Full text 
Thursday, 21 January 2010 - StrasbourgOJ edition
 ANNEX (Written answers)
QUESTIONS TO THE COUNCIL (The Presidency-in-Office of the Council of the European Union bears sole responsibility for these answers)

QUESTIONS TO THE COUNCIL (The Presidency-in-Office of the Council of the European Union bears sole responsibility for these answers)
Question no 10 by Mairead McGuinness (H-0498/09)
 Subject: Misleading business directory companies

What advice can the Council offer to the thousands of European citizens who fall victim to misleading business directory companies such as the European City Guide, operating from Spain, and others?

Can the Council give this House an assurance of the EU's commitment to ending practices of misleading business-to-business advertising?


The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the January 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The Honourable Member can be fully confident of the Council's commitment to fighting against forbidden practices of misleading advertising, whether in business-to-business or in business-to-consumer transactions, and notably to insist on the complete implementation and effective enforcement of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive 2005/29/EC (which covers business-to-consumer relations) and the Misleading Advertising Directive 2006/114/EC, which covers business-to-business transaction and would apply to cases raised by the Honourable Member.

However, it is the responsibility of national courts and authorities to strictly and effectively apply these provisions.

It is not therefore for the Council to comment on allegations of unfair practices in individual cases.

Finally, the Honourable Member's attention is further drawn to Article 9 of Directive 2006/114/EC, which requests Member States to communicate to the Commission all measures taken in implementation of the Directive. No indication has so far been provided to the Council by the Commission that there are any problems or shortcomings with the implementation of the Directive in any Member State, and the Commission has not submitted any proposals for additional legal measures.


Question no. 11 by Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (H-0500/09)
 Subject: Protection of electronic communications infrastructure and personal data

The conclusions of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council of 17-18 December 2009 stated, among other things, the need to develop a new digital agenda for the European Union to follow on from the i2010 strategy. The EU Council emphasised the importance of developing solutions for the electronic identification of users of electronic media and services that ensure the protection both of personal data and of privacy.

Could the Council indicate what measures it intends to include in the EU digital agenda for the period up to 2020 and, more particularly, what measures it has in mind for the protection of electronic communications infrastructure and the development of electronic identification solutions which ensure the protection both of personal data and of privacy?


The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the January 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Much is already being done in the field of electronic identity. Within the Seventh Research Framework Programme, several new projects related to identity management were started, and there are also EU co-funded projects under the Information and Communication (ICT) Policy Support Programme of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP). The recently adopted review of the Regulatory Framework for electronic communications and services also improves the situation as to citizens' rights to privacy.

The Honourable Member will also recall the work done by the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), set up to enhance the capability of the EU, the Member States and the business community to prevent, address and respond to network and information security problems.

On 18 December 2009, the Council adopted conclusions on "Post-i2010 strategy - towards an open, green and competitive knowledge society", underlining the importance of developing solutions to electronic identification that guarantee data protection and respect citizens’ privacy and better control of their online personal information. Moreover, the Council adopted a resolution on collaborative European approach on Network and Information Security stressing the importance of an enhanced and holistic European strategy for network and information security.

In its conclusions and in the resolution, the Council invites the Commission to come with proposals. A new digital agenda, to which the December conclusions were a contribution, is expected already this spring.

The Council is ready to work to reinforce network security. The future development of the Internet and of new and attractive services depend to an important extent on these issues. We shall examine any new Commission proposal with great attention.


Question no 12 by Brian Crowley (H-0502/09)
 Subject: Fortuna land scam

Many investors from Ireland have lost significant amounts of money in a dubious investment scheme established by a Spanish company located in Fuengirola. What actions can be taken, either at national level or EU level, to assist these investors, many of whom have lost their entire life savings, to recoup their investments?


The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the January 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

We understand the concerns of all investors who have lost their savings, and also of those who invested under the auspices of the entity mentioned by the Honourable Parliamentarian.

That being said, it is now up to the relevant competent authorities of the Member States concerned by this or other similar situations to take the necessary measures in order to proceed to their investigation and ultimately help investors which have been hurt.

The Spanish authorities have indeed started criminal investigations in this area, but it is not for the Presidency of the Council to comment on them.


Question no 13 by Pat the Cope Gallagher (H-0504/09)
 Subject: The review of the EU Solidarity Fund

A proposal to simplify and improve the EU Solidarity Fund (2005/0033) has been kept on hold by the Council since the European Parliament adopted it at first reading in 2006. Europe has suffered severe weather patterns more frequently in recent years. For example, recent flooding in Ireland caused considerable damage to many homes, businesses, farms, roads and water supplies. It is essential that the reform of the EU Solidarity Fund is prioritised.

What measures will the incoming Presidency take with a view to unblocking the situation in the Council?


The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the January 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The European Union Solidarity Fund was created in response to the extraordinary flooding disaster that hit central Europe during the summer of 2002. On 6 April 2005, the Commission submitted to the Council a Proposal for a revision of the Regulation, which would in particular widen the scope to non-natural disasters, lower the threshold for the damage incurred in consequence of the disaster, and include an additional political criterion. In its opinion of May 2006, the Parliament approved this proposal with some amendments.

Nevertheless, after examination of this proposal, discussions in the Council led to the conclusion that there was not sufficient support for the revision of the Regulation as proposed by the Commission.


Question no. 14 by Ryszard Czarnecki (H-0507/09)
 Subject: Change in the Member States' demographic structure

Has the Council taken notice of the significant change in the EU Member States’ demographic structure? This change is a result of both a rapid ageing in the 27 Member States and a large rise in immigration from non-European countries.

Does the Council intend to draw up a programme in support of a pro-family policy to boost the birth rate in the EU with a view to reversing this trend?


The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the January 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The demographic challenge is one of the main long-term challenges of the Union. It is indeed closely linked to the family issues as stressed by the Honourable Member.

That being said, Member States remain responsible for the design and the implementation of their specific decisions in the area of family policies. In the field of social policy, according to the Treaties, the Union may support and complement "the activities of the Member States, through initiatives aimed at improving knowledge, developing exchanges of information and best practices, promoting innovative approaches and evaluating experiences"(1).

However, demographic and social issues, including family issues where appropriate, remain on the agenda of the Council. On 30 November 2009, the Council endorsed Opinions prepared by the Social Protection Committee and by the Employment Committees on the future post-2010 Agenda of the Union considering that prolonging working lives and promoting better reconciliation of work and private life will remain essential"(2) for the Union's post-2010 Strategy and that ageing and globalisation remain among the crucial challenges of the European Employment Strategy(3).

Moreover, in its Conclusions(4), the Council recognised "that due to demographic changes, the proportion of working age population is expected to decrease over the next decades and that Europe will go from four people of working age supporting one elderly person to only two. In this context, policies to strengthen gender equality and to improve the reconciliation of work, family and private life are key for reaching commonly-set targets of higher employment rates as well as for fulfilling the objectives of economic growth and social cohesion in the European Union".

Lastly, in its programme in the employment and social fields(5), the Spanish Presidency acknowledges that demographic ageing is starting to be approached in Europe not only as a challenge but also as an opportunity to social policies.

It considers that the moment is ripe for the EU to adopt an initiative for the promotion of active ageing; for example, it supports the possible Commission's decision to declare 2012 the European Year of Active Ageing and Intergenerational Relations. Furthermore, will organize a Conference on Active Ageing in La Rioja (April 29-30/ 2010).

The Spanish Presidency will also promote the joint work of the Member States to better respond to the important social and demographic changes being faced by the Member States, through, for example, a more intense exchange of information, mutual learning and best practices. Emphasis will be put both on various initiatives towards reconciliation of work and personal and family life, and on raising employment levels, especially for older workers.


(1) Article 153(2)(a) of TFEU
(2) Doc. 15859/09
(3) Doc. 15529/09
(4) Adopted by the Council EPSCO of 30 November 2009, doc. 16214/09.
(5) Prepared jointly by three Spanish Ministries, i.e. those of Labour and Immigration, of Health and Social Affairs, and of Equality.


Question no 15 by Laima Liucija Andrikienė (H-0002/10)
 Subject: Implementation of the Spanish Presidency's priorities in the field of EU - Latin America relations

One of the key priorities of the Spanish Presidency is the EU – Latin America relations.

What would the Spanish Presidency like to achieve in the field of international trade with Latin America?

Will the Free Trade Agreement with countries like Colombia and Peru be concluded during the Spanish Presidency? What are the most important problems still to be solved?


The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the January 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The strengthening of EU - Latin America relations is indeed one of the key priorities of the Spanish Presidency.

In the draft 18 month program(1) of the Spanish and future Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies, the Presidency trio underlined that strong emphasis should be placed on the conclusion of the Association Agreements with the Central American region, the Multiparty Trade Agreement with the Andean countries, as well as on the resumption and advancement of negotiations for the Association Agreement with Mercosur.

With regard to negotiations on an Association Agreement with Central America, discussions are taking place with the Central American Countries on a tentative calendar for a resumption of negotiations with a view to their conclusion by April of this year. We have notably to see in this regard how the situation in Honduras evolves in the coming months following the recent events in this country.

Regarding specifically the "Multi-parties trade agreement" (Free Trade Agreement) with Colombia and Peru, negotiations are well advanced and the Spanish Presidency will make every effort to conclude them during the first semester 2010. The next round is taking place in Lima this week. A number of issues still need to be solved, such as trade issues (market access, rules of origin, intellectual property issues) and the introduction of the so-called "political clauses" (on human rights and on weapons of mass destruction). However, both Colombia and Peru have demonstrated their willingness to compromise, so prospects for a satisfactory outcome of the negotiations are good. If an Agreement is reached in the very next future, procedures to be signed in the margins of the EU-LAC Summit in Madrid on 17-18 May will be launched.

The role of the European Parliament in the process leading to the conclusion and entry into force of the above mentioned international agreements is determined by the new provisions of the Lisbon Treaty in accordance with the legal basis of the agreement.

When negotiations with Mercosur were suspended in 2004, good progress was already achieved on political dialogue and cooperation. The EU as a whole and the Spanish Presidency in particular attaches great importance to a re-launching of negotiations, which could be resumed if the proper conditions are given. These latter have to be carefully checked before taking the relevant EU decision for resumption of negotiations.


(1) Doc. 16771/09


Question no. 16 by Georgios Toussas (H-0004/10)
 Subject: European Union approval for the treatment of Nazis as heroes

On 18 December, a few hours before the government of Georgia blew up an anti-fascist monument in the city of Kutaisi, a resolution was tabled in the UN General Assembly condemning efforts to justify Nazism by a number of European countries and EU Member States, such as the Baltic States and others, which acclaim as heroes the members of the fascist gangs of the 'Waffen SS'; at the same time, governments are taking decisions to pull down and dismantle monuments commemorating the anti-fascist resistance and the victory of the peoples. The overwhelming majority of UN member countries voted in favour (127), while the US was the only country to vote against, supported by the 27 EU Member States which abstained.

In view of the above, will the Council say: Does the fact that the EU abstained in the vote on this resolution constitute approval and support for the glorification and rehabilitation of the fascist gangs and collaborators of Nazi war criminals in some Member States and in other European countries? Do the EU and the Council approve the destruction of monuments commemorating the anti-fascist victory in EU Member States and other countries? Does the EU's refusal to condemn the glorification of fascists guilty of crimes against humanity form part of the historically ignorant attempt to equate Nazism and Communism?


The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the January 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The European Union has always made clear its strong commitment to the global fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. This was reiterated in the statement made by the Swedish Presidency, on behalf of the EU, to explain its decision to abstain in the vote at the 64th Session of the General Assembly Third Committee on the resolution concerning the "Inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance".

As indicated in this statement, throughout negotiations on the text the EU expressed its strong readiness to find ways to ensure that the resolution would present a real and serious response to contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Unfortunately, however, some of the most serious concerns expressed by the EU and other delegations were not taken into account. As in previous years, instead of comprehensively addressing the human rights concerns related to racism and racial discrimination, one of the most serious of which is the resurgence of racist and xenophobic violence, the draft text pursued a selective approach, disregarding these serious concerns and in effect deflecting attention from them.

A particularly regrettable example of the shortcomings in the text is the use of inaccurate citations from the Judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal

Crucially, the text also failed to reflect the fundamental consideration that the combat against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance must be in line with the provisions of Articles 4 and 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, and not undermine other recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Finally, the text of the resolution sought to undermine the freedom of the UN Special Rapporteur to report to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on all aspects of contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.

For all these reasons, the EU took the decision to abstain.


Question no. 17 by Charalampos Angourakis (H-0005/10)
 Subject: Arrest of the Mayor of Nazareth

On 29 December a hand grenade was thrown at the home of Ramez Jeraisy, the Mayor of Nazareth, who cooperates with the Israeli Communist Party in the Democratic Front for Equality and Peace.

This attack coincides with the anniversary of the murderous Israeli attack on Gaza, an increase in the aggressiveness of the Israeli State and increasingly frequent anti-Communist and anti-democratic attacks. During the same period of time public demonstrations have been banned and Muhammad Barakeh, member of the Knesset and the Central Committee of the Israeli Communist Party, has been prosecuted for his anti-war activities.

Will the Council condemn these anti-Communist and anti-democratic attacks by Israel?


The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the January 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

I would like to thank the Honourable Member of the European Parliament for his question.

Violent attacks against citizens, whether they are public servants or not, and irrespective of their political views, constitute criminal acts that must be investigated and prosecuted through due judicial procedures. Furthermore, any politically motivated violent attacks with political motivation are irreconcilable with the basic democratic values of the European Union, notably freedom of expression and political orientation, non-discrimination and the rule of law. This applies equally in cases where citizens are persecuted for political reasons by their governments or services of the state apparatus.

As to the incidents to which the Honourable Member refers to, there is no evidence of political motivation in either the hand grenade attack against the Mayor's house in Nazareth, which is now under criminal investigation by the Israeli police, or the prosecution of Knesset Member Muhammad Barakeh, who has himself chosen not to invoke his parliamentary immunity. The conflict in Gaza at the beginning of 2009 was the subject of a number of statements by the EU, including by the Council, that emphasised inter alia that all parties needed to respect human rights and comply with international humanitarian law.

I would like to assure the Honourable Member that the Council attaches particular importance to to democratic values and principles and is ready to condemn their violation where appropriate and where there is sound evidence.


Question no 18 by Liam Aylward (H-0488/09)
 Subject: Product safety and recalls

In light of the recent safety concerns raised regarding certain push buggies and children's toys sold in the European Union, what action is the Commission taking to ensure that European consumers, in particular children, are protected and that product recalls do not become increasingly necessary?

Furthermore, what can the Commission do to ensure that product recalls on faulty or unsafe goods are conducted as effectively and speedily as possible in order to ensure minimum disruption to consumers?


Toys and children's products are no like other consumer products. Safety of toys and children's products is one of the highest priorities in the consumer product safety portfolio.

The Commission has undertaken recently a wide range of activities aimed at raising the level of safety of toys and children's products in Europe. The Commission has promoted legislation and standards, boosted with financial support cross-border market surveillance actions, cooperated with the toy industry and engaged with our international partners.

The new Toys Safety Directive 2009/48/EC(1) was adopted on 18 June 2009. Thanks to our constructive debates, the Directive now contains reinforced safety requirements and is open to be adapted rapidly to newly identified risks, in particular as regards chemicals.

The safety of articles used for the general care of children, such as prams or baby cots, is governed by the General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EU(2). The Directive sets a general obligation for all operators in the supply chain to make available on the market only safe products. The safety of children is also one primary concern in the enforcement of this legislation.

Several European standards set the benchmark. The relevant standard for the safety of toys will have to be revised to follow the new Toy Safety Directive. An assessment recently was made of several child-care articles, which commonly accompany feeding, sleeping, bathing or relaxing of babies and young children. As a result, the Commission will imminently request the adoption of new European safety standards for bath-assisting articles, such as baby bath tubs or bath rings, and products in the sleeping environment of children, as part of a wider action in this area.

The Commission has given €0.5 million to boost coordinated surveillance action focusing on toys for young children since the end of 2008. Authorities from 15 European countries have already tested 200 samples of toys to check the risk of small elements (including magnets) and heavy metals. Toys proven to be non-compliant and dangerous are being withdrawn from the market.

The Commission also called the toys industry to step up their actions in order to ensure that only safe toys are manufactured and sold on the European market. Two voluntary agreements with Toy Industries of Europe and representatives of toy retailers and importers, engaged the industry in a number of activities, such as providing education and training or developing guidelines which will help companies to set up appropriate safety check systems.

In the area of international activities, the cooperation with China has already resulted in hundreds of dangerous toys and childcare articles blocked at Chinese borders and numerous export licenses withdrawn by Chinese authorities. Toy Safety experts of the EU, China and also the US discuss toys safety, common concerns, possible actions and scope for convergence of the respective requirements on a regular basis.

As the business operators are in the first place responsible for the safety of their products, they should always take a proactive approach to identify potential problematic issues at the production stage. When incidents happen, appropriate procedures should be in place to quickly organise a well targeted recall. Many companies take seriously their responsibilities stemming from the product safety legislation and act swiftly. However, as certain players are not capable of carrying out proper risk management, the national enforcement authorities should be guaranteed the necessary resources to monitor their actions and order additional restrictive measures if those taken on voluntary basis could be considered as delayed or insufficient to address all risks. This is why the Commission warmly welcomes the strong interest and leadership role taken by the IMCO Committee in the debate on reinforcing market surveillance for consumer safety.


(1) Directive 2009/48/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2009 on the safety of toys, OJ L 170 of 30.6.2009.
(2) Directive 2001/95/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 3 December 2001 on general product safety, OJ L 11 of 15.1.2002.


Question no. 20 by Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (H-0501/09)
 Subject: European electronic invoicing framework

In 2007, the European Commission worked with a group of experts, representatives of banking institutions and companies, and standards institutes to pinpoint current barriers to electronic invoicing and to define a European framework for its use.

In 2008, the European Commission set up a task force with a mandate to define, by the end of 2009, a European framework for electronic invoicing. In view of the benefits that this European framework would bring both for enterprises and for financial/tax administrations, could the Commission indicate what the outcome was of the work of the group of experts tasked in 2008 to develop the framework? More particularly, what measures does the Commission intend to adopt with a view to developing and introducing a European electronic invoicing framework, and what is the timetable for their implementation?


Compared to paper invoices, electronic invoices offer substantial economic advantages for companies of all sizes. However, most of the potential offered by e-Invoicing remains untapped, especially among SMEs, because of the continued existence of regulatory and technical barriers to its full deployment. The Commission set up an independent Expert Group at the end of 2007 whose task was to propose a European E-Invoicing Framework (EEIF) that would support the provision of e-Invoicing services in an open, competitive and interoperable manner across Europe.

The Expert Group has completed its work and adopted its final report, incorporating the proposed EEIF, in November 2009. Key barriers for the uptake of e-Invoicing identified by the Expert Group include: inconsistent regulatory requirements for electronic invoices across EU Member States, in particular regarding acceptance of e-Invoices by tax authorities for VAT purposes; insufficient technical interoperability between existing e-Invoicing solutions; the lack of a common content standard for e-Invoices. To tackle these issues, the proposed EEIF includes a code of practice for legal and fiscal compliance which is aligned with the revised VAT Directive proposed by the Commission. Furthermore, the EEIF contains a set of recommendations for interoperability and guidance on content standards. The Framework is based on a set of business requirements with a particular focus on SMEs.

The Expert Group report has been published on the Europa website by the European Commission and its recommendations are currently subject to a public consultation which is open to all interested stakeholders until the end of February 2010(1). The results of the public consultation and the recommendations of the Expert Group will also be discussed at a high-level conference on e-Invoicing which is currently planned for April 2010 under the auspices of the Spanish Presidency.

On the basis of the Expert Group report and the public consultation, the European Commission will assess whether further initiatives are called for, especially to eliminate obstacles at EU level, in order to capture the benefits for competitiveness of moving to e-Invoicing across the whole of Europe. On the basis of the results of this assessment, the Commission will consider which further steps should be taken to promote the uptake of e-Invoicing by autumn 2010. Moreover, the Commission would like to remind its proposal on the revision of the VAT directive notably as regards the acceptance of electronic invoicing which is currently discussed by the co-legislators..




Question no. 21 by Bernd Posselt (H-0480/09)
 Subject: Status of vocational training and exchanges

What is the Commission doing to improve the status of vocational training in relation to academic education in the EU, and what are the prospects for cross-border exchanges of young people in the field of vocational training?


The Commission promotes participation in education and training, both general and vocational, especially taking into account the growing training needs of the society after the crisis and in terms of ageing of population.

In the framework of the so called Copenhagen process the Commission, together with the Member States, has been working hard to increase the quality and attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET).

A central part of the process is the development of" to enhance mutual trust, transparency, recognition and quality of qualifications, making the mobility of learners between the countries and between the education systems easier.

The most important of these tools are the" ," , the" and the" .

The" (LdV) strand of the" provides important financial support for the implementation of the VET policies as well as for cross-border mobility of learners and teachers in VET. In 2008, altogether 67.740 persons were able to benefit from a mobility period through the LdV programme. However, as this represents only about 1 % of the total target population, a strong support by the national, regional or local actors and stakeholders is also needed in order to make mobility the norm rather than the exception. Within the EU 2020 initiative the Commission is reflecting on a new ambitious Youth on the Move initiative, which should boost the learning mobility of young persons at all levels of education.


Question no. 22 by Nikolaos Chountis (H-0482/09)
 Subject: Match-fixing in football - a bad example for young people

A report by the 'Union of European Football Associations' (UEFA) has uncovered a match-fixing scandal last season. Such incidents clearly give a bad example to young people and distort the ethos of sport, which is being undermined by the huge amounts of money changing hands in betting and gambling operations.

Bearing in mind Article 165 (2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which provides that: 'Union action shall be aimed at...developing the European dimension in sport, by promoting fairness and openness in sporting competitions and cooperation between bodies responsible for sports, and by protecting the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen, especially the youngest sportsmen and sportswomen', will the Commission say:

Has it looked into this matter and, if so, what view does it take about it? What measures does it expect UEFA to take vis-à-vis the federations, the teams, the managers and the players involved in this scandal? Given the huge sums gambled every year in legal or illegal betting operations which are a permanent incentive to 'fix' sports events, what measures does it intend to take?


Match fixing undermines the social and educational functions of sport. It distorts the ethos of professional as well as grass-roots sport, as it represents a direct threat to the integrity of sport competitions. Match fixing episodes are often associated to illicit gambling and corruption and they typically involve international criminal networks.

Due to the worldwide popularity of sport and to the trans-frontier nature of images from sporting events and of gambling activities, the dimension of the problem often goes beyond the remit of national authorities. In line with article 165 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which states that the action of the Union must promote fairness in sporting competitions and cooperation between bodies responsible for sports, and following calls from sport stakeholders the Commission will address the issue of match fixing as it risks undermining the value of sport in Europe.

In this context, the Commission has consulted UEFA with regard to the recent match fixing scandal under investigation by the German authorities. The Commission has offered UEFA its support in raising awareness about match-fixing related problems at EU level.

Regarding illicit gambling, the Commission is not aware of any match fixing allegations against reputable European operators. Its services are, in the context of their work on the internal market for licit cross-border sports betting services, monitoring a number of Member States' regulatory bodies who are working closely with licit on-line sports betting service providers to detect illegal activities. Moreover, bookmakers themselves in order to attract customers have put in place self-regulatory early-warning systems with sports federations to detect fraudulent activities taking place within individual sporting events.

Regarding the wider problem of corruption, the Commission is in the process of establishing a mechanism for monitoring Member States' efforts to fight corruption both in the public and in the private sector.

The Commission will support the sport movement and other relevant stakeholders (such as betting companies and media) in their efforts to stem match fixing episodes at European level. In this respect, the Commission is supportive of types of partnership where sports stakeholders have been working with betting companies to develop early warning systems aimed at preventing fraud and match-fixing scandals in sport. They are an example of good governance in the field of sport betting.

The Commission will also support cooperation between the private and public sector in order to find the most effective ways to address match fixing and other forms of corruption and financial crime in European sport.


Question no.23 by Ernst Strasser (H-0497/09)
 Subject: Planned measures in the field of sport, a new EU competence

With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the field of sport falls within the competence of the European Union.

What measures does the Commission intend to adopt over the next 12 months to support, coordinate or complement measures taken by the Member States in this field?


Concerning the implementation of the new sport provisions, it is the Commission’s role to propose suitable action allowing for the achievement of the objectives outlined in the Treaty. The Commission's guiding principle will be to ensure the EU added value of any proposed actions. More specific, individual actions will be decided by the incoming new Commission.

Before preparing its proposals, the Commission will probably organise a broad public consultation in the first half of 2010, including a focused debate with the Member States and the sport movement. Future proposals can be expected to reflect the results of such consultation and debate and will further draw on the experience gained with implementing the 2007 White Paper on Sport(1) on societal, economic and governance issues. On this basis, the Commission proposals for EU action will certainly aim, inter alia, at the promotion of good governance and of sport’s social, health and educational functions.

The implementation of Preparatory Actions in the field of sport in 2009 and 2010, as proposed by the European Parliament, already provides support from the EU budget to multi-actor activities in areas such as health, education, equal opportunities, anti-doping and volunteering and will certainly help the Commission to propose suitable topics for the Sport Programme.

The Commission will cooperate closely with Parliament and Council to ensure the coherent implementation of these new competences.


(1) COM(2007) 391 final


Question no. 24 by Morten Messerschmidt (H-0474/09)
 Subject: Threats to ban Geert Wilders from entering Turkey

The Turkish Government is threatening to refuse an entire delegation of Dutch MPs entry into the country if the Freedom Party's Geert Wilders takes part in the visit, which is scheduled for January 2010.

In my view, these threats by Turkey seem grotesque given that the Dutch delegation plans to visit a country which is applying for EU accession and which should, therefore, be expected to have a fundamental appreciation of values such as democracy and freedom of expression.

Nevertheless, it is the Turkish Foreign Minister, a member of the Islamic-oriented governing party, who is the instigator of these threats.

Does the Commission consider that the Turkish Government's threats to refuse a democratically elected Dutch politician entry into Turkey are an expression of the enlightened and democratic mentality which may be assumed to be one of the fundamental prerequisites for a country's accession to the EU? Does the Commission also consider that this conduct is consistent with the Copenhagen criteria concerning democracy, the rule of law and human rights?

The Commission is referred to the article entitled 'Tyrkiet truer Wilders med indrejseforbud' ('Turkey threatens Wilders with entry ban') in Jyllands-Posten of 26 November 2009.


In December 2009 a delegation of Members of the Lower Chamber of the Dutch Parliament cancelled a planned visit to Turkey.

The reason put forward for the cancellation was the statement by a Turkish government spokesperson as regards the planned participation of Mr Geert Wilders, Member of the Lower Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. On the basis of this statement, the delegation had concluded that they would not be received by the Turkish government.

Subsequently, the Chairman of the EU Harmonisation Committee of the Turkish Grand National Assembly declared that the Turkish Parliamentarians regretted the cancellation of the visit.

The Commission is not aware that Turkey intended to refuse to Members of the Dutch Parliament access to its territory.

Furthermore, the Commission does not see any link between the said cancellation and the Copenhagen criteria.


Question no 25 by Jim Higgins (H-0475/09)
 Subject: Pan-European training and support for unemployed graduates

Given the shocking level of unemployment among recent graduates (throughout Europe), has the Commission considered a pan-European training and support network for such graduates? The advantages of such a scheme are numerous: graduates would be afforded the opportunity to gain vital work experience, adapt their knowledge to meet the practicalities of working life, avoid ‘brain drain’ and contribute to society while utilising their education.


The Commission has been giving priority to tackling unemployment of young people under the Lisbon Strategy and the European Employment Strategy, well before the crisis hit. The Commission has identified key challenges in collaboration with the Member States which undertook to step up action to foster the labour market integration of young people as part of the European Pact for Youth in 2005. In this context, particular attention should be paid to improving transition from education to the labour market, for example through strengthening links between education systems and the labour market, and developing practical training in companies ('traineeships').

Even before the crisis hit and although Member States have started to take action in this area, many young graduates have encountered difficulties in entering the labour market. In the aftermath of the crisis, unemployment of young people has increased dramatically and more so than any other groups on the labour market.

In the preparation of the EU’s main policy agenda for the future ("EU2020"), due attention should be paid to promoting labour market access of young people and the creation of new jobs. Furthermore, mechanisms should be improved to ensure effective policy delivery. The Commission identified a number of key areas for action in the EU 2020 consultation paper of 24 November 2009, including promoting the acquisition of new skills, fostering creativity and innovation, and developing entrepreneurship. The EU 2020 strategy will also build on EU policy cooperation in the fields of education and youth policy through the "Education and Training 2020" and "Youth 2010-2018" work programmes.

The EU has put in place a number of tools to help young jobseekers, including under the EURES initiative: a section of the EURES Web Portal is dedicated to job opportunities for graduates(1). Furthermore, the Member States can use the European Social Fund (ESF) to implement reforms of their education and training systems. For the 2007-2013 period, EUR 9.4 million have been allocated to promoting the development of lifelong learning systems and a further EUR 12.4 billion to increasing participation in education and training throughout the life-cycle.

In the context of the initiative launched by the Commission to develop and strengthen the dialogue and cooperation between Higher Education and the world of work (COM(2009) 158 final: A new partnership for the modernisation of universities: the EU Forum for University Business Dialogue), the Commission in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic and the Masaryk University is organising a Thematic Forum in Brno on 2-3 February 2010 where existing and possible actions, launched in cooperation by higher education institutions, companies and public authorities as reply to the current crisis, will be presented and discussed.




Question no. 26 by Sławomir Witold Nitras (H-0483/09)
 Subject: Strategy for energy security, cooperation and solidarity in the context of the Lisbon Treaty

Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009 – the first treaty to take into account and regulate a common energy security policy and a solidarity policy among Member States in this field – I would like to ask the Commission about this strategy and how it envisions this policy in the light of the new treaty.

What action is the Commission planning to take to protect Member States from the possibility of gas supplies being stopped by third countries? I would also like to ask about the programme of investment in energy infrastructure, which is an essential part of the security strategy. Does the Commission have plans to develop this infrastructure in a north-south direction?


The EU’s energy policy has been developed so far on the basis of several different Treaty articles. The Lisbon Treaty provides for the first time a comprehensive basis for the further development of EU energy policy. Security of supply is clearly stated as one of the objectives and the policy is to be developed and implemented in a spirit of solidarity.

The approach to energy security, set out in the 2nd Strategic Energy Review, has been endorsed by the Member States. Thus, the reduction of vulnerability to gas supply disruptions by cooperation and the further development of interconnectors within Europe should underpin a strong EU voice in external energy dealings. Cooperation within Europe is primarily through a well-functioning internal energy market with common standards and adequate infrastructures, as in the proposed Regulation on security of gas supply. As regards solidarity, this must be established well before any crisis occurs among the Member States and among the companies likely to be concerned. Member States need to work together in advance on risk assessments and preventive action, including on infrastructure development and emergency plans. Regional cooperation is particularly important for crisis management. The Commission’s role will be mainly to help and coordinate; it can assess the situation, declare a Union emergency, rapidly deploy the monitoring taskforce, convene the Gas Coordination Group, activate the civil protection mechanism, and crucially, mediate with third countries. The Commission hopes for early agreement on the proposal for a Regulation.

Investments in energy infrastructures are needed, notably for security of supply. The provisions of the 3rd internal energy market package are already improving infrastructure planning in Europe, including its energy security dimension. The proposed Regulation on security of gas supply puts forward an infrastructure standard and the European Energy Programme for Recovery is directing financial support to energy infrastructure projects, including some €1.44 billion on gas interconnections, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals, storage and reverse flows. The Trans-European Energy Networks Programme will be reviewed during 2010 to ensure that it is properly focused on the EU’s energy infrastructure to respond to the internal market needs and to enhance security of supply.

North-South interconnections in Central and Eastern Europe were identified in the 2nd Strategic Energy Review as an energy security priority. This work is being developed, also in the context of the Energy Community Treaty. North-South interconnections are also prominent in the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan, agreed by the relevant Member States and now being pursued.


Question no. 27 by Erminia Mazzoni (H-0484/09)
 Subject: Introduction of tax concessions to help the development of certain economic areas

Having regard to Article 87(1) and (3)(e) of the Treaty(1), having regard to paragraph 37 of European Parliament resolution 2005/2165 (INI)(2), having regard to the judgment of the Court of Justice in case C-88/03(3), does the Commission intend once and for all to abandon the inflexible view that regional and local tax concessions are incompatible with the Community ban on State aids, especially as regards the arrangements for determining regional selectivity, and to authorise tax concessions when these are designed to help the development of certain economic activities or regions?

Does the Commission think that this change in interpretation could be accommodated by including within Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(4) provision for tax concessions to be deemed compatible with the rules on market equilibrium?


The Commission reminds the Honourable Member that according to Article 107, paragraph 3, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), formely 87 of the EC Treaty, the Commission can declare compatible "aid to promote the economic development of areas where the standard of living is abnormally low or where there is serious underemployment" as well as "aid to facilitate the development of certain economic activities or of certain economic areas, where such aid does not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest".

In this respect, in accordance with the "Guidelines on National Regional Aid for 2007-2013", the Commission has already approved the Regional Aid Map, which indicates which Regions are indeed eligible for regional aid under Article 107, paragraph 3, of TFEU(5).

As to the question whether the Commission intends "once and for all to abandon the inflexible view that regional and local tax concessions are incompatible with the Community ban on State aids, especially as regards the arrangements for determining regional selectivity", the Commission would like to recall that, according to the recent case-law in the Azores(6) and Basque Countries(7) cases, a region is considered as being "autonomous" within the meaning of State aid rules when all three criteria concerning the institutional, procedural and the economic and financial autonomy are fulfilled. Moreover, as laid down by the jurisprudence, regions which are autonomous within the meaning of the said case-law, can adopt fiscal measures which are general in nature without thus infringing the State aid rules. It remains to be seen if and which Regions are institutionally, procedurally, economically and financially autonomous.

That being said, the Commission would like to stress that any specific fiscal rules for some Regions only, are likely to constitute State aid in the meaning of Article 107, paragraph 1, of the TFEU.

On the other hand, in the Commission view, Article 107(3)(e) of the TFEU mentioned by the Honourable Member doesn't offer a specific legal basis to promote regional development. The Commission considers, on the contrary, that appropriate measures taking into account the needs of less developed areas are already in place, or can be put into effect on the basis of existing State aid block exemption regulations, or can be notified on the basis of Article 108(1) of the TFEU (formerly Article 88 of the EC Treaty) and assessed under Article 107 (3) (a) or (c) of the TFEU.

As regards Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(8), under Article 54.4 it states that "for State aid to enterprises within the meaning of Article 107 of the TFEU, public aid granted under operational programmes shall observe the ceilings on State aid". Therefore, for any fiscal measure likely to constitute State aid, the managing authority shall ensure its compatibility under the rules governing State aid under Article 107 of the TFUE. The Commission reminds the Honourable Member that Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(9) is intended to lay down general provisions on the Structural Funds rather than to determine the compatibility of State aid measures.


(1) 'The following may be considered to be compatible with the common market: (...) (e) such other categories of aid as may be specified by decision of the Council acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission.'
(2) 'The European Parliament (...) supports a more efficient approach to the grant of regional aid, with a focus on investments in infrastructure and horizontal aid in disadvantaged or the least developed regions of the EU, including the introduction of advantageous tax conditions for transitional periods not exceeding five years; '
(3) 'if a regional or local authority adopts, in the exercise of sufficiently autonomous powers in relation to the central power, a tax rate lower than the national rate and which is applicable only to undertakings present in the territory within its competence (...) the legal framework appropriate to determine the selectivity of a tax measure may be limited to the geographical area concerned where the infra-State body, in particular on account of its status and powers, occupies a fundamental role in the definition of the political and economic environment in which the undertakings present on the territory within its competence operate.
(4) OJ L 210, 31.7.2006, p. 25.
(5) For Italy, see Commission Decision of 28 November 2007, case N 324/2007
(6) See judgement of the Court of justice of 6 September 2006, case C-88/03, Portugal v. Commission
(7) See judgement of the Court of 11 September 2008, cases from C-428/06 to C-434/06, Unión General de Trabajadores de la Rioja
(8) OJ L 210, 31.7.2006
(9) Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999, OJ L 210, 31.7.2006


Question no 28 by Struan Stevenson (H-0485/09)
 Subject: Derogation for Shetland from the electronic identification requirement for ovine and caprine animals

As a remote island with a population of only 22 000 Shetland has only one point of entry and currently all sheep and cattle moved on to the island are examined by a vet, have their identities recorded and are blood-tested. In this way, Shetland is already well equipped to trace animal movements quickly and effectively and therefore the recording of individual sheep movements through electronic identification (EID) within Shetland would place a heavy burden on producers and would offer no additional benefits for disease control within the UK or Europe. Implementing EID will only serve to force the few remaining Shetland sheep farmers, many of whom keep their flocks in the most remote locations and would therefore incur the highest adjustment costs, out of business.

In the light of these adequate animal health arrangements as regards traceability and disease control and of Shetland's isolated geography, would the Commission therefore agree to a derogation from the EID regulation for Shetland?


Council Regulation (EC) No 21/2004(1) introduced the principle of individual traceability for sheep and goats using a step by step-approach. However, the Commission has already introduced a number of measures via Comitology to further facilitate the smooth implementation of the requirements on electronic identification that will apply to animals born after 31 December 2009.

In particular, the measures adopted by the Commission in August 2009 will demonstrably reduce costs in particular for keepers with small herds. It is now possible to read the animals at the critical control points (e.g. market, slaughterhouse or assembly centre) instead of at the farm of departure. This recent amendment was particularly welcomed by the United Kingdom sheep industry.

However, the current rules do not empower the Commission to grant derogations from the basic provisions of the Regulation, such as those requested by the Honourable Member.


(1) Council Regulation (EC) No 21/2004 of 17 December 2003 establishing a system for the identification and registration of ovine and caprine animals and amending Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003 and Directives 92/102/EEC and 64/432/EEC, OJ L 5, 9.1.2004.


Question no. 29 by Georgios Papanikolaou (H-0490/09)
 Subject: Language learning programmes for immigrants

The amount of time it takes immigrants to adapt and integrate into a society depends to a large extent on learning the language of the country in which they live. Knowledge of the language is an essential tool in the integration of immigrants into work and social life, it helps reduce marginalisation and alienation and can prove beneficial for both immigrants and the host country.

Do the Member States have adequate programmes available to enable immigrants to learn the language of their host country? If so, which of those programmes are funded by the EU? What information does the Commission have concerning the implementation of such programmes by Greece?

Does the Commission have quantitative data concerning programmes of this type, such as the number of immigrants who have taken advantage of these programmes and their effectiveness?

Does it consider that such efforts should be intensified? If so, in what way?


According to Article 165 TFUE Member States are fully responsible for the content of teaching and the organisation of their education systems and their cultural and linguistic diversity. National programmes for immigrants are the remit of national authorities and data concerning these programmes should be requested to national authorities(1).

According to the data gathered by Eurydice, language support for non-native children is provided in the education systems of all Member States.(2) Moreover, two thirds of the 2009 national reports on the implementation of the Education and Training 2010 programme(3) refer to specific measures to support language development for children and young people from a migrant background, and twelve national reports refer to compulsory language courses for immigrant adults.

In the field of education and training the mission of the European Union is to contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action. The promotion of language learning and linguistic diversity is a general objective of the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013 (LLP). While the LLP is practically open to all persons and bodies involved in education or training, it is each of the LLP participant countries which fixes the conditions for the participation of non nationals of LLP participant countries in its actions and projects. Currently the following language learning oriented activities may be supported by the LLP, either as a component among others of a project or as its main theme: partnerships between schools and regions (in sub programme Comenius) or between adult education organisations (sub programme Grundtvig); assistantships for future teachers and in-service teacher training (Comenius); linguistic preparation for mobility in Europe (Erasmus and Leonardo); student placements (Erasmus); language learning adult workshops (Grundtvig); multilateral projects, networks and conferences (Comenius, Erasmus, Leonardo, Grundtvig, Key Activity Languages).

The Commission also supported the acquisition of the language of the host country for adult migrants in the past through other channels, e.g. the European Social Fund (ESF). The Greek 2009 national report on the implementation of the Education and Training 2010 Programme refers to the educational programme “Teaching Greek as a Second Language to Working Immigrants”, administered by The Institute for the Continuous Education of Adults (IDEKE), which provided Greek language training to 15.873 persons during the period 2004-2008. Similarly, the 2009 implementation report for the National Reform Programme for Growth and Jobs mentions an ongoing programme for learning of Greek at certified vocational training centres for 8,400 unemployed immigrants-repatriated persons.

The Commission believes that efforts to teach the host countries languages to migrants should be intensified at national level. In its recent Green Paper "Migration & mobility: challenges and opportunities for EU education systems"(4), the Commission highlights the importance of language learning for integration and social inclusion. In its Conclusions on the education of children with a migrant background,(5) the Council invites Member States to develop adequate policies for teaching the host country language, as well as considering possibilities for pupils with a migrant background to maintain and develop their mother tongue.


(1) Some data on these subjects can be found in the following Eurydice studies:
(3) Draft 2010 joint progress report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the “Education & Training 2010 work programme”. COM(2009)640 final; SEC(2009) 1598
(4) COM(2008) 423 and


Question no. 30 by Saïd El Khadraoui (H-0492/09)
 Subject: EU aid for receiving internal EU migrants

Combating discrimination is a key task of the EU. Discrimination against certain population groups can lead to refugee flows within the EU. That is precisely the problem with which the city of Ghent is confronted. In the past three years Ghent has seen an influx of refugees, mainly Roma, amounting to almost 2.5% of its total population.

That poses problems for the social welfare infrastructure which the city can offer, as set out in the letter received by the Commission in November (2009-2174-01).

Could the EU provide aid for receiving internal EU refugees? What further action will the Commission be taking to tackle and prevent such situations?


The European Union plays an important role in combating discrimination against Roma people through a wide range of legislative, policy and financial instruments at is disposal.

Firstly, Directive 2000/43/EC(1) prohibits discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin in the field of employment, education, social protection (including health care) and access to goods and services. The Commission ensures that the Directive is implemented correctly and effectively in the Member States.

Secondly, the Commission promotes policy co-ordination between Member States in the area of social protection and social inclusion through the so-called 'Social Open Method of Co-ordination'. The Social OMC is based common objectives at EU level and a set of indicators to measure progress. The Commission and the Council regularly assess and report on progress through the Joint Reports on Social Protection and Social Inclusion. The Commission draft 2010 Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion will be adopted shortly for submission to the Council of Ministers in March 2010 under the auspices of the Spanish Presidency of the Council.

Thirdly, EU Structural Funds, notably the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), provide financial support for projects tackling exclusion of Roma people. Further to a request of the European Council, the Commission presented a Staff Working document providing an overview of the Community Instruments and Policies for Roma Inclusion in July 2008(2). A follow-up report will be presented ahead of the 2nd Roma Summit to be held in Cordoba on 8 April 2010.

As regards Flanders, the Commission stresses that both the ESF and the ERDF can support projects to promote integration of Roma people. Under the 2007-2013 programming period, priority 2 of the ESF operational programme for Flanders focuses on promotion of social inclusion of disadvantaged groups through tailor-made assistance. Measures include tailored guidance and training, validation of competences and skills, work experience and workplace training. Under Priority 4 of the ERDF programme in Flanders, small-scale urban projects at neighborhood or district level in Antwerpen and Gent can be financed.

It is worth noting that the selection of projects co-financed under the ESF or the ERDF lies, by virtue of the principle of subsidiarity, within the remit of the Member States or the competent managing authorities under the conditions laid down in the operational programmes. The Commission therefore invites the Honourable Member to contact the competent managing authorities in Flanders for more detailed information.

Insofar as the Roma people arriving in Belgium originate from non-EU countries and apply for asylum or are granted refugee or subsidiary protection status, EU assistance may also be available to Belgium under the European Refugee Fund (ERF)(3). One of the central objectives of the ERF is to support and encourage the efforts made by Member States in 'receiving, and in bearing the consequences of receiving, refugees and displaced persons'. Financial assistance may, for example, be given to national projects aimed at enhancing accomodation infrastructure or services for asylum seekers or beneficiaries of international protection.


(1) Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin  OJ L 180, 19.7.2000, p. 22–26
(2) SEC (2008) 2172
(3) Decision No 573/2007/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 23 May 2007, OJ L 144/1.


Question no. 31 by Iliana Malinova Iotova (H-0493/09)
 Subject: Admission and accommodation by EU countries of prisoners from the USA's Guantanamo Prison

The Bulgarian public are seriously alarmed at the fact that Bulgaria has been asked to accommodate prisoners from the USA’s Guantanamo Prison, with the Bulgarian Government having received an official request to that effect from the USA. That alarm is due to a lack of information on any agreement between the USA and the EU on the criteria and measures adopted for putting this process into practice.

There is a hidden danger, in this decision, of terrorist attacks against Bulgaria, as well as against any other EU country which takes in prisoners from Guantanamo.

Could the Commission therefore state whether it has made any tangible commitments as regards the admission and accommodation in EU countries of prisoners from the USA’s Guantanamo Prison after its closure?

In the event that such commitments have been made, need not the Commission issue a statement on how exactly and under what conditions this will take place?


The European Union (EU), including the Commission, has consistently called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Through the Justice and Home Affairs Council Conclusions of 4 June 2009 and the annexed information exchange mechanism as well as through the Joint Statement of the European Union and its Member States and the United States of America (USA) on the Closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility and Future Counter-Terrorism Co-operation of 15 June 2009, the EU established a framework to support the closure of Guantanamo.

Both agreements clearly state that the decisions on the reception of former detainees and the determination of their legal status fall within the sole responsibility and competence of a receiving Member State or Schengen associated country. The Commission has not made any commitments as regards the admission and accommodation in EU countries of prisoners from the USA’s Guantanamo Prison after its closure.


Question no. 32 by Francesco De Angelis (H-0494/09)
 Subject: Company restructuring and the future of European workers

An increasing number of crisis-stricken European firms and industrial sites have been able to benefit from EU support in the redeployment and training of staff. Nevertheless, after benefiting from ESF contributions, a number of industrial firms have subsequently failed to meet their commitments. This is also the case of the Videocon factory in Anagni, which currently employs some 1400 people who, unless the Indian owners accept their responsibilities, on 21 December will be laid off and paid by the wage guarantee fund and in 2010 could be made redundant.

What immediate measures does the Commission intend to take to prevent the closure of the Anagni factory and other factories subject to conversions which, despite being announced and financially supported by the EU, have not had a tangible effect with regard to the resumption of production on those sites?


The Commission is aware of the impact of the unprecedented economic crisis which is hitting the Member States, including Italy where the AGNANI factory is located.

The Commission has proposed a series of measures aimed to limit the impact of the crisis on the social and employment situation in the EU. In this connection, under the European Economic Recovery Plan(1), the Commission has proposed i.a. to modify the rules of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund(2). Furthermore, the Commission has proposed to modify Regulation No. 1083/2006 on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund as regards certain provisions related to financial management.

The Commission recalls that it does not have the competence to prevent or interfere in companies' restructuring decisions, unless there is a breach of Community law. The Community legal framework provides for several Community directives which lay down procedures of information and consultation of workers' representatives and which may be applicable in the event of closures of companies, in particular Council Directive 98/59/EC(3), Directive 2009/38/EC(4) and Directive 2002/14/EC(5).

The information provided by the Honourable Member does not enable the Commission to assess whether there has been a breach of Community Law in this case. In any case, the Commission recalls that it is up to the competent national authorities, notably courts, to ensure the correct and effective application of the national transposing rules of these Directives in view of the specific circumstances of each case and to ensure the fulfilment of any employer's duties in this regard.

As far as the contributions received from the European Social Fund are concerned, the Commission will assess whether the conditions are met in order to intervene through the competent national or regional authorities with a view to recovering the sums granted.

Lastly, it is unclear if the case referred to by the Honourable Member complies with the requirements of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF). The Commission has neither received an application for assistance from the EGF concerning this case, nor has it had informal discussions with the Italian authorities about such an application.

Only upon receipt of an application can the Commission analyse the case and propose a contribution to be agreed by the Budgetary Authority. In any case, assistance from the EGF is strictly targeted at the workers affected and cannot in any circumstances benefit the enterprise, or influence its decision concerning the possible closure of the factory.


(1) COM (2008) 800 final
(2) COM (2008) 867 final
(3) Council Directive 98/59/EC of 20 July 1998 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to collective redundancies,  OJ L 225, 12.8.1998
(4) Directive 2009/38/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees (Recast),  OJ L 122, 16.5.2009
(5) Directive 2002/14/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community,  OJ L 80, 23.3.2002


Question no 33 by Mairead McGuinness (H-0499/09)
 Subject: Decrease in bee populations

Can the Commission outline what action it has taken in response to the European Parliament's Motion for a Resolution on the situation in the beekeeping sector, adopted on 20 November 2008 (P6_TA(2008)0567)? Can the Commission comment on the recently published EFSA study on bee mortality (03.12.2009)? Does the Commission have any immediate plans to act on the report’s recommendations?


The Commission is well aware of the problems of the beekeeping sector underlined in the European Parliament Resolution of 20 November 2008 [B6-0579/2008/P6_TA-PROV(2008)0567].

The Commission has already taken several actions as regards the health of bees, and it has in particular:

reviewed the regulation on residue limits of veterinary medicines in foodstuffs; this should help to increase the availability of veterinary medicines for bees

proposed a new Regulation concerning the placing on the market of plant protection products in which, amongst others, the existing criteria for the acceptability as regards the exposure to honey bees laid down in Directive 91/414 have been further reinforced. That Regulation has been adopted meanwhile by the European Parliament and the Council

for relevant insecticides already approved, conditioned the authorisation with strict risk mitigation measures to be implemented by Member States

supported several research projects for a total funding of about 5 million EUR.

The Commission has also established an internal co-ordination platform to ensure synergies and optimal use of resources.

Following a request of the Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recently published a study on the mortality in bees and its causes in the EUThe EFSA study identifies that multiple factors such as disease agents, climate change, use of pesticides and veterinary drugs are involved in colony losses. However, the relevance of many of the factors involved remains unclear. The BEE DOC research project starting in March 2010 is expected to provide more information on this question. The EFSA report also highlights that Member States have very different surveillance systems in place for bee mortality and diseases and this hampers a better understanding of the health problems affecting bees.

In this regard, in the next months the Commission intends to discuss with experts, stakeholders and the Member States's competent authorities the establishment of an EU reference laboratory for bees and of a network at EU level for a more harmonised surveillance of the health of the bees.

The Commission aims to sustain bees and other pollinators through the promotion of habitat connectivity and the integration of the biodiversity policy into other policy sectors. Rural development programmes provide several measures which are relevant also to beekeepers, including advisory services, training, support for modernisation of holdings and different types of agri-environmental measures favourable to bees.

As explained above, the Commission has already taken several actions and will continue to do so to tackle the health problems of bees, taking into account the new scientific information that will be available.


Question no 34 by Brian Crowley (H-0503/09)
 Subject: Assistance for medical professionals

Would the Commission be willing to investigate the possibility of establishing an EU-wide programme to assist medical professionals who suffer from addictions or stress-related illnesses?


Stress, addictions, including the abuse of alcohol, and mental health problems have indeed become one of the key challenges at EU-workplaces. Stress can lead to mental disorders, such as burnout and depression, which can strongly reduce the ability of people to work, often over long periods. Stress is the second most reported work-related health problem in the EU, after back pain.

In some Member States, mental disorders have become the leading cause of work disability and early retirement. The productivity losses caused by mental disorders are enormous. They were estimated to account for EUR 136 billion in 2007.

There is evidence that stress, addiction and burnout are also widespread among health professionals. In fact, it seems that health professionals are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health problems than professionals in other sectors. High pressure at workplaces, low feedback on performance and lack of emotional support could contribute to this.

The health sector is one of the greatest employers in the EU. In an ageing society, the availability of a sustainable health workforce, which is itself enjoying good health, is of increasing importance.

Therefore, the Commission agrees on the importance of assisting medical professionals in tackling addictions, stress and other mental health problems.

The Commission does not however have the competence and the resources to set up an EU-wide assistance programme which would specifically target health professionals.

Instead, the EU's role should lie in the following areas:

- raising awareness about healthy workplaces making good business sense;

- increasing awareness and disseminating data about health challenges for health professionals;

- highlighting best practice and developing guides for responding to them;

- encouraging the social partners in the health care sector to carry out the mandatory workplace risk assessment under the Framework Directive 89/391/EEC(1) and to implement the EU-level social Framework Agreements on work-related stress (of 2004) and on violence and harassment (of 2007).

In fact, a great number of relevant activities have already been carried out, or are ongoing or planned. These include the previously mentioned social policy initiatives as well as activities of the Bilbao Agency and the Dublin Foundation.

During 2010 the Commission will consider the conclusions contained in the Report of the consultation on the Green Paper on the EU Workforce for Health, which was published on the Commission's Public Health website in December 2009. The Commission will reflect on the results of this public consultation to see how the EU can contribute to tackling the challenges facing the European workforce for health, and, in early 2011, will organise a conference on "Mental Health in workplace settings" under the European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being.

Through these initiatives and activities, the EU sends important signals and lends significant support to all workplace actors, including the professionals in the health care sector and their representative social partner organisations.


(1)Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work, OJ L 183, 29.6.1989.


Question no 35 by Pat the Cope Gallagher (H-0505/09)
 Subject: Mackerel fisheries

When does the Commission envisage that the amendment to the Council Regulation (EC) No 1542/2007(1) on landing and weighting procedures for herring, mackerel and horse mackerel to include areas VIII a, b, c, d, e, IX and X in the scope of that regulation will be adopted, and from what date will it apply?

In light of ICES scientific advice showing that the southern component for mackerel over the last few years has been consistently overfished by Spain by at least twice its quota, what control measures and investigation procedures does the Commission intend to put in place to ensure that this practice does not continue, and will a payback system be put in place?


The Commission will treat the amendment of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1542/2007 on landing and weighing procedures for herring, mackerel and horse mackerel with urgency as soon as the new College of Commissioners is in office.

Furthermore the Commission is pleased to inform the Honourable Member that allegations on possible overfishing have been the subject of high level contacts between the Commission and Spain. The Commission has expressed its grave concerns with respect to the alleged overfishing and Spain was urged to treat the matter seriously.

Spain has reacted positively to the Commission's concerns and has closed last year's fishery for southern mackerel as from 10 June 2009. Commission Regulation (EC) No 624/2009 of 15 July 2009 establishing a prohibition of fishing for mackerel in VIIIc, IX and X; EC waters of CECAF 34.1.1 by vessels flying the flag of Spain has enshrined the closure in EU law. Provisional catch figures communicated to the Commission by Spain did not indicate the need to initiate a payback procedure.

The Commission would like to ensure the Honourable Member that it will endeavour to undertake further inquiries into this matter and that it will do its utmost to avoid a future overfishing of the southern mackerel stock.


(1) OJ L 337, 21.12.2007, p. 56.


Question no. 36 by Ryszard Czarnecki (H-0506/09)
 Subject: Financial market stability in Poland

The six-monthly report on financial stability in the euro zone published on 18 December 2009 by the European Central Bank (ECB) indicates that in 2010 euro-zone banks will need to write down EUR 187 billion, citing losses resulting from the unfavourable economic situation in Central and Eastern Europe as one of the two main reasons for this. In this connection, UniCredit is specifically mentioned in a Wall Street Journal editorial on the ECB's report.

Would the Commission not agree that the business practices and accounting procedures used by the UniCredit Group result in the real financial losses incurred being concealed, something which in the medium to long term could undermine the stability of the EU's financial system? Bank Pekao SA is artificially propping up UniCredit Ukraine's balance sheet and liquidity by cleansing toxic loans and injecting more and more funds, which raises concern about the stability of the financial market in Poland, given that Pekao SA has yet to make the write-downs required under European law (IFRS) for its investments in Ukraine.

Is UniCredit's draining of funds from its subsidiary Pekao SA in keeping with EU law? Is forcing subsidiaries to conclude, as part of 'Project Chopin' (Poland, Romania and Bulgaria), unfavourable contracts with Pirelli Real Estate SpA, which enjoys UniCredit's protection, in the presence of a clear conflict of interests on the part of UniCredit's CEO, Alessandro Profumo (who, when the contracts were signed, was a member of the board of a Pirelli Group company), not in breach of EU competition rules?


One of the key objectives of the European Union is to create a common legal framework for the EU financial sector aimed at ensuring robust prudential oversight, transparency and sound governance of market participants. A common legal structure is essential for financial stability and fair competition of the European financial sector.

Accordingly, the EU has adopted several legislative acts, such as the: "Capital Requirement Directive" (" (1)) which lays down rules in relation to the [taking up and pursuit of the] business of credit institutions, and their prudential supervision; the IAS Regulation (Regulation 1606/2002/EC(2)) which obliges listed companies to apply the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for their consolidated financial reports and the Directive 2006/43/EC(3) which requires financial reports to be audited by authorised external auditors.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis the Commission has significantly stepped up its efforts to enhance financial stability also through its membership of the Financial Stability Board and, more specifically, by many new important proposals such as, for example, on credit rating agencies, securitisation, the supervision of cross border banking groups and a general overhaul of the EU supervisory architecture based on the De Larosière report. Many of the Commission's proposals have already been adopted in a single reading thanks to the close and constructive co-operation between the Parliament and the Council.

Moreover, the Commission is also working on other initiatives that will enhance the ability of the banking sector to absorb economic shocks. For example, the Commission will shortly consult on tightening the quality of regulatory capital, new liquidity requirements as well as countercyclical buffers for banks.

While the Commission is closely monitoring the correct and timely implementation of EU laws by Member States the enforcement of these laws and the supervision of market behaviour of individual financial institutions is the sole responsibility of the national authorities.

As regards any potential impact of the Unicredit Group's business practice on the financial market stability in Poland, the Commission, without taking a position on this specific case, would point out that:

although Bank Pekao SA is part (a subsidiary) of UniCredit Group, it is supervised by the Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF). Moreover, as a licensed Polish bank, it must always meet the minimum EU solvency requirements on a stand alone basis;

as far as the stability of the banking sector is concerned, Poland has established a specific Committee for Financial Stability, consisting of the Minister of Finance, the Governor of the National Bank of Poland and the Chairman of the Polish Financial Supervision Authority;

UniCredit Group is subject to the supervision of the Italian authorities (Banca d'Italia and Consob);

UniCredit as an Italian bank, and, like all the other European listed banks, is required to prepare its consolidated financial reports according to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) adopted by the European Union under Regulation 1606/2002/EC which provide a high level of transparency.

From a company law point of view, it has to be noted that that there is no rule in EU law that prohibits asset transfers between a subsidiary and its parent company or establishes specific conditions for any such transaction. Notably, the project of a so-called Ninth Company Law Directive(4)which was meant to regulate relations within a cross-border group of companies was finally abandoned in the context of the 2003 Company law Action Plan(5), in view of the lack of support from Member States and the business communities that did not see the need for such a comprehensive framework. However, transactions between parent companies and their subsidiaries are considered related party transactions and are therefore subject to disclosure obligations. Thus, these transactions need to be disclosed in the companies' financial statements, in accordance with International Accounting Standard (IAS) 24 which requires that an entity shall disclose the nature of the related party relationship as well as information about the transactions and outstanding balances necessary for an understanding of the potential effect of the relationship on the financial statements.

Apart from these disclosure duties, the rules of the so-called Second Company Law Directive(6) on distributions to shareholders apply to all public limited liability companies, independently of whether they form part of the same group of companies or not. Article 15 of that Directive requires inter alia that the distribution must not lead to reducing the net assets of the company below the amount of the subscribed capital plus the legal reserves and thus protects the financial stability of the company.

Concerning the suggestion that UniCredit was "draining of funds" its Polish subsidiary, the Commission is not aware of any particular problems in this regard. The available statistics suggest that international banks indeed decreased somewhat their exposure vis-a-vis the Polish banking sector during the second half of 2008 and in early 2009, but then they increased it again in the second quarter 2009. This suggests that the decrease of exposure – possibly including the relation between UniCredit and Pekao – may have been temporary, linked to the decline in credit. The Commission will continue monitoring developments in this area.

Finally, with specific regard to the concern raised about the possibility that UniCredit behaviour could have been "not in breach of EU competition rules", from the information contained in the question it appears that the EU competition rules, notably the antitrust rules, are not the appropriate instruments for tackling the issues raised in the question and alleged practices of UniCredit or its executives. Indeed, the issues at stake do not relate either to a collusion or to an anti-competitive agreement between undertakings or to any abuse of a dominant position.


(1) Directive 2006/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2006 relating to the taking up and pursuit of the business of credit institutions (recast), OJ L 177, 30.6.2006.
(2) Regulation (EC) No 1606/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 July 2002 on the application of international accounting standards, OJ L 243, 11.9.2002.
(3) Directive 2006/43/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006 on statutory audits of annual accounts and consolidated accounts, amending Council Directives 78/660/EEC and 83/349/EEC and repealing Council Directive 84/253/EEC, OJ L 157, 9.6.2006.
(4) Draft Commission Proposal for a ninth Directive pursuant to Article 54(3)(g) of the EEC Treaty relating to links between undertakings, and in particular to groups (III/1639/84).
(5) Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament - Modernising Company Law and Enhancing Corporate Governance in the European Union - A Plan to Move Forward (COM(2003)284 final).
(6) Second Council Directive 77/91/EEC of 13 December 1976 on coordination of safeguards which, for the protection of the interests of members and others, are required by Member States of companies within the meaning of the second paragraph of Article 58 of the Treaty, in respect of the formation of public limited liability companies and the maintenance and alteration of their capital, with a view to making such safeguards equivalent, OJ L 26, 31.1.1977.


Question no. 37 by Ivo Belet (H-0001/10)
 Subject: Body scanners

The Dutch authorities intend to introduce millimetre wave scanners or body scanners at Schiphol airport before the end of January 2010, particularly for flights to the USA. They are necessary because they can detect dangerous substances and fluids.

Does the Commission agree that the decision by the Dutch authorities is justifiable because passenger safety should take precedence over passengers' absolute right to privacy?

Under what conditions does the Commission consider body scanners acceptable? Is it sufficient if the images obtained by scanning people's bodies cannot be stored or relayed?

What additional measures is the Commission planning in the near future in order to safeguard passenger security, particularly on flights to the USA? Will the Commission propose rules on body scanners within the next few weeks?


No EU rules have been adopted concerning the use of body scanners as possible method to screen passengers before boarding. Legally, Member States are entitled to introduce body scanners for trials or as a more stringent security measures(1).

Security can only be achieved through a multi-layered approach. Body scanners, because of their effectiveness, might be part of this multi-layered approach, as long as privacy, data protection and health requirements are satisfied. Aviation security is also embedded into a broader approach, because airport security measures are merely the last line of defence.

The Commission is considering, in close contact with the Parliament and the Council, the need for a European approach which will ensure that the introduction of body scanners will meet the privacy, data protection and health requirements.

Operational standards for body scanners must be designed so as to be compatible with fundamental rights requirements as incorporated in EU law including data protection. Any intrusion in passengers' privacy must be proportionate and well justified, which implies a careful assessment. Adopted measures must be strictly limited to the minimum necessary to meet an identified threat risk. Conditions could include the following: limited storage facilities strictly excluding any use or recuperation of the image once the passenger has been cleared; low resolution of body areas not identified as containing potential threat items, or 100% remote reviewing without any but preset automated contact with the actual screener. The option to use body scanners at airports may come with an obligation to use the latest available privacy enhancing technology in order to minimise the privacy intrusion. Furthermore, any operation of body scanners will have to be accompanied by comprehensive information to passengers. And finally, any technologies to be used must not pose a health risk. In this context, it is worth noting that such technologies exist.

In the coming weeks and months, the Commission will continue its considerations and assessment regarding potential new security measures and their compatibility with fundamental rights requirements, and assess the effectiveness of measures and instruments already available. It will be only on the basis of this assessment that the Commission might propose EU measures on the use of body scanners.

It is therefore not likely that the Commission will propose legislation on body scanners within the next few weeks.


(1) Without a legal basis in EU law, body scanners may not replace existing means of screening performed in line with presently applicable EU legislation, except for time-limited trial periods.


Question no 38 by Laima Liucija Andrikienė (H-0003/10)
 Subject: Further implementation of the Baltic Sea Strategy

The Baltic Sea Strategy was one of the key priorities of the Swedish EU Presidency.

How will the Commission continue implementing the Strategy under the new trio of Presidencies (Spain, Belgium and Hungary) during the upcoming 18 months?

What steps does the Commission plan to take in the near future and in the longer term in order to establish a strong basis for the implementation of the Baltic Sea Strategy?


The Commission is committed to taking forward the successful implementation of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, in close partnership with the Member States.

The Council of the European Union – General Affairs Council – retains responsibility for assuring the overall political direction of the Strategy. This will involve making recommendations on the basis of reports from the Commission to the Member States and stakeholders. Other Council formations may address specific issues within the Strategy, and the European Council will be updated periodically on progress.

Preparation and servicing of the General Affairs Council discussions will be undertaken by the Commission in line with the Commission's monitoring, co-ordination and reporting responsibilities with regard to the Strategy. In order to ensure that the Commission is in possession of all relevant information about the progress and development of the Strategy, certain structures and procedures will need to be put in place with the involvement of the Member States and other stakeholders.

In particular, the Commission will convene a High-Level Working Group of Senior Officials from all Member States to consult with on the progress of the Strategy. This Group will be able to invite additional members as appropriate, whether from key stakeholders such as inter-governmental organisations or from policy ministries. The Group will advise the Commission on the content of the regular report to be prepared on the Strategy and on recommendations for any necessary adaptations to the Strategy and its Action Plan.

The work on the ground in implementing the Strategy will be carried out by the 15 Priority Area Coordinators and the 80 flagship Project leaders. The Priority area Coordinators come mainly from Member State ministries while the Flagship Project leaders may also come from regions, universities, international organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Their task will be to ensure that the Strategy moves from words to action. The Commission will provide the necessary support to enable these key actors to fulfil their tasks.

The Commission will also organise an annual forum already in 2010 to maintain the high visibility and forward momentum of the Strategy. The forum will involve the Commission and other EU Institutions, Member States, regional and local authorities and inter-governmental and non-governmental bodies and is intended to be open to the public. This first forum will allow the Commission to check whether the structures which have been put in place are functioning effectively or if changes are necessary.


Question no. 39 by Georgios Toussas (H-0006/10)
 Subject: Tragic death of nine seamen aboard the Aegean Wind

Nine seamen met a tragic death on Christmas Day in a fire which broke out on board the 26 year-old vessel, the Aegean Wind, which was flying the Greek flag. This latest 'accident' at sea joins the list of those which have claimed multiple lives, including the ferry Express Samina, the bulk carriers Dystos and Iron Antonis, the Errica, the Prestige, etc. The Member States and the EU gear their maritime policy to the shipowners' demands for competitiveness and profit and, ignoring the just demands of seafarers, allow outdated, poorly maintained vessels to sail, step up the pressure on seafarers in their work, reduce crew numbers, and impose exhausting 16-18 hour working days with devastating consequences for the safety of life at sea.

Does the Commission know whether the Aegean Wind met the basic safety standards which would have prevented the loss of the seamen's lives, whether the ship was equipped with the necessary fire-protection, fire-safety and fire-fighting systems and whether they were operating normally? Is there any information and assessment from EMSA concerning the causes of death of the seamen?


The general cargo vessel Aegean Wind caught fire in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Venezuela on 25 December 2009, killing nine and injuring five out of the 24-member crew. The Commission deplores the loss of lifes and the injuries and commends the Venezuelan authorities for their assistance in particular to the injured crew members.

As the accident investigation under the responsibility of the Greek authorities is ongoing, the Commission is not in a position to make any statement on the origin of the accident. However, all class certificates have been issued at the last special survey in 2007 and are valid until 2012 after having been recently endorsed in June 2009. Likewise, surveys for statutory certificates on board the ship have been performed as recently as June 2009, endorsing the validity of all statutory certificates required under the SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) and MARPOL (MARitime POLlution) conventions. Finally, the ship has been issued with a new Safety Management Certificate in March 2008 with a regular validity for five years. Furthermore, it should be noted that the vessel was regularly inspected by Port States and that it had never been detained during at least the last 10 years. The last inspection on 14 October 2009 in Texas by the United States (US) Coast Guard did not reveal any deficiency.

At present, Member States are obliged by international legislation to investigate accidents if there are lessons to be learnt. The accident to which the Honourable Member refers, has to be considered as a very serious casualty within the meaning of Article 3 of Directive 2009/18/EC(1) establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector, which is part of the third maritime safety package. For such casualties, the directive foresees an obligation for the Member States to organise a safety investigation carried out by an independent organisation in order to determine the causes of the accident and to identify measures designed to prevent similar events in the future. The Member State will have to publish the relative report within one year. The transposition period for this Directive ends on 17 June 2011. While the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) does not have any role in the investigation of marine casualties, EMSA collects information on marine casualties provided by the Member States and from commercial sources. Following the transposition of Directive 2009/18/EC, Member States will have to notify all marine casualties and incidents through the European Marine Casualty Information Platform (EMCIP) managed by EMSA.

Regarding hours of work onboard ships, the Commission wishes to point out that Directive 1999/63/EC(2) on the organisation of working time of seafarers establishes both a maximum number of hours of work, fourteen hours in any 24 hour period and 72 hours in any seven-day period, and a minimum number of hours of rest, ten hours in any 24 hour period and 77 hours in any seven-day period.


(1) Directive 2009/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector and amending Council Directive 1999/35/EC and Directive 2002/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, OJ L 131, 28.5.2009.
(2) Council Directive 1999/63/EC of 21 June 1999 concerning the Agreement on the organisation of working time of seafarers concluded by the European Community Shipowners' Association (ECSA) and the Federation of Transport Workers' Unions in the European Union (FST) - Annex: European Agreement on the organisation of working time of seafarers, OJ L 167, 2.7.1999.


Question no. 40 by Charalampos Angourakis (H-0007/10)
 Subject: Persecution of members of the Democratic Society Party (DTP)

Two days after the EU congratulated the Turkish Government on its progress towards 'democratising' the country and resolving the problems with the Kurdish community, the Turkish Constitutional Court decided to outlaw the Democratic Society Party (DTP). Furthermore, the Court deprived 37 members of the party of their political rights for five years and withdrew member of parliament status from the party chairman, Ahmet Turk, and from Aysel Tugluk. According to the Mayor of Diyarbakir, following a coordinated operation by the Turkish authorities, 81 members of the party were arrested and taken into custody, including nine democratically elected mayors.

Does the Commission condemn such actions, which aim to terrorise and prevent political activity and constitute a flagrant violation of the fundamental democratic rights of Turkish citizens?


The Commission has expressed serious concerns following recent developments, such as terrorist attacks in the Southeast, the closure of the Democratic Society Party – DTP and the arrest of members of this party, including mayors. The Commission believes that these developments do not create the right conditions for the effective implementation of the democratic opening, which the Turkish government launched in the summer of 2009.

The Southeast of Turkey needs peace, democracy and stability that can bring about economic, social and cultural development. The democratic opening aims at raising democratic and living standards for all Turkish citizens. It has raised hopes that, after decades of violence, the Kurdish issue can be addressed through dialogue and within the framework of Turkey's democratic institutions. The success of this initiative requires the participation and support of all political parties and all segments of society.

At the same time, the Commission condemns terrorism in the strongest possible terms. The Commission also invites all parties involved to do likewise and work within the framework of Turkey's democratic institutions to enhance the rights and freedoms of all Turkish citizens irrespective of their ethnic, linguistic, religious or cultural background.

The Commission will continue to follow closely the situation, on the basis of the relevant provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the recommendations of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe regarding the Turkish legislative framework and practice as regards the closure of political parties. In this regard, the Commission reiterates that Turkey's legislation on political parties needs to be brought in line with European standards.

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