is left on the final product after the use of the substance. The efficacy of the rinsing is monitored to ensure the absence of residues. By setting these conditions, we ensure that the use of AMT substances will not make up for poor hygiene conditions, and that no residues are left in the end product.

I would also like to stress that the use of AMT only reduces the number of bacteria and does not replace good hygiene practices as a core requirement, equally applicable in third countries as in Europe and applicable from the flocks to the processing of poultry carcases. We will maintain a holistic approach to the reduction of salmonella at all stages of the production chain: feed, farms and slaughterhouses.

Moreover, the proposal provides for appropriate labelling. As with other approved substances such as additives, the consumer has the right to be informed. Thus we suggest two alternative descriptions. Appropriate environmental medication measures on waste water effluent quality standards, as proposed by DG Environment. These consist of conditions for collecting and treatment of wastewater in slaughterhouses.

Last but not least, the proposal foresees a review within two years of the date of application of the authorisation, allowing further collection of data from food business operators regarding the use of the substances so that scientific questions on antimicrobial resistance can be addressed. This review will place the burden of proof on the food operators rather than on the Commission’s scientific bodies.

That said, when the proposal was presented to the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health on 2 June, 26 Member States expressed a negative opinion and one abstained. The Commission will now transmit the proposal to the Council of Ministers to decide.

You will ask why the Commission went ahead with this proposal despite the EU domestic opposition to it. Firstly, because the legislative framework foresees the possibility of approving such substances. Secondly, because there has been a request for approval which could not be left unanswered, considering also our international commitments. Finally, because there are scientific opinions which indicated that we could proceed with the authorisation provided it is flanked by a number of strict conditions, as we did. It was, therefore, for the Commission to stand up to its institutional responsibilities and make the proposal.

What happens next is part of the decision-making process. In this sense, I have taken good note of your strongly held position. The Council will now be asked to pronounce on the text. As you know, if a qualified majority of Member States is against this proposal, it will not be adopted, so we will see the end result under the French presidency.


  Robert Sturdy, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Mr President, the Commissioner said that this chemical chlorine is not dangerous. If that is the case, why is it banned for use on chickens in the European Union?

Secondly, Commissioner, you said that we have obligations to the United States. We are part of the WTO negotiations and part of the WTO, but – correct me if I am wrong – there is no ban on chicken meat coming out of the United States, provided it meets EU standards. Why on earth are we putting in place legislation in the European Union when we are in effect wasting our time?

We have just adopted a report on a directive on safe water. We have taken a number of chemicals out of the text and yet here we are, bringing chlorine back in. You mentioned quite rightly on 2 June that there was a vote of 26 to 1 against. The one that abstained was the United Kingdom. You have to remember that the United Kingdom is governed by the greed of the supermarkets and I would suggest to you that the reason the United Kingdom abstained is that it was pressurised for cheap food from the supermarkets. I believe that in actual fact this is having a detrimental effect.

You say there will be no residue left on the products. Can you wholeheartedly put your hand on your heart, Commissioner, and say that you will be able to monitor this, because in the past we have had problems with products coming into the EU? I was responsible for the report on chemicals in food coming into the European Union and food within the European Union, and we are having real problems monitoring them.

I believe that you are laying yourself open to a real risk, and not just to public health. It is not a trade issue – it is about public health, public confidence in the product. The last thing we want to see is loss of public confidence in the European Union and in the food we produce.


  Anne Ferreira, on behalf of the PSE Group. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I should like to thank the Members who contributed to the drafting of this resolution. I would like to stress that this is supported by all the political groups. Why such unanimity? No doubt because it reflects our dissatisfaction with the attitude and approach of the Commission, which stems from a denial of democracy that the European Parliament has faced on this dossier for several weeks now.

The Commission’s determination to disregard the opinion of MEPs and experts on the issue of importing chlorinated chicken is truly appalling. Yes, Mr Verheugen is in charge of negotiating with his US counterpart to promote trade between our two regions, but can he do it by sacrificing European health standards? How can the Commission have given the go-ahead for this kind of project, merely proposing compulsory labelling and a review of the provisions in 2 years’ time etc.? Can the Commission explain why, after acknowledging that it lacked information about these substances, it is not adopting a precautionary approach? The absence of references to the conclusions of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also curious, since a few weeks ago it revealed an increase in contamination and infection from salmonella, listeria and other bacteria. Why should we import a method which has not already been tried and tested?

Another important point to remember is that the implementation of European food safety legislation required years of work and collaboration with industry professionals, who agreed to invest in order to meet the expectations of European citizens. This approach, which involves the entire food chain, is the most sustainable way of reducing the level of pathogens. This was the choice we made, and do you really think that a relationship of trust and a strong and reliable partnership can be built by failing to reaffirm our own principles and values to our US partners? I have one more question: would the imported products be subject to the same rules as European poultry?

Finally, I will finish by pointing out that this decision is all the more incomprehensible as the European Commission has decided to counterattack the WTO over the decision of its Dispute Settlement Body on hormone-treated beef. I find that there is enormous confusion and misunderstanding among consumers faced with this diametrically opposed position. It really calls into question the political line taken by the European Commission on food health and safety.

The European Council will shortly issue an opinion on the Commission’s proposal. We ask it to take into account the position of Parliament and the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health: to put health before trade.


  Bart Staes, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I can only endorse the words of Mr Sturdy and Mrs Ferreira. I do not actually understand why the Commission persisted in tabling these proposals on 28 May. The pressure from the United States must have been enormous. This pressure is of an economic nature. The United States is losing markets here in the European Union – including, perhaps, in the new Member States that joined in 2004.

What do I note from all the studies carried out? I note that the United States’ approach to the use of antimicrobial agents is not really efficient. The number of cases of contamination with salmonella or campylobacter has not gone down. Our approach, on the other hand, is very effective. We have a ‘farm to fork’ approach, covering every stage from the farm to the consumer’s table. Since the Commission White Paper in 2000, we have adopted strong legislation on foodstuffs. I do not now want to see this undermined.

Nor do farmers want this, as they have invested in this approach. They do not want unfair competition from competitors in other parts of the world. Besides, they do not stand alone; they have the support of the consumer and environmental movements. I would ask the Commissioner to have a rethink, therefore, and to withdraw this proposal: she has no support for it in the Council and no support for it in this Parliament.


  Janusz Wojciechowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, on behalf of the Union for Europe of the Nations Group, I fully support the draft resolution that has been put forward. I identify with the full content of the proposals contained in the draft resolution. A very important matter has been raised in this document. In our debates on the situation in agriculture, but also in international trade, we have called numerous times for respect for the principle that requirements must be identical for producers in the European Union and for those entities that export their products onto the European market. This principle is not generally observed, and in particular it is not observed in the sphere of agricultural production. We must make a firm demand for this principle to be observed. We cannot continue with a procedure in which certain standards are required of producers in the European Union and different standards of those who export their products onto the European market.

The situation in the poultry industry is very difficult in a number of European countries. My country, Poland, is one of them. I have personally had the opportunity to take part in many discussions on this subject. Poultry organisations have pointed out that competition conditions are unequal, and that the European market is exposed to unequal competition in relation to other countries of the world. I am pleased that this initiative was raised, because this is exactly the direction in which it is facing to make for equal competition conditions, that being what elementary justice demands. I therefore support this draft resolution.


  Konstantinos Droutsas, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (EL) Mr President, by lifting the ban on the import of chickens from the United States, the European Commission is once again showing that it places the interests of the food multinationals above the health of the people and workers.

For decades, the United States has been pushing for the import of hormone-treated meat. Now it is doing the same for its chickens. In previous years the ban was based on the danger posed by the chlorine and chicken dips. According to the scientific community, chlorinated chickens endanger the health of consumers and slaughterhouse workers and make for dangerous waste material with carcinogenic residues.

The substances used in the United States have obviously not stopped being carcinogenic, just as the scientific community has not changed its mind. The question is, then, what has led the Commission to give in to pressure from the United States and the multinationals, and what does it get in return for this change in position?

The food production chain is increasingly in the stranglehold of the food multinationals. Just a few days after the scandal of sunflower oil mixed with mineral oils, and the discovery that legislation allows the transportation of oil in the same tankers used to carry fluids dangerous to health, the European Commission did not bat an eyelid in announcing the lifting of the ban on chlorinated chickens.

One food scandal follows another. The EU is shifting the responsibility of inspection on to those who should be inspected; it is abdicating its own responsibilities, just like the governments of the Member States; it is transferring responsibility to consumers, on the grounds that they have the right to choose, provided the products are labelled.

The workers demand properly inspected, healthy foods at affordable prices. The opposition by the workers, their organisations and the scientific community to the lifting of the ban must oblige the Commission to revise its decision. The ban on chlorinated chickens for consumption must continue to pertain.


  Daniel Caspary (PPE-DE). - (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, transatlantic trade is currently worth about EUR 600 billion a year. Now the Commission is suggesting that we open the market to poultry that has been disinfected in a chlorine solution. I say strongly: I greatly regret that the Commission has not managed to claim – and gain – access to the market in the United States for our unchlorinated poultry at last. However, I would like to say that I support the Commission’s suggestions in principle, because the scientific experts’ reports are conclusive. The European Food Safety Authority provided a very conclusive expert report; we do not require any further expert reports.

Here, as on the other side of the Atlantic, nobody wishes to see people’s health put at risk by food, but if there really are misgivings about the substances used in the United States, then I ask myself why these substances are permitted here in the European Union as an additive to animal feedstuffs, potable water and other foods?

I know how much importance many EU Member States attach to food quality and food safety, and just as well. What would France be, for example, without its coq au vin? This product, exported from France and famous the world over, is also prepared for export to the United States with a chlorine treatment according to the American method. Apparently, this method is so good that it is considered suitable for the export of quality products from Europe.

From my point of view, then, this is a rather dishonest discussion. The Commission has made clear suggestions to guarantee the safety of European consumers. I believe that labelling, in particular, must be clear and visible, so that consumers really know what they are buying, but I know, too, that consumers will choose European poultry anyway.

However, I call on everyone to stop hiding behind supposed environmental or health arguments and clearly state what this is really about. It is a question of honesty and honesty in politics is vital, especially when it comes to discussing a topic with friends like the United States.


  Francisco Assis (PSE).(PT) I understand the need to improve trade relations with the United States and in this regard, I would like to congratulate the Commission on the work it has done in this area. There are, however, ‘red lines’ and one of these is safeguarding the legitimate interests of European producers and consumers. I believe that in this specific case, we are faced with a situation where these lines are clearly being violated.

There are two different concepts here, perhaps even two contradictory concepts, relating to health protection and environmental protection. From the European perspective, there is a core concern, which is ensuring safety throughout the food chain. From the American perspective, the idea is merely to deal with this matter at the closing stages of the process.

We cannot renounce our convictions, customs or standards in this area, and we must not just seek to have them respected in Europe, but should rather try to project them on the international stage. The European Union will be standing on very shaky ground in terms of projecting its standards internationally if it gives up on ensuring that they are protected within Europe.

For this very reason, I believe it is essential to highlight the need to express clear opposition to the Commission’s proposal in this area.

Crucial issues are at stake that have to do with environmental protection, public health and the fundamental rights of European consumers. Yet they also have to do with European producers, as European producers have been made to respect these standards and over the last few years have had to make significant investments to make sure they respect these requirements. Now, suddenly, they would be left completely unable to resist competition at this level.

This is why, in the name of healthy and fair competition, too, it is our view that the European Union must make the protection of European producers a major concern. With this in mind, and without calling into question the efforts to improve trade relations with the United States (which are vital for the European Union), I believe that this proposal is a bad one and I naturally would like to express my support for the motion for a resolution.


  Frédérique Ries (ALDE). (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, the decision to lift the veto towards almost everyone on the import into the European Union of chlorinated chicken is a real textbook case of what the Commission, which is supposed to protect the higher public interest of Europe’s citizens, can no longer and should no longer do.

As with all food sectors, poultry farmers, and particularly chicken farmers, have made enormous efforts in recent decades. They have invested heavily in order to comply with standards and are subject to no fewer than 70 regulations, directives and other European decisions.

The sector is also subject, as we know, to fierce competition in Europe but also from Brazil and the US. Need we remind you, since no one has mentioned it yet, of the bird flu outbreak in Europe – this was only three years ago – when poultry meat consumption fell by more than 20%? Why should we now subject this sector to such a distortion of competition in relation to US farmers, who are not in any way subject to the same health and safety constraints?

The purpose of this brief review is to underline the essence of this matter. Perhaps this is not an environmental and health issue, or at least so I have heard people say. However, I would like more clarification and research on the subject.

Our refusal, Commissioner, is essentially an industrial and cultural decision, and ultimately a political one.

It is a cultural decision because Europeans have the right to choose their food model; as we know, they are very attached to their traditions and to diversity, as the French Agriculture Minister, Michel Barnier, recently reminded us.

Secondly, it is an industrial decision. I have already mentioned the production methods, laws and high standards observed in Europe. A good trade deal must also be fair. The Commission stands no chance of convincing us that importing 300 000 tonnes of chlorinated chicken, without any compensation, is good news for the European poultry industry.

Finally, it is a political decision. Now I am coming to the crux of the matter, as it is above all a question of confidence: confidence among producers and consumer confidence. Given the current climate, can the Commission really allow itself to scorn – and I am coming to an end, Mr President the opinion of the Council, of Parliament, of operators on the ground and of a good number of your own Members? I think that just asking the question is an answer in itself.


  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). - (SV) Thank you, Mr President. The job of the EFSA is to determine whether something is dangerous. The job of the Commission and Parliament is to determine whether something is in conformity with public policy principles such as good animal husbandry, not to mislead consumers, and to maintain a high-quality environment in accordance with the precautionary principle. Hence this proposal is unethical and inappropriate and is an undesirable method of treating chicken. Besides, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health has come out almost unanimously against the method. I will add a further dimension: fraudsters have long applied chlorination to chicken in order to make it look pinker and fresher. Are we to favour fraudsters over farmers who have invested millions, not least in my own country, in order to improve the situation?

A few labelling rules will not work, especially in places such as restaurants.

Turn this into a victory now, withdraw the proposal and go forward on the basis of unanimity in Parliament and unanimity in the Council and say to the United States: no, we do not accept your methods.


  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN).(PL) Mr President, Commissioner, in rising to speak in the debate on poultry imports into the EU market, I have three matters to bring to your attention.

Firstly, agricultural products produced within the European Union have to meet very stringent environmental, sanitary and health requirements, and meeting these requirements significantly increases production costs, thus making European agricultural products relatively uncompetitive in price terms on world markets. Secondly, given this situation, the European Commission’s proposals to amend the regulations to allow the import of chlorinated poultrymeat from the United States should be seen as a completely unacceptable proposal, especially for European consumers. Thirdly and finally, it should be pointed out that the European Commission’s proposal on this subject is supposed to be a sort of special gesture by the Union aimed at ensuring a good atmosphere for the talks and making for more friendly contacts prior to the June summit between the European Union and the United States.

I am in favour of having warmer relations, but I would rather this did not take place at the cost of the health of many EU citizens.


  Georgios Papastamkos (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, experts in the EU Member States have come out almost unanimously against the Commission’s proposal to lift the ban on the import of chlorinated poultry.

These imports, even under the conditions proposed by the Commission, run counter to the steady demand from European citizens for the distribution of safe, high-quality, high-nutrition products.

The European poultry-rearing sector has heavily invested in compliance with the Union’s strict regulatory framework that applies to the entire food chain, from production to distribution. Quite apart from anything else, the matter of the European poultry-rearing sector’s competitiveness is under scrutiny, and we know the Commission’s proposal is an expression of support for US interests in the Transatlantic Economic Council.

As a member of the Committee on International Trade, I am basically in favour of smoothing out differences with our trading partners. However, I cannot under any circumstances accept solutions that endanger the health of citizens and adversely affect the European food model. This applies both to the case we are discussing and to the Euro-Atlantic dispute pending before the WTO regarding the import of genetically modified organisms.

The EU must comply with the strict rules on food quality, hygiene and safety. We are opposed to any relaxation of these rules. What we need is a strengthening of the international standards and production methods.

We therefore call on the Council to maintain the ban on the import of chlorinated poultry.


  Rosa Miguélez Ramos (PSE).(ES) Mr President, Commissioner, European poultry farming, along with other animal production sectors, is going through a difficult period. In this context it is even more surprising that the Commission has been so quick to ask for Europe to allow poultry meat treated with chlorinated products to enter its territory, a request that appears to be solely and exclusively aimed at satisfying the commercial needs and aspirations of the United States of America.

I do not need to remind you that, in Europe, the poultry sector does not receive any direct support from the CAP, despite the fact that since 1997 our producers have been banned from using the very same substances that the Commission now wants to authorise, and moreover they are submitted to exhaustive controls throughout the production cycle to prevent the development of bacteria and to comply with the high Community hygiene standards.

However, in relation to third-country producers, the Commission considers that a chlorine wash alone is more than sufficient, and in my opinion this means that the efforts made by our producers are and have been completely futile.

If you will pardon my saying so, it is not possible for us to be so stupid and them to be so clever. In my opinion, we need to oppose this request from the Commission.