Index 
Debates
PDF 1399k
Thursday, 20 May 2010 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Europe 2020 (motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes
 3. Union for the Mediterranean (debate)
 4. The need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus (debate)
 5. Announcement by the President
 6. Amendment of the agenda
 7. Voting time
  7.1. Delivering a single market to consumers and citizens (A7-0132/2010, Louis Grech) (vote)
  7.2. University Business Dialogue: A new partnership for the modernisation of Europe’s universities: (A7-0108/2010, Pál Schmitt) (vote)
  7.3. Community financial assistance with respect to the decommissioning of Units 1 to 4 of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant in Bulgaria ‘Kozloduy Programme’ (A7-0142/2010, Rebecca Harms) (vote)
  7.4. Implementation of the synergies of research and innovation earmarked funds in Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006 concerning the European Fund of Regional Development and the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (A7-0138/2010, Lambert van Nistelrooij) (vote)
  7.5. Long-term sustainability of public finances for a recovering economy (A7-0147/2010, Liem Hoang Ngoc) (vote)
  7.6. Contribution of the Cohesion policy to the achievement of Lisbon and the EU2020 objectives (A7-0129/2010, Ricardo Cortés Lastra) (vote)
  7.7. Union for the Mediterranean (A7-0133/2010, Vincent Peillon) (vote)
  7.8. The need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus (A7-0123/2010, Evgeni Kirilov) (vote)
 8. Explanations of vote
 9. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 10. Council position at first reading: see Minutes
 11. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting: see Minutes
 12. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law
  12.1. Religious freedom in Pakistan
  12.2. Situation in Thailand
  12.3. Burma
 13. Voting time
  13.1. Religious freedom in Pakistan (RC-B7-0271/2010)
  13.2. Situation in Thailand (RC-B7-0278/2010)
  13.3. Burma (RC-B7-0283/2010)
 14. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 15. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes
 16. Written declarations included in the register (Rule 123): see Minutes
 17. Forwarding of texts adopted during the sitting: see Minutes
 18. Dates of forthcoming sittings: see Minutes
 19. Adjournment of the session
 ANNEX (Written answers)


  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ROUČEK
Vice-President

 
1. Opening of the sitting
Video of the speeches
  

(The sitting was opened at 10.05)

 

2. Europe 2020 (motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes

3. Union for the Mediterranean (debate)
Video of the speeches
MPphoto
 

  President. – The first item on the agenda today is the report by Vincent Peillon, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the Union for the Mediterranean [2009/2215(INI)] (A7-0133/2010). I will give our rapporteur the floor for four minutes.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Vincent Peillon, rapporteur. (FR) Mr President, I should like to start by expressing my warmest thanks to all my colleagues who were involved in this report; this truly is a collective piece of work. We reached 28 compromises; compromises which enriched rather than watered down the strategic vision that we wanted to impart to this report, to our commitment to the Mediterranean. I should therefore like to extend my warmest thanks to Marietta Giannakou for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), Ivo Vajgl for the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Hélène Flautre, and the rapporteurs for the opinions of the Committee on International Trade, Mrs De Sarnez, and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, Mrs Tzavela.

What was important, for us, was to make it understood that there are strategic issues at stake here for Europe. In fact, it is not just a question of thinking that the South needs us; we also need the South, especially in these times of crisis. If we want to have a long-term vision, if we want sustainable growth in a multipolar world, then we also need the South.

In light of this, Europe needs to undertake to make the Union for the Mediterranean an area of peace, security and prosperity for its 800 million habitants and to look at this work as a long-term priority. It is this common will that allowed us to come together, because we know that the economic stakes, the demographic stakes, the geopolitical stakes that we are facing, like the social and cultural stakes, presuppose that we are capable of working with the other side of the Mediterranean. For us, it is also cultural and civilisation issues that are at stake.

We know this; Parliament has worked in knowledge of the difficulties of setting up the Union for the Mediterranean for two years. We have not avoided tackling the question of conflicts taking place in the South, but we wanted to affirm very forcefully that it was precisely the approach of the Union for the Mediterranean, with specific projects, parity between North and South in decision-making bodies and the possibility, for example, of bringing Israelis and Palestinians to the same table, that was the right method for helping to resolve these conflicts and that, moreover, the Union for the Mediterranean should not be asked to pursue all the objectives at the same time and that it needed to focus on these specific activities.

In this project – and I do hope that the second summit of Heads of State or Government will be held in Barcelona on 7 June – we, the European Parliament, wanted to send a strong message to the Heads of State or Government to tell them they must make a commitment because this summit must be a success. In light of this, we have pointed out the approaches that we think are necessary today. First of all, we need to remove certain obstacles, which, of course, include the financial and economic conditions.

That is why the European Parliament hopes that the European Union will make a financial commitment commensurate with what is at stake, firstly in terms of what is left of the financial perspective 2007-2013, and that, in the financial perspective 2014-2020, the Union’s undertaking will be much greater, so that the six major projects on the table can be completed. We need to improve the economic and legal environment. We need to improve South-South regional integration. We also need, in addition to economic conditions, new political conditions, which is why we placed an emphasis on cultural integration, education, cultural projects and on the rights of men and women.

To conclude: Europe, in this crisis, needs to look far and wide. We must not sacrifice the long term to the short term. We must assume our responsibilities. Europe needs the South.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, it is my pleasure to address you today on the Union for the Mediterranean and the report prepared by Mr Vincent Peillon. This valuable contribution by the European Parliament is particularly timely as it outlines some of the key challenges facing the Union for the Mediterranean in the months to come – and, by the way, Mr Peillon, I fully agree with the introduction to your report on that debate.

With the Treaty of Lisbon now in force, the European Union now has an enhanced and more cohesive institutional identity and a mandate to act more effectively on the world stage. At the same time, most Mediterranean governments have pursued an ambitious agenda of economic reforms, and the European Neighbourhood Policy is transforming relations between the European Union and its Mediterranean neighbours.

Since 2004, political contacts have increased in profile and intensity. Trade has increased at double-digit rates aided by a steady process of liberalisation and regulatory convergence. European Union assistance has been tailored to partners’ reform needs and its volume in the current financial framework has increased substantially.

This is what we have achieved in our bilateral relations. However, in the Mediterranean, even more than elsewhere, our network of bilateral relations between the European Union and individual Mediterranean neighbour countries needs complementing with South-South integration and cooperation and the creation of a truly regional economic area. Regional integration can make as important a contribution as national reforms to boosting investment and growth, reducing the wealth gap between Europe and its Mediterranean neighbours and, alongside this, ensuring greater convergence around our shared values and in our democratic practices.

South-South integration and intra-regional integration projects, such as the Agadir free trade agreement, are also key to creating the five million jobs which are needed every year to meet the needs of the region’s young population. The launching of the Union for the Mediterranean in Paris in 2008 gave a new impetus to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, made a strong bid for co-ownership and shared responsibility through a co-presidency system, put more focus on concrete projects, and provided a technical secretariat to promote regional integration and spur investment.

As we all know, its implementation has been slowed down by increased tension in the Middle East, but there has been progress with the launching of the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. There is now space for cautious hope that the political circumstances in the region may become more conducive to cooperation.

Against the background of major global challenges such as the international economic and financial crisis, climate change and energy security, the Union for the Mediterranean will have to deal with the political situation in the Middle East, launch the operational functioning of the Union for the Mediterranean Secretariat and take stock of progress made by the partnership since July 2008.

It is an opportunity for a collective reformation of our commitment and political will to create an area of peace, stability and shared prosperity in the Mediterranean. To achieve this, the partners should also look specifically at the future development of the Union and at what it can deliver on the ground in terms of projects, jobs and growth.

The Mediterranean area is extremely dynamic, and the young generation are asking for more jobs and better opportunities. They are asking for more accountability and a democratic representation, better education and easier mobility to travel and to study. Their demands are not always easy to meet, but ultimately, they should be the beneficiaries of our collective action.

If we put into place practical projects, such as access to water, food and energy sources, and improved civil protection capabilities, it will be in the interest of our peoples.

The Union for the Mediterranean is about placing people, entrepreneurs, non-governmental organisations, universities and, above all, young people at the forefront of civil society, cooperation and economic development. Better involvement of the citizens should also be accomplished by means of the full participation and involvement of elected representatives.

This is why the Commission firmly believes that a vibrant and strong parliamentary dimension reinforces the democratic legitimacy of the partnership. The role of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly should be further consolidated and its work better articulated with the other bodies of the partnership.

We all want the Union to work, and we all know it will be judged on its ability to deliver concrete projects for the region. The energy interconnections, the motorways of the sea to connect southern Mediterranean port facilities with European ones, and the Mediterranean solar plan are areas of considerable potential in terms of investment, job creation and enhancing trade relations. If we want to tap that potential, we need the private sector and the major financial institutions to work hand in hand. And for this to happen, we need one catalyst, and that is the secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean.

After several months of hard work by the 43 Euro-Mediterranean partners, we eventually managed to adopt the legal status of the secretariat, to appoint the secretary-general and to approve a provisional budget for the functioning of the secretariat. At the heart of our relations with our Mediterranean partner countries is our desire to promote security, growth and stability in the region. But there is also the abiding conviction that we are taking part in an even more ambitious project: building a region of peace and affirming our common goals and values.

I am sure that together with the commitment of the European Parliament and with the parliaments of the European Union Member States and of our partners, and with a strong impetus from the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, we will rise to this challenge.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Marielle De Sarnez, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on International Trade. (FR) Mr President, without doubt, the Barcelona Summit is an uncertainty. Without doubt, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is echoing, but never mind. The UfM is the only possible response we have at our disposal for speeding up development in the southern countries, strengthening links between them and improving dialogue on both sides of the Mediterranean. The region needs to increase its economic development and cultural exchange agreements. It needs specific future projects that mobilise energies and involve a larger number of countries.

With this in mind, we should do everything to promote private and public investment and the European Commission should be more active and should strengthen its role as investor. It should also take better account of the effects of the process of liberalisation when preparing the new generation of association agreements.

Finally, the Agadir agreement should be extended in order to improve the development of South-South exchanges. As for agricultural policy, it should preserve the need for food sovereignty and, as we all know, energy is a crucial sector. It is important for projects to be implemented first and foremost in the interest of these countries, in order to respond to their needs and contribute to their development, despite, or rather, because of the difficulties. The re-launch of the UfM is more urgent than ever before.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Niki Tzavela, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. (EL) Mr President, in our report on the Euro-Mediterranean market, we confirmed that we recommend maintaining and developing the basic infrastructures which make an economy a single and cohesive economy and it is interesting that now, with the economic crisis, the present economic situation illustrates quite clearly that there are cohesion and common denominators in the South. We need to bear this in mind for certain future developments.

My report places particular emphasis on LNG which, in the very short term, may be the driving economic force for the economy of the Euro-Mediterranean market, not only for supply but also for sale, and in renewable energy sources, another form of economy for the Euro-Mediterranean area, but which are more short term. One comment: the Union strategy and policy in terms of energy for Northern Europe are very well documented. We have, Commissioner, a huge weakness in policy and strategy for energy for Southern Europe.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Marietta Giannakou, on behalf of the PPE Group.(EL) Mr President, I would like to congratulate Mr Vincent Peillon and the rapporteurs from the other committees, Mrs De Sarnez and Mrs Tzavela, for their reports. The report on the Union for the Mediterranean is important because it focuses on immediate and quantifiable targets. Their results may be very specific, because Parliament is calling, through the report, for specific budgets to be earmarked via the financial perspective, for assistance for the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean in Barcelona and, of course, for the various differences which exist not to affect the objectives of the Union per se, which are growth, improved individual and human rights, cultural exchanges, energy issues and whatever else can link the peoples living there to the Mediterranean basin.

Of course, here, today, the Council and the Spanish Presidency, which I assume has a particular interest in the Union for the Mediterranean, are absent and I must say that that surprises me, because the Council should have heard everything the rapporteur and co-rapporteurs said and everything highlighted here, in other words, that this is an endeavour which overcomes the specific difficulties which have prevented programmes from progressing as they should have done.

The conflict between Palestine and Israel cannot, of course, be resolved through the Union for the Mediterranean, but the presence of officers in the Secretariat gives cause to hope that there will be no pressure from conflicts on our efforts to advance the Union for the Mediterranean with the criteria described earlier.

It is particularly important for the Union for the Mediterranean to send out a message of democratic development, equality between men and women, and efforts for a civil society in the countries of North Africa too.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Raimon Obiols i Germà, on behalf of the S&D Group.(ES) Mr President, what I liked best about this report – and I would like to congratulate its author, Mr Vincent Peillon – is that it is precise and specific. If only the precision of this report extended to its subject, that is, the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).

This is because the least that can be said is that in the UfM, there is currently a signal lack of clarity. I think that the leaders, who are due to meet – we hope – on 7 June in Barcelona, would do well to follow the specific, precise priorities laid out in the Peillon report.

Firstly, the political context. The UfM cannot continue to be blocked or paralysed by the conflict in the Middle East but, at the same time, neither can it ignore it. It must make a positive contribution to resolving the conflict, insofar as it is able.

Secondly, good projects must be set up and developed in a professional and intelligent manner.

Thirdly, adequate resources and financial commitments must be found.

Fourthly, progress needs to be made on creating a positive relationship which avoids obstacles and clashes and which instead seeks out synergies between the UfM and the Mediterranean structures of the European Union.

We must seek clarification on and commitment to these four central points, these four key challenges, and I believe that this report is a good instrument, a good roadmap, to help us seek this agreement.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Ivo Vajgl, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (SL) Mr Vice-President, Commissioner Füle, first of all, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Peillon, for his constructive, open and creative involvement which has resulted in this report. I hope that it will be of interest, not just to those of us who have helped draft it, but to others, as well. The report deals with a region which throughout history has been a dynamic centre of cultural and spiritual life and of economic and commercial innovation. Today, unfortunately, it is the source of numerous problems which concern all of us and the rest of the world, as well, and which we would like to see resolved.

The Union for the Mediterranean is an important project, but unfortunately, it has not advanced as quickly as we would have liked. I would like to see the establishment of the secretariat in Barcelona followed by rapid progress in the implementation of the priority projects. The projects must be the driving force behind, or the objective of, the work of the Union for the Mediterranean. At the same time, however, we need to recognise that there are some ongoing issues of a political nature, especially the Palestinian question and the undefined status of Western Sahara, and that they have hampered the requisite progress. For that reason, we need to make efforts towards more dialogue, more tolerance and confidence-building in the region.

In that respect, the European Parliament could certainly play a very important and active role and I hope that all the parties involved will welcome this House as one of the players that can help resolve the problem.

Finally, allow me to add that it is imperative that we pay due attention to future generations, that we promote the exchange of students within the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean and that we support EMUNI University, the participation of senior institutions and higher education and cultural fora. That will help us raise the level of mutual understanding and interconnection.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Malika Benarab-Attou , on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Union for the Mediterranean has never been as vital to our future as it is today. Together we have tried, in the report on the UfM, to support a different vision of our Mediterranean. More than just a simple free trade zone, it is a Union founded on the common civilisation of people who share fundamental values.

I should like to talk about the most serious obstacle to our Mediterranean ambitions; the violence suffered by the Palestinian people, who are being occupied, expelled and killed by Israel, while Europe fails to assume its historic responsibility in this conflict and really act for peace by recognising the State of Palestine in accordance with the international laws on which our democracies are founded.

This coming week, an official Parliament delegation will visit the Gaza Strip in a bid to understand why aid to the tune of hundreds of millions of euro which Europeans are sending Palestinians is not arriving in the schools and hospitals in Gaza, which I visited in January. I was shocked and dismayed to learn that the chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs decided, without informing either his members – of whom I am one – or the co-chairs of this delegation, not to visit Gaza with Parliament’s delegation on the instructions of the Israeli Embassy.

By boycotting Parliament’s delegation to Gaza, our committee chair is discrediting the whole of Parliament, which passed a resolution on the Goldstone report condemning the fact that contacts with the populations in Gaza were being blocked by the Israeli army and demanding that the block be lifted immediately. We need to remember this resolution and Parliament’s position.

This being so, I call for Mr Albertini to resign as chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which I am a member, for failing to meet the demands of his office.

What is the point of financing and supervising elections, if we then refuse to recognise those who have chosen the ballot box over arms?

Finally, another obstacle to a really fraternal Union for the Mediterranean is the victims who drown on their way from the south side, partly due to the fact that European borders are completely closed to them. Our current migration policy is no longer acceptable. We need to be able, as the UNDP recommends, to ensure that the mobility of citizens from the South is equal to our own mobility to the South. We must be faithful to our project and to our values. Our children will thank us for it and we will be the proud representatives of our peoples.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Willy Meyer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (ES) Mr President, the Union for the Mediterranean faces real obstacles and what I am asking of the European Union, of all the institutions and of Parliament, is determination, considerably more determination, when it comes to trying to overcoming these obstacles.

The first and most important of these – there is no doubt about this and other Members have raised this issue – are the conflicts: the Palestinian conflict, in the face of an attitude by the Israeli Government that systematically flouts international law and the very agreements it has signed, such as the Annapolis Agreement on the settlements; the Western Sahara conflict; and, indeed, the military occupation of the north of the Republic of Cyprus. These are obviously clear obstacles for any institution that wishes to have that type of relationship between both shores of the Mediterranean. Until they are resolved, these conflicts represent a real barrier.

The group I represent is asking for greater commitment, greater energy in response to all those players responsible for flouting international law.

However, nor should we forget that another problem facing us is that of the economic and social imbalances which exist throughout the Mediterranean. I believe that any solution which seeks to deal with these imbalances in relation to trade by simply and straightforwardly proposing free-trade agreements is not on the right track. The right track would be to take account of these imbalances and try to reach trade agreements based on complementarity and solidarity. The fact of the matter is that many of the countries on the shores of the Mediterranean are in conditions of absolute poverty and utter deprivation.

However, and here I insist, the essential thing would be greater commitment on the part of the European Union in response to those conflicts which are currently festering; I am talking about Palestine and Western Sahara. There are even conflicts, such as the conflict in the Western Sahara, where the European Union is doing precisely nothing. Not only is it doing nothing, but it is upgrading the advanced status relationship which Morocco currently enjoys and is also seeking, in the case of Israel, to upgrade the association agreement to an advanced-status agreement.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Nikolaos Salavrakos, on behalf of the EFD Group.(EL) Mr President, I must congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Peillon, on the valuable report which he has presented to us. We all know that the Mediterranean basin is a point at which many cultures meet; at the same time, however, it is a nerve centre and a ‘boiler’ which has been bubbling for many years now. Climate change, the economic and financial crisis, immigration, pollution, over-fishing and damage to the natural environment are some of the problems that beset Europeans and non-Europeans living in the Mediterranean basin.

Particular importance must be attached to the question of illegal immigration and to effective border controls in the countries in the Mediterranean basin, especially Greece and Italy, which are gateways to the European Union for illegal immigrants. A daily battle is waged on the borders of these countries. Attention also needs to be paid to strengthening the energy sector and to making use of renewable energy sources and the Mediterranean solar energy programme to stimulate economic growth in the southern Mediterranean countries.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Louis Bontes (NI). (NL) In 2008, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, announced that he had had a dream of a Union for the Mediterranean. This Union was supposed to give a new impetus to the objectives of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, objectives which are based on mutual recognition of common values, such as democracy, the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights.

I wonder how you can talk about common values when, in a country like Mauritania, there is no religious freedom to speak of because, there, Islam has been dominant for well over a thousand years. According to its constitution, Syria is officially a popular democratic and socialist-oriented unitary state. In practice, however, Syria is a dictatorship. Morocco occupies Western Sahara and in Tunisia, human rights are regularly flouted. I could go on with a long list of these countries, but I have to be aware of my limited speaking time.

Are these countries with whom we wish to have more cultural exchange? Are these countries with whom we wish to set up a free trade zone, to be followed by promoting the free movement of persons across the Mediterranean? The outcome of this will be yet more Islam in Europe. We cannot allow Europe to become Eurabia: not now, not ever! Before this dream turns into a nightmare, we must call a halt to this process.

We had another dream concerning the Mediterranean back in 1995, which took the form of the Barcelona Declaration, and then we just did it again in 2005. Apart from costing the European taxpayer several billions, these projects have come to nothing. Stop wasting taxpayers’ money and stop dreaming! All due respect to Mr Albertini, however, for taking a brave position. He has the support of my group.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Salvatore Iacolino (PPE).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the Euromed region constitutes a strategic area of EU policy: we cannot deal with fundamental issues such as the environment, religious values, culture, infrastructure, agriculture, energy, security and migration flows without the responsible assistance of the third countries bordering the Mediterranean.

Nevertheless, the cooperation framework still has a long way to go: we could say from Barcelona to Barcelona and looking beyond. The European Union must step up its commitment in the process of renewing and verifying the individual association agreements with the third countries bordering the Mediterranean, and must fund the major strategic projects, those for infrastructure and for ports.

On the other hand, we must strongly protect comparable production sectors on both shores of the Mediterranean, especially farming, in order to guarantee sustainable development and a regulatory framework that is as uniform as possible. We therefore hope that the EU’s role of governance with regard to the Mediterranean countries will be strengthened in order to assert a fundamental principle, namely, cooperation, which represents political success, entrepreneurial success, in a framework enhanced by guarantees protecting individuals.

I also wished to make a suggestion to Mrs Benarab-Attou: by all means attack Mr Albertini, who is providing strong leadership of the committee, but in his presence, so that he may defend himself. This is an essential feature of every democratically elected assembly.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I think that we are taking an extremely significant step forwards by adopting this report, and it will be very useful with a view to the Barcelona Summit of 7 June, a summit which, as we know, is set to be difficult given the deadlock in negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and also owing to various uncertainties and difficulties regarding the definition of the administrative set-up of the new secretariat structure.

Faced with these problems, the Peillon report has been drafted in the only way possible, highlighting, on the one hand, that the conflicts must not hinder tangible progress towards multilateral cooperation in specific sectors, while acknowledging, on the other, that the Union for the Mediterranean will not be fully successful unless these conflicts are settled.

Therefore, the real challenge now involves a clear, robust political commitment which must come out of the Barcelona Summit, finally enabling the structures of the new institution to function and commit to providing the funds necessary for the major projects that are its main objective. Europe must realise that it needs to turn its political and economic efforts and its own interests southwards, because it is here that it can find the solutions to many of the problems currently plaguing it.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Niccolò Rinaldi (ALDE).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, for years, an independent researcher, Gabriele Del Grande, has been posting on the Internet the number of people dying in attempts to cross the Mediterranean in boats managed by organised crime groups. His meticulous tally-keeping has reached 4 200 victims, 18 of whom died this March: this is veritable carnage.

For many years in Lampedusa, the elderly cemetery caretaker has voluntarily been giving each body, from the few that are recovered, a decent burial with a cross and a flower. These two European citizens are acting on our behalf, too; they are acting to make up for our political failure. Their spontaneous efforts highlight the urgent need for a new political architecture and substance, in contrast to the forced returns at sea employed by the Italian Government in breach of international law, which only heighten people’s desperation.

The Union for the Mediterranean should therefore represent a new humanity, bearing in mind that we are running out of time. Today, over half of the population from Morocco to Turkey is under 18 years old. The Mediterranean is therefore destined to change rapidly.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Takis Hadjigeorgiou (GUE/NGL).(EL) I should like to start by thanking Mr Peillon for the work he has done. The report calls on the Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean to establish open dialogue, within the framework of mutual respect and understanding, by promoting human rights and freedoms, and that is something that we support. At the same time, however, it does not include any concrete proposal to combat the existing political problems that beset the area. I understand Mr Peillon’s logic behind what he says, which may be considered helpful in starting the Union for the Mediterranean. On the other hand, however, to turn a blind eye and pretend that nothing is ‘going on’ in Gaza, for example, is a huge mistake that prevents us from dusting down the problems.

What worries me is that we are slowly learning in the European Union to live with problems rather than resolve them. We need to become more pro-active on the fundamental issues that concern us. There is no reference whatsoever to the need for Israel to enter into an immediate, fair and viable settlement of the Palestinian question. There is no reference whatsoever to the need for Turkey to demonstrate the necessary respect to all the Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean without exception. Reference to the need to withdraw Turkish occupying forces from a Member State is a necessary act of respect – the minimum, I would say – for European justice.

The Mediterranean washes the shores of several thousand towns and villages of different cultures which have been united by the same sea for over ten thousand years. Just one town, however, out of these thousands of towns and villages on the shores of the Mediterranean, just one town is uninhabited. Instead of being inhabited by people, it is inhabited by rats, lizards and snakes. The houses of the people, together with their memories, have been eroded. All that is left are the dreams of thousands of people, many of whom died as refugees. The least we can do for the living is to return the town of Famagusta to its inhabitants. This should have been a basic demand in the report on the Union for the Mediterranean, because we are working for union, not partition in the Mediterranean.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Gerard Batten (EFD). – Mr President, own-initiative reports are usually just hot air, but if adopted they are an expression of the political will of the European Parliament.

This report proposes the setting up of a union of 17 non-EU countries with a parliamentary assembly and a secretariat with funding for projects of a truly ambitious nature. The funding of these schemes would run into many billions of euros, which of course would have to be paid for by the citizens of Europe. Where this money would come from is not mentioned; the reality is not allowed to intrude on fantasy.

This report is truly bonkers! But, before we laugh it off, we should remember that, under the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union has the legal right to sign the kind of treaties envisaged here. This report proposes the setting up of a Union of non-European countries that could be later absorbed into the Union; that is what this report is really all about.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Mr President, when the Union for the Mediterranean was founded almost two years ago, the intention, as we know, was that it should be linked to the Barcelona Process in order to create a closer relationship between the Mediterranean countries and the EU. However, this process has obviously come to a standstill because of the conflict between the Arab states and Israel. The EU has concluded an association agreement with Israel and provided financial aid, including EUR 440 million as reconstruction aid for the Gaza Strip. The citizens of the EU are rightly asking why their taxes are being pumped into the Gaza Strip when everything there is regularly bombed flat again and are calling for conclusions to be drawn from this. It is also possible that Hamas is profiting from this aid.

Throughout all the years, the EU has not succeeded in acting as an impartial mediator in the Gaza Strip. Now, the summit of the Union for the Mediterranean in Barcelona, which is planned for the beginning of June, is also likely to break down because of the conflict between Israel and the Arab states. Particularly in times of crisis, it is important, in my opinion, to evaluate plans more carefully and, if necessary, to shelve them. During this crisis, we will not be able to afford projects which are just about prestige or those which are simply money pits.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Dominique Baudis (PPE).(FR) Mr President, in the follow-up to the Barcelona process, the Union for the Mediterranean is an opportunity to develop our relations with the countries to the east and south of the Mediterranean basin. As the excellent report by Vincent Peillon emphasises, we cannot neglect either the potential of this region or the risks which it brings with it.

Let us at least have the presence of mind to recognise that, since the bombing of Gaza and with the continuing colonisation of Palestinian territories, the Union for the Mediterranean has been painted into a corner. The political aspect is blocked. We are not even sure if the planned summit in Barcelona in June will actually take place. I would not be surprised if we were to learn in the coming days or hours that it has been postponed indefinitely. However, we should not give up; the European Union should assume greater responsibility in the search for a political solution. We cannot allow the United States to monopolise political crisis management in this region, our region, and confine ourselves to its development. Our security and growth depend on the development and stability of the Mediterranean, which is why the Union for the Mediterranean is still the best instrument at our disposal.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Maria Eleni Koppa (S&D).(EL) Mr President, I should like to start by congratulating the rapporteur on his very comprehensive report. The Union for the Mediterranean may make a decisive contribution towards the creation of balanced Euro-Mediterranean relations and towards strengthening trust between countries in the area. The Mediterranean should be an area of peace, stability and security, where democratic principles and human rights are fully respected. There are social and economic differences between Mediterranean countries. The challenge is even greater as a result of the economic crisis. It is to achieve real rapprochement between the Union and Mediterranean countries through growth, cooperation and trade. Energy security, combating climate change and the maritime environment are also areas in which close cooperation is required.

The Union for the Mediterranean is not, of course, the framework for addressing regional conflicts. However, cultivating a spirit of cooperation, political dialogue and joint efforts to meet specific targets will help enormously in building up trust, which is needed if viable solutions are to be achieved. However, in order for all this to happen and for the Union for the Mediterranean to succeed, suitable financial resources are needed and this time we must not be neglectful.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Bastiaan Belder (EFD). (NL) Thank you very much for squeezing me in, as I was held back by an emergency meeting of the Enlarged Bureau of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Thank you for your understanding.

Mr President, paragraph 5 of Mr Peillon’s report rightly dwells on the need for a just and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The rapporteur calls on the European Union and all the Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean to devote maximum efforts to this cause. As Chair of the Israel Delegation, I very much endorse such peace efforts, but I think that they will only be effective once two conditions have been met, and those are: a) that the proposed two-state solution clearly be taken to mean the coexistence of a Jewish, that is Israeli, state and a Palestinian one, and b) that Member States of the EU and those of the Union for the Mediterranean promote a climate of mutual trust between the conflicting parties in the Middle East. Here, the common fight against the endemic evil of anti-Semitism, whichever form it takes (including the form of anti-Zionism), occupies centre-stage. You could also appoint the same number of Israelis and Palestinians to your secretariat, but we would still have to fight together to win mutual trust. That is the acid test.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Francisco José Millán Mon (PPE).(ES) Mr President, a preliminary clarification: in my view, either a representative of the Presidency of the Council, or, perhaps, of the current French co-presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), should have spoken in this debate today; their absence is deeply regrettable.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a priority for the European Union to ensure that its closest neighbours form an area of peace, prosperity, freedom and security. This should be the primary objective of the UfM, which I hope is due to hold its second summit next month.

I would like to congratulate Mr Peillon and to express my thanks, most especially, for his open-minded and extremely constructive approach.

In spite of the proximity of the European Union to the southern shores of the Mediterranean, there are considerable differences separating us in economic, political, social, demographic and cultural terms, and so on. Some of these disparities are due to serious deficiencies in our neighbouring states.

It is crucial to promote close dialogue and cooperation within the framework of the UfM, and to bring forward those major joint projects which it has identified, as well as the bilateral dimension of the association agreements, in order to strengthen the relationship between both shores and to be able to reduce these disparities. In order to achieve this, our neighbours, too, must implement reforms. Standing still cannot be an option.

I would like briefly to raise three further points. Firstly, it is very important for the secretariat of the UfM in Barcelona to be fully operational as soon as possible.

Secondly, and closely linked to the previous point, the UfM must not fall hostage to conflicts, such as that in the Middle East. The UfM can facilitate a solution but it does not claim to be the means to the solution nor should it be blocked by these confrontations.

Thirdly and lastly, the UfM must also pay particular attention to what is known as Chapter Four of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation: migration, security, social integration and justice.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – Let me just apologise for the Council. The representative of the Council could not be here today because it is Thursday morning and the debate on this report was originally scheduled for Monday.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Bernd Posselt (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I would like to ask you to call in the trialogue for the Council always to be represented here on Thursday morning. In the case of some Council presidencies, and I will not name them for reasons of modesty, the representative was even here on a Thursday afternoon. I think that the Council should be present for the majority of the plenary part-session.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – Thank you, I will do that. I was simply attempting to explain what the Council said. I will do that. Thank you very much.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Josefa Andrés Barea (S&D).(ES) Mr President, Commissioner, on behalf of the Committee on International Trade, I should like to thank Mrs De Sarnez for the way she has worked with us.

Today, more than ever before, there is a need for the Union for the Mediterranean, for support for major projects and for institutional development. Today more than ever before, there is a need to find answers to the crisis, to research, to climate change, to water, to new energy models, to sustainable development. We must therefore promote and conclude trade and economic relations in the area, with short and medium-term measures, a free-trade zone, lifting of tariff barriers, and the opening up of the North-South and South-South markets.

At the Barcelona Summit, the Spanish Presidency will offer the opportunity for a new agreement, a new situation, a new collaboration, democratisation, economic and social responses. The Barcelona Summit can put us into the position where we can assume leadership in the Mediterranean.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Mario Mauro (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, today the proximity of the Mediterranean peoples is seen in particular, as pointed out by Mr Rinaldi, in terms of the pivotal phenomenon of immigration.

This should be considered a priority factor by the European Union, because migration flows can and have given rise to problems at human, social, cultural and economic levels which will affect the very future of the two opposite shores of the Mediterranean. The mutual proximity of the Mediterranean peoples is also seen in the economic and social cooperation within the European Economic Area and between the European Union and the Mediterranean countries.

In this regard, our ingrained presence at all levels in the region must enable us to take a leading role to avoid the Union for the Mediterranean replicating the inconsistencies of Barcelona. How many mistakes were made, how many times did we think we were making headway, when we were actually moving backwards?

Therefore, what we need, first and foremost, is to launch social, cultural and human dialogue based on mutual understanding and promotion of the positive values underpinning our civilisation, but this indispensable factor depends on successful cooperation, primarily at the economic level.

In fact, the proliferation of agreements and trade has favoured, and will continue to favour, the growth of balanced economic and social relations between the parties. Furthermore, in political terms, we must urgently continue the unremitting pursuit of dialogue on security policy, in order to develop ever stronger relations between the countries in question.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – Colleagues, please keep to your time. It is 10.57, and at 12.00 we have the votes.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Mario Pirillo (S&D).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the forthcoming summit of the Heads of State or Government on 7-8 June in Barcelona is clearly an important occasion for the practical launch of the Union for the Mediterranean. It therefore constitutes an extraordinary opportunity to lay down the lasting foundations for real and stronger cooperation for peace and security.

Precisely for this reason, we must take full advantage of the opportunity in order to establish a development strategy, and so that we can define projects capable of revitalising that area and promoting economic growth. I hope that the meeting will strengthen initiatives such as Solar for Peace and Desertec, which are important instruments for the creation of an interdependent regional energy market.

Lastly, the UfM must boost scientific and technological research and innovation, using existing research institutes to increase the competitiveness of local businesses, too weak to face the challenges of the global market. I am convinced that growth of the Union can reinforce the unity of Europe.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE).(RO) I wish to say that, nearly two years after the launch of the Union for the Mediterranean, it is time for us take stock of this new federating project and also reflect on its prospects for development. From this perspective, I think that the report drafted by Mr Peillon is welcome and I, too, would like to join my fellow Members in congratulating the author.

Looking ahead to the Barcelona Summit in June, I think that it is very important for us to reaffirm Parliament’s commitment to the success of this project in an area which, as we are all aware, is located at the crossroads of three continents and which is obviously important to Europe in geostrategic and cultural terms. I am somewhat concerned by Mr Baudis’s scepticism regarding the possibility of this summit being postponed. I hope that it will not come to this and that we will use all the institutional resources available to us to ensure this summit goes ahead. This will mark not only an occasion for reflection, but also an institutional success because the Union for the Mediterranean needs to overcome political impasses and institutional difficulties in the process of implementing the six strategic projects which embody the institution’s very essence.

The durability and credibility of the Union for the Mediterranean depend on its ability to operate. To do this, it not only needs adequate funding for implementing the projects and running the secretariat, but I also think that greater involvement is required from civil society and national and parliamentary groups, as well as from the EMPA to ensure the democratic legitimacy of the Union for the Mediterranean.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Roberta Angelilli (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, one of the European Parliament’s political priorities must be to help make the forthcoming Barcelona Summit a full success, following two years of deadlock since the Paris Summit of 2008. There are many goals, which have also been mentioned today, from tackling illegal immigration to combating human rights violations, but there is also a significant economic aspect: the Mediterranean offers huge potential, starting with renewable energies.

Accordingly, we must give our full backing to the Mediterranean Solar Plan and the industrial initiatives such as Desertec, involving businesses and universities in order to develop practical cooperation projects. Indeed, the peace process, which is the priority, must be accompanied by a process of economic development, precisely to guarantee the necessary social cohesion which can help overcome conflicts.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR VIDAL-QUADRAS
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Olga Sehnalová (S&D). (CS) The Union for the Mediterranean is undoubtedly also a courageous inter-cultural project, the success of which depends, among other things, on a willingness to overcome different cultural and social traditions. Cultural diversity leads to mutual enrichment if its impulses are perceived openly as an opportunity and not as a threat. One of these opportunities is the approach to gender equality in society. It is an area regarded with some sensitivity in this region. The Union for the Mediterranean must therefore devote suitable attention to this area, and not only because of the commitments here of the Marrakech ministerial conference in November 2009 on supporting both the spirit and letter of gender equality and strengthening the role of women in society, including their participation in public life, and combating violence against women. This is one of the key areas that can unleash and provide enormous human potential for the entire region, which can only profit as a result. Double standards and a reluctance to change, which is often supported mainly on the pretext of custom and tradition, cannot be accepted but, on the contrary, should be rejected as an obstacle to the development of the Mediterranean region.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Lara Comi (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that the European Union must provide greater support to the Union for the Mediterranean project in both political and financial terms. The summit of the 43 Heads of State or Government within the Union for the Mediterranean will take place on 7 June in Barcelona and, as the European Parliament, we must hope that this meeting proves a success for the launch of the UfM institutions and the implementation of the projects. As shadow rapporteur for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) for the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, I have drawn attention to aspects that I consider to be important, such as the creation of a Mediterranean free trade area, the participation of the research and education sector, the growth of broadband and information technology, and also increased opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises. In particular, regarding this last point, SMEs and business development are already one of the strategic sectors. The major projects must receive adequate support from European and international financial institutions and consequently, the new projects should endeavour to involve as many European partners as possible.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Mr President, President Sarkozy’s proposal for a Union for the Mediterranean was the highpoint of the French Presidency of the EU. Since then, it appears to have lost some of its lustre. This may not be a bad thing, because the EU is itself developing a robust and successful southern dimension of its own Neighbourhood Policy. This follows almost two decades of the development of the Barcelona Process and its political apparatus.

Europe’s taxpayers rightly take a very dim view of duplication of effort and waste of resources, and there is some confusion about all these competing processes, but whatever the fate of the Union for the Mediterranean at the summit on 8 June, we must not allow the eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy to fall behind. Sadly, we have not developed the putative Euronest Assembly in the same way as the Euromed Assembly which has been active for so long. This is principally because of the problems relating to Belarus’ participation.

Lastly, my ECR Group fully supports Mr Albertini, as Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, to resile from leading the visit to the Middle East. This has been controversial and discussed this morning in the enlarged Bureau. Any vote of no confidence in the Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs by the Socialist Group we will oppose.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Mr President, the Mediterranean has been the cradle of European culture and the driving force behind it for millennia and, therefore, I very much welcome this joint approach.

However, the Mediterranean region is also a bridge for almost unrestricted immigration into the EU. In our opinion, one of the most important problems in the Mediterranean area, in other words, illegal immigration, forms part of the six main strategic projects and, therefore, urgently needs to be included. Only a joint approach in the Mediterranean countries, including those in North Africa, can help to slow down the flood of illegal immigration. This is the only way in which we can stem the tide of refugees at its starting point. As well as combating organised people smuggling, the EU must also focus increasingly on fighting poverty, raising awareness and providing information in the countries where the immigrants come from. It must be clearly explained to those people who want to migrate that the streets of Europe are not paved with gold, that Europe cannot provide jobs, prosperity and asylum for everyone and that many of these traumatic journeys end in detention and deportation.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Raffaele Baldassarre (PPE).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, despite the creation of the Union and the holding of the summit of Heads of State or Government, we still lack a clear definition of EU Mediterranean policy and a long-term strategic vision for the development and stabilisation of the region.

Yet the Mediterranean has enormous potential: one third of global maritime traffic now passes through Mediterranean waters, coming from China, Asia, European countries, India, reaching our waters via the Suez Canal. The coastal countries of the Middle East and of Africa are advanced developing countries and for us, they are vital in certain fundamental areas, including that of migration flows.

We must therefore better define the operational structure of the institutions of the Union for the Mediterranean, providing the secretariat with financial resources and with criteria for membership and for implementing projects. The key points include agriculture, transport, maritime highways, transnational corridors, renewable energy and the Solar Plan. In the words of Paul Morand, a French diplomat and writer, the Mediterranean is, above all, the anti-desert civilisation. Let us reassert these words.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Diane Dodds (NI). – Mr President, I will leave aside the most pertinent question this morning, and that is: how on earth are European taxpayers going to pay for all of the apparatus and secretariat that has been talked about and proposed in this House this morning? I want to give my view that there is no doubt that stability in the Mediterranean is certainly good for the wider European Union.

However, with European Union help comes responsibility from the very countries that want to benefit from the institutions and the enhanced economic opportunities. I want to focus very quickly on one aspect, and that is the rejection of a thousand tonnes of seed potatoes from Northern Ireland by the Moroccan authorities this year; a trade that had been going on for over 20 years; potatoes that had been inspected according to the normal rules before they left my country and then were rejected by the Moroccan authorities under a different regime.

I do understand – and I respect – that Commissioner De Gucht is looking into this matter, but I want to stress that we do need responsibility from those who hope to benefit.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, it was indeed a good and inspiring discussion. I agree with those who say that we lost a lot of time, particularly in building a secretariat. I shall come to that in a second.

We are still facing some very important questions: how to make sure that whatever is going on around the Middle East process does not take the Union for the Mediterranean hostage; how to make sure that the summit takes place and that it creates the momentum you were talking about; and how to solve the issue of the intergovernmental approach vis-à-vis the Community approach as far as the Union for the Mediterranean is concerned. I shall make five very short remarks.

The first is that I should like to express my appreciation of the Spanish Presidency. We worked very hard with the Spanish Presidency in recent months. We inaugurated the secretariat on 4 March together and the Spanish Presidency is working very hard to make sure that the Barcelona Summit takes place.

My second remark is that it is very important not only that the secretariat starts its work, but also that it is funded. So far, it is funded only by the Commission. We will be sending one expert to make sure that there is compatibility between the project and EU policy. The secretariat should be small – about 40 people, more or less – and it should be that instrument which makes it possible for us to have more and more projects for the benefit of the members of the Union for the Mediterranean.

It is also important to say in this connection that there are a number of sectoral meetings going on which will bring benefits. Next week, there is a Finance Ministers’ meeting in Marseilles, and then next month, Agriculture Ministers will be meeting in Cairo.

While the Union for the Mediterranean is a very important part of our Neighbourhood Policy, the main bulk of our work with these countries is in the bilateral relationship where many of the southern partners would like to have an advanced status. Advanced status, on my reading, also means advanced commitment from our partners across the board, including on human rights and mobility, which are also very important questions. I agree with the honourable Members who were calling on us to ensure a greater synergy between the bilateral and multilateral approaches.

My last remark is that we are determined to work with the European Parliament. One of the next occasions will be the discussion on the neighbourhood package where we assess both the bilateral and multilateral framework of our neighbourhood.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Vincent Peillon, rapporteur. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I would like to make three brief comments.

Firstly, we have not been lacking in respect for anyone, especially not people who might be victims, but we considered that compassion, moral indignation and insults do not add up to a policy.

Secondly, we have not, of course, ignored the conflicts which exist either in Cyprus or in the Sahara or, of course, in the Palestinian territories. Seriously, however, did we think, in the common foreign and security policy or in the various negotiations that have taken place, that it was up to the UfM to deal with these issues? You cannot be everything to everybody and confusion of the mind is not a recipe for efficiency.

Thirdly, I too am sorry that the Council is not here. It is not a good sign when you find out that this lack of political will is giving us cause to believe – Dominique Baudis is right – that the summit on 7 June is in the balance. Be that as it may, Parliament will have assumed its responsibilities. The people who constructed Europe did so with a long-term vision and a keen sense – following the fratricidal wars that divided us – of the importance of specific policy. It is this same spirit that we wanted to develop with the Mediterranean in this report.

With Europe in the throes of a major crisis, we need to be capable of defining a growth strategy, as I said earlier. We also need to ensure that we do not turn in on ourselves. When you turn in on yourself, when you stop having exchanges with the outside world, then you start to die. That is why I think that this collective piece of work is an important piece of work and I hope that the Heads of State or Government – who have not recently lived up to their historic responsibility – listen and take heed.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today at 12.00.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing.(RO) The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and Eastern Partnership are two cooperation initiatives intended to consolidate the European Union’s neighbourhood policy. I believe that the European Parliament needs to monitor developments with these initiatives closely, particularly at the present juncture when global geopolitical and economic balances are being redefined. This initiative will help foster a suitable climate of trust for achieving common objectives, whether economic, cultural, educational or relating to regional security.

I wish to emphasis that real progress in strong, regional cooperation will only be achieved by implementing large-scale projects and conducting dialogue at every level. In addition to the six strategic investment sectors specified, I think that new projects need to be launched in areas such as food, agriculture and culture.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Erminia Mazzoni (PPE), in writing.(IT) The Barcelona Process stalled for political reasons, first and foremost, because of the regional conflicts in the Mediterranean area, but technically, it is still alive, as shown by the major integration projects that the Union is supporting with its own funding and by the progress made in defining the institutional structure of the UfM. Since it was established in Naples in 2003, the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly has carried out its activities of coordination and democratic control over the implementation of these projects, which tie in with a number of major challenges facing the region: cleaning up the sea, transport, renewable energies, education, small and medium-sized enterprises and civil protection. However, the political drive needed to get the Euro-Mediterranean strategy off the ground has been lacking. The resolution on the Union for the Mediterranean is an important political act which, after more than two decades of considerable energy devoted to eastward expansion, draws the attention of the Council, the Commission and the Member States to the need to modify their geopolitical outlook and place the promotion of relations with countries of the Mediterranean basin at the heart of their foreign policy, starting with the adoption of a common position on the Middle Eastern conflict.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Tokia Saïfi (PPE), in writing.(FR) This report on the Union for the Mediterranean marks the interest and investment of the European Parliament in dialogue between the two sides of the Mediterranean. The inauguration of the seat of the UfM in Barcelona and the designation of its first Secretary-General are a vital step in specifying the projects to be implemented within the framework of this Union. However, the UfM does, nonetheless, face certain political tensions. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still blocking its development: the interruption of the process following events in Gaza, the boycott of a previous summit in Istanbul; there are numerous examples. In this difficult context, we seriously hope that the second UfM summit scheduled to take place in Barcelona on 7 June will give new impetus and a new dynamic to it and to the missions it has to accomplish. Without doubt, persisting regional conflicts will make its mission difficult if they are not resolved, but we are asking the Heads of State or Government of the Member States of the UfM to live up to their political and historical responsibilities. The meeting in Barcelona will mark our commitment to the Mediterranean.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Richard Seeber (PPE), in writing.(DE) The Union for the Mediterranean, which was founded almost two years ago on the basis of the Barcelona Process and under the leadership of France, still faces many challenges. The political dialogue between the EU and its southern neighbours is not restricted simply to the subjects of migration and economic agreements. It also includes areas such as disaster control, energy and the environment.

The Mediterranean regions are hard hit by water shortages and drought. In 2007, one third of Europeans lived in regions where water was in short supply. This problem is even more acute in the Maghreb countries, which do not have the necessary technical and financial resources to use water more efficiently. In the case of sudden, heavy rainfall, floods can cause even more damage, because of the infrastructure problems in these regions.

Water is fundamental to all life and, therefore, it is necessary for us to increase our financial and economic cooperation. Projects which improve environmental protection can only be implemented on the basis of improved collaboration between the countries in the Mediterranean region.

 

4. The need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus (debate)
Video of the speeches
MPphoto
 

  President . The next item is the report by Mr Kirilov, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus (2009/2216 (INI)) (A7-0123/2010).

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Evgeni Kirilov, rapporteur. – Mr President, first of all, I would like to thank the shadow rapporteurs and all the colleagues who contributed to the elaboration of this important report which outlines the need for an EU strategy towards the South Caucasus region. The South Caucasus is not only a region in the immediate neighbourhood of the Union – Romania and Bulgaria have a sea border with it – but also a region of great strategic importance for the Union in political, economic and security aspects.

Therefore, the European Union’s main objective there should be to participate actively in its stabilisation and to encourage the development of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia towards stability and democracy; to establish good neighbourly relations and integration in EU policies. The European Parliament supports strongly all the initiatives which increase the EU presence in the region and, in particular, the most recent one, the Eastern Partnership. It offers a valuable framework for increased regional cooperation, introduction of visa-free travel to the Union and conclusion of comprehensive free trade agreements. This is a two-way process that requires efforts and dedication from both sides; it is in the vital interests of the three countries to continue their efforts towards further democratisation.

Good governance, political pluralism, rule of law and respect for human rights are of paramount importance for determining their future relations with the Union. Therefore, the European Union should continue providing financial and technical assistance to them in order to promote these principles within the framework of political conditionality. The region’s strategic geopolitical location, its increasing importance as an energy, transport and communication corridor connecting the Caspian Sea and Central Asia with Europe and the growing EU preoccupation with energy security suggest a more active participation in the energy projects of the region, including the completion of the Nabucco pipeline project.

However, these ambitious EU policies can hardly be achieved when there is a big shadow over the region: the unresolved conflicts in Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh. They are also a serious impediment to democratisation, political stability and social and economic development. Unfortunately, it was owing to the 2008 war in Georgia that the Union realised that it needs to play a more active role in the region as far as conflict prevention and conflict management are concerned. The deadlock situation due to these conflicts and the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty justify an increasing pro-active EU policy. This is particularly valid for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict where the Union has been practically absent. Simply stating support for the work of the Minsk Group at this stage is not enough if the EU takes seriously its new, more active role in foreign policy.

The Union is the international mediator that is accepted by both sides and whose presence does not raise controversies. There is a need for the Union to lead the international efforts for rehabilitation and reconstruction in this conflict area by initiating reconciliation projects, people-to-people programmes and contacts, and by sending a mission into the region once a political solution is found.

The conflicts in the region also demand a special effort with regard to the situation of the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, which has serious humanitarian consequences. The European Union has the means and experience to contribute to the creation of a more tolerant atmosphere in the South Caucasus. It should also draw from its own historical experience and show to the people of the region that they can live together in peace and prosperity and can restore the good relations and trust which historically existed. It is a main task for the Union to try to convince the leaders and the people – the hearts and minds of the people – in the region to support the peace initiatives, not the threats, not the tensions. So there is a good future if we try to do it all together.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I am pleased to participate in this exchange of views with the European Parliament on the European Union’s relationship with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the three countries of the South Caucasus. I already had a very good discussion on the South Caucasus with the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee on 28 April, shortly after my visit to the region.

I welcome this report as a valuable contribution to the reflection on how the European Union can build an even stronger and broader relationship with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Let me recall that we have a solid framework of engagement, namely, the well-established European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership launched last year. The former continues to be one of the European Union’s top priorities for its external relations. Successful implementation of the latter, with the active engagement of the partner countries, will further strengthen our relations on the basis of shared values.

Let me underline two very important milestones along this road.

Last week, the Commission published its third annual progress report for the South Caucasus countries. The ENP action plans and the regular assessment of their implementation remain an essential tool to advance political and economic reforms in those countries as well as their cooperation with the European Union.

This time, we have chosen a five-year assessment for the European Neighbourhood Policy package. The main objective is that we want to use the findings as a basis for extensive consultations with the Member States, with you here in the European Parliament, and with our partners in the neighbourhood, to get your – and their – feedback as to whether we have the right tools and instruments in place, whether the amount and the allocation of resources is appropriate, and whether the speed and the scope of our efforts are right and are going in the right direction.

The results will be presented in the framework of next year’s package, which should make our policy more coherent and which will, without doubt, lead to a higher degree of ownership by our neighbours. It will also be an ideal opportunity to make our case for the provision of adequate resources by the next financial perspective very strong.

The second milestone is the authorisation by the Council, again last week, of the opening of the negotiations on association agreements with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The adoption of these negotiating directives is a clear signal of our strong commitment to further deepening the relationship between the European Union and the countries of the South Caucasus on the basis of shared values and principles including democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The Commission is already preparing for such negotiations, which are expected to start within the next few months. These two areas clearly demonstrate that the EU already has a well-established and comprehensive strategy for the South Caucasus, whose potential we are seeking to exploit to the fullest extent, a strategy to bring this region closer to the European Union.

In the light of the report by Mr Kirilov, which is a very valuable and much appreciated contribution, I conclude that the European Parliament’s views converge very much with those of the Commission on a number of points. The stability and security of the South Caucasus have a direct impact on Europe. Therefore, the European Union shares the responsibility for supporting the peaceful resolution of conflict and confidence-building. The South Caucasus matters to the European Union, not least due to its energy and transport links. Improved governance and a stronger system of the rule of law will facilitate trade and investment as well as mobility of persons. The new association agreements will expand the trade provisions under the partnership and cooperation agreements.

I believe that the European Union is on the right track in strengthening relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Let me stress, however, that the responsibility for the establishment of a constructive framework for engagement is a joint effort. The commitment of our South Caucasus partners to approximation with Europe needs to be translated into further progress towards democracy, market economy and political stability on the ground. I thus call on Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to move forward in their efforts towards a modern, inclusive, pluralistic democratic and prosperous society at peace with their neighbours.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Metin Kazak, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on International Trade.(BG) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as coordinator for the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, I had the opportunity to present the opinion of the Committee on International Trade on the need for a European strategy for the South Caucasus. I know that this report is complex and sensitive in many areas.

The strategy is vitally important for ensuring a consistent good neighbour policy. It reaffirms the European Union’s role as a global player in the region in terms of general foreign policy and security policy. Cooperation with the South Caucasus in the energy sector and in fostering democracy and good governance must be included among the EU’s main priorities.

This is important for regional cooperation as well, and also because of the geopolitical situation of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, on the one hand, and of Russia, Iran and Turkey as a candidate for accession to the European Union, on the other. Trade barriers must be lifted and commercial and economic ties between the EU and the South Caucasus strengthened. This will boost political stability and respect for human rights and will generate sustainable growth and prosperity in the region.

This is another reason why the signing of an association agreement and of comprehensive free trade agreements must become a key objective in our foreign policy for the South Caucasus. This will contribute to the settlement of frozen conflicts, enable Azerbaijan to join the World Trade Organisation very soon and improve these countries’ administrative and institutional capacity. In this respect, I call on the Commission to show greater commitment to achieving these goals.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Anna Ibrisagic, on behalf of the PPE Group.(SV) Mr President, we will be voting today on a report on the need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus. This is a very important subject. Given the prevalent political situation in the region, it is crucial for the EU to play a more active political role.

As shadow rapporteur for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), I have been working very hard in particular to highlight the EU’s role in the South Caucasus and to identify what concrete measures we in the European Union can take in order to help the affected countries and to bring them closer to the EU at their own individual pace on the basis of their own specific conditions. The report proposes two important steps that the EU should take quickly in order for it to be possible to implement the strategy – upping the pace of the negotiations on visa liberalisation and establishing a free trade area between the EU and the South Caucasus.

All the countries in the region – Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan – are former Soviet States, and Russia continues to influence the region much more than some people understand. In order to enable security, stability and peace to be maintained in the future, the EU therefore needs to have a greater presence in the region than we have at the moment. It is very important that the citizens of these countries have better prospects of joining the EU and it is crucial for the EU to understand the importance of stability in the Caucasus.

I have also been eager to obtain clear reports of the long-term antagonisms that exist in the region and the ever-present danger that these will evolve into armed conflicts. I am therefore very pleased to see the text clearly reiterate our unconditional support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and inviolable, internationally recognised borders and strongly condemn the recognition by the Russian Federation of the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as contrary to international law.

The report that we are voting on today received broad political support in the committee, which was pleasing to see. I would like to call on everyone to vote ‘yes’ to the amendments tabled by the PPE Group together with the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the S&D Group.(DE) Mr President, firstly, I would like to thank Mr Kirilov very much for his comprehensive work, which, as has already been said, has made a valuable contribution to our strategy in this region.

When I was in the region recently, in Tbilisi, someone from another country in the area said that regional cooperation was a concept which had been imposed on the region by Europe. This demonstrates the attitude of many politicians and people in positions of responsibility in this region. Actually, we do not want to cooperate at all, but if Europe wants us to, then we probably have no other choice.

We must make it quite clear that in Europe, regional cooperation formed the basis for us to come together and for peaceful development and it must be the same in this region. Many of the negative external influences to which the region is subject, including pressure from its former big brother, Russia, would certainly have less of an impact if the countries in the region were able to work together.

The region is not only important for Europe but also, of course, for its neighbours. I am thinking in particular of Turkey, which is a neighbour we can work very closely with in this region. I would like to see a joint solution found in the near future for the two problems which Turkey is or may be partly responsible for, in other words, those relating to its neighbour Armenia, on the one hand, and to Nagorno-Karabakh, on the other.

There is nothing to prevent the Armenian troops from at least leaving those provinces of Azerbaijan which do not form part of Nagorno-Karabakh. This would lay the foundations for an improved relationship between Armenia and Turkey.

The members of this group, and Mr Severin and myself in particular, have repeatedly raised the idea of a union between the EU and the countries around the Black Sea, because we believe that cooperation between this region and the EU, but also with its neighbours Turkey and Russia, is very important. I think that the content of this report could form the beginnings of a union of this kind. At the moment, this is still a vision, but I hope that it will soon become a reality.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Norica Nicolai, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(RO) As shadow rapporteur for the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, I believe that this report provides an important starting point for a coherent approach to the Caucasus region and provides a quality benchmark for the reports which we will have in the future. For this reason, I wish to congratulate Mr Kirilov and I believe that the efforts made by all the political groups have managed to produce a totally coherent approach to this region.

In my view, 2010 can offer both the European Union and the countries in this region a window of opportunity because more active participation by European diplomacy in the three high-profile dossiers involving conflict, by which I am referring to Abkhazia and Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and the dispute between Turkey and Armenia, may help make significant progress.

The conclusion of this report, which emphasises a key factor for our energy security, is that we, the European Union, need to have greater involvement in order to normalise the security situation in the region. I think that the approach to adopt is to expand the commercial partnership. However, this should be accompanied, at the same time, by significant attempts by the European Union to bring democracy and stability to the region because the temptation towards totalitarianism still has a strong influence in this region, and we also have a general lack of democracy.

We must devise major, well-supported policies and projects so that the factors relevant to this region, particularly, a lack of governance, the spread of conflict attitudes and, last but not least, corruption, can be eliminated. However, to achieve this, democratic will is required from both us and the governments in the region.

The report mentions all these points which I have spoken about, and many others which are important to the European Union’s approach. I am referring to individual rights and freedoms. I also think that it is crucial for the European Union and its Member States to consider a strategic partnership.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Ulrike Lunacek, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Mr President, like the previous speakers, I would also like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Kirilov, for his good work and for the high quality of the report, which is extremely comprehensive.

I would like to touch on a few points which have not yet been highlighted, but which are very important to me. It is, unfortunately, the case that the three frozen conflicts in this region represent a huge obstacle to the full development of the European neighbourhood policy and not only that, but also the development of the countries themselves. If you have a real or assumed external enemy, things are relatively simple. In this case, governments and states often put too little emphasis on combating poverty, on doing something for their own population and on taking responsibility for their people. This means that the need to move away from high levels of military spending, which are criticised in this report and which have risen in recent years, towards spending on social services, culture and the environment, which benefits the population, is a central element of this report and I am pleased that it has been included.

Another aspect which was addressed, for example, in the Tagliavini report on the conflict between Georgia and Russia, is the need for disarmament on an intellectual and linguistic level to counteract inflammatory language and the manipulation of history. All of this is necessary in order for us to make genuine progress in bringing peace to this region.

Other factors include the need for more democracy, support for civil society, the protection of ethnic, sexual and religious minorities and human rights issues. All of these things remain relevant. One example from Azerbaijan is the case of two young bloggers who were brave enough to criticise the government and have now been in prison for six months and have not yet been released. The freedom of the media is a problem in all the countries. Fortunately, all of these aspects are covered in this report and I see this in the same way as the previous speakers. The regional dimension and cross-border cooperation are important. Therefore, we support the Commission in its ongoing joint activities in this area.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Charles Tannock, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, as the Kirilov report makes clear, the countries of the South Caucasus are strategically important to our Union, not least in terms of energy security, e.g. Caspian oil and gas production and transit through the countries of the region. Sadly, however, this region remains paralysed by frozen conflicts, the most recent of which is, of course, Russia’s de facto occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia which, in our view, are Georgian sovereign territory. We cannot, in terms of EU-Russia relations, simply pretend that this did not happen.

Through the mechanisms of the ENP’s Eastern Partnership, we must now, of course, redouble our efforts to reward Georgia’s determined efforts to realise its Euro-Atlanticist aspirations, and I and my group fully support an FTA eventually, visa liberalisation and association agreements for all the countries in the South Caucasus. As a strong friend of Armenia, I am glad that the final version of the report is more balanced than the initial ones. However, I still remain concerned about elements of the report which appear to contradict the EU’s official position on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and the Minsk Group’s position in particular.

Armenia has now made courageous efforts to resolve this long-standing impasse over Nagorno-Karabakh. It has also sought to normalise relations with Turkey, a move which should stabilise the South Caucasus. If only Turkey itself would respond in a similarly constructive manner without preconditions. If this border could be reopened, it would not only relieve the embargo on long-suffering Armenia, which has gone on far too long, but also allow economic prosperity in a very poor and underdeveloped region of Eastern Turkey. So there is enlightened self-interest for Turkey to move on this issue. It is not credible in my view that Turkey can justify the permanent closure of this border with Armenia because of its so-called solidarity with its Turkic brother, Azerbaijan, over the unresolved NK dispute. This is as logical as saying that Greece should shut down its border in Thrace with Turkey in solidarity with the Greek Cypriots over the Turkish occupation of Cyprus. We in the EU believe in open borders and free trade as a sine qua non for peace and stability on our continent and also in the South Caucasus.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Fiorello Provera, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I too would like to congratulate Mr Kirilov on the excellent work he has carried out in a field full of difficulties, but also opportunities, such as that of relations between EU countries and the countries of the South Caucasus.

Europe has embarked on an interesting Eastern Partnership project, which has met with support and interest from Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. However, the challenges to be faced are many and concern energy, economic and political issues, and especially security issues, as in the case of Georgia, the Nagorno-Karabakh question and the tensions between Turkey and Armenia.

The development of relations between the European Union and these three countries will be much more effective if a climate of mutual cooperation can be established between Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, in accordance with the principle of territorial integrity and with the UN resolutions that form the basis for ending the unresolved conflicts in the area. It is important to stress the policy of the inviolability of a state’s borders, which the EU has always supported: borders that cannot, under any circumstances, be modified using military force.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Dimitar Stoyanov (NI).(BG) Mr President, I would like to begin by informing you, ladies and gentlemen, that the rapporteurs, Mr Kirilov and Mr Kazak, belong to parties which automatically vote in the Bulgarian National Assembly against acknowledging the Armenian genocide. Against this background, it is not strange that, as Mr Tannock also said before me, this report deviates from some of the positions put forward so far. A large number of respectable Armenian organisations have contacted me, especially about the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, and informed me that the report has not, for instance, been mentioned and that there were no consultations with leading figures in the Minsk Group. It is also the case that, although the report refers to the Madrid criteria, it deviates from them.

This is why I would like to make this constructive criticism to Mr Kirilov because I believe that unilateral representation of the one side will not improve the situation and will not help resolve the conflicts. A flexible approach is required which sees things from absolutely every perspective. Otherwise, we will only deepen the conflicts rather than resolve them.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Iuliu Winkler (PPE). – Mr President, I believe that democratisation, good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights are the cornerstones on which our future relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have to be built. Cross-border cooperation at regional level in the South Caucasus will also increase this region’s potential cooperation with the European Union.

There are several very important dimensions to our economic cooperation, one of them being energy cooperation and security, especially in the context of valuable projects supported by the European Commission – such as the Nabucco Pipeline project. The Caspian Sea and the Black Sea regions are vital for European energy security and the EU strategy for the South Caucasus rightly recognises those elements.

I would like to highlight very briefly three very specific elements. One of them is the involvement of local authorities in cross-border cooperation, because we need strong regional cooperation in the South Caucasus; then the issue of the accession of Azerbaijan to the WTO. I believe that the Commission is to give Azerbaijan the technical assistance and all kinds of help needed to accomplish this accession.

The third and last point is the technical assistance mechanism that we could probably provide in order to strengthen the banking system and the financial system in the South Caucasus states. This would give the business environment and investors a very good prospect.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Adrian Severin (S&D). – Mr President, the report by Mr Kirilov speaks about the need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus. Indeed, I believe a strategy is needed, but a strategy needs goals and goals pre-suppose a clear geopolitical identity. Perhaps we have to work on our geopolitical identity to define it better. What are our goals in the South Caucasus? In a nutshell, stability, openness in the region and interoperability, legislative, democratic, political and so on.

One has to recognise the specificity of the region within the Eastern Partnership and approach that specificity as such. One has also to recognise the specificity of each country within the region and to address it properly. We have to acknowledge and assess the role of Turkey in the region and use our negotiations with Turkey as a frame for developing an EU-Turkey partnership in addressing the local and regional challenges. As has been said already, Turkey, I am sure, could be very instrumental from this point of view.

We must also acknowledge that the region is part of our common neighbourhood with Russia, and we have to try to find ways of promoting common policies in that common neighbourhood. The security issues for sure, and perhaps some issues related to energy, could be dealt with in a trilateral format. This would perhaps help us to promote solutions for the local, so-called ‘frozen’ conflicts. In this respect, we have to accept that those conflicts are only parts of a coherent, broader and more complex problem with a bigger, global relevance. Therefore, a package deal should perhaps be considered. Likewise, I think we have to get rid of some ambiguities and understand that the principles of self-determination and territorial integrity cannot always be applied together.

Finally, I think that we have to consider a conference on security and cooperation in the South Caucasus with a view to developing a stability pact for that region.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Tomasz Piotr Poręba (ECR).(PL) As permanent rapporteur of the European Parliament for Armenia, I should like to emphasise the need to define a clear and effective European Union strategy for the South Caucasus. We have great hopes for this region as we build a free and democratic Europe. To do this, we must very consistently support the countries of this region and encourage them to make further free market reforms.

In this context, it is of fundamental importance to complete, as quickly as possible, the negotiation process for a new type of association agreement between the countries of the South Caucasus and the European Union. I am convinced these agreements will be a stimulus for the region to continue efforts at introducing democratic standards. The example of Georgia shows that such reforms have already brought results. In Doing Business 2010, a ranking of business-friendly states prepared by the World Bank, Georgia is in 11th place, which means that in four years, it has advanced by as many as 101 places. Transparency International has said that, as a result of the reduction in bureaucracy achieved during President Saakashvili’s term of office, the Corruption Perceptions Index for Georgia has halved.

The European Union should appreciate the fact that President Saakashvili is consistently applying a free-market policy, and his reforms are a good example for the other Caucasus states.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Bernd Posselt (PPE).(DE) Mr President, on 9 May, President Buzek and 20 000 people celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Robert Schuman declaration here in Strasbourg. Against this background, I would like to say that the South Caucasus is faced with two alternatives. One is to become something like the Balkans before the First World War, but on a global scale, and the other is to become something like the European Coal and Steel Community after the Second World War. In the Kirilov report, we are choosing the second of these two options.

I agree with Mr Swoboda that if the three states in the South Caucasus were to work more closely together, the impact of external influences, such as the Russian influence, could be reduced. Therefore, it is in the interests of all three countries to come together. I support Armenia in its efforts to gain recognition of the genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire. However, Armenia would be much more credible if it finally withdrew its troops from Azerbaijan. We urgently need a peaceful solution in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the occupied Azerbaijani areas. Just as importantly, we need more stability in Georgia, because if Georgia is broken up, as many people in Moscow want, then the whole region will be destabilised.

For this reason, the main issues are peace negotiations, a solution for the nationality conflicts and, above all, the return of displaced people to their homes. In the 21st century, displacement must not continue to be used as a political tool. People should not be attempting to maintain the process of displacement. We need a great deal more sensitivity and much more action in this area.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D). (LT) I would like to thank my colleague, Mr Evgeni Kirilov, for his thorough and very significant report. The European Union calls on Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to do everything they can to ensure that these countries become stable, peaceful and really democratic states where human and minority rights are guaranteed and where there is civilised competition between government and opposition.

It is not so easy to talk about regional cooperation when we know very well that all three countries have been damaged by frozen or completely fresh conflicts. Nevertheless, the European experience (in particular, if we remember the origins of the European Union following bloody wars) is eloquent testimony to the fact that the only solution is to talk, negotiate, heal wounds and act with an eye to the future and not the past. The countries of the South Caucasus will have a clearer European perspective if they are able to cooperate among themselves and in the broader region. Clearly, that also depends on the behaviour of neighbouring countries.

The European Union has opportunities to play a more active political role in the South Caucasus to ensure, above all, the implementation of poverty reduction programmes, the alleviation of social isolation, gender equality and women’s rights and investment in education and health care.

It is important to accelerate the development of direct contact between citizens of the South Caucasus and European Union Member States. In particular, we ought to increase the number of students, teachers and researchers participating in mobility programmes.

That is the common interest we all share.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR).(PL) This is an important step for the European Parliament towards opening the door to nations which are obviously European, such as the Georgians and the Armenians. Frankly speaking, it is a step which certainly is overdue. It is a pity it did not happen two years ago, when Georgia became the object of Russian military intervention. Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction. I hope it will be given specific political content, and also that the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly will play a role as an instrument of support for the ambitions of those states which are obviously European in outlook.

Finally, I would very much like those of us who are talking, today, about the democratic deficit in the countries of this region, to speak as clearly about the democratic deficit in a neighbour of these countries, I mean Russia, so that we do not have a double standard.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Krzysztof Lisek (PPE).(PL) Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are undoubtedly European states, they are undoubtedly European nations. These states are members of the Council of Europe and take part in many international missions in cooperation with the countries of the European Union. The European Union must recognise the fundamental right of all states to self-determination and the right of nations to decide their own future. We cannot accept the archaic principle of regions and spheres of influence.

I would like to devote a few seconds to the question of Georgian territorial integrity. It is very good that the Union has declared its support in this matter. The Union is seen, not only in the world, but also – and more importantly – in these countries, as a guarantor of security in the region. We must remember this. Unfortunately, some parts of the ceasefire agreements of 12 August and 8 September 2008 have not been implemented. I understand that talks are under way in Geneva, but perhaps we should draw attention to this once again in our bilateral talks with the Russian Federation.

A second matter is that of visas. I agree with Mrs Malmström, who has said this is the way to bring people together and enable the citizens of Europe to travel. This should, without doubt, also apply to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D).(RO) Bearing in mind the importance of the geopolitical situation of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan in relation to the European Union, Turkey, as a European Union candidate country, Russia and Iran, it is necessary to devise a European Union strategy for the South Caucasus, focused on promoting economic growth, political stability and respect for human rights.

Trade is one of the key instruments available to the EU for achieving these objectives. Concluding free trade agreements with these states would boost foreign investments, create new jobs and encourage economic growth in the region. Guaranteeing energy security is a common concern for the European Union and the South Caucasus region.

Energy cooperation must be stepped up specifically by completing the Nabucco project as quickly as possible and by providing the EU’s support for energy projects which promote energy efficiency and the development of alternative energy sources in the South Caucasus.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Paweł Robert Kowal (ECR).(PL) Georgia and Armenia, and this is stressed by the authors of the report, are dynamically and successfully implementing a European strategy, a neighbourhood policy strategy. We ought to respond to this, and we should, in every case, take account of the specific character of specific countries in the South Caucasus. This strategy, for each of the countries, should include such areas as transport, the natural environment, culture and society.

Mr President, in the context of the South Caucasus, mention is very often made of frozen conflicts and ethnic problems. It is very good that we do talk about them. However, the correct response of the European Union to the problems of the South Caucasus should be an emphasis on modernisation and on changing these countries so that the conflicts do not play such a large role.

In this debate, we have very often forgotten that Georgia has just finished fighting a war. We are considering what to do about this. If we want the South Caucasus to be free from war, we must go for modernisation, because Georgia at least, but also Armenia and Azerbaijan, have recorded such high economic growth in recent years that they deserve our support. Thank you.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Andrey Kovatchev (PPE). (BG) Mr President, I welcome Mr Kirilov’s report, which highlights the need for the European Union to play a more active role in the South Caucasus, a region of significant geopolitical importance. The positive development in the South Caucasus is of benefit to both the neighbouring Black Sea region, for which the European Union still does not have, unfortunately, a clear strategy which we can expect to discuss here some time soon, and to the European Union as a whole.

I wish to express my concern about the delay in the process of ratifying the protocols signed between Turkey and Armenia last October. I think that neither side should stipulate conditions for ratifying these protocols which are in the interest of both the Turkish and Armenian peoples. As the report correctly notes, the negotiations between Armenia and Turkey on opening the border and establishing diplomatic relations and those being conducted in the OSCE Minsk Group about Nagorno-Karabakh must be treated as separate issues.

The European Union must definitely make a more active commitment in the future settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Based on our experience in the Balkans and recently from Georgia as well, the European Union is in a good position to play a key role in this region. A stable, secure and prosperous South Caucasus is in our interests and it is high time for us to assume our responsibility.

The Treaty of Lisbon provides the European Union with a framework to become a real global player. A specific example of this would be the European Union’s participation as a formal member of the Minsk Group, and not only certain individual Member States being members of this group.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, there are eight requests to speak under the ‘catch the eye’ procedure. There is not time for everybody because we must proceed to the vote. I am, therefore, going to allow only six Members to speak.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Andrzej Grzyb (PPE).(PL) The report on the South Caucasus is a good report. I would like to stress that in the report, particular attention is drawn to the role of the European Union as a mediator and a promoter of values but, above all, as a promoter of cooperation between the countries of the region. The problems which we have to solve are, principally, questions of the territorial integrity of these countries, but also how to strengthen them economically. As the European Union, we can help these countries here.

I would like to stress that one of the main problems is the unresolved matter of refugees. Mr Posselt spoke about this. I think it is really disgraceful that in this day and age, this problem cannot be solved. I think a certain deficiency is the fact that the report does not refer to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, although all the countries in the region were, after all, signatories to it. Thank you very much.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Ioan Mircea Paşcu (S&D). – Mr President, today we are debating a very important and well-drafted report on an important area close to the EU, the South Caucasus. The area motivates perfectly the general recommendations of the EU security strategy. It is strategically located; it allows for the transport of Caspian oil and gas towards the EU; and it has its own, significant reserves. That requires our total attention and determination to act. However, precisely because it is strategically and energetically relevant, the area is fiercely contested by foreign powers exploiting its internal divisions and conflicts, be they still ‘frozen’ or ‘defrosting’.

If the EU is interested in making full use of the potential of the South Caucasus, then it must act together, rather than individually, and be more resolute in its actions, even if that involves making others less happy. For that we need a strategy.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Graham Watson (ALDE). – Mr President, I congratulate Mr Kirilov and Mr Kazak on their work.

If our relations are seen purely through the prism of our need for oil and gas, we will exacerbate tensions and fail to achieve security in other senses. It is the need for peace and economic development in the South Caucasus which should drive our policy; that means engaging with NATO to ensure their new strategic concept reflects this, engaging with Russia and Turkey as powers in the region to seek to maximise agreement and extending the true hand of friendship to the people through association agreements and visa arrangements and so on.

We should welcome the statement of Mr Medvedev and Mr Yanukovich on Moldova, which shows how much can be achieved through diplomacy, and I congratulate Commissioner Füle on the development of the Eastern Neighbourhood Partnership so far. I look forward, as the European Union develops a common foreign and security policy, to a more active engagement of the Union on all aspects of relations with the Black Sea region.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE).(RO) I, too, would like to congratulate Mr Kirilov and thank him for his cooperation in drafting the report. I wish to emphasise two points. The first one concerns the issue of democracy. Bernd Posselt was saying earlier that the countries in this region need to cooperate. These countries can cooperate if Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia are governed by the rule of law and they are going to be predictable and pluralist. If this is going to happen, the EU will have something to gain.

The second point naturally concerns the energy issue. I wish to stress at this point the role of Georgia and Azerbaijan as transit countries for energy resources and for the diversification of energy supply sources. However, I would like to say that it is good that Armenia will also be involved in these projects, including transport-related projects. In this regard, the keyword is transparency

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Mr President, in order to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia for its supplies of energy, we should take natural gas from the Caspian basin through the South Caucasus to the EU. This will give the Caucasus a key role. This region is not only the world’s largest transit point for the trade in gas and oil. It is also the place where the interests of Russia and the West collide and where even Turkey wants to become involved. In addition to the oil and gas contracts, Turkey is attempting to conclude a stability and cooperation pact.

Stability in the Caucasus is undoubtedly also in the EU’s interests, but we must not leave the responsibility for this plan to Turkey, otherwise new dependencies and even pressures will arise in the accession process. As the example of Cyprus shows, Ankara does not pull its punches. The ongoing power struggles over the European supply of natural gas have already delayed the construction of the large-scale Nabucco pipeline project, which has been in the planning stage for a long time. I hope that the competing South Stream project will have more success, so that the resources from the Caspian area are not lost to China.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Armenian Government representatives yesterday warned me that the report on the need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus, in the section dealing with the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, includes formulations which do not conform to the official EU position as set out in the provisions of the declaration adopted by the foreign ministers of all OSCE states, and the provisions of the declaration issued by OSCE ministers in Athens on 2 December 2009.

Items 8 and 10 in particular contain formulations which do not correspond to the Madrid principles agreed between the signatories of the OSCE Minsk Group. If these items are adopted in the proposed wording, they could become a serious obstacle to further progress in the process of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In the interests of enabling the previously-mentioned concerns to be reviewed, I would therefore like to propose that we consider one of the two previously-mentioned options: either to remove the contentious provisions from the report, or to postpone voting on the report until a later date, so as to give our friends in the Caucasus time to explain their position on the report to the European Parliament.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, the last speaker, Mr Paška, made a very important point. I would like to make three very short remarks.

Firstly, I believe that we have a strategy, through the Eastern Partnership, to get these three countries closer to the European Union – and, in fact, they are saying ‘as close as it gets’.

Secondly, I think we have instruments for that: association agreements, economic integration agreements, mobility (the visa issue) and, last but not least, a different European Union – a European Union which could combine the Community approach with the common foreign security policy approach.

My third remark is that I am looking forward to a discussion with honourable Members on the neighbourhood package, where we could also discuss the question of whether the concept ‘as close as possible to the European Union’ needs to have some institutional definition.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Evgeni Kirilov, rapporteur. – Mr President, once again, thank you very much for the comments and for the fruitful cooperation we had in the process. Thank you for all the comments and for the support I received from the majority of the colleagues who spoke.

I would like to thank the INTA draftsperson, Mr Kazak, for the constructive ideas presented by his Committee, and the contribution of the ITRE Committee, many of whose suggestions found their place in the report. My gratitude goes also to the AFET secretariat and for the numerous experts, NGOs and other organisations who work actively in the region and who gave their valuable input and support.

I just want to say one thing. We should apply the same principles. I heard some criticism from some colleagues. We should know that this House definitely would not support us if we speak about territorial integrity and self-determination for Georgia. We should know that the universal application of principles is the best basis to start and build relationships. I hope that the Council and the Commission will take on board the recommendation made by the Parliament in this text and devise a comprehensive strategy for the EU towards the South Caucasus, and I would like to point out that Commissioner Füle made a very timely visit to this region.

I would like to appeal to Baroness Ashton to do likewise and try to engage in conflict prevention in the area. Let me say that we welcome and support last week’s decision by the Council to adopt the negotiating directives for the future association agreements with the three countries, and we believe that upgrading the contractual relations with the three countries is an important step. The time is right to step up with measures to prevent negative developments in the region and the escalation of tensions. Otherwise, we risk intervening again when it is already too late. We should not wait for it to happen again.

The big lesson Europe has learnt is the lesson of integration. This is the only sustainable way of reconciliation with the past and investment in a better future.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

We will now proceed to the vote.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Elena Băsescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) In adopting this report, the European Parliament reaffirms the particular importance of the South Caucasus to the European Union, as well as the need to devise a strategy for this region. The three countries in the South Caucasus region, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, are part of both the Black Sea Synergy and the Eastern Partnership. Consequently, we have the framework and instruments to enable the European Union to become more actively involved in the region.

The European Commission must come up with specific initiatives on cooperation in the following areas: energy security, transport, economic development and environmental protection. The South Caucasus region is particularly important for the southern corridor and, therefore, for the whole of Europe’s energy security. Romania is involved in specific projects aimed at developing the southern corridor.

On this point, representatives of my country, Georgia and Azerbaijan signed the AGRI Agreement. This provides for the construction of two liquefied natural gas terminals in two Black Sea ports, one in Georgia and the other at Constanţa in Romania. I would like to stress that we cannot ignore the frozen conflicts in the region as the situation in them may deteriorate, which would destabilise the region.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Tunne Kelam (PPE), in writing. – The situation in the South Caucasus region needs especially now a proactive approach by the European Union with the Lisbon Treaty providing the EU with a mandate to become much more engaged and present in the region. The full-scale Russian military invasion of large parts of Georgian territory in August 2007 dramatically demonstrated that so-called frozen conflicts can easily become sources of devastating regional conflicts if major powers like the EU are not actively engaged in the area. In 2007, both the EU and NATO were clearly left unprepared to face the new situation. Within the framework of Eastern Neighbourhood Policy, the EU is well placed to have a prominent role in contributing to confidence-building, reconstruction and rehabilitation. First of all, this means strengthening the presence of the EU in the region. We support fully the constructive mission of our special representative Peter Semneby. However, we cannot limit ourselves to monitoring missions. In addition and in violation of 2007 agreements, the EUMM is still not allowed to enter the separatist entities under Russian control. Such a situation is both intolerable and humiliating. We can continue cooperation with the Russian authorities only on condition that they fully honour their own commitments.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marek Siwiec (S&D), in writing.(PL) The conflicts in the South Caucasus have reached a very dangerous ceiling, where we have got used to the idea that they are intractable conflicts. Whatever efforts are made – whether real or feigned – are only intended to create a certain kind of fog in the negotiations, which will certainly not lead to resolution of the conflicts. This applies to the territorial disputes between Georgia and Russia, and also, in a special way, to Nagorno-Karabakh.

From my point of view, development of the situation between two of the countries – Armenia and Azerbaijan, which, under the Eastern Partnership and in European Neighbourhood Policy, are our partners – is an unacceptable policy of consent to the fact that these conflicts are intractable.

The European Union, acting in agreement with Russia, which is a very important partner in this matter, must bring about a situation in which a clear statement of positions is made. This should involve, above all, sending a clear message to those countries which want to aspire to membership of the EU that solving territorial problems and at least partial resolution of the matter of refugees are basic conditions for thinking seriously about membership in the near or distant future.

For me, the future and the way the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is handled are a litmus test of what the sides want to show on European matters and how they demonstrate their credibility in this area.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Indrek Tarand (Verts/ALE), in writing. – It was about time to discuss a strategy for the Caucasus, and this strategy should not close its eyes to the unpleasant processes ongoing between Ukraine and Russia. The case concerns the prolonging of the lease of the Sevastopol naval base up to 2050. The statements by Russian leaders that the Black Sea fleet will never be used against its neighbours do not sound too sincere. Why is the fleet there, then – to entertain kids and the elderly in Crimea? Ceterum censeo, France has decided to sell a Mistral class warship to Russia; we believe that it will sincerely regret its action.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR BUZEK
President

 

5. Announcement by the President
Video of the speeches
MPphoto
 

  President. – First of all, I would like to tell you about the difficult situation in Poland. In view of the dramatic flooding in Poland, where a significant amount of the country is flooded and people have lost all their possessions, I would like, on behalf of the European Parliament and all of us, to convey expressions of support and solidarity with the Poles and most sincere expressions of sympathy with those who are suffering, today.

(Applause)

There will be a debate on this at the next part-session of the European Parliament, on 16 June 2010. I am sure the European Union will show solidarity and respond positively to the request from the Polish authorities for financial support. We have our own European Union Solidarity Fund, which is so important in this kind of natural disaster.

 

6. Amendment of the agenda
Video of the speeches
MPphoto
 

  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, this morning, a meeting of the Conference of Presidents was held. We finished the conference 10 minutes ago. We discussed very thoroughly the questions of organising the vote on the resolutions on the Europe 2020 strategy. As you very well know, it is a strategy which is intended to bring our citizens work, prosperity and stability throughout the Union for a whole decade. So it is a crucial strategy for the future situation in the European Union, and also for outside the Union, because we can only be strong if we are strong internally.

In relation to the discussion during the meeting of the Conference of Presidents, arguments were put forward for voting on our resolutions on the Europe 2020 strategy today, because we would like to have them as quickly as possible so that we can participate responsibly in the discussion being held on this subject with other European institutions. However, there were also arguments saying that we need a strategy which we will adopt by a huge majority. If we want to influence the situation in the Union, we have to organise a big majority which supports the resolutions.

There is a fear that there may not be such a majority, today. So, on the one hand, we need the strategy as quickly as possible and, on the other, we want a strong resolution. This is what we need.

In relation to this responsible discussion among the chairs of our political groups, I have decided to submit a proposal that the debate be postponed. This is in accordance with Rule 140 of our Rules of Procedure.

I will say this again: the decision is very important, because we realise the resolution is needed quickly, but we need a resolution which has strong support, and these matters are of great importance.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Joseph Daul, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, thank you for your statement. I should like to add that our Hungarian friends are in the same situation as our Polish friends in terms of floods. We therefore have the same thoughts for our Hungarian fellow citizens as for our Polish fellow citizens.

(Applause)

I endorse your presentation. In a crisis situation, democratic forces must join together. It is with this in mind that I had proposed to the Conference of Presidents, before this Strasbourg session, that this decision be postponed to June, because I had noticed certain discrepancies and ambiguities. I did not obtain a majority at the Conference of Presidents – we are a democratic Parliament here – and we have therefore tried to prepare this resolution.

At lunchtime yesterday, during discussions in our respective groups, we realised that time was short. I do not want to say that the work was botched, as that would be to refuse to recognise the work done by our services, our Vice-Presidents and the people responsible for preparing this work. We thought, before all or some of the heads of delegation, that it would probably be best, for Parliament’s image, to get the text withdrawn and to vote next time; the crisis, may I point out, will not be over by the month of June. We discussed the matter and we agreed to decide that the heads of the large groups would ask for the vote to be postponed until June.

Martin Schulz told me – and was the only one to do so – that first of all, I needed the majority of the group, but everyone needs the majority of the group. We did not therefore discuss amendments in our group yesterday evening, nor did we discuss the resolution today, as the group was in favour of postponement, in order to find a solution, which Parliament considers indispensable towards our fellow citizens.

In the meantime, we have received a letter from Guy Verhofstadt; that is what made us decide to request a simple three-week postponement. In this crisis situation, I am asking you to grant it so that we, Parliament, can show our fellow citizens that we are a strong body and responsible men and women.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – Mr Schulz would like to speak against the proposal.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Martin Schulz, on behalf of the S&D Group.(DE) Mr President, at the beginning of his speech, Mr Daul referred to the difficult situation in Hungary. Many countries are currently experiencing problems. For example, the people of Slovakia have been hard hit by flooding. We have a strong feeling of solidarity with the citizens of all the countries affected by hardship of this kind, including Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Mr President, you and Mr Daul described the situation in the Conference of Presidents as well as yesterday and also this morning. I have nothing to add about procedural matters. However, on behalf of Mr Cohn-Bendit, Mr Bisky and myself, I would like to explain that we did not vote in favour of your proposal to postpone the vote this morning in the Conference of Presidents, because we believe that we should and, in fact, can vote today.

There was a desire to adopt a resolution of this kind in Parliament on a broader level and with a broader majority than was the case in February. What has happened in the last few days does not relate to procedure but to content. However, one thing is completely clear. There has been a move away from the content which enjoyed general consensus in February and, given the serious crisis, this is not surprising. There are several different solutions. There are solutions which some people believe are good, and that is legitimate in democratic terms, and there are our solutions, which differ from those and which we believe are better. We cannot bring ourselves to the point of exhaustion in the search for a consensus. Now is the time to take up firm positions. You can take up firm positions and we will do the same. We have attempted to find a consensual solution, but this did not work. Therefore, we should now try to obtain a majority for one position or the other.

If there is a majority in favour of postponement, I must say at this point that we in the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament will, of course, remain open to new negotiations. However, the starting point for these negotiations will be the text which we have submitted together with our fellow Members from the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance. Therefore, Mr President, I am of the opinion that we should vote today.

 
  
  

(Parliament agreed to the request)

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – I would also like to thank Mr Daul and Mr Schulz for calling attention to the fact that there are also floods, today, in other parts of Europe. You are absolutely right, and expressions of solidarity are due to all the affected countries and all the people of Europe who are today facing danger.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jan Březina (PPE). – Mr President, the water flooding into Poland is flooding from the Czech Republic, where it caused enormous damage in the first stage of these floods. The Czech Republic is also part of the European Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, I was talking about this a moment ago, when I thanked Mr Daul and Mr Schulz. Thank you, too, Mr Březina, for drawing attention to this. We have disastrous floods. Thank you very much.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR WIELAND
Vice-President

 

7. Voting time
Video of the speeches
MPphoto
 

  President. – The next item is voting time.

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

 

7.1. Delivering a single market to consumers and citizens (A7-0132/2010, Louis Grech) (vote)

7.2. University Business Dialogue: A new partnership for the modernisation of Europe’s universities: (A7-0108/2010, Pál Schmitt) (vote)

7.3. Community financial assistance with respect to the decommissioning of Units 1 to 4 of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant in Bulgaria ‘Kozloduy Programme’ (A7-0142/2010, Rebecca Harms) (vote)

7.4. Implementation of the synergies of research and innovation earmarked funds in Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006 concerning the European Fund of Regional Development and the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (A7-0138/2010, Lambert van Nistelrooij) (vote)
  

- Before the vote:

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Lambert van Nistelrooij, on behalf of the PPE Group. (NL) There are no problems with this report. On behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), I would like to request an electronic vote.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – The time has actually run out, but, in the light of the limited transport options available this week and provided that the House has no objections, I propose that we hold a roll-call vote. Does anyone wish to object? No one has objected, so we can vote.

 

7.5. Long-term sustainability of public finances for a recovering economy (A7-0147/2010, Liem Hoang Ngoc) (vote)
  

- After the vote:

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Liem Hoang Ngoc, rapporteur. (FR) Mr President, the report on which we have just voted is a serious blow to the citizens of the European Union, whom the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe would like to foot the bill for this neoliberal crisis.

(Applause)

Under such circumstances, I cannot allow my name or that of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament to be associated with this document. I therefore ask that you withdraw my signature.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – Mr Hoang Ngoc, your statement will be noted in the Minutes.

 

7.6. Contribution of the Cohesion policy to the achievement of Lisbon and the EU2020 objectives (A7-0129/2010, Ricardo Cortés Lastra) (vote)
 

- After the vote:

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Patrizia Toia (S&D).(IT) I just wanted to inform you that my voting machine was not working for the Hoang Ngoc report. I was voting against it.

 

7.7. Union for the Mediterranean (A7-0133/2010, Vincent Peillon) (vote)

7.8. The need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus (A7-0123/2010, Evgeni Kirilov) (vote)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – That concludes voting time.

 

8. Explanations of vote
Video of the speeches
  

Oral explanations of vote

 
  
  

Report: Louis Grech (A7-0132/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Peter Jahr (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I am very pleased that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were mentioned in the report on delivering a single market to consumers and citizens. Paragraph 46 rightly states that access to finance is their greatest problem. That is correct, because it is still easier to secure financing of millions of euro for a hedge fund than to obtain a loan of EUR 100 000 for a small business.

Against this background, I would like to see the report not only describing what should ideally happen, but also requiring the Commission to take concrete action.

 
  
  

Report: Pál Schmitt (A7-0108/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). (SK) Closer dialogue between universities and businesses will, in my opinion, contribute to economic growth. I am alarmed at the increasing unemployment among young people. The uncertain employment situation faced by young people often discourages them from starting a family or makes them want to postpone it excessively, and this ultimately has a negative impact in the economic and social sphere regarding the demographic transformation of Europe.

The dialogue should therefore include measures to support the entry of young people onto the job market, enabling the full development of their potential. Other topics should include making use of education as a means of combating poverty, inequality and social exclusion, with special attention being devoted to people with disabilities. For the reasons mentioned, I support the proposed report.

 
  
  

Report: Rebecca Harms (A7-0142/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Seán Kelly (PPE).(GA) Mr President, I voted in favour of this report and it was the right thing to do.

As regards nuclear energy in general, however, I would like to say that many citizens are confused by it, and in my own country, almost everyone is against nuclear energy due to the terrible disasters which occurred in Sellafield and in Chernobyl. As such, I recommend that the Commission investigate the advantages and disadvantages related to nuclear energy, and that they publish a paper in order to give citizens the opportunity to make up their minds based on the truth rather than on emotions.

Finally, I would like to congratulate you, Mr President, on the excellent job that you have done on your first day in the chair.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Sergej Kozlík (ALDE). (SK) The European Community provides financial assistance to Lithuania, Slovakia and Bulgaria to support their efforts towards fulfilling obligations connected with the withdrawal from operation of first-generation nuclear reactors. The financial assistance for operational withdrawals which was provided to Bulgaria up to 2009 was intended mainly for preparatory work. The aim of the proposed continuation is to provide Bulgaria with assistance so that the country can operate and ensure the safety and maintenance ...

(The speaker was interrupted)

 
  
 

Mr Kozlík, you cannot change the subject in your declaration.

 
  
  

Report: Liem Hoang Ngoc (A7-0147/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Peter van Dalen (ECR). (NL) Mr President, a few of the amendments which the rapporteur has tabled to his report are nothing short of staggering. The rapporteur proposed dropping all the wordings about sound public finances, the breaches of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) which need to be brought to an end and the importance of the strict enforcement of the SGP and 250 members actually supported him in this. Staggering!

The aim of the rapporteur and of the 250 other members is to destroy the economy. How can it be that we still have 250 members who refuse to cut their coats according to their cloth? Two hundred and fifty members of the European Parliament who fail to understand that the land of plenty does not exist! All Member States will have to shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears to purge their debts, put their finances back in order and steer a different course.

Obviously, this is a tough message and will not go down well with the voters. However, if we fail to do this, the whole of Europe will go bankrupt! The path the rapporteur suggested is a recipe for how to destroy the sustainability of public finances in the short term. Fortunately, the amendments have not been adopted.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Vicky Ford (ECR). – Mr President, I welcome this report on public finances. It is a vast improvement on the first draft.

High debt and deficit levels are a grave concern to the UK and across many Member States. We must wean ourselves off fiscal stimuli and quantitative easing, and these should not be the accepted norm. There is a need to focus on overcoming our high unemployment levels now and reducing the tax burden on employment and SMEs. Resources are scarce and we agree that, where money is available, it should be directed to growth boosting investments, such as R&D and greener, smarter innovation. Finally, we cannot hide from our issue of ever-ageing populations. Pension schemes must be transparent and taken into account when looking at public debt.

There are some issues that I was wary of in this report. Migration, for example, needs to be handled sensitively. It can meet certain gaps in the labour force but must be controlled and take into account local factors. Yes, I agree that European problems do need European solutions, but we must be aware of the global economy and must respect the fundamental powers of our national governments too.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Philip Claeys (NI). (NL) I voted against the Hoang Ngoc report, mainly because of the nonchalance with which it calls for yet more mass immigration into Europe.

How detached from the real world can the European Parliament actually get? Our cities are already groaning under the problems of mass, uncontrolled immigration. It is time that we carried out a cost-benefit analysis at European level of the immigration of foreigners from outside the European Union. The governments of several Member States that have already been confronted with this issue have refused to calculate the cost of immigration and seem to think that it would be undesirable to gain any knowledge about this matter. How can that be?

We must also take into account the problems this will cause the developing world, which will witness a brain drain and the vital forces of their societies being siphoned off into Europe. Their problems will become even more severe, resulting in yet more immigration.

 
  
  

Report: Vincent Peillon (A7-0133/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Diane Dodds (NI). – Mr President, I voted against the own-initiative report on the Union for the Mediterranean for a number of reasons.

There is no doubt that a stable Mediterranean is a huge prize for the wider Europe. However, at a time when the economic climate across Europe is perilous, it is entirely inappropriate that this House should contemplate the expense associated with such a plan. Grand meetings of Heads of State, a 40-strong secretariat and neighbourhood packages do not represent a frugal economic policy at this particular time.

Furthermore, I opposed Amendment 5 for asking that the upgrading of EU-Israel relations under the Preferential Economic Association Agreement should not proceed. In the delicate balance that is required from Europe, such calls will do nothing to give confidence to Israel that this House will act as an honest broker.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bernd Posselt (PPE).(DE) Mr President, in the early 1980s, when I was a young journalist, I paid a visit to King Hassan of Morocco whose accession bid to the EU had just been rejected. Following the visit, I wrote an article calling for a Mediterranean community. I had the privilege of working for Otto von Habsburg here, who said that the Mediterranean Sea had never separated Europe and its neighbours, but it must bring them together. In his biography of President Sarkozy, Jean-Paul Picaper wrote that the idea for the Union of the Mediterranean came from the pan-European movement.

Why am I mentioning this? Because I want to make it clear that this is not just a French obsession, as many people have said, and it is not a waste of money, as a previous speaker has stated. After the Eastern Partnership, it is the European Union’s most important foreign policy tool. However, this is precisely the reason why we must ensure that it is properly designed and has a political structure. It must not simply be a free trade zone, because we know that the Mediterranean, as Churchill said, and I am aiming this remark at my British fellow Members, is the soft underbelly of Europe. We must ensure that this is not the case in future.

 
  
  

Report: Evgeni Kirilov (A7-0123/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Tunne Kelam (PPE). – Mr President, I supported the original paragraph 12 in this report expressing concern about the use of ethnic cleansing as a prelude to Russia’s recognition of the puppet entities of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. My proposal was to call on Russia to honour its ceasefire commitments without delay and to lift immediately its blocking of EUMM access to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I find it is a really intolerable and humiliating situation that the EU representatives have to ask for access to these entities which had been agreed. Against this background a call to Russia to respect the sovereignty and integrity of the Georgian Republic has no authority, unfortunately.

 
  
  

Written explanations of vote

 
  
  

Report: Louis Grech (A7-0132/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) The internal market and the euro represent two real shields for the European Union in the financial, budgetary, economic and social storm which the 27 are currently weathering. I voted in favour of this report, because it reaffirms the key role played by the internal market and gives a very good overview of the current stakes (budgetary coordination, development of education and research, aid for SMEs, strengthening and accessibility of SOLVIT and the Enterprise Europe Network). This is a reflection and a travel warrant which perfectly complements that of Professor Monti, who recently submitted his report entitled ‘A new strategy for the single market’ to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing. – I voted for this report which addresses the current shortcomings of the internal market. The economic and financial crisis has substantially damaged the single market integration process. It is unfortunate to witness the re-emergence of economic protectionism at national levels which might result in fragmentation of the internal market. A large number of SMEs are leaving the market because their access to finance has been severely restricted in the times of crisis. It should not be forgotten that SMEs form an essential part of the backbone of the European economy and are the main drivers of economic growth and social cohesion. Member States should put greater efforts in implementing the Small Business Act and removing red-tape and other administrative and bureaucratic obstacles for SMEs.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) I voted against the report, because it promotes elements which are extremely onerous to real viable growth and to the interests of the workers and consumers in the EU in general. Firstly, the rapporteur not only draws the wrong conclusions; he also starts from the wrong premise in formulating his proposals, given that he claims that ‘the single European market, along with the euro area, best illustrates the true meaning of EU economic integration and unity, and is certainly the most visible achievement of European integration for EU citizens’. He forgets the lack of fundamental social and political union and overlooks the real conditions in many of the countries in the euro area today.

He refers, in particular, to the social market economy, a vague term which basically means liberalisation of the market at the expense of even the last residue of social policy. The rapporteur also fully adopts the philosophy of competitiveness and the Europe 2020 strategy, which is not only baseless, but will have even more negative consequences for the people of Europe.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing. (RO) We all know that the Europe 2020 strategy was launched with the aim of helping the European Union emerge from the current economic crisis and prepare its economy for the new decade. For this reason, I believe that the EU 2020 strategy must set realistic objectives for achieving by 2020 a green, knowledge-based, social market economy and sustainable development. Another objective is to create jobs in the agricultural and environmental sector as the single European market must be the cornerstone of the EU 2020 strategy, tackling the challenges of economic growth and consumer protection.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for this report because it argues that the single market is not solely tied to the economic aspect. It is essential to ensure that, in the revival of the single market, a holistic and a common approach is adopted whereby consumer and citizen goals, particularly those related to economic, social, health and environmental concerns, are fully integrated in a revived single market.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The internal market, as well as the policies related to it, has allowed the European public better access to goods and services, and more variety at a lower cost. The principles of the internal market have meant that European consumers have had access to more information and better protection of their rights, but they are also becoming more aware of their obligations. For this reason, the reality of the internal market is not static but dynamic. It is a reality that is changing in a globalised world; thought must continue to be given to how to develop it and improve its implementation. I agree with the rapporteur and would stress the importance of the European Union’s internal market for European integration itself, for greater social cohesion, for sustainable development, for competitiveness, and for economic growth that will enable us to face up to future developments and compete in a globalised market.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) The construction of an integrated, fully functioning single market is a process that is essential to deepened European integration, social cohesion, economic growth and the sustainable development of the EU. However, the economic crisis has undoubtedly affected public and consumer confidence in the single market. It is important that the European public sees the importance of the single market, the way it works and, most importantly, the benefits that it can bring to the public, consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises. Reviving the single market means that its various stakeholders must adopt a common holistic approach which incorporates the objectives of consumers and the public into a renewed single market, particularly those linked to economic, social, health and environmental concerns. This new programme for consolidating the single market must be carefully monitored so that it values social justice, guarantees the integrity of the market, stimulates innovation and aids the transition to a new digital era. These imperatives are likely to provide the single market with a competitive advantage against other major world economies. In order to create confidence in this single market, it is necessary to ensure that consumers are protected and to safeguard the public’s social and environmental needs.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. (FR) I admire the rapporteur for managing to write, in all seriousness and without laughing, that the single market and the euro have served as Europe’s protective shield during the profound crisis that has affected us for the last two years. Nothing has protected us, least of all the Europe of Brussels. On the contrary, it has established all the conditions needed for us to bear the full brunt: free global movement of capital, dismantling of public services and systems of social protection, increased job insecurity, and a monetary policy left in the hands of a central bank that is indifferent to the economic needs of Member States. These are the consequences of establishing a single market that has remained incomplete since 1992. It has also been an element of inertia, a superfluous element to be taken into consideration when Member States took things in hand. As for the euro, I think we should ask all those countries suffering from speculation what they think of its capacity to protect them. Today, it is a crisis factor in itself.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE), in writing.(PL) The common European market is an important achievement of European Union integration. It gives many possibilities to our citizens as well as to small and medium-sized enterprises.

In a report on the strategy and future of the EU market which was published and presented last week, Professor Mario Monti points clearly to the fact that citizens and consumers should be among the main beneficiaries of the common market. The market is not always favourable to them. Therefore, when working on further legislative proposals, their concerns should be taken into account to the greatest possible extent. We should try to ensure that questions, for example, of recognition of professional qualifications, correct implementation of the Services Directive, e-commerce, small and medium-sized enterprises and consumer protection are priorities as we continue to build the common market.

As Professor Monti has rightly observed, a certain fatigue with questions of the EU market can be felt in Member States, but it is precisely now that we need a strong common market more than ever before, as the crisis of recent months has shown us. Therefore, I welcome Mr Grech’s report, which I had the opportunity to work on and which was our comment on the matter of the consumers and citizens in the EU market.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE), in writing. – This report could not have come at a more critical moment. The ongoing financial crisis has created a sense of mistrust and led to more discussions about protectionist measures by governments. In the long term, this would have detrimental effects on Europe’s economy. I believe there is a connection between the economic problems and the lack of motivation in completing the internal market. Mr Grech correctly points out in his report that the citizen is the real centre of the internal market and that it should be the economy that works for the citizen, not the other way round. In Mr Monti’s report, ‘A new strategy for the internal market’, he warns that the internal market is more unpopular than ever but also more needed than ever. It is my belief that we must act boldly, whilst taking into account citizens’ concerns, to re-energise the internal market. I voted in favour of the Grech report, although in my opinion, it could have underlined more the situation of SMEs. However, with the important amendments passed, the result was well-balanced and I hope it will lead to well thought out legislative initiatives by the Commission.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The construction of a single market has always been and continues to be one of the EU’s main objectives. A well-functioning single market is a fundamental process to further European integration, social cohesion, economic growth and sustainable development within the Union. Doubts have been emerging over what stage the single market is at, because of the recent economic crisis: there are those who argue that it is fragile at the moment. If this is true, it is very damaging to the integration process of the single market, and to the history of the Union itself. It is very important at this stage to find an instrument that clearly and unequivocally informs the European public how the single market works, as well as the huge benefits that it can bring to consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises. That is why I voted as I did.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Franz Obermayr (NI), in writing. (DE) The report is moving in the wrong direction. Now it is time to protect companies in the various Member States from the effects of the global financial crisis and to put in place clear regulations for speculators and the free market. Instead of this, the cultural and economic differences between the markets, companies and business practices are being sacrificed in favour of a globalised market. For these reasons, I have voted against this report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Robert Rochefort (ALDE), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of the Grech report on delivering a single market to consumers and citizens. This document indeed finds a balance between, on the one hand, the objectives of an open economy capable of stimulating growth and job creation and of providing an integrated response to the major challenges of the future (such as competitiveness, research and development, industrial policy, and demographic and environmental issues), and, on the other, those of an economic system that is up to the task of delivering consumer protection and the social and environmental safeguards that citizens need. We must not forget the citizen and consumer in our recovery strategy.

Europe must also adopt a holistic approach that fully integrates our citizens’ concerns and other horizontal policy areas, particularly health, social and consumer protection, labour law, environment, sustainable development and external policies. The report urges the Commission to bring forward a legislative proposal to ensure implementation of an affordable, expedient and accessible Europe-wide collective redress system by May 2011, which I advocate.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE), in writing. (SV) This report consists of the best content-free rhetoric I have seen this year and, for this reason, I cannot support it. That said, it does contain both good and bad proposals, and I am therefore abstaining.

 
  
  

Report: Pál Schmitt (A7-0108/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of the report on university-business dialogue because, in my opinion, it is essential that the link between training and the labour market should be improved. This is not a question of orienting students in line with the desiderata of the private sector, but of enabling young people to take account of the implications of working life. Links between universities and businesses need to be strengthened in order to make it easier for students to access work and for businesses to accept untypical careers more easily.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing. (LT) I support this report on a more active partnership between universities and businesses. Universities play a key role in the successful transition to a knowledge-based economy, but the active participation of other interested parties, i.e. businesses and government institutions, is also required. To achieve efficient results, the education sector needs to be restructured and modernised and curricula need to be reformed and brought up to date in order to satisfy the needs of the labour market. Once the conditions have been created for graduates to find work in small and medium-sized enterprises, we would bridge the gap between the supply of young specialists and the demand of the labour market.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mara Bizzotto (EFD), in writing. (IT) This own-initiative report contains truly positive ideas for the future of our universities. Any change to the academic training system which helps modernise training programmes and, above all, brings graduates and the world of employment closer together, should be welcomed and strongly encouraged.

Today, the European university system, one of the most important elements of our daily life with which we can sow the seeds for a robust, lasting economic recovery, must open up to the labour market: forging solid links, in terms of mutual exchange between universities and businesses, is a priority for Member States’ institutions, and it must be mainly local and regional authorities which have a say in endeavours to bring the economic and training sectors together successfully. Only universities that talk to the businesses in their respective regions can hope to prepare young people to enter and permanently stay in the job market.

We all need, now and always, training establishments that are up-to-date and which, above all, reflect regional needs: this too, I am certain, is a vital ingredient for the growth of our regions. I therefore voted in favour of the report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) Today, knowledge is a greater priority than ever. More needs to be done concerning the knowledge triangle, adopting a framework of reforms needed to make knowledge a social value, and strengthening the ties between businesses and universities, as in the case of the Knowledge and Information Communities of the European Institute of Technology (EIT). It is crucial that universities integrate the economic and social environment into their main sphere of action within their research and innovation programmes. It is essential to develop an investment strategy for new sources of growth, stimulating research, development, innovation and education with a view to strengthening our industrial base, an excellent service sector and a modern rural economy. The role of both public and private institutes of higher education, universities and polytechnics will be very valuable in building state confidence in these institutions. They should enjoy autonomy so that they are able to make their essential contribution to Europe’s development. It is necessary to strengthen both the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary facets of education and research programmes and cooperation between universities. Information and communications technologies are a key instrument in this respect.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for the report on university-business dialogue: a new partnership for the modernisation of Europe’s universities, because it presents measures that contribute to enhancing European learners’ employability. Cooperation between the education sector and business is essential for bridging the gap between the supply logic of the education sector and the demand logic of the world of employment.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) I believe that partnerships that enable the modernisation of universities, especially those that promote better education and qualifications for individuals, are essential for increased European competitiveness. This qualification will be reflected in terms of innovation, research and development, which are crucial for sustained economic and social growth. Partnerships must be established between universities and businesses in order to facilitate the entry of these workers into the labour market, helping reduce the high levels of unemployment that are being recorded today in particular. In this context, I would also reiterate the importance of the European Union’s cohesion policy, funds from which will be extremely useful for this purpose.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) In March 2000 in Lisbon, and March 2002 in Barcelona, the European Council approved the strategic objective of making the EU the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, making its education and training systems a global benchmark in terms of quality, and creating the European Area of Research and Innovation. The Member States are responsible for education and training policies, while the role of the EU is to support the improvement of national systems through new instruments at EU level, mutual learning and the exchange of information and best practice. The knowledge-based economy and rapid technological development present challenges to higher education and research in Europe, but they also open up new opportunities which must be effectively harnessed. In this context, creating quality partnerships in higher education and business is of the utmost importance. I believe that cooperation between the education sector and business at local, regional, national and transnational level is crucial for bridging the gap between the supply logic of the education sector and the demand logic of the world of employment.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The report on university-business dialogue adopts a position which we do not see as the way to modernise education. We must take the looming threats to free, public and democratic access to education very seriously. We believe that the errors resulting from the Bologna Process must be acknowledged urgently and, contrary to what the rapporteur says about the Bologna Process, the issue of mobility as a means of bringing the Member States closer together and making them more equal must be demystified.

Furthermore, we should not forget that the Bologna Process is not neutral and involved initial investment, or that it has, at the same time, followed a policy of taking responsibility for university funding away from the state. The issue surrounding universities’ autonomy is referred to several times in the report in question, with the idea of a ‘partnership’ between universities and companies being added to this point as a way of ensuring funding for the institutions. This university-business concept is moving away from the real meaning and value of education as a universal right and approaches education in terms of commercialising it, stripping it of content and quality. It is a neoliberal approach, to which we are opposed.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Filip Kaczmarek (PPE), in writing.(PL) I endorsed the Schmitt report on university-business dialogue: a new partnership for the modernisation of Europe’s universities. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the rapporteur, who is, unfortunately, no longer a Member of the European Parliament. I warmly congratulate Mr Schmitt on his election to the Hungarian Parliament and on his being elected speaker. I wish him all the best.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jaromír Kohlíček (GUE/NGL), in writing. (CS) The EU currently finds itself in a very schizophrenic situation. On the one hand, there is a clear demand for universities to train practically oriented professional workers on undergraduate courses. On the other hand, people who really understand technical education know that the first three years of proper study at university should provide students with the theoretical foundation for further successful studies. This is the root of all the misunderstanding. A forum of universities and businesses, whatever format it takes, will always concentrate in particular on ‘practically useful’ graduates. However, the real bearers of fundamental research and important innovation are mainly graduates of engineering, master’s and doctoral studies. If they are to achieve important results in their fields, of course, these graduates must acquire a proper grounding in the most important technical disciplines in the first three years of their studies. It is hard to imagine that they could get by on secondary school mathematics and a fleeting knowledge of the basic technical sciences, supplemented with an examination in simple and double-entry bookkeeping and a practical knowledge of preparing projects for an application to a grant agency. Responsible university lecturers advocate a view that does not vary greatly from my own, despite all the various declarations, forums, communications and new partnerships. For future discussions, I therefore recommend drawing a clear distinction between university education according to the Bologna Declaration and ‘traditional’ university education. The new, additional forms of so-called lifelong learning are, of course, also desirable.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) University-business dialogue is essential for the high-quality training to which the EU’s young people aspire. Cooperation between the education sector and business at all levels is crucial for bridging the gap between the supply logic of the education sector and the demand logic of the world of employment. Partnerships between education and training institutions and companies are essential in order to enhance learners’ employability, improve entrepreneurial potential, and facilitate familiarity with the world of work. That is why I voted as I did.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) In its communication, the Commission refers to universities and colleges being given real autonomy. This kind of autonomy should go hand-in-hand with financial autonomy and this is unrealistic during the period of austerity which lies ahead of us. There are many examples of very fruitful cooperation between educational institutions and business. The need for increased dialogue in the context of the Bologna Process is not worded clearly enough and, for this reason, I have abstained.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė (PPE), in writing. (LT) Probably no EU Member State would doubt that cooperation between education and business is essential. Given that the crisis has highlighted not only problems of unemployment, but the importance of education that meets the demands of the market, I am pleased that by approving this document, the European Parliament is striving to initiate dialogue between the academic and business world. This should be viewed as something long-term, right from the beginning of studies in universities: various exchange programmes, the promotion of internships in companies, perhaps even consultations between universities and companies when devising curricula. If future employers integrate into the education system right from the beginning, there is a greater chance that we will prepare specialists who can better meet the needs of employers in the labour market.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Wojciech Michał Olejniczak (S&D), in writing.(PL) I voted in favour of European Parliament resolution No A7-0108/2010 on university-business dialogue: a new partnership for the modernisation of Europe’s universities (2009/2099 (INI)), because the dynamics of today’s labour market, economic development and change to development priorities require cooperation at many levels. Higher education throughout Europe faces a huge challenge. It has to keep up with a dynamically developing world and changing expectations of the market with respect to new employees. Today, the fact that opportunities in education and the level of education do not match market expectations is a very important problem. Preservation of this system, which is full of inequalities, is a mistake we cannot accept. For just this reason, the changes we should introduce must concern the whole field of education and the way young people perform in the labour market. As a former president of the Students’ Parliament of the Republic of Poland, a statutory institution which represents all students in Poland, I often meet people who have just begun or are just ending university. Awareness of the labour market and its requirements is very low, and the level of education is equally unsatisfactory. In political bodies as well as student bodies, a common view is that what is important is how many practical and work experience placements people have completed, how many subjects they have studied or how many languages they can speak. However, the market needs quality, not quantity. Therefore, it is essential that we take action to improve cooperation between universities, the academic world and business.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D), in writing. (RO) I voted for the Schmitt report to encourage cooperation between universities and companies. Nowadays, universities must engage in closer cooperation with the business world in order to provide a suitable response to the requirements of the labour market, especially in a globalised economy. In this respect, dialogue and cooperation between universities and companies should be based on reciprocity, trust and respect.

This objective could be achieved by introducing a system of knowledge vouchers, similar to that used in several Member States at the moment, which will enable SMEs in particular to improve their research capacity without compromising the universities’ independence, autonomy and public nature. Both universities and companies can benefit from jointly developing multi-disciplinary, interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial skills, as well as from the flexible adaptation of study areas, profiles and specialities to the needs of the economy and those of small and medium-sized businesses.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D), in writing. (RO) I voted for the report on the university-business dialogue: a new partnership for the modernisation of European universities.

The EU needs to establish closer links and partnerships between universities and the business sector in order to develop a society based on knowledge and applied research and improve graduates’ integration into the labour market. Unfortunately, discrepancies are being noted increasingly more often between graduates’ skills and the qualifications required on the labour market.

I encourage the Commission and Member States to draw up medium- and long-term forecasts for the skills required in order to correlate study programmes with economic development. Furthermore, I wish to draw attention to the need to increase the number of jobs, which is a priority for the EU, especially during the current recession.

We encourage the Commission to promote using the resources and instruments available to it the development of an entrepreneurial culture by simplifying procedures and cutting red tape in order to boost exchanges between universities and businesses.

Finally, I wish to stress the importance of lifelong learning, particularly through distance learning courses specially adapted to the new technologies and beneficial in particular to the over-45s, who are more vulnerable and exposed to social exclusion.

 
  
  

Report: Rebecca Harms (A7-0142/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) The European Union protects its citizens. Apart from European regulations on dangerous products which people are trying to bring on to the internal market, apart from joint measures taken against terrorism, apart from joint initiatives to guarantee peace in Europe, the European Union is involved in the dismantling of nuclear power plants constructed during the Soviet era which might put our health in danger at any time. Twenty-four years after the horrendous accident in Chernobyl, I am pleased to have contributed towards security on our continent by voting in favour of this report. It is, in fact, vital that the measures taken in Bulgaria under the Kozloduy Programme continue in the period from 2010 to 2013.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gerard Batten, John Bufton and Derek Roland Clark (EFD), in writing. – UKIP regards the safety of nuclear power generation as being of great importance, but perceives the EU’s assistance to Bulgaria, ostensibly for this purpose, as being motivated by political considerations (preventing the reprocessing of fissile material, conveniently close to Bulgaria, in neighbouring Russia) and doctrinaire ones (the imposition of unrealistic wind-power policies) as well as by a desire to fund local conservation projects, which are not relevant to the remit of decommissioning. Consequently, UKIP members have voted against the extra funding asked for in this report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The rules in force in Central and Eastern European countries regarding nuclear power and radioactive waste prior to accession were less demanding than the rules applicable to the EU at the time. The EU’s intervention and financial assistance were therefore necessary, with the aim of increasing the level of protection of human health and the environment. The proposal on which we are voting fits into this framework.

The proposal for a regulation presented by the Commission is intended to provide financial assistance for the decommissioning of Units 1 to 4 of the Kozloduy Nuclear Plant in Bulgaria and to ensure that the resultant radioactive materials are dealt with. According to the rapporteur, without EU assistance, safety may be compromised insofar as Type WWER 440/230 reactors have serious design faults which it would not be possible to overcome.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) The protection and promotion of human and environmental health are priority objectives in European development policy. Given this, I believe it is absolutely vital for the EU to safeguard sufficient financial and technical resources for decommissioning Units 1 to 4 of the Kozloduy Nuclear Plant in Bulgaria, as advocated by Parliament in this resolution. In so doing, Europe is closing off a major producer of high radioactive emissions and eliminating the risk of serious accidents. Alongside the safety conditions for decommissioning operations, it is crucial that the European Community assume an active role in helping Bulgaria to overcome the negative effects that the decommissioning will have on economic competitiveness, energy sustainability and the state of the labour market. In this context, the strategy for EU intervention must ensure support to encourage the creation of new jobs and sustainable industry in the areas affected by the decommissioning.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Rebecca Harms (Verts/ALE), in writing. – The Parliament today approved EUR 300 million to further assist the decommissioning of the Kozloduy 1-4 nuclear reactors. I do support this as further assistance will be necessary to ensure the safe decommissioning of the reactors. Parliament, however, rejected financing by these funds for polluting lignite power plants. Also, the proposal to use part of the funds to help Bulgaria find a solution for the final storage of nuclear waste was rejected. This led me to vote against the amended proposal. However, I abstained on the legislative resolution to allow for decommissioning funding by the EU.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jean-Luc Mélenchon (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FR) We can only be delighted by any move towards the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant and the implementation of research programmes for renewable energies and nuclear waste. This is a step towards the gradual phasing-out of nuclear power, which we advocate. However, I wish to stress that I am baffled by the insistence on the ‘final disposal’ of nuclear waste. This method cannot provide a long-term solution, given the risks it poses to our ecosystem.

I am also concerned by the lack of guarantees regarding the allocation of EU financial assistance aimed at facilitating the decommissioning process. How can we be sure that the EUR 300 million will not be partly used to finance the new Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria? Has Commissioner Oettinger not already committed himself to financing that project? I am voting in favour of this report in the hope of finally witnessing the decommissioning of the Kozloduy reactors.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The accession of Central and Eastern European countries to the EU and their use of nuclear energy have led to the need to provide financial assistance to these countries so that they can effectively deal with radioactive waste and can improve protection of human health and the environment. The financial assistance adopted here is, therefore, within this framework. That is why I voted as I did.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alajos Mészáros (PPE), in writing.(HU) In its accession agreement, Bulgaria, like Slovakia and Lithuania, agreed to decommission part of its nuclear energy production. Financial assistance was provided until 2009 for the permanent decommissioning of the nuclear energy plant at Kozloduy, but a request was made, as was done with the other Member States, for this to be extended until 2013. To this end, it will receive approximately EUR 860 million in assistance. However, the complete decommissioning process takes a long time since it is not enough simply to disconnect the power plant completely from the grid. In such cases, where there is a desire to shut a nuclear plant down earlier than planned, provision must be made for a replacement energy supply. Bulgaria did not destroy its energy supply, but it affects neighbouring countries, since they stop receiving electricity. The closure of four reactors means a loss of 1 700 MW of energy for Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian Government is unable, without the financial help of the European Union, to dispose safely of the spent fuel, part of which was, in any case, disposed of somewhere outside the EU Member States. I am also aware of the fact that the Bulgarian Government does not have reserves to draw on in the event of permanent decommissioning and, therefore, we must provide assistance. We have already invested a great deal of money in the permanent closure of nuclear power plants, but let us just consider whether it would not be more worthwhile if, instead of shutting down nuclear plants, we modernised them. I am not thinking specifically of Kozloduy here. We need to support the improvement of the safety norms in Central and Eastern European countries, since it is on account of their low level that nuclear power plants need to be shut down.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) As long as there is no satisfactory solution to the problem of the final disposal of radioactive waste, it is hardly surprising that the candidate countries do not know which alternative they should choose. We must ensure that we do not provide financial aid to increase the protection for people and the environment and then find that the fuel elements are sold and possibly used for military purposes. Of course, it is in the security and environmental interests of the whole of Europe to find a final disposal solution. However, the resale of atomic waste must be stopped.

When we have reached the point where the decommissioning of two reactor units costs EUR 1.78 billion, it is clear that the fairytale of cheap, climate-friendly nuclear power is over. This report highlights some of the problems involved with nuclear power and the decommissioning of nuclear reactors, which is why I have voted in favour of it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Rovana Plumb (S&D), in writing. (RO) In keeping with the commitments assumed through the EU accession treaty, Bulgaria must close Units 1-4 of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, which the EU granted financial assistance for up until 2009. I voted for this report to support Bulgaria’s action to obtain an additional EUR 300 million in funding up to 2013 in order to complete the decommissioning of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, clean up the site and manage all the resulting waste in a sustainable manner in conditions which will not cause any harm to people’s health and the environment.

Furthermore, I support the Commission’s request to monitor and audit the implementation of all the projects which will be run using this grant: research/innovation aimed at introducing technologies based on renewable energy sources in order to meet the requirement to realise a further reduction of 18 000 kt CO2-eq produced from decommissioning. Particular attention must be focused on retraining the workforce to prevent unemployment from rising even higher and on the development of local communities, especially during the current crisis. All these processes must be carried out in a manner which is completely transparent to citizens, in compliance with the provisions of all the multilateral environmental agreements which Bulgaria is party to (Aarhus, Espoo, etc.).

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – As expected, we the Greens lost our last chance to amend the Harms report during the plenary vote on Community financial assistance with respect to the decommissioning of four units of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant in Bulgaria.

Today, the EP agreed to give EUR 300 million (until 2013) to Bulgaria for their current programme to decommission 4 nuclear units in Kozloduy. This positive signal towards Bulgaria was the reason why the rapporteur and the Greens/EFA abstained on the legislative proposal.

Thanks to the Greens, the EP has finally recognised that Bulgaria has hardly any policy regarding the final disposal of nuclear waste. However, the Bulgarian government – with the help of the EPP and S&D – managed to eliminate any provision that would support any real progress on the issue of final disposal. Currently, the main hazards to humans and the environment are displaced to Russia, where most irradiated fuel elements are exported.

The EP has nevertheless managed to secure more public participation, transparency, auditing and reporting provisions compared to the original Commission proposal. We will see now whether any of these will be incorporated by the Council, which has the final say since the EP is only consulted on nuclear related issues.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Viktor Uspaskich (ALDE), in writing. (LT) Ladies and gentlemen, as with Bulgaria’s Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, the decommissioning of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Lithuania was one of the conditions for accession to the European Union. The decommissioning of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in 2009 has had a severe impact on Lithuania. After Lithuania regained independence in 1991, Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant contributed a lot to our economy and provided more than 70% of our country’s energy consumption. Due to decommissioning, we were forced to relinquish our status as an energy exporter and become an importer of a broad spectrum of energy. Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant was a cheap source of energy for industry and consumers and was also a source of income thanks to exports. Like the decommissioning of Kozloduy, the disappearance of Ignalina will result in the loss of business and jobs for the local economy. Full financial support from the EU for Kozloduy and Ignalina is important in order to correct some of the economic and social consequences experienced with the decommissioning of the nuclear power plants. The financial turmoil of recent years has shaken Lithuania and many EU Member States, and has put on hold hopes of building new advanced nuclear power plants in the near future. However, it would be foolish on our part to give up nuclear power plants entirely. Nuclear technology is by no means a panacea for our energy security and natural disasters, but the use of efficient and safe nuclear energy could contribute to overcoming long-term strategic challenges.

 
  
  

Report: Lambert van Nistelrooij (A7-0138/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) The Structural Funds put in place in our regions need to interlock better with European loans for research and innovation. The van Nistelrooij report contains useful recommendations on improving the use of all of these loans. There is undeniable potential here for financing and growth for our territories. Similarly, greater synergy between the various financial instruments can only be beneficial at a time when we need to kick-start economic activity. Finally, these funds should all be involved in the implementation of the EU 2020 strategy. Having noted the quality of the report, I supported it with my vote.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) Innovation can be most effectively addressed at regional level by the proximity of entities such as universities, public research organisations or industry, promoting partnerships in the field of knowledge transfer, and the exchange of best practice between regions. The cohesion policy is a fundamental pillar of the European integration process and one of the EU’s most successful policies, encouraging convergence between increasingly diverse regions, and stimulating economic growth and the creation of jobs. Promoting and applying successful models in the knowledge triangle is vital, as is ensuring the sustainable development of regional strategic research frameworks for innovation, in conjunction with businesses, research centres, universities and public authorities. I would like to highlight the potential of regional ‘clusters’ of those leading the way in knowledge-based mobilisation of the capacity of regional competition, and the inclusion of the development of ‘clusters’ in both the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme and the 7th framework programme. I would also like to draw attention to the importance of the knowledge and innovation communities created within the framework of the European Transparency Initiative, which link the main regional knowledge-based ‘clusters’ within Europe. I call upon the exchange of knowledge in regional ‘clusters’ to be promoted through the structural funds, since these ‘clusters’ represent a great opportunity, particularly for disadvantaged regions.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) I believe it is appropriate to analyse the way in which the indicative framework of the Community Strategic Guidelines 2007-2013 and, in particular, Guideline 1.2 on Improving Knowledge and Innovation for Growth, was followed by the Member States and Regions in their National Strategic Reference Frameworks (NSRFs) and Operational Programmes. Such analysis enables us to have a more specific view of what has been done and what challenges remain to be overcome, in an area that is increasingly on the agenda. At times of crisis, the avoidance of waste and duplications is not just beneficial but urgently required: I believe that it is important to carry out a thorough assessment of how cohesion, research and innovation policies are linked up with their instruments (Structural Funds, Seventh Framework Programme for RTD and Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme) to make them more efficient and productive.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) Research and innovation are priority areas and are absolutely crucial for competitiveness and the success of the European economy in the current global climate of crisis, intense competition and increased efforts to address new challenges such as climate change and territorial cohesion. This crisis exacerbates the risk of regional imbalances and the worsening of economic and social conditions in the most disadvantaged regions. In the light of this, I support this resolution, which stresses the urgent need to achieve greater efficiency, flexibility and simplification of access to structural funds, so as to ensure quick access to support and financing mechanisms for new business projects and for the revitalisation of small and medium-sized businesses. This is a strategy that is extremely pertinent and important for the territorial cohesion of the EU, as it simultaneously ensures that this crisis becomes an opportunity to capitalise on strengths and improve efficiency in the profitability of resources.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing. (RO) I voted for this report as research, development and innovation are key elements which can help the European Union to emerge more quickly and stronger from the current economic crisis, while also achieving the proposed economic development objectives. A consistent policy is required to do this, which is well targeted and funded appropriately. However, I think that consideration must be given to the regions’ varying social and economic features. Limits need to be accepted and objectives set according to the actual situation, while requirements need to be identified by consulting all local, regional and national agencies.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Innovations are important, but they cannot be dictated from above, as the Europe 2020 strategy attempts to do. However, they can be supported by means of subsidy programmes. It makes little sense for applicants for subsidies to be faced with a jungle of different funding institutions and regulations because of the lack of coordination between the EU and the Member States. Every step which we take towards simplification is a good thing, provided that it does not open up opportunities for abuse. The approaches described in the report seem to me to be good and I have voted in favour of them.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) Cohesion policy is an essential pillar in the process of European integration and one of the most successful EU policies, facilitating convergence between regions, as well as stimulating growth and employment using financing from the structural funds. In the current period of 2007-2013, all Member States have devoted a significant amount of their total financial allocations to innovation and development activities. I believe that cohesion policy is ready to create synergies with research and innovation policies regarding capacity building, networking and knowledge transfer.

Better use of funds will mean better research, knowledge and innovation capacity in the various regions, with the strengthening of the territorial aspect of partnerships for the design and delivery of public policies. This report is an initiative that I support because I think that it is essential for synergies to be implemented between the structural funds devoted to research and innovation and the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development, with a view to greater efficiency in achieving the goal of the knowledge society.

 
  
  

Report: Liem Hoang Ngoc (A7-0147/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of the resolution, as adopted by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament. The long-term sustainability of our public finances is fundamental today to the credibility of European economic and fiscal policy. The Greek crisis has proven that. Faced with the markets and credit rating agencies, the public powers need to demonstrate that they are responsible. This is also a necessity imposed by the demographic reality of today and the coming years. I therefore firmly rejected the positions advocated by the rapporteur, Mr Liem Hoang Ngoc, calling for the public deficit policy to be maintained. We must assume today that the public finances of numerous Member States are not sustainable and have the courage to remedy that. Our boat is taking on water. Even if it is not yet sinking, it is high time we started bailing.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Françoise Castex (S&D), in writing. (FR) During the vote on Thursday 20 May on the report by the socialist MEP, Liem Hoang Ngoc, on the long-term sustainability of public finances, the UMP and Modem groups in the European Parliament voted enthusiastically for a text which the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe had amended line by line in order to turn it into a neoliberal manifesto. I voted against this text, which is an insult to the citizens of Europe. The UMP and Modem are raising the spectre of unsustainable deficits to justify unprecedented austerity measures throughout Europe from 2011. They propose transforming the Stability Pact into a Social Regression Pact. In this text, the right goes as far as rejecting the creation of a European public credit rating agency, while the private agencies are beating the drum and leading speculative attacks against the States in the euro area. However, it forgets that the rise in deficits is first and foremost the result of the crisis, the bank bailout packages and the failure of neoliberal policies. Today, the right is presenting the invoice to the citizens.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) The huge deficits and debts facing many Member States of the EU is indeed an important problem, having created the financial crisis which we are experiencing and which we all need to manage. However, the causes of these financial aberrations are not the causes identified by the rapporteur. State budgets have been derailed because: a) in every crisis, state spending (social spending, spending for growth) increases, b) the merchant banks were saved and c) tax competition was intensified, with a clear reduction in corporation tax over the last twenty years. Consequently, our analysis of the facts is completely different from the analysis made by the rapporteur, who believes that the governments are responsible for the financial derailments.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D), in writing. (RO) Last year, the budget deficit and public debt in the euro area amounted to 6.3% and 78.7% respectively of GDP, which was a much higher level than that set in the Growth and Stability Pact. The Growth and Stability Pact’s limitations have been highlighted in the current crisis, as it has not been an adequate instrument for harmonising national economies. Consequently, I support a review of the Pact and the search for alternative mechanisms for restoring the convergence of the economies within the EU, as well as the setting up of a European public credit-rating agency and closer coordination of Member States’ budgetary and monetary policies. In fact, I regard the decision made last week by the European Central Bank to purchase bonds issued by the governments in the euro area as a positive step. I decided to vote against the final report on the long-term sustainability of public finances as these aspects which I consider as being fundamental to ensuring the single European market’s stability and to maintaining a modern welfare state in Europe have been removed from the report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) In the times that we are currently experiencing, in which many countries are facing serious difficulties with their public finances, it is essential to adopt political measures that lead to economic and social stability, but especially those that stimulate growth. As well as the deficit, the level of public debt must be analysed and best practices regarding this issue adopted, in such a way as to make a more stable situation possible and to prevent the recurrence of the same errors in the future. I also consider it essential to adopt reasonable criteria for the concept of recovering economy, since the Member States’ situations are different. Finally, I would stress the need for a competitive tax policy, not just for the EU, but also with regard to third-country investments.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) As the current crisis has shown, with its profound impact on economic development, the quality of life of citizens and social stability, the sustainability of public finances is a prerequisite for economic recovery and the reliability of development. The inadequacy of the revision to the Stability and Growth Pact has also become clear. I would therefore like to reiterate the need to strengthen the mechanisms of EU institutions, with a view to greater integration and territorial cohesion, so as to ensure greater capacity for intervention and protection in order to counter risks and deviation from common policy. I would also like to highlight the social concerns stressed in this report, which warns of the wide disparity between incomes of members of the public. This is a situation which undermines productivity and economic competitiveness. I agree, therefore, with the need to encourage Member States to introduce appropriate reforms in order to address these imbalances. Tax fairness and efficient government public spending are essential to the process of economic recovery and social cohesion. Reducing poverty, ensuring social cohesion and stimulating economic growth and productivity are indisputable priorities in the EU, and they will certainly be helped by a gradual reduction of the tax burden on jobs and on small and medium-sized enterprises.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. (FR) I agree with the report: current public debt and deficit levels will be difficult for future generations to bear, but are also a major problem today. However, I disagree with the proposed solutions. I do not believe that a report which omits the reason for the recent explosion of this debt and deficit can be taken seriously. It should be noted instead that it is the fact that the private debts of banks and the financial sector have been taken on by Member States, and therefore by the citizens and taxpayers of Europe, which has caused these deficits to increase to such an extent. We must hammer home the fact that the EU and the Eurogroup are now only taking action in order to please those markets that you believe to be rational and efficient, but which panic when the deficit becomes too great, and panic once again because they fear that the measures taken to reduce it may hinder a semblance of economic recovery. They have gorged themselves by charging a high price for a risk taken on the Greek debt that you have just done away with by adopting the latest measures. They have won on all fronts, increasing their own profits even further. Never mind the consequences for the real economy and the people.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing. (FR) I was forced to vote against the report by my colleague, Liem Hoang Ngoc, which the European right and liberals completed in a way which deprived it of its substance, simply defending dogmatic adherence to the Stability Pact and hence to austerity policies. Budgetary policy is not an end in itself; it is a tool which responds to political objectives. The priority should not be austerity, otherwise we shall nip in the bud what little growth is available; what we need is a philosophy of employment growth that we need to defend. For this, the EU needs to be given the resources to act, which means giving ourselves tools to steer the economy over and above those currently available to us under the Stability Pact, which are inadequate.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jean-Luc Mélenchon (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FR) This document is proof of the desire to create a system of redistribution that caters for society as a whole. Its positive proposals relate to migration policies. It rejects the ‘indiscriminate cuts’ that have been made in public investments in the name of the crisis. After that, however, an inverse logic is introduced in specific proposals.

Raising the retirement age; sanctioning a Stability and Growth Pact as a solution to the crisis even though it is clearly one of the causes; congratulating the European Central Bank for rescuing the banking sector; and promoting a social economy based on a sustainable, competitive market – so many neoliberal dogmas are repeated throughout the text. The crisis will make no difference: Europe is blinded by its dogmatism and deaf to its citizens’ demands. I am voting against this report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Claudio Morganti (EFD), in writing. (IT) Despite the fact that the global economic and financial crisis is spilling over onto the sustainability of national budgets to a worrying degree, the report under consideration by this House contains passages that prevent me from voting in favour.

First of all, paragraph 59 states that we can help end the crisis by raising employment levels and proposes the adoption of policies in favour of immigration from outside the EU, even leading to the award of citizenship. On the one hand, the text unduly confuses the economic issue with that of migration policy, while disregarding, in particular, the already high unemployment rate.

On the other hand, I do not think that Europe should promote the award of citizenship. Furthermore, some of the proposed amendments seek the creation of a tax on financial transactions and a European rating agency. We certainly cannot achieve better financial market regulation by introducing a new tax.

Lastly, with regard to the creation of a public rating agency, the amendment tabled does not hit the mark, since the best practical way to safeguard investors’ trust is by guaranteeing the impartiality and independence of rating agencies, and not by subjecting them to political influence.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – I deeply regret that the right wing has finally ‘kidnapped’ this report on public finances and has completely changed the main aim of it, making it a very neoliberal report. I applaud the decision of the rapporteur, Hoang Ngoc, to withdraw his name from it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marc Tarabella (S&D), in writing. – (FR) It is simply unacceptable that this report has been adopted by the majority Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament; that is why, in line with our rapporteur Mr Hoang Ngoc, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament has voted against it. How can anyone want to make our fellow citizens pay for a crisis for which the banks and speculators are largely responsible? The measures advocated by the PPE Group and the ALDE Group, namely the swift consolidation of public finances, cuts in public spending, particularly pensions and health care, and the unconditional implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact, will have disastrous long-term consequences on our societies We are heading straight for disaster if we do not establish a tax on financial transactions, as Mr Hoang Ngoc has proposed, and if we do not launch viable recovery measures. Let us not bring the citizens of Europe to their knees.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) The main purpose of this report was to analyse the long-term sustainability of the European Union’s public finances with a view to its economic recovery. The debate on this in plenary could not have come up at a more opportune time, given the unprecedented economic and financial understanding reached last week by European leaders. On the one hand, the package of measures adopted – specifically the unblocking of aid for Greece, the accelerated restructuring of Member States’ public finances, and the creation of a financial stabilisation mechanism – demonstrate strong solidarity. However, they make a period of sacrifice foreseeable, which will affect all Europeans. These sacrifices must be distributed in a fair and balanced way. This is a time for brave decisions at national level, with a long-term view and without cutting any corners. The public books are balanced by cutting spending and by increasing income, or by both at the same time.

At a time of economic recession, we have no alternative but to substantially decrease public spending by cutting waste and optimising the state’s operations. Following several amendments, the final content of this motion for a resolution focuses on some of these challenges; that is why I voted for it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Viktor Uspaskich (ALDE), in writing. (LT) Ladies and gentlemen, in 2009, Lithuania and some of our neighbouring EU Member States almost hit rock bottom. Maybe vultures are not circling above our heads, but we still do not feel safe: Lithuania’s GDP fell by 4.1% from quarter to quarter and in the first quarter of 2010. Most Lithuanians understand that the need for painful victims and severe measures will not disappear overnight. The long-term sustainability of public finances is essential to achieve stability and growth. The solution is to reduce the budget deficit. In the report, it is accurately observed that high indebtedness and deficit levels are threatening sustainability and could have a disastrous impact on employment, public health care and pensions. The decision we have to make is not one to be taken lightly – the increasing government deficit is becoming a huge burden for future generations. Financial stability is important for the recovery of the Lithuanian and European economies. Therefore, I agree with the measures debated this week, for example, proposals on the European Systemic Risk Board and the European System of Financial Supervisors. Now more than ever, we need smooth coordination of markets and hedge funds and better supervision. We also have to continue to seriously implement our international commitments. Most importantly, it is essential to regain the public’s trust and restore the economic self-esteem of each of our countries. We can achieve this by ensuring the long-term sustainability of public finances, talking straight and being transparent in everything we do.

 
  
  

Report: Ricardo Cortés Lastra (A7-0129/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) The report on the contribution of the cohesion policy to the achievement of the Lisbon and Europe 2020 objectives is fundamental, in that it illustrates the extent to which this policy may be instrumental to the future of the Union. The Structural Funds, which guarantee the cohesion of European territories and finance innovation, help to bring about initiatives which, without any doubt, generate growth in the regions. I sincerely believe that the cohesion policy will be a vital instrument in achieving the Europe 2020 objectives, which is why I voted for this report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mara Bizzotto (EFD), in writing. (IT) The difficulties that have always been highlighted by the political, social and economic diversity of Europe’s heritage – as part of a large, but still disparate territory – have resulted, since the eighties, in the development of the cohesion policy. Cyclically, passing from one programming period to the next, Europe has been faced with the need to update its cohesion objectives. It has done so by revamping both the means, for which the Structural Funds have been, are, and will continue to be the essential financial basis of any EU policy which seeks to increase internal cohesion, and the ends, with which the various objectives and individual actions have constantly been reoriented in line with the requirements of the time. I am in favour of Mr Cortés Lastra’s own-initiative report: the EU 2020 strategy must be included among the objectives of the cohesion policy for the period 2007-2013, supported by the objective of territorial cohesion and by the pragmatic approach of sharing the objectives at local level. Only in this way will we avoid the risk that the EU 2020 strategy will be reduced to one where the eurocracy blows its own trumpets, as was the case with the Lisbon Strategy.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alain Cadec (PPE), in writing. (FR) The Structural Funds play a vital role in delivering the EU 2020 strategy, insofar as they constitute a powerful instrument for the economic development of all of Europe’s regions. Mr Cortes Lastra’s report rightly points out that the Lisbon Strategy only achieved concrete results when it was linked to the cohesion policy. I therefore agree with the rapporteur’s recommendations on the improvements that need to be made to the governance system in the EU 2020 strategy compared to the Lisbon Strategy. It is vital to establish closer links between local and regional authorities and civil society stakeholders within the framework of multi-level governance. I would join the rapporteur in stressing the importance of a simplified approach to the use of Structural Funds in the future regulatory framework. After all, simplicity is one of the keys to efficiency.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mário David (PPE), in writing. (PT) I am completely in favour of the proposals put forward in this report, seeking inclusion in the cohesion policy in order to pursue the objectives set out for the 2020 strategy. The new Treaty of Lisbon strengthens the principle of economic, social and territorial cohesion, and without this solidarity clause, the EU itself does not make sense! The ultimate objective of the cohesion policy is reducing disparities between the levels of economic development of the various regions and tackling the structural backwardness of the most disadvantaged and outermost regions. In the approach to the 2020 strategy, which is engaged in promoting growth, competitiveness and employment, it is important to note that the cohesion policy can be an important instrument for successfully achieving the goals that the strategy sets out.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The ultimate objective of the cohesion policy is reducing disparities between the levels of economic development of the various regions, targeting resources specifically for growth and employment. The 2020 strategy presents significant and ambitious challenges for Europe in five areas that are seen as strategic: (i) employment; (ii) innovation and research; (iii) climate change and energy; (iv) education, and (v) combating poverty. As I have said, this is an ambitious and daring strategy. I agree with the rapporteur that it must be conceived so that it is in harmony with future cohesion policy, and that the 2020 strategy must also be implemented at regional and local level, something that failed to happen with the Lisbon Strategy. This is crucial for economic development and growth in the different regions. As I come from a region of Portugal whose interests and wishes are often passed over in the interests of centralised power, as I have already publicly stated, I believe that implementing the 2020 strategy objectives at regional level may be of greater benefit to more balanced regional development.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) In the European development project, there is much progress to be made on territorial cohesion, which is crucial in combating poverty and social exclusion, promoting employment and sustainable development, and in social cohesion. I have no doubt that small and medium-sized enterprises have a crucial role in the success of building Europe. Therefore, I support the recommendations made in this report, such as the need to simplify the rules for accessing and managing the allocation of the available funds in order to encourage their use and effective implementation, covering the entire EU territory. The regions implement more than a third of public investments in the EU, and the spending of the structural funds is increasingly concentrated on objectives related to growth and employment. I believe that it is essential for the EU to take immediate steps and concrete measures to ‘meet the special needs of regions characterised by natural or demographic handicaps of a serious and permanent nature, such as coastal regions, islands, mountain regions, cross-border and outermost regions’. I would also like to reiterate that ‘education and training are the fundamental preconditions for the development of the EU and can make it more competitive in the face of global challenges’.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The rapporteur finds it regrettable that the 2020 strategy has not duly incorporated an assessment of the Lisbon Strategy, and we share that opinion. The stated objectives of the Lisbon Strategy – economic growth, employment and social cohesion – have not been met; on the contrary, the situation in these areas has become worse. As we have been saying, this situation is a result of the Lisbon Strategy’s objectives, and what objectives they were too! Very specifically: liberalisations, privatisations, and making employment laws less regulated and more flexible. These options, instruments and objectives have now been taken up again by the 2020 strategy. In the same vein, the rapporteur argues for the completion of the ‘free, open and functional Internal Market’. Well, it has been this very ‘free, open and functional Internal Market’ that has led to the most poverty and social exclusion in the EU, and undermined its territorial cohesion. We do not, therefore, accept the alignment of the cohesion policy with the 2020 strategy, for the sake of its real objective: reducing disparities in the development levels of the various regions, and instituting true economic, social and territorial cohesion.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing.(PL) The main objective of cohesion policy is to strive for a uniform degree of development across the regions of the EU. Thanks to the multiannual programmes and strategies which have been put in place as part of that policy, individual regions and, in particular, the poorest ones, have the opportunity for sustained economic growth, increased competitiveness and the creation of jobs. Over half of all investments in the public sector are being made at regional level, so local authorities are becoming the main participants in the realisation of the current Lisbon Strategy, and in the future of the EU 2020 strategy. We should give full support to the realisation of projects which come under cohesion policy, remembering that their greatest beneficiaries will most often be rural areas, and the author’s promotion of the partnership approach makes it possible to inform the citizens efficiently about the objectives and results of projects which have been undertaken.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) It seems that we are providing funding for disadvantaged areas which then ends up being spent in relatively prosperous regions. There are problems with subsidy policy throughout the EU. On the one hand, money is invested in regenerating villages to prevent rural communities from dying out and, on the other, these efforts are counteracted by regulations on privatisation and deregulation.

It is no use having a vibrant village centre if the village is almost cut off from the public transport network and the post office has been closed down. The report does not focus in enough detail on the problems of cohesion policy and, therefore, I have voted against it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) This resolution is an important document as it sets out the best course for the association which is needed between the cohesion policy and the EU 2020 strategy. At a time when there is much thought about the European cohesion policy after 2013, it is indeed important to present it as an indispensable tool of compliance with the EU 2020 strategy, reiterating the statement that cohesion policies are essential for enforcing the original plan of EU integration. The cohesion policy has been important in creating a better balance between European regions, and is now seen as crucial for overcoming the current financial crisis that the EU is experiencing by strengthening competitiveness and local potential. At a time when the EU budget is not expected to increase and when there is pressure on the cohesion policy budget (approximately 45% of the EU budget), we believe that a good link between the objectives of the cohesion policy and those of the EU 2020 strategy are essential for strengthening cohesion and simultaneously contributing to a positive response from all regions and members of the public to the challenges facing the EU.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – It is a pity our alternative resolution on cohesion policy and EU2020 was rejected. We, the Greens/EFA, have thus decided to abstain in the final vote on the Cortés Lastra resolution.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Elisabeth Schroedter (Verts/ALE), in writing. (DE) The rapporteur, Mr Cortés Lastra, originally produced a very balanced report on the relationship between cohesion policy and the Europe 2020 strategy. Its aim was to correct the extensive earmarking of cohesion policy carried out by the first Barroso Commission. It justifiably asked the question as to whether cohesion policy is a tool of the Lisbon Strategy and the new Europe 2020 strategy or whether it has independent significance and an independent value. The rapporteur had achieved a balance between these two aspects. We should be grateful to him for having promoted the independence of cohesion policy. We supported his approach. Unfortunately, the amendments, which were largely tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), heavily diluted the original intention of the report. We in the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance very much regret that. For this reason, we submitted the report once again to plenary as an alternative resolution, largely in its original form.

Unfortunately, it did not receive a majority of the votes. This was not surprising, given the vote in the committee. However, our aim was to use this alternative resolution to make it clear that there was a minority view in Parliament which wanted to give the regions more rights to independent development than the earmarking model of the current structural fund period made possible.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) The cohesion policy is essential to realising the 2020 strategy’s objectives: the promotion of education, training and research, the creation of jobs, and economic growth. Following the Lisbon Strategy’s failures regarding the goal of cohesion, not least the lack of adequate consultation of the European Parliament and of participation by regional and local authorities, the report stresses the importance of the cohesion policy’s contribution to future strategic objectives. It is, therefore, important to move towards a greater sense of ownership of the strategy’s objectives amongst local and regional authorities and entities.

The regions have a crucial role to play as the vehicle to reach economic and social actors, in particular, small and medium-sized enterprises. Given its horizontal approach, only through a strong and properly financed cohesion policy can development be fostered in the European Union, and the Union made more competitive in the face of global challenges. The regional dimension of Europe must be strengthened with a strategy that takes into account the specificities of the various regions or groups thereof, such as the outermost regions. For the above reasons, I consider the cohesion policy an essential instrument for realising the objectives of the 2020 strategy, so I voted for the report.

 
  
  

Report: Vincent Peillon (A7-0133/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is a formidable project which requires strong political involvement on the part of the European Parliament. I voted in favour of this report, because it contains the following three ideas which are very important: 1) the new institutional structure needs to be effective quickly, in order to make the UfM operational; 2) adequate funding is vital if the UfM is to achieve its objectives and thus clarify the six major strategic projects (de-pollution of the Mediterranean, transport, renewable energies, education, SMEs, civil protection); 3) the success of the UfM depends on resolving regional conflicts in the Mediterranean basin.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mara Bizzotto (EFD), in writing. (IT) The Union for the Mediterranean is an ambitious project with a number of undoubtedly positive aspects, in particular, as regards the future possibility of strengthening, by means of this political and economic partnership, instruments to control immigration and combat the flows of illegal immigrants which have affected the Mediterranean in recent years. This is another reason why Europe can benefit from the prospect of a forum for dialogue with the Mediterranean countries, almost always transit countries for the majority of the illegal immigrants who reach the southern coasts of the continent.

Of course, the channel for dialogue which will be opened must not be interpreted as an instrument to facilitate the flows, but one for regulation and for combating illegality; it will be down to economic trade, together with an overall pacification of the Middle East region – to which the UfM will have to endeavour to make an active contribution – to promote social and economic growth in the immigrants’ countries of origin. Therefore, if the Union is built on solid political bases and has specific objectives, it will enable us to help, in their own countries, those people who today would wish to arrive en masse on southern European shores. In the hope that greater importance is placed on migration at the forthcoming summits of the Union for the Mediterranean, I am voting in favour.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vito Bonsignore (PPE), in writing. (IT) By voting in favour of the Peillon report, we have all acknowledged that the Mediterranean basin is an area of key importance, and that in a multipolar and interdependent world, large regional integrations, such as that of the Mediterranean, will be better positioned to cope with social, cultural, economic, environmental, demographic, political and security-related challenges.

The Mediterranean encompasses at once all of these challenges, which are crucial for the stability of the entire region, and which call for concerted, determined action.

At the forthcoming meeting in Barcelona, the Euro-Mediterranean Heads of State or Government will come together again to assess the progress made by the Union for the Mediterranean.

In my opinion, three political points should be considered at that time:

a) the time taken to follow up on the creation of the institutional set-up, determined in Paris, and the failure to make the most of the parliamentary dimension offered by the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly;

b) the inadequacy of the financial resources and synergies employed; while recognising the progress and significant, tangible commitments made by some of our countries, including Italy, the overall impact of the Union for the Mediterranean with regard to creating an area of economic prosperity remains weak;

c) the difficulty in decisively tackling issues such as peace, stability and security, an essential requirement in order to provide the Union for the Mediterranean with a political dimension and unity of purpose.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  John Bufton (EFD), in writing. – We oppose the Union for the Mediterranean. This would facilitate mass immigration from impoverished countries in North Africa. It would also allow North African al-Qaeda operatives in these countries to more easily enter Europe and carry out terrorist attacks. We also note the way the EU grants Morocco privileged economic status, despite that country’s violent occupation of Western Sahara and the plundering of its resources.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) In order to be an effective lever in building peace and prosperity and in promoting human rights, cooperation between European countries and other Mediterranean countries needs to be based on the principles of equality and mutually beneficial cooperation for the people in the area. It should help to resolve international and bilateral problems on the basis of the UN Founding Charter and international law, putting particular emphasis on the need for a fair and viable solution to Palestine, the Western Sahara and Cyprus. Unfortunately, no mention is made of these in the report, just as no mention is made of the unacceptable conditions under which thousands of people travelling with no travel papers are held on islands and in towns of the Mediterranean, affecting the human dignity of us all. In order for there to be real cooperation, the procedures for dialogue and understanding need to be strengthened and account needs to taken of the asymmetries in the area in all trade agreements, so as to safeguard equality between all the states. This sort of cooperation should strengthen and promote social and cultural exchanges and help to shape common policies and actions to protect the environment and combat climate change.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, Christofer Fjellner, Gunnar Hökmark and Anna Ibrisagic (PPE), in writing. (SV) The Swedish Conservatives have today voted against report A7-0133/2010 on the Union for the Mediterranean (2009/2215(INI)). This is because we cannot support the EU contribution to projects as part of a Union for the Mediterranean being allocated significantly increased resources in the EU’s new financial perspective for 2014-2020. It is very important that we have constructive cooperation with the countries around the Mediterranean based on the principles of equality of treatment, solidarity, dialogue and respect for each country’s dissimilarities and distinctive features. Regional cooperation with the EU in the Union for the Mediterranean must not, as some powers would like to see, become a substitute for integration into the EU and membership of the European Union. In addition, it is crucial for the EU to take responsibility and maintain its credibility, meaning that it must not promise money for various purposes without sustainable funding.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mário David (PPE), in writing. (PT) Following the Paris Declaration on 13 July 2008, which created a new Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the previous Barcelona Process should have acknowledged a new impetus, as expressed in the Declaration: ‘a renewal of efforts to transform the Mediterranean region into a space of peace, democracy, cooperation and prosperity’. However, for the European Union, 2009 was a year of major changes (there were European elections for the President of the Commission, the Treaty of Lisbon’s entry into force, the struggle against the economic and financial crisis, etc.) which have delayed the implementation of the UfM. I believe that this report correctly identifies the next steps towards achieving the objectives that were outlined when the UfM was created. I also look forward to the results of the second summit of Heads of State or Government, scheduled for 7 June in Barcelona this year. The strengthening of the Union’s Mediterranean relations is essential, and I believe that only political dialogue and increased cooperation between the Union and the other Mediterranean countries will stimulate the creation of a space of freedom, justice, peace and sustainable and lasting prosperity.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Proinsias De Rossa (S&D), in writing. – I supported this report on the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). Europe and the Mediterranean share many cross-border challenges which can be better addressed through a regional integration process, with effective institutions which can surmount the limits of bilateral cooperation. Such challenges are all the more acute in a context of crisis, and it is in the EU’s interest to address the growing disparities between both regions, thereby contributing to a viable and secure future for the people of the Mediterranean. The EU and the governments within the UfM must prioritise the setting up of its institutions and infuse them with a coherent political strategy which keeps at its core the promotion of democracy and the advancement of human rights, including social rights. If these goals are to be meaningfully furthered, peace agreements between neighbours in the Middle East have to be reached. This necessitates an end to Israel’s siege of Gaza and settlement policy, combined Palestinian commitment to non-violence and its State building programme along with mutual respect for the 1967 borders. I will continue to oppose the upgrading of the EU-Israel association agreement until Israel comes into compliance with its human rights obligations.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for the report on the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) because it advocates greater involvement of the European Parliament in this regional initiative. If the summit that is to take place in June in Barcelona is to be a success after two difficult years trying to get it off the ground, it is essential that the European Parliament be able to contribute because the result is of enormous importance to the success of the UfM.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) Any impartial observer would say that the Euro-Mediterranean partnership has not been making as much progress as would be desirable, and that there is still much to do before it really takes shape and acquires real and productive content. Historically, the Mediterranean Sea united rather than divided. The cultures that emerged on its shores constituted the nucleus of what was Western civilisation, and both sides contributed to forging identities with clear affinities. Religious wars replaced the bridge that had been there with a chasm, but in a way, that bridge is still there. I hope that the European Union, alongside its partners, will take real steps towards promoting and structuring a Euro-Mediterranean partnership capable of conquering fear, differences and mistrust, and surviving into the future without collapsing. Both sides of a sea that was once a powerful civilisation’s lake have everything to gain from this development.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) Given the precarious social and economic situation in southern countries, the deepening of relations with the countries of the Mediterranean is now all the more important. In this regard, I believe that there is an urgent need to move forward in a concrete and effective way with consolidating the Union for the Mediterranean. The strengthening of Euro-Mediterranean relations is becoming more pressing due to the impact that it will certainly have on consolidating a space of peace and cultural, economic, political and social development. I would like to emphasise, however, the concerns arising from situations relating to women’s rights, gender equality and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation: areas where the strengthening of European influence may be a factor for positive change. On the other hand, the enormous potential of renewable energy resources in the Mediterranean region is an example of the gains that the European Union could enjoy and make use of in order to achieve efficient energy policies, besides broadening the EU’s trade area to 800 million people.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We completely disagree with the guidelines established in this report, which essentially aim to increase the economic domination of the EU’s big companies over the southern part of the Mediterranean; access to, and control of, natural resources, energy in particular; the exploitation of labour power; and the repression of immigrants. It is noticeable that the majority in Parliament seem to live in an ivory tower, totally unaware of the consequences of so-called ‘free trade’; they persist with these policies and so contribute to making the situation worse. For example, in Portugal, more than 100 000 jobs are being lost in the textile sector because thousands of companies are going bust, which is, in turn, because of increased external competition.

That is why a break with this path of progressively liberalising international trade is needed. This path has meant that the rights won by the workers and the sovereignty of the people have come under attack, natural resources and biodiversity have been appropriated by the big multinationals, the environment has been destroyed, unemployment has increased, millions of small farmers have been ruined, and food sovereignty and security have been put at risk. We demand the establishment of equitable and fair economic relations that are at the service of the people and the countries in both regions.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing. (FR) I supported the report drafted by my French socialist colleague, Vincent Peillon, because the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) aims to promote the process of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation through specific strategic measures both for Europe as a whole and also for the Mediterranean zone. In fact, regional integration is necessary for the promotion of peace, which is one of the main issues at stake in this cooperation, and it therefore needed to be strengthened. I think that the UfM is an excellent instrument for intervening with a very firm hand in the conflicts which persist in this zone and even for providing solutions to them. I hope that the next summit in Barcelona is a success, that the Member States really do re-launch the UfM and that, once the secretariat has been set up in Barcelona, a whole series of projects can take shape, in everyone’s interests.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jean-Luc Mélenchon (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FR) This report certainly has the virtue of stressing the urgency of recognising two states, the Palestinian State and the State of Israel, living in peace and security, and of fighting for women’s rights and against discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, its virtue ends there. This text is essentially a pledge to current and potential private investors in the region, as evidenced by the numerous injunctions regarding the necessary protection and financial security of investments. This text also endorses the Barcelona Process and the creation of a Europe-Mediterranean Free Trade Area that goes entirely against the regulatory objectives that the situation demands.

I am voting against this report. I believe that the interests of European and Mediterranean citizens should always take precedence over those of the financiers. The role of elected representatives is to strive for the common good. It is unfortunate that those who drafted this text did not make that their priority.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. – (DE) The Union for the Mediterranean is seen by some people in Europe as a prestige project initiated by a few political leaders. However, I believe that the increase in cooperation between the countries on the shores of the Mediterranean is very much a positive thing. Particularly with regard to the increasing influx of migrants from Africa, it is essential for these states to coordinate the measures which they are taking in response. The structures of the Union for the Mediterranean provide the ideal means of supporting the work done by Frontex and, in particular, of involving the African states in projects so that economic migrants can be encouraged to remain in Africa.

The various projects that are planned, such as an increase in the exchange of students and the numerous economic programmes, which are intended to promote trade between the EU and the African states, are also very positive. However, these countries must not be pressurised into agreeing to a free trade zone, because this involves a serious risk of causing major damage to local and regional markets. Although I do not fully agree with some of the points made for the reasons mentioned, the report is balanced and this is why I have voted in favour of it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Wojciech Michał Olejniczak (S&D), in writing.(PL) With a view to the constructive development of relations between the European Union and third countries, I endorsed the report on the Union for the Mediterranean. In order to strengthen cooperation, we need to support the Barcelona Process, which has been less active recently. However, the Union for the Mediterranean Summit of states planned for 7 June 2010 in Barcelona is the perfect opportunity to put current declarations into effect, for the European Union cannot allow itself to lose significance in the region, with which it has traditional ties. Institutional structures, such as co-presidency, should be used to intensify measures for greater integration of the societies and economies of both sides of the Mediterranean Sea.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Robert Rochefort (ALDE), in writing. (FR) The Heads of State or Government on both sides of the Mediterranean will meet in Barcelona on 7 June 2010. It is vital that this meeting leads to real progress – I am referring in particular to the establishment of institutions of the Union for the Mediterranean, but also to progress in the areas of economy and commerce, employment, the reduction of poverty, agricultural issues, food security, water and rural development. It is also essential that greater resources be devoted to the Union for the Mediterranean, which will be the main issue in upcoming financial negotiations for 2014-2020.

With that in mind, we should remember that it will have to be possible for EU aid to be combined with private funds and coordinated with those offered by the European Investment Bank and investment funds such as InfraMed. Moreover, the strengthening of South-South trade and the establishment of a Europe-Mediterranean Free Trade Area are essential for economic development and poverty reduction in countries on the southern shore. These measures are clearly mentioned in the resolution that has been submitted to Parliament, and I therefore support it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – There have not been any big surprises in the amendments tabled by GUE/NGL (all were rejected) except for the first part of Amendment 6 (Western Sahara).

I wish to make it clear that I voted in favour of Amendment 6, which stresses Morocco’s responsibility in the situation of Human Rights violations in Western Sahara.

The second part of Amendment 1 (which underlined the need to increase finances for the UfM) tabled by Brok, was also rejected.

We voted in favour of the report as a whole (adopted by a large majority).

 
  
  

Report: Evgeni Kirilov (A7-0123/2010)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D), in writing. (RO) I voted for the Resolution on the ‘Need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus’. The South Caucasus is strategically important to the European Union. At the same time, the European Union can and must help this troubled region to develop economically and commercially. We can use trade policy to promote respect for human rights, energy security, democracy and good governance. In my capacity as well, as my political group’s virtual rapporteur for this resolution, I urge free trade agreements to be signed with Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. I believe that these agreements will foster economic development in the region by boosting investment and creating new jobs, which will reduce the level of poverty.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mário David (PPE), in writing. (PT) I completely agree with this report, as I believe that following the Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit, the EU should strengthen its partnerships in the East, particularly with the three southern Caucasus countries, through a clear and well defined strategy. Maintaining peace, the stability of borders and the resolution of border disputes, progress towards democracy, the rule of law and the promotion of regional cooperation are essential for development in this region of the world. I therefore believe that the EU’s action must be marked by encouragement for sustainable development, based on principles of good governance, absolute respect for human rights and policies of good neighbourliness, which should have peaceful coexistence between these countries and their neighbours as their prime objective. In this regard, I would like to highlight the important role that will come to be played by the EU Parliamentary Assembly – Eastern Neighbourhood countries. The geostrategic importance of the region, particularly with regard to the supply and transport of raw materials between the East and West, must be an important factor in establishing future agreements between the EU and these countries.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The recent conflict between Russia and Georgia – a country which has been proclaiming that it wants to join the European Union and that it shares the EU’s ideals – makes it clear that a strategy needs to be defined for the South Caucasus region. Historically wracked by bloody conflicts and squarely within Russia’s sphere of influence, the South Caucasus has been taking tentative steps towards stabilisation. However, potential sources of conflict remain, and these must be handled with the greatest possible seriousness and care; the tense relationship between Armenia and Azerbaijan is ample evidence of this. I hope that the European Union will expand on what it already knows about this region, and contribute to peace and progress between the peoples of the South Caucasus. I also hope that the EU will contribute to the adoption of and generalised respect for freedom, democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law in the region.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) The policy of enlargement and strengthening EU trade, political and cultural relations with third countries underscores the strategic importance of the Southern Caucasus countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Considering the geostrategic location of these countries, bordered by the powerful Russia, Turkey, and Iran, the European Union can and should adopt an influential approach and a collaborative role which can further peace and security in this region. This will be crucial for ensuring the best economic development conditions, both cultural and social, along with the democratisation of this region, which will also encompass the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The process of deepening relations aimed at integrating these countries into the European Union will certainly help to improve levels of justice, freedom and human progress. I also endorse the importance of an energy market development strategy for the EU, as advocated in this report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This report on the EU’s strategy for the Caucasus is just another part of the process of spreading a narrow viewpoint to disguise its economic and geopolitical interests in the region. This viewpoint is very focused on the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia, and on issues of territory and Russia’s sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

As the rapporteur himself states, what is at stake is that the three countries of the Caucasus are essential for the ‘transit of energy resources’ and the ‘EU’s energy supply’ – on which the Union depends greatly – and ‘free trade’ agreements to make the ‘economy more attractive to foreign investors’.

It is in the light of these interests that the implicit support for the re-launched arms race and military build-up in the region should be understood; the EU is taking part in this process by getting involved in the sabre rattling between the USA, NATO and Russia. The majority in Parliament is involved in this hypocrisy: Parliament has set itself up as the knight in shining armour that defends states’ territorial integrity now that it is about Georgia, but promoted, aided and continues to aid the process of Kosovo’s secession from Serbia.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jaromír Kohlíček (GUE/NGL), in writing. (CS) The South Caucasus is a very interesting area which has been a constant topic of discussion in Europe for two hundred years now. There has been a conflict of interests in these places between Russia, Iran and Turkey throughout this period. The rugged contours of the landscape and the rich history provide a hint of the enormous ethnic and religious complexities. Now the EU has also discovered this region. It is truly wonderful how Mrs Tagliavini has obtained a perfect knowledge of the entire area, including the historical and present-day contexts, on the basis of the negotiations in Georgia. In fact, I bow down deeply before her. It is excellent that the authors of a report on the need to develop a new EU strategy for the South Caucasus have taken notice of an organisation such as the OSCE. It is a pity that they apparently failed to spot the relationships between the states in the area and Iran, and also the specific intentions of Turkey in the region. The authors have clearly forgotten the ‘glorious’ declaration of the independent state of Kosovo, and their unconcealed attacks on Russia and repudiation of local elections in Abkhazia and South Ossetia include the formulation ‘de facto organs of the occupied territories’. This strongly reminds me of the findings of the mission of a certain Lord Runciman in the pre-war Czechoslovak Republic. Despite this, I believe it will be possible in the near future for the Members concerned to improve their knowledge of this part of Europe and for the next session to be more balanced. For the aforementioned reasons, the GUE/NGL Group will abstain from the final vote on the resolution.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Unfortunately, this report on the EU strategy is not balanced and I have already mentioned this in the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Although the committee took some of my amendments into consideration, I still believe that the report is going in the wrong direction. Instead of taking a neutral and balanced attitude to the issue of Georgia, it uses the wording of US foreign policy, which aims to weaken and isolate Russia. With regard to the relationship with Armenia and, in particular, the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, the EU has changed its position. This is completely incomprehensible and should be condemned. The rapporteur has apparently never visited the region and, therefore, he could not form his own opinion of the situation. For these reasons, I have voted against the Kirilov report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE), in writing. (RO) I voted against Amendment 7 because it removed an essential part of the report’s text where Parliament calls on Russia to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Georgia and the inviolability of its borders which have been recognised internationally. It also condemns the Russian Federation’s recognition of the independence of the Georgian separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as being contrary to international law. Firmly setting out this stance will help avoid establishing a similar precedent in future.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – I am glad everything we wanted was adopted in the AFET Committee and the corrections tabled by the S&D, EPP and Greens were all adopted. The final vote, which was positive, has been very easy for us.

 

9. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 

(The sitting was suspended at 13.05 and resumed at 15.00)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS WALLIS
Vice-President

 

10. Council position at first reading: see Minutes

11. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

12. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law

12.1. Religious freedom in Pakistan
Video of the speeches
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the debate on seven motions for resolutions on religious freedom in Pakistan(1).

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Charles Tannock, author. – Madam President, Pakistan’s inability to develop a strong and enduring democracy has impacted – quite severely, in my view – on religious freedom in that country. Successive leaders have used Islam to justify repression of minorities and justify autocracy, particularly of a military nature, although recent government efforts to remedy this must be recognised.

Pakistan’s constitution, although nominally upholding religious freedom, still allows for laws such as the blasphemy laws, which are discriminatory towards non-Muslims, and the persecution of Shia and Ahmadiyya minorities is a common feature. The emphasis on religious identity that was the basis for the foundation of Pakistan, and its creation, sadly appears to foster a climate of intolerance and often even violence towards those outside the religious mainstream.

The proliferation of Deobandi madrasahs, preaching messages of hatred against the West, has created an environment in which extremism and fundamentalism flourish and too many EU citizens – including from my own country, the UK – have gone through their clutches. The clearest manifestation of this is the Pakistani Taliban, a terrorist movement whose intentions were again made only too clear recently in the, mercifully failed, Times Square bomb plot in New York.

I fear personally that nothing will change in Pakistan until that country develops an education and political system that truly supports the principles of religious freedom, tolerance and equality.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Anneli Jäätteenmäki, author. – Madam President, my group, ALDE, welcomes the measures taken in the interests of religious minorities by the government of Pakistan since November 2008, and supports the efforts of the Federal Minister for Minorities in establishing a network of local inter-faith harmony committees to promote dialogue between religions.

Nevertheless, much needs to be done along the road towards genuine religious freedom in Pakistan. Reports and surveys carried out by independent agencies reveal that minorities in Pakistan are deprived of basic civil liberties and equal opportunities in jobs, education and political representation.

The legal provisions are dangerously vague and continue to be open to misuse, which affects people of all faiths in Pakistan. We know also that women in Pakistan face domestic abuse, including physical and psychological abuse. Much, therefore, remains to be done.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Eija-Riitta Korhola, author. (FI) Madam President, our resolution on Pakistan consistently raises concerns, which we see resulting especially from the laws on blasphemy. At the same time, however, we are keen to acknowledge the excellent developments that have taken place under the present government in Pakistan, and we encourage the country to continue with the democratic policy of reform that respects the rights of minorities.

Shahbaz Bhatti, the first minister for minority affairs in Pakistan’s history, has this past week been a guest of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats). We greatly value his work and the reforms that the government has made. The list of improvements is impressive: a quota of 5% for minorities in public office, the recognition of minority festivals and places in the future senate, to mention just a few.

The most inspiring project is the grassroots Interfaith Harmony committees, if they succeed in alleviating tensions between different groups in the country and thus prevent the recruitment of terrorists. It is a significant act of peace whose impact will radiate far and wide. This unarmed peacekeeping work is the best possible war against terrorism, because it gets to grips with its very causes. If success is achieved in this, it will be worthy of a peace prize. I would like to say to Mr Tannock that this is, at the same time, the very education system that he called for.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg, author.(PL) As representatives of a community based on liberty, equality and tolerance, we are obliged to condemn discriminatory practices even if they occur far beyond the borders of the Union. The removal of representatives of religious minorities from the electoral register, as happened in 2007 in Pakistan, is certainly one such practice. Furthermore, pursuant to Article 260 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the country’s citizens are divided into two categories: Muslims and non-Muslims. A recent requirement now means that a note about religious identity also has to be included in passports. A group which suffers particular discrimination in Pakistan is the Ahmadiyya community, which the Pakistani authorities do not even allow to take part in public assemblies or to engage in publishing.

The law on the crime of blasphemy and the death penalty it carries also affect religious minorities in particular. The Council of the European Union should place this subject on the agenda for relations with Islamabad as a matter of urgency. After all, under the Cooperation Agreement signed six years ago between the European Union and Pakistan for the years 2007-2013, Pakistan is receiving EUR 200 million from the EU budget.

Recent events in Pakistan have shown that the country is ready for profound changes to its system. I hope that just as in the case of the long-awaited revision of the constitution, which was at last carried out, it will soon also be possible to amend other legislation which clearly discriminates against Pakistan’s minorities.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, author. (FR) Madam President, freedom of religion is not guaranteed in Pakistan. In 2009, an increase in violent attacks against religious minorities has been observed, and that includes murders.

In addition, nearly 80% of people from minority groups live below the poverty line. However, this is not the only problem with regard to the violation of human rights in Pakistan: other issues include a restriction on freedom of assembly, threats against civil society organisations, the arrest of trade unionists, kidnappings and the murder of journalists.

Since Pakistan declared its support for the war against terrorism waged by the United States, hundreds, if not thousands, of people suspected of having links with terrorist groups have been arbitrarily detained: arrests without warrant, detentions with no legal basis or access to a lawyer, detentions in unspecified locations, forced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture.

In the only prison in Lahore, 4 651 prisoners were held in 2009, while the prison has a capacity of only 1 050 prisoners. Violence against women continues to increase: rapes, suicides, acid attacks and women being burned. I would need not two minutes or two hours but two whole days to describe the ordeal suffered by young girls and women in Pakistan.

It is within this context that this House, which is concerned about respect for women, freedom of conscience and human rights, is preparing to use its new power of veto for the conclusion of a readmission agreement between the European Union and Pakistan, thus demanding additional guarantees on the conditions for the implementation of such an agreement on the readmission of Pakistani nationals and Afghans who have transited through Pakistan.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Joe Higgins, author. – Madam President, as an international socialist, I strongly defend the right of each individual to freedom of religious belief and practice, on the basis that the fundamental rights of others are not transgressed. The people of Pakistan, and even more so the religious minorities, are, at the present time, caught between the institutional bigotry of the Pakistani state and, in some regions, the ultra-reactionary and obscurantive forces of the Taliban.

There is, of course, a fundamental contradiction in right-wing groups in this European Parliament claiming to stand for freedom and human rights in Pakistan, while supporting the war in Afghanistan which is having a severe spill-over effect into Pakistan with very detrimental consequences. The slaughter of civilians in Afghanistan by NATO forces and by Western-supplied armaments in Pakistan, apart from being criminal in itself, can push some civilians into the arms of the reactionary groups.

At the heart of the crisis in Pakistan are the feudal capitalist structures under which enormous levels of poverty flourish at the present time. Neither the corrupt elite in Pakistan, represented by the present government, nor the main opposition party, have any answers for the people. Independent organisations representing working people and the poor are critical. The Progressive Workers Federation is one such organisation whose half a million members are trying to rebuild strong social traditions to unite working people, cross national and religious lines, and unite men and women. This is the future direction that Pakistan needs to take.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Bernd Posselt, on behalf of the PPE Group.(DE) Madam President, we must take a critical but also a very objective and discerning approach to Pakistan, which is an important ally. Pakistan is an Islamic country and we must respect that. It was founded by the Muslims from British India because of their religious affiliation, in the same way that India was founded by Hindus. Both countries have had minorities from the beginning and both have developed a great tradition of tolerance. This respect for all religious minorities and, in particular, for Christians, must be reinforced. I believe that we can put the emphasis on this. Who will support the cause of Christians, if Europe, a continent which is almost completely Christian in nature, does not?

We are under a very special obligation but, at the same time, we must make it clear that we respect the leading and often constructive role which Pakistan has played and can continue to play in the Islamic world.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Marietje Schaake, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Madam President, blasphemy laws in Pakistan, as various colleagues have pointed out, are easily abused by extremists as an excuse to use violence against religious or non-religious minorities. Of course, freedom of religion is important, but freedom from religion is also important.

These blasphemy laws in a society in which freedom of expression is repressed in the name of religion pose another risk; last Wednesday, a court in Pakistan banned the social networking site Facebook in the country. The Pakistani Telecom authority instructed all Internet providers to block the website. The measure was taken to prevent people from learning about alleged insulting remarks on Islam or the prophet Mohammed. A cartoonist took the initiative to call on people to produce drawings of the Prophet to resist pressures such as that brought upon the popular series South Park, which led to edits in the programme.

Facebook, as well as on-line services and platforms, are an important virtual passage to the rest of the world. It opens up sources of information and contact for Pakistanis and allows them to engage in an exchange of ideas; especially the young generation of Pakistanis can be enlightened through the Internet, as school materials often contain discriminatory and one-sided language. Criminalising free speech is not an effective way of allowing Pakistani society to deal with diversity. Cartoonists, journalists and citizens should be able to speak their minds freely even if that means insulting some people.

Challenges to free speech are not exclusively found in Pakistan; in Europe, we face serious challenges to open debate as well. Threats to journalists, cartoonists and artists are becoming more common and they challenge our liberal, democratic societies. Self-censorship is becoming more common and politicians, cartoonists and journalists now need protection against death threats.

Let us be inspired to stand for freedom of expression in the European Union, but also in Pakistan and the world over. It is the best remedy against extremism.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Tomasz Piotr Poręba, on behalf of the ECR Group.(PL) The 2008 elections restored democracy and civilian government in Pakistan, although that democracy is not completely stable.

A number of decisions made by the Pakistani authorities on questions of religious liberties are worthy of respect, but it would seem that further measures are now needed. Making it possible for people from religious minorities to take up work in the federal sector, recognition of their holidays and the establishment of a National Minorities Day are a step towards the stabilisation and democratisation of the country. It should, however, be pointed out that there are still no precisely defined rights which protect minorities, which can lead to bizarre situations like the handing down of a 25-year prison sentence to a Christian couple for touching the holy book of the Qur’an with unclean hands.

Some religious communities are still being persecuted, and it is also disturbing to note the effective implementation of regulations based on Sharia law in rural areas, especially in the north of the country. We should continue to give financial support to the defenders of human rights in Pakistan and urge the Pakistani authorities to give their citizens full rights to religious freedom.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Eva-Britt Svensson, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(SV) Madam President, I agree with much of what has been said in connection with violations of human rights in Pakistan.

I would particularly like to highlight the situation of the Ahmadiyya Muslims and the persecution to which they are subjected. This takes the form of habitual persecution, cold-blooded murder, discrimination and harassment at all levels of society. It continues to take place, despite the fact that improvements were promised by both the previous and the current governments. Such improvements have not been forthcoming, and the persecution continues.

It is time for the international community and the EU to wake up and take action to put a stop to the violations of human rights that are continually taking place in Pakistan.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the EFD Group. (NL) When the state of Pakistan was established in 1947, its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, said these memorable words: ‘We are starting with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.’ These are empty words these days, especially for the estimated 15 million Christians living in Pakistan. They are surrounded by a pervasive atmosphere of intimidation and threat, both in the cities and in the countryside, and even in the capital, Islamabad.

Sadly enough, the Pakistani legal system condones the precarious position of the country’s indigenous Christians. This is the result of the historical process of creeping Islamification of Pakistani society since the late 1970s which has led to the alarming deterioration in the legal status of Pakistan’s Christian community.

In specific terms, we are talking about the testimonies and blasphemy laws of the 1980s, legal instruments which have effectively outlawed Christianity, as testimony given by a non-Muslim in a trial is worth only half as much as testimony given by a Muslim – and that is if the judge wishes to hear evidence from a Christian in the first place!

The blasphemy laws pose even more danger to Pakistani Christians. They prescribe life imprisonment for desecration of the Qur’an and the death sentence for derogatory remarks about Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. In short, a Christian in Pakistan can suddenly end up on death row if any Muslim testifies against him!

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, that has created an almost unbearable atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. Hundreds of Pakistani Christians vegetate in prison for years without access to any legal process. I therefore urge the Council and the Commission to link any form of aid to the Pakistani Government to the urgent abolition of this pernicious discrimination against the country’s religious minorities.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE). – Madam President, the constitution of Pakistan differentiates between Muslims and non-Muslims, thereby enabling discrimination on the basis of religion. In this context, it is important to recall that in December 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari reiterated the pledge of the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) to uphold the rights of minorities to be treated as equal citizens.

Unfortunately, reports and surveys done by independent agencies reveal that minorities in Pakistan are deprived of basic civil liberties and equal opportunities in jobs, education and political representation. So, the overall picture concerning religious freedom in Pakistan, even without going into the details, is controversial and gives a lot of ground for concern.

I would also like to stress the contradiction between the Pakistan Government’s commitment to freedom of religion and its leading role in the organisation of Islamic countries in endorsing their ‘Combating Defamation of Religion’ agenda at the United Nations. In this context, I would like to recall the EU Council conclusion of 16 November 2009 on the relationship between international human rights law, which protects individuals and groups of individuals, and the concept of defamation of religion.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – Colleagues, I would like to remind you all that we are going to be short of time this afternoon, and everybody that goes over time detracts from the number of one-minute catch-the-eye interventions that we will be able to take.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR).(PL) There is an American saying that there are no free lunches. Meanwhile, we should be saying that European Union aid cannot be given for free and that we cannot give EUR 200 million without wanting anything in return. Let us want something! We should at least want respect, for example, for similar standards to those which are, for us, a kind of moral, ethical and political beacon. The situation in which for many years now in Pakistan, there has been persecution of people of creeds other than Islam – and most of them are Christians – is absolutely unacceptable. We often talk about the affairs of different minorities, not necessarily religious minorities, in Europe and the world. Let us now defend the Christian minority and other religious minorities in Pakistan although, of course, this is not the only problem facing a country troubled by serious political conflicts and which, unfortunately, faces the prospect of destabilisation.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Csaba Sógor (PPE). (HU) If we examine the Pakistani situation, we are faced with two incontrovertible facts. First, Pakistan is a key strategic player in the fight against terrorism. We must do everything possible to ensure that the safety of European citizens is not in danger. Secondly, Pakistan takes a different view of religious and ethnic minorities when compared to the view based on the values affirmed by Europe and by advanced liberal democracies. Europe cannot remain silent if other states grossly violate human rights and, therefore, we must express our concern even if one of our strategic partners is concerned. The European Union can take credible steps with regard to third countries only if it addresses satisfactorily the problems of religious and national minorities on its own territory. It must be clear throughout the world that one of the core values of the EU is the high level of protection given to human and minority rights, which the Union considers first of all to be binding on itself, or would say that it ought to regard these as binding on itself. Only then can we effectively demand that our partners make similar advances or steps on the path towards them.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Zbigniew Ziobro (ECR).(PL) We welcome the fact that Pakistan is engaged in the fight against international terrorism, but this circumstance must not obscure other, very drastic facts, which show that in this country, drastic violations of the rights of religious minorities, especially Christians, are being committed.

Every so often, indeed very often, information reaches us of further attacks, beatings, threats and even murders, including the burning alive of Christian people only because they are Christians, including women and children. This kind of information gives rise to a question. Why is this happening in a country which plays such a significant role in international relations and in the fight against terrorism? Well, it is happening because, unfortunately, the authorities in Pakistan are, to a considerable degree, responsible for creating an atmosphere which encourages such things, by unsuitable legislation on blasphemy and by not reacting to inappropriate actions of the law enforcement agencies and the judicial system in Pakistan.

We must expect fundamental change, including from the European Union and its institutions, in relation to such conduct.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Martin Kastler (PPE).(DE) Madam President, around 75% to 80% of all those suffering religious persecution worldwide are Christians. We in the European Parliament are fighting specifically for human rights throughout the world. For me, religious freedom is a central concept of our human rights policy. Therefore, I regret that those on the left and the liberal left in the European Parliament often join together to keep silent about the fate of Christians.

At the same time, I am pleased that we are jointly tabling a resolution today about the dreadful situation in Pakistan. Of the 156 million people in Pakistan, 95% are Muslims, around 3% Christians and around 2% Hindus. As a Christian, I would like to focus once again on the situation of the Pakistani Christians, who are subjected to severe persecution. Anyone who allows violent attacks on Christians to take place must receive a response from the civilised world. Therefore, the EU should introduce a criterion in its development policy and economic cooperation which covers this issue and allows sanctions to be applied if necessary.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – We now move to the catch-the-eye part of the debate. I have had far more requests than we can accommodate. We are only meant to have two minutes. I am going to take four speakers.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Michael Gahler (PPE).(DE) Madam President, in the case of any country, it is important to consider its origins and whether the developments in the area of human and minority rights are moving in the right direction. As head of the European Union monitoring mission during the last elections two years ago, I made several recommendations and I am pleased to see that the country has begun implementing some of them. These include ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – this has not only been signed, but has evidently also now been ratified – and also the UN Convention against Torture. It is good that there is now a minister in place who is responsible ex officio for minority issues and who will gradually attempt to overcome discrimination.

Among other questions, that of the Ahmadis has also been raised. One of my recommendations was that next time, they should be taken off their separate electoral register and incorporated into the main electoral register. I believe that this would be a specific measure which would help to bring an end to discrimination against this minority.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Heidi Hautala (Verts/ALE). (FI) Madam President, I would like to say that I, too, met the minister for minority affairs here this week. I was convinced that he was trying to establish mutual understanding among religious groups. He too, however, was unable to answer the question of why Pakistan, even though it is in the UN and is a member of the Human Rights Council, has, in its role in the organisation of Islamic countries, very strongly defended a new international code to combat blasphemy and the defamation of religion. This surely cannot be an ideal way to promote mutual understanding between religious groups.

I would hope that the European Union will take firmer action internationally in this matter to prevent such new laws, which jeopardise the implementation of human rights, from entering into force. The United States of America has been a lot more active than the European Union in this matter.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jacek Olgierd Kurski (ECR).(PL) Madam President, the situation in Pakistan is developing dynamically and we are receiving conflicting information, and we have to observe the situation there very carefully, so as not to make a mistake. It is good that the government of Pakistan has adopted certain measures in the interests of religious minorities, such as guaranteeing minorities 5% of jobs in the public sector. It is good that the government of Pakistan has reserved, or has promised to reserve, seats in the Senate for minorities, including women representing minority groups.

Nevertheless, something must be done. Both the government of Pakistan and the authorities in Pakistan must do something about the law against blasphemy, which carries the death penalty in Pakistan and is often used to justify censorship, criminalisation, persecution and, in some cases, the murder of members of political, racial and religious minorities. The authorities in Pakistan must do something about the Penal Code, which provides for the death penalty for all people guilty of and convicted for blasphemy.

In a country which is receiving help from the European Union, and in the 21st century, killing people in this way must not be allowed. Thank you very much.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) After nearly nine years of military dictatorship, the elections held in Pakistan in 2008 heralded the start of a process of democratisation in this country. Unfortunately, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated a few weeks prior to the elections. The Pakistan People’s Party, which she headed, won these elections. Although minorities in Pakistan face a number of problems, several positive measures have been initiated under the leadership of the current government. Intercultural dialogue has been promoted, a 5% quota has been set for minorities in the federal administration and some Muslim public holidays have been recognised. The Pakistani Government’s commitment to give seats to minorities in the Senate is to be commended. I would finally like to emphasise the particularly important role played by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Madam President, honourable Members, the European Union has been closely following the situation regarding religious minorities in Pakistan. Pakistan’s constitution recognises freedom of religion and provides that the State will protect the rights of minorities.

Recently, Pakistan has made progress: this includes the adoption of constitutional amendments, strengthening the role of elected assemblies in Pakistan, and institutional developments in the area of human rights, in particular, the establishment of a Ministry of Human Rights and a Ministry of Minorities. In addition, an independent National Commission of Human Rights is being set up.

Moreover, Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This is a step in the right direction, provided that these instruments are implemented effectively. Nevertheless, Pakistan should redouble its efforts to ensure better integration of religious minorities, including the Christian minority, within social, economic and political institutions. Pakistan’s international reputation has been tarnished by incidents such as that which took place last year in Gojra, when seven Christians were burned alive when extremists attacked a church and people’s homes, as well as attacks on Shi’ite Muslims and discrimination against Ahmadis.

With regard to the rights of religious minorities, the EU has consistently used political dialogue with Pakistan in order to raise human rights issues, and has also taken diplomatic steps on a number of occasions. In addition to this, since 2007 the EU has maintained a dialogue on human rights within the framework of the Cooperation Agreement with Pakistan, which makes provision for a regular dialogue on governance and human rights.

During these discussions, the EU has always insisted on respect for individual rights and minority rights. As part of that dialogue on human rights, the EU has also repeatedly raised the issue of the application of the blasphemy laws with the government of Pakistan. In absolute terms, it seems that most of the defendants are Muslims, but I am aware that the blasphemy laws have often been used against religious minorities, and that false accusations have been made as a way of settling personal scores or for reasons of financial greed. The last meeting of the Joint Committee took place on 25 March 2010, preceded the day before by the meeting of a subgroup on governance, human rights and migration.

On that occasion, the issue of minorities in Pakistan was raised. At the same time, we did not hesitate to mention Pakistani concerns over the situation regarding religious minorities here at home, in Europe.

The European Union also plans to raise these issues at the next meeting with Pakistan, on 4 June this year. Much of Pakistan’s population has no access to education and is ignorant of the basic rules of social behaviour. Through the cooperation aid provided by the European Commission, priority has been given to improving access to basic education in the context of Pakistan’s politics and education. I am hopeful that in the medium term, this will lead to a more tolerant attitude towards the concept of religious freedom.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place shortly.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Monica Luisa Macovei (PPE), in writing. – Reportedly, Pakistan has the harshest blasphemy laws in the world. The exercise of the rights to free expression and religion can result in imprisonment and death. Section 295B and C of Pakistan’s Penal Code criminalise derogatory remarks regarding the Koran and the Prophet, providing for punishments of life imprisonment, and death, respectively. Section 298 punishes the deliberate wounding of religious feelings, and sections 298A, B and C penalise derogatory remarks of holy figures and places, and outlaw the religious group of Ahmadis (who consider themselves Muslim). Freedom of religion includes the freedom to believe in any religion and the freedom not to believe in any religion. Pakistan’s minister for minority affairs announced yesterday that amendments are being prepared to stop the misuse of the blasphemy laws. I believe these laws should be repealed, as any modified text will only be a legacy of the past and allow for continued violence and discrimination.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE), in writing.(RO) In recent years, the Pakistani Government has adopted a series of measures which clearly demonstrate a certain sensitivity to the situation of national minorities. These include the appointment of Shahbaz Bhatti as federal minister for minorities, a 5% quota for public sector workers and the commitment to representation for religious minorities in the Senate, to name but a few. These efforts must be encouraged. However, many more steps need to be taken to improve the situation of religious minorities.

I believe that one key element in this is to review the provisions on offences committed against religions, known as the Blasphemy Law. The possibility of abusing the provisions of this law has created a climate of intolerance which has encouraged religious violence, discrimination, intimidation and persecution of religious minorities. Apart from the legal aspect, it is important for the government to adopt decisive measures to prevent violence. The promotion of tolerance is the key to protecting religious minorities in Pakistan.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Anna Záborská (PPE), in writing. (SK) European civilisation as we know it today would not be possible without religious freedom. The search for something which goes beyond the individual must go hand in hand with toleration. The path to God – and also the path from God – is different and unique for each individual. If nothing else, we have learned this during the two thousand years of Christianity in Europe. This experience has been long and painful, purchased with the lives of millions of innocent people. We Europeans therefore have the right to tell others not to take that path. Therefore, we will always, and in every country, condemn the perpetration of violence and the murder of innocent people, especially now, when it involves our ally and friend.

 
  

(1) See Minutes


12.2. Situation in Thailand
Video of the speeches
MPphoto
 

  President. – The next item is the debate on six motions for resolutions on Thailand(1).

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Marietje Schaake, author. – Madam President, Thailand is going through a violent crisis with the red-shirt demonstrators on the one hand, and the army and the yellow-shirts on the other. Around 80 people have already lost their lives and nearly 2 000 have been injured. Democracy is threatened and the country finds itself in a government-declared state of emergency.

The state of emergency has resulted in censorship. Media sources such as TV, radio and Internet have been blocked. Halting violence is very important, and we encourage all parties to use self-restraint in the process of doing so, but in seeking to restore the calm, the state of emergency should not be abused to restrict fundamental rights and individual freedoms. Censorship needs to end and freedom of the media and expression need to be restored. These values are important for the European Parliament in their valuable relationship with Thailand.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Cristian Dan Preda, author.(RO) As we have all observed, because it has been the main topic of news, since early April, Thailand has experienced an atmosphere of political violence that it had not seen in the last decade. I would first of all like to express my solidarity with the families of the victims of the violence on the streets. I think that we have here what I would describe as a conventional confrontation between the freedom of expression and association, on the one hand, and the need for the government to maintain public order, on the other. The train of events has passed very quickly over recent days and hours. Relative calm seems to have returned to Bangkok, although the capital was ablaze last night following intervention by government forces.

Let us hope that a new spiral of violence can be avoided. However, to ensure this happens, we need moderation because democracy cannot prevail through violence. I think that the government will have to implement the roadmap which it presented on 3 May. I also believe that investigation of the recent events and punishment of the guilty are measures required to ensure reconciliation.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Véronique De Keyser, author. (FR) Madam President, the ‘red-shirt’ demonstrations have been suppressed with bloodshed. I would just like to say the following, without wishing to add fuel to the fire, since a European Parliament urgency procedure requires us to appease a crisis and to seek solutions rather than further inflame people’s anger. Firstly, any citizen can legitimately aspire to free and fair elections. That is an undeniable right, and one that should be granted to all Thai people. This option was proposed at one point by Prime Minister Vejjajiva, then rejected by the ‘red-shirts’. We must now return to it.

Secondly, I condemn the use of live gunfire on protestors and the brutal repression of recent days which, according to official sources, has claimed at least 12 victims, including an Italian journalist, and left many people injured. It is time to stop the violence that has become widespread across the whole country.

In doing so, I do not advocate taking one side or another, but I call on the Thai Government to prioritise a negotiated solution, to ensure that the declared state of emergency does not limit individual freedoms or freedom of expression, which would only exacerbate tensions, and I call on him in particular to consider a return to the polls.

The current turmoil runs the risk of dividing the country. In the north-east, which is a rural area with a Laotian culture, there would be almost insurgent opposition against the central area, Bangkok and the south, which are all Democratic strongholds. This could lead to the emergence of quasi-terrorist movements, attacking what can be called the bureaucracy and elite that are the bastions of power.

There absolutely must be a return to elections, negotiations, and an end to the violence, whilst maintaining freedoms. Of course, these are very simple words, and perhaps rather naive in relation to modern-day violence. This parliamentary resolution was deliberately chosen to avoid any explosion of violence in Thailand and to leave room for dialogue, but that does not mean that we can dispense with all calls for democracy.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Barbara Lochbihler, author.(DE) Madam President, the images of the anger, violence and destruction in Bangkok are still fresh in our minds. Although attention has now, to a certain extent, moved away from the highly charged situation in the Thai capital, the risk of further violent clashes is by no means over. The violent conflict between the so-called red shirts and the government, backed by the army, has already resulted in more than 70 people being killed and almost 2 000 injured. The government has announced that it will investigate these deaths and those which occurred in the last few days must also be included in this investigation.

It is important to consider the fundamental causes of these recurring protests and clashes in order to find a viable political solution. Part of the Thai population is severely disadvantaged and socially excluded. These people are very critical of their unfair treatment and lack of rights. They are fighting against their comparatively low standard of living. Other factors include conspicuous and widespread corruption within the political leadership, but also among the people in positions of responsibility within civil society. These structural problems must be exposed and resolved, if a lasting solution is to be found, rather than just bringing an end to hostilities.

We call on all the parties in the conflict to play a serious and constructive role in finding a solution to this major crisis. However, both sides must use only peaceful and democratic means to bring this about and, for this, they need the support of the EU.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Marie-Christine Vergiat, author. (FR) Madam President, for several weeks now, the ‘red-shirts’ popular movement has been demonstrating in Bangkok in order to demand respect for democracy. Let us remember that the current government, even though the President has only been in power since December 2008, is nevertheless the result of a military coup that occurred in September 2006.

What were the ‘red-shirts’ demanding? The Prime Minister’s resignation, the dissolution of parliament, early elections – in short, democracy. On 4 May 2010, the Prime Minister announced a reconciliation plan based on those famous early elections, but the assassination, on 13 May, of General Khattiya, commander of the ‘red-shirts’, terminated negotiations.

This is the context in which we have prepared the resolution before us today. Yesterday, the army intervened, killing several people including an Italian journalist. For us, it is essential that the resolution on which we are going to vote takes account of these events, particularly given that the main leaders of the ‘red-shirt’ movement immediately surrendered and urged the population to remain calm.

In fact, it is the matter of the succession of the king that is being called into question. He has remained strangely silent. The message we must convey is that democracy cannot be imposed by force, and that it is not acceptable to quash demonstrations by sending in the army with orders to shoot on sight. The resolution does not even condemn the violence. We will not vote in favour of it. The Thai people have the right to democracy, and everything must be done to avoid another military coup.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Adam Bielan, author.(PL) Thailand – a country which, until recently, was considered a bastion of democracy and stability in South-East Asia – has recently experienced its most dramatic events in almost half a century.

Fighting continues in the conflict between supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, known as the ‘red-shirts’, and the government and the army. Over 60 people have been killed, including foreign nationals and, among them, citizens of EU countries, nearly 2 000 people have been injured, and the capital, Bangkok, has sustained a significant degree of damage.

Of course, the victims’ families deserve our expressions of sympathy, condolences and solidarity, but we must also be aware that the Thai nation is, today, very divided. Human rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are significantly restricted, and the conflict will be very difficult to solve by peaceful and political means.

Therefore, pressure is needed – international pressure, including from the European Union – on both sides of the conflict so that they will resume talks and try to resolve their dispute by political means, and not through violence.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Thomas Mann, on behalf of the PPE Group.(DE) Madam President, in the street fighting which has come to resemble a civil war, 75 people have been killed and more than 1 800 injured since last week alone. Following heavy military intervention, the leaders of the demonstrators have surrendered. However, the situation in Bangkok is continuing to escalate. I have received phone calls about it both yesterday and today. Until now, some areas of the capital were not affected by the conflict, but that has changed. The situation in the north-east is also chaotic. The dramatic images convey one clear message. Regardless of whether people are wearing red, black, yellow or green shirts, they must stop the violence and not allow the situation to escalate any further.

The position of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) is clear. There is no alternative to objective discussions. All the incidents must be investigated by an independent commission. We very much welcome the plan to bring the parliamentary elections forward. Mr Tajani, the EU must take an active role and act as mediator. We have the diplomatic means to break the spiral of violence and start the process of constructive dialogue. Mr Tajani, we must act, because Thailand is being shaken to its foundations.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Corina Creţu, on behalf of the S&D Group.(RO) I, too, wish to express my solidarity with the Thai families grieving in the wake of the violent clashes in Bangkok. The situation is all the more alarming as there are no real prospects of resolving the internal conflict. Reprisals on the streets of the Thai capital, which have caused tens of deaths and hundreds of injured, cannot be accepted in any way as a means of resolving existing problems.

The brutal use of force and introduction of censorship, which bans television channels from broadcasting anything other than programmes approved by the government, are violations of basic human rights. In fact, it is the duty of the European Union and the whole civilised world to condemn the use of armed force against civilians and to request the release of those arrested illegally, as well as the most impartial investigation possible into the deaths which have occurred. If anything, the losses of human life are only serving to harden the opposition’s intransigence and fuel the violence which has also spread to the north-east of the country.

There is the risk of these street clashes degenerating into civil war. I believe that international organisations, primarily the UN, have to intervene as soon as possible to prevent an even more serious deterioration in the situation and to mediate the start of a necessary dialogue between the authorities and the opposition, as the only democratic option for resolving the current crisis peacefully.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Joe Higgins, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – Madam President, I condemn the brutal repression by the Thai Government and State against the protestors in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand. Despite propaganda that these were terrorists, in the main, they were, in fact, impoverished farmers from the north and around Bangkok, sections of the urban working class, and their families, who saw their protest as a struggle against the enormous poverty and hardship that they suffer.

Unfortunately, these oppressed people look to the billionaire and former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, for a solution. Despite some populist measures against poverty when he was in government, Mr Thaksin represents the capitalist elite and deceives the masses. On the other side, there is the current Prime Minister Abhisit and his party, who represent other sections of the elite.

I think the poor rural masses and the urban working class in Thailand urgently need their own independent organisation to fight for their rights, and I hope that the next mobilisation in Thailand might be a united struggle of workers, poor farmers, students and youth, dedicated to overthrowing all corrupt elites and bringing the major wealth of Thailand into public ownership and democratic control and, in a socialist Thailand, transforming the lives of its people and also fighting for the rights of all minorities.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Monica Luisa Macovei (PPE). – Madam President, I condemn the use of bullets against protestors in Thailand: thousands of people died; hundreds were injured. As reported by Amnesty International, eyewitness accounts and video recordings show clearly that the military is firing live rounds at unarmed people who pose no threat whatsoever to the soldiers or to others. Among the dead, there are medical doctors and children.

Thai soldiers must stop firing; violence against protestors cannot lead, and will not lead, to a democratic solution. The government must be aware that crushing the protestors may clear the streets for now but will not solve the problem that brought the people onto the streets, and before anything else comes human life, so stop the firing.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). (SK) The demonstrations in Thailand have unfortunately been going on for several weeks now. The civilian population are suffering violence as the direct victims of bloody confrontations between armed anti-government demonstrators and the forces of the state. I would therefore like to express my sympathy with those who have lost family members.

I consider it an absolute priority in this tense situation for both sides to denounce physical force and to prevent further losses of life. I also support the call for an immediate end to the ongoing violence and for the opening of constructive dialogue, with the aim of settling the conflict by peaceful and democratic means. At the same time, I call on the Thai Government not to resort to unwarranted and unjustified violations of human rights during the declared state of emergency.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) The political conflict in Thailand very quickly grew into serious civil unrest, which resulted in the deaths of many protestors following intervention by the forces of repression. If the state authorities use brute force and uncontrolled repression against the citizens of their own country, this deserves condemnation.

Therefore, Madam President, Commissioner, the EU must use its political influence on the parties involved in the conflict and call for a peaceful solution to the political solution in such a way that Thai citizens do not pay the price for the political disputes between leaders of individual groups. The Thai Government in particular must take responsibility for providing a calm and peaceful solution to this conflict.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE).(IT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, a ceasefire and an end to censorship: I believe this to be the two-pronged action which the Commission, with the greatest determination, but also with the greatest consistency, with those values considered inalienable by this Parliament, must endeavour to obtain.

In a climate of civil war such as that prevailing in Thailand, a return to democracy through free elections – initially discussed, initially hoped for, but now in some doubt – requires a crucial step, namely, awareness of the international community’s support for the Thai people and for the country’s return to full democracy.

To allow the international community to be involved in this phase, the crucial factor is information, and this is why the state of emergency must not be a form of veiled censorship. The Internet, newspapers and the media must be in a position to inform the international community of the dynamics in play in Thailand, so that the international community, with as much awareness of the facts as possible, can be supportive at this time of restoring democracy.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Madam President, honourable Members, Thailand is going through a tragic phase in its political history. The country, known for its economic and social dynamism, is currently affected by a profound crisis which could threaten stability if a solution to the current conflict is not found.

Indeed, this crisis strikes at the very heart of the country: much of the population seems to have lost confidence in the institutions that govern it. In turn, the government is struggling to implement the solutions that the current circumstances demand. Political fragility has resulted from this, leading to violent confrontations and acts of aggression which directly affect human rights and fundamental rights. There is persistent uncertainty over the future of the country. In such circumstances, the European Union deplores the fact that people have lost their lives, such as the Italian journalist Fabio Polenghi, who was killed yesterday morning during clashes between demonstrators and soldiers. No political or ideological crisis can justify this fact, nor the armed confrontation.

On two occasions already, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has reminded the warring parties to show restraint. Even a state of emergency cannot be allowed to result in excessive measures when it comes to fundamental rights and the right to freedom of expression. These rights are threatened by the disproportionate use of force.

To prevent the situation deteriorating any further, it is crucial that negotiations should resume. The Commission has taken note of the roadmap put forward by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Thailand will not emerge from the current crisis unless it deals with its major structural problems. It is essential that the legitimate claims of disadvantaged social groups are recognised by all parties involved in governing the country. This is an indispensable step towards national reconciliation. It is therefore imperative for Thailand to find a consensus with all parties on how to move towards a more incisive society.

As a partner to Thailand, the European Union is ready to support the country, as far as it is able, during this complex process.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place shortly.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. (FR) Thailand is going through a very serious period in its history. The ‘Land of Smiles’ has become one of tears, blood and, maybe tomorrow, one of a civil war between government forces and the so-called ‘red-shirts’. How did things reach the point where a demonstration calling for democratic elections ended with dozens of dead and thousands injured, the political assassination of an opposition leader, scenes of urban guerrilla warfare, the beginning of insurgency in several provinces and the establishment of a state of emergency and curfews? The King is a highly respected figure in the country, but does not seem able to reduce tensions. Continued uncertainties over his succession suggest that this instability will persist. The violence must stop. The current government certainly came about through elections, but elections that were held following a coup and the dissolution of the opposition parties. This injustice must stop. The solution lies only in the swift organisation of general elections and the prior restoration of the political freedom of all parties involved, so as to ensure the elections are democratic. The EU should use its good economic and political relations with Thailand in order to bring about this solution.

 
  

(1) See Minutes


12.3. Burma
Video of the speeches
MPphoto
 

  President. – The next item is the debate on seven motions for resolutions on Burma(1).

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Anneli Jäätteenmäki, author. – Madam President, with this resolution, the European Parliament calls on the Burmese Government to put an end to human rights violations and to start genuine dialogue with the opposition and ethnic representatives of Burma, as well as with the international community, and to take concrete steps towards a peaceful transition to a democratic system of government.

Burma is going to hold an election this year for the first time in 30 years. Unfortunately, the election laws published do not provide for fair and free elections. The opposition is not involved in the process and many of the opposition leaders are still under house arrest. Many political activists are in prison, and the opposition party has decided to boycott the elections completely.

The last thing I want to say is that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Burma has condemned the gross and systematic human rights abuses. I hope Parliament will do the same.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Filip Kaczmarek, author.(PL) The situation in Burma forces us to turn our attention to this country repeatedly.

Today, we condemn the intention to conduct elections under completely undemocratic conditions and on principles which have excluded the main opposition party and deprived hundreds of thousands of Burmese of the right to vote and to be candidates. This is an obvious attempt to keep the opposition out of the elections. In such conditions, even the very expression ‘elections’ does not correspond to reality.

We also condemn the fact that under the new constitution, the army will be guaranteed at least 25% of the seats in parliament and will have the authority to suspend civil liberties and the legislature at any time it deems this necessary in the interests of national security.

We condemn the continued and systematic violation of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic rights of the people of Burma, but we also appeal to the governments of other countries – of China, India and Russia – to do what they can by putting economic and political pressure on the Burmese authorities to bring about change there.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Véronique De Keyser, author. (FR) Madam President, the starting point for this resolution is the almost mezza voce dissolution of the party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who is a recipient of the Sakharov Prize and has been under house arrest for years. By dissolving her party, the National League for Democracy, winner of the last elections, the military junta is trying to eliminate a whole section of the opposition before the elections this coming October. However, to put the icing on the cake of what will be not so much a democratic ballot as a complete electoral farce, political prisoners and monks have now also been excluded from the ballot. The junta continues its abuses of power, large multinational companies continue to benefit from their contracts with that junta, and the Commission has reduced aid for refugees who have fled to the border with Thailand.

Unfortunately, we have a series of examples of countries and regions where the international community is powerless to restore democracy and the rule of law. Burma is one of them, with its stream of resistance fighters and martyrs, of which Aung San Suu Kyi is the most famous icon. Is it too much to ask the European Union, I might almost say out of decency, not to cut its aid for the refugees on the border of Thailand and Burma, and to begin immediately to finance cross-border aid, particularly medical assistance? Is it not a matter of urgency that High Representative Ashton and the Member States should support the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Burma, namely, that a committee be established to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity, which could be included in a United Nations General Assembly resolution this year?

Let us make Burma a textbook case, one that shows our ability to promote democracy without the use of bombs and tanks.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Barbara Lochbihler, author.(DE) Madam President, in 1990, the Burmese human rights activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, was awarded the Sakharov prize by the European Parliament. In the years before and after this date, the critical human rights situation in Burma was the subject of numerous parliamentary resolutions. Similarly, other international human rights organisations have been involved with the situation there. Although improvements have been made in individual cases, the human rights situation in Burma remains extremely poor.

Against the background of a very good and comprehensive report, the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma has now called for an international investigation commission to be established which will have the mandate to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Ashton, should take up and support this call, for example, in the next General Assembly of the United Nations.

Elections are due to take place in Burma at the end of 2010 and the government has now implemented measures which deny many citizens the right to vote and stand for election. This applies, in particular, to political prisoners and Buddhist monks, who make up a total of 400 000 people. We are protesting against this and calling on the High Representative to express this criticism clearly in her bilateral and multilateral talks.

Finally, in the light of the complex human rights problems in Burma, it is incomprehensible that the European Union has cut its financial support for refugees on the Thai-Burmese border. That is not acceptable and we are calling on the Commission to reverse these cuts and to begin providing cross-border aid for Burmese refugees once again.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Marie-Christine Vergiat, author. (FR) Madam President, this is the second time since the start of the year that we have discussed the situation in Burma. The concerns we expressed on 10 March this year, with regard to the so-called electoral process initiated by the Burmese junta, have merely been confirmed. The conditions imposed by the electoral law have led to the National League for Democracy refusing to participate in the process. It must be noted that these electoral laws forbid prisoners to vote and therefore exclude hundreds of political prisoners.

Since then, the National League for Democracy has been banned. We welcome the tone of this resolution calling for increased economic sanctions. We also regret the reduction in humanitarian aid for refugees. Personally, I would like us to go further and, as President Obama and the United States have done, for the European Union to ban any investment in euro in Burma. However, some major economic groups in Europe have powerful interests in that country. I am delighted that we have called for an international arms embargo, and I sincerely hope that the EU can play an active role in bringing about global consensus on the matter.

Commissioner, I would like you to inform us of your position on this matter, either today or later on.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Charles Tannock, author. – Madam President, what more can we say about Burma that has not already been said, including calling again for the release of political prisoners like Aung San Suu Kyi who has become a global icon in the struggle for freedom? This resolution, like many before it in this House, chronicles the brutal repression of the Burmese people led by a military junta they never elected and have fought very hard to get rid of for many years.

The way in which this junta is now cynically trying to hold sham elections such as to ensure the opposition will be muzzled is entirely characteristic of these generals and the way in which they arrogantly disregard the opinions not only of the Burmese people – their own people – but of democratic leaders around the free world.

Despite this resolution’s focus on immediate events in Burma, I urge the Council and Commission also to give due consideration to how best to support Burma when it is finally free and democratic once again. Burma will need our help, not least to develop a strong civil society and a legal system which should focus on transitional justice for the many crimes committed by the junta. That may all seem a long way away, but if the brave people of Burma can learn anything from us in this Parliament in Europe, it is that the light of liberty can never be extinguished by tyranny and that the freedom that is their inalienable right will surely once again be theirs one day.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Elena Băsescu, on behalf of the PPE Group.(RO) The human rights situation in Burma is giving particular cause for concern. This country has been governed for several decades by a military dictatorship which has violently repressed opponents of the regime. The authorities have announced the organisation of elections during this year for the first time since 1990. However, they will be run based on an undemocratic framework. Hundreds of thousands of citizens will not have the right to vote or stand as candidates, and at least 25% of MPs will be from the military.

The main opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and Sakharov Prize, will not take part in the elections. I urge the European Union, through the High Representative, and the international community to step up their efforts to establish democracy in Burma and secure the earliest possible release of Aung San Suu Kyi. She has been under house arrest since 2003 and is an important symbol of the struggle for democracy and human rights.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Ana Gomes, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Madam President, in organising farcical elections and refusing a national dialogue involving all political and ethnic groups, the Junta shows that the ‘pragmatic’ engagement with it is not working at all. The international community must act against the oppressors of the Burmese people.

The EU can do much more than just renewing sanctions on the regime. It should use all means to strengthen civil society and assist those who resist oppression in Burma. It must work to mobilise the UN, ASEAN and the USA to put pressure on China and India to end their support for the Burmese regime and to stop the arms trade going on, namely with North Korea.

The UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma concluded last March that ‘human rights violations are the result of a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels’ and that these human rights violations ‘may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the [Rome] Statute of the International Criminal Court’. His predecessor had already called for the UN Security Council to investigate crimes against humanity in Burma, as it did in Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

What are EU Member States waiting for to ask the UN Security Council to refer the criminals in power in Burma to the International Criminal Court?

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Marietje Schaake, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Madam President, Burma will hold so-called elections this year. However, these cannot be free and fair if Buddhist monks are banned from voting and the opposition is not even involved. The National League for Democracy was disbanded by law this month and Aung San Suu Kyi, a political prisoner and recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, cannot run in the elections.

Democracy and the rule of law are essential for economic growth and the European Parliament remains strongly committed to the people in Burma. Asian countries are encouraged to do the same and to use their economic leverage in the process. The Burmese people need our support as gross and systematic human rights abuses continue at the hands of the dictatorial state. These serious crimes need to be investigated, yet the government in Burma chooses self-isolation and refuses to allow the EU envoy for Burma to enter the country. Self-isolation impacts the population on many levels such as through news media that cannot operate freely in the country.

Regrettably, the new constitution does not grant human rights, and we call on the Commission and the Council to support the UN recommendations in setting up a commission of inquiry into the human rights violations. In the meantime, restrictions on freedom of assembly, association and expression, including those on the Internet and mobile phones, need to end. Until then, restrictive measures provided for in the EU decision will have to be enforced.

By banning the trade in arms and by funding refugee programmes, the EU continues to stand by the Burmese people and their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Raül Romeva i Rueda, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Madam President, I have just had some sad news. One hour ago, I was informed that a senior leader of the National League for Democracy, Takin Soe Myint, has passed away.

That is very sad news which we have to add to that special joke that some call elections in Burma. I add my voice to those who clearly condemn these elections, especially the fact that they are depriving hundreds of thousands of Burmese access to their passive or active right to vote. This also includes the situation of Aung San Suu Kyi, who is in prison.

This is something that we cannot remain silent on. Once again, we have to ask the Burmese regime to heed the appeals of the international community to allow all those prisoners of conscience to be released. This is important also in the sense that has been mentioned by Ana Gomes. I also understand that we have a strong responsibility in asking, urging and pushing India, Russia and China to stop selling weapons to the junta regime in Burma.

There is also good news there. We have to welcome the European Union’s support for the global arms embargo, and, once again, we have to urge the European Member States to have a clear coalition on a consensus for such a ban.

It is also important to remember – and this has also been said – that we cannot now cut the funds for the refugees living on the frontier. We have to establish a clear policy of support for these people. I have been there many times. We have to say clearly that this is not the time to stop the help these people need, especially for medical assistance at the present time.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE).(RO) Burma is not a democracy, even though it is going to organise elections, because, as we are aware, the authorities in this country show deep contempt for any democratic principle. This military dictatorship is completely unscrupulous and reserves, as has already been said, seats in parliament for the military and bans, in general, citizens with democratic convictions from participating in politics.

There can be no question of an improvement in the political climate in this country unless Aung San Suu Kyi is released. Another leader of the National League for Democracy also said that he is unable to serve his country after spending 20 years in prison for his convictions, simply because the military in Burma ban people, who have served such sentences which the military have actually passed, from standing as candidates. I call for a national dialogue because this will be the only way to enable this country’s society to be changed.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE). (FI) Madam President, Burma is holding its first parliamentary elections for 20 years. It will hardly come as a surprise to anyone that the elections are already, at this stage, looking anything but free and democratic.

The amendment to the constitution in 2008 guarantees that 25% of the seats in its parliament will be for the army. In addition, this year’s legislative reforms would exclude tens of thousands of Burmese from the right to vote, including political prisoners and religious minorities. Buddhist monks have long been the target of a special kind of persecution.

The international community needs to make an effort to do something. It is regrettable that the Commission has cut funding for refugee camps on the border between Thailand and Burma. Humanitarian aid is needed in abundance, and there must be international efforts made to get it there. It is also most important that Burma embarks on a dialogue between political and ethnic groups.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Madam President, honourable Members, the situation in Burma continues to concern us. As you are aware, the roadmap continues to be put into action, with preparations for the first elections held by the government in 20 years.

Thirty-one political parties have come forward so far to stand for election. Civil society has been active. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy withdrew from the elections following pressure from the government; it has therefore been dissolved. A new party, the National Front for Democracy, which may be eligible, consists partly of former leaders of the National League for Democracy, in other words, the former party of Aung San Suu Kyi;

It accepts the decision of ethnic groups as to whether or not they will vote. If they boycott the election, following a disagreement over the replacement of ethnic armies with border guards, it would take away the credibility that these elections need. This shows the degree to which the situation keeps changing, and I doubt that the European Union will be invited to observe the elections.

We are also still very concerned about the human rights situation. The report by Mr Quintana, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, is very clear. Many political prisoners have still not been released, despite appeals from the international community. Fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are still not respected. Socio-economic conditions are difficult for most of the population, especially in areas inhabited by ethnic groups.

How can we really help? The European Union’s statements are evidence of our critical view and our willingness to contribute to a solution. Our approach includes development aid; in fact, the EU is one of the most generous donors. Furthermore, the Millennium Development Goals and a continued dialogue with the government of Burma on sectoral policies are vitally important. In addition to the areas affected by the hurricane of 2008, our aid targets the most vulnerable regions of the country, as well as the refugee camps along the Thailand-Burma border.

In answer to your questions, I can assure you that the Commission will continue to help uprooted communities in order to enable them to find decent living conditions. The conditions needed for them to make a return to their countries do not exist. We need to guard against the institutionalisation of the camps and, consequently, the extent of our aid will be determined by local needs.

In addition, the Commission has been in contact with the Thai authorities. It should be remembered that there are also aid programmes focusing on education, agriculture and food security. In addition, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid programmes provide aid in the area of water and food security. There is also aid aimed at restoring socio-economic conditions in Burma. Each citizen receives about USD 2.4 on average, in comparison with USD 36 in Laos and USD 60 in Cambodia.

In conclusion, I can confirm that we will redouble our efforts to promote our values. The people of Burma are entitled to receive aid and to know that the European Union will not lose interest in their future.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Thomas Mann (PPE).(DE) Madam President, you are undoubtedly a competent vice-president and you are also highly influential. I very much welcome that fact. You have not given some Members the opportunity to take the floor as part of the ‘catch-the-eye’ procedure, not because you did not want to, but because we have such a tight schedule.

The European Parliament is the voice of human rights and we are making do with just one hour. So many of us have something to say and want to put pressure on the Commission in order to achieve results. Are you personally in favour of holding the vote not at 16.00 or 16.30, but instead at 17.00 or 17.30, for example, so that we could have an extra hour and finally change this rule of procedure? We need the opportunity to speak out. We must be able to exert pressure on the Commission, but preferably not under such strict time pressure. I know that it is not your responsibility, but I hope that you will intervene on our side so that we can finally change this rule of procedure.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – Mr Mann, I understand your frustration. I dislike not being able to give Members the floor on issues of such importance, but you are also correct in saying that it would require a change to our Rules of Procedure.

The other thing I would say is that, during the debates, if all Members who spoke kept to their speaking time, then we would be able to take more people under catch-the-eye. That, I am afraid, is the problem, but your comments have been noted.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place shortly.

 
  

(1) See Minutes


13. Voting time
Video of the speeches
MPphoto
 

  President. – The next item is the vote.

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

 

13.1. Religious freedom in Pakistan (RC-B7-0271/2010)
  

- Resolution: Religious freedom in Pakistan (RC-B7-0271/2010)

 
  
  

Before the vote on paragraph 13:

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Bernd Posselt (PPE).(DE) Madam President, our fellow Members have negotiated very skilfully and have agreed on a very good resolution with the groups. However, paragraph 13 is confusing and muddled and does not actually mean anything. This is why we are proposing a new wording, which reads as follows: ‘Is concerned about the possible misuse of the ‘Combating Defamation of Religion’ campaign at the UN, stressing the Council conclusions of 16 November 2009’.

The content is the same, but the wording is tighter. We are asking you to vote in favour of this new wording.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was accepted)

 

13.2. Situation in Thailand (RC-B7-0278/2010)
  

- Resolution: Situation in Thailand (RC-B7-0278/2010)

 

13.3. Burma (RC-B7-0283/2010)
  

- Resolution: Burma (RC-B7-0283/2010)

 

14. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes

15. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes

16. Written declarations included in the register (Rule 123): see Minutes

17. Forwarding of texts adopted during the sitting: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

18. Dates of forthcoming sittings: see Minutes

19. Adjournment of the session
Video of the speeches
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – I declare adjourned the session of the European Parliament.

(The sitting was closed at 16.30)

 

ANNEX (Written answers)
QUESTIONS TO THE COUNCIL (The Presidency-in-Office of the Council of the European Union bears sole responsibility for these answers)
Question no 1 by Bernd Posselt (H-0178/10)
 Subject: Croatia’s accession to the EU
 

In the Council’s view, how likely is it that the accession negotiations with Croatia will be concluded by the autumn, and what steps is the Council planning to take with a view to achieving significant progress in this area before the end of the Spanish Presidency?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) This period is key for Croatia’s negotiating process. Negotiations have progressed significantly and are entering their final phase. The EU has commended Croatia for the good progress made but substantial work still has to be done in order to conclude them successfully.

The Presidency continues to work towards further advancement of the negotiations, in line with relevant European Council and Council conclusions. Our aim is to reach decisive progress in Croatia’s negotiating process by opening all the remaining chapters and provisionally closing as many chapters as possible. We are also determined to make substantial progress in drafting the Accession Treaty.

On 19 February, we were able to open Chapter 13 - Fisheries and Chapter 27 - Environment, which are very demanding chapters in the accession process, and require a lot of preparation. On 19 April we provisionally closed Chapter 1 - Free Movement of Goods, which represented an important milestone, as half of the chapters in the negotiations have been now provisionally closed., since the start of the negotiations on 3 October 2005, thirty chapters have been opened, of which eighteen have been provisionally closed. Further Accession Conferences will be planned, as appropriate, in order to take the process forward.

Some sensitive chapters still remain on the table, such as Chapter 8 - Competition and chapter 23 - Judiciary and Fundamental Rights. We will also have to conclude discussions on some chapters which have important budgetary implications, such as agriculture and regional policy. Let me underline, however that Croatia’s progress towards the conclusion of the negotiations will also depend on the completion of the necessary political, economic, legislative and administrative reforms. Therefore, addressing outstanding reforms, as well as meeting all remaining benchmarks in time, and further transposing and implementing effectively the acquis, continue to be essential for Croatia if it is to meet its objective to conclude accession negotiations by 2010.

 

Question no 2 by Mairead McGuinness (H-0180/10)
 Subject: EU 2020 delivery timetable
 

Can the Council outline the timetable for Member States to convert into national goals the five headline targets that have been agreed as the key elements of the new strategy for jobs and growth, known as the EU 2020 strategy?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The March European Council agreed on the main elements of the new Strategy for Growth and Jobs, which will be formally adopted at the June European Council. This includes the five headline targets which will guide the action of the Member States and of the European Union:

a 75% employment rate for women and men aged 20-64;

an investment of 3% of GDP in research and development, together with an indicator on innovation intensity;

the confirmation of the so-called 20/20/20 goals on climate and energy;

a reduction of school drop-out rates and an increase in the share of population with tertiary education, and

promoting social inclusion, in particular reducing poverty.

The March European Council also agreed that, in the light of these headline targets, Member States will set their national targets, taking account of their relative starting positions and national circumstances.

The work to establish national targets has already started. Supporting the efforts at the national level in each Member State, the preparatory bodies of the Council are currently discussing the national targets. In parallel, bilateral consultations are taking place between every Member State, the Commission, and the Presidency, to review the overall situation for all five targets for each country.

Regarding the methodology for national targets, the European Council conclusions state that Member States will set them according to their national decision-making procedures, in a dialogue with the Commission in order to check consistency with the EU headline targets. The European Council will examine the results of this dialogue in June.

At national level, the targets will be confirmed in the National Reform Programmes to be presented in the autumn of 2010.

 

Question no 3 by Georgios Papanikolaou (H-0183/10)
 Subject: European assistance in providing facilities for illegal immigrants entering southern Europe
 

Despite the major contribution of the Frontex service to the prevention of illegal immigration, large numbers of illegal immigrants are continuing to enter European territory through its southern borders. Migrant reception and accommodation facilities in the countries of first entry are already being severely stretched and the problem is expected to get worse as a result of the current economic crisis.

Does the Spanish Presidency intend to introduce immediate and more radical measures to provide assistance for those countries assuming responsibility for hosting illegal immigrants?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The Presidency and the Council continue to attach considerable importance to combating illegal immigration and promoting solidarity for that purpose.

The European Council adopted at its meeting on 10/11 December 2009 the Stockholm Programme, a new multi-annual planning in the area of freedom security and justice for the years 2010-2014. In this Programme, it is clearly stated that a comprehensive European immigration policy, based on solidarity and responsibility, remains a key policy objective for the European Union. The Programme emphasises that, in order for the EU to maintain a credible and sustainable immigration system, it is necessary to prevent, control and combat illegal immigration as the Union faces an increasing pressure from illegal migration flows and particularly the Member States at its external borders, including at its Southern borders.

The Presidency is also working to complete, in the June Council, the first annual assessment of the 2008 European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, which also emphasises the need to promote solidarity to those Member States whose geographical location exposes them to influxes of immigrants, or whose resources are limited. The Commission has adopted the first annual report on immigration and asylum on 6 May 2010 on the basis of which the Presidency will seek to draw the relevant Conclusions at the June Council.

It should also be recalled that the JHA Council at its meeting of 25 and 26 February 2010 adopted Council Conclusions concerning 29 measures for the reinforcing of the protection of the external borders and combating illegal immigration. These Conclusions underline the importance of the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility in the integrated management of external borders and recall the need for active cooperation between Member States and the need to further enhance the efficiency of the FRONTEX Agency so as to cope better with the challenges the Unions is facing in this field. They therefore provide for a series of measures directed to the further development of FRONTEX and the European Surveillance System (EUROSUR), the fight against the illegal immigration networks and trafficking in human beings, solidarity and the integrated management of the external borders and cooperation with third countries.

The Council has, in particular, agreed to promote solidarity with the Member States facing particular pressures through capacity building and practical cooperation.

 

Question no 4 by Marian Harkin (H-0186/10)
 Subject: Knowledge migration
 

Given that the Spanish Presidency is this week (17-18 May 2010) hosting the annual conference – on the theme ‘Brains on the move’ – of the pan-European Academic Cooperation Association (ACA), has the Presidency considered exploring the possibility of European schemes to facilitate knowledge migration and prevent a European ‘brain drain’, to promote excellence and to develop a network of leading universities at international level?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The Council has a limited competence in the field of education as established in Article 165 TFEU. According this position, the Union contributes to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action, while fully respecting the responsibility of the Member States for the content of teaching and the organisation of educations systems and their cultural and linguistic diversity. Nevertheless, the Council is sensitive to the issues raised by the honourable Member. In this sense, higher education - through its close links to research and innovation - is occupying an increasingly prominent role in the Union’s overall economic strategy. The Council would therefore point to a number of initiatives in which it has been either actively or closely involved and that are aimed at enhancing the attractiveness of Europe’s higher education institutions and fostering academic excellence and cooperation, whilst encouraging the free flow and exchange of knowledge and ideas so essential to social and economic progress.

First of all, and as showed by its Resolution of 23 November 2007 on modernising universities for Europe’s competitiveness in a global knowledge Economy(1), the Council continues to encourage Member States to undertake extensive modernisation and restructuring of their higher education institutions in order to promote and maintain quality and excellence in Europe’s higher education sector. Modernisation of this kind is recognised not only as a core condition for the success of the broader Europe 2020 Strategy for growth and jobs, but also as part of the wider move towards an increasingly global and knowledge-based economy. The Council conclusions of 11 May 2010 on the internationalisation of higher education(2) also emphasise the point that] Promoting quality and excellence is essential to ensuring that Europe does not lose out in the global competition to attract and retain the best talents.

Secondly, the Council also attaches great importance to promoting learning mobility in higher education for students, teaching staff and researchers.

The highly successful Erasmus strand of the Lifelong Learning Programme(3) - together with the Erasmus Mundus programme in the field of cooperation with third countries(4) - continue to demonstrate the benefits of mobility and the free flow of knowledge in terms of enriching human capital, strengthening employability, enhancing the capacity for creativity and innovation, and improving the quality and innovation of teaching, learning and research. In addition to mobility actions, the programmes encourage and support the development of joint academic projects, networks and partnerships between higher education institutions.

Finally, the Council would add that progress achieved through the broader, pan-European Bologna process, as well as the EU’s success in adopting common approaches and tools with regard to the recognition of qualifications and quality assurance, can all help to further enhance the attractiveness of higher education within the Union.

 
 

(1)Doc. 16096/1/07 REV 1.
(2) Doc. 8261/10.
(3) Decision No 1720/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 November 2006 establishing an action programme in the field of lifelong learning - OJ L 327, 24.11.2006.
(4) Decision No 1298/2008/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 establishing the Erasmus Mundus 2009-2013 action programme for the enhancement of quality in higher education and the promotion of intercultural understanding through cooperation with third countries - OJ L 340, 19.12.2008.

 

Question no 5 by Alan Kelly (H-0189/10)
 Subject: Investigating deaths of EU citizens in third countries
 

Could the Council indicate its position on the death of EU citizens abroad at the hands of state officials from third countries?

What assistance would it consider giving to a family affected by the above?

One example of such circumstances involves the death of Mr. Michael Dwyer, an Irish citizen in Bolivia. He was killed by an elite squad within the Bolivian police, and many questions on the matter remain unanswered.

As a general principle, does the Council feel that the families of those who have died are entitled to a proper investigation into such deaths? Would it consider using its influence with a third country to ensure that such an investigation came about?

In this specific case, can the Council take any action that may assist the Dwyer family?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The Council has not been made aware of the specific case raised by the honourable Member. Since Consular matters fall within the competence of the Member States, the Council is not in a position to provide a response to the specific incident related to the death of Mr. Dwyer.

More generally, the Council underlines the importance of respect for Human Rights as the cornerstone of the external relations of the European Union, and refers the honourable Member to the (Human Rights) Guidelines on HR dialogues which it adopted in November 2008.

The missions of the Member States and the delegations of the European Union do therefore follow closely cases such as that referred to by the honourable Member.

The fight against impunity and in support of an independent judiciary - and therefore the correct and full carrying out of criminal investigations - are among the priorities raised by the EU in its dialogue with third states. The European Union regularly raises cases such as that of Mr Dwyer in its contacts with third countries, and calls systematically for these cases to be the subject of full and proper investigation.

 

Question no 6 by Jim Higgins (H-0197/10)
 Subject: Birth deformities in Fallujah
 

The World Health Organisation has pledged to carry out an independent study of the rise in birth deformities in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in an endeavour to ascertain the cause of the dramatic increase in severe birth defects.

Concern has been raised about the weapons used by American forces in 2004, when Fallujah suffered one of the heaviest bombardments of the entire war in Iraq, including the controversial use of white phosphorus. What action will the Council take should the World Health Organisation find exposure to white phosphorus to be linked to the city’s alarming level of severe birth deformities?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) As the honourable Member knows, the Council follows developments in Iraq very closely, including on this specific issue. The Council is aware of certain allegations made in the past, relating to the issue raised by the honourable Member. However, for the time being we have no specific information available to allow us to provide a substantive response. We note that the WHO is likely to carry out a study on women’s health in Iraq. The EU will of course take a careful look at this study once it is finalised. It would therefore be premature and inappropriate for the Council to take a view on this issue at this stage, when basic information is still not available.

Nonetheless, the Presidency would like to add that the Council is very much aware of the Iraqi health sector needs and is committed to supporting it. So far a total of €117 million from the Iraq reconstruction assistance has been devoted to the health sector. The 2008 assistance programme included a key project focusing on support to specialised medical services.

The 2009-2010 integrated assistance package also contains support to institutional and human capacity of the health sector to deliver quality health services (strengthening the primary health service system, improvement of health conditions in schools).

 

Question no 7 by Nikolaos Chountis (H-0203/10)
 Subject: Agreement by leading euro area members regarding aid mechanism
 

The statement issued by the leading euro area members regarding the Greek economy leaves unanswered a number of questions regarding both the recommended course of action and the substance of the aid mechanism.

The agreement states that ‘euro area member states are ready to contribute to coordinated bilateral loans’ and goes on to say: ‘We expect euro member states to participate on the basis of their respective ECB capital key.’ Does this express a hope or a commitment?

The objective of the mechanism is to ‘set incentives to return to market financing …by risk adequate pricing.’ Where will responsibility for risk assessment lie? The agreement also states: ‘Interest rates will be non-concessional, i.e. not contain any subsidy element.’ As this question is being written, Greek bond spreads are verging on 400 basis points. What interest rate would theoretically be considered acceptable in so far as it did ‘not contain any subsidy element’?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The support programme to Greece has been agreed on and will be carried out by the euro area Member States outside the framework of the EU treaties, through intergovernmental agreements. It will take the form of pooled bilateral loans from individual euro area Member States, as well as a significant contribution from the IMF. The EU Member States agreed to entrust the European Commission with the tasks in relation to the coordination and management of the stability support provided by the euro area countries.

The Council has therefore not discussed the details of the financial support programme to Greece, such as the distribution key of individual Member States’ participation. Member States have, however, indicated their intention to participate in line with the commitments made in previous euro area statements and according to the distribution key of the ECB, subject to the completion of the appropriate national procedures.

The Council adopted, on 10 May, a Decision under Treaty Articles 126 and 136, setting out the main elements of the economic programme that Greece must now implement, reflecting the key conditions attached to financial assistance. The specific loan agreement between the Member States providing financial support and Greece makes the financial support conditional upon Greece complying with the measures laid down in that Decision and in a Memorandum of Understanding that has to be consistent with the referred Decision. The Memorandum of Understanding was agreed between the lenders and Greece on 9 May. The Council will regularly examine Greece’s compliance with this Decision, on the basis of monitoring by the Commission and regular reporting by Greece.

It is expected that the first disbursement will take place before 19 May.

The Council Presidency recalls that the details of bilateral loans and the conditionality attached to them, were agreed between the Member States participating in the support programme and Greece. The Council is not in a position to comment on Member States’ bilateral actions, nor on statements made by the Heads of State or Government of the Member States.

 

Question no 8 by Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (H-0204/10)
 Subject: Support for public sector workers who have lost their jobs
 

In February 2010, the unemployment rate in the EU stood at 10%, and ILO forecasts show that this figure will not decrease until early 2011. The economic crisis has had a dramatic impact on the private sector, with thousands of enterprises either making swingeing job cuts or having to stop operating. Enterprises hit by the economic and financial crisis can use both the European Social Fund and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to support people who have lost their jobs. When it comes to the public sector, the EU does not have sufficient instruments at its disposal to support people who have lost their jobs at public institutions or with public-interest entities owing to cuts in national budgets arising from the economic and financial crisis. Moreover, the undertakings entered into by some Member States with the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, aimed at escaping the economic crisis, entail massive cutbacks in public sector staff.

Will the Council consider the possibility of creating a European instrument to support public sector workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the economic and financial crisis?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The Council shares the concerns about the situation in terms of job losses and increasing unemployment in the European Union, which affects both the private and public sector.

While there is no specific proposal by the Commission on a European instrument to support public sector workers, existing measures at the EU level can already provide aid to all categories of workers made redundant.

Such is the case with the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) Regulation, which applies to workers, both from the private and public sector, made redundant as a result of major structural changes in world trade patterns due to globalisation, and where these redundancies have a significant adverse impact on the regional or local economy.

In order to alleviate the impact of the financial and economic crisis, this Regulation was revised in 2009 to temporarily expand its scope and to ease the access to the fund by adjusting the intervention criteria. A Member State can apply for a financial contribution from the EGF for public sector workers made redundant provided that its application meets the intervention criteria set out in the revised Regulation.

The target group in question may also benefit from the European Social Fund through selected projects to be implemented by beneficiaries such as State shared enterprises or local administrative authorities. There are no restrictions as to the sector of origin, be it private or public, provided that a project falls under the Member States´ Operational Programme cofinanced by the European Social Fund, and that the former public sector employees are covered by the scope of such a project.

A further European instrument, the European Progress Microfinance Facility, may also apply. The European Progress Microfinance Facility aims at increasing the availability and accessibility of microfinance for vulnerable groups, such as, inter alia, unemployed wanting to set up or further develop a micro enterprise. Workers from both private and public sector, who have recently become jobless and want to start an on-line business, could therefore potentially benefit from loans under such Facility.

 

Question no 9 by Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (H-0209/10)
 Subject: Cooperation with national parliaments
 

Under the Treaty of Lisbon, national parliaments have for the first time been given an important role in dealing with European Union questions. Thus national parliaments are being encouraged to take an active part in the EU policy-making process at an early stage. It is very important that all forms of interparliamentary cooperation accord with two underlying principles: increased efficiency and parliamentary democratisation. I would emphasise that it is important to support national parliaments in their scrutiny of draft legislation prior to its consideration by the Union legislature, as well as in the effective scrutiny of their governments when they are acting in the Council.

What constructive steps has the Council taken to improve cooperation with the Member States following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The Lisbon Treaty encourages the greater involvement of National Parliaments in the activities of the European Union and strengthens the parliamentary dimension of the Union.

One of the more significant developments in the Lisbon Treaty is the new subsidiarity control mechanism, which gives National Parliaments a specific role in examining legislative proposals to ensure that they comply with the principle of subsidiarity and the reinforcement of the information of National Parliaments on the actions of the European Union.

The Council is committed to ensuring the effective implementation of the provisions concerning those aspects of relations with National Parliaments which fall within its area of responsibility.

To this end a number of procedures have been established by the Council, and we informed the national parliaments of these procedures:

a) the establishment of a system for the transmission to national Parliaments of draft legislative proposals put forward by Member States or Institutions to allow national Parliaments to carry out the subsidiarity check within the time limit of 8 weeks referred to in Article 6 of Protocol No 2;

b) the transmission to national Parliaments for information, proposals for the amendment of the Treaties (including drafts arising from implementation of the second subparagraph of Article 81(3) TFEU) and applications by third States for accession to the European Union;

c) the transmission to national Parliaments, for information other documents provided for in the Treaties, in particular:

– agendas for Council meetings;

– outcome of Council meetings;

– minutes of the ‘legislative deliberations’ parts of Council meetings;

– positions adopted by the Council under the various legislative procedures;

– information on the outcome of the evaluation referred to in Article 70 TFEU;

– information on the proceedings of the standing committee on operational cooperation on internal security (COSI) referred to in Article 71 TFEU.

I would like to assure you of the Council’s commitment to the effective functioning of these new procedures in order that National Parliaments are able to fulfil properly the important new role which the Lisbon Treaty attributes to them.

Regarding the subsidiarity control, the Council has also sent at the beginning of this year to national parliaments two initiatives of Member States in the field of Justice and Home Affairs. National parliaments were invited to express their views on the respect of the subsidiarity principle within 8 weeks. Only one negative opinion was received.

Moreover, according to Article 48 TEU, the Council had already transmitted national parliaments, at the end of 2009, the Spanish initiative related to the revision of Protocol 36 to the treaties (supplementary MEPs). National Parliaments have also been informed of the request for accession to the EU from Serbia.

 

Question no 10 by Gay Mitchell (H-0212/10)
 Subject: Financial support for travellers
 

In the wake of the unprecedented travel disruption that occurred across Europe as a result of the volcanic ash cloud, what consideration has the Council given to financial support for those who have suffered losses?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The main current legislative framework in the field of compensation and assistance to passengers is defined by Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights. This Regulation introduced new rules on compensation and assistance for air passengers in the event of denied boarding, cancellations, long delays and involuntary downgrading. It sets out minimum rights for passengers to be respected by any airline if the journey is disrupted. The same Regulation requires Member States to set up enforcement bodies with the ability to impose dissuasive sanctions.

The Council is aware of the unprecedented travel disruption caused by the eruption of a volcano in Iceland and of its extraordinary consequences, including almost ten millions passengers unable to fly.

I already had the opportunity to discuss this issue with Members of Parliament during the debate at the plenary session of 20 April.

During an extraordinary meeting on 4 May, the Council agreed in particular that Regulations on air passengers’ rights were fully applicable and enforced in a uniform manner, in the context of such crisis, taking into account the exceptional circumstances. It invited the European Commission to take into account the experience and the different reactions of all stakeholders during the ash cloud crisis in the context of the current review of the Regulation 261/2004.

 

Question no 11 by Malika Benarab-Attou (H-0218/10)
 Subject: Cooperation agreement between Europol and Israel - respect for human rights
 

The European Union is currently concluding a cooperation agreement between Europol and Israel.

Europol is to insert a provision into the agreement stating that it may not process personal data obtained in violation of human rights, in accordance with Article 20(4) of Council Decision 2009/934/JHA(1) of 30 November 2009.

Does the draft agreement contain provisions ensuring that Israel will not provide Europol with data obtained in violation of human rights, in particular data obtained by torture or data on illegally imprisoned persons?

If so, how is this effectively ensured?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The negotiations for the conclusion of an operational cooperation agreement between Europol and Israel are taking place between the Europol Director and the Israeli authorities. The Council is not involved in these negotiations. It is only when the draft agreement will be submitted by the Europol Management Board to the Council that the Council will be able to give its opinion on the content of the agreement.

As the honourable Member is aware, the Council attaches great importance to data protection and, in this respect, is looking forward to receiving the opinion of the Europol Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) together with the draft operational cooperation agreement. When the Council decided last year to authorise the Europol Director to start the negotiations on a draft operational cooperation agreement, the Council based its decision on a report of the Europol Management Board and on the opinion of the JSB which both indicated that no obstacles existed to start the negotiations with Israel provided that a number of issues raised by the JSB were addressed during these negotiations. Once the draft operational agreement will be submitted to the Council, the Council will be able to assess whether or not the JSB comments were duly taken into account.

 
 

(1)OJ L 325, 11.12.2009, p. 6.

 

Question no 12 by Laima Liucija Andrikienė (H-0219/10)
 Subject: Decision of the Ukrainian Parliament to extend the lease of the Sevastopol base
 

On 27 April 2010, the parliament of Ukraine – the Verkhovna Rada – took the unexpected decision to ratify a new treaty extending the Russian navy’s lease of the Sevastopol base for 25 years after 2017, with an option to further prolong the lease for five additional years. The decision was adopted by a majority of 236 out of 450 in the midst of an embarrassing brawl in the chamber of the Verkhovna Rada. The Russian Duma quickly followed suit and ratified the treaty by an astonishing 98% majority.

In the opinion of the Council, what impact will this agreement have on Ukraine’s sovereignty? How will it affect Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration prospects?

Considering that after the 2007 enlargement, the EU will directly border the Black Sea, what impact will the presence of this strong Russian naval base close to the EU border have on the EU’s long-term security?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The improvement of Ukrainian relations with Russia is one of President Yanukovich’s key foreign policy goals. This has been welcomed by the EU, which has consistently supported constructive relations between Ukraine and Russia.

At a meeting in the presence of President Medvedev in Kharkiv on 21 April, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement on extending the lease of the Sevastopol base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) until 2042, with a five-year automatic extension if not otherwise agreed. The agreement also included a 30 % lowering of the price of Russian gas as part of the lease payment.

The Council has taken note of this agreement which it considers to be Ukraine’s sovereign decision. The Council has consistently taken the view that Ukraine had the sovereign right either to terminate the lease agreement when it expires in 2017, or to extend it. The Council has also taken note of the fact that the gas price rebate granted to Ukraine was part of this agreement. The Council expresses the hope that the lower gas price would not deflect Ukraine from working towards increased energy efficiency and from pursuing its reform agenda, notably in the energy sector. The Council also hopes that lower gas prices will enhance budgetary discipline, helping to restore cooperation with the IMF.

Before the 2007 enlargement the EU already directly bordered the Baltic sea, where Russia has several strong naval bases. The Council considers that the presence of Russian naval base in Sevastopol should not have any impact on EU’s security.

 

Question no 13 by Liam Aylward (H-0224/10)
 Subject: Obesity Day
 

European Obesity Day will take place this coming Saturday, 22 May. Obesity is currently one of the greatest problems being faced by EU citizens and health services in the Member States.

By the end of this year, an estimated 20% of Europe’s population – 150 million adults and 15 million children and adolescents – will be considered obese. What steps is the Council taking to tackle the increasing levels of obesity in the Member States and in the EU as a whole?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) In its conclusions adopted on 6 December 2007, the Council called upon Member States to work together to develop activities aimed at the reformulation of foods to reduce levels of salt, saturated fat, ‘trans’ fatty acids, added sugar and energy density given the role these elements play in the development of chronic diseases, overweight and obesity.

Furthermore, on 8 June 2010, the Spanish Presidency will invite the Council to adopt conclusions recommending measures to be taken by the Member States and by the Commission to promote and supervise the reduction of salt intake by the European population. The consumption of salt in excess causes damages to health, in particular problems of obesity. The excess of salt, through induction of thirst and intake of caloric beverages, contributes to obesity.

The Council is currently examining a proposal for a Regulation submitted by the Commission ‘on the provisions of food information to consumers’, aiming at making the food labelling more informative, more legible, more readable and allowing comparison between similar products.

More informative as the inscription of nutrition particulars (sugars, fat, salt, etc.) should become mandatory.

More legible because a minimum character size is under consideration.

More readable as all the information should appear together in a single table and allowing comparison because the quantities should always be expressed in 100 g for solids or 100 ml for liquids.

The objective is to motivate the consumers to choose the product best adapted to their needs and to learn how to avoid foods that can harm their health.

 

Question no 14 by Pat the Cope Gallagher (H-0229/10)
 Subject: Single European Sky
 

In the light of the major disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud, does the Council intend to bring in measures for speedier implementation of the Single European Sky initiative?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) On 25-26 February 2010, the Spanish Presidency organised in Madrid the High-Level Conference on the roadmap towards implementing Single European Sky. The participants in the Conference agreed that delivering the Single European Sky is of utmost importance for the future of European aviation. The initiative aims towards ambitious goals: cutting of the cost of flying by half, decreasing by 10% the environmental impact of flight through better use of airspace completed by a sky decarbonisation programme and enabling a three fold increase of capacity while improving further the already high safety record of the European airspace. The participants also endorsed an ambitious roadmap for the achievement of the Single European Sky.

The eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland since 14 April, created a cloud of volcanic ash that threatened to cover most of Europe. In accordance with the relevant procedures developed at international level, the national authorities closed off all affected airspace, with huge impact on air traffic in Europe.

The EU transport ministers first addressed the air traffic disruptions at a video/audio-conference on 19 April, where they agreed on a progressive and coordinated opening of European air space, while underlining that safety must be considered an absolute priority. Ministers decided on a common scheme with three zones depending on the ash concentration, which came into force on 20 April and continues to be applicable. They also agreed on an extraordinary Council meeting on 4 May 2010.

During that meeting of 4 May, the Council held an exchange of views on the consequences of the air traffic disruption, based on information provided by the Commission. The Council agreed on the importance of giving the highest priority to the acceleration and anticipation of the full implementation of the Single European Sky. It called the European Institutions and the Member States to take urgently the appropriate decisions on a series of measures identified, in particular on the:

– immediate creation of a crisis coordination cell,

– nomination without delay of the Functional Airspace Blocks coordinator,

– accelerated implementation of the Functional Airspace Blocks,

– appointment of the European network manager before the end of 2010,

– adoption before summer 2010 of the performance scheme,

– acceleration of the implementation of the European Aviation Safety Agency’s new competences, particularly on air transport management, to be assumed before 2012,

– adoption of the Single European Sky Air Transport Management Research Programme (SESAR) deployment strategy before the end of 2010.

 

Question no 15 by Brian Crowley (H-0233/10)
 Subject: Political situation in Burma
 

Could the Council provide an updated assessment of the political situation in Burma?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The political situation in Burma/Myanmar cannot be separated from the deep social and economic challenges facing the country. Focusing simply on the pending elections and the renewal of the institutions will not be enough to redress fundamental weaknesses and bring about sustainable progress.

For the first time in 20 years, the country is preparing for multi-party parliamentary elections, at a date to be announced. The military control the process and will keep their grip on the future parliament too. The electoral laws exclude the approx. 2.000 political detainees as persons in prison from being party members and from being elected, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party, the NLD has therefore decided not to participate. That leaves the main position to the Government-sponsored USD Party. 25 other parties have registered, several not linked to the military. We do not consider that the elections will transform the military dictatorship into a democracy at once, but they might be the first step in a longer process of transition.

The inclusion of the ethnic groups is even more important for progress than the role of the opposition. They make up 40% of the people and live on 50% of the land. Some ceasefire groups may also join the electoral process. A key sticking point is the transformation of ceasefire militias into Border Guards. In addition to the risk of renewed armed conflict, especially in border areas, there is pressure on remaining non-ceasefire groups and the danger of increased refugee outflows.

The human rights situation remains of grave concern to the EU. There is no rule of law, no judicial independence; widespread impunity for human rights offences; severe restrictions on freedom of expression and a strictly controlled media.

The economic situation provides a mixed but mostly bleak picture. Burma/Myanmar remains a Least Developed Country, with widespread poverty among ordinary citizens. Recovery and reconstruction after Cyclone Nargis will take years. The State’s revenues are mainly derived from sales of natural gas to the region. These continue to support modest rates of growth, but much of this is used a for the army and major construction projects, such as the new capital Naypyidaw. Record-low investments in health and education hamper the longer term prospects of the country. Finally, the global economic crisis, with weaker performance of Myanmar’s major trading partners and fewer remittances from overseas workers, as well as external economic boycotts have impacted badly on the situation.

The EU, together with the whole international community, agrees that bringing about change in Burma/Myanmar is a long-term process. We will continue to play our part in this by actively engaging with all the actors on the ground, and through a carefully balanced mixture of pressure and engagement. The elections, even if they may be flawed, could be a first step to a more inclusive society and democracy. Our view is that we cannot afford to miss this chance to engage, and we are prepared to continue our work, together with our partners such as the US, the UN and Asian countries, beyond that date.

 

Question no 16 by Anna Hedh (H-0235/10)
 Subject: Trafficking in human beings
 

The Commission recently unveiled its proposal for a Directive (2010/0065 (COD)COM(2010)0095) on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims. This is an important Directive which enables the European Union to combat one of the most serious of all crimes. It is therefore essential that all Member States work together by harmonising their legislation, providing better protection for victims and developing preventive measures. We must assume responsibility for that fact that in our countries demand exists for the services of the victims of human trafficking. I am therefore astonished and disappointed at the fact that Article 15, paragraph 4, of the Commission’s proposal for a Directive makes no provision for criminalising those who use these services even though aware that the person providing these services is a victim of human trafficking.

What prospects exist that Member States may consider making it a criminal offence to pay for the services of victims of human trafficking?

 
  
 

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 May 2010 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) I am grateful to the Parliament for the opportunity to respond to this specific point related to trafficking in human beings (THB). This is an important issue. Combating trafficking in human beings is a priority for the Spanish Presidency, it has been highlighted as a priority issue in the Stockholm programme, and efforts to prevent and fight trafficking have been considerably stepped up within the last year. Trafficking in human beings is a major violation of fundamental human rights to which the EU should promote a proactive, coordinated and coherent approach. A comprehensive policy, of which prevention is an important element, is gradually taking shape.

According to the Article 15 on ‘prevention’ referred to in the question, Member States shall ‘take appropriate measures’ to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation related to trafficking in human beings. According to Paragraph 2 and 3, this includes actions such as information and awareness raising campaigns, research and education programmes, aimed at raising awareness and reducing the risk of people, especially children, of becoming victims of trafficking in human beings, and training for officials likely to come into contact with victims and potential victims. According to paragraph 4 of Article 15, ‘Member States shall consider taking measures to establish as a criminal offence the use of services which are the objects of exploitation as referred to in Article 2 with the knowledge that the person is a victim of an offence referred to in Article 2.’; in other words Member States shall consider criminalising the use of cheap labour and the purchase of sexual services, when aware of the fact that the person is a victim of trafficking. It is a non-binding provision that leaves it up to Member States how to deal in detail with the question of criminalisation.

This wording is identical to the wording of the preceding proposal for the Framework Decision endorsed at the JHA-Council of 1 December 2009, but which had become void with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. From discussions in the Council, it was clear that a binding provision would not be acceptable for a large majority of the Member States. This is also reflected in the Commission’s explanatory memorandum accompanying the proposal, point 2.1.2 of which states that ‘the issue of introducing a specific obligation to criminalise clients who knowingly use sexual services from a trafficked person was controversial among stakeholders. Several MS pointed out that in any case such a provision should not be binding.’

 

QUESTIONS TO THE COMMISSION
Question no 30 by Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (H-0193/10)
 Subject: Measures for the development of EU industrial policy
 

The EU’s competitiveness is recognised in areas of industry such as car manufacture, chemicals and machine construction. In those areas, the Union’s share of world production in 2008 was 27%, 30%, and 38% respectively. Equally, in 2008 the EU was the third-biggest producer of pharmaceuticals and the second-biggest of civil aircraft. The economic crisis has severely affected industry in Europe. In February 2010, industrial production fell by 2% on February 2009, while the number of unemployed in the EU-27 rose to 23.019 million, 3.1 million higher than in February 2009. It is a particular cause for concern that the youth unemployment rate (i.e. for under-25s) increased in February 2010 to 20%.

In view of the close relationship between the employment rate and higher industrial production, can the Commission state what measures are in place for the development of an industrial policy of an ambitious, environment-friendly and sustainable nature aimed at reducing the rate of unemployment and preserving industrial production in the EU?

 
  
 

(FR) European industry still represents 18% of total employment, despite a reduction in industrial employment of some 0.5% per year during the period 1995-2007, whereas employment in business services has recorded an annual growth rate of 4.5%. Nevertheless, the financial crisis has demonstrated the importance of maintaining a secure industrial base in Europe.

The Europe 2020 strategy heralds the development of an industrial policy for the globalisation era, a policy which focuses on maintaining and developing a secure, competitive and diversified industrial base, as well as moving towards greater energy efficiency and a more rational use of resources. Moreover, it is now clear that the policies of the EU will have to facilitate an improvement in the competitiveness of European companies in all sectors.

In September 2010, the Commission will develop its new vision for an industrial policy for the globalisation era. Its priority will be to facilitate the transition towards a more competitive, innovative and durable manufacturing base. The Commission will make specific proposals based on an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the various industrial sectors, and will take the following points into account:

the need to integrate the issue of competitiveness into all of the Union’s policies;

the implementation of modernised infrastructures must be accelerated, particularly as regards energy, transport and telecommunications networks. Moreover, it is also necessary to intensify efforts with respect to innovation and promote key generic technologies which support the development of new industries, centres of competitiveness and services;

furthermore, the transition towards a green economy which makes efficient use of resources, across the various branches of industry, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), constitutes a major challenge. However, this objective is also an opportunity for European industry, both in terms of technological competence and the creation of jobs;

finally, on the international level, it will be necessary to ensure conditions of fair competition for European companies on the global market, and to extend EU rules and standards outside Europe. On the other hand, it will also be necessary to be very vigilant with respect to supplies of raw materials.

 

Question no 31 by Kathleen Van Brempt (H-0231/10)
 Subject: Commission policy on scarce resources
 

The Commission intends to draft a proposal before the end of this year concerning its policy on the increasing scarcity of resources. During a visit to the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on 28 April 2010, Commissioner Tajani repeatedly emphasised that resource management was one of his main priorities. In addition to access to resources within the EU and beyond, recycling and reuse were also put forward as being worthy of particular attention.

The question, however, is precisely how the Commission defines and interprets the terms ‘recycling’ and ‘reuse’, and how adequate and ambitious its policy in this area will be. Will the traditional views of recycling and downcycling continue to prevail? Or will the Commission go further by taking into account and promoting newer practices such as ‘cradle to cradle’? If so, how, specifically, will the Commission reflect this in the policy? For example, will ‘cradle to cradle’ be made an eligibility criterion for public contracts in the future?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission thanks the honourable Member for allowing it this opportunity to discuss the issues of resource efficiency, the EU’s Waste and Recycling policies and the Raw Materials Initiative (RMI).

Before the Commission addresses the honourable Member’s points, it would like to emphasise the fact the RMI is an integrated strategy which brings together various policy strands aimed at ensuring sustainable supply of, raw materials within the context of Europe’s continued shift towards a more resource efficient economy. As per the 2008 RMI Communication, this integrated strategy follows three pillars:

ensure access to raw materials from international markets on a fair and equal footing with other industrial competitors;

set the right framework conditions within the EU in order to foster sustainable supply of raw materials from European sources;

boost overall resource efficiency and promote recycling to reduce the EU’s consumption of primary raw materials and decrease the relative import dependence.

Indeed, the third pillar of the RMI focuses on reducing consumption of primary raw materials by increasing resource efficiency and promoting recycling. This builds on the extensive policies and legislations of the EU on waste management, including recycling, that are already in place, such as the Waste Framework Directive, the Waste Shipment Regulation and the range of directives dedicated to the management of specific waste streams such as waste electrical and electronic equipment. Indeed, one of the objectives of the RMI is to encourage and facilitate the full implementation and enforcement of waste and recycling legislation.

With regard to definitions of terms such as ‘recycling’ and ‘re-use’, the Waste Framework Directive, adopted in November 2008, defines recycling and outlines a waste hierarchy whereby the priority is given, firstly, to prevention, then to preparation for re-use and then to recycling. Overall, this means that the EU’s policies are already based on a coherent approach to encouraging reuse and recycling over other forms of disposal. In addition, the concept of ‘Life Cycle Thinking’ is already referred to in this Directive, and thus derivative terms such as ‘cradle to cradle’ are addressed, and actively promoted by EU policies in the area. Moreover, a platform on Life Cycle Assessment hosted by the Joint Research Centre provides a range of examples and methods on Life Cycle thinking and Assessment.

Furthermore, a number of actions are being taken by the Commission to allow for a more effective achievement of our goals in this area:

One important piece of work concerns the establishment of ‘end of waste’ criteria for a number of bulk waste streams, such as iron and steel, aluminium and copper.

In order to deal with rarer metals which are currently difficult to recycle, the Commission is taking a twin-track approach. The first approach relates to research on substitutability, and the second relates to trade. Within Europe, the Commission is looking at encouraging research on substitutability, namely into novel materials for replacement of strategic or scarce raw materials such as for example platinum metals and rare earths. Regarding trade strategy, the Commission pays a particular attention to unfair and distortive trade practices by third countries whilst ensuring that environmental considerations are adequately taken into account.

Another field of action concerns illegal shipments of secondary raw materials. We are engaging with industry to analyse this situation and to propose concrete recommendations so that existing illegal shipments of waste (an important source of secondary raw materials) outside the EU can be remedied through a full implementation of the Waste Shipment Regulation.

As part of our Lead Market Initiative, we are currently examining ways in which Europe’s recycling industry can be more competitive. Issues currently being investigated include measures to stimulate the recyclability of the products and measures to stimulate demand for eco-innovations in recycling.

Finally, green public procurement is a voluntary instrument, which enables public authorities to procure products, services and works with reduced environmental impacts throughout their life cycle. The most up-to-date developed common GPP criteria take into account recycling or recovering of materials, amongst other environmental requirements.

As the honourable Member knows, the Commission has committed to report to European Parliament and to Council on the implementation of the RMI by the end of 2010. This will take the form of a Communication, in which we will outline our proposed actions. As such, this is work-in-progress.

In addition, later this year the Commission aims to publish its review of the Thematic Strategy on the Prevention of Waste and Recycling.

The Commission continues to welcome the Parliament’s focus on this important subject and look forward to further discussions we will have throughout 2010.

 

Question no 32 by Ivo Belet (H-0237/10)
 Subject: European ecoscore
 

A number of Member States, including Belgium and Germany, have already developed their own ‘ecoscore’ as a means of expressing cars’ environmental performance.

The ecoscore takes into account not only conventional indicators such as CO2 emissions but also the vehicle’s other greenhouse-gas emissions (methane and nitrogen oxide), air-quality emissions and noise emissions.

However, ecoscores are calculated differently from country to country. A European ecoscore could ensure greater uniformity.

Is the Commission considering introducing a European ecoscore? If so, within what time-scale will the Commission do so?

 
  
 

(FR) The EU has a strong and continuous commitment to air quality. In recent years, this commitment has been made more precise through the adoption of a considerable amount of legislation regulating the various aspects that need to be taken into account in this vast area.

To attain the objective set out in the Copenhagen Accord – namely, to limit the global rise in temperature, as compared with pre-industrial levels, to a maximum of 2 °C – it is essential that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by at least 50% in 2050, relative to 1990 levels.

To attain the objective of 2 °C, it is necessary to quickly adopt specific measures for the transport sector, since this produces most of the world’s CO2 emissions. For example, cars release 12% of the entire EU’s carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Ecoscore is one of the measures that can be developed to reduce the adverse effects of traffic on the environment, primarily through improving air quality and reducing noise levels. Up till now, the Commission has not taken steps to create a European ecoscore, or to harmonise the activities of the various Member States with respect to the systems created.

Nevertheless, the Commission’s activities relating to the environment are very extensive. They include aspects relating to informing the public on the environmental performance of vehicles marketed in the EU. In this regard, Directive 1999/94/EC(1) relating to the availability of consumer information on fuel economy and CO2 emissions in respect of the marketing of new passenger cars aims to ensure that information relating to the fuel economy and CO2 emissions of new passenger cars is made available to consumers in order to enable consumers to make an informed choice. The Commission will shortly initiate a review of this directive, with the aim of creating more favourable and efficient conditions for the communication of environmental information to the public. The Commission would also like to point out that the activities of the Commission relating to ensuring good air quality affect all areas of traffic emissions by establishing limits and standards on pollutants (CO, HC, NOx, particulate pollutants) as well as greenhouse gas (particularly CO2) and also by taking account of the different types of vehicles on our roads (passenger, light commercial, lorries). These activities have allowed us to put together a body of European legislation capable of guaranteeing the lasting development of the European economy in the coming years.

Finally, with respect to the reduction in noise levels, it is necessary to mention Council Directive 70/157/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the permissible sound level and the exhaust system of motor vehicles(2). This directive has been amended several times for the purposes of its adaptation to technical progress; the most recent amendment was made by Commission Directive 2007/34/EC(3). The Commission will also propose a new amendment for next year with the aim of reducing the noise emission limits.

 
 

(1) OJ L 12, 18.1.2000.
(2) OJ L 42, 23.2.1970.
(3) OJ L 155, 15.6.2007.

 

Question no 33 by Mairead McGuinness (H-0181/10)
 Subject: EU Budget Review
 

During the British Presidency in 2005, the European Council invited the Commission ‘to undertake a full, wide ranging review covering all aspects of EU spending, including the CAP, and of resources, including the UK rebate, to report in 2008/9.’

Can the Commission provide us with information on the current status of this review? Does the Commission intend to issue a Communication on this matter and can the Commission outline in detail the proposed timeline for this?

 
  
 

(EN) After consultation with the Parliament Committee of Budgets and in order to better link the Budget Review with the Europe 2020 strategy and the Work Programme of the new Commission, and to allow the new College to take ownership of this major initiative, the President of the Commission has decided to postpone the presentation of the Budget Review to the third quarter of 2010. This timing should allow the Parliament to make its views known on the future orientations of the EU Budget by the end of 2010. The President of the Commission announced this timing to the EP Plenary early in 2010.

The Commission is currently working on the Budget Review and is also about to launch the internal preparation for the closely linked next Multiannual Financial Framework. The Commission intends to present a Communication on this matter during the first semester of 2011.

 

Question no 34 by Georgios Papastamkos (H-0182/10)
 Subject: Budget reform and CAP
 

In October 2009, information was released concerning a draft Commission communication on EU budget reform recommending a major reduction in CAP expenditure and putting forward other proposals concerning the future of the CAP. However, at a public meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, Mrs Fischer Boel, the outgoing Commissioner responsible, denied the existence of any such document.

Can the Commission confirm that it is not in the process of drawing up recommendations regarding the CAP in the context of EU budget reform?

Will it in any case ensure that the debate on budgetary reform will be without prejudice to discussions already underway regarding post- 2013 CAP reform?

 
  
 

(EN) The December 2005 European Council, as well as the Interinstitutional Agreement on budgetary discipline and sound financial management of May 2006, mandated the Commission ‘to undertake a full, wide ranging review covering all aspects of EU spending, including the Common Agricultural Policy, and of resources, including the United Kingdom rebate.’

The paper brought to public attention in October 2009 was a working paper which had not been discussed or validated at the appropriate political level by the Commission. The document was strictly an internal text presenting different reflections and alternative scenarios meant for the Commission’s internal use.

The Commission is currently preparing its position on the various dimensions of the EU Budget Review. The Commission Work Programme for 2010 foresees the Budget Review document to be available in the third quarter of 2010.

Moreover, the Commission has launched on 12 April 2010 a public consultation on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2013. This consultation will provide an important input into the Commission Communication on the CAP post 2013 to be put forward towards the end of 2010. The communication will explore avenues on the future of the CAP as regards substance, it will follow the Budget Review Communication but will not anticipate any financial aspects. These will be dealt with in the proposals that the Commission will make in 2011 on the multi-annual financial framework.

The Budget Review and, in particular, the public consultation on the CAP post 2013 provide a welcome opportunity to take a thorough look at the current CAP and its objectives. The CAP has undergone significant reforms over past years. Clearly the policy has proven its capacity to adapt to changing demands and new challenges. That reform capacity will be called on again in the coming period.

The Budget Review will also be a welcome occasion to take a thorough look at what should be the EU political priorities and how the EU should be financed. The Commission is convinced that the CAP will be an important part of the EU priorities, also after 2013. Further adaptation of the CAP will however be required to reflect better the Europe 2020 vision and to respond better to future challenges, such as climate change and food security.

Undoubtedly, the decision on the future CAP budget will be tough. It is crucial to get first the policies for the future right, and then to see what they need in terms of budget.

 

Question no 35 by Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (H-0192/10)
 Subject: Usefulness and efficiency of the open method of coordination in EU Member States
 

The open method of coordination, which applies in areas of EU public policy, was created to help attain the EU’s strategic objectives. The method was intended to include the setting of guidelines and indicators at EU level and of specific quantitative targets and measures at national level, as well as assessments, reports, action plans, benchmarking, ratings, peer reviews and the dissemination of good policy. Assessing the open method of coordination’s future prospects at EU level, it should be noted that the objectives set out in the Lisbon Strategy have not been implemented in full. Moreover, given the uneven progress made in implementing the Lisbon Strategy in different EU countries, there are increasing doubts as to the method’s usefulness. If the EU’s or the EU Member States’ domestic indicators should continue to depart significantly from the objectives pursued by EU strategies, this would once again demonstrate the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of the open method of coordination.

Does the Commission not consider that the open method of coordination is by nature weak and that it has a limited impact on the Member States because of the fragility of its mechanisms of action? Is this method useful, and how does applying it contribute in practice to reducing poverty in the Member States, to combating social exclusion, to the effectiveness of social protection measures and to economic and employment growth? What is the Commission’s view on the question of strengthening mandatory minimum social standards throughout the EU?

 
  
 

(EN) A number of evaluations and studies conducted by the Commission suggest that the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) in the social policy area and in the field of employment and education policy under the Lisbon Strategy has been instrumental in fostering progress in policy implementation thanks to the common identification of challenges and priorities, the definition of and agreement on common indicators as the basis for regular monitoring, exchange of best practice and mutual learning. Cooperation between Member States, such as that in the field of social protection and social inclusion (the ‘social OMC’), is a case in point.

Mutual learning is generally regarded as one of the most successful aspects of the OMC and as a policy improvement tool by the Member States and the stakeholders. The multiplier effect of exchanges of best practice, notably at regional and local level, will be crucial for translating the objectives of the future Europe 2020 strategy, and in particular inclusive growth, into practical results. The Commission’s proposed flagship initiative involving the development of a European Platform for Poverty should support, enhance and broaden cooperation at EU level in this area.

To obtain further insights into the way the OMC has worked and the progress achieved, the Commission has launched a major external study to assess the effectiveness and impact of the ‘social OMC’. The study will look at the way the OMC has operated as a method for policy coordination and mutual learning and its impact at national level. The results of this study should be available by the end of the year.

 

Question no 36 by Salvatore Iacolino (H-0199/10)
 Subject: Allocation of responsibility for the EU drugs strategy
 

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is an EU agency which provides a wide range of objective information and data as a basis for EU discussions on drugs and drug addiction. The Commissioner for Internal Affairs is responsible for supervising the EMCDDA’s activities.

Yet the problems of drug abuse and drug trafficking are tackled at European level on the basis of the integrated approach embodied in the EU drug policies formulated by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security.

It is puzzling, therefore, that the current Commission has decided to give the Commissioner for Internal Affairs the task of supervising the Lisbon-based EMCDDA while making the Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship responsible for formulating the entire EU drugs strategy.

Does the Commission intend to keep these respective responsibilities separate or does it believe it should adjust the current framework so as to ensure information is circulated more effectively and encourage greater coordination between the Lisbon-based EMCDDA, the Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security and the activities falling within the Commissioners’ respective remits?

 
  
 

(EN) The challenge of tackling the issue of drugs is one that requires a variety of measures using a variety of tools. A successful policy depends on effective coordination within an overall vision: in this as in other areas, different Commissioners and their services work together to deliver collegiate decisions and implement collective action.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction has a number of key roles, in particular monitoring the drugs situation in the EU, which includes monitoring drugs supply (price, drugs seizures and drug law offences) and the drugs markets. This information is of direct significance to the work of the Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs and the task of the services under her authority to tackle organised crime. This focus is different from that of the Commissioner responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, including her responsibilities for the overall anti-drugs policy.

 

Question no 37 by Franz Obermayr (H-0200/10)
 Subject: ‘European participation’ in the Bulgarian nuclear power station project in Belene
 

Since Bulgaria does not have the financial resources needed to complete the nuclear power station in Belene, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is now hoping for financial support from Europe. Should the project fail, Bulgaria would have to pay between EUR 600 and 900 million in penalties to the Russian company Atomstroyexport, which is contracted to carry out the construction, in addition to the EUR 1.2 billion already invested. Russia had offered Bulgaria a loan of EUR 2 billion to fund further construction work; however, Bulgaria is still hoping for European investment, so as not to become dependent on Russia. On a visit to Sofia, Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger told Prime Minister Borisov that there would be ‘European participation’ and also assured him of support in the search for potential investors.

What form will ‘European participation’ take in concrete terms?

How much money is the Commission thinking of providing to support the completion of the nuclear power station in Belene?

When pledging support, did the Commission also consider the significant cross-border dangers that a new nuclear power station in the EU would pose?

Will any support be made contingent on the performance of a proper environmental impact assessment?

 
  
 

(EN) With respect to questions 1 and 2, the Commission would like to recall that in accordance with article 194(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Member States have the right to determine the conditions for exploiting their energy resources, the choice between different energy sources and the general structure of their energy supply. In line with the principles of the Treaties and the subsidiarity principle, investment decisions are the sole responsibility of investors and Member States.

At Euratom level, the concrete financial mechanisms that could be considered in this context are Euratom loans and loans from the European Investment Bank. For the time being, no formal request has been presented by the Bulgarian authorities for a Euratom loan which could cover only part of the overall project, i.e. up to 20 % of the project costs. Therefore, Bulgaria needs to secure other sources of financing already before a Euratom loan could be granted. Currently, only around EUR 600 million are still available in the Euratom loan facility, while the cost estimate for the Belene NPP is at least EUR 4 billion.

Concerning question 3, the role of the EU is to develop, in the interest of all Member States, the most advanced legal framework for the use of nuclear energy in order to ensure the highest standards of safety, security and non-proliferation. Currently, Bulgaria has to transpose the provisions of the Nuclear Safety Directive(1) by 22 July 2011. In addition, Bulgaria is party to all relevant international conventions, including the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency.

Finally, according to information provided by the Bulgarian authorities, development consent had already been granted for the Belene nuclear power plant before the date of Bulgaria’s accession to the EU on 1 January 2007. Therefore, Directive 85/337/EEC as amended(2)(the EIA Directive) is not applicable in this case. Nevertheless, according to the Bulgarian authorities an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was carried out in 2004, pursuant to the applicable national legislation at that time, which had already transposed the provisions of the EIA Directive. On this basis, the Commission has no power to require Bulgaria to initiate a new EIA procedure regarding this project.

For more detailed information about the EIA procedure and other related issues concerning the Belene nuclear power plant the Commission refers to its replies to the following Parliamentary questions: E-4186/08; E-1337/08; E-6141/07; E- 5669/07; E-5506/07 and H-0996/07.

 
 

(1) Council Directive 2009/71/EURATOM of 25 June 2009, establishing a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations, OJ L 172, 2.7.2009.
(2) Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, OJ L 175, 5.7.1985, as amended by Council Directive 97/11/EC of 3 March 1997, OJ L 73, 14.3.1997, and Directive 2003/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 May 2003, OJ L 156, 25.6.2003, and Directive 2009/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009, OJ L 140, 5.6.2009.

 

Question no 39 by Jean-Luc Bennahmias (H-0202/10)
 Subject: A European body for monitoring sports
 

Now that the season for transferring players is starting up, questions abound over the lack of transparency in sports transfers, as in the payment of players’ agents.

Does the Commission consider it desirable for the European Union to propose setting up an independent European body to monitor these activities, based on the French model of the National Management Control Directorate (DNCG) or the World Anti-Doping Agency?

Would the Commission support the establishment of a body open to the Member States of the Council of Europe, which would be responsible for monitoring financial transparency in order to prevent abuse and unequal treatment resulting in distorted competition between clubs?

 
  
 

(FR) The Commission would like to inform the honourable Member that it commissioned an independent study on sports agents in the European Union, the results of which were published on its website in December 2009(1). This study provides a detailed, in-depth report on questions relating to the activities of sports agents in the Union; it notes that practices associated with the remuneration of agents differ according to the country and sporting disciplines considered.

The study also notes that the majority of financial crimes in which sporting agents are implicated take place in the context of player transfers, which are characterised by a certain complexity and opacity, as stressed by the honourable Member.

The Commission believes that the results of the study represent a solid basis for initiating a discussion with the parties involved in this area (sport movement, Member States, Parliament) on the question of sports agents.

With regard to the creation of a body for monitoring the transfers and financial activities of sport clubs, the Commission considers that this is a matter for the discretion of sporting organisations. The Commission respects and supports the autonomy of sport; to be effective, this must be accompanied by rules of good governance based on principles of democracy, representation and the responsibility of all those involved in sport. In this context, the Commission takes note of the work carried out within UEFA to establish a system to monitor the finances of clubs participating in competitions organised by UEFA on the basis of the ‘financial fair play’ principle.

The Commission believes that the aim of this project – to clean up the finances and promote long-term investments in football in order to guarantee a better balance of competitions – seems to meet one of the Union’s objectives in the area of sports – that is, the promotion of fairness in sporting competitions (Article 165 TFEU). The Commission would also point out that any measure taken in this connection must respect the rules of the Treaty regarding the internal market and competition.

The Commission feels that these rules, because of the pan-European nature of UEFA, could apply to the football clubs of the Union’s Member States, as well as the Member States of the Council of Europe.

 
 

(1) http://ec.europa.eu/sport/news/news917_en.htm.

 

Question no 40 by Mara Bizzotto (H-0206/10)
 Subject: Burqa, niqab and security policies
 

The issue of the burqa, the niqab and any other kind of totally enveloping outer garment worn by Muslim women has usually been tackled from the point of view of gender discrimination; nevertheless, the issue of totally enveloping outer garments would maybe deserve to be tackled, besides the issue of women’s fundamental rights, also from the perspective of security policy and public order.

Considering that some aspects of public security have gained supranational relevance, and that the total covering of the woman’s body by the burqa or niqab clearly appears as a practice breaching women’s fundamental rights which the EU is supposed to guarantee, to what extent, according to the Commission, could the issue of the burqa/niqab in Europe fall within the framework of security and gender equality policies? Does the Commission intend to promote any measure related to the issue, in order to meet the demands for security and respect of women’s fundamental rights in the EU?

 
  
 

(EN) The wearing of the burqa and the veil, like that of other religious symbols, may raise a number of complex issues and relate to situations which differ widely depending on the circumstances. Member States have different traditions and approaches to this issue.

The wearing of religious symbols should be the free exercise of a religion and not a constraint imposed on anyone. Violations of women’s rights are not acceptable. At the same time the issue of religious symbols should not be exploited to stigmatise religions and fuel xenophobia. It is also clear that the burqa cannot prevent necessary police or security controls.

If the issue of the veil or headscarf arises in the context of Union law, in particular the anti-discrimination directives, most importantly Directive 2000/78/EC prohibiting discrimination in employment based on religion, the Commission will not hesitate to take the necessary measures to ensure that the law is complied with.

Member States should guarantee that fundamental rights are effectively protected in accordance with international, European and national law.

 

Question no 41 by Frank Vanhecke (H-0207/10)
 Subject: Housing in Flanders
 

According to media reports, the Commission is currently investigating four allegations of EU law infringement regarding access to housing in Flanders.

It appears that two of the complaints relate to provisions of the Flemish Land and Property Decree concerning living in one’s own locality and two others concern the municipal regulations applicable in Zaventem and Vilvoorde respectively.

How many complaints concerning access to housing are currently being investigated by the Commission? Regarding each of the complaints, can the Commission briefly outline the legal arguments advanced by the complainants, indicate what stage has been reached by the proceedings and what are the next steps and stages and say when it hopes to conclude its investigations? Does it consider infringement proceedings against Belgium to be a possible course of action?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission is currently examining several issues related to alleged breaches of EU law by rules on access to housing or social housing applicable in certain parts of Belgium. The Commission’s attention has been drawn to these issues by individual complaints, questions by honourable Members and media coverage.

The Commission’s concerns are strictly linked to the situations where EU law is at stake by virtue of an EU citizen or an EU company having made use of one of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the EU Treaty. There is no EU competence with regard to measures which have no factor linking them with any of the situations governed by EU law and which are confined in all relevant respects within a single EU country, such as those linked to application of rules applying to Belgian nationals residing in Belgium.

Two of the four issues concern regulations adopted by municipal councils of Zaventem and Vilvoorde which provide for more favourable treatment of Dutch speakers who seek to purchase plots of municipal land.

The Commission is pursuing these cases in the light of possible violation of freedom of movement of EU citizens as the requirement of linguistic proficiency may put at disadvantage EU citizens from EU countries other than Belgium or the Netherlands.

The Commission is also looking into the compliance with EU law of the Decreet van 27 maart 2009 betreffende het Grond- en Pandenbeleid of the Flemish Region which was published on 15 May 2009. The Decree requires prospective buyers of plots of land and/or houses to have a sufficient link with the municipality. The Commission is examining whether the Decree does not violate EU law by introducing a requirement which may put at disadvantage EU citizens from EU countries other than Belgium.

The Commission takes the above cases of possible violation of fundamental rights of non-Belgian EU citizens residing in certain parts of Belgium very seriously and is committed to progress on the above cases.

 

Question no 42 by Czesław Adam Siekierski (H-0208/10)
 Subject: The situation in the eurozone and the problems in Greece
 

The problems recently experienced by Greece show the consequences of abandoning or neglecting strict controls and financial supervision in the eurozone. The economic and financial crisis is the greatest challenge faced by the common European currency system since its inception. It has ruthlessly exposed irregularities that had remained hidden for some time. The Stability and Growth Pact, which is intended to ensure the fulfilment of the convergence criteria, has been recklessly disregarded by national and EU bodies. The lack of discipline and of an appropriate system of penalties has resulted in a crisis affecting the common currency.

In light of the above, does the Commission intend to take steps to ensure full compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact in the eurozone, with a view to avoiding any future repeat of the current situation? Exactly what action does the Commission intend to take?

 
  
 

(EN) The Stability and Growth Pact is the appropriate framework to face the fiscal challenges stemming from the financial and economic crisis. It is providing a much-needed anchor for fiscal policies in the current difficult phase of exit and risks to sovereign debt. Nevertheless, the Commission has concluded that the preventive arm needs to be reinforced, and incentives relating to the corrective arm need to be made timelier and strengthened. To this end, within the Communication on ‘Reinforcing economic policy coordination’ which it has presented on 12 May 2010, it has also set out proposals on ‘Reinforcing compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact and deeper fiscal policy coordination’.

Specifically, the Commission intends to make budgetary surveillance and policy coordination more forward-looking. In the euro area in particular a more far-reaching approach to the assessment of budgetary policies seems justified, including a more pervasive review of the weaknesses of national budgetary plans ahead of their adoption. Moreover, domestic fiscal frameworks should be made more consistent with the priorities of EU budgetary surveillance, for instance by reflecting multi-annual budgeting procedures. As to public debt and sustainability, more prominence is proposed to be given to it and notably the debt criterion of the excessive deficit procedure should effectively be implemented. Furthermore, in order to provide the right incentives for Member States to tackle fiscal imbalances, the functioning of the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) could be improved by speeding up the individual procedures, in particular with regard to Member States in repeated breach of the Pact. Finally, to ensure better compliance with the Pact more attention should also be paid to the use of the various funds from the EU budget.

 

Question no 43 by Nessa Childers (H-0210/10)
 Subject: Ryanair’s rejection of identity cards and driving licences
 

There are many policies employed by budget airline Ryanair which I or my constituents could take issue with. Though the company has proven itself to be one of the most successful Irish businesses of the last two decades or so, its frugal approach has also caused notably negative experiences for many travellers.

However, one of its company policies had a particularly negative effect this week when the passport office in Dublin was temporarily shut down. As a result of industrial action at the passport office, many people did not get new passports and were forced to rely on other documents to travel. However, because Ryanair only accepts passports as valid identification and rejects government- issued identity cards or driving licences, many travellers were therefore unable to travel.

Is it legal for Ryanair to reject government-issued identity cards and driving licences as valid proof of identity on its flights? Could Ryanair be forced to accept these documents?

 
  
 

(EN) Article 21(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union stipulates that every EU citizen shall have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, subject to the limitations and conditions laid down in the Treaties and by the measures adopted to give them effect. The respective limitations and conditions are to be found in Directive 2004/38/EC(1).

All EU citizens with a valid national identity card or passport have the right to leave a Member State and enter to another one, as provided in Articles 4(1) and 5(1) of the Directive. Driver licences or identity documents other than valid national identity card, in principle, are not acceptable travel documents.

The above rules are addressed to Member States and are without prejudice to the right of airlines to lay down the rules concerning accepted travel documents. Airlines are entitled to carry out identity checks within a commercial framework for security or identification purposes. If submitted to this kind of check, EU citizens are entitled to prove their identity by presenting either a valid national identity card or passport.

According to the current Ryanair’s Terms and Conditions of Travel(2), a valid national identity card issued by the government of a European Economic Area country is an acceptable travel document that allows the holder to board a Ryanair flight. The Terms explicitly exclude driver licences as means of proving the identity of the passengers.

There is no provision of EU law that could be invoked to restrict the commercial freedom of airlines to accept for travel documents other than a valid national identity card or passport.

 
 

(1) Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, OJ L 158 of 30 April 2004.
(2) http://www.ryanair.com/en/terms-and-conditions.

 

Question no 45 by Tadeusz Zwiefka (H-0214/10)
 Subject: Commission Communication on State aid elements in sales of land and buildings by public authorities
 

Under the principles laid down in the European Commission Communication on State aid elements in sales of land and buildings by public authorities (97/C 209/03)(1), the sale of a property is not considered State aid if it is concluded on the basis of a sufficiently well-publicised, open and unconditional bidding procedure. For a bidding procedure to be deemed open it must, as a minimum requirement, be advertised in the national press, and, where appropriate, in the international press. The cost of placing such advertisements and the obligation to do so repeatedly over a given period represents a significant burden on local authorities’ budgets. This communication was published 13 years ago, at a time when access to the internet was still limited.

In light of the above, would the Commission consider, either altogether or partially, abolishing the obligation on the relevant authorities to advertise bidding procedures in the press?

Would it consider shortening the period during which bidding procedures must be advertised in cases where the property being disposed of has a starting price of over EUR 100 000?

 
  
 

(EN) The objective of the Commission Communication on State Aid in the sale of lands and building(2) published in 1997 was to provide Member States with clear guidance on the procedures that in general preclude the existence of State aid in the sale of land and buildings.

This Communication has contributed to simplify the tasks of national administrations and to reduce the number of notifications.

Concretely, the Communication indicates two possibilities to exclude the presence of aid: sale through an unconditional bidding procedure or sale without an unconditional bidding procedure but based on an independent expert’s evaluation.

Only as regards the first option, sale through an unconditional bidding procedure, does the Commission require a number of procedural precautions. These requirements are, however, formulated in a way that should normally allow Member States to comply with them without changing their domestic procedures.

One important requirement (among other elements) is that the offer must be sufficiently well-publicised.

According to the Communication, an offer is ‘sufficiently well-publicised when it is repeatedly advertised over a reasonably long period (two months or more) in the national press, estate gazettes or other appropriate publications, so that it can come to the notice of all potential buyers.’

The Commission agrees with the honourable Member that new technologies, like Internet, have contributed to facilitate communication. Nevertheless, press communication remains a well-established and essential element of public procurement procedures, which can easily be complied with. This being said, publications in Internet can be used as an additional mean of information.

Concerning the period of publication, a minimum of two months still seems to be an adequate time-period even for sales under EUR 100 000.

The Commission will certainly take into account the honourable Member’s remarks when revising the Communication in question. However, the Commission is not in a position to provide a specific time table in that respect.

 
 

(1)OJ C 209, 10.7.1997, p. 3.
(2) OJ C 209, 10.7.1997.

 

Question no 46 by Takis Hadjigeorgiou (H-0215/10)
 Subject: Future of the common agricultural policy and rural development
 

In view of the widespread rural development being supported by the EU, the trend towards globalisation and the economic crisis which has revealed how local problems can lead to a global crisis, should support not be given to small family farms in order to conserve biodiversity and develop organic production, ensure that compensatory measures are taken in response to plant diseases and for the purpose of plant conservation and secure national self-sufficiency?

Can the Commission also indicate the impact of the current economic crisis on agriculture in the Member States, in particular smallholders, as well as the action it intends to take?

 
  
 

(EN) As regards agricultural development in mountain areas, the Commission Staff Working Paper ‘Peak Performance: New insights into mountain farming in the EU’ concludes that the situation in mountains largely varies from one Member State to another, and different conditions may exist even within one Member State. When it comes to support, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development currently offers various measures to mountainous and foothill areas. The bulkiest support is represented by payments to farmers in areas with natural handicaps which aim at maintaining sustainable farming in place in order to avoid land abandonment. Apart from this scheme, higher aid intensities may apply in such areas to farm or forestry investments. Several other rural development measures aiming at increasing competitiveness and/or quality of life are also available.

As regards support to small farmers, the existing toolkit of rural development provides support for investments into farming, processing, forestry, and diversification, as well as it may support micro-business creation and rural tourism. For the new Member States, the rural development Regulation offers specific payment for semi-subsistence farms. This transitional measure aims at those farms which have the capacity and the intention to restructure.

As regards the economic crisis, the Commission does not possess data on its impact on small farmers. However, in order to respond to the economic crisis, dairy crisis and climate change, Member States have programmed additional funds of about EUR 5 billion stemming from the Health Check of the Common Agricultural Policy and the European Economic Recovery Package, which is now available for investments in agriculture, environment and broadband in rural areas.

Finally, the Commission would like to draw the honourable Member’s attention to the fact that the Commission and Member States implement the rural development in shared management. The targeting of the funds is a responsibility of the Member States.

 

Question no 47 by Justas Vincas Paleckis (H-0216/10)
 Subject: Business efficiency in the new Member States
 

The countries that have joined the EU during the 21st century have received major financial injections since 2004. For example, Lithuania has received, and continues to receive, LTL 4 billion to LTL 5 billion annually from the structural funds to allow it to develop social economic infrastructure, human resources, production, rural development and fisheries, and administrative capacities. However, even with support on this scale, business in many new Member States is currently stagnating, companies are closing down and as a result the unemployment rate is very high.

How does the Commission assess this result of financial support? What is the Commission’s opinion of the quality, efficiency and productivity of business in the new Member States?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission recognises the difficult economic situation in Lithuania. Unemployment and companies closing are of great concern to us, and it is for this very reason that European cohesion policy exists and the European Regional Development Fund was created. The Commission also recalls that the economic and financial crisis has caused a decline in economic activities in all European counties, not only in the new Member States.

However, the Commission strongly believes that its support to enterprise is effective. In fact, its ex post evaluation of 2000-2006 reports 1 million jobs created across Europe as a result of such support. Moreover, the Commission will soon publish the last results of the ex post evaluation of enterprise support, showing that our grants significantly boosted investment, production and productivity.

As to our opinion on quality and productivity in the new Member States, our 6th progress report on economic and social cohesion found that in most of these countries (including Lithuania), there is a high quality of human capital – low productivity is entirely due to lack of investment capital and of infrastructure.

Cohesion Policy is spending some EUR 1.5 billion on entrepreneurship, innovation and ICT in Lithuania in the 2007-13 period. The Commission is convinced that by long term investment in innovation, enterprise and economy we can make a difference.

 

Question no 48 by Iva Zanicchi (H-0217/10)
 Subject: Regulatory changes further to the establishment of the European External Action Service
 

Following the establishment of the European External Action Service, various offices and directorates are to be involved in a general reorganisation which, although not yet clearly defined, should result in programming responsibilities being re-assigned, from both a geographical and thematic point of view.

The regulations governing the programming of funds – especially those linked to development cooperation – will also have to be adjusted in line with that reorganisation. We would therefore like further explanations as to the way in which these changes are to be implemented.

Will there be a process to establish new regulations, or will the existing regulations simply be updated?

 
  
 

(EN) The High Representative/Vice President submitted a proposal for a Council Decision establishing the European External Action Service(1) (EEAS) in late March 2010. On April 26, the Council found overall political agreement on the text, which is now being discussed with the European Parliament. In this context, on May 11 the High Representative/Vice President, the Vice President of the Commission for Interinstitutional Relations and Administration, Foreign Minister Moratinos and Mr Brok, Mr Verhofstadt and Mr Gualtieri MEPs held a quadrilateral meeting. Everyone is working hard to ensure an early deal between all three institutions, allowing the new service to be put in place as soon as possible.

Development is central to the EU’s external action. It is part of what has given the EU profile on the international stage, where it is are a world-leading actor. Its cooperation programmes are a key tool in its bilateral and regional relationships.

This remains the case in the new Lisbon context. The challenge is to make the policy and cooperation even more effective, and to make sure that they are fully part of a coordinated and integrated approach to different countries and regions of the world.

The draft Decision contains specific rules on the division of tasks with respect to the programming of EU external assistance: in line with its responsibility for the coordination of external relations, the EEAS shall contribute to the programming of all geographic instruments (except the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance). The EEAS will in particular have responsibility for preparing the decisions on strategic, multi-annual steps in the programming cycle: country allocations, country/regional strategy papers, national/regional indicative programs.

These draft Commission decisions shall be prepared under the supervision and guidance of the Members of the Commission for Development and for Neighbourhood Policy, and will be jointly proposed by the High Representative/Vice President and the responsible Members of the Commission.

The Commission will remain responsible for the other stages of the cycle and implementation, fully in line with its financial responsibilities under the Treaty. Thematic programmes will be prepared by the Commission under the responsibility of the Member of the Commission for Development.

Thematic programmes, except the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, as well as the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation, shall be prepared by the appropriate Commission service under the guidance of the Member of the Commission for Development and presented to the College in agreement with the High Representative/Vice President and other relevant Members of the Commission.

One important change as a result of the EEAS proposal is that, unlike in the past, the programming of the cooperation under the Development Cooperation Instrument (cooperation with Asia and Latin America) will be under the supervision of the Member of the Commission for Development. That way, the appropriate development profile will be ensured to all country programmes, whether with, for example, Benin, Bangladesh or Bolivia.

The legal texts of the cooperation instruments will be jointly submitted by the Member of the Commission for Development and the High Representative/Vice President for decision by the Commission.

This effective division of labour will allow for continued delivering to the EU’s partners as the world’s largest donor, and to attain maximum leverage with its development policy.

 
 

(1) Council Document 8029/10.

 

Question no 49 by Konrad Szymański (H-0222/10)
 Subject: Discrimination against Polish citizens by the German Child and Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt)
 

The Commission has repeatedly stated that it is aware of the problems arising in connection with action taken by the German Child and Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) in cross-border cases.

In view of its commitment to protecting children against all forms of discrimination and unequal treatment, what action has the Commission taken in this matter?

What support does it intend to provide for exchanges of experience between German and Polish judges seeking to improve court policy, in line with the assurance given by Commissioner Jacques Barrot in his answer of 15 December 2008 to Question (E-5951/08)?

Would it not agree that the requirement that German be spoken during visits by the Polish parent can undermine the psychological wellbeing of the child, is in breach of the child’s rights and freedoms and constitutes language-based discrimination?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission would like to assure the honourable Member that the protection of the rights of the child is a priority of its work. The Commission is committed to protect children from any kind of discrimination and unequal treatment in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Aware of the difficulties which can exist in cross-border situations, and to facilitate the life of European citizens, the objective of the European Union in family law matters is to establish common rules within the European judicial area. Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003(1) lays down common rules concerning jurisdiction of the courts dealing with matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, and ensures that court judgments taken in family matters are recognised and enforced in the other Member States.

Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 includes a special mechanism on access rights, by providing that a court order issued in a Member State is recognised automatically and is directly enforceable in the other Member States, so as to ensure that children can maintain their relationships with their two parents after the separation of the couple, in particular when those parents are living in different Member States. The enforcement procedure is however governed by the law of the Member State of enforcement. The courts of the Member State of enforcement may also make practical arrangements for organising the exercise of rights of access.

The problems quoted by the honourable Member relate to the enforcement of rights of access and thus concern the application of national law by national authorities.

In its field of competence, the Commission pursues its efforts in the framework of Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 to ensure the best application of this Regulation. According to Article 58 of the Regulation, the central authorities, who are in charge in each Member State of its implementation, meet regularly. The latest meeting of central authorities took place on 2 March 2010. In that context, bilateral meetings were organised between central authorities to deal with pending cases. This initiative was judged a success by participants, and is likely to be repeated in future meetings. The Commission also welcomes all initiatives taken by Member States that could permit exchanges and cooperation between Member States in this matter.

The Commission has previously inquired into the issue of alleged discrimination of non-German parents who are required by German authorities to communicate with their children only in German at certain meetings organised and supervised by the Jugendamt.

The German authorities communicated their written observations on these cases to the Committee on Petitions(2), as well as to the Commission. According to these observations the German authorities take into primary consideration the best interests of the child in all actions concerning children. According to the German authorities, it is possible that the right to a visit is exercised under surveillance to protect a child from the risk of abduction, negative influences etc. In these cases, the exclusive usage of German can be exceptionally imposed when additional charges for the German administration would be excessive. The total prohibition of contacts with a parent can also be considered in order to protect the best interests of the child.

 
 

(1) Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000, OJ L 338, 23.12.2003.
(2) Petition 38/2006.

 

Question no 50 by Ryszard Czarnecki (H-0223/10)
 Subject: Respect for the rights of women and religious minorities in Pakistan
 

In Europe, Pakistani Christians have been demonstrating against the repression of women and minorities in Pakistan. What steps is the Commission taking to ensure that the rights of women and religious minorities in Pakistan are respected?

 
  
 

(EN) The EU is closely following the situation in regard to rights of women and religious minorities in Pakistan.

The EU has consistently used its political dialogue with Pakistan to raise human rights issues, and there have been a number of diplomatic demarches. This has been complemented from 2007 onwards with the human rights dialogue under the Cooperation Agreement with Pakistan, which allows for regular and two-way dialogue on governance and human rights. The EU has insisted that women’s and minority rights be respected.

There have been some achievements towards institutional progress in the human rights field in Pakistan, in particular the establishment of a Ministry for Human Rights, a Ministry for Minorities and moves towards the establishment of an independent National Human Rights Commission. The provision of quotas for women in federal and provincial parliaments from 2002 has contributed to improving the participation of women in democratic institutions in Pakistan.

But Pakistan will need to build further on these efforts to better integrate women and religious minorities into social, economic and political structures. Several laws which discriminate against women continue to exist, which conflict with guarantees given in Pakistan’s Constitution and which limit access to justice for women in Pakistan.

The continued application of the blasphemy laws has repeatedly been brought up by the EU with the Government of Pakistan as part of this human rights dialogue. Although in absolute terms, the majority of those accused under the laws belong to the Muslim faith, the blasphemy laws have often been applied against religious minorities, and that false accusations have been used as a tool to settle private disputes or for personal gain.

The last meeting of the Joint Commission between Pakistan and the EU took place on 25 March 2010, preceded by a sub group on governance, human rights and migration on 24 March. The situation of women and religious minorities in Pakistan was raised on that occasion. The EU also intends to raise these questions at the forthcoming Summit with Pakistan on 4 June 2010.

In terms of funding, the EU provides small grants to local NGOs in Pakistan in the field of human rights and democratisation, within the framework of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).

In this respect, funds have been committed for funding projects on issues including violence against women and children, access to justice, women’s political empowerment, promotion of worker’s rights, the role of the media in the democratisation process, trafficking in human beings, sexual harassment at the workplace, juvenile justice reform, minorities’ rights, eradication of torture and provision of rehabilitation services for its victims, civil society sensitisation on human rights and capacity building of NGOs working in this field.

 

Question no 51 by Laima Liucija Andrikienė (H-0226/10)
 Subject: Financing of the Aid-for-Trade programmes
 

The EU made a pledge in 2005 that it would commit €2 billion to various Aid-for-Trade related programmes. Being a rapporteur of the International Trade Committee’s opinion on the Development Committee’s report ‘on progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals: mid-term review in preparation of the UN high-level meeting in September 2010’, I would like to receive information from the Commission about whether such a target has been met, and would like to know what the specific budget lines are that are used to finance the above-mentioned programmes.

In addition, can the Commission provide information about the overall funds being earmarked for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals? What is the actual procedure for the mobilisation of funds to reach those most in need? Can the Commission provide examples of projects that have been implemented to enhance the trading capacity of the developing countries?

 
  
 

(EN) Trade can be a powerful tool in improving the livelihoods of the poor. Through increased employment and wages and enhanced government tax revenues and social spending, it can help reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This is why the EU and its Member States have committed themselves to increase their Aid for Trade (AfT).

On 15 October 2007, the EU and its Member States adopted the EU Aid for Trade Strategy. A joint EU and EU Member States initiative, this Strategy aims at supporting all developing countries, particularly the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to better integrate into the rules-based world trading system and to use trade more effectively in the fight against poverty.

The Commission has been monitoring the implementation of the Strategy since its adoption, and it has just released its third monitoring report, covering progress of EU and EU Member States in this area, and analysing Aid for Trade flows in 2008. As this will show, the common efforts of the EU and its Member States in the area of Aid for Trade are now starting to show, both in terms of increased policy activities in the EU and the Member States, and in increased flows of Aid for Trade to developing countries.

In 2005, the EU and its Member States made a commitment to increase their Trade Related Assistance (TRA) – a sub-set of total Aid for Trade - to EUR 2 billion annually by 2010. This year’s report shows that they have already hit this target.

The most substantial increases have been reported in wider Aid for Trade - including transport and energy, productive sectors and trade-related adjustment. Last years report showed that total EU and Member States Aid for Trade amounted to EUR 7 billion in 2007. The new figures point to important further increases in 2008, both from the part of the EU and the Member States, up to EUR 10.4 billion in total. The European Union therefore remained the largest provider of Aid for Trade worldwide.

EU Aid for Trade is financed from the European Development Funds national, regional and intra-ACP envelopes, as well as from the EU budget. Except for a small budget line for multilateral Aid for Trade activities, and some specific resources set aside for sugar and banana related adjustment support, funds are generally not earmarked for Aid for Trade at the outset, but allocated to these sectors in collaboration with partner countries, following normal programming procedures. The full 2010 Aid for Trade monitoring report can be found at the following link:http://ec.europa.eu/development/icenter/repository/SEC_2010_0419_COM_2010_0159_EN.PDF" \o "blocked::http://ec.europa.eu/development/icenter/repository/SEC_2010_0419_COM_2010_0159_EN.PDF"

The Commission does not operate any direct benchmarking of funds for the achievement of the MDGs. The sector breakdown of our aid to development cooperation is the result of a joint programming exercise carried out with our partner countries. The result reflects the priorities of our partners, as well as the attempt by the Commission to maximise the added value of its intervention and to improve division of labour with EU Member States and other donors. Moreover, results on the MDGs can be attained through various means, notably through budget support, whereby disbursements are linked to performance indicators in the MDGs sectors (education, health, but also, more in general, poverty reduction). The MDGs can be impacted also through investments in other sectors (water and sanitation, rural development, governance…) and the Commission gives strong attention to these as well.

In order to increase the awareness of our partners and other donors, and to accelerate the path towards the attainment of MDGs, the Commission adopted an Action plan for the MDGs on 21 April 2010 which contains examples of EU-funded projects and can be found at this link:

http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/10/145&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=fr

 

Question no 52 by Georgios Toussas (H-0227/10)
 Subject: Lifting of ‘cabotage’ restrictions: impact on passenger vessel crews
 

The implementation of Council Regulation (EEC) No 3577/92(1) applying the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transport, lifting ‘cabotage’ restrictions in a bid to achieve full market deregulation, has had a serious impact on vessel crews and on small and medium-sized tourist companies in Greece. The arguments put forward by the EU and the PASOK and ND governments that free competition would benefit workers have proved to be false. Shipowners have sharply increased passenger fares and freightage while the state subsidies received by them over the seven years from 2003 to 2010 have increased tenfold. Shipping consortia have laid off thousands of crew members, replacing them with foreign workers who have no rights regarding working conditions and no entitlements established by collective agreement. The PASOK Government and EU are now announcing a final end to ‘cabotage’ restrictions for all cruise shipping, something which will have an even harsher impact on those employed in this sector. For example, the 613 crew members of the Maltese-flagged ‘Zenith’ cruise liner, who come from 27 different countries, mainly third countries, are uninsured, have no rights regarding pay and working conditions and no entitlements established by collective agreement, while at the same time, in Greece and other EU Member States, thousands are out of work.

Does the Commission acknowledge that the lifting of cabotage restrictions with regard to cruise shipping is benefiting the shipping consortia rather than those employed by them?

 
  
 

(EN) A distinction should be made between regular ferry service to islands and cruises. Under the regulation on maritime cabotage, Member States may require that ships ensuring scheduled passenger services to islands are staffed with EU crews, which is the case in Greece. Non-EU seafarers, therefore, are not employed by ferry operators and the worries expressed by the honourable Member appear not be founded in this respect.

A switch from Greek to non-EU seafarers may have occurred in the case of cruises, where, however, the global number of seafarers employed is much smaller than for ferries.

As for the reference to the Maltese-flagged ship ‘Zenith’, the information provided is not sufficient to assess whether there is an infringement of EU rules or not. The honourable Member might be willing to provide more detailed information in a formal complaint to the Commission.

 
 

(1)OJ L 364, 12.12.1992, p. 7.

 

Question no 53 by Pat the Cope Gallagher (H-0228/10)
 Subject: EU budgetary support for sport
 

Following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, what new budgetary support measures will the Commission introduce for sporting initiatives in Member States?

 
  
 

(EN) Following the entry into force of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which gives the EU a new competence to support Member States’ activities in the field of sport, the Commission intends, during the course of this year, to propose new initiatives that will most likely take the form of a political Communication setting out the framework for EU-level cooperation in the field of sport and a proposal for incentive measures in support of it.

For this purpose, consultations with stakeholders have already started, and will be further intensified during the coming months. After this consultation phase, and at the end of the current three-year period of preparatory actions (2009-2011), the Commission will be in a position to propose new incentive measures that would start in 2012. These new measures would respond to the objectives of the Treaty while respecting the competences of the Member States and the sports movement. They would aim at supporting transnational projects put forward by public bodies or civil-society organisations which foster networks and the exchange of good practice in the field of sport.

The nature of the challenges facing Europe means that coordinated action will give European added-value to national initiatives. The Commission’s proposals will respond to the demand for specific measures that support those stakeholders, in particular sports organisations, that are not targeted by existing programmes at European level. The new incentive measures will also help the Union to achieve its objectives in other areas of policy, such as education, health and social inclusion.

The Commission’s proposals will have to take account of the existing room for manoeuvre in the current EU financial framework, which is very limited. The abovementioned consultations will help the Commission to set priorities among the areas that might benefit from its first incentive measures.

 

Question no 54 by Lena Ek (H-0230/10)
 Subject: Actions by the Commission for EU measures to control endocrine-disrupting chemicals - companies and safer alternatives to BPA
 

Retailers and manufacturers of baby products all over the world are moving to replace the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which is used to make polycarbonate plastic and is known for its hormone-disrupting properties. Its suspected impact is greatest on disorders associated with metabolism, fertility and neural development. Polycarbonate plastic is widely available in tins of food and canned drinks, and in a wide array of plastic products such as mobile phones, computers and medical equipment.

How does the Commission intend to encourage EU companies to be among the first movers in using and developing safer alternatives, while also ensuring the EU’s competitiveness?

 
  
 

(EN) The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently reviewing a study on developmental effects of Bisphenol A and in addition is reviewing emerging literature in the context of Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food and Commission Directive 2002/72/EC relating to plastic materials and articles. By the end of May 2010 EFSA will give the European Commission an up-to-date overview on the safety of Bisphenol A complementing the existing opinions.

Once the EFSA opinion is available a decision will be made on the next steps in the framework of the above legislation.

It is a priority to develop safe alternatives for articles within the scope of Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 and Directive 2002/72/EC which are the main source of exposure for infants and children to Bisphenol A. In this context the Commission has already contacted the plastic industry to urge them to consider the use of alternative plastic food-contact materials to replace Bisphenol A.

Restrictions on chemicals in other consumer products than food contact materials and articles are regulated by Title VIII and Annex XVII of Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). Currently, REACH does not contain any restrictions on Bisphenol A, as a comprehensive risk assessment performed in the framework of Council Regulation (EEC) No 793/93 on the evaluation and control of the risks of existing substances, which was published in 2003 on the website of the European Chemicals Bureau, and an update to that assessment published in April 2008 concluded that there was no need to adopt restrictions(1). The results of the review on the safety of Bisphenol A which is being undertaken by EFSA may provide further input to be considered in the framework of the processes foreseen by REACH.

On the wider question of substances that disrupt the functioning of the endocrine system, the Commission is carrying out a major study, to be completed by Autumn 2011, bringing together all the latest scientific information. The findings from this study will be taken into account in a review of the existing Community Programme on Endocrine Disruptors.

 
 

(1) Reports available at: http://ecb.jrc.ec.europa.eu/esis/index.php?PGM=ora, EINECS Number 201-245-8.

 

Question no 55 by Silvana Koch-Mehrin (H-0239/10)
 Subject: Budget review
 

The Budget review mandated by the Council and Parliament in 2006 was launched by the Commission in 2007 (SEC(2007)1188). Parliament and the Council mandated the Commission ‘to undertake a full, wide-ranging review covering all aspects of EU spending, including the CAP, and of resources, [...] to report in 2008/2009 […] preparing the ground for a renewed consensus about the direction of EU spending policies able to meet the challenges of the next decade and beyond.’

This Budget review now seems unlikely to be completed before the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is proposed in the first quarter of 2011, because Commission President Barroso wants prior agreement on the EU 2020 Strategy – scheduled for the June 2010 European Council.

It is crucial to determine Parliament’s role in EU 2020 in the context of the Budget review or identify other routes to budget reform ahead of the next MFF. Can the Commission please confirm that there will be a budget review process involving Parliament, as previously set out and in accordance with the Treaty?

 
  
 

(EN) Now that the new College has defined its policy priorities through the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Commission Work Programme, it can be confirmed that the document on the Budget Review is foreseen for the third quarter of 2010.

The Commission has engaged in very fruitful discussions with the Parliament on all budgetary matters, and wishes to continue this in-depth dialogue with the Parliament on the future guidelines of the European budget.

It is fundamental at this stage to be able to develop a consensus between the institutions and with the Member States on the best manner of reflecting political priorities in the European budget. This entails examining the fields in which the European value added is the highest and making choices, especially in this period of severe economic and budgetary difficulties.

The document on the review of the budget foreseen for 2010 will serve as a preparatory phase of the discussions on the future Financial Perspectives. And it will also constitute an occasion to present the underlying principles that should guide the longer-term budget reform.

And the Commission believes the full involvement of the Parliament is not only necessary but fundamental for the success of the exercise.

 
Legal notice - Privacy policy