Index 
Debates
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Wednesday, 8 September 2010 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Composition of committees: see Minutes
 3. Conclusions of the special ECOFIN Council meeting of 7 September (debate)
 4. Protection of animals used for scientific purposes (debate)
 5. Ongoing negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) (debate)
 6. Voting time
  6.1. Protection of animals used for scientific purposes (A7-0230/2010, Elisabeth Jeggle) (vote)
  6.2. Guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (A7-0235/2010, Csaba Őry) (vote)
  6.3. Human rights in Iran, in particular, the cases of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani and of Zahra Bahrami (B7-0494/2010) (vote)
 7. Explanations of vote
 8. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 9. Announcement by the President
 10. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting: see Minutes
 11. Arms exports (debate)
 12. Draft bill on Israeli NGOs (debate)
 13. Situation of the Jordan River with special regard to the Lower Jordan River area (debate)
 14. Question Time (Council)
 15. Free movement of workers – temporary restrictions affecting Romanian and Bulgarian citizens on the European Union labour market (debate)
 16. Products from cloned animals in the food chain (debate)
 17. EU potato starch sector after 2012 (debate)
 18. Implementing Measures (Rule 88):see Minutes
 19. Agenda of the next sitting: see Minutes
 20. Closure of the sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: Isabelle DURANT
Vice-President

 
1. Opening of the sitting
Video of the speeches

2. Composition of committees: see Minutes

3. Conclusions of the special ECOFIN Council meeting of 7 September (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the conclusions of the special ECOFIN Council meeting of 7 September.

 
  
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  Didier Reynders, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) Madam President, the meeting of the ECOFIN Council, which has just taken place in Brussels, has enabled us to make progress on two issues, by adopting the European Semester, within the framework of budgetary consolidation and of the new budget monitoring procedures, and also by endorsing the agreement reached during a trialogue with the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council, of course, on all the financial supervision texts.

Alongside this, we have launched two debates, which will be continued at the end of this month at the informal ECOFIN Council meeting and with which we hope to make progress over the next six months: one on the bank resolution funds, or bank levy, and the other on the tax on financial transactions.

I should like to say a few words on both these points. With regard to the European Semester, this is a first step and one which will enable us, from 1 January next year, to introduce the new budgetary procedure with the Commission. We will call on the Member States, in spring, to submit certain budgetary data, the parameters used to prepare their budgets, the broad guidelines – without any detailed examination of each heading – before we continue with this procedure. We also hope to be able to add further provisions, among other things, and here I am thinking about provisions relating to sanctions. In any event, the Presidency will support the process by which to impose these sanctions, at the initiative of the Commission and, if possible, with a specific role being given to the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs.

With regard to supervision, I wanted, once again, to thank the rapporteurs and all the Members who participated in this attempt to reach a consensus on the various texts, and also the Commission, Michel Barnier and his teams, as well as the successive Presidencies. I am referring here to the Spanish and the Swedish Presidencies, which preceded us. We now have texts which, from 1 January next year, will enable us to establish new surveillance and supervision structures and the Systemic Risk Board. This process will enable us to make progress under the right conditions, with a new architecture for the financial system and its supervision.

I should just like to point out that, although this has indeed been a long process, we have not finished yet; rather, this is the beginning of a new kind of European organisation and, very likely, the beginning of lengthy debates which will result in the adoption of various texts, which Commissioner Barnier will have the opportunity to present over the coming weeks. We are going to try to keep to a strict timetable on this issue.

I have now dealt with the two points which were the subject of formal decisions taken by the ECOFIN. Moreover, debates have been held, as I was saying, on two other issues: the first on bank resolution funds, or the bank levy, and the second – the debates must be kept very separate – on the tax on financial transactions.

I believe that, where the bank levy and the bank resolution funds are concerned, the debate which took place during the ECOFIN meeting yielded a number of guidelines which will enable the Commission to present more detailed and more specific proposals. I am convinced that, by applying the same proactive approach that we applied to financial supervision, we should be able to conclude this debate over the coming months with the creation of mechanisms which will ensure real coordination across Europe. Some countries have already imposed a levy on the banking sector, but it is important for us to progress in a coordinated fashion. I acknowledge that there are still some issues to be addressed. We will, in fact, be discussing these at finance minister level during the informal Council meeting at the end of this month.

As regards the tax on financial transactions, the debate is much livelier. We have further to go in reaching a consensus, but that is normal. This was an initial in-depth debate which allowed for specific questions to be asked about the ability to implement such a tax, but also about the ability to implement it in the EU or to discuss it with other partners. We will also revisit this issue at the end of this month in preparation for the G20 meetings, because it is clearly important for the majority of participants that we discuss it with our partners, not only on the other side of the Atlantic, but also in emerging countries.

To finish, I will simply say that many determined efforts still need to be made on this issue, and then choices will have to be made. If a tax of this type is introduced one day, how will the receipts be used? Some will earmark them for their national budgets, others will finance measures necessary to combat climate change, while others – and in Belgium, for example, we have already done this – will use them to finance development.

There we are, Madam President; that is what I have to report on the Council meeting that has just taken place in Brussels.

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) Madam President, honourable Members, I, in turn, after Mr Reynders, would like to say a few words about our approach to this Ecofin Council meeting. I will do so on behalf of my fellow Commissioners, Olli Rehn and Algirdas Šemeta, who participated in this work with me.

Four points marked this meeting, as the Belgian minister has pointed out. Since Parliament has played a very large part in this, please allow me to begin with a major subject that I consider structural and to which I have devoted much of my energy ever since you placed your trust in us in February. I am talking about supervision.

That is because supervision is the cornerstone, the framework within which, brick by brick, week after week, product after product, market after market or actor after actor, we will be able to learn the lessons of the crisis and put in place intelligent regulation and effective supervision, so that at the end of the journey – and we are not there yet – no actor, no product, no market and no territory will escape from intelligent regulation and effective supervision.

Allow me to offer a very sincere word of thanks on this subject – and I am confident that Parliament will, in turn, be able to adopt the outcome of the trialogue in a few weeks’ time – to your rapporteurs, Mr García-Margallo y Marfil, Mr Skinner, Mr Sánchez Presedo, Mrs Goulard, Mr Giegold, Mr Tremosa i Balcells and Mr Balz, and to the committee chair, Mrs Bowles, who managed this trialogue with great determination. I would also like to say that the Belgian President-in-Office, Mr Reynders, played a highly personal and proactive role, relying not only on the work of his team, but also on the work that the Spanish and Swedish Presidencies had done before him.

I would also like to point out, ladies and gentlemen, that the initial reason behind this Commission proposal on supervision was the highly intelligent work carried out by Jacques de Larosière to draw the first main lesson from this crisis. As a result, on 1 January, we will have some European bodies. The Commission will work hard, as is its duty, to prepare the implementation of these three authorities and the European Systemic Risk Board. I talked about European radar screens and control towers. These are clearly needed because, as we know, half of the banks in half of the countries of Europe, which you represent, are based in other countries. Therefore, we are generally dealing with financial establishments that are transnational in nature and, consequently, have systemic dimensions and risks.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Presidency and to offer my very sincere thanks to Parliament and your rapporteurs for the essential work that they put in to make this ‘very first stage’, as Mr Reynders put it, a success. Now the building work begins.

You will see that we will be filling out this framework week by week. Starting next week, I will put forward the regulation on derivatives and the regulation on short selling, and then, a little later on, the one on credit rating agencies.

There are two points for debate that also concern the financial sector, in relation to ideas about contributions and taxation. One is more advanced than the other, and I agree with the Belgian President-in-Office that we should not mix up the two subjects, as they are different, even though they both concern financing by the financial sector.

The first is this idea of resolution funds. This is a debate that has already begun in the Council. I must tell the honourable Members that these Council debates are very useful, as I saw for myself yesterday, because the table rounds help one begin to see things a little more clearly. I opened this debate under the Spanish Presidency in Madrid at an informal Council meeting, when I presented the idea of a toolbox for preventing crises in the banking and financial sector with two simple ideas. The first is that prevention is always cheaper than the cure – that is true for the environment and for financial crises as well – while the second simple idea is that taxpayers should no longer be in the front line, because the banks should pay for the banks.

Based on these ideas, then, we presented the contents of a toolbox, which included resolution funds. In this respect, I would like to emphasise the equally very important work that Mrs Ferreira has done on your behalf. In October, I will issue a communication based on the views of Parliament and Mrs Ferreira and on the reactions from the Council of Ministers. Why in October? Because by then, we will also have made progress on the important Basel process, with the obligations of qualitative and quantitative capitalisation of own funds.

You all know that when we speak of contributions by banks or prevention in banks, all the pieces have to be put together, and we have to pay attention to what I have called the ‘sizing’ of these measures to ensure that they are effective and that no one escapes from them. It will not be business as usual, but at the same time, we must not penalise the economy without looking at the cumulative effect of all these measures.

In October, therefore, I will issue a communication on the prevention of future crises and the responsibility of the banks and the resolution fund, ideas about which are progressing, since Germany has just implemented this idea. Sweden had already done so. We are going to try to build a coordinated system with a common core, which will avoid poor coordination, or even competition, and double taxation on banking establishments.

As Mr Reynders said, a debate has just begun. This one, on taxing financial transactions at a global level, is much more difficult. The debate started in the G20. Not everyone was enthusiastic. Many of us think that it is a fair idea and that, in a modest but effective way, financial transactions ought to be able to contribute to the funding of a number of major worldwide challenges to make the world a fairer and therefore more stable and secure place. This world we live in will only be more secure if it is fairer, which is not the case today.

We are well aware of all the challenges – like the environment, climate change and food – and the crises, which, moreover, hit the poorest countries the hardest. Many of us think it is a fair idea, but it is a long way from gaining a consensus in the Council of Ministers, to say the least. We will have to carry on working on it. My fellow Commissioner, Algirdas Šemeta, has written an initial information memo and, on the basis of the work done in the Council of Ministers, we will draw up a new communication on taxation of the financial sector in particular. This communication is scheduled for October.

I will not repeat what Mr Reynders has said about the stability and convergence programme, the efforts made by the Commission and the work done by the task force. I will just mention the idea – which I find useful – of a European Semester, which will put the budgetary analysis of each of our countries into perspective while preserving their sovereignty, and will provide a snapshot – another European radar screen – of the countries’ general economic policy guidelines. The Council will also work on the basis of the Commission’s papers and reports on this subject.

At dinner, Mr Reynders raised two points for discussion, which I will describe in brief. One of them, which concerns me and all of us here, is the operation of the IASB, the International Accounting Standards Board. We would like to see a reform of its governance and greater transparency. I have also told the Presidency that I am ready to table a report of interest to Parliament about transatlantic regulation at the September informal Council meeting.

We are not alone within the G20, and not even among Americans and Europeans, but it is extremely important for us to ensure that there is parallelism between the measures taken under President Obama’s authority by the US Congress and the measures taken by Europe as regards supervision and regulation.

I am currently setting up a kind of scoreboard comparing what is being done in the United States at the moment with what we are doing in Europe to ensure such parallelism. It is a question of achieving the same objectives without necessarily using the same methods or measures. I believe it will be a useful tool for the ministers and for the Members of this Parliament.

 
  
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  Corien Wortmann-Kool, on behalf of the PPE Group. (NL) Madam President, on behalf of the European People’s Party, I would like to say that we are very pleased with the agreement reached on a system for European banking supervision. That is an important milestone. A number of Member States initially dug their heels in, but our rapporteurs have been steadfast and, thanks to a persuasive Commissioner and the Belgian Presidency’s firm line, we were able to secure this result. Another positive result has been the introduction of the European Semester. Both are important steps towards strengthening economic governance in Europe.

In the ECOFIN Council, you have also debated various forms of bank taxes, because banks, too, must contribute to dealing with the impact of the crisis. You have rightly tried to achieve this at G20 level, but with little progress. For this reason, the EPP Group agrees with the conclusion that, if we fail to achieve this internationally, then we in Europe can – no, must – take the lead by introducing a bank tax or a bank levy. However, we must do this in a coordinated fashion, because Member States are already introducing such levies themselves and that is posing a threat to our internal market.

Therefore, Commissioner Barnier, I would strongly encourage you to use your right of initiative to bring about a coordinated bank levy across Europe, one that will be introduced according to the same criteria in every country. In this matter, just as in the matter of European supervision, this House will rally to your side.

When it comes to the financial transaction tax, now, that is an excellent item which you will have to work hard to place much more prominently on the G20 agenda. However, one thing I would warn you against is Europe going solo. I know that my fellow Member, Mr Schulz, would like to enforce such a transaction tax in Europe, but its disadvantages would outweigh the advantages, because we are dealing with a global system. Such a tax would lead to transactions bypassing Europe. We should, therefore, put our efforts into introducing a successful European bank tax and continue to operate in the G20 context.

 
  
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  Udo Bullmann, on behalf of the S&D Group.(DE) Madam President, Mr Reynders, Commissioner, congratulations on your supervision. Parliament has worked hard on this issue and you have also played your part, which is why the results are so good.

We must always look to new tasks and, unfortunately, I must point out that good results are still a long way off in other areas. Let me just say that the regulation of hedge fund managers is still nowhere near a breakthrough. At this point, I would call on both sides, both the Council and the Commission, to get cracking. After all, without your efforts, the regulations will not be of much use. We need equal rights for all. Managers outside the European Union must always be subject to the same conditions as their European counterparts. Otherwise, we are putting Europe at a disadvantage.

It is not our aim to put a whole industry behind bars. However, if we do not achieve meaningful improvements that will prevent the black sheep from plundering well-functioning businesses, we are not going to have good regulation. I want to issue this warning: you should not imagine that you will score an easy victory by simply playing the various Members of this House off against each other. If you fail to introduce effective regulation, the whole of Europe will know who it was who went down on bended knee before the lobbyists and that knowledge will give these discussions a different character.

A word about the financial transaction tax: My view of this is diametrically opposed to that of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats). Europe is waiting for answers. You will have to provide these answers. Do not come back from the G20 summit and tell us: ‘Unfortunately we have achieved nothing, so now there is nothing we can do.’ On the contrary, we need to take action in Europe, which is why we need to plan and implement some decisive measures together with the people in Europe. Remember one thing during your negotiations at the G20 summit: we need a response from you, otherwise there is going to have to be a European response.

 
  
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  Sylvie Goulard, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(FR) Madam President, I should like to thank the Commission and the Belgian Presidency for having helped us get EU financial supervision on track.

I know we are now thanking one another but I should like nonetheless to emphasise that it was fortunate that Parliament pointed out, last December, how the Member States, while claiming they wanted to resolve the crisis using European solutions, were busy implementing every safety net and every safeguard clause imaginable to ensure that these European authorities could definitely not act without intergovernmental agreements. I think that we have all worked very well together, but let us give praise where praise is due.

As rapporteur for the Systemic Risk Board, I should like to highlight in particular one extremely positive point. Mr Barnier frequently refers to radars and control towers, but each aircraft also has a pilot, and that pilot is the President of the European Central Bank, whom Parliament is very keen to see remain in that role.

However, I should like to express a slight feeling of dissatisfaction with regard to the direct supervision of pan-European entities and, above all, ask you to continue the fight in that regard. In the sectoral texts, we must continue – as the four main groups in Parliament have jointly undertaken to do – to provide the EU Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA) with powers over these entities, over the rating agencies. This is theoretically already happening, and we are waiting for the Commission to continue its work and to extend it to clearing houses and, eventually, to cross-border groups. The challenge in this area was simple: we could either have an internal market subject to EU regulation and supervision, or settle for loose coordination, which would mean quibbling – or chipotage, as we say under the Belgian Presidency – between nation states.

 
  
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  Sven Giegold, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, firstly, this is indeed an important moment for Europe because we seem to have reached an agreement on supervision. We have achieved a lot by working together on this issue. I would like to express my thanks to the Belgian Presidency, the Commission, Mr Barnier, and my fellow Members from the various groups. We have taken a really enormous step forward, giving the lie to all those who said that Europe would no longer progress any further. On the contrary, we need to introduce stringent regulations for the internal market. We are now on the right track.

Secondly: the Ecofin Council has already made some important decisions in relation to the monitoring of the budgets of Member States. I would like to thank the Commission for the progress made. You have presented a number of proposals. We are now awaiting more proposals in relation to macro-economic coordination. Given the crisis, this is urgently needed.

However, I would now like to discuss the financial transaction tax. What we have heard from the Commission so far is a cacophony of contradictory signals. On the one hand, Mr Barnier and Mr Barroso are thankfully in support of the idea of a financial transaction tax. At the same time, Mr Šemeta rejects the proposal. I am calling on you to deal with this issue in a collegial way. You must speak with one voice. It simply will not do for Mr Šemeta to present a report containing results that have long been refuted in academic circles.

For example, there was some relevant information to be found in the study the European Parliament commissioned from the Bruegel Institute. This study refutes relevant arguments raised by Mr Šemeta. I also wonder why he is not here. He has been criticised several times in the House on this issue. Today of all days, he should face up to this debate. I also wonder whether he will now have to stay behind after class – after all, that is what has been decided: his contribution will have to be revised. Is this really going to result in a proposal to be presented by the Commission, an initiative they intend to present, or are we just to have another study document? This really is not good enough! Something else that is not good enough is to postpone the Council’s decision until France has the Presidency of the G20 Group. This is not acceptable!

However, the central countries that have rejected this proposal, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Spain, also have questions to answer. It was already known that the United Kingdom and Sweden would not be in favour. However, Spain is a member of the Euro Group. The country is governed by Social Democrats. Perhaps they should seek to establish more coherence between the good position they have adopted in this House and the positions adopted by the Spanish Government in the Council.

Finally, all I can say is that I would like greater clarity from the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) here in this House regarding their position. You have just made some extremely critical comments about the financial transaction tax, although large parts of your group are in favour. I am not convinced that you are really speaking for the majority of your group. We need united action in this situation, otherwise our citizens will become cynical if we are to have cost-saving measures on the one hand, but no revenue from levying capital income in Europe on the other.

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, I would like to begin by congratulating the Belgian Presidency on its negotiating skills, and Commissioner Barnier and his team for finding solutions on supervision. But I would like to turn to those unresolved issues of financial transactions at yesterday’s ECOFIN.

I seem to spend a lot of my time in Parliament asking for people to conduct research, write impact assessments and do studies. This week’s ECOFIN has gone out and done just that. Instead of looking at purely political concepts and legislating in haste, the Council meeting and Commissioner Šemeta’s contributions have been based on facts and figures. A good example of better regulation principles in practice. However, when an independent assessment states that one Member State would end up collecting in excess of 70% of the revenue generated from a financial transaction tax, it would be ludicrous to claim that such a tax should be implemented at an EU level, if at all.

An FTT is not free money, as the popular media would have us believe. The banks and financial intermediaries would not be the ones to pay for a transaction tax. It would be the pensioners reliant on their returns in the market and companies in the real economy paying for every hedging transaction. It is time to recognise the limitations of the simplistic FTT and, if our true aim is to modify the behaviour of banks without destroying our economies, look at the more complex solution of a financial activities tax or bank levies as proposed by the IMF instead.

Instead of derailing the process by calling for unachievable and unwanted EU-wide taxes that many Member States, not just my own, are against, we must look at this as an opportunity for strengthening our Members States’ weak public finances and allowing them to use the money as they see fit, replenishing their public coffers depleted by bank bail-outs and crisis management.

 
  
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  Miguel Portas, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) Ecofin has decided to launch the European Semester, which is aimed at ensuring consistency between European economic policy and national budgetary policies. My question is this: have they given any thought to democracy? I am all in favour of coordination. I accept goals for the deficit, and I would even like to see such goals put in place for job creation. I accept amendments to the national budgets, although I would prefer it if the sanctions were not stupid and did not exacerbate the problem, so I am quite open to this.

What I find completely unacceptable is Brussels deciding how the Member States are to meet their commitments, because this means expropriating the fundamental prerogatives of national parliaments. Ecofin will have more than prior approval; it is setting out the guidelines that are to govern every national budget. I heard Mr Reynders say: OK, but we will not go into detail about this. Thank you for your magnanimity, but the basic problem is that the main guidelines will apply to 27 governments. Of these 27 governments, Germany will always be telling Greece what it has to do, but not vice versa.

Ladies and gentlemen, the members of national parliaments are not blanks that need to be filled in. Members of national parliaments cannot simply be divorced from freedom of choice in their budgets, which is a crucial political choice.

 
  
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  Hans-Peter Martin (NI).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, I should like to start by paying you a compliment. It is obvious that you are willing. The question is just: Are you allowed to be willing? With regard to the process that you are pursuing with such enormous dedication, I would call on you urgently to make the matter clear to our citizens by outlining the reason for the failure despite all the good will shown, and by explaining why we have only made limited progress on the four cornerstones that are central to the issue.

It is apparent that we need clarity on why the supervision of the financial markets in the US is stricter and more critical in key areas than what you are trying to establish now. We also need clear answers as to how you actually intend dealing with the problem of the conduit banks and what degree of success we can expect there. We also need clarifications in relation to capital. What is the Commission’s intention? There is plenty of detail here, but how do you intend making sure that a crash cannot happen again?

I would also like to ask a question as a representative of a small Member State: What can we do to limit the problem of banks that are too big to fail? In Austria, we have a situation with one bank, Hypo Group Alpe Adria, where, if the loans were to be called in, the burden of debt on the Austrian state would be so high that we would find ourselves in the same category as Greece. Is the Commission issuing a warning about this? What is it doing? How does it intend to prevent Austria from becoming another Greece for the European Union?

 
  
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  Jean-Paul Gauzès (PPE).(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, first of all I should naturally like to add my congratulations on the good result obtained in the area of supervision.

As Mrs Goulard reminded us, Parliament’s effort has not been in vain, and in December something new and unique happened: a statement was issued by the four coordinators of the main groups saying that Europe needed to play a greater role in this supervision. Thanks to your dynamism, Mr Reynders, a good solution has been found. The Commission has clearly worked hard, and I welcome the financial services programme announced to us by Commissioner Barnier.

It is fortunate that this happened, that this agreement was reached, because the EU’s financial credibility, its financial credibility in the eyes of our fellow citizens who, since the crisis have been asking us, ‘What is the EU doing? What concrete results have you achieved?’ is ultimately at stake. We can tell them that we are thinking about and working on this issue, that we are holding trialogues and meetings, but what they want is results.

The EU’s credibility in the eyes of our international partners, particularly the US, is also at stake. I have recently been in contact with representatives from the US finance sector and, ultimately, what bothers them about the EU is this impression of legal uncertainty: we change regulations; we introduce revision clauses and sunset clauses; we do not build anything solid. I think that legislation must be definitive, albeit subject to amendment. We must not, above all else, give the impression that we are going to amend the texts two or three years down the road.

Madam President, Mr Reynders, I should like to plead on my behalf: a very important trialogue will take place this afternoon with Commissioner Barnier and my colleagues on the regulation of hedge funds. It is essential that we find a solution soon. I am very conscious of the commitment on the part of the Belgian Presidency and of your personal commitment. We must reach an agreement over the next few weeks, so that next time you report on ECOFIN’s work, you will be able to say, ‘An agreement has been reached on the regulation of hedge funds.’ We are counting on this, and I know that you also are counting on it. We must now take the final step so that the right solution can be found.

 
  
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  Anni Podimata (S&D).(EL) Madam President, Commission, yesterday’s decisions by the ECOFIN Council, in conjunction of course with the agreement on a new effective system of financial supervision, are essential steps towards the new economic governance which we envisage. However, we face a broad challenge today. No one can or should stop the imposition of stricter budgetary discipline and stricter supervision.

The challenge is to design a new economic model which responds to the demand of European citizens for full employment and fair growth. We therefore need to strike a balance between budgetary discipline and safeguarding the necessary resources for sustainable growth and full employment through public and private investments.

We therefore need to address macro-economic balances and the competitive divide between the Member States which will inevitably lead to economic and social inequalities. Above all, however, we need a model for the fairer distribution of the cost of recovery and fiscal justice and taxing financial transactions could play a catalytic role.

Europe can and must play a leading role on this issue. It did so in combating climate change by making unilateral commitments. It can and must lead efforts to promote similar regulations at international level.

 
  
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  Jens Rohde (ALDE). – Madam President, I want to thank and support the Commission and the Council for their work on ensuring adequate financing from the financial sector.

There are, however, a couple of issues. We support introducing a form of coordinated stability level and a fund, but when it comes to the financial transaction tax, we are talking about an entirely different and much more complex issue.

That tax, as a minimum, would have to be global to avoid tax evasion. Furthermore, a tax on all transactions might not only be technically infeasible, but would also risk making the markets more volatile and less liquid.

I have some questions on taxes. If the purpose is to generate money for global causes, which money pots does the revenue go into, and who has the responsibility for distributing the money? For a tax for a specific purpose, when do we ever know when enough is enough? Finally, the key question is who will collect the tax – the Member States or the EU? If it is the EU, far away from its citizens, how do we prevent constant rising taxes? In the real world, enough never seems to be enough when it comes to politicians’ need for additional money.

 
  
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  Derk Jan Eppink (ECR). (NL) Madam President, allow me to welcome Mr Reynders. I hope everything is well with you. As regards the bank levy, I do not, in principle, have any problems with it at all. I just wonder how it is supposed to work in practice. It reminds me of a bus: everyone wants to get on it, but everyone wants to go in a different direction. As for the financial transaction tax, I think it is a good example of a bad idea. It is basically a sort of European Tobin tax. Although, we do not call it that any more, because nowadays even Mr Tobin himself is opposed to that tax. It scares capital away and Sweden has been a very good example of that. This also begs the question of what we are going to do with the revenue from such a tax? Are we going to use it to contribute to the EU’s own resources? This issue is bound to be very divisive, so my advice to you, Mr Reynders, is: there might be very good intentions behind your plan, but please drop it. Put the plan on ice or, better still, leave it outside to die of hypothermia. Surely, we cannot just go solo. Now, I would like to pick up on what Mr Schulz has said, although he does not appear to be listening to me right now. Yesterday, he said that he would like to force the European Commission to take the initiative on the financial transaction tax. He wants to bring people out onto the streets. My advice would be, do not go down that route. We will take a European citizens’ initiative against this tax because it is the ordinary man on the street who will have to pay it.

 
  
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  Othmar Karas (PPE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr Reynders, I have five points to make. Firstly, I must say that I find it regrettable such an important Ecofin meeting as yesterday’s was held at the same time as the address by the President of the Commission on the state of the Union. I would expect better coordination. If we are all to pull in the same direction, we need to be aware of the topics and highlights that concern the European Union; we need to coordinate our efforts, listen to each other and talk to one another. Such parallel scheduling is entirely unnecessary and does a disservice to both events.

The second issue I would like to mention is supervision. I would like to thank the Presidency of the Council, the Commissioner and Parliament. If it were not for the decision by Parliament in July, progress would never have been made over the summer and we would not have supervision with teeth. If it were not for the decision by Parliament in July, the President of the European Central Bank would not be heading up the macro-supervision authority. These matters were tightened up through the active cooperation of Parliament and the Belgian Presidency with the support of the Commission. I would like to thank you warmly for this.

My third point is in relation to the Europeanisation of the drafting of the budget. We must be aware that the second pillar of monetary union will only work if we pursue economic and social union and europeanise budgetary policy and taxation policy as a first step, rather than simply coordinating them.

My fourth point is that, while we need a bank levy, this should not be allowed to become a bottomless pit. The levy should have a European objective and be ring-fenced for European purposes and the European Monetary Fund should be established.

My fifth point is in relation to the financial transaction tax. By now, those in favour and those against the tax must feel like they have been going around in circles to no avail. Mr Reynders, you have just commented that this has been the first serious debate on the issue. However, we have been talking about it for a year. We have been asking questions. We have been adopting resolutions. First you seem to shift responsibility to the G20, then to the Commission and finally to the Member States. We want these five questions to be answered. What is to be the basis for assessment? What is the percentage rate to be? Who will impose the levy? Who is going to get the money and what for? Present a project to us, then we can discuss the matter further and finally do something practical.

 
  
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  Elisa Ferreira (S&D).(PT) Madam President, Commissioner, the coordination of efforts for the European Semester which was discussed yesterday at Ecofin is a positive step in itself, but it is only one part of the picture. Growth and employment need to be priorities, as well as fulfilment of the Stability and Growth Pact. The creation of the European Monetary Fund is crucial. Sovereign debt needs to be handled alongside all the other obligations for participation in a monetary area. It is vital that the development of this project does not go down the dangerous route of sanctions, and I am counting on Commissioner Barnier and his experience to guide the Commission in this respect.

Secondly, I would also like to congratulate him sincerely on the financial supervision work that he has carried out. I believe that Commissioner Barnier, in particular, along with Parliament and the Belgian Presidency have managed to reach a good agreement: one which respects us and defends the interests of the European public. My hope is that the missing agenda will follow the same methodology and that we will achieve the same success.

Thirdly, I would like to say that I very much hope that when it comes to the banking crisis, particularly for systemic and cross-border banks, any progress will help to consolidate the European position.

Lastly, Commissioner, it is essential to revisit our agenda for the G20, especially if we do not want to give up the fight against fraud, tax evasion and tax havens, and if we want there to be an effective and more decisive contribution from banks and financial services ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Vicky Ford (ECR). – Madam President, I welcome the agreement on the supervisory architecture. I know that my colleagues have not found it easy to reach that agreement. It has been a delicate balancing act between protecting markets from cross-border risks and yet also maintaining national governments’ responsibilities.

The Commissioner has described this, quite rightly, as just the first brick. I look forward to working with the Commission to ensure that future bricks do not overtopple that delicate balance.

Fundamentally, it is no good for Member States to agree standards internationally and then fail to implement them domestically. I hope that this will ensure that we all abide by our international rules.

During the debate, many of my colleagues said that it was important that the head of the ESRB was the head of the ECB. We promised to listen to him when he warned us of risks. Yesterday, he warned the Council of the risk of a financial transaction tax and told us that this could be a disaster for Europe. Let us make sure that we, as politicians, hold on to our promise and actually listen to the person we say we will listen to.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE).(FR) Madam President, Minister, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as my fellow Members have indicated – Mr Gauzès just now and yesterday during the State of the Union debate – we need more Europe.

More Europe to create growth and employment, to regulate the markets and to reduce inequality. This is the contention of my group chair, Mr Daul, and one which I fully support. I believe that Member States have finally realised that we needed to be bolder in economic and budgetary matters. Bolder and, above all else, responsible: national protectionist responses are a recipe for disaster.

We need greater financial supervision at European level; the agreement with the Council on the financial supervision package, which we will vote on at the next plenary session, is excellent news in this regard.

However, as well as supervising the system, we must establish real coordination of our budgetary and economic policies. We must create both budgetary federalism and economic federalism. Having a common monetary policy but independent budgetary policies paralyses us. I think that federalism has begun with this new European Semester, which requires Member States to submit their budgetary strategies before the summer each year to the Council for its opinion.

However, as is often the case at EU level, what happens in practice will determine the rules much more than texts. For my part, I want this coordination to be more than just a formal exercise and to result in a true common strategy for our economic, industrial and social policies. I regret that the national parliaments and the European Parliament are not yet fully involved in this coordination process.

Minister, as a representative of the Council, I am therefore addressing you in particular: parliaments, as budgetary authorities, must play an essential role in the emergence of a European economic policy, as that is the only way to ensure its effectiveness and legitimacy.

 
  
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  Antolín Sánchez Presedo (S&D).(ES) Madam President, I would like to congratulate the Presidency on the unanimous adoption by the Council of the compromise reached with Parliament and the Commission on the supervisory package.

We have been working with the Spanish and Belgian Presidencies and have managed to complete our task with an ambitious compromise that lays the solid foundations for financial reform and represents a milestone in the integration of the Union.

Adopting the European Semester as of next year is also a very positive step, though it involves a lot more than just arranging an operations schedule: it requires substantial content and a parliamentary dimension.

Greater reform of economic governance is called for. It is required to mobilise the underused economic growth capacity and to build the social and economic Union we need.

We also need a coherent, robust and credible European prevention, management and crisis resolution system. It has to be compatible with economic recovery, foresee moral hazards, bear in mind the rest of the financial reform burdens and avoid distortions in the internal market sphere. We have to coordinate internally in order to be able to bring it before the G20.

I am finishing. As regards the financial transaction tax, we are awaiting a communication from the Commission that may also take into account a tax on financial activities. What is at stake here is the fight against volatility, a fair distribution of the financial burden, alleviating the impact of the crisis on public finances, establishing new resources for the European Union and contributing to the Millennium Development Goals. If we want to be a global player, we cannot act separately.

 
  
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  Peter Skinner (S&D). – Madam President, I should like to thank Mr Reynders and Commissioner Barnier very much for their support on the supervisory package, which sometimes felt a bit like trying to push a boiled egg through a tea-strainer, but finally we got through it. I hope our work on Solvency II and its implementing measures will be more productive and much faster. I trust that will be the case.

There are many positives which have been pointed out already today – and many negatives – but I would like to agree with the progress that has already been made and what we should aim for. Europe though – and not just the eurozone, it has to be said – needs performance-enhancing regulations as well as safeguards.

I have the feeling that nations are being made to feel like outcasts, and this must be stopped. It is self-destructive for the EU as a whole. The international agenda is key. The European Union has got to play a significant and crucial role in creating global standards.

The problem is that if we believe that creating standards in Europe alone is enough, we will make a grave error. That is why I welcome Commissioner Barnier’s remarks about table for the European Union and the USA of comparative regulatory achievement. My office has already drawn up such a table. I would be very happy to share the contents of that with you, Commissioner. I hope it will be useful.

Finally I might ask: where are we in dealing with the Transatlantic Economic Council, the higher-level regulatory dialogue? Where do we expect to go in the future? We have problems before us we cannot solve on our own.

 
  
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  Liem Hoang Ngoc (S&D).(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, yesterday, the ECOFIN Council approved the principle of the European Semester. As a federalist, I can only welcome such progress. However, coordinating budgetary policy is one thing; defining their content is another. That is why strengthening the Stability and Growth Pact is a serious mistake.

The austerity treatment dogmatically imposed on the whole of Europe is already making its initial effects felt. Spain and Ireland are experiencing ever more difficulties, and the Markit survey, published at the end of August, shows that this treatment is responsible for the stagnation in European growth and, before long, the stagnation in German growth.

The series of repressive measures outlined on the agenda of the next informal ECOFIN meeting is even more serious. Imposing automatic financial sanctions on States that are already facing budget problems is irresponsible. It will inevitably fuel the criticisms in all the Member States with regard to their national contributions to the EU budget.

Two and a half million citizens expressed the first opposition to the austerity package on the streets of France yesterday. Instead of preserving social safety nets and establishing the social harmony in the EU that is necessary for the recovery, the Council and the Commission are destroying them. Do they measure the impact of such decisions only by the increasing level of Euroscepticism among citizens?

For the sake of European integration and of the citizens for whom it is being undertaken, it must be acknowledged, ladies and gentlemen, that strengthening the Stability and Growth Pact is an economic aberration. It is also a serious political mistake.

 
  
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  Sławomir Witold Nitras (PPE).(PL) I am very pleased with the compromise on establishing a financial supervision system. The European markets did, indeed, need these mechanisms. Something which I, personally, am very pleased about is the emphasis given to the role of the European Central Bank. We are, I think, safer under the new arrangements. The experience of the European Central Bank allows us to look to the future with optimism, and the establishment of the European system of financial supervision bodies should be treated as a step in the right direction. We have begun in earnest the coordination of policy on spending, and are not interested only in collecting taxes in Europe. The reporting system will be very important. Please remember that national governments, which make decisions and oblige themselves to observe the rules on budget deficit, are not the only body authorised to spend money in their country.

 
  
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  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D). (RO) It is not only the Stability and Growth Pact which is in need of reform, but also the economic and social model as a whole.

The economic and social model, a particular feature of the European Union, is proving to be untenable at the moment. Initially regarded as a driving force for economic growth, as well as for social protection, it has failed to realise these expectations. Ten per cent of Europeans are out of work, while some Member States are still deep in recession.

On the other hand, we have shortcomings when it comes to controlling economic flows in the EU, which have been clearly highlighted by the economic crisis. This makes macro-economic supervision of Europe’s economies a necessity, especially as the latter are closely linked through the single market and single currency.

I therefore welcome the ECOFIN conclusions on establishing a basis for macro-financial supervision in the European Union, with the help of setting up the European Systemic Risk Board and the supervisory authorities for the banking, insurance and securities sectors, not to mention the monitoring of national budgets within a European Semester.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL).(PT) Madam President, the decisions made yesterday by the Ecofin Council are unacceptable. While speculators continue to help themselves to scandalous salaries and effective taxation of financial transactions remains elusive, with tax havens flourishing, they have seized the opportunity provided by the crisis to launch the biggest attack on democracy yet. They have tried to turn members of national parliaments into European puppets in order to force national budgets towards preliminary examination by Europe’s leaders, as though the clearly conditional nature of the Stability and Growth Pact and its irrational criteria were not enough.

The so-called ‘economic coordination’ set out in the treaties cannot justify this trampling, whether at European or national level, of the Member States’ sovereignty, at this painful time in their economic and social development. They have gone too far in defending the interests of economic and financial groups, and this will have serious consequences for those in poverty within the European Union. This is why we are protesting here, and we are certain that the struggle of the workers and people of the European Union is going to intensify.

 
  
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  Liisa Jaakonsaari (S&D). (FI) Madam President, thank you for that speech. Only a couple of years ago, there was a doctrine of extreme liberalism in Europe, which proposed that policy only confuses the workings of the markets and that the markets decide everything.

Now we are in a situation where policy is important. Policy decides issues and it is very important that we have now made headway in financial supervision. It is very important that the distortions in budget statistics that have taken place are becoming transparent. Everything is transparent, and I think that transparency is a keyword in the reform.

What Schuman originally said is proving to be true: the European Union will develop as a result of crises. The European Union derives its credibility from tangible results, and nothing less. We are now taking these very tangible steps.

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. (FR) Madam President, I should like to thank each and every one of you for what you have said with regard to the collective outcome achieved in the area of supervision.

I should like to return to what Mrs Ferreira just said about our citizens being shaken, affected by all these financial, economic and social crises, without forgetting the food and environmental crises. I believe that we must make a point of demonstrating to our citizens that we are learning lessons from the crisis, because they are the people who elect you, and we are accountable to them. This is what we have just done with regard to supervision; we just need to communicate and explain it, which is what we have started to do. Here I am thinking about Mrs McCarthy’s report on CRD III and remuneration. I believe that, when it comes to all of the issues that have shocked, shaken and affected our citizens and elected representatives, we, Parliament, the Council and the Commission, must demonstrate that we are providing EU-level responses, and specific responses at that.

With regard to the tax on transactions, Commissioner Šemeta has completed a very important and useful task in analysing the various options and the consequences of establishing this tax if it were applied on a regional basis only. I think that this is an important task. I would say to Mr Giegold that, at the G20 in Toronto, the President of the Commission clearly took a stand, on our behalf, in favour of an equitable and substantial levy on financial services. We will confirm his position in October. You therefore do not have very long to wait, Mr Karas. I should also like to say to Mrs Figueiredo that this debate is continuing. It is no good us being right on our own. We have to convince the people of Europe and, as Mr Reynders can explain better than I, there is still a long way to go at EU-27 level, an awfully long way to go. Then, the other regions of the world will also need to be convinced.

I, like Mrs Wortmann-Kool, Mrs Swinburne and Mrs Ford, believe that, if this tax is to be truly effective, it must be established on as broad a base as possible. This is why we have to convince the other regions of the world.

While I am talking about the world, I should like to say a word about global governance. I can confirm to Mr Skinner that we are going to prepare this comparative table. Furthermore, once this exercise has been completed for the US and the EU, I think it should be extended to the other regions of the world, which I have just mentioned: China, India, Brazil, and Africa as well, which has a contribution to make and is very much affected. I shall therefore make sure I use all the information referred to by Mr Skinner. With regard to governance, which Mrs Podimata and Mr Martin, too, mentioned, we do not yet have the same methods or the same legislation because our economies are very different. Mr Martin quoted Volcker’s famous ‘too big to fail’ strategy. Our analysis in Europe is different: for every bank, irrespective of its size and range of activities, there must be good external and internal supervision and good governance, and the diversity of its activities should not necessarily be curtailed.

Parliament clearly plays an essential role with regard to supervision. Mrs Goulard mentioned the work done at your behest to improve the credibility of the agencies. Mr Nitras referred to the key role of the European Central Bank, whose President is going to become the first chair of the Systemic Risk Board, with the task of ensuring that that institution is credible. Mr Karas also mentioned that, thanks to you and to the original and exceptional decision you all took in July to postpone your first-reading vote until autumn, we have had the time to convince and make progress with the Council. I have not forgotten all that and I should like to thank you again.

I should like to finish by mentioning, as Mrs Auconie said, that we need ‘more Europe’. Please allow me to express my conviction, ladies and gentlemen, that we must regulate. We must supervise and learn lessons from the crisis. We must improve public finances, because today’s debts are the taxes of future generations. We must have governance. I am going to finish with a few words on this issue.

Governance is not enough. We must also support an economic project. This is what President Barroso wished to say to you very forcefully yesterday, and what we are going to pursue. It is also the context in which you will have to interpret the proposals we make in the autumn, through the Single Market Act, to improve the functioning of the internal market and to guarantee the 1% or 2% growth which Europe could achieve if the internal market operated better.

I shall conclude with economic coordination, which many of you have mentioned. I should like to remind you that at the end of this month, Commissioner Rehn and President Barroso will be submitting some fairly strong proposals for action in the area of governance. With regard to the European Semester, mentioned by Mr Portas, Mr Giegold, Mr Karas, Mr Sánchez Presedo, Mr Cutaş and Mrs Auconie, you clearly have the political will to support this new method of coordination, of radar screens, of real-time snapshots, of proactive action towards governments while respecting, Madam President, the prerogatives and the sovereignty of national parliaments.

I believe that this is very important. I was a member of the French Parliament and a senator for 20 years. I would have been very happy if, when I voted on my country’s budget, I had been given an independent and objective overview of what was happening in other countries, how they were achieving – sometimes alone and using different methods – the same jointly agreed objectives and disciplines.

I should therefore like you to know that, as far as all these coordination and governance issues are concerned, the Commission does have the political will and that Commissioner Rehn’s door is always open.

 
  
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  Didier Reynders, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I should first like to thank you and to thank all the speakers who have expressed their approval of the agreement on financial supervision. As many people have said, this has been a joint effort by Parliament – particularly by its rapporteurs – the Commission and the Council.

As I said a moment ago, we are at the start of a process and, in order to demonstrate that this supervision really represents added value and perhaps the first lesson learned from the financial crisis, we must first make sure that the individuals who will be in charge of this supervision are chosen as objectively as possible – and I believe that the procedures adopted are along these lines – and then, if we want, as many people in this Chamber have requested, to move towards supervision that is increasingly European in scope, we must demonstrate the effectiveness of that supervision in the various areas. We will be able to progress even further simply by demonstrating the effectiveness of European-level supervision. I repeat, however: establishing this new architecture is probably the first and most important lesson learned from the financial crisis. It is now up to us to make it work as well as possible and to strengthen, I repeat, step by step, the truly European character of this new supervision.

The second comment I wish to make – Mr Gauzès alluded to it a moment ago – is that, this afternoon, we will once again be working in a trialogue; we will be discussing investment funds further. I believe that everyone needs to take action and agree to the same process which we have just successfully carried out in the area of financial supervision. It is true that there are still some hold-ups within the Council, and debates are taking place within your Chamber on certain aspects relating to the changes to investment funds, but this is an issue on which progress must be made.

I believe that, together with Commissioner Barnier, we really want to set a tight deadline for the entry into force of new texts. With regard to investment funds – we will try to make progress starting from this afternoon – we must adopt the same approach and try to establish a framework that is a European framework and which actually protects citizens and consumers with regard to certain products and activities that are developed in Europe.

I should just like to say that, in order to assess how the work is progressing in the area of regulation and supervision, Commissioner Barnier has announced the intention, during the informal ECOFIN Council meeting, to compare, in a way, what is happening on both sides of the Atlantic. I should like to confirm to you that I intend to invite the chair of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, during this informal ECOFIN meeting, to address this issue and to debate the progress of the work, which involves not only the Council and the Commission but also Parliament. At the end of this month, we will therefore have an opportunity to discuss this issue with Parliament also. It is important to acknowledge the changes that we too are making, on this side of the Atlantic.

The third element I wish to discuss is the taxation of financial transactions – since I do not want to examine the resolution funds again; Commissioner Barnier will, as he has announced, present some specific proposals over the next few weeks. With regard to the taxation of financial transactions, it was almost 10 years ago that I tried, during the previous Belgian Presidency of the Council, to simply raise the issue for debate. We were unable to debate it. There was virtual unanimity amongst the Belgians on this issue. It was the only issue on which unanimity was obtained. This time, the debate has really taken off. I am aware that a number of forceful requests have been made for concrete proposals to be presented on rates, the tax base and the use of receipts. We should perhaps first allow ideas to evolve in a few Member States so that we can really start a debate on practical arrangements.

What we are not going to do, as part of our preparations for the G20, is to refer this issue back to the G20. Rather, we are going to try and identify a number of partners – and they do exist – with which we can move in the same direction. However, I would stress that this debate is going to be actively pursued. It has already been developed at this ECOFIN. We will resume it at the end of the month at the informal ECOFIN meeting, and I should really like us to be able to make progress, including on the allocation of resources.

Let us make no mistake: the aim is not to solve crises through the use of this tax. The aim is perhaps, as many have indicated, to combat speculation. It is also to release funds, and we are already using them three or four times over: firstly, to fight climate change, secondly, for development aid, and thirdly, to fill the holes in the budgets. This debate will not be easy, and I acknowledge that we are a long way from reaching an agreement on this issue.

I should like to finish, Madam President, with budgetary consolidation. Let us make no mistake: the European Semester is just one stage. There will be others, and we will be discussing sanctions. The policy just adopted entails debating these mechanisms for the Member States of the euro area to begin with, perhaps, and then seeing how we can extend them, in accordance with the current provisions in the treaties, to Member States that are not in the euro area.

Of course, the idea is to move towards macro-economic convergence and budget consolidation, but I should like to remind you that the pact which binds us in budgetary matters is a Stability and Growth Pact, and that the debate on growth, employment and the social and environmental policies to be conducted in Europe will not be overlooked either.

This entire budgetary debate is not simply a debate about restoring equilibrium in our various States. It is about seeing which aspect of our budgets will enable us to move not only towards equilibrium but also towards growth, job creation, the development of social policies and active participation – and I stress the word ‘active’ – in the fight against climate change.

We are going to try and do all this. The Belgian Presidency is obviously ready to make progress on these various issues and, as I said just now, we will be doing that once again this afternoon with regard to investment funds.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  António Fernando Correia De Campos (S&D), in writing. – (PT) Yesterday, the Ecofin Council made two correct decisions which correspond to views that the majority in Parliament have held for months. The first decision was on the macro-prudential supervision of the financial system, under the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB), along with the micro-prudential supervision of banks, insurers and pension funds, and control of real estate values. The second decision was on the ‘European Semester’ as a coordination process for European economic policy. As well as ex-ante analysis of the comparative budgetary development of the Member States, the European Semester should be seen not as an invasion of national budgetary autonomy but as a way of discussing a broader view of the economy. It does this not only from a financial point of view, but especially by encompassing employment and social inclusion policy. We share this broader vision, and would like to see it developed in the next stages of economic governance.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE), in writing. (DE) The new regulations for the internal financial market are to be welcomed because they mean improvements and greater security for the investor. The financial markets have been working across international borders for decades, which is why the financial authorities must finally start to operate on a cross-border basis themselves. However, the implementation of these resolutions requires that national authorities give up some of their competences and de facto transfer these to the Community institutions. However, this is one of the key conditions for creating a fully functioning internal market.

 
  
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  Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL), in writing.(EL) The debate on the statements by the President of the Commission and the Council on the ECOFIN decisions proves that the entire political face of capital is reflected in the strategic choice of the monopolies to shift the burden of the capitalist crisis on to the working and grassroots classes. Injections of artificial optimism are contradicted by the Commission’s own figures, which show the capitalist recovery to be feeble, unstable and uncertain. That is why the brutal anti-grassroots attack is being stepped up with additional means and mechanisms: so-called ‘enhanced economic governance’, the ‘European Semester’ for stricter compliance by the Member States with the Stability Pact, faster and more effective promotion of the anti-grassroots EU 2020 strategy, changes to the EU budget and close monitoring of the Member States’ budgets to ensure the uniform application of drastic cuts in social spending. Nonsense about creating European authorities to supposedly control credit and tax banks and stock exchange trades are fireworks to mislead the grassroots movement and increasing grassroots resistance. The plans prove once again that the anti-labour war which has been unleashed in Greece by the PASOK Government and the EU and other parties of capital is not specific to Greece; it is the strategic choice of capital for the whole of the EU.

 

4. Protection of animals used for scientific purposes (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the recommendation for second reading by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (06106/1/2010 – C7-0147/2010 – 2008/0211(COD)) (Rapporteur: Mrs Jeggle) (A7-0230/2010).

 
  
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  Elisabeth Jeggle, rapporteur.(DE) Madam President, Mr Dalli, ladies and gentlemen, after almost two years of intensive discussions, we have come to an agreement with the Council and the Commission on a directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. We have achieved a noteworthy balance between the interests of animal welfare and those of research.

For this reason, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone involved for their excellent cooperation in this area. I would also like to thank our former colleague, Neil Parish, who was able to establish a good starting position for Parliament during the first reading in May of last year. I would like to thank all the shadow rapporteurs and the representatives of the Commission and of the Swedish and Spanish Presidencies. Not least, I also want to thank the staff of the political groups and of the committee secretariat. We have all done everything in our power to achieve this compromise.

Compared with the existing directive, which dates back to 1986, this new animal experiments directive represents a quantum leap in animal welfare. Medical research using animals will still be possible if there are no alternatives, but it will be subject to very strict regulations. The principles behind the new directive are to replace and reduce animal testing and to refine animal welfare. The directive lays down comprehensive protection regulations and control criteria for the purpose of improving welfare. By introducing the obligation to carry out an ethical evaluation, which includes a harm-benefit analysis, and the authorisation process for projects, and by standardising and guaranteeing the competence of the people who work with animals, we are putting in place new and fundamental cornerstones.

Experiments in which animals are used may not be carried out without advance authorisation. This includes an assessment of the project on the basis of ethical considerations. Detailed evaluations must be carried out to determine whether a specific animal experiment is needed, whether it can be replaced by an alternative procedure and whether all the animal welfare requirements concerning the severity of the test have been taken into consideration. Wherever possible, researchers must avoid causing distress, suffering and pain to animals.

In addition, at the insistence of the delegation from Parliament, we have been successful in calling for a very strict control and inspection system. The competent authority will adjust the frequency of the inspections, which include unannounced on-site checks, to match the expected level of risk. I am certain that we have managed to find a balance between high levels of animal welfare and the possibility of continuing to carry out research in Europe. This balance takes into account the requirements of research in relation to human dignity and health, does not ignore the legitimate interests of sick people, and introduces a quantum improvement in animal welfare, compared with the standard set in 1986.

In the trialogue negotiations, we reached a compromise which was accepted on 3 June 2010. Ladies and gentlemen, I would ask you to support this compromise and to reject all the proposed amendments.

 
  
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  John Dalli, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, firstly, I would like to express Commissioner Potočnik’s disappointment at not being able to be here today. He is presently in Ghent, participating at the informal ministerial meeting on the EU position for the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is to take place this October in Nagoya.

I wish to thank Parliament and, in particular, the rapporteurs, Ms Elisabeth Jeggle and former MEP, Mr Neil Parish, the shadows and all those who have worked equally hard in the preparation of this very important piece of legislation. I am delighted to be able to note the excellent collaboration between Parliament, the Council and the Commission.

The negotiation between the institutions and the consultations before and during the codecision procedure proved to be challenging, as the diverse and often sharply divergent views and needs of Member States, industry, academia and animal welfare advocates had to be taken into account and reflected as far as possible in the text. I believe that the result constitutes a fair and workable piece of legislation which successfully strikes a balance between promoting European research and competitiveness and also ensuring that full regard is paid to animal welfare.

The revision was much needed as it was vital to significantly improve conditions for experimental animals, clarify the legal obligations and ensure a level playing field within the EU. Once the new legislation is implemented, the European Union will be able to lay claim to having the highest standards of experimental animal welfare in the world, lifting the bar throughout the 27 Member States of the European Union in a manner that will not compromise, but foster, the competitiveness of our research and industry.

We consider that the text put to your vote today retains all the key elements of the Commission’s original proposal. I therefore believe that if your vote is positive, then the Commission’s ambitious objectives for this revision will have been achieved.

 
  
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  Herbert Dorfmann, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, all animals need our protection, regardless of whether they are used in animal experiments or for agricultural purposes, are kept as pets or live in the wild.

However, as far as my value system is concerned, an animal is an animal and a person is a person. There is a clear hierarchy of values. For example, over the last few days, we have discussed the fact that it would now apparently be possible to carry out experiments on animals without anaesthetising them first. It is true to say that you can take a blood sample from an animal without sedating it. However, the same applies to people. I do not believe that any of us has ever been sedated before giving a blood sample. The advances made in the field of medicine are of great benefit to mankind and, therefore, animal experiments are unfortunately necessary. In the case of many illnesses, some of which occur very seldom, we are longing for progress to be made in the fields of medicine, science and research. Animal experiments will continue to be needed in these areas.

I am in favour of animal experiments not being used when other equivalent methods are available. The proposal that we have in front of us guarantees this, with one exception, which is that neither people nor human reproductive cells should be used in these alternative methods.

We have reached a good compromise which provides protection for research, for Europe as a research location and, above all, for animals. We should vote in favour of this compromise today to ensure that there is greater protection for animals and for valuable research in Europe.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D). (RO) I would like to begin by thanking both Mrs Jeggle and our other fellow Members, the shadow rapporteurs, for the good cooperation we have enjoyed during the negotiations conducted with the Council in order to reach this compromise.

Approximately 12 million animals are used in scientific experiments every year in the European Union. The need to provide them with better protection has been frequently raised as an issue by the general public.

If it were possible, we would all like to stop animal testing. However, we still need to use them to protect the health of humans and animals, and the environment.

The new provisions added to this directive include the obligation for much more frequent inspections than in the past, without the need to give any prior notice for a large number of them. Prior authorisation is also required for procedures using animals, especially non-human primates.

In fact, a limit has been set on the suffering which an animal involved in scientific procedures can be subjected to and a restriction has been proposed on the use of non-human primates. This means that they can now only be used in procedures aimed at avoiding, preventing, diagnosing and treating illnesses which are potentially fatal to man.

I am pleased that the final text retained the obligation to carry out a regular review of the directive, taking into account the scientific advances made. I wish to emphasise the importance of promoting alternative methods to animal testing, specified in this draft directive.

We are all aware that the current legislative proposal has been on the cards for a very long time. I believe that, following the negotiations conducted with the Council during the Swedish and Spanish Presidencies, we have achieved a balanced common position which meets both the need to protect animals used in scientific procedures and the needs of the scientific community.

 
  
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  Marit Paulsen, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (SV) Madam President, I shall try to give you a little of the historical background. Firstly, I would like to thank Mrs Jeggle for her exceptional leadership in this very difficult matter.

We took over the work on a matter in which, to put it briefly, the Commission’s proposal could almost be described as extremely animal friendly and Parliament’s first reading could, to the same extent, be described as extremely industry friendly. Over recent years, with excellent support from the Swedish and Spanish Presidencies, Parliament, under the leadership of Mrs Jeggle, the Commission, the Council, our party groups and the committee officials, have worked our way through it, bit by bit, word by word, to what is now a reasonably balanced directive.

If it is, first and foremost, the animals that we want to protect, then personally I would like to direct attention to the structures that we are currently constructing for the animals that we are eating. In this regard, we have an enormous amount of work to do. As things stand, these animals have a poorer level of protection than animals used in experiments. Look at the long transport routes to slaughter in Europe. Do you not see them when you are on the motorway?

I have been involved with difficult reports and in difficult negotiations before, but I have never actually seen Parliament shift its opinions and decisions according to the position of the particular lobby groups present. I would not have expected that of this Parliament.

 
  
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  Jill Evans, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Madam President, I would also like to thank Mrs Jeggle for her hard work on this report. There are significant improvements in the compromise text, particularly on inspections, on the new authorisation process for experiments and on a proper classification system, which we welcome. However, we have been waiting several years for the update of this law, and my group still has three major areas of concern, which is why we submitted the amendments.

We believe Member States should keep the right to introduce stricter rules on animal protection, as they have at the moment and as we agreed at first reading. We believe that alternatives to animals must be used wherever that is possible. The current wording limits the mandatory alternative requirement to a minority of tests carried out, which weakens existing laws and, again, is not what we voted for in the first reading.

On non-human primates, we believe that, without the word ‘substantial’ to define it, a debilitating condition could be interpreted as almost any human ailment rather than as a serious reduction in human health, which is what the intention is here.

We know from experience with legislation in this field that implementation and enforcement are key to achieving effective legislation, and these issues are crucial ones. With the aim of achieving clarity through further discussion, my group will be calling for a referral back to committee.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski, on behalf of the ECR Group.(PL) Madam President, I am pleased that this directive has come into being. I would like to congratulate Mrs Jeggle, because the work needed to achieve this compromise was very difficult. It is good that the European Union is regulating another important area concerning the treatment of animals and that we are adopting solutions which are intended to prevent cruelty towards them. In the previous system of essential experiments conducted on animals, there was much cruelty. This can be reduced, and this directive moves in this direction. Cruelty to animals harms animals and causes their suffering, but most of all, it strikes at man. It is an affront to human dignity. Those who are cruel to animals act against their own humanity and their own dignity. It is good that the resolution adopted by Parliament today is a step in this direction. It does contain one provision about which I have some reservations, but I will talk about this in my statement after the vote.

 
  
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  Marisa Matias, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) Madam President, Europe has an obligation to promote the protection of animals, but what is under discussion here goes far beyond this premise and poses us some difficult questions. No belief should be viewed as having an absolute value in itself. We are, however, in the midst of choices and contradictions, and these can only be resolved by balanced legislation.

On a scale of values, should animal well-being be ranked below the value of human health or not? What is the actual European research strategy where human health and basic research are at stake, for example? How can we prevent the abolition of European medical research, as this could ultimately lead to its destruction?

By eliminating these issues, we might salve our European conscience, but we are transferring research into medicine, for example, to other countries where there may be no monitoring of animal welfare. We must have the ability to develop and promote alternative methods for using animals for scientific purposes, but there remains much to discuss, and I very much hope this matter will be examined more closely.

 
  
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  Giancarlo Scottà, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, it is both important and necessary to achieve a balance between the need to advance scientific research and the need to protect animal welfare.

Protection for animals used in scientific procedures is currently inadequate. New scientific knowledge means that alternatives can be promoted to replace or reduce the use of animals. Methods or procedures must be used that cause as little pain and suffering as possible, but without impeding scientific research designed to fight diseases.

It is therefore right to review Europe’s animal protection legislation in order to achieve satisfactory results that both meet the demands of the research industry, given the need to pursue scientific research that benefits human health, and, at the same time, look after the welfare of those animals still needed for scientific purposes.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Stavros LAMBRINIDIS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Mike Nattrass (NI). – Mr President, the Commission proposed this directive in 2008 and there were concerns about placing excessive burdens on the scientific research industry. The proposal will dilute certain restrictions and I note that the requirement for sharing animal research data has been removed.

Some 12 million animals are being used in experiments in the EU each year and this proposal could increase their suffering. We must reduce the need for experimentation on animals.

Civilised human beings will try to strike a balance between the need for research and the obligation to respect the lives of other creatures on this planet. These decisions require the wisdom of Solomon. I regret, I have to say, I have to ask the question: does the EU Parliament have such wisdom?

 
  
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  Martin Kastler (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are taking a new and important step forward in the field of animal welfare by providing more protection for animals used in scientific research.

We have heard a great deal about animal welfare. We have also heard that Europe is an important location for industrial research and innovation. However, there is one issue which we have not talked about enough. This concerns a fundamental value of the European Union, namely human dignity, and the question of how we handle it. I believe that we must not, on the one hand, improve animal welfare and, on the other, expose ourselves to risks in an area which, at least in part, runs counter to our European values.

Why am I saying this? The European Commission has referred to alternative methods in its documents. These include five methods relating to research into and use of embryonic stem cells and, in particular, human stem cells. In my opinion, this is immoral. It is something which I cannot ignore when it comes to voting today on the proposed compromise between Parliament, the Council and the Commission. Therefore, I would like to call on you and, in particular, on the Council, the Member States and the Commission, in the form of the so-called Regulatory Committee, to take a highly sensitive approach. When we show concern for human dignity, this does not mean that we are opposed to animal welfare. On the contrary, we want both of these things. We want to cooperate to protect the dignity of living creatures, whether they are animals or humans, in a way that corresponds to our European concept of dignity, so that we can work together to defend and support it.

One of Europe’s trademarks is that we are prepared to fight for human freedom and dignity. For this reason, I will not be able to take part in today’s vote, because in moral terms, it is not possible for me to do one thing and ignore another. Discussing this subject today was the right thing to do, but the third dimension of human dignity has come off rather badly.

 
  
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  Paolo De Castro (S&D).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, after a year and a half of difficult negotiations between Parliament, the Council and the Commission, we have at last arrived at a compromise text in the sensitive dossier on animal experimentation. It has been difficult work and I should like to thank our rapporteur, Mrs Jeggle, and our shadow rapporteurs, for having carried out such intense negotiations.

The text was adopted unopposed, with only 4 abstentions, by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, which it is my honour to chair. It achieves a good balance between the need to improve the welfare of animals used in experiments and the need to allow for progress in medical research. The proposal aims to examine and improve the 1986 directive, which is now obsolete, and harmonise European regulations on the subject.

Animal experimentation is a particularly sensitive topic for all of us as well as for the general public, but I can say with conviction, ladies and gentlemen, that the text on which we are about to vote is reasonable and the outcome of serious, meticulous work. It is a definite improvement on the existing legislation in terms of animal protection while, at the same time, it does not lose sight of our moral responsibility to advance medical research.

 
  
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  George Lyon (ALDE). – Mr President, there are clearly strong views on both sides of this argument. The argument is quite clear. It is about those who believe that the rights of animals should take precedence and those of us who believe in the rights of society to see progress in the development of medicines, treatments and cures for the infirm, the ill and those who are suffering. We need to get that balance right. Yes, we need to protect animals, but we need to make sure that our scientists have the tools to be able to develop the new medicines that will provide cures in the future for some of the most desperate diseases that we face as a society.

I think that in this argument, the text in front of us gets the balance right between these two points of view. I believe that the protection of animals and the rights of society are dealt with properly, and we have the balance right here in the text before us. I would like to pay tribute to Mrs Jeggle and all the shadow rapporteurs for the work they have done.

I would ask at this late stage in the day for the Greens to think twice about the amendments they are putting forward. This has already been covered in the debate. We have had a negotiation. I believe the text actually takes their concerns into account and deals with them. This is a subject that is too important to play politics with and I would ask, at this late stage, that they think about withdrawing before we get to the vote.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE).(SV) Mr President, the fight on behalf of animals goes hand in hand with the fight for better research. Anyone who defends animal experiments weakens research. There is a tradition, a false belief in the effectiveness of animal experiments. More and more medicines involve human-specific reactions and, for this, animal experiments are completely worthless. The alternatives, however, are effective, as well as quicker and cheaper. The amendments tabled by the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance aim to help the animals and research, so I recommend that you vote for them instead.

Moreover, there is a loophole that allows the use of monkeys. We should close this loophole with the amendments proposed by the Greens. Monkeys can only be accepted in the worst case scenario for serious human disease symptoms – there are no loopholes there.

Finally, countries must have an opportunity to lead the way when it comes to protecting animals and testing new methods. Only then can Europe become a world leader in this area with regard to animal protection and medical research.

 
  
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  John Stuart Agnew (EFD). – Mr President, as a farmer, I have always wanted to see animals properly treated and it is my belief that in the UK they are, at least by our scientific community.

I have visited Huntingdon Life Sciences in my constituency and I know that dedicated people are doing only what is necessary for scientific progress. This institution carries out essential tests on drugs that, in a few years’ time, may protect the life of somebody in this Chamber. Every employee there has an obligation to be a whistleblower if they have evidence of the maltreatment of animals.

We cannot and must not impose unnecessary controls which arbitrarily restrict certain approaches. These three amendments will not enhance animal welfare, but their imposition will impede research. They are, inter alia, a recipe for legalistic conflict which does nothing to advance medicine but may line lawyers’ pockets.

Frankly, the EU needs to apply rather more the concept of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’. In the UK, we have a sensible regime, a responsible scientific community – including, in my own constituency, that powerhouse of global scientific progress, Cambridge University – and balanced laws which sensibly address the needs of both science and animal welfare. That careful balance needs to be preserved. My message to the EU on this is straightforward: just for once, leave well alone.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). – Mr President, the directive that we are discussing aims to limit animal tests and improve the conditions of animals used for research.

In Europe, we already have the highest animal welfare standards in the world and this directive will raise those standards even further. That is very commendable. Nonetheless, we must bear in mind that human beings and their prosperity mean more than the well-being of animals, and that there is a fundamental difference in dignity between animals and human beings.

I appreciate the balance between stricter rules on animal welfare and the use of animals, while still allowing research under strict conditions. I support the ‘three Rs’ principle: replace animal tests whenever possible with other methods; reduce the number of animals used to a minimum; and refine standards for breeding, accommodation and care.

Animal tests will only be allowed when no alternative method is available. At the same time, medical research will still be possible. That will provide a balance between the ethical necessity of the reduction of animal testing and the requirements of modern medical research.

Here, I would like to strongly oppose alternative methods to animal testing that might include tests based on the use of human embryonic stem cells. I am concerned about those Member States whose domestic laws do not explicitly exclude from compulsory alternative testing those methods which involve the use of human embryos. When this directive comes into force, Member States might be obliged to ensure that these alternative methods are applied, whether or not they are based on stem cells from embryos.

I will therefore abstain in the final vote, and call on Member States to provide for alternatives other than those involving the destruction of human life.

 
  
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  Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos (S&D).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would also like to begin by congratulating Mrs Jeggle on the excellent work that she has done on behalf of Parliament and the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, in conjunction with the Commission and the Council. Following a year and a half of successive negotiations under the Swedish, Spanish and Belgian Presidencies, it was possible to reach a balanced compromise between the demands of the scientific community and what we might call ‘animal welfare’ in these circumstances.

The majority required to achieve this result was reached during a very emotional and intense debate in which all parties made concessions. There was also broad involvement from the public, as is to be expected in a matter as sensitive as this. Yet policy makers must make decisions, and while we should not be devoid of sensitivity towards animal suffering, we must make choices and rank values. The position represented by Mrs Jeggle today centres upon of a ranking of values that seems well balanced between the benefits for human health and the suffering of animals. The Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament will therefore vote in favour of the report and reject any amendments.

 
  
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  Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to and respect for Mrs Jeggle, who has been working on this report for years. However, Mrs Jeggle, there is one thing that I must say. As Europeans, we cannot take pride in this report. It is too vague and it permits too many things which a country or a continent that plays a leading role in animal welfare throughout the world should not allow.

I foresee a worsening of the situation, in particular, as far as the reuse of experimental animals is concerned. Previously, this was more difficult, but I believe that the regulations have now been watered down. You are shaking your head, but it is true that when you look at this carefully, the small print and the nuances in the wording are the things that make the difference. The severity of the tests is also an area where, in many Member States, things are likely to get worse. Some Member States, such as Germany, the United Kingdom and Sweden, had already gone further than this. We have introduced a pain threshold and the Council has watered it down by permitting exceptions. In addition, the power of the Commission has been reduced with regard to inspections.

Nevertheless, I will be voting in favour of this report, Mrs Jeggle, because it represents an improvement on the 1986 directive, which is now 24 years old. The authorisation mechanisms are in place. A licence is needed in advance for three stages of testing, which is a good thing. The procedures have been simplified, which is also a positive step. Personally, I am proud of the fact that we have been able to rescue the subject of alternative test methods from the last parliamentary term. However, we will need to provide more funding for this.

This directive will have to be revised within the next seven years. It represents quite a good foundation, but in seven years, we will need to improve it so that we can live up to our reputation here in Europe for having the highest levels of animal welfare in the world.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE).(PT) Mr President, the report being presented in this Chamber today comes from our fellow Member, Mrs Jeggle. It is aimed at finalising a process that has been as long as it has complicated, and has only been possible through hard work and skilled dialogue, and so we would like to thank her for it.

Whenever the matter under consideration involves not only multiple interests but also moral values, it triggers not only solid, rational arguments but also an emotional response. This does not help to achieve the consensus that we are hoping for here, in order to serve the European public while respecting the views of the various political groups and Member States. This would allow us to contribute to European integration through the preparation and presentation of common standards. It is precisely this hoped-for standardisation of criteria that is at issue in this report, in an approach that assumes a higher level of protection for animal life.

This has meant that over the two years following the decision to revise Council Directive 86/609/EEC on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, and acknowledging the disparities between Member States in this regard, there has been an attempt to establish more detailed rules on this matter, with the aim of reducing procedural disparities. In doing so, it was important to balance a greater level of protection for animals used for scientific purposes with the need to safeguard the necessary conditions for biomedical research, which allow it to develop within the European Union. This balance has been achieved in the text which we are to vote upon shortly.

This will benefit the animals under our protection, and it fulfils our human responsibilities towards animals without compromising the quality and progress of biomedical research which helps us all, every day.

 
  
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  Ulrike Rodust (S&D). (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we should vote in favour of this report on the animal experiments directive. In its negotiations with the Commission and the Council, Parliament has achieved a great deal: namely replacement, reduction and refinement.

It is true that from an animal welfare perspective, we are still doing too little. However, the Council was not prepared to do more and has made it clear that there would be no new directive if we did not accept these results. This does not mean that we cannot continue to make progress in this area in future. Animal welfare and research must be given high priority in our policies. I would be very happy if we were able to stop animal experiments completely today. Unfortunately, we are a long way from achieving this goal and, therefore, we must ensure that we provide animals with as much protection as possible.

The compromise that has been negotiated offers a far better foundation for doing this. The only important thing is to make sure that all the Member States implement the new directive consistently. I would like to thank the rapporteur and all the shadow rapporteurs warmly for their hard work.

 
  
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  Cristiana Muscardini (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the rapporteur and those who have worked with her have certainly done a difficult job, for which we thank them.

Personally, however, I cannot hide the fact that along with several members of the Italian Government, which I support, I am puzzled about an issue that, even after 24 years, still does not appear to have been sorted out as we would have liked it to be.

Some Members have pointed out that animal sensitivities are different to those of human beings. Indeed, no animal would ever do what is happening, what has already happened and what is yet to happen in Iran. In general, animals do not torture, stone to death or tell those lies that are so typical of our own political world.

We must rightly call for these animals to be useful to us in advancing scientific research and improving human health, but we do not have the right to call for them to continue to be subject to useless, repetitive experiments that only serve to line the pockets of some so-called researcher.

We are very well aware that in vitro experiments or computer simulations of human metabolism make it possible to achieve more accurate results today than can be achieved by animal experiments, because the results of an experiment often cannot be extrapolated from one species to another, either between animals or from an animal to human beings.

For these reasons, we hope that this directive will be revised to be more in tune with current trends and mutual respect.

 
  
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  Elisabetta Gardini (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank the rapporteur and the shadow rapporteurs for the result they have achieved. I think we have obtained the best possible compromise between the needs of research and ensuring the welfare of animals used for scientific purposes.

Unfortunately, animal-based research is still essential since no alternatives exist. Computer simulations and cell cultures are not enough, and it is not politicians that say this, but researchers. I should like to remind the House that cures for some very serious diseases have been developed precisely because of tests carried out on live animals. Ninety-eight per cent of these animals are rodents, which means that larger species are used only to a very minor extent. I must also point out that it is thanks to these tests that today we have cures for leukaemia, diabetes and some kinds of tumour. Lastly, I would point out that researchers are the first to want to avoid unnecessary suffering, and I think one just has to see them at work to realise that.

It is true that there are still some sections that cause concern. I should like to refer to one that has not yet been mentioned: in Article 49, all reference to ethics committees has disappeared and has been replaced with the more generic national committees for the protection of animals. That has rung some alarm bells among those working in the area, because ethics committees already exist in many laboratories and others are being set up. There is a fear, therefore, that these committees may somehow have their role diminished, and they may even be replaced by more general committees that are less well prepared both ethically and scientifically.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE).(RO) I would first like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Jeggle, on the fine job she has done. I also support my fellow Members who have spoken today against the three amendments to the common position.

This is not a perfect compromise, although it is the best possible wording at the moment.

The content of the draft has been produced after consulting with eminent scientists who know what they need to be able to continue their research.

Any amendment to the compromise will lead to a resumption of the usual procedure, which, in my view, is not in anyone’s interest. This is why I am calling on all fellow Members taking part in today’s vote to reject the three amendments and allow European research to perform at its best.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I call on the Council and the Commission to guarantee the ban on the use of embryonic or adult cells from human beings to protect animals.

The current situation in fact allows for human material to be used to protect animals during necessary experimentation. We always talk about compromise, and the result of this culture of compromise is that we no longer know what is ethically acceptable and what is not. However, there are some ethical issues for which no compromise is possible. If the Commission and the Council cannot guarantee this ban, it will be factual evidence of how the EU treats human beings.

I am sorry, but without this guarantee, I cannot support the text of the proposed directive.

 
  
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  Karin Kadenbach (S&D).(DE) Mr President, Mr Dalli, we are very much agreed that we need to provide the best healthcare for the citizens of Europe. This includes reliable medicines with as few side effects as possible and the latest modern treatment methods. Unfortunately, given the current state of scientific progress, we cannot do this without animal experiments.

Therefore, I see this report as a highly successful attempt to bring about a balance between animal welfare and human healthcare provision. The three Rs, replacement, reduction and refinement, are the basic requirements for actually achieving this, given that we have spoken so often today about human dignity, which for me also includes respect for animals.

We need advance authorisation, strict controls and effective inspection systems. Legislation on its own is not enough. We must remain vigilant and ensure that the contents of the reports are actually put into practice.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, I think that we are all agreed on this issue: in an ideal world, there would be no need for research on animals. However, the reality is that we live in a suffering world, one in which sick men, women and children are waiting for treatment and hence for the results of this research, which is vital and crucial. This is why we must support the excellent compromise reached by Mrs Jeggle, from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Council.

As has been stated, the agreement minimises animal suffering but does not restrict this research, which is vital for millions of patients in Europe and throughout the world. Did you know that 70% of the Nobel Prizes in Medicine have been won for work based on animal experimentation?

This text does not ask us to choose between mice and men; this directive protects both patients and animals. This directive protects our future.

 
  
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  Martin Häusling (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, these regulations are better than those which we had previously. I think we all agree on that. However, I think it is very rash of you, Mrs Jeggle, to say that there is no alternative to the compromise. I think we could have got more out of the situation.

Of course, it is true that the research lobby exerted a great deal of pressure. We were all aware of that. However, have we achieved our main objective, which is a reduction in the number of animal experiments? There is still a big question mark over this. The other problem is, of course, that the use of non-human primates has not actually been reduced.

We in the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance find it most disturbing, and we also believe it is a serious violation of European principles, that the Member States will not be permitted to put in place regulations which are stricter than those in the existing legislation. This situation must change. It needs serious reconsideration. That is the first point in the amendments submitted by the Greens and that is why we will not be withdrawing these amendments. We are calling for the proposal to go back to the committee.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, the development of techniques and methods which dispense with the need for experimenting on animals and which minimise the suffering inflicted on animals, in cases where this is necessary, should be an important objective of scientific research, and the experimental and technological development that it is important to stimulate. Apart from such development, the need to disseminate these techniques and methods should be taken into account, along with their uptake by research and development institutions, and national scientific and technological systems with various levels of development.

The European Union must take on an important role in this field by promoting cooperation between the scientific and technological institutions and systems in different countries, including third countries. We believe – in this field as in others, naturally – that the establishment of common minimum levels of protection in legislation should not prevent an individual Member State from adopting higher levels of protection if it so wishes.

 
  
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  Anna Rosbach (EFD). (DA) Mr President, improvement of the directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes is something I can only support. However, it is a little paradoxical, as I am in fact opposed to animal experiments. Alternative test methods do exist, and fortunately, the revision of the directive includes this area. I am very grateful for that. I hope that greater momentum is given to the development of more alternative test methods. Right here and now, however, the EU must introduce humane and secure rules for animals used in experiments. It is finally being recognised that animals are sentient beings and so we will now introduce pain limits. Why, however, are we not introducing a section prohibiting the use of the same animals again and again? Why are we not prohibiting the use of monkeys in brain research? It makes me angry that we take so much more account of the interests of interested organisations than we do of animal welfare. I also find it frustrating that we are only able to legislate for the EU in this House, because how are animal experiments dealt with outside the EU?

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE). – Mr President, I welcome the Commission’s initiative. I think it is an important achievement that we have managed to agree on the harmonisation of practices in the area of animal experimentation in the EU.

This directive marks an important step in ensuring that experiments on live animals for scientific purposes will be replaced as soon as it is scientifically feasible to do so. This directive will first oblige the Member States to promote the advancement of alternative methods. I strongly urge the Member States to ensure that adequate funding is provided for training, research, development and the implementation of scientifically satisfactory methods or testing strategies that do not entail the use of animals.

 
  
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  Paul Rübig (PPE).(DE) Mr President, as a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, I naturally welcome these regulations and the agreement that has been reached here. I know that it is always difficult to come to a compromise, but we need suitable ethical standards both for animal experiments and for human trials, and we can only implement the highest standards that are currently available.

Of course, it is also important for us to develop alternatives. The Eighth Framework Programme for Research and Technical Development must focus heavily on alternative test methods. In addition, we also need simpler procedures and this is what is laid down in these regulations. An evaluation after seven years will be of major benefit to the industry, because the safety of the processes and the clear, standardised European regulations will also bring legal certainty for the industry.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Köstinger (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I would like to state clearly that Europe has the highest animal welfare standards in the world. This report represents another important step towards improving animal welfare even further. Our joint objective is to restrict animal experiments and to improve the living conditions for animals used for research purposes. I welcome the fact that animal experiments will be replaced by other methods wherever possible and that the standards for breeding, housing and caring for these animals will be improved. However, I would like to look back to some of the experiences of the agricultural sector and to express my criticism of some of the points in the report.

We should not assume that more red tape in the field of research will improve animal welfare. Research and the related downstream economic sectors in Europe must not be put at a disadvantage internationally and when compared with other industries. It is true that both here and in the agricultural industry, when society calls for higher standards of animal welfare, we need to consider the standards which apply to imported products. The high European quality and animal welfare standards must receive adequate recognition with regard to fair competition. The rapporteur, Mrs Jeggle, has done an excellent job with this highly sensitive report and deserves our support.

 
  
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  John Dalli, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, first of all, I would like to thank you for your comments and the general support for the provisions included in this directive.

We have before us an ambitious directive that, if adopted, will significantly improve animal welfare in the EU. I agree with Ms Sârbu that full and faithful implementation will be key for the directive to fulfil its potential. That challenge is just beginning. Today, we can be satisfied that a good compromise has been reached on a difficult but important file, and that a big step forward can be made on improving the lives of animals still needed in scientific procedures.

I will now give my reactions to some of the comments that were made this morning. Regarding the comments made by Ms Evans, it has to be realised that this directive provides further legal clarity to today’s situation. In addition, in basic and applied research for which no EU methods are prescribed, Article 4 is very clear in requiring the use of alternative methods wherever possible. Therefore, the requirement to use alternative methods is not weakened; on the contrary, it is further strengthened.

As for the comments made by Mr Kastler and Mr Mikolášik about human embryonic stem cells, this matter was not disregarded in the discussions. It was discussed at length during the negotiations, and the solutions found reflect the fact that there is no consensus in the EU as to whether human embryonic stem cells should be used. The Commission therefore believes this is best regulated at national level.

The agreed text answers these concerns by leaving the decision on whether to allow their use to each individual Member State. It must be added that, in Member States where there is no explicit legislation prohibiting the use of embryonic stem cells, the use of such a testing method would only be obligatory under the revised directive if this testing method were recognised by EU legislation. No legislation of this kind exists at EU level, and any such legislation would require Member States to agree to its being passed.

As for the ethical evaluation mentioned by Ms Gardini, the concept of ethical evaluation and the committee carrying it out remain firmly in Article 38. However, the word ‘ethical’ had to be removed during the Council discussions. The full requirement remains.

I hope that, with your vote, you will send a strong signal that the European Parliament stands behind the outcome negotiated by the institutions under the skilful leadership of Ms Jeggle and the Swedish Presidency. Today, we have the chance to bring the EU to the forefront in combining a high level of animal welfare with quality science. Let us live up to our slogan: ‘The EU – caring for animals, aiming for better science’.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Jeggle, rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, Mr Dalli, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to you, Mr Dalli, for your remarks, which have clarified certain issues and which I do not need to repeat. I would also genuinely like to thank all my fellow Members for their comments.

It is clear that this is a highly sensitive subject which involves a number of different interests that we have had to bring together. I am calling on everyone to vote in favour of the report that is now in front of us, which I admit is a balancing act.

Mr Häusling, if we reject this report now, the directive from 1986 will continue to apply for a long time, which will not improve the situation of laboratory animals. We will not be able to introduce any new legislation in the near future. The amendments which you have once again submitted were rejected by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. There was no support for your amendments. You have now tabled them again. It is your right to do so and I respect that right.

What use is the highest standard of animal welfare in the European Union if we cannot implement the same standard throughout the world? The important thing for us all to do now is to ensure that the legislation which we will hopefully be adopting later today is implemented in the Member States over the next few years. That is a challenge for us. Firstly, we must make sure that all the Member States reach the same high standard in this area. That is our first task and we should not already be calling for individual Member States to implement higher standards.

Where there are already higher standards, and I am speaking here as a German about Germany, these standards will remain in place. We are not asking some states to take a step backwards. On the contrary, we respect the sovereignty of the Member States, in the same way as we do in the case of research using embryonic stem cells. This is the right thing for us to do and it is an important point.

If you really want higher standards of animal welfare, then please vote in favour of this report and reject all the amendments.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Wednesday, 8 September 2010.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Pavel Poc (S&D), in writing.(CS) I welcome and support the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes from the rapporteur Mrs Jeggle, because the compromise achieved represents progress compared to the current situation. However, I am at the same time unhappy about the fact that it was not possible to include all invertebrates within the scope of the directive in the final draft. The European Parliament requested that the scope of the directive at least include those species of invertebrates that have been scientifically shown to have the potential for registering pain, distress, fear and lasting harm. The draft does not even mention this request. Although I acknowledge the need to use animals for scientific research, I firmly believe that the directive should have gone further and included within its scope all creatures without exception. Let us not forget that our understanding is still expanding the range of creatures in respect of which official scientific bodies acknowledge the ability to feel pain, distress and fear and to suffer lasting harm. We can therefore deduce that the ability to feel fear, distress and pain is distributed throughout the animal kingdom. The acknowledgement of this fact is a matter more of morality than science. We have unfortunately demonstrated through the adopted compromise that European culture has yet to rid itself of the Cartesian concept of an animal as a thing, and that we still have a long way to go in this respect.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (ECR), in writing.(PL) In relation to the procedure for second reading, Members were not able to express their opinions on the final form of the Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (the Jeggle report). I would now like to use this opportunity to make clear my fundamental opposition to the consent given in the directive to the use of embryonic stem cells as an alternative to experiments on animals for scientific purposes. This is the outworking of an erroneous anthropology, which allows the possibility of destroying human life in the earliest phase of its development in order to improve the welfare of animals. The guarantees proposed by the European Parliament at first reading were much more explicit in this respect. The ambiguous provisions of the directive constitute a real threat to existing law in countries such as Germany, where embryos enjoy a degree of protection. The fact that these research methods have not been ruled out is an outright imposition of their legality in countries such as Poland, Ireland and Malta.

 

5. Ongoing negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the Commission statement on ongoing negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

 
  
 

Dear colleagues, I want your attention for a minute. The agenda as adopted does not provide for a catch-the-eye procedure in this debate. However, unless there are any objections, I suggest that, if the speakers on the list stick to their times and there is some time available at the end, I will open up for a short catch-the-eye session. Are there any objections to this? Very good.

 
  
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  Karel De Gucht, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, thank you for giving me, once more, the opportunity to address with you the issue of the ACTA negotiations.

In this respect, let me recall the context of these negotiations: ACTA is an agreement which will be important to safeguard the EU’s competitiveness and jobs on the world market.

Indeed, if we want to remain a competitive economy, we will have to rely on innovation, creativity and brand exclusivity. These are some of our main comparative advantages on the world market. So we need the tools to ensure that they are adequately protected in our main export markets.

And this is about issues of concern to EU citizens: not only jobs, but also consumer safety, security and health.

What we are aiming at is simply setting an international standard in IPR enforcement that is reasonable, balanced and effective, and thus goes beyond the current WTO rules on IPR: the TRIPS agreement. This is the ultimate objective, on which I am sure we all agree.

Last March, I came here to outline the key principles on which the Commission’s participation in these negotiations is based, and committed myself to enhance transparency vis-à-vis Parliament on these negotiations. As you can see from the draft texts resulting from the negotiations held since March, which we have shared with you, the Commission has kept its word and has consistently stuck to these principles. Let me recall to you these principles:

Firstly, the objective of ACTA is to address large-scale infringements of intellectual property rights which have a significant commercial impact, and it is not about checking on the content of travellers’ laptops or computers. It will not lead to limitation of civil liberties or harassment of consumers. If some of you have doubts on this, I would be very happy to hear your arguments.

Secondly, ACTA is only about enforcement of existing intellectual property rights. It will not include provisions modifying substantive intellectual property law. It should set minimum rules on how innovators can enforce their rights in courts, at the borders or over the Internet. For example, ACTA will ensure that European fashion designers, artists or automobile manufacturers can see their rights adequately safeguarded when confronted with counterfeiting of their creations outside Europe.

Thirdly, ACTA must remain in line with the EU acquis, including the current level of harmonisation of IPR enforcement, the E-Commerce Directive, the Regulatory Telecom Framework, and, last but not least, the applicable EU legislation on data protection and privacy. ACTA will not change any EU legislation through the back door. So what then, you will ask me, is the added value? The answer is that our legislation is one of the most effective, and that if other countries adopt it, it will help our innovators.

Fourthly, we will make sure that ACTA does not hamper access to generic medicines. There is now clear language in the draft text ensuring that ACTA will not serve as a basis to interfere with the trade in generic medicines.

Furthermore, ACTA will be consistent with the Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health of 2001, whilst the obligations on border controls, which is the most sensitive issue as regards access to medicines, will not apply to patents.

As regards transparency, we have kept our word to debrief the European Parliament, through dedicated sessions, after each negotiation round, and we will continue to do so. And in line with our commitments under the Framework Agreement, we have, of course, shared the draft texts with the European Parliament.

I also take this opportunity to briefly report the results of the 10th round of ACTA negotiations that took place in Washington between 16 and 20 August 2010.

On the civil, customs and penal chapters, the Parties made some progress, but there was not yet sufficient flexibility by the Parties to address some of the more delicate issues. There was also extensive work on the general and horizontal chapters (preamble, general provisions, definitions, enforcement practices, international cooperation and institutional provisions) which are almost concluded.

But regrettably, in the last two rounds, it has been made increasingly clear that a consensus including all the current ACTA parties will only be reached on the basis of the lowest common denominator, given the variety of views and practices on this issue with the various ACTA participants. This will be at the expense of the level of ambition – and effectiveness – of the agreement.

On the digital environment (Internet), which is one of the most sensitive but also the most ‘innovative’ chapters of ACTA, there was a considerable step back in the last round, with the Parties unable to agree on a common liability exemption regime for Internet service providers.

This is also the case with the very important chapter on customs measures, where several Parties oppose carrying out checks on exports and transit of infringing goods, thus failing to react against the widespread international traffic in counterfeits.

Another area where discussions are disappointing for EU interests relates to which intellectual property rights will be covered by the agreement. The EU has a wide and diversified basis of right holders. A farmer producing products with geographical indications, or a textile company creating designs, are also victims of counterfeiting and also need to be covered by better enforcement rules. The problem is that several of our partners insist that only copyright and trademarks ‘deserve’ to be included in ACTA. We strongly disagree and will continue to firmly push for these offensive EU interests to be respected.

The next round will take place in Tokyo at the end of the month (from 23 September until 1 October 2010). It seems that we are approaching the end game and the Parties are committed to resolving remaining substantive issues at the Tokyo Round.

I remain firmly convinced of the importance of tackling the systematic and widespread abuse of European intellectual property around the world, and of the essential contribution that ACTA can make towards this goal. This is why I remain committed to the success of these negotiations.

However, if, at the end of the process, the EU is faced with a treaty without much concrete added value for our right holders, or with a treaty trying to establish that there are 1st and 2nd category intellectual property rights, we should be ready to reconsider our participation in the agreement.

 
  
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  Daniel Caspary, on behalf of the PPE Group.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in 2008, 178 million articles were seized by EU customs officials. Of these, 20 million items were dangerous. A total of 54% of the counterfeit products came from China and India was the main culprit as far as medicines were concerned.

Counterfeit goods cause a great deal of damage to the European economy, but the people who buy fake products are also hard hit. I am thinking of medicines, for example. It would be a nightmare for me and for all parents if a sick child were to die after being given medicine, simply because we are not able to prevent fake products and medicines from coming onto the market. We must solve this problem.

Product piracy is a central issue for the European Union. We must protect industries and consumers throughout the world against products which can cause damage to health and result in financial losses for companies. Therefore, I welcome the negotiations on an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) as a major step in the right direction in the fight against product piracy. We know that this agreement is not the only solution to pirating, but it is the first international agreement in this area which involves some states taking up the struggle against product piracy. I would like to see as many other states as possible joining in.

Our group welcomes the positive cooperation between the Commission and Parliament since our resolution in the spring. We regret the fact that we had to go as far as adopting this resolution. However, as a result of regular reports from the Commission, we were able to gain an overview of the negotiations over recent months. I would like to congratulate the negotiators on their latest achievements. It is increasingly difficult even for the critics of ACTA to find negative points in the agreement. The issue of border control measures in the case of patent infringements and, therefore, the concern about the trade in generic medicines, have been removed. Three strikes and the searching of private luggage have been removed. The compulsory liability of Internet service providers has also been removed and the agreement seems to comply with the acquis communautaire. I think we are on the right track.

However, I would like to call on the Commission to maintain its strong position so that it can represent the interests of the European Union. I support the proposal to include patent rights, geographical designations of origin and patent infringements in the section of the agreement relating to civil law. I am very much of the opinion that Parma ham, Tiroler Almkäse and champagne deserve the same level of protection as Coca-Cola or Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Therefore, I am calling on the USA to stop blocking the publication of the documents. Publishing the documents after the New Zealand round has demonstrated how important transparency is and has enabled a great deal of the criticism of the agreement to be silenced.

I would like to ask the Commission to continue to support the publication of the negotiation documents, at the latest before the agreement is signed. I wish the Commission every success during the next round in Japan and I hope for further timely and detailed reports on the negotiations. After the negotiations have come to an end, our group will sit down in peace and quiet to evaluate the results on the basis of the final text and then decide on its position with regard to ratification. I wish the negotiators success.

 
  
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  Kader Arif, on behalf of the S&D Group.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, you have just said some reassuring things, but I still do not think that the concerns shared by a large number of Members about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) have been completely dispelled.

Back in March, I proposed a resolution, which was passed by a large majority in this Chamber, and which made it possible to publish the negotiating text. During the debate, we called for the acquis communautaire – which you have referred to – the safety and supply of generic medicines to be guaranteed and the fundamental freedoms of our fellow citizens to be respected. We also referred to geographical indications, and we did so in order to tell you our priorities, which I am going to keep on repeating to you so that the position which you will defend in a few weeks’ time in Japan is based on the parliamentary debate which we have managed to initiate.

Yesterday, during the debate on the State of the Union, many speakers quite rightly pointed out that we MEPs are the spokespeople for our fellow citizens and that, without this link, the Commission is in danger of engaging in a sterile confrontation with Parliament. I am therefore asking you, Commissioner, to consider, as a priority, that the MEPs before you are first and foremost your partners and are not here to simply contradict you.

The partnership we want is not one in which we are bound, as your services sometimes seem to want, by a vow of secrecy. Your services have just answered our questions behind closed doors. We are given the latest version of the ACTA text but we are prohibited from sending any messages when we leave these meetings or after we have read the agreement, whereas our role is to alert, explain and ensure things are understood. This is therefore my second request for you to regard the transparency of debates as an element which enriches your deliberations rather than as a breakdown of trust.

In addition to these two main issues, and because I am starting to become accustomed to this type of exercise, I am going to inform you of my concerns. First of all, there is access to medicines. This has been mentioned. You tell us that protecting access is one of your priorities, that you are doing everything possible to ensure that nothing in this agreement hinders their manufacture or free movement. At this point, however, I would ask you about patents. Why do you want to include them in this agreement? The desire to step up the legitimate fight against counterfeiting should not be a pretext for using ACTA as a means of extending the rights of patentees way beyond what is set out in the TRIPS agreement. Please do not confuse generic medicines with counterfeit medicines.

Another important point is safeguards. Texts cannot be too rigorous in ensuring a true balance between the rights of users and those of rights holders. I refer you to the various formulations contained in the TRIPS agreement.

I welcome your comments about the Internet and I have great confidence in the idea that ACTA will not serve to weaken the EU position clearly expressed in the E-Commerce Directive.

Commissioner, there are definitely other issues I should raise this morning, but the first duty I am setting myself is to ensure that, thanks to this debate, we are able to provide as much information as possible on this agreement to all our fellow citizens, and to tell you that the key element for me is the protection of their rights and their fundamental freedoms. This is why I expect you to bear in mind the points raised by Members and to defend them during the negotiations. I also call on you to honour your commitment to publish the text as soon as the negotiations have been completed, whether this is at the end of the round in Japan or at a subsequent stage.

The public debate will have to take place, for example, in this Chamber. I shall therefore ask for a resolution, and we expect you to take our point of view into account before any signing of ACTA takes place, even if this means returning to the negotiating table.

 
  
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  Niccolò Rinaldi, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, ‘acta est fabula, plaudite!’ – ‘the play is over, applaud!’ – as Roman actors used to say at the end of a performance. The play is over and perhaps we are on the eve of its conclusion, although it may not yet be time to applaud.

During this debate, we have been given important reassurances by Mr De Gucht, but we know that 64% of counterfeit goods come from China, which is not a party to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). We will therefore need to assess whether it is all worthwhile – in other words, whether we ought to sign the agreement if it does not bring any real benefits, as the Commissioner concluded. There are not many causes of concern remaining, but they are significant. A lot has been said about the Internet, and we appreciate the Commission’s efforts, but we remain vigilant.

As regards access to medicines, I repeat what has already been demanded by other Members: there can be no lumping together of counterfeit medicines on the one hand and generic medicines on the other. It is vital to allow access to medicines at competitive prices, which are crucial for patients in developing countries. The question I should like to ask is whether the Doha declaration on the TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement and public health will be included at least in the preamble of the ACTA text.

Lastly, as regards geographical indications, we find ourselves in a potentially paradoxical situation, because registered trademarks that might violate geographical indications would enjoy greater protection than the geographical indications themselves. Here, too, TRIPS provides a sounder basis in many respects, and we therefore call for vigilance and a firm stance.

 
  
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  Jan Philipp Albrecht, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Mr President, firstly I am pleased that written statement 12 on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) received the required majority of votes yesterday in Parliament. This demonstrates that the European Parliament is continuing to support the clear position which it took in its resolution in March.

Moreover, the written statement enhances one important point. We do not want the exercise of intellectual property rights to be outsourced to private companies. The rule of law and the principles of democracy require that any interference with fundamental rights, including on the Internet, comes from legitimate representatives of the state and that the high standards of our constitution, the Convention on Human Rights and the Treaty of Lisbon continue to apply.

An agreement which encourages private cartels of rights holders to arrange everything to suit their business interests, as the current ACTA draft does, must not be allowed to come into force. The EU Commission’s behaviour during the ACTA negotiations is verging on a violation of our treaties. Instead of the measures which were criticised by Parliament being removed, the wording of the draft agreement has simply been made even more vague. It looks increasingly unlikely that the acquis communautaire will be complied with.

Fortunately, the ongoing protests by the European Parliament now seem to be taking effect. However, if ACTA is to receive a majority of the votes in this House, there is still a lot to be done. This should have become clear to you by yesterday at the latest.

 
  
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  Syed Kamall, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, I would like to begin by welcoming three things that were said at the beginning: first, that there will be no new intellectual property rights; second, that there will be no changes to legislation via the back door; and, third, the increased transparency we have seen from the Commission, particularly vis-à-vis some of the other negotiating partners.

We also need to understand the difference between the digital world and the world of atoms. As Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine, once said, in a world of increased bandwidth, cheaper storage and cheaper processing power, digital products tend over time towards free or towards zero. What this means is that many of the industries which are complaining about the digital world have to understand that they must look to new business models. In particular, the phonographic industry and similar industries cannot rely on old business models.

I believe it is a different story in the world of atoms – in the world of the manufacturing of products. We need to make sure that, while the EU may not be competitive in terms of labour costs, EU countries and companies are competitive when it comes to research and design. It must be galling for companies who invest millions – sometimes billions – in new products and new designs to see those products undercut by counterfeit products elsewhere. We lead the world in the field of high-value motor cars and in products like smart phones, and we must be very careful that, after millions or billions are invested in these products, these are not simply undercut.

I welcome the statement by the Commission, but we have to understand the difference between the world of atoms and the digital world.

 
  
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  Helmut Scholz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(DE) Mr President, Mr De Gucht, ladies and gentlemen, protecting inventors and companies from having their ideas stolen is an important issue, in particular, for small and medium-sized businesses. However, I would like to ask once again whether product piracy can really be restricted by a small club of countries signing an agreement, especially as these countries are better known for inventions than for forgeries. In my opinion, these negotiations should be taking place within an international context, such as the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

In general terms, this is all about a new framework and a new commitment. Mr De Gucht, your concluding remarks today are pointing in this direction. I know that the negotiators from the Commission and the Council are aware of this dilemma. Their solution is to give companies comprehensive rights to take legal action in the potential forgers’ sales markets. They want to be able to arrest importers and, according to the draft text, even end customers at the borders, unless individual signatories to the agreement make exceptions. The text states that:

“Parties may exclude from border measures small quantities of goods of a non-commercial nature contained in travellers' personal luggage”.

(DE) They want to impose legislation in Europe that will allow a company to request that goods or software products that have been imported from a signatory to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) are impounded or even destroyed by order of the courts. This can, if necessary, happen without the other party being given a hearing. In the case of a container of fake chainsaws, this may sound like a simple procedure. However, the agreement aims to extend this process to cover areas such as software components.

Will it be possible for software giants, such as Microsoft, to hunt down and destroy their smaller competitors by means of legal proceedings? The giants of the entertainment industry have also succeeded in having their concerns included in the ACTA negotiations. Legal action will be taken not only against downloading and copying, but also against the production and distribution of technologies which, among other things, allow copy protection to be circumvented.

You have said that progress has been made and it is true that the USA has dropped its call for Internet service providers (ISPs) to be held liable. However, in the section of the agreement concerning criminal law, there is still a paragraph on aiding and abetting. In addition, ISPs will be obliged to hand over the personal data of customers who are suspected of violating copyright legislation, following a legitimate request from a company. We have discovered in this House during the course of the SWIFT negotiations that the United States, for example, does not have data protection legislation as we understand it in the European Union. What is the situation in the other countries which are signatories to the agreement? The agreement must not be allowed to interfere with the acquis communautaire. We must be able to protect small and medium-sized companies against patent campaigns by software giants and guarantee that the personal data of Internet users is secure.

 
  
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  Francesco Enrico Speroni, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I thank the Commissioner and the Council for this debate, although I am sorry to say that it is difficult to talk about anything without having the right documents.

There is nothing on the Internet and Parliament’s services that I contacted have not replied, because the Commission does not make all the texts available. There is nothing else to do, then, but talk in general terms. Nonetheless, it is useful to address this issue, which forms part of Europe’s plan for the protection of our products and, hence, of our companies and our workers. Even so, there is some resistance, for example, with regard to regulating trademarks and products.

It is our duty to protect our workers by checking whether there is any form of unfair competition or competition based on worker exploitation and, in this case, competition based on forgery and counterfeiting. We therefore need to fight such kinds of unacceptable competition precisely to protect European producers and workers, who earn a living from their efforts, their brainpower and their participation, and thus contribute to our continent’s development.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the planned plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) aims to make the fight against product piracy and infringements of copyright more effective by means of international cooperation, coordinating the enforcement of legislation and new laws to protect intellectual property. It goes without saying that we need continued transparency. Measures which will result in the EU Data Protection Directive being watered down or which could even have a negative impact on freedom of expression represent an excessive response to the problem of combating product piracy and infringements of copyright and must not be accepted.

The European Parliament called on the Commission to evaluate the possible effects of the agreement. Unfortunately, this evaluation has not yet been carried out. In my opinion, protecting intellectual property is crucial, but data protection and the protection of privacy are equally important. Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor, said on this subject, and I quote:

‘While intellectual property is important to society and must be protected, it should not be placed above individuals’ fundamental rights to privacy, data protection and other rights.’ That is the end of the quotation. Let us work together on this agreement, while taking into account all existing legislation.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Köstinger (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the effective enforcement of existing regulations and laws to combat product piracy and strengthen intellectual property rights is something which is definitely very welcome. However, there is unfortunately a great deal of ignorance and uncertainty in this area among the general public. I regularly receive e-mails from concerned citizens who complain about the lack of transparency during the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations and see ACTA as a major invasion of their rights and freedoms. It is important to provide more information in this area and to highlight the fact that the problem is caused not by ACTA, but in part by the acquis communautaire of the EU.

The preliminary ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union on 19 February 2009 clearly states that Internet service providers can be called to account for infringements of copyright by their customers. Therefore, existing treaties allow for the Internet access of EU citizens to be blocked. The problem lies not with ACTA, but with European Union regulations which could limit the freedoms and rights of EU citizens.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). (SK) The ever-increasing volume of counterfeit and pirated products in international trade increases the possibility of a threat to the sustainable development of the global economy, causing not only financial losses to legitimate manufacturers, but also violating the rights of owners of intellectual property and entities participating in manufacturing and production, as well as representing a threat to consumers and a threat to jobs in Europe.

The idea of a multilateral agreement on the fight against piracy and counterfeiting might constitute an effective mechanism for combating such activities, but I also back those members who have emphasised the need for transparency and greater confidence in these negotiations and agreements. I also consider it essential to achieve a balance between the rights we have an interest in protecting and the rights that are essential to society. Exercising or protecting the rights of one group must not interfere with the rights and legitimate interests of another group.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE).(SV) Mr President, I am not at all sure about the exemption for generic medicines. If we grant this, we will, in such cases, also have to grant exemption to all transit, otherwise we will encounter the problems that we have seen in recent years. You say that it will only apply to large-scale commercial cases. In that case, you could say that individuals shall be exempt, rather than that they could be exempt from the rules, could you not?

I am also concerned about the digital environment when there is talk of technological barriers. In this regard, it is said that methods that can be used to circumvent technical protection measures should be regarded as unlawful if they have limited commercial use.

It could also be the case that these are disseminated entirely without financial interest, that someone has no financial interest at all, but instead wishes to support people’s use of technologies that could also be used as ‘circumvention technologies’. How do you view this?

I am also not at all happy about the fact that you are including here controversial aspects from Ipred and with regard to data storage. If we will want to change this after the evaluations, it is stupid to have established it here in writing.

 
  
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  Françoise Castex (S&D).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I should like to make a new contribution to the debate on ACTA and, together with the cosignatories to declaration 12, I have the honour of informing you that this declaration obtained a very large majority in Parliament and that the minimum number of signatures was exceeded.

I am pleased that this declaration is being submitted to you before the final round of negotiations on ACTA, and I believe that you may consider it as a negotiating mandate which is being given to you by the European Parliament.

I should like to remind you of its components: not only, of course, is Parliament asking for transparency and for the opportunity to see the texts during negotiations before it ratifies them; it is also asking for intellectual property rights not to be harmonised under this international treaty and for the freedom of citizens, the protection of private life and the neutrality of the Internet to be maintained and guaranteed.

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, we need to ask to what extent anti-counterfeiting trade agreements are simply protection for big business and to what extent they really protect ordinary people. In the case of medicinal products, counterfeit medicines might, at best, be ineffective and rob people of a cure; at worst, they might be injurious and rob them of their health or even their lives.

Counterfeit goods are nearly always produced in low-wage countries and they under-cut genuine manufactured goods produced in our countries at the cost of the jobs of the citizens of our Member States. Sanctions must be taken against countries allowing this practice.

I was pleased to hear the Commission’s assurance that any large-scale infringements would be targeted, and not consumers. However, some actor-supporting lobbyists do indeed want Internet access to be withdrawn from people suspected of repeated unauthorised downloading, and the same people would like deep packet inspection, looking at customers’ communications. Can we be assured that these provisions will not be incorporated at a later stage and override your objections?

 
  
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  Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska (PPE).(PL) I welcome today’s debate on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. In my opinion, it is a step towards strengthening the position of the European Parliament as the institution which represents the citizens of the European Union. I would like to emphasise that the European Parliament is entitled to be informed and consulted by the Commission on the agreements it negotiates on the trade in services and the commercial aspects of intellectual property. Today’s debate gives substance to that right and will be, I hope, the norm for the Commission in the future, too. I would like to draw attention to the fact that the confidential nature of the Commission’s negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement gave rise to a great deal of critical feeling among Internet users. This emotion could have been avoided if the Commission had been willing to inform us much more fully about its efforts in this matter from the beginning.

In a written question which I have submitted to the Commission, I raise the matter of the relationship between the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and European policy on the information society and its paralegal effects.

 
  
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  Eva Lichtenberger (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, Mr De Gucht, you have assured us that this Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will not currently change anything. However, we are not being given the opportunity to form our own opinions, to gain our own insights and to apply our own legal expertise in order to determine whether the collateral damage to citizens’ rights in Europe resulting from this agreement will not be significantly greater than you are claiming. We have to take your word for this. Given that this is the case, why is there no transparency? I know that this comes from the US negotiators, but can the European Commission, in all conscience, simply give in? I think that the answer to this question is no.

My second point concerns geographic designations of origin. I would have made it clear around the negotiating table that these designations of origin are the equivalent of trademarks in Europe. In my opinion, this point must be raised again in the negotiations.

 
  
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  Martin Ehrenhauser (NI).(DE) Mr President, I would like to make three brief points. Firstly, of course, I would like to congratulate the initiators of the written declaration on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). This has now been passed.

My second point concerns transparency and I would like to ask Mr De Gucht one question. How can you say to us as Members of the European Parliament that we have to rely on an American civil liberties organisation in order to receive a copy of the text? I have the text here in front of me. I will give it to you afterwards and ask you to make sure that it is the original version.

My third point relates to the liability of Internet service providers (ISPs). Can you ensure that the subject of the liability of ISPs will not be reintroduced through the back door?

 
  
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  Christian Engström (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, we all agree that counterfeiting is a bad thing and that combating counterfeit goods is good. It is good for European consumers and citizens, and it is also important for European businesses, as has been pointed out. It is good that we protect trademarks and the trademark acquis, including geographical indications.

So far, so good. But, as Mr Kamall has pointed out, there is a difference between the world of atoms and the world of bits. When it comes to the Internet chapter, legitimate concerns have been raised by Internet service providers and other businesses involved in that area. There are concerns that the agreement may, in fact, harm development, harm European businesses and harm the way we take advantage of this new technology.

I would therefore urge the Commission to go ahead, by all means, with the anti-counterfeiting part, but to scrap the Internet chapter. That would be the best solution for everyone.

 
  
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  Karel De Gucht, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, firstly, I would like to thank all the Members of Parliament who have made interventions. This is very valuable information for us a couple of weeks before what will probably be the ‘end game’ in Tokyo, and we will certainly take it into account.

Before speaking about confidentiality, I will answer a couple of technical questions. One was with respect to the TRIPS agreement on public health, and whether this would be explicitly mentioned in the agreement. It is explicitly referred to, as follows: ‘recognising the principles set out in the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS agreement on public health adopted on 14 November 2001 by the WTO at the Fourth WTO ministerial conference held in Doha, Qatar’.

There were also some questions on privacy. There again, when you look at the text which is currently being discussed, it says ‘nothing in this agreement shall require any party to disclose information (...) which would be contrary to its law or its international agreements, including laws protecting the right of privacy’. Further mention is made in the draft text under discussion to the effect that, with respect to enforcement in digital environments, enforcement procedures shall be implemented in a manner that, ‘consistent with each party’s law, preserves principles relating to freedom of expression, fair process and privacy’. So, explicit mention is made of all this in the agreements.

Let me say a word on medicines. I do not believe that there is a problem with medicines – not only because of ACTA but also because we are currently engaged in discussions with India on this. They have filed a request with the WTO on medicines. We are in discussion with them and I think we will come to a conclusion soon, one that I think will be appreciated by the European Parliament.

I would also add that these kinds of patents are not covered by the chapter on customs in ACTA. There is an explicit reference to the obligatory licensing practice, which is very important in this respect.

Finally, on confidentiality, we have no problem disclosing the texts that we are discussing, but we are not alone. This is a plurinational negotiation, which means that the other parties around the table also have to agree on what will or will not be made public. The explicit question raised was whether you will have the possibility of discussing the eventual agreement before it is signed.

It is not yet clear whether we will reach an agreement, but if we do, we have made sure that we will be in a position to discuss it before signature, as the Commission has obtained this in the negotiation. As you can see, the press release issued at the end of the Washington Round explicitly states that the ‘parties commit to release the text before deciding to sign it’. I think it is difficult to be any more explicit about this.

Thank you very much for your attention.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

Τhe next item is the vote.

(The sitting was suspended for a few minutes)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Edward McMILLAN-SCOTT
Vice-President

 

6. Voting time
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the vote.

Before we start with the votes, can I just explain that the electronic results system may be faulty, in which case you will only see the two cheeses known as ‘the camembert’ and not the result, but you may see it on your screen. We will check the system in a minute, so please be patient.

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

 

6.1. Protection of animals used for scientific purposes (A7-0230/2010, Elisabeth Jeggle) (vote)
 

Before the vote:

 
  
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  Sonia Alfano (ALDE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, under Rule 175 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, I call for this document to be referred back to committee.

We have been waiting for this directive for a great many years but, as has been stressed in several other speeches, there are some items that need to be thoroughly amended in order to ensure adequate protection for animals. Adoption of this legislation will allow for experimentation for teaching purposes and the reuse of the same animal several times, even in procedures that cause it to suffer. It will not in any way encourage alternative methods that are considered scientifically valid.

This is not a matter of adopting an extreme position, but rather of respecting Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which requires us to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals since they are sentient beings. We do not want to hold back research, but rather to encourage it along an ethically sustainable course.

It is unacceptable to say that we can adopt this directive now and amend it in the years to come. We should take responsibility for making the necessary corrections to it now. This is not a political or ideological position; it is common sense, and common sense has no political hue.

 
  
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  President. – Mrs Alfano, thank you for that proposal. Do we have 40 colleagues who wish to stand in support of that proposal? Could you please stand if you are in support. I think we have 40 colleagues and I will take one speaker in favour of the motion.

 
  
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  Jill Evans, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, the Green/EFA Group supports the referral back because we also have serious concerns about the text as it stands. At the moment, Member States have the right to adopt stricter animal protection measures if they wish. The new law would prevent that in future. This would discourage improvements and it is against what Parliament agreed to at first reading.

We should also state absolutely clearly that alternatives should be used wherever they are possible, but the wording of the text weakens the existing law. Similarly, we need a very clear definition of the conditions for use of non-human primates. Again, this is not the case in the text.

Many problems that we have with the current legislation have resulted from differing interpretations in different Member States. We need more debate on this and on the other points to ensure that we have absolute clarity and to ensure that this legislation is effective.

 
  
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  Paolo De Castro, Chair of the AGRI Committee.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, which is the relevant committee for this topic, I am against referring back the Jeggle report. After more than a year and a half of intense debate, our committee has already come out quite clearly in favour of the compromise reached on the common position, without any votes against and only a few abstentions.

I therefore see no reason for re-examining the text: we already have everything we need to vote on it today.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Jeggle, rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am surprised by this proposal. The fellow Member was not here this morning during the debate in plenary.

I am surprised by this proposal. Mrs Evans, the shadow rapporteur for the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, was present during all the trialogue negotiations and supported the results of the trialogue meeting on 7 April. The Greens tabled amendments in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development which they are submitting again today. This is all legitimate and these changes are the ones under discussion. As the chair of the committee has already explained, they were rejected by all the groups with the exception of the Greens.

Ladies and gentlemen, I beg you to vote in favour of this compromise. I am not entirely satisfied with it and I am certain that no one here can be completely happy with all the points, simply because it is a compromise. Let us accept it nevertheless and reject all the calls that are now being made, otherwise we will have to live with the old directive from 1986 and with animal testing. Let us take a step towards improving animal welfare.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Rebecca Harms, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Mr President, in order to clarify the position of my group, I would like to say once again at this point that it is often very difficult for the entire group to follow the trialogue negotiations. When you realise that the rapporteur will not accept that the number of animal experiments will increase on the basis of this regulation,

(Protests)

that the number of primate tests will rise, and that Member States will no longer be permitted to introduce rules which are stricter than those in this regulation, then you are entitled to propose that the regulation be referred back to committee. If that is not possible, then Parliament is not functioning properly. Thank you for your attention.

(Applause from the Verts/ALE Group)

 
  
 

(The proposal to refer back to committee was rejected)

After the vote:

 
  
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  Mário David (PPE). – Mr President, for the last two days, we have been inundated with over 400 e-mails on this subject. Can the services do something so that we do not have to waste our time deleting them?

 
  
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  President. – There is a mechanism on your Outlook which allows you to delete automatically, but that is a matter between you and your constituents.

 
  
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  Nicole Sinclaire (NI). – How awful it must be for your constituents to be able to contact you! You are a disgrace. Your constituents should be able to contact you. If you are asking for your constituents not to be able to contact you directly, what are you?

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. – Ms Sinclaire, thank you for amplifying my point of view.

 

6.2. Guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (A7-0235/2010, Csaba Őry) (vote)
  

After the vote:

 
  
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  Olle Ludvigsson (S&D).(SV) Mr President, it concerns Amendment 48, into which an error has crept with regard to ‘minimum income’. It has been translated into Swedish as ‘minimilön’, meaning ‘minimum wage’, which is wrong. The translation unit has been made aware of this and it will be amended after the sitting.

 
  
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  Jutta Steinruck (S&D).(DE) Mr President, I would like to ask the Council to take note of our vote today and I would like to request a brief statement.

 
  
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  President. – In fact, the Council was present for the debate because I chaired part of it. No doubt they will pay close attention to what Parliament has to say as they assured the House last night they would.

 

6.3. Human rights in Iran, in particular, the cases of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani and of Zahra Bahrami (B7-0494/2010) (vote)
 

Before the vote:

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE).(IT) Mr President, as I do not see a request for a roll-call vote on my voting list, and in view of the importance of the subject and the agreement among the groups, I would like to propose we have a roll-call vote on the final resolution.

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (S&D). – Mr President, I defer to your judgment, but I am informed that the agreement on this was late and therefore it is possible to ask for a roll-call vote on both amendments. With your discretion, I do ask for that.

 
  
 

(The request by Mario Mauro was accepted)

 

7. Explanations of vote
Video of the speeches
  

Oral explanations of vote

 
  
  

Recommendation for second reading: Elisabeth Jeggle (A7-0230/2010)

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE).(PL) The progress of science is a condition for economic development, and innovative research is therefore the basis of new and better methods which benefit the economy in general and people in particular. However, the costs related to this must not be treated lightly. The welfare of living beings should be the most important thing in the economy. If people do not respect natural laws, or if they interfere with them too much, nature may resist. This is why the recommendations adopted today are so important. I voted in favour of their adoption, because it is a good compromise. On the one hand, the directive makes it possible to conduct essential scientific research while, on the other, it reduces, as much as is possible, the suffering of the animals used in this research.

 
  
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  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE). (SL) The European Animal Testing Directive from 1986 is in real need of updating. I am not pleased with the fact that the new legislative proposal still permits the testing and suffering of animals, but I voted in favour of the directive nonetheless. Why?

Largely for three reasons. The first reason is that the proposal permits animal testing only in situations where human welfare outweighs animal welfare. This is about human dignity and the human right to health and medical treatment, about the human right to the best possible treatment. The second reason is that, under the new directive, significantly fewer animals will be used for testing than before. The third reason is that the animals that will still undergo testing will have better living conditions and will be taken better care of.

Naturally, I would like to see animal testing become completely unnecessary in the near future.

 
  
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  Peter Jahr (PPE).(DE) Mr President, animal welfare is a subject which the people of Europe feel very strongly about. Therefore, I am very pleased that our rapporteur, Mrs Jeggle, has succeeded during the course of long negotiations in bringing about a significant improvement in the welfare of experimental animals.

The aim of the new directive is to ensure that animal experiments are replaced and reduced to the absolute minimum that is necessary. These tests will only be permitted if there are no alternatives, but they will be subject to very strict regulations. This represents a good compromise between animal welfare and freedom of research. For the first time, we will have a high level of animal welfare throughout Europe. This is a major success. Now we have to make sure that all the Member States implement the new directive promptly.

 
  
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  Alfredo Antoniozzi (PPE).(IT) Mr President, on this sensitive subject of the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, I believe we have succeeded in finding a good compromise between the demands of those who carry out research using animals and welfare standards for animals used or intended for use for scientific purposes.

That is why I voted in favour of Mrs Jeggle’s report. At the same time, I endorse the obligation on Member States to refrain from using animals whenever European Union legislation recognises other experimental methods or strategies for achieving the same result.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE). – Mr President, I want to congratulate Elizabeth Jeggle for her work on this issue of testing and the use of animals.

I voted in favour of this, because I believe it is the most pragmatic solution to a problem that we have in updating the 1986 legislation.

Can I say that this is important for animal welfare, but also for the continuation of research in the European Union. We risk pushing scientists and research into medical conditions outside our borders where there is less regulation, so while we do need to improve the regulation and indeed the welfare of animals used in testing in research institutions and universities, we also need to guarantee that the research can continue.

We talk all the time about encouraging young people into science and spending more on research and innovation, and this does involve the use of animals. But let us protect them to the best possible extent, and we will do that with this legislation.

 
  
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  Jens Rohde (ALDE). (DA) Mr President, the Danish Liberal Party has voted in favour of the report on animal experiments. It is no secret that very strong arguments have been put forward on both sides of this issue. There are those who believe that the rights of the animals have priority. We, on the other hand, believe that society also has the right to see progress in the development of medicines and the treatment of diseases. Our task is, of course, to ensure that we strike the right balance. Animals must be treated appropriately, but our researchers must have the tools they need to develop new forms of treatment and to cure serious diseases. The report drawn up by Mrs Jeggle strikes a very precise balance and we are therefore of the opinion that it is worth voting for. We also fundamentally believe that it is a good thing that we can now at last move on from the legislation that dates all the way back to 1986.

 
  
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  Mario Pirillo (S&D).(IT) Mr President, (...) reach agreement at second reading on this controversial report on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. I voted in favour of the agreement because it seems to be a balanced text that protects animals without threatening scientific research.

The agreement emphasises the fact that research using animals should be allowed where it is not possible to proceed by means of scientifically satisfactory experimentation. The legislation is clear: it establishes criteria for the treatment of animals for scientific use and requires the Member States to ensure that the number of animals used in projects is reduced to a minimum.

Without this report, there is no point in repeating that Europe needs more and more scientific research.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Mr President, I would like to congratulate Elizabeth Jeggle, and all of those involved, in reaching this balanced compromise on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

Indeed, the European animal welfare movement welcomes the prompt adoption of the agreed compromise. I believe the adopted text will bring about direct and tangible animal welfare benefits while, at the same time, it will allow essential medical research to continue in Europe, which hopefully will deliver new, innovative and effective treatments.

The compromise that we have reached today is also an important step towards harmonising European regulations on animal experimentation and that, in itself, I think, is very important.

Finally, it is a humane response which has established upper threshold limits for pain, and it does put an obligation on the Commission to inspect animal testing institutions where there is due reason for concern.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). (FI) Mr President, I, too, voted in favour of Mrs Jeggle’s directive on animal protection, and I believe that it is very important that we in the European Parliament also give our serious support to the protection of animals.

In this connection, however, it is worth remembering, too, that this proposal is a good compromise that combines the protection of animals with scientific research. Nevertheless, we still need animal experiments to some extent, because no alternatives to them have been discovered. It is very important, however, to ensure that they take place in the right conditions and that they cause as little harm, pain and suffering as possible.

This is an excellent step forward, as we know that the previous directive dates back to 1986. I hope that it will be implemented in all the EU Member States and that we therefore adopt a harmonised practice which promotes animal protection but also provides opportunities for advances in scientific research.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE). (SK) I very much appreciate the work of Mrs Jeggle, but I cannot support the text of the directive, because neither the Council nor the Commission has guaranteed a prohibition on the use of human embryo cells to save animals. The directive is proof of the fact that, as people, we feel responsible for the other living creatures on the Earth, but it also bears sad witness to the fact that we do not value human life highly. We are prepared to restrict the use of monkeys for research only to cases involving the preservation of a species or a threat to human life. Even then, research is permitted only if it can be shown that no other method would be appropriate. However, we are incapable of providing similarly strict protection to human foetuses, unborn children or even genetic information. This report unfortunately made me feel rather as if I were living on the Planet of the Apes.

 
  
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  Bogusław Liberadzki (S&D).(PL) I endorse the measures proposed for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. I think they are sensible and balanced measures which are appropriate to our times and the aspirations of our civilisation. I must, however, admit that during the vote I made a mistake. By mistake, I voted in favour of the first amendment, whereas I was in favour of rejecting all the amendments, hence my statement.

 
  
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  Sirpa Pietikäinen (PPE). (FI) Mr President, I did not vote in favour of referring the legislation on animal experiments back to committee, because I do not believe that the outcome would have been any better afterwards. I did, however, vote in favour of the three proposed amendments.

In my view, it is very worrying that in Europe in actual fact, we are virtually taking a step backwards in the matter of the protection of animals used for experiments. In several Member States at present, there are better methods already in place for obtaining the results of research, without using animals for experiments. This practice would actually slow down the development of alternatives.

Similarly, studies show that the use of primates, even in extreme circumstances, does not produce the result for human health that is assumed in the arguments given in the proposal.

 
  
  

Report: Csaba Őry (A7-0235/2010)

 
  
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  Clemente Mastella (PPE).(IT) Mr President, the debate on the new Europe 2020 employment guidelines is taking place in the midst of the economic crisis, which will undoubtedly have a profound impact on the labour market for several years to come.

The current crisis has revealed the absence of any effective mechanisms for reacting promptly to the signs of a crisis. It shows, therefore, how necessary the coordination of the European Union’s economic policies is, provided it is strengthened and made effective. The crisis has also highlighted the close interdependence between the Member States’ economies in terms of markets and employment. I would argue, therefore, that the efforts made by the European Union and the Member States to attain the Europe 2020 targets require a strong commitment to ensuring that investments in sustainable economic growth also facilitate the creation of sustainable jobs.

The strategy should prevent any further economic and social collapse through close coordination with structural and cohesion policy. Indeed, if we wish to ensure that these new policy guidelines are effective, appropriate consideration has to be given to ensuring that the socio-economic disparities between Member States and between the regions are overcome. The EU Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund of the current programming period and any future EU funding instruments have a crucial role to play in this regard.

 
  
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  Erminia Mazzoni (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I voted in favour because I am convinced that this is the right decision overall. Nonetheless, I am not entirely satisfied, because we could surely have been more ambitious, particularly on the question of young people’s and women’s access to work and on the adoption of flexicurity as a means to fight job insecurity, which is a scourge throughout Europe. I admire the work done by the rapporteur, despite the short time she had available.

The attempt at simplification is certainly a positive point, in that a new, simpler format is proposed for the employment guidelines, of which there are now four, which clearly identify the targets set out in the Europe 2020 strategy. Equally positive in my view is the attempt to take account of the mistakes made in the past, which have led to a partial failure to meet the Europe 2010 targets.

Another positive point in this document is that it contains interesting suggestions for developing the idea of reinvesting work with its function of representing humanity’s right to progress, rather than being merely a means of survival.

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE).(HU) Thank you very much, Mr President, but I did not understand my name clearly due to the translation. In the wake of the financial crisis, the economies of several Member States of the European Union remain vulnerable. This is why every effort should be made to ensure sustainable growth and strengthen the job-creating potential of European economies. In addition, we must also keep in mind demographic changes, globalisation, and the introduction of new technologies. I feel it is very important for the next employment strategy to create a balance between immediate issues arising from the crisis and long-term challenges. Europe’s employment policy plays a key role in overcoming the difficulties we are facing. I also agree with the rapporteur that quality education and lifelong learning can be of strategic importance in tackling unemployment. I can only support this proposal and I would like to congratulate Csaba Őry on his excellent report.

 
  
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  President. – Mr Mészáros (Meh-tsá-rosh), we have the pronunciation of your name as I have just given it. If that is wrong, please tell us how you like it to be pronounced.

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE). – ‘Mészáros’ (Méh-sah-rosh) ‘Alajos Mészáros’. It is not easy. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Sergej Kozlík (ALDE). (SK) I fully support the guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States, as adopted by the European Parliament. Work and employment must be the key outputs of any successful economic policy. Linking growth and job retention to the development of a green economy will, at the same time, also put in place the preconditions for preventing climatic and environmental problems. The natural disasters that have been occurring for many years, especially the floods in various parts of Europe, show that some new sustainable jobs can also be created in the area of constructing flood defences. The money spent on maintenance of water courses, maintenance and construction of public drains, drainage canals and retention structures will surely be substantially lower than the cost of dealing with the consequences of flooding.

 
  
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  Giommaria Uggias (ALDE).(IT) Mr President, our emergence from the financial crisis and the onset of the economic recovery that is characterising the European Union, albeit at varying speeds, are unfortunately occurring to the detriment of jobs and workers.

This trend stands in stark contrast to the Commission’s programme, which this House has adopted, and the approach of the specific Europe 2020 programme, which foresees the need for economic growth to be necessarily accompanied by signs of inclusiveness. The integrated guidelines that we have adopted today are a highly positive step in that direction, including the seventh, which calls on the Member States of the Union to reduce structural unemployment by means of concrete actions.

We must always bear in mind that work lies at the basis of entire legal codes, including Italy’s, Article 1 of which states that ‘Italy is a democratic Republic based on work’, and that work also lies at the basis of human dignity.

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE). – Mr President, I support the integrated guidelines which address the unemployment problems in the Member States.

At the same time, any solutions should incorporate a quality dimension. As President Barroso yesterday pointed out, there are four million job vacancies in Europe today. Mostly, these vacant jobs require a skilled labour force. I urge the Commission, therefore, to introduce without delay the proposed European Vacancy Monitoring System, which should also include a European skills passport.

The all-European target should guarantee our continent a skilled workforce. In addition, we need courage to drastically reduce the administrative and non-tariff barriers for SMEs.

 
  
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  Alfredo Antoniozzi (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I voted in favour of this report since I agree with the rapporteur’s approach. On the one hand, he supports the reduction in the number of integrated guidelines proposed by the Commission while, on the other, he specifies that this smaller number of guidelines and common targets for Europe cannot and must not guide the policies of the Member States on account of their clarity and operational usefulness.

Moreover, I agree with the part in which the rapporteur states that, if Europe 2020 is to be effective and the employment guidelines in that context efficient, appropriate consideration has to be given also to ensuring that the socio-economic disparities between Member States and between the regions of Europe are overcome, not least through the use of the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Mr President, the real issue surrounding Mr Őry’s excellent report on the employment guidelines is whether the Council will take the recommendations into consideration.

Last night, I was pleased to hear the Belgian Presidency commit to looking at the Parliament’s recommendations. I would say to the Council that it is crucial that they take on board many of the really excellent recommendations in Mr Őry’s report – in particular, I think, those referring to improved governance. Everybody agrees that the open method of coordination was certainly not effective with regard to the Lisbon agenda. We need to ensure that the targets and sub-targets contained are monitored and evaluated against the EU 2020 objectives.

I am pleased that amendment 62 was accepted as, if implemented, I think that will help to ensure that there is a reduction in regional disparities. Finally, I fully support the concept that employment-enhancing growth should be based on decent work, as promoted by the ILO.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE).(PL) It is to be welcomed that the European Commission submitted the proposal on the Europe 2020 Integrated Guidelines which we have adopted in Parliament, today. In view of the current global economic situation, it is a good step, which shows the commitment of the EU institutions and their assumption of responsibility for the economy and employment. It is also to be welcomed that in establishing the guidelines, the need to maintain coherence and transparency was not forgotten. Measures such as increasing labour market participation, reducing structural unemployment, developing a skilled workforce, promoting job quality and lifelong learning, increasing the numbers of people in higher education and combating poverty and social exclusion must be put into effect as a matter of urgency, because they ensure a sustainable economy and strengthen job creation potential. The report is right in saying that it is necessary to facilitate the creation of sustainable jobs when making investments in sustainable economic growth, and also to ensure that the socio-economic disparities between Member States and between the regions are overcome. In summary, I would like to express the profound hope that Europe 2020 will produce the results which are expected of it, particularly in the area of employment policy.

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (ECR). – Mr President, thirty years ago, the countries of – let us call it ‘old Europe’, the 15 Member States of the EU as it stood prior to the enlargement to the ex-COMECON countries, accounted for 36% of world GDP. Today, that figure is 25% and in 10 years’ time, it is scheduled to be 15%.

Now why is this happening? We cannot put it all down to the rise of Asia. The share of world GDP occupied by Canada and the US has remained fairly steady over the same period.

The truth is that we have burdened ourselves with higher taxes, with more restrictive regulations, with more intrusive regulators and licences and inspectors and bureaucrats and clerks. It may have made sense when the main competition was coming from within this continent. It makes no sense in a world where we are competing with China and India.

All the more reason for your constituents and mine to raise their eyes to further horizons, to abandon this cramped and dwindling regional customs union and to rediscover the global vocation which our fathers took for granted.

 
  
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  Syed Kamall (ECR). – Mr President, let us start with the positive aspects of this report. I think it is very important that we all support the idea of life-long learning. For too long and for too many years, you had one chance at exams, and that decided – at a particular age, at the age of 11 or of 18 – your future.

It is very helpful, in an age of ever-changing economies where certain sectors can disappear overnight, that our citizens are able to engage in life-long learning. But at the same time, we should look at the bigger picture.

Quite often in this Chamber, we talk about the idea of a social Europe. But that phrase ‘social Europe’ is often a cover for policies that actually inhibit job creation – that add more burdens to SMEs, those engines of growth across Europe – and make it more difficult to create jobs.

Let government get out of the way of the small businesses. Let them create jobs, wealth and prosperity for all.

 
  
  

Motion for a resolution RC-B7-0494/2010

 
  
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  Erminia Mazzoni (PPE).(IT) Mr President, I asked for the vote on this motion for a resolution to be brought forward; I am one of its signatories and I voted in favour of it. I must admit, however, that I would have expected and was hoping for something more from this Parliament.

I agree that it was an urgent decision, but it was also a very important decision. It was urgent in order to save the life of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, and it was very important for this Parliament, because we cannot go on condemning, denouncing, deploring and stigmatising and yet carry on behaving in the same way and having the same attitudes towards countries like Iran. This time, I think Iran has shown greater arrogance towards the international community, the Member States and Europe’s institutions. It is indifferent to any complaint or any appeal.

The situation today has changed and become more serious, because over the last year, the behaviour of Iran has worsened considerably and events have occurred that have run counter to the commitments adopted by the Iranian Government at an international level.

More stringent measures and sanctions towards that country should, in my view, be adopted both by the individual Member States and by the European institutions. We cannot continue to have diplomatic relations with a state that does not accept or even listen to the appeals made by the European Union.

 
  
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  President. – In my long experience in the European Parliament, I have never known such a huge majority in favour of a resolution of this type, with one vote against, 22 abstentions and more than 600 in favour. I think you have achieved the message you were seeking to send. Thank you anyway.

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE). – Mr President, I, of course, supported this resolution. This is just one more statement in support of saving the life of Mrs Sakineh Ashtiani.

Sadly, this is not an isolated case. Up to 300 women have been stoned to death since the present clerical terrorist regime took power 31 years ago. It also continues with public hangings, including those of minors. We should do our utmost to save the life of Mrs Ashtiani but, even if we succeed in doing this, the nature of this regime, in all probability, will not change. Therefore, we need to support without reservation those brave people in Iran – and there are millions of them since last summer – who are trying to replace the present regime with an open, non-militant and democratic one. We should not be afraid of trying to do this.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE). – Mr President, I echo your words and compliment Ms Mazzoni for her work on this resolution, which I fully support.

In all the hustle and bustle of this week in Strasbourg, the one meeting which was the most important was, sadly, the one that I had the least time for. That was the women from Iran, who are here looking for support for their colleagues and for this resolution.

But I was very glad to meet with them and to make a commitment of support. It is staggering – but perhaps noteworthy – that we received many more e-mails on the issue of animal welfare than we did on this issue about human life. I just make that remark for what it is worth.

I think we should say, because we were asked to use this word in particular, that many of the women who are condemned to execution by stoning and otherwise are condemned for the crime of mohareb, which literally means someone at war with God. But actually, all that these women have done is to protest against a dictatorship in their country and to desire to bring about change for the better for themselves and to restore their rights in that particular country.

So I stand here in support of those women. There is very little that I can do, but I think this Parliament, in its huge vote today, speaks volumes, and I hope it will make a difference.

 
  
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  Cristiana Muscardini (PPE).(IT) Mr President, this resolution is the first important step for Parliament to learn to use every single act in every sitting to continue this battle, which today consists of saving Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s life, but, most of all, means fighting an oppressive, utterly inhumane regime.

I believe, however, that the Commission and the Council should be more proactive and decisive in future, and every word spoken in this Chamber should be like a stone placed at the feet of those who carry out the stoning, so as to build a wall of shame around them and obliterate them from human society. Sakineh must be saved, and with her the women and men around the world who are still falling victim to this barbaric cruelty, which is unheard of even among the wildest and most primitive animals.

It is the beast, meaning the Devil, that today moves the hands and lips of unworthy leaders and false holy men, whom the Omnipotent has already damned without any chance of grace. They should realise that if they do not stop now, their time will be marked forever, and ours will be too if we are not always careful to help the victims of a barbaric society.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). (FI) Mr President, I voted in favour of this report and I really hope that it will help to save the life of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani. I am a little sceptical, as many others here are too, because, unfortunately, we know that totalitarian states like Iran, for example, simply do not listen to our appeals.

I am also rather concerned that, to echo the words of another speaker, hardly anything has been said here about human rights, but a good deal has been said about the rights of animals. Of course, that is also an important issue, but these things should be put in the proper perspective. A crucial task of the European Union is to defend human rights and fundamental values.

I genuinely hope that this report can contribute to the promotion of our commitment to raising the issue of human rights and highlighting their importance, even in totalitarian countries such as Iran, thereby bringing to an end these brutal death sentences once and for all.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Mr President, as you rightly pointed out, the virtual unanimity of the vote here today is very significant. I was pleased to be one of those who voted in favour of the resolution.

Let me say, firstly, that I am not the protesting type. I have certainly never worn a T-shirt of this nature before, but the disproportionate proposal to penalise somebody and punish them by death for an alleged offence is so despicable, so revolting, so barbaric, so disproportionate and so nauseating that I felt I had to do something. Hopefully the message will get through to the Iranian authorities that this is outdated and it must end.

Political pressure and public protest have brought an end to capital punishment in many countries. Hopefully, our protest here today will end this appalling situation. As Mr Kelam said, 300 people have already been stoned to death, which is appalling. This must end and we must do everything we can to ensure that it does.

 
  
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  Syed Kamall (ECR). – Mr President, on the motion about Iran. We all share the same concern, and as you, Mr President, just said, the result shows the overwhelming feeling here in this Chamber right across the political spectrum.

Our concern is about the fact that these two ladies are not being afforded due legal process, and not only that, but when they try to employ lawyers, the lawyers themselves are persecuted and driven away from the country.

We see a government that has a complete disregard for democracy, a government that ignores the results of the elections and then beats up the people and kills the protesters who want to see more democracy.

We also see the persecution of people of other religions, of the Christian faith, of the Baha’i faith.

But I would also like to point out very quickly one other person that we should be thinking about and that is Ibrahim Hamidi, who was accused of homosexuality. The fact that a person can be persecuted for his sexuality is a stain on the character of that country.

Let us hope that one day soon, that regime will be overthrown.

 
  
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  President. – I would like to thank you all. As Vice-President responsible for Human Rights and Democracy, I completely endorse the remarks that have been made. Having witnessed so-called Iranian justice a few years ago in person, I can only express my horror at the current situation in Iran and hope, like all of you, that it will soon end. I hope also that the single vote against the resolution was a mistake and that in fact, we were unanimous.

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (ECR). – Mr President, the Iranian revolution of 1979 will one day be seen as an epochal event, on a par with the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Like those, it immediately spilled out from behind its borders and sought to replicate itself around the world. Like those, it made no acknowledgement of the principles of sovereignty or territorial jurisdiction.

The signature act of the ayatollahs was the siege of the American Embassy. Even in the Second World War, when mutually opposed ideologies fought to extirpate each other, the sanctity of diplomatic legations was respected. What the ayatollahs were doing was signalling that the old rules did not apply to them and that they answered to a different authority. They have carried on as they started, disregarding any notion of territorial jurisdiction, sponsoring their militias and their terrorist organisations. From the Gulf to the Lebanon, to the Silk Road khanates, to the Balkans, they have struck at civilian targets as far away as London and Buenos Aires.

I cannot help feeling that we would be in an even stronger position to condemn them if we had more respect ourselves for the principle of territorial jurisdiction and, indeed, democracy. I hope that those Members who have spoken very sincerely and movingly about the lack of representative government in Iran will apply the same high standards the next time we have a referendum within the European Union.

 
  
  

Written explanations of vote

 
  
  

Recommendation for second reading: Elisabeth Jeggle (A7-0230/2010)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of this report as I believe that it will update the existing directive, which dates back to 1986, and because it also aims to improve the balance between the interests of the research sector and greater protection for animals used for scientific purposes. In view of this, I also believe that it is vital to come to a compromise which aims to promote the advancement of alternative methods to the use of animals and ensures their increased welfare, without compromising progress within the sector.

The most important points agreed in this report relate to aspects of animal welfare which are being replaced with the aim of advancing alternative approaches which do not involve the use of live animals. It is also aimed at introducing a process of classifying the methods used on animals based on levels of pain, setting a maximum limit of pain, and applying the directive through a more effective system of control. The lack of monitoring sometimes has meant that there were experiments for which there were alternatives to using animals, but that animals nevertheless continued to be used, especially in basic experiments that were not aimed at proving scientific hypotheses.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing.(FR) Given the diversity of national laws and the poor level of animal protection in some Member States, greater harmonisation of the rules on the use of animals for scientific purposes is now necessary. As our rapporteur, Mrs Jeggle, has pointed out, a balanced compromise has been reached with the Council. Indeed, in parallel to the protection of animals, it is very important to ensure that research continues to play a vital role in the fight against disease. I therefore voted for this report and, like my colleagues in the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), I rejected the amendments tabled by the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing. (LT) I supported this important agreement. The protection of animals used for scientific purposes is really a very difficult subject, as it is necessary to take into account the interests of a number of different stakeholder groups, sometimes with opposing views and needs. I believe that an appropriate balance has been found in the agreement. In the agreement most attention was paid to promoting the alternatives to animal testing and improving the conditions animals are held and used in. We also managed to retain the observations made by the European Parliament at first reading on the reduction of administrative burden and the continuity and viability of European research and industry still relying on the use of animals. There is a need for further promotion of alternatives to animal testing. In response an EU reference laboratory for the validation of alternative methods, supported by Member States' efforts to bring in further resources in terms of suitable specialised laboratories, is envisaged. I believe that this resolution strikes the right balance between the needs of the industry and research community whilst upgrading and harmonising the animal welfare standards for animals used or intended to be used for scientific purposes.

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE), in writing. (RO) I applaud the European Union’s concern about the welfare of animals in general and of those used for scientific purposes in particular. However, in light of the European Union’s huge enlargement and the technical progress made, a new directive needed to be adopted which will attempt to standardise the practices involved in the treatment of animals. Animal protection and ensuring their proper treatment are a community value which has a unanimously approved protocol devoted to it. The EC directive from 1985 endeavoured to eliminate the discrepancies between Member States’ provisions laid down by law and administrative acts relating to the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes. However, the discrepancies between Member States have widened since the relevant directive was adopted, especially as the EU has accepted new members since then.

The resolution adopted by Parliament will narrow the differences between the level of protection afforded animals used for scientific purposes in Member States at a time when we are all aware that this practice is a necessity for protecting the health of humans and animals, as well as for the environment. This resolution marks a step towards achieving the unanimous objective of doing away with experiments on live animals for scientific purposes in their entirety as soon as this becomes possible thanks to the discoveries which will be made.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) The use of animals in scientific research is associated with discoveries of great social impact, with increased longevity, and with human welfare. With science as it currently is, the complete abolition of animal testing is impossible. It is therefore imperative to guarantee the animals still being used the maximum possible protection and welfare, taking into account the goals of the experiment.

I believe that this revision of the legislation makes higher standards that reinforce animal protection necessary. With this directive, the European Union will improve its standards applicable to the welfare of animals used in scientific experiments, since it plays a significant role in reducing the number of animals used in experiments and requires the use of alternative methods wherever possible, whilst ensuring fair competition conditions for the EU’s industrial sector and reinforcing the quality of investigation undertaken in the EU. The result of today’s vote has revealed a general consensus on the need to improve conditions for the animals required for scientific research and safety tests, whilst at the same time maintaining a high standard of research and intensifying efforts to find alternatives to animal testing.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) Any civilised society recognises animals as living beings which share our existence, and that any pain and suffering to them should be prevented as far as possible. However, I recognise the need for animals to be used in scientific experiments to test new medicines and therapies or to allow scientific research to be translated into discoveries which help to heal illnesses or reduce suffering and increase the life expectancy of human beings.

The great diversity in legislation and the lack of adequate protection in certain Member States have required the adoption of a directive which sets out minimum standards, without prejudice to Member States which ensure greater protection for the animals involved. The negotiations between Parliament, the Council and the Commission were not easy, but they succeeded in producing a text that I believe is broadly balanced, and one which deserves our support. This is a step forward which should be welcomed, even though some points could have had a better outcome.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE), in writing. (FR) I am pleased that this report has been approved because experiments on great apes such as chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans will, from now on, be strictly prohibited. The text also stipulates that animal experimentation should be replaced, as far as possible, by scientifically satisfactory alternative methods. Lastly, the text calls for any pain and suffering inflicted on animals to be minimised. From now on, animals may be used only in experiments intended to advance research into human beings, animals and diseases (cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease). The adoption of this report is one more step towards ensuring the protection and welfare of animals used for scientific purposes.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the report on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes as I believe that the compromise reached with the Council represents the best possible balance between the needs of scientific research in terms of the protection of human health and the welfare and rights of animals.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) As has already been mentioned by the parties involved, the text that we are to adopt today is a satisfactory compromise between the various interests at play, and has been reached following long negotiations between the institutions involved: Parliament, the Commission and the Council. I believe that in civilised societies, there is no question that the use of animals for scientific purposes must be adequately regulated, as it is in Europe. We are here to discuss adequate regulation of their use, which is crucial for scientific progress and the discovery of new procedures, treatments and medicines that will be a great asset to our civilisation and a benefit to everyone in the future.

It appears that this regulation cannot be excessive in the protection that it affords to animals; otherwise, this would compromise scientific study and research. When making my choice, I choose the people who will benefit in the future from the results which we are allowing to be studied and researched with the help of today’s animals. If the proposal which we are approving today allows advances in the study of neurological diseases, auto-immune disorders or cancer, I believe that we will all benefit from it.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. − (PT) Every year, almost 12 million animals are used in scientific procedures in the 27 Member States. It is important that every effort is made to reduce the number of animals used in such experiments to the indispensible minimum. The most pragmatic approach to achieving this consists of using alternative methods, since, with science as it currently is, the complete abolition of animal testing is impossible.

Directive 86/609/EEC regarding the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes was adopted in order to harmonise animal-testing practices in the EU. However, some Member States have set out ambitious goals while others have limited themselves to applying minimum rules. Therefore, the aim of this resolution is to correct this inequality. Fair conditions for the EU’s industry and its scientific community must be ensured, whilst simultaneously reinforcing the protection of the animals that are still used for scientific purposes, pursuant to the Protocol on Protection and Welfare of Animals annexed to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. In the field of animal testing, there must be better promotion of the development, validation, acceptance and application of alternative methods, and the principle of the three Rs of animal testing – replace, reduce and refine – must be applied.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We believe that in this field, as in others, the establishment of common minimum levels of protection in legislation should not prevent a Member State from adopting more advanced and stricter measures of protection, if it so wishes. For this reason, we voted in favour of the proposed amendment on this matter. We believe that it is important to further develop techniques and methods which allow animal experimentation to be avoided, as we have stated in debate, but more is needed.

It is also important to disseminate such techniques and allow them to be taken up by most R&D institutions, including national scientific and technological systems with comparatively lower levels of development. Any legislative framework in this field must take this requirement into account, but we do not believe that the proposed changed can fully guarantee this. The European Union will have to play an important role in this field to promote cooperation between the scientific and technological institutions and systems in different countries, including third countries.

 
  
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  Robert Goebbels (S&D), in writing.(FR) I voted for the compromise between Parliament and the Council on strengthening the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The health needs of human beings sometimes require the sacrifice of animals. The use of animals will have to be strictly regulated. However, it is hypocritical to demand ‘that animals are killed with a minimum of pain, suffering and distress’. These are human concepts transposed to animals which, in their natural environment, are killed by other carnivorous animals or are slaughtered in abattoirs to provide food for humans. This world is not a paradise; there will always be death in the wings.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE), in writing.(FR) I supported this agreement for a second reading because we must respond to the reality of biomedical research and to patients’ needs while, at the same time, improving animal welfare.

Fortunately, the number of animal experiments has fallen significantly over the last few years because European research is moving towards the aim of finding alternative solutions. Unfortunately, we know that these solutions are not available in certain cases, and so we have to resort to animal experimentation, in particular, on non-human primates. This is the case, for example, with all the neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ensuring this research is conducted in Europe is our only guarantee of a high level of animal welfare protection. Concern for an animal’s pain during an experiment ensures that good results will be obtained. This is why we must prevent any relocation of animal experimentation outside Europe.

 
  
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  Nadja Hirsch (ALDE), in writing. (DE) I cannot support the animal experiments directive in its current form. It is true that this version is more progressive that the old directive from 1986. However, in comparison with the huge scientific and technical advances made over the last 24 years, the measures for replacing animal testing seem very feeble. There are too many exceptions. In addition, the wording is weak and allows too much scope for interpretation and implementation. It is also absurd that Member States cannot put in place animal welfare measures which are stricter than those required by the EU. Market distortion is given as the justification for this.

This sends the wrong message to the citizens of Europe, to the research community and to industry. On the one hand, the state must take into account the changes in citizens’ ethical awareness. On the other hand, more pressure must be exerted on the research sector and on industry. No one wants to put the status of Germany or Europe as a research location at risk, but investment costs are not a valid argument for postponing the further development and use of methods which do not involve laboratory animals.

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE), in writing. (FI) I voted in favour of the directive on animal experiments, because the outcome could have been a lot worse for the welfare of animals. The directive adopted today is one step forward for animal welfare.

The directive must now be made a part of national legislation and implemented consistently as speedily as possible in the various Member States. The old directive dates back to 1986, so it is now high time the welfare standards of animals used for experiments were updated all over Europe.

In the future, it will be important to increase investment to develop alternatives to animal experiments. Thank you.

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE), in writing. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I voted in support of the Jeggle report because it represents the product of intense and lengthy work, during which the rapporteur was able to strike important compromises on a subject as difficult as this, on the use of animals in experimentation.

I was not in favour of referring it back to the competent standing committee, because precisely that committee, of which I am a member, greatly valued and agreed with the work of my colleague, Mrs Jeggle. Research must go on; it is important for the development of medicine and health and for the prevention of many diseases.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – I am disappointed at the final text of this report, and particularly that the amendments tabled to strengthen the animal welfare provisions were not adopted. It is time clear regulations were laid down to move towards restrictions on the use of non-human primates, a ban on the use of wild-caught animals, an unequivocal obligation to use non-animal alternative methods when scientifically available, and a ban on experiments which involve severe and prolonged suffering. At the very least, Member States should be able to go beyond the EU minimum requirements and implement stricter animal welfare laws. While this report will improve the existing legislation, it did not go nearly far enough and for this reason, I abstained on the final vote.

 
  
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  Véronique Mathieu (PPE), in writing.(FR) I voted for this compromise because it ensures a good balance between better protection of animals used in experimentation and the pursuit of scientific research. Animal experimentation helps in the fight against numerous serious illnesses; nevertheless, it must be regulated so that unnecessary animal suffering is avoided. The current directive dates back to 1986 and thus needed to be significantly improved.

The new text now includes a requirement to obtain prior authorisation for animal experimentation, which will involve a project assessment and a harm-benefit analysis, and establishes a strict inspection and verification system. Today’s vote is the outcome of extensive efforts by the rapporteurs, my colleague, Mrs Jeggle, and my former colleague, Mr Parish, who worked on the text during the previous parliamentary term. The results of the vote in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development already reflected the quality of the final text.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The adoption of this report, following tough negotiations between the involved parties, is a balanced compromise that safeguards both the animals used for scientific purposes and the need to use them, in order for important discoveries to be made and developments achieved relating to technologies and therapies to be used in the future to cure many illnesses that affect civilisation. That is why I voted as I did.

 
  
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  Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė (PPE), in writing. (LT) The interaction of science and nature for the good of development is always the subject of much debate. Today, the European Parliament adopted an important document regulating scientific research with animals. This document will ensure a positive balance between animal protection and scientific research and provide for several important aspects, ensuring the protection of animals used for scientific research. Sceptics maintain that this directive contradicts animal protection principles and that there are many doubts over the use of animals for scientific purposes. However, under the latter directive, it is obligatory to assess the need to use animals and possible alternatives before each test. Each Member State is also obliged to establish national committees to take care of animal welfare and ethical aspects. I voted for this document because I believe that animal testing should be controlled more strictly, although we should not forget the inevitable scientific progress in various areas and the continuity of scientific research.

 
  
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  Tiziano Motti (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted contrary to the directions of my group on the directive on animal experimentation, even though I fell into the position of supporting scientific research, which I do. This directive is strongly unfavourable to animals. It ‘widens’ the threshold of acceptable pain during experiments from ‘light’ to ‘moderate’; it allows experimentation on stray dogs and cats, leaving it at the discretion of researchers whether to carry our experiments on animals without administering anaesthetic or painkillers; it allows use of the same animal more than once, even in painful procedures; it allows social animals such as dogs and primates to be kept in isolation; and it allows the chest to be cut open without analgesics and experiments on live animals for teaching purposes. I have the human sensitivity to find needless cruelty unacceptable and the political sensitivity to understand that if Europe had not approved this directive, some scientific research would inevitably have moved elsewhere. This European directive represents a serious backward step to which Member States will be obliged to adapt their national regulations. I believe that an amended version favourable to the animal world, supplemented by greater incentives for scientific research performed in Europe, would have been the real solution for a society that loves to call itself civilised.

 
  
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  Cristiana Muscardini (PPE), in writing. (IT) The directive on animal protection ensures equal conditions for companies and researchers by harmonising procedures among countries, but it does not attempt to achieve true protection for animals. In fact, the few rules requiring the adoption of replacement methods have been reduced.

There are numerous gaps, and it ought to encourage the use of more advanced experimental methods that can take the place of animal experiments: in vitro methods, computer simulations of human metabolism, etc. It should also acknowledge the fact that it is often not possible to extrapolate results from one species to another, as eminent scientists have stated.

For obvious reasons, it is not possible to propose the complete abolition of vivisection, but I call for amendments to the text so as to include non-invasive practices and to ban the use of animals for medico-legal investigations and for teaching, while preventing exceptions to the humane method of killing and the ban on the use of endangered or wild animals by setting up a European guarantee committee.

Europe should say ‘No’ to pointless experimentation. All too often, the same experiments that have already been performed and funded are proposed again solely to gain further funding. We have received confirmed reports of experiments carried out on animals that have had their vocal cords cut. Science tells us that a large proportion of the experiments carried out on animals cannot be proposed again for the treatment of human beings.

 
  
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  James Nicholson (ECR), in writing. – I voted for this report even though I realise that, for some, this new directive does not go far enough. I believe, however, that the compromise reached between Parliament and the Council represents the best possible balance between protecting animals, on the one hand, and allowing scientific research to continue, on the other. Voting against this report would have meant that we would have go back to the previous 1986 directive which definitely does not offer the same protection for animals. Existing UK legislation on animal welfare is among the strictest in the world and while the UK will not be able to legislate further in this area, our standards will be allowed to remain exceptionally high rather than be lowered.

 
  
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  Rovana Plumb (S&D), in writing. (RO) As a result of new knowledge which has come to light about the ethological aspects of housing laboratory animals and of new applications for the use of animals, especially in the field of genetic engineering, revision of Directive 86/609/EEC has become an urgent priority, even though its adoption was an historic achievement at that time. Considerable progress has been made since then, especially with regard to the introduction of the ‘3Rs’ principles (replace, reduce and refine).

I welcome the widening of the directive’s scope of application in the following respects: inclusion of foetal forms of susceptible animals and species of invertebrates, along with fundamental biological research; introduction of humane slaughter methods and provisions for national inspections as part of the directive; evaluation and authorisation of projects using animals, including their retrospective evaluation; transparency by publishing non-technical information about the projects, implementation standards and guidance at national level, as well as implementation and statistical reports. I voted for this report as it contains a proposal aimed at ensuring equal conditions throughout the EU for industry and the researcher community, while also strengthening the protection for animals still used for scientific purposes.

 
  
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  Teresa Riera Madurell (S&D), in writing. (ES) As coordinator of my group, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, I would like to express my satisfaction on the adoption by Parliament of the agreement reached during the Spanish Presidency of the Council with respect to the updating of this important directive, which regulates the treatment to be given to animals which, of necessity, must be used for scientific purposes in order to further science in different areas of knowledge.

It is a balanced agreement, which is the result of an extensive negotiation process between the unavoidable needs of the scientific world for the advancement of knowledge, especially in areas such as the health sciences, to which our committee is particularly sensitive, and the need to protect the animals. I have to say that both sides are further strengthened by this reform that we have adopted. It is important to point out that the agreement reached also covers the commitment to working to find and promote other lines of research and alternative methods which will enable the complete replacement of the use of live animals in laboratories in the future, without being detrimental to the necessary advancement of science.

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE) , in writing. (CS) I support the measure, which limits or moderates the suffering of animals that are being used for scientific purposes. Preference should be given to methods other than animal experiments for verifying the effects of new medicines and for scientific studies. However, this does not mean that we should allow human embryos to be used as an alternative method in the interests of protecting animals. I am sorry that the Council deleted just such a limiting clause for alternative methods from the draft adopted by the European Parliament at first reading. Decision making in these ethically sensitive areas falls within the competence of the Member States, and regulation at the national level varies enormously from country to country.

In the Czech Republic, the use of embryonic stem cells for scientific purposes has been permitted by law since 2006, despite the fact that successful biomedical results have, on the contrary, been made possible by research using stem cells from foetal tissue and not from embryos. The fact that we have not voted on the draft directive of the Council for the second reading today in Strasbourg, or have not adopted any resolution, means that the Council’s draft will enter into effect after its publication in the Official Journal regardless of the position of the majority of MEPs.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – While the revised legislation will introduce some improvements to current EU rules on animal testing, it simply does not go far enough and, in some cases, weakens the current laws. Serious concerns highlighted throughout by the Greens/EFA group have been ignored and we regret that MEPs today failed to support our attempts to redress these concerns. Crucially, the new laws will fail to ensure that alternatives to animal testing are used whenever possible.

This will mean animals will suffer needlessly in scientific tests even though alternatives exist. Worryingly, the new laws would also prevent Member States from adopting more ambitious rules on animal testing at national level. The Greens/EFA group wanted to ensure national governments maintained this right. We also seriously regret that stricter rules on the use of non-human primates were not adopted.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi (EFD), in writing. (IT) It is easy to take a stand against animal experimentation, because nobody likes to see animals suffering or being vivisected for scientific purposes, but we are legislators and cannot give in to the emotion of the moment. If we were to limit the use of animals in scientific tests too much, we should realise that those tests would have to be done on human beings.

We cannot imagine that a new active principle, drug or chemotherapy system would not be tested on animals first because, as I have already said, the alternative would be to use patients as guinea pigs. We should also bear in mind that the pharmaceutical companies have no interest in using guinea pigs, and primates in particular, unless it is strictly necessary, given the high costs involved in such experiments.

 
  
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  Debora Serracchiani (S&D), in writing. (IT) I voted against the agreement reached at second reading by Parliament with the Council on the draft directive on the use of animals in scientific experiments.

I am not saying ‘No’ to the advance of research but I am calling for a reduction in animal suffering, since the revised directive proposes some practices that go against that aim, such as the possibility of experimenting more than once on the same animal. Moreover, I believe the use of other satisfactory scientific methods that do not require the use of animals should be developed further.

 
  
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  Catherine Soullie (PPE), in writing. (FR) I approve of the result of the vote on the text referring to the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. It may not be perfect, but the Jeggle report seems to me at least to offer a good compromise; a compromise, moreover, that has won the support of the Eurogroup for Animals.

The wording allows us effectively to limit tests causing pain to animals, while avoiding a diversion of research, and hence also of innovation, outside the Union, with the resulting loss of many jobs. As Vice-President of the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, I am moreover convinced that it is more valuable to keep animal experimentation on our territory, where it is strictly regulated, than to leave it to third countries, where sanitary conditions and respect for animal life often leave much to be desired.

 
  
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  Bart Staes (Verts/ALE), in writing. (NL) I regret that the majority of members have rejected the three proposals put forward by the Greens for a modification of the directive and stricter national rules, for an incentive for alternative testing methods and for a further curb on the use of primates. The new animal testing legislation is seriously flawed. Member States will no longer have the freedom to adopt stricter rules on animal testing. This restriction of national discretion serves no useful purpose. Animals will become victims of the internal market’s toe-the-line dogma. Nevertheless, it is important that Member States dare lead the way. Without national pioneers, many European animal welfare rules, such as the ban on animal testing for cosmetic purposes, would never have come about.

The new directive improves the control of companies and institutions which breed, market or use laboratory animals. However, the wording of the requirement that alternative test methods should be used where they are available carries less of the force of an order than that used in the previous directive. This is a missed opportunity to reduce animal suffering and to improve the quality of research. The new rules fail to acknowledge the progress that has been made in developing alternatives to animal testing, which are, incidentally, often more reliable than animal tests.

 
  
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  Derek Vaughan (S&D), in writing. – I am disappointed that measures to strengthen rules on animal testing did not go further. Key measures which would have committed Europe to the reduction and replacement of the use of animals in experiments were not included in this legislation. This was a missed opportunity and much more could have been done to protect animals, including allowing Member States to adopt higher welfare standards than other countries. I am concerned that this directive will prohibit the UK from adopting higher standards in the future. In addition to this, procedures to regularly review the use of animals in scientific experiments were not included. I am pleased however, that vital research into new medicines and diseases can continue.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR), in writing.(PL) I regret that the Council directive has been adopted in its final form without the provision adopted by the European Parliament in May 2009 which said that experiments on stem cells and human embryos cannot be used as alternatives to experiments on animals. Quite apart from the wording of the directive, I think that this kind of approach, I mean the substitution of experiments on animals with experiments on human organisms, should not be used.

 
  
  

Report: Csaba Őry (A7-0235/2010)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the guidelines for employment policies in Member States on the understanding that they should stress the importance of the need for a high level of qualifications for the effective promotion of a good level of employment and income, especially with regard to the new economy, where there will be a strong focus on new sectors and new skills.

A high level of employment should be possible both for highly qualified people, who can be a key tool for research and development, but also for people with education levels below the EU average. The Member States thus have an important role to play in retraining, promoting education and providing new opportunities for lifelong education.

It is worth noting that for a good level of employment and full progress at EU level, it must be ensured that those who strive to improve their qualifications are given real job opportunities and allowed to retrain if necessary. A strong focus on career guidance in accordance with present and future needs may be the way to get us back to high levels of employability.

 
  
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  Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE), in writing. (RO) Although the economic climate remains fragile in most Member States, there are encouraging signs of the revival of economic growth. This is why efforts need to be focused in order to guarantee consolidation of the potential for creating jobs and to support the population in finding and doing them. In April 2010, the European Commission proposed a new series of employment policy guidelines in Member States. These, along with the general economic policy guidelines, provide the integrated guidelines for implementing the EU 2020 strategy aimed at smart, sustainable growth, which is conducive to inclusion.

The four guidelines for employment are: increasing labour market participation and reducing structural unemployment, promoting social inclusion and combating poverty, improving the performance of education systems at all levels and developing a skilled workforce. Mr Őry’s report supports the approach proposed by the Commission, but provides a number of clarifications and some additional information. This is why I voted for it.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) In April 2010, the European Commission presented a proposal for guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States, as part of the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy. In his report, Mr Őry, a member of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), supports the Commission’s proposals, and adds some elements which I find to be necessary. Thus cohesion policy, which had been neglected by the Commission, must be fully incorporated in employment policies. Even though European competence in employment matters is still limited, the EU must not be satisfied with a passive role, and must make best use of the instruments at its disposal (cohesion policy, the Globalisation Adjustment Fund, open method of coordination). I therefore fully support the guidelines of this report.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted for this resolution. Faced with the rapidly spreading phenomenon of an ageing society, we must take measures both at Member State and EU level to combat the social exclusion of older people and age-based discrimination. We must ensure that Member States provide comprehensive support to older people, above all, by creating conditions for the establishment of a high quality health and social care system. We must also ensure that Member States contribute to the provision of long-term care services and implement the information and prevention policy for older people, with particular attention to food. To ensure the successful implementation of the planned objectives, it is essential to establish a sustainable long-term care service funding system. In turn, the European Commission should make efforts in order to ensure acceptable healthcare standards for all European citizens, irrespective of their material situation.

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Bennahmias (ALDE), in writing. (FR) The Europe 2020 strategy, presented in March 2010 by the European Commission, is designed to set the course of the EU for the next decade.

Although we can only regret the fact that the European Parliament was not involved in drawing up the strategy, which was the work of Mr Barroso alone, there is one area in which Parliament can have its say: the integrated guidelines on employment. The 10 guidelines concern the creation of more and better jobs, the strengthening of decent work, and an improvement in education and training systems.

For this reason, along with the majority of my fellow Members, I voted today, Wednesday, 8 September 2010, for a report that defines these objectives and by means of which we can, in particular, demand a better use of the European Social Fund, and insist on the need to pay greater attention to low-income workers and to the fight against social exclusion, as well as on the need to guarantee access to quality and affordable public services. Finally, if we want this strategy to be truly inclusive, we must ensure coherence between these guidelines and cohesion policy.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted for this report because the new 2020 guidelines for the employment policies of the EU Member States will have a major impact on the labour market over the next few years. I am delighted that, through the amendments proposed to the European Parliament, it has been possible to lay down clear objectives and to provide for specific measures in the Commission’s proposed employment guidelines. Of course, reducing unemployment, ensuring minimum wages and combating poverty and social exclusion remain the most important priorities in employment policy in all Member States. I also agree that one of the main goals is to achieve equal pay for equal work and ensure equal working conditions for all workers.

I agree with Parliament’s proposals that we must initiate employment policy measures devoted to the most vulnerable groups, because poverty affects these people first and worst of all. I also call on the Commission and the Member States to draw greater attention in the employment guidelines to young people and older workers who face discrimination in the labour market.

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE), in writing. (RO) The current economic crisis will definitely have a profound impact on the employment market in the coming years. There are initial signs of economic recovery and the revival of economic growth. However, it is expected that the economic crisis’s impact on employment has not yet reached its peak. This is why I welcome the efforts being made now to guarantee a sustainable recovery and strengthen the European economies’ job creation potential, and help people find work. European states also face challenges linked to significant demographic changes, exacerbated by the globalisation process, while the scenario where the number of taxpayers contributing to national budgets is in steady decline does not look very promising.

With the 2020 agenda on the table, with its targets for adopting new technologies to cut carbon emissions, the employment strategy should be drawn up not only for the short term, but for the medium and long term as well. This strategy must obviously be devised alongside measures for boosting the employment of young people under 25, the age group currently facing unprecedented unemployment rates.

 
  
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  Vito Bonsignore (PPE), in writing. (IT) I wish to explain my vote on this report because I believe the subject of this report is of vital importance to the future of the labour market in Europe.

This proposal contains general economic policy guidelines on employment to be implemented within the European Union. The economic crisis is not over and is dragging on behind the employment crisis.

While it is true that there are encouraging signs of recovery, the job market remains substantially closed and the number of unemployed is still very high. There are differences across Europe, however. In Spain and Greece, for example, the number of people out of work is worrying and mostly affects young people. In my country, however, as luck would have it, but also thanks to the good measures adopted by the Italian Government, the number of jobless has not risen so dramatically. One has to acknowledge that the Italian Government has been at the forefront in promoting flexibility and dynamism in the job market, and that recipe seems to be working.

Some governments that are over-inclined to defend workers’ rights have allowed their own workers to lose their jobs. Being more flexible and ready for a competitive new labour market saves jobs instead, and creates economic conditions that encourage the appearance of new ones.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) I voted against the Őry report, despite the fact that it contains some important amendments by the left, such as the need to safeguard gender equality, and despite the fact that it improves the Commission text. I voted against the report because it abides by the philosophy of a flexible market and even calls for more flexibility and the strategic use of flexicurity on the labour market which, as we know, operates directly against the workers.

The report also considers that, in order to get out of the financial crisis and apply growth policies, restructuring is needed on the basis of full exploitation of the internal market and the removal of ‘legal obstacles’. However, behind this unclear wording, a lack of protection for workers’ labour rights remains a possibility.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) I support the Őry report and welcome the opportunity that it brings. Within the scope of Agenda 2020, the establishment of general guidelines was urgently needed on economic policy (Article 121, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), but also employment policy (Article 148). The economic crisis that we are experiencing at present exacerbates social problems and lends greater urgency to the need to set out effective and sustained employment policies. I agree with the rapporteur on the proposals to take stronger measures to raise the level of employment for men and women in Europe.

The report has helped to strengthen issues that had not been given sufficient emphasis, such as: 1. reducing unemployment among the most vulnerable groups, including young people, by increasing levels of education, reducing dropout rates and pulling people out of poverty; 2 ensuring equal treatment and pay for equal work in the same workplace; and 3. involving regional and local authorities, parliaments and social partners in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of these programmes, particularly in the setting of targets and indicators.

 
  
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  Lara Comi (PPE), in writing. (IT) The Lisbon strategy states that the European Union must improve its productivity and competitiveness through its workforce.

This objective has not yet been completely achieved in that the unemployment rate is still high. It is important to analyse the problems that have made full employment slow down. Eliminating discrimination based on gender, race, ethnic origin and religion would be a remarkable step forward, which would allow especially young people and women to become more competitive in the job market. Women also face the difficulty of reconciling motherhood and work: improving company crèches, granting part-time work when requested, and allowing women to look after their sick children without having to worry about losing their jobs would be useful measures to help women play their dual role.

Another group that needs protection is young people, who are liable to have no job security for years: they have plenty of ability and theoretical knowledge, but they lack practical experience. Schools need to look more closely at what companies want and prepare students for the world of work. Companies, in turn, must invest in the new generations by giving them the chance to develop their careers.

 
  
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  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, Christofer Fjellner, Gunnar Hökmark, Anna Ibrisagic and Alf Svensson (PPE), in writing. (SV) We have today, 8 September 2010, voted in favour of the report (A7-0235/2010) on the proposal for a Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States: Part II of the Europe 2020 Integrated Guidelines (2010/0115(NLE)). However, we would like to stress that there are parts of the report that we do not agree with, for example, proposals aimed at the detailed regulation of the Member States’ labour market policy, supranational control of the Member States’ trade and industry and EU regulation of minimum wages. By so doing, we wish to stand up for the principle of subsidiarity. We would, however, like to emphasise that much of what is contained in the report is good. For example, we obviously support the principles of the equal treatment of men and women and equal pay for equal work.

 
  
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  Marielle De Sarnez (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Parliament has given its opinion on the integrated guidelines on employment. The 10 guidelines are aimed at creating more and better jobs, strengthening decent work, and improving education and training systems. Parliament has intervened to ensure that the European Social Fund is used more effectively, that greater attention is paid to poor workers and to the fight against social exclusion and that access to affordable, high quality public services is guaranteed.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE), in writing. (FR) The situation in the job market is unquestionably the main cause for concern among our citizens. The job market continues to deteriorate, with an unemployment rate peaking today at 9.8%.

The employment guidelines represent an essential means of stimulating structural reforms, as much as a means of gauging the impact of reforms to be made; and all this as much in the framework of the 2020 strategy as in the context of the new coordination of economic policies that is being put into place. It is therefore crucial to take hold of these issues, but it is just as crucial to ensure that reforms are as appropriate as possible.

It is one thing to have guidelines. It is quite another, however, to see them implemented correctly by the Member States. To this end, it seems to me to be particularly essential to reaffirm the role of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) in the 2020 strategy and in economic governance, and to ensure that EPSCO is fully involved in the reforms to be undertaken, so as to ensure the viability of our social model and the best economic governance model for the EU. I am convinced of the imperative need to rebalance the employment and social pillar in the context of European decision making.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of this report because it advocates policies that promote active ageing, gender equality, equal pay for men and women, and access to protection and social and professional benefits for women. Bearing in mind the increased difficulties in integrating more women into the labour market, it is becoming necessary to implement policies that also promote the reconciliation of work and family life.

 
  
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  Göran Färm, Anna Hedh, Olle Ludvigsson and Marita Ulvskog (S&D), in writing. (SV) We have today voted in favour of the report on guidelines for employment, but would like to point out that we have noticed important discrepancies in different language versions. We voted in favour of the Member States ensuring adequate minimum incomes as stated in the English version of the amendment. Unfortunately, this has been translated in the Swedish version as ‘minimilön’, meaning ‘minimum wage’.

Wage levels do not fall within the competence of the EU, and we have therefore assumed that the Swedish version is wrong. We have also chosen to vote in favour of the report in spite of references to ‘high taxes’ as obstacles to growth, without any definition of ‘high taxes’ being given. Taxes do not fall with the competence of the EU either, and we believe that there are many examples of tax-funded activities that make a significant contribution to growth.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) As I said about the report of my colleague, Mrs Gruny, which was voted upon last July, society has evolved, the world has changed, and labour relations have to change too. I firmly believe that this is the case, and so I am pleased that Parliament has advocated more flexible working patterns as a way of fighting unemployment. In addition, as I have had responsibilities in government in the field of education, I am pleased to see that this proposal places special emphasis on education and qualification for workers. In fact, this is a commitment that should be taken very seriously in the context of the EU 2020 strategy. Given that the crisis has meant that the number of unemployed people in Europe has increased from 16 million in 2008 to 23 million in 2010, any exit strategy has to involve the recovery of jobs. This is only possible if there is a clear focus on innovation, flexible working and new models for work and training for more young people for an increasingly competitive market.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) The backdrop for the new guidelines on employment in 2020 is the economic crisis, whose effects will continue to have a negative impact on the labour market over the coming years. We have immediate problems with unemployment and, at the same time, long-term challenges: specifically, demographic change, globalisation and the adoption of new low-carbon technologies. It is therefore very important for there to be a European employment strategy that solves the most urgent problems arising from the crisis, as well as those that emerge in the medium and long term.

The application of the principles of flexicurity, quality education, lifelong learning and combating structural unemployment constitute indispensible prerequisites to the achieving of common objectives and goals regarding economic growth and social wellbeing. Therefore, the implementation of the Europe  2020 strategy should begin now. The EU Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund for the current programming period should already be starting to follow this strategy. It is important for agriculture and the rural world to be given emphasis in this strategy. Cohesion goals must be pursued and synergies created between cohesion policy and other sectoral policies.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We voted against this resolution, as it ignores the main causes of employment, job insecurity and poverty, and because the proposals which we re-tabled in this Chamber were rejected. Those included:

- The Commission should recognise that it is necessary to change the existing macro-economic policies by suspending the Stability and Growth Pact and putting a stop to the processes of privatisation and liberalisation, with a view to prioritising the creation of quality jobs with rights for all workers and better salaries, reducing poverty levels and increasing social inclusion and progress.

- Undeclared work should be addressed through stricter controls by work inspection, along with tax measures for people with low incomes.

- The Council should agree on a compromise at EU level to bring an end to homelessness by 2015 and prepare integrated policy measures which ensure affordable access to quality housing with an adequate energy supply for all.

Our proposal for the inclusion of a new directive on gender equality was also rejected. This advocated that Member States should increase female employment, while fully respecting the rights of women and eliminating all inequalities, by means of specific gender equality objectives, gender-oriented integration and specific policy actions.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), in writing. (FR) At a time when the unemployment rate is reaching 9.8% in Europe, at a time when the labour market situation is continuing to worsen, at a time when not all the effects of the economic crisis have yet become apparent, the European Union must implement an ambitious European employment strategy. The European Parliament has therefore adopted, as part of the EU 2020 strategy, guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States: 10 guidelines on job creation, job quality, youth employment, the employment of persons belonging to vulnerable groups, the fight against social exclusion and the importance of putting the European Social Fund to best use. These may be very ambitious goals, but they are first and foremost guidelines which have to be implemented, now and in the future, by the Member States, as well as a strong message from the European Parliament to the Member States, at a time when employment is the most important concern and anxiety for our fellow citizens.

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing. (FR) I voted for the Őry report on the guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy. This text lays considerable emphasis on the need to prioritise the fight against unemployment against a backdrop of economic and social crisis. The text focuses on several points: the employment rate must be brought up to 75% throughout the entire Union within the next 10 years, and a particular effort should be made for the most vulnerable groups in the labour market: young people, older people, unskilled women, people with disabilities and people with migrant backgrounds, as they are most likely to suffer recruitment- and employment-related discrimination. The text also recalls the fundamental concepts of decent work and the fight against poverty.

 
  
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  Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE), in writing.(PL) The guidelines for employment policy for the next 10 years show that the services sector is going to be one of the areas in which the most jobs will be created. For these jobs to be created, favourable conditions must exist for businesses in relation to the services they offer, and this includes cross-border services. Therefore, I would like to stress that the Services Directive can support employment policy, if only its transposition by the Member States is improved.

The directive creates new possibilities for businesses, but if it is applied well, it will also have a beneficial effect on labour markets. Therefore, I endorse the proposals adopted in the report. The services sector is going to need mobile workers who are suitably prepared and qualified, and for this we need changes to education and training systems and to employment policy.

 
  
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  Elie Hoarau (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FR) I voted for this report. As the elected representative of an overseas region, I am more than familiar with policies favouring employment and combating poverty as French Overseas Departments have the lowest employment rates in France (43.9% for example in Réunion compared with 62.3% in all EU Member States).

Taking this figure of 10% in 2014 and increasing it to 75% in 2020 is something I have always fought for, especially because it is aimed mainly at young people in difficulty, women and people with disabilities. The proposal also looks at poverty and aims to reduce the number of citizens living below the poverty line by 25%. These objectives should mobilise all social and political forces, both French and European, so that the state can implement the necessary resources to achieve them within the timescales set.

 
  
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  Alan Kelly (S&D), in writing. I supported this consultation because I feel it is very important for the Member States of the EU to ensure that adequate minimum incomes are achieved above the poverty line. It is also vital to strengthen the equal treatment and equal pay for equal work clause whenever possible.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The current economic crisis is the major variable to be considered when we are talking about new guidelines for employment in 2020, since it will have a very significant impact on the labour market over the coming years. Although we have some data pointing to a recovery for some activities in the EU, the economic situation in the great majority of Member States still remains very fragile.

On the other hand, the full effects of the current crisis in terms of unemployment still have not been felt, so many thousands more will lose their jobs as a result of it. This means that the great challenges that are being posed are demographic change, globalisation and the adoption of new technologies, including low-carbon technologies. Therefore, European employment strategy for the next decade must be concerned, not just with the most urgent problems arising from the crisis, but also those that emerge in the medium and long term. That is why I voted as I did.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. (LV) I agree completely with the rapporteur, Mr Őry, and hence I supported this legislative resolution. I particularly welcomed the Council’s Amendment No 12, which notes that it is important to fight events that slow down economic growth, including the bureaucratic burden and high taxes. I do not remember a previous occasion when the European Parliament has talked about the bureaucratic burden and high taxes.

There are few people who give any consideration to the fact that irrational and illogical taxes can render any economic system ineffective. Today, in a country such as Latvia, the tax system has led to a crisis. Thanks to a bureaucratic and botched tax system, Latvia has lost more than EUR 10 billion. I supported this legislative resolution in the hope that it will begin the great task of optimising taxes in the territory of the EU.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Employment policy is vital both for the economy and for social peace. It is therefore in the interests of each nation to make its own decisions on appropriate measures. However, the large degree of variation in the individual Member States makes a standardised package of measures impossible. Labour market participation of 75% is, in some Member States like Poland, Malta and Hungary, which currently have a level below 60%, complete fantasy. Also for Austria, which has a level of around 70%, is it highly questionable whether a higher level of labour market participation is compatible with the freedom of choice available in connection with bringing up children or the protection of domestic workers against wage dumping by cheap foreign workers. For these reasons, I decided to vote against this report.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI), in writing. − (DE) The idea that it is possible to combat unemployment effectively in an ultra-liberal European Union is an illusion. Therefore, I have voted against Mr Öry’s report.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of Mr Őry’s report because I agree with its approach and its final message.

The proposal underlines the importance of increasing the number of people active in the labour market, so as to help bring down structural unemployment and to pay particular attention to lifelong learning. A key role is reserved for education through improvements to the current educational systems, encouraging young people to go on to higher education. There will be many new efforts in the years to come to promote social inclusion and the fight against poverty more effectively.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE), in writing. (IT) On 27 April 2010, the Commission tabled a proposal for the Europe 2020 Integrated Guidelines setting out the framework for the new strategy and reforms to be undertaken by the Member States.

The debate on the new 2020 employment guidelines is taking place in the midst of an economic crisis that will undoubtedly have a profound impact on the labour market for several years to come. Despite some encouraging signs that growth is returning, the economy remains fragile in most Member States. Therefore, direct effects of the crisis on unemployment have still not been fully felt. Consequently, all efforts have to be made to secure a sustainable recovery and to strengthen the job creation potential of the European economies, as well as to help people into employment.

It is therefore very important that a European employment strategy for the next decade tackles and strikes a balance between the pressing immediate challenges resulting from the crisis and those of a medium- to longer-term nature.

 
  
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  Rovana Plumb (S&D), in writing. (RO) As part of the European Union’s 2020 strategy, Romania has committed, along with other Member States, to achieving a 75% employment rate by 2020. As a result of this overall objective, an employment rate of 69-70% will need to be achieved in Romania by 2020. I must mention that the employment rate in Romania in 2010 is 63.6%, with a European average of 67.4%.

Against this background, I call on Member States to draw up reform programmes which will contribute to:

- labour force participation through policies promoting gender quality and equal pay, with the aim of narrowing the gender pay gap to 0-5% by 2020;

- boosting the employment rate through measures encouraging participation in working life, especially for ethnic minorities, including Roma;

- the adoption of stringent measures aimed at discouraging an economy based on undeclared work, which causes numerous adverse effects on the European labour market, instead of promoting measures aimed only at protecting labour in Member States’ internal markets;

- opening up labour markets completely to workers from new Member States.

 
  
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  Robert Rochefort (ALDE), in writing. (FR) While the full impact of the economic crisis on unemployment rates has not yet been felt, implementation of an ambitious European strategy on employment is essential.

I approve the target set by the Council to increase labour market participation to 75% of the European population between now and 2020, but more needs to be done. We could, for example, set a target of raising employment rates among the more vulnerable groups, such as young people aged between 15 and 25 years, older workers, unskilled active women, or people with disabilities. Or we could even further reduce school drop-out rates to below 10%.

What is more, I think specific policies should target the difficulties encountered by the long-term unemployed in entering the job market, and I call on the Council to equip itself with the resources to reduce this by at least 10% over the next 10 years. To achieve this, as suggested in Mr Őry’s report, at least 25% of all long-term unemployed should participate in an active labour market measure in the form of advanced training, education and/or occupational redeployment.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – The report adopted today is a landmark for the EU’s employment guidelines. MEPs have voted to include a proper social component to the guidelines for the first time, including measures to deal with poverty and the working poor, as well as to address youth unemployment and integrate marginalised and vulnerable groups into the labour market. EU governments and the Belgian EU Presidency must take heed of the message delivered today by the European Parliament and commit to making their employment policies more socially inclusive.

Specifically, national governments must follow up on Parliament’s demand to take measures to improve work-life balance and gender equality. Huge efforts are needed in this respect in order to raise the participation of women in the labour market to 75% by 2020.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE), in writing. (IT) The report adopted today is an important instrument for promoting new employment policies under the Europe 2020 strategy.

It is important to emphasise that the text calls on the Member States to take decisive action to raise employment levels, and particularly to foster mobility among young people. The objective of creating new and better jobs, reducing unemployment and raising the employment rate of the active population to 75% must be the target to reach in the coming years. The active population must become the focus of any economic development policy for the European Union. Without work, any kind of plan for the future – such as travelling, buying a house or having a child – becomes a pipe dream, unlikely to be fulfilled.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi (EFD), in writing. (IT) We cannot agree with this report because it seeks to encourage the implementation of measures designed to facilitate access to employment for certain groups, in particular, the Roma.

We cannot accept that, instead of defending the rights of those who live in their own country, we should be facilitating matters for people who, in many situations, are merely guests. Clearly, during times of crisis, each state must facilitate matters for its own citizens, perhaps with projects aimed at those who find themselves in difficulties or out of work.

 
  
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  Joanna Senyszyn (S&D), in writing.(PL) I endorsed the report on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States: Part II of the Europe 2020 Integrated Guidelines. In view of the fact that the unemployment rate in the EU is 9.6%, it is imperative to intensify and rationalise employment policy in order to create new jobs. In Poland, EU support has benefited thousands of people who are now in employment. The money available for this purpose is not always spent wisely. The lack of properly specified guidelines means that many projects are carried out on an ad hoc basis. As a result, training sessions are not always adapted to the real situation and the same people often attend several times. Therefore, I endorse the Commission’s initiative in this area. These guidelines, developed as they were during the crisis, will be put to the test in the next few years. On these guidelines will depend whether the Union overcomes the crisis and whether the new jobs which are created meet the current and future needs of the labour market.

It is important, too, to monitor the effectiveness of the guidelines by collecting particular statistical data on the effectiveness of measures taken on the basis of the guidelines. Only in this way will we see the real influence of EU financial resources on reducing unemployment in the Union. This will, in turn, allow any changes which might be necessary in this area to be made. I appeal, too, for special emphasis to be placed on support for the mobility and employment of women, young people, elderly people and disabled people.

 
  
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  Bart Staes (Verts/ALE), in writing. (NL) Despite some encouraging signals suggesting renewed growth, the economic situation remains fragile. Europe must therefore ensure sustainable recovery, strengthen the job-creating potential of the European economies and help people into work. The advice of the Report on Employment Guidelines is clear: more women, senior citizens and young people in work, less poverty and better education. That is what the EU wants to achieve by 2020. For those reasons, I give the report my support. It contains guidelines which will allow people to better combine work and caring responsibilities, for example, through flexible working hours and accessible childcare. That is a concrete policy and one that will help women enter the labour market. Parliament also wants the countries of the EU to improve their social security systems and ensure a decent income, so that there can be a reduction in poverty and people find that it pays to enter work. Finally, continued pursuit of the objectives of cohesion policy will eliminate socio-economic differences between the Member States and the regions. If the Commission now rigorously ensures that Member States really do base their policies on the guidelines, Europe’s plans for 2020 will not merely be empty words.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) The discussion on the new guidelines for employment in 2020 comes at a time when thousands of families all over Europe are facing the tragedy of unemployment as part of the economic crisis. These guidelines, as part of the Europe 2020 strategy, encompass both general guidelines for economic policy and employment policy.

The report that we voted upon today, which I supported, is aligned with the European Commission’s proposal, although the rapporteur has taken care to ensure that these guidelines are clear and useful to the Member States in setting out policy. The promotion of employment will come about automatically through sustainable economic growth, the adaptability of companies and workers to new situations, the attainment of high levels of education, especially among younger people, ongoing training that meets the needs of companies, and the involvement of social partners in all these processes.

This is what the rapporteur has tried to do in setting out goals in order to increase and improve employment, increase levels of education, reconcile work and family life, and reduce the student dropout rate, along with the proportion of the population living in poverty.

 
  
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  Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) The Commission guidelines on employment and the related report by the European Parliament form part of the EU’s anti-grassroots strategy, the EU 2020 strategy and its ‘integrated guidelines’. They form a single framework for the anti-labour policy of the EU which is already being rolled out and has to be promoted in an even more decisive and coordinated manner in all EU Member States.

They focus around efforts by monopoly capital to cheapen labour to the lowest possible limits, as the prerequisite to securing profits during the current capitalist crisis. In order to achieve this objective, the EU, the bourgeois governments and the political forces of capital in the Member States and in the European Parliament are roundly promoting the following in the employment guidelines: a longer working life, an increase in the retirement age, using demographic ageing and the ‘viability’ of national insurance systems as a pretext, ‘flexicurity’ and flexible, temporary, part-time work as the norm, thereby sweeping away all vested labour rights, the adaptation of education systems to the training of employable workers to meet the needs of capital, a pool of cheap scientific labour/paid intellectuals for business and a new network on the limits of destitution for extreme cases of poverty, so as to prevent social uprisings born of brutal exploitation.

 
  
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  Viktor Uspaskich (ALDE), in writing. (LT) Ladies and gentlemen, this report rightly observes that it is important to raise the level of employment and increase labour market participation. It is important both for our economy and our society. It is also important not to sacrifice quality for quantity, by failing to address the situation of the working poor, either at national or EU level. There is a significant group who work, but whose disposable income is insufficient for them to escape poverty. The economic recession has turned this into a problem for the whole of Europe and the situation is particularly difficult in Lithuania.

These tendencies are reflected very well in the minimum wages received by workers and the widespread reduction in wages as a severe austerity measure. People without a higher education are particularly vulnerable. According to EU statistics, the risk of poverty for a working person without a higher education is 16% – double the average in Lithuania and eight times more than for an employee with a university education. Unfortunately, this gap is much greater in Lithuania than anywhere else in the European Union. The issue of poverty among working people has not been sufficiently discussed by the Member States, including my country. We need more studies on this problem and specific measures to reduce the poverty of working people.

 
  
  

Motion for a resolution RC-B7-0494/2010

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the joint motion for a resolution on the human rights situation in Iran. I did this because I believe that the sentence of death by stoning handed down to Sakineh Ashtiani is a clear violation of Iran’s international obligations. Regardless of the facts, this type of punishment can never be justifiable or acceptable. Torture, illegal detention, physical and sexual violence and impunity for state agents continue to be widespread practice in many countries. This raises serious doubts about the impartiality and transparency of the court proceedings in those places. The continuing persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, along with the persistent criminalisation of free sexual relations between adults, is unacceptable.

In this situation, it is up to us, as European defenders of the human rights and democratic values which form the basis of our institutions, to bring every possible pressure to bear on the Iranian authorities to reassess processes like this. This pressure has already borne fruit, as the Iranian Government has announced that it has suspended the sentence of death by stoning against Sakineh Ashtiani. I must pay tribute to the courage of all the Iranian men and women who are struggling to defend their basic freedoms.

 
  
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  Charalampos Angourakis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) The European Parliament has hastened to declare its support for imperialist plans in the Middle East and for the undisguised military threats by Israel, the US and NATO against Iran. On the pretext of the barbaric death penalty by stoning passed on Sakineh Mohammad-Ashtiani and the unacceptable persecution of the grassroots movement, all the political groups in the European Parliament have, in a rare display of unanimity, adopted a resolution to step up imperialist intervention in Iran. The Greek Communist Party did not support the resolution, because it has nothing to do with the solidarity needed in the fight by the working class against the reactionary and backward-looking regime which, on the contrary, is strengthened by sanctions and such resolutions. It is telling that the debate in the European Parliament was decided immediately after representations by the Israeli Embassy in Brussels, which called on it not to address infringements of human rights in Israel and to turn its attention instead to Iran.

The European Parliament’s sensitivity on the issue of human rights is the fig leaf for the aggressive foreign policy of the EU and its crimes against workers, immigrants and peoples. The fight against NATO, the EU and the imperialist unions is becoming more and more necessary if the people are to win rights and freedoms and determine their own fate.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old Iranian woman, is at risk of being stoned to death for adultery and for conspiring to murder her former husband. As an MEP and Chair of the Femmes au Centre (Women at the Centre) Association, I am incensed at this sentence, which everyone believes to be arbitrary. Indeed, this decision flouts the most fundamental human rights: it fails to respect the right of defence and human dignity. Still today, in some countries, two types of justice exist side by side: women are sentenced and tortured in violation of their fundamental rights, and by men, who hold all the power. I am pleased that Parliament’s resolution calling on the Iranian regime to change its mind over this sentence was adopted almost unanimously, as this gives it considerable clout. We now expect real progress to be made with regard to human rights in Iran.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this resolution. Iran continues to be the country carrying out the highest number of executions each year. I therefore strongly support the European Parliament’s position which severely condemns the death penalty and urges the Iranian authorities to abolish the use of the death penalty, to eliminate all forms of torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, and to end the persecution of human rights defenders. I support the European Union’s goal of promoting human rights worldwide and the implementation of related support programmes, such as the EU-funded European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. This instrument, which has a budget of EUR 1.1 billion for 2007-2013, aims to ensure respect for human rights and democracy throughout the world. The Commission and the Council, together with other international organisations, should therefore continue to actively prepare additional aid instruments in order to actively defend Iran’s human rights activists.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto (EFD), in writing. (IT) The joint resolution has my full support, as a political representative, but still more as a woman. Iran today is a country that symbolises the violence of radical Islam and fanaticism against women and their basic rights. With this resolution, we rightly call on the Islamic Republic and its leaders to respect the international human rights conventions, which Iran is legally bound to respect. The case of Sakineh, together with the others contained in the text that we have voted for, confirms that today, Tehran may not only be found in complete opposition to modern political and cultural values, but also places itself on a plane of illegality with regard to international norms, failing to comply with binding agreements on the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The resolution is firm, rightly firm, at a time when we should make Iran feel all the force and pressure of which this institution is capable, so that the international movement to stop the executioner of the Islamic Republic achieves its desired effect. I therefore voted decisively in favour.

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE), in writing. (RO) The international community has won a small victory, offering still a glimmer of hope, in the case of the woman in Iran sentenced to death by the barbaric method of stoning. The sentence has been suspended for the moment, but this is ultimately meaningless. This is why the efforts of all members of the international community must be continued, with the aim of having the death penalty banned in states like Iran where people’s lives are at the mercy of warped, archaic laws.

The European Union must continue to condemn and exert pressure on states where there is no respect for human life and human rights mean nothing. There are people in Iran who risk their life and personal safety every day, fighting for greater freedom and more democratic rights. International associations and bodies show their support for these people. However, when faced with an oppressive regime caught in a time warp, like the one in Tehran, the battle is going to be difficult and protracted. No one should pay with their freedom because they have expressed their views openly against a regime or some leaders. The European Union must get actively involved in its role as an exporter of freedom and respect for people and their rights.

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI), in writing. – I have abstained on this motion. However, I would have voted for the (ECR) motion B7-0499/2010. Of course, I agree with the sentiments that stoning to death (or any other death sentence) for adultery is completely unacceptable even for Muslim countries that might wish to prohibit such conduct by law. Whilst I am not in favour of using the criminal law to enforce moral conduct between consenting adults, I respect the right of other countries to take a different view, as long as they do not use disproportionate and savage sentences. I am also alarmed at the use of the criminal law against political dissent, either in Iran or those countries in the EU that are guilty of this.

All defendants facing serious criminal charges should be entitled to legal representation and there should be safeguards against inappropriate police conduct before trial. I do not believe that it is for the EU to tell Iran that it must never use the death penalty in any circumstances. If this motion is not to be counter-productive, it must be measured and appeal to reform-minded members of a very conservative society. This motion will offend even pro-reform Iranians.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) Sakineh Ashtiani is the face of the executions in Iran, and the symbol of the injustice of the country’s judicial proceedings and its violation of fundamental rights. I wish to add my voice to those of the international solidarity movements that are demanding that the sentence be quashed and Sakineh Ashtiani freed immediately: to demand her freedom is also to fight for equal rights for women, and for freedom of expression and to actively participate in a free society. I strongly support antidiscrimination causes and, in particular, the cause of Iranian women, and would stress Sakineh Ashtiani’s role at the forefront of the struggle for democracy, equality and rights in Iran. The courage and determination of Iranian women are an inspiration for all of us.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) The theocratic dictatorship in Iran sows hatred and preaches intolerance. Its inflammatory rhetoric in favour of the destruction of Israel and its nuclear programme, which persists without control or international supervision, are threats to world peace. The Islamic courts apply barbaric laws that are, in themselves, a denial of justice, placing women in a situation of virtual slavery.

Unfortunately, the case of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani is not unique, and we need to support all the other women sentenced to death without respect for human dignity, women’s rights and human rights. I would like to reaffirm my opposition to the death penalty and call upon the Iranian authorities, in accordance with UN resolutions 62/149 and 63/138, to declare a moratorium on executions pending the abolition of the death penalty. I condemn the arrest and urge the immediate release of Zahra Bahrami, a citizen of the Netherlands who was travelling to Iran to visit her family, and who was detained during the Achoura protests on 27 December 2009 and has been forced to make televised confessions admitting the allegations against her.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the joint resolution on human rights in Iran, to which I put my name, as I feel that it is ethically imperative to put pressure on the Iranian authorities to desist from committing this heinous crime. I am proud to have been born in the country that led the way in abolishing the death penalty. Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani has not committed any crime, yet she has been arrested and sentenced to death by stoning, and is constantly humiliated and whipped. I would like to express my deep concern at the constant reports of persecution perpetrated by the Iranian authorities against political opponents and the advocates of human rights, especially against women and young students. This is a clear violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an abuse of judicial powers.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) Gratuitous and disproportionate violence not only offends our European sensibilities, as it collides head-on with the body of values and rights which originate in the West and today are, thankfully, part of world heritage. Among these cases loom those of violence against women who, in certain societies, are often used as a weapon or spoil of war, as decorative objects or as beings without rights or the ability to act autonomously, condemned to being an aberrant and undefended minority.

Unfortunately, there are still states and countries that persist in endorsing appalling practices against women and imposing cruel, brutal and clearly disproportionate punishments against them. These feed cultures that oppress, degrade and humiliate women simply for being what they are. Precisely because I believe in the complementary nature of the sexes based on their natural differences and equal rights, I cannot but condemn these despicable practices in the strongest possible terms.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We are opposed to the death penalty in any country, be it the USA, Iran, or any other country in the world. We are also against all forms of torture, no matter where they take place, including in Iran and CIA-controlled prisons. Thus, we urge Iran to spare the life of Sakineh Ashtiani and stop stoning women, young people and others. We therefore voted in favour of this resolution.

We would, however, like to stress that when it comes to the struggle for democracy to be respected in Iran, defending the rights of those who continue to struggle for social justice, progress and democracy in this country cannot, under any circumstances, be used against Iran’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and its power to decide on its future. Much less can they be used to justify intervention and interference that does not respect the country’s territorial sovereignty.

 
  
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  Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE), in writing. (GA) Death by stoning ought never to be accepted or supported. I call on the Iranian authorities to revoke that penalty imposed on Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani and to review the case.

 
  
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  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D), in writing.(PL) There are still three months left until the end of 2010, and the judicial system of the Islamic Republic of Iran has this year already managed to pass 2 000 sentences of capital punishment. On the optimistic assumption that the last quarter does not bring a single further such sentence, and also assuming that we know of all such sentences, this means that every day, five Iranian citizens are informed that they are soon to lose their lives. In the morning, it may be Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani who, in 2006, was condemned to death by stoning for adultery. At noon, it may be the turn of Mohammad Mostafaei, the human rights lawyer who fled Iran for fear of arrest and repression. In the afternoon, the next victim of the Iranian regime may be Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is fighting for a reduction in the numbers of death sentences handed down to minors, while in the evening, for taking part in a street protest, the next person to be arrested is the Dutch citizen Zahra Bahrami.

Finally, and fifthly, the Iranian authorities take their next victim – unknown to us – during the night in a secret raid.

Therefore, we categorically demand the abolition of capital punishment in Iran, the lifting of the sentence of stoning on Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani and the release from detention of Zahra Bahrami. We would also like to note that Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 18 of which states: ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.’

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing. (FR) I voted for the resolution on human rights in Iran, in particular the cases of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and Zahra Bahrami, as the situations of these two women are tragic. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who has been sentenced to death by the Iranian Government, is threatened from one day to the next with execution by the utterly barbaric ritual of stoning. What country, in the 21st century, can write in black and white in its penal code the size of the stones that should be thrown at a convicted prisoner in order to kill them? Iran is that country. Only the involvement of the international and political community has been able to prevent stoning over the last few years, and it alone will be able to make the Iranian Government give way. We have a duty, as politicians, as citizens, as human beings, to prevent what is nothing less than a murder.

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE), in writing. (FI) I have voted for the motion for a resolution RC­B7­0494/2010 on the human rights situation in Iran because I believe that the European Union must make it clear to the world that an existence fit for a human being, political rights and fair treatment are the fundamental rights of everyone, regardless of what country they happen to be born in. Having read the resolution, everyone with a healthy conscience will be in a position to see why the subject provokes strong feelings in Europe, so I do not think it is necessary to start pulling it to pieces separately in this review.

Although, at the moment, it is a patent example of poor human rights, and one that should serve as a warning to everyone, the situation in Iran should not allow us to ignore the fact that there are similar and even more serious problems almost everywhere in the Third World. There is particularly systematic oppression on a major scale in regions affected by Sharia law.

I am aware that the position of the European Union and the western world on human rights has been common knowledge for some time now, though with no significant progress being made in the matter. For this reason, I think it is important that the European Union continues to put pressure on Iran and other problem countries in matters of human rights in the future.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) What is happening in Iran regarding human rights is absolutely reprehensible and the EU, as a defender of human rights worldwide, cannot remain indifferent and must show the full extent of its disgust at the various sentences of death by stoning that have been taking place in the country in for several years. The EU must send a clear signal that this sort of practice cannot take place in a country that wishes to be respected and aims to maintain normal diplomatic relations with all the Member States of the EU. That is why I voted as I did.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. (LV) I voted in favour of the joint resolution on the human rights situation in Iran because I wholeheartedly support its substance. Ahmadinejad’s dictatorship has dragged the state system and state power in Iran back to the Middle Ages. We must remind the Iranian regime that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not just fine words. I voted for this resolution because the Islamist fanatics do not want to understand the meaning of international law. We must bring about the abolition of the death penalty in Iran and rescue Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani and Zahra Bahrami from the hands of the religious terrorists who have perverted the law into an instrument of terror against their own people.

 
  
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  Claudio Morganti (EFD), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the resolution in the hope that this barbarism will stop and that the human rights of all women and men in the situation concerning Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani will be respected. I should like to stress that what we are witnessing derives from the application of fundamentalist Islamic law, which some people would also like to introduce into our democratic Europe.

The penalty of death by stoning is actually a form of torture. In recent years, hundreds of women have been stoned to death in Iran for the crime of adultery, and at least 40 more people are in prison awaiting the same fate. That is not to mention the thousands of women arrested for political reasons who are often tortured and executed.

 
  
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  Cristiana Muscardini (PPE), in writing. (IT) Every word spoken in this Chamber should be like a stone placed at the feet of those who carry out the stoning, so as to build a wall of shame around them and obliterate them from human society.

Sakineh must be saved, and with her the women and men around the world who are still falling victim to this barbaric cruelty, which is unheard of even among the wildest and most primitive animals. It is the beast, meaning the Devil, that today moves the hands and lips of unworthy leaders and false holy men, whom the Omnipotent has already damned without any chance of grace. They should realise that if they do not stop now, their time will be marked and for them, there will be no peace either now or forever more.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the draft resolution and I am pleased that this House voted almost unanimously for it. It is occasions like these that show the persuasive strength of democracy.

The mobilisation of people throughout Europe and particularly in Italy in support of Sakineh should be strongly endorsed, and I hope the situation in Iran improves. I think one of Parliament’s primary roles is to be a beacon of hope for all victims of breaches of human rights. I hope the Iranian regime will rethink its policy, have greater respect for women, and set up a more transparent and less medieval judicial system.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Words are sometimes not enough when faced with barbarity, ignominy and utter contempt for the most fundamental of human values. Faced with the heavy stones of the obscurantists, it now falls to the democrats of the world to save Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani.

Ever since the mullahs reintroduced stoning in 1979, 300 people have been massacred – there is no other word for it – as a result of mock trials, not to mention the hangings of minors, homosexuals and political opponents. These include followers of Baha'i, whose only crime is not sharing the same religion as those in power in Tehran.

Here is the weight of our words, then, the weight of this international mobilisation to which the European Parliament has just added its voice this afternoon. Sakineh’s beautiful face now embodies the fight for women’s rights in Iran and, furthermore, the defence of all victims of oppression.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. (ES) The resolution we have just adopted makes clear our emphatic censure of the sentencing to death by stoning of the Iranian citizen, Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani. Regardless of the actions she is accused of, it is impossible to justify or accept a sentence of death by stoning. Moreover, the Members of this Parliament ask the Iranian authorities to set aside the sentence and review the case.

The text, which was adopted by 658 votes in favour, 1 against and 22 abstentions, also asks the Iranian Government to reconsider Zahra Bahrami’s case, and ‘immediately grant her access to a lawyer and consular assistance, release her or grant her due process’. Likewise, the Members of this Parliament call on Tehran to halt the execution of Ebrahim Hamidi, an 18-year-old charged with sodomy.

The European Parliament expresses its consternation at the fact that along with Afghanistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Nigeria, ‘Iran continues to be one of the very few countries that still practise stoning’. In this sense, it calls on the Iranian Parliament to pass legislation outlawing ‘the cruel and inhuman practice of stoning’. Furthermore, the Iranian Government should declare a moratorium on executions pending the abolition of the death penalty.

 

8. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 

(The sitting was suspended at 13:10 and resumed at 15:00)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Gianni PITTELLA
Vice-President

 

9. Announcement by the President
Video of the speeches
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  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, the sitting is now resumed. I am pleased and, indeed, delighted to announce a piece of news that I have heard from certain press agencies, according to which the Iranian Foreign Minister has stayed the execution of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. A few hours ago, this House expressed a solid, united opinion on this issue, with a majority verging on unanimity. We are delighted with that, but the battle goes on, because now it is essential to call for the case to be reviewed. Parliament must play its part in doing what it has always done, which is to defend human rights throughout the world.

 

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

11. Arms exports (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the debate on the oral question to the Council by Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš, Tunne Kelam, Vytautas Landsbergis, Gunnar Hökmark, Bendt Bendtsen, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Ville Itälä, Sandra Kalniete, Inese Vaidere, Michael Gahler, José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra and Laima Liucija Andrikienė, on behalf of the PPE Group, on arms exports (O-0076/2010 - B7-0320/2010).

 
  
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  Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš , author.(LV) Mr President, Minister, you have received the question. Today, I am going to talk about the substance of the question. A 200 metre-long helicopter carrier, with the capability of carrying at one and the same time, 16 heavy helicopters, 40 tanks, 900 service personnel, landing craft, and equipped with a military hospital. France wishes to sell four such aggressive warships to Russia, without consulting the other European Union Member States. I would remind you that 18 months ago, Russia attacked its neighbour Georgia and has still not complied with the terms of the truce negotiated by the President of France. Furthermore, last autumn, Russia carried out military exercises on the Estonian border, aimed at the occupation of the Baltic States. I should like to pose all of you a question. What is the European Union, and why do we need it? In the spring, when Greece was severely struck by the financial crisis, Europe had a choice – to help or to let Greece sink. In a show of solidarity, the countries of Europe decided to help Greece, for there was a common understanding among the Member States that, if the financial situation in Greece got any worse, it would also get worse in other European Union Member States. The external security sphere is no exception. We have bound ourselves by agreements to act in solidarity in this sphere too. Many European Union Member States have serious concerns about where and for what purposes Russia would station and use such aggressive warships. Jobs in France are important. However, they cannot be created at the cost of other EU Member States’ security. Ladies and gentlemen, I call on you not to allow the sale of arms of any description to third countries before the issue has been discussed in the Council and there is absolute certainty that such a transaction would serve to strengthen and not weaken the security situation throughout the European Union. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) Mr President, honourable Members, I welcome the opportunity that we have this afternoon to focus on the control of arms exports.

As Baroness Ashton is unable to attend this session, she has asked the Presidency to stand in for her during this debate and I will therefore endeavour to answer some of the questions that we have received on this subject.

As you know, for some years now, the European Union has played a leading role in the control of arms exports, both regionally and internationally, and our aim is clear: we want to prevent the export of military technologies that could be used for undesirable ends such as internal repression or international aggression.

Over 10 years ago, the Council adopted an EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, which set out a series of criteria for exporting conventional arms. This code was replaced in 2008 by a common position that introduced a number of new elements, resulting in the European Union having the strongest system of arms export control in the world. The common position’s legally binding provisions are there to ensure that Member States carry out arms exports in a responsible and transparent fashion.

The purpose of the common position is to effectively coordinate national policies on the control of arms exports using, in particular, a denial notification and consultation mechanism. This mechanism means that, when a Member State is planning to grant an export licence which has been previously denied by another Member State for an essentially identical transaction, it must consult this Member State and notify all Member States of its final decision. In other words, the Member State granting a licence for a transaction that has been denied by another Member State must provide a detailed explanation of its decision to all Member States.

Therefore, in answer to questions about consultations, the situation is clear: the common position obviously only calls for systematic consultation when a licence for an identical transaction has previously been denied.

In general, Member State delegations within the competent structures of the Council regularly and often exchange information on the control of arms and, in particular, on so-called ‘sensitive’ destinations. Member States often solicit the opinions of other members of the Council on any destination that might give cause for concern or about which there might be any doubt. This regular exchange of information forms a central pillar of the European Union’s policy for the control of arms exports.

For your information, during the course of 2009, consultations between Member States looked at a total of 14 third-country destinations. Member States then communicated what led them to decide whether to grant or deny export licences to these destinations.

That, Mr President, is how we proceed in terms of information, control and interactivity between Member States, to give an idea of how we authorise arms exports.

I am more than happy to respond to any other point raised during this afternoon’s debate.

 
  
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  Roberto Gualtieri, on behalf of the S&D Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the strengthening of the industrial and technological basis of European defence is an essential part of developing a common defence system.

What it needs, however, are common rules and a coordinated approach in order to enhance the development and competitiveness of the European defence industry and, at the same time, to ensure that this development is in line with Europe’s principles and international commitments. To that end, together with the directive on the internal market in defence, the December 2008 common position defining procedures and criteria for military exports to third countries was an important step forward.

As we know, these procedures do not include a general consultation mechanism. However, the common position does include a timely reference to the need to enhance cooperation and convergence in this field within the framework of the common foreign and security policy. Until the hoped-for progress on this front, and until such time as the creation of a common defence system makes it possible to adopt even more binding mechanisms, the cooperation and convergence referred to in Article 7 should not remain just on paper and the annual report on military exports should be made available to Parliament.

Naturally, the question tabled by the Members of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) seems implicitly – although it has now been made explicit – not to confine itself to matters of a general nature. Given that it would have been better to refer to things by their names right from the start, it does not seem that the sale of French ships to Russia contravenes the 2008 common position. On the contrary, such exports could strengthen European-Russian ties and cooperation in the security field and make them more binding. These ties, however, should be removed from the bilateral sphere and be entirely addressed, discussed and managed at a European level.

 
  
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  Elmar Brok, on behalf of the PPE Group.(DE) Mr President, I would like to make a few comments. This concerns the old question of European competence. In the constitutional and government conferences, we were not able to include arms trading within the general European sphere of competence. I believe it would be sensible to continue trying to achieve this, so that the Code of Conduct and the regulations introduced by the Council in 2008 can be made more binding. The European Parliament should work towards this.

Secondly, it seems to me to be clear that it should not be possible in this context for there to be so little contact between the Member States that individual Member States have the feeling that arms exports to third countries take place at their expense and threaten their security. Whether this is right or wrong, the case is almost irrelevant. For this reason, I believe that we need to find more effective European solutions.

Thirdly, I am of the opinion that greater European cooperation is required, among other things, for reasons of industrial policy, for example, via the European Defence Agency, with regard to exports, research, planning, production and procurement, because when a country has its own arms industry, this is related to its independence. If a country does not have its own arms industry and has to buy all its military equipment from third countries, it is dependent for its security on other states. This concerns our freedom and is not only related to economic factors, although I cannot deny that these also play a role.

We need to put everything into context and then we will be able to give this area a much stronger sense of community, without misunderstandings arising among the Member States like the one which understandably occurred recently among the Baltic States.

 
  
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  Johannes Cornelis van Baalen, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I want to be clear that indeed it is permissible to defend yourself; other countries are able to defend themselves; so arms exports are not off-limits. That is the position of the ALDE Group.

However, we should not export to regions of tension or of war. We should limit ourselves, and if we do not have a real, legally-binding regime on arms exports, it means that the 27 countries of the European Union will not have a level playing field. They will compete and fight for orders and there will be no real consultation.

So I think that the only way to resolve this issue is to have a binding common regime and I also support the words of my colleague, Mr Brok, on this matter.

 
  
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  Indrek Tarand, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, this is an important issue, and I thank colleagues for their understanding of the concerns my region is having with a particular French decision about Mistral platforms.

The EU Code of Conduct, which has been a legally binding text since 2008, is a good step but is not enough, as has also been mentioned by our Liberal colleague. We should continue work on the global-level arms trade because the EU has a great responsibility. We are responsible for one third of the volume in arms trade.

If the proposition is that Russia is our strategic partner and we can cooperate on military affairs with Russia, for me it is a question of logic. Why does our friend need an assault weapon system? To participate in an effort to organise some sort of good governance in Afghanistan? No, Moscow has no intention of participating in that operation. To protect human and minority rights in Kyrgyzstan? No, and in both cases Mistral is no use because it cannot approach these landlocked countries. It will change the situation in the Black Sea – not for better, but for worse – and also affect eight European Union Member States around the Baltic Sea. The security situation of those states – from Poland and Germany to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – will worsen.

I agree with Mr Gualtieri that cooperation with our strategic partner is a good thing but, believe me, there are other means of cooperating with Russia than high-tech weapon systems. Think about cars – this is something Russian industry is also struggling with. Think about cooperation between fire brigades. The Russian fire fighters were in trouble this summer when an area of forest equal to the size of Belgium was burning.

Ceterum censeo. The sale of Mistral needs to be cancelled.

 
  
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  Geoffrey Van Orden, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, my group attaches great importance to the right of our sovereign nations to decide whether or not to issue an arms export licence in accordance with criteria in the agreed EU common position. Clearly this is not a matter where the EU decides, nor should it be. The common position, of course, urges exporting Member States to consider, inter alia, the preservation of regional peace, security and stability.

In the case which seems to be the focus of this discussion, we should be aware of the sensitive nature of the situation in both the Baltic and Black Sea regions. As far as the Black Sea is concerned, we should recall the recent conflict in Georgia and the fact that, of the six Black Sea littoral states, three – Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania – are NATO members, and two others – Georgia and Ukraine – are NATO partners and aspiring members. We might therefore question the wisdom of the sale of amphibious assault vessels to the sixth: Russia.

However, there are well-established mechanisms to cover issues related to arms exports. In the EU context, this is the Council working group on conventional arms exports – COARM – which meets formally about every six weeks in Brussels. As it is intergovernmental, it is the right forum for discussion of arms exports; a Strasbourg plenary session is not. We should let COARM get on with its work.

 
  
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  Sabine Lösing, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(DE) Mr President, in 2000, the European Union clearly stated in the Lisbon strategy its objective of becoming the leading economic power in the world by 2010. We have failed to meet this target in many areas, but not as far as arms exports from the EU are concerned.

In the period from 2005 to 2009, the EU Member States overtook the United States and became the world’s leading arms exporters. I think that this development is highly questionable. Obviously, the Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, which was never legally binding and which included a restrictive export licensing practice, consisted of empty words. Therefore, I very much welcome the fact that the Code of Conduct on Arms Exports was converted into a common position in December 2008.

However, we still have no effective sanction mechanisms. For example, long before 2008, Germany recognised the Code of Conduct as being legally binding. Despite this, Germany is now the third largest arms exporter in the world and supplies arms to crisis regions such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In addition, the arms export reports which the Member States submit to the Council are not uniform and often not transparent. We urgently need standardisation in this area, so that all the relevant arms exports are traceable and can be subjected to critical evaluation. Unfortunately, almost no efforts are being made to standardise these reports. In any case, I doubt whether it is possible to have a system of ethically sound arms exports. However, one thing is certain and that is that the European Union is currently a very long way from achieving this.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Geoffrey Van Orden (ECR). (beginning of speech inaudible) ... the Commission because Mrs Lösing fell into a trap which we often hear in this Parliament and elsewhere in the Union of referring to the European Union’s arms exports.

The European Union does not export arms anywhere. The European Union does not have a defence industry. The European Union does not have any armed forces. These all belong to the Member States of the Union, so we should not use terminology which says ‘EU arms exports’. There is no such thing.

 
  
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  Sabine Lösing (GUE/NGL).(DE) Mr President, I said the countries of the European Union.

 
  
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  David Campbell Bannerman, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, the EU’s interest in the export of arms is clearly part of the increasing militarisation of the EU in the post-Lisbon era.

Tony Blair himself told journalists just days ago that he wanted to see the EU develop a ‘military character’. A big part of this will be who the EU gets its weapons from and who it sells those weapons to.

There is already talk that equipment produced for the EU army will not be interoperable with American equipment. The crazy notion of the British sharing an aircraft carrier with France would lose Britain access to US stealth technology overnight.

It would also close the UK market to American imports and close the US market to British exports, destroying jobs on either side of the Atlantic.

Defence exports are worth GBP 7 billion a year to the UK economy, that is the same as we pay to the EU in net contributions every year. We should oppose all such moves.

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, a dilemma faces all arms manufacturing countries over the issue of arms exports. The fixed costs are self-evidently and inevitably high, which makes it uneconomic for most – if not all – countries to manufacture arms for their own use only. It would be tempting for some arms manufacturing countries simply to have a policy to export arms to any country other than ones that it has reason to believe might attack itself or its interests. That would maximise the interests of the country producing the arms. However, it would at best be an amoral policy and, at worst, a thoroughly immoral one.

The criteria stated in the original question for deciding whether to export arms are many and varied. Different criteria might apply to different kinds of weaponry. Countries with poor human rights records such as Iran – and, for that matter, those EU countries that lock people up for political dissent or heretical opinion, such as half the countries in the EU – should be denied small arms, surveillance systems and articles of restraint, but might not be denied weaponry to protect them from external attack.

Countries that are prone to waging aggressive wars, but respect the rights of their own citizens, might be sold small arms and restraint mechanisms, but not weapons of mass destruction. In particular, the United States – arguably the most aggressive country on the planet, having waged countless destabilising, aggressive and illegal wars – should be denied any technology that might be used for weapons of mass destruction.

Iran, however much we might deplore its human rights record – and I certainly do – has not carried out any attacks on its neighbours. It was not, for example, the aggressor in the Iran-Iraq war. However, it may be the focus of aggression and a planned attack, possibly by the United States and possibly by Israel. We might not wish it to have weaponry that could be used to launch an attack – and I certainly would not – but we might want it to have access to a nuclear shield to prevent it from being attacked.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Mr President, I do not normally intervene and least of all in debate with a British National Party MEP, but to actually accuse Member States of locking people up for their political views and opinions! I can be critical of the European Union, but I do not know of any European Member State which locks anybody up for their political views, otherwise why would people like him be allowed into this Chamber, for goodness’ sake?

(Interjections: ‘Hungary’.)

Absolute nonsense! Can you name and shame these countries which lock people up for their political opinions?

(Interjections by Members including Mr Brons, who was offered the floor)

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, I have said that Hungary, under the previous regime, locked up several people merely for political dissent. There are many countries in the EU that lock people up for heretical academic opinion. However wrong that academic opinion might be, it is not justified to lock people up for opinions that fall short of incitement to violence.

 
  
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  Michael Gahler (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I do not want to do the previous speaker the honour of referring to his speech, but at the beginning he said something that was correct. He said that it was very expensive for many individual states with smaller arms industries to produce arms cost-effectively. Of course, the conclusion I draw from this is different from his, namely that within the European Union, we should produce the necessary military equipment more cheaply via the European Defence Agency and via common procurement programmes.

However, I would first like to thank the President-in-Office of the Council for his statement. I think it is very important in political terms for us to be able to state here that we have the most modern legally binding criteria for arms exports in the world. In my opinion, the European Union should be proud of this.

In this context, I have one question for the President-in-Office of the Council. You have explained the type of cases where consultation takes place and this obviously only happens when an identical application from a state has been rejected and another state intends to authorise an export application. Were the discussions on this subject restricted to the Council working group or, and this is my second question, has this already been discussed at a political level in the Council of Ministers? In this context, this is another question which interests me.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D). (LT) Some fellow Members have already mentioned that the question posed by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) hides certain riddles and charades, failing to explain clearly why and how the problem has arisen. It would have been helpful to have more clarity when raising this question. On the other hand, we must recognise that some Central and Eastern European countries are particularly sensitive and feel less secure than the old European Union Member States. The Council Common Position of 8 December 2008 drew up certain guidelines in the area of arms exports. Experts recognise that the country we are talking about today – France – did not exceed the limits of these guidelines, but that does not mean that when implementing security and defence policy increasingly in practice, we should not improve and revise those guidelines and rules. I agree entirely with the opinion of my fellow Member, Elmar Brok, that we must cooperate more in the area of arms. As for arms exports, we must ensure that there is more trust and less suspicion: sometimes well-founded, sometimes spread without reason. The latter pits large and small, old and new EU Member States dangerously against each other. We need more trust and solidarity, which will not appear of its own accord. We must talk more, engage in constructive consultations and avoid heated accusations and artificial parallels with the beginning or middle of the 20th century, when the might is right dominated Europe. We must improve the consultation mechanism within the EU to achieve a concrete result. Then, this discussion will also be of some benefit.

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR).(PL) Fine words are being spoken here about cooperation and trust, but I have the impression that policy on exporting outside the Union is, in fact, decided by faits accomplis carried out by the French. The largest and richest Member States do what they like, and do not pay attention to the standards and rules about which so much is being said today. Only in the last few days, we have heard once again of the sale by France of Mistral assault vessels to Russia. If this matter has not yet been finalised, it is only because Russia has initiated special tender procedures, but in any case, we know the transfer will go ahead. In the meantime, a Russian Admiral has recently said about the Russian aggression against Georgia that if Russia had possessed Mistral assault vessels, the war against Georgia would not have taken four or five days, but only two hours. Should EU Member States really be selling such weapons when it is known that the purchasing countries are not going to use the weapons for defensive purposes, but for offensive ones? Meanwhile, Georgia has not been able to buy defensive weapons from EU Member States for years, because there is a special embargo in place on the purchase of these weapons. These are double standards and should be avoided.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, reading the common position and the criteria which must be met by countries which export arms, the image of Israel came to mind. Israel is a state which does not respect international law, which tramples over human rights and which has invaded Gaza and I should like, at this point, to say to those who tabled the question that I have not heard one voice raised, in the wake of recent events, calling for provision to be made for the sanction of a ban on exports of military equipment and arms, together with the other sanctions which need to be imposed on Israel, which does not meet these criteria, sanctions which, for the rest, they have touched on in the common position.

The first speaker referred, within the framework of political solidarity in Europe, to the example of Greece. May I remind you that, while criterion 8 of the common position states that, when one Member State of the European Union wants to export arms to another, it must take account of the economic standing of the country to which it is exporting, in the case of Greece, France and Germany are putting pressure on it to buy their arms in order to secure their political support and are doing so at a time when Greece is in very dire financial straits and is subject to numerous controls, at a time when pensions, salaries and so on are being cut in the country.

This position is hypocritical and shows that, within this philosophy, the fact is that the profits of the arms industries take priority, not the principle of peace which the European Union should apply instead of resolving differences by military means.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) In many European Union countries, there are headquarters and operational sites of major producers of defence equipment. Many other states worldwide are very interested in their specific products. However, commerce in these materials is a specific activity that differs from commerce in other commodities because of the security and foreign policy restrictions involved in the evaluation of commercial entities and specific commercial cases.

The activity in question can be performed only on the basis of a permit issued by the state in the form of a permit to deal in military materials or a licence for the import, export or cross-community transport of military materials. The whole process is implemented in accordance with very precise rules, and is subject to stringent controls by individual countries that are obliged to proceed in accordance with their foreign policy obligations. In view of the specificity and uniqueness of every actual transaction, this activity should, in my opinion, be coordinated just on an individual basis at Council level, and mostly in general terms, with a particular emphasis on evaluating the possible specific foreign policy consequences.

 
  
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  Arnaud Danjean (PPE).(FR) Mr President, I will make three brief points on this subject. Firstly, as the issue at stake was France’s position regarding the sale of the Mistral, may I remind you that no firm agreement has been reached, that the Mistral is a vessel, a ship that would be sold unarmed – which is really one of the fundamental issues at the heart of talks with Russia – and that Russia has not only entered into negotiations with France to purchase this type of equipment. So, allow me to put things into perspective. I realise that there is a great deal of emotion in some countries, but emotion is one thing, the facts are quite another.

Secondly, as you pointed out, Minister, we have within the European Union a code of conduct for arms exports that became a common position under the French Presidency in 2008; this code of conduct is one of the most demanding in the world. We are above exemplary on the matter, and we have, in addition to this code of conduct, as one of our fellow Members reminded us, a group that meets on a regular basis as part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy to discuss not only the implementation of this code but also Member States’ national policies on arms exports. There are, therefore, forums in which the Mistral issue can be dealt with quite adequately.

Lastly, allow me to say that, if we are talking about European solidarity on arms exports and if we are looking at the need to have a common strategy and a common defence policy, we need to look at the entire cycle of trade in arms and defence equipment. That also involves imports and obviously the defence industry. From that point of view, I believe that many countries also have a long way to go to ensure that Europe can maintain technologies, jobs, know-how and a real strategic capacity in our military deployments.

 
  
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  Zoran Thaler (S&D). (SL) Exports of modern French warships to Russia have a European and a political dimension. They also have a dimension of solidarity, or lack thereof, because they concern our Member States from the Baltic region as well as our partners in the Eastern Partnership: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and so on.

We know that France intervened in the Russian-Georgian war and that at this point, Russia took on and signed certain international obligations. However, has it observed them? Has it, for example, allowed European Union observers into South Ossetia and Abkhazia? I am afraid it has not so far done so.

We know that the Council’s common position from 2008 is very definite. The importing country must observe its international obligations and human rights and it must maintain peace, security and stability in the region. However, is Russia doing any of this?

My final question to you is: is France or, rather, President Sarkozy, in a position to obtain, in return for this dubious sale of assault vessels to Russia, Russia’s commitment that it will genuinely begin to observe its international obligations?

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Mr President, the conventional arms industry is an important contributor to the economies of many Member States, including my own, the United Kingdom. In an unstable and dangerous world, EU Member States need the capacity to defend themselves, their interests and their allies around the world.

However, the EU, by unanimous agreement intergovernmentally in Council, has made impressive efforts and progress in recent years to restrict the production and distribution of certain weapons and even ban the supply of arms to certain repressive regimes. We can be rightly proud of our advocacy in favour of the Ottawa Treaty, which bans anti-personnel mines globally. The issue of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which entered into force last month, will hopefully be another step towards eventually eliminating these nasty weapons – although I do note that at least six EU Member States are yet to ratify it.

In the EU’s neighbouring countries, we work hard under the MPI to monitor arms production and destroy nuclear weapon stockpiles, and this should be continued and even intensified.

We must always be vigilant against efforts by terrorists to acquire arms from countries where end-user licence regimes and arms exports are less rigorously policed and enforced.

Finally, the European Union should maintain its ban on exporting arms to China, for two reasons. Firstly, because of the regime’s woeful human rights record against its own citizens, and secondly, to show our support for our democratic ally Taiwan, which is potentially first in China’s line of fire.

 
  
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  Inese Vaidere (PPE). (LV) Ladies and gentlemen, weapons and military equipment are not simple trade goods; they constitute a specific sector with a direct effect on national security. The export of weapons and military equipment to third countries, especially those that are dubious democracies, where human rights are infringed, and which collaborate with countries where signs of terrorism can be observed, can pose a serious threat not only to the European Union but also to third countries. That is precisely why it must be considered as an important arm of the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. How can we talk of a common defence policy, as Mr Barroso did yesterday, if every country can carry out its own separate arms trading? France’s decision to sell a Mistral warship constitutes a direct transfer of military technology to a third country that does not have a military alliance with Europe. We must recognise that technology transfer most certainly does not, of itself, mean that the relevant country has or will become more friendly towards the European Union, as Mr Lelouch, the French European Affairs minister and some honourable Members have maintained in today’s debate. No European Union strategy will succeed if it does not adhere to commonly adopted principles. That applies equally to solidarity between the countries of the European Union and to the recognition of common interests in the decision-making process. The Treaty on European Union and the Council Common Position defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment both stress the importance of solidarity. Individual short-term economic interests must not stand in the way of the European Union’s common priorities and objectives. Decisions with an impact on the European Union’s foreign and security policy must be taken jointly in consultation with all the EU Member States, and an adequate and legally binding mechanism, under which all the possible consequences are analysed according to jointly developed criteria, must be drawn up for them. Thank you.

 
  
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  Marietta Giannakou (PPE).(EL) Mr President, the question tabled to the Council today provides an opportunity to raise another major issue which many of us supported during the European Convention and within the framework of the intergovernmental conference, by which I mean the overall issue of defence and security in Europe and the creation of an arms manufacturing agency and a common defence agency.

Let us not forget that, in the United States, tanks are manufactured on just one production line, while in Europe, they are manufactured on 16 different production lines. Consequently, we would have economies of scale. However, bearing in mind the Council’s 2008 common position on controls of arms exports, we must admit, Mr Chastel, that there is no real control. I do not refer to France; I refer to every country in Europe, just as no real controls are carried out in order to ascertain if the countries to which we export are, in turn, exporting to third countries, in other words, are intermediaries, to which we would never give arms.

I get the impression that the group set up within the framework of the CFSP is not in a position to control the Member States in order to ascertain where exactly they are exporting arms. If we manage to apply this common position and if there are specific restrictions, then we shall have made a successful step. However, we shall only be really successful in controlling arms exports if we manage to create a truly common defence agency and arms manufacturing agency which allow us to reduce the cost and, at the same time, to support our principles and values and to demonstrate them in practice in the case of the production and export of arms.

 
  
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  Alf Svensson (PPE).(SV) Mr President, yesterday, when the President of the Commission made his speech, it was emphasised that the EU must stand up for a common foreign and security policy. This is something we have heard many times. Mr Barroso also talks about common defence. In my view, however, the policy is not coherent if we do not also include the defence industry and arms exports. As has been said, the EU Treaty includes – and this must, of course, be a given – the principle of solidarity and a requirement for the Member States to consult one another within the Council and the European Council on any matter of foreign and security policy. Could this be put any clearer?

The Council’s Common Position of 8 December 2008 lays down common rules for the control of military technology and equipment. Where have these common positions gone? Have they not reached France? Have they perhaps not even reached us? The EU Member States of Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, as well as Georgia, claim that the sale of the Mistral warship to Russia has reduced the security of these countries. Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, has said that if Russia had had a Mistral class ship at the time of the conflict with Georgia, the Russian Black Sea Fleet would have performed its operation in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours.

The large Member States must not be allowed to take liberties. We know that large countries would very much like to have a monopoly on arms exports, which is quite obviously unacceptable. It should be the task of the country holding the Presidency, Belgium, to start discussions within the EU with the aim of achieving clear common provisions on arms exports.

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE). – Mr President, this debate is about bilateralism versus common policies and solidarity. In fact, citizens of several Member States have become seriously worried about imminent exports of modern military technology to third countries.

Only a year ago, Russia conducted military manoeuvres in north-eastern Europe, the scenarios of which targeted the Baltic States as objects of military invasion. We have the famous words of the commander of the Russian navy to the effect that, if it had had Mistral carriers at its disposal in August 2008, it would have been able to complete its operation in three hours rather than three days.

I am happy with the statement made by Secretary of State Chastel, which I consider a very positive reaction to our worries, and at the declaration made by our colleague, Mr Danjean, that no military technology will be sold. However, the Russians have insisted – and will continue to insist – on buying precisely that military technology.

There is still one question to be answered, which is why do we not have consultations and normal debates in the Council in cases where one Member State is prepared to sell military technology to a third country? That is our message to the Council. We would draw attention to the necessity of routinely discussing, within the European Council, exports of military equipment to third countries.

 
  
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  Krzysztof Lisek (PPE).(PL) Mr President, the production and export of weapons, arms and military technologies was, is and will be the subject of much debate, and will continue to be a difficult subject to discuss because of its controversial and contentious nature. There have always been, and still can be, suspicions of stirring up conflicts and destabilisation of regions. Supervision of the export of weapons, as previous speakers have stressed, is also difficult. On the other hand, the arms industry is an important area of the economy for many of the European Union’s Member States. Arms are exported by France, Great Britain, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and many other Member States, and also by the United States, Russia and other countries outside the European Union. We are, therefore, very far from a situation in which the production and export of weapons becomes the subject of EU policy. Today, the Member States have a great degree of autonomy in this area, but they do need to harmonise their regulations in accordance with the Council Common Position of 2008.

A short comment about Mistral – fellow Members from France ought to understand the anxiety of the Baltic states and Poland. Russian generals are saying that these vessels may be stationed in the Baltic. The Baltic is a sea which is surrounded, apart from Russia, only by Member States of the European Union.

 
  
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  Andrzej Grzyb (PPE).(PL) Mr President, the question asked by Mr Kariņš is clearly justified, and was asked several times at the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Members did not receive a satisfactory answer. In relation to this, the Council must take specific steps in this matter in order to satisfy those who have asked this question, all the more so because the question has been given a context, which has been mentioned here several times, both by Mr Kelam and by Mr Czarnecki. I refer to the way in which military commanders in Russia are treating this type of weapon and, in particular, to the fact that the Mistral assault vessels are an offensive weapon. This must suggest the thought that this is not only a matter of making a sale, but should also give rise to questions about what the consequences of that sale would be. We do realise that the 2008 directive is in force, but we must also accept that sometimes, there is more to life than the provisions of a directive and existing regulations. The case of control of the conflict in Georgia, in which the European Union is interested and which has not been resolved, shows that such a decision is needed here.

 
  
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  Kyriakos Mavronikolas (S&D).(EL) Mr President, the European Union really is building a common foreign policy, a defence policy today, and, without doubt, there should be certain protocols which regulate the conduct of the arms industries towards third countries. However, the subject of this debate raises my question and I feel the need to put it to plenary today.

How can we justify the fact that arms industries, especially in the United Kingdom, apply a trade embargo to the Republic of Cyprus and to the armed forces in Cyprus, which is a Member State of the European Union, while at the same time allowing Turkey to modernise, move and transport military and other equipment within the territory of occupied Cyprus?

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE).(ES) Mr President, I was the rapporteur of this Parliament for several years during which this House practically unanimously called for the conversion of the 1998 Code of Conduct into a binding Common Position, which was adopted in 2008. However, back then, we said that this was going to be a further, albeit not definitive, step; one that was necessary, but not enough, a fact which has become clear from today's debate.

I would also remind the House that all European Union Member States are supporting the international treaty on the control of arms exports in the United Nations and that this is the key issue.

Exporting arms is not like exporting refrigerators. It has very serious consequences because arms kill; they destroy and impoverish societies. The European Union is exactly contributing to this when it exports arms to Israel, when it exports arms to Colombia, when it exports arms to Afghanistan. It is by paying heed to this sense of responsibility that we should act.

Consequently, I believe that it is necessary to remind the House that when dealing with this issue, it is not only a question of the internal market, of trade or security, but rather it is clearly one of international responsibility, and I am afraid that this is not what we are doing.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE). – Mr President, with the Lisbon Treaty, we have further improved policy coordination and solidarity in many areas, including foreign and security policy. The treaty also contains a mutual assistance clause in case any Member State is threatened militarily.

In light of this, the plans by France to sell four Mistral warships to Russia and to share some of the shipbuilding technology seem very alarming. What is more, the Mistral warships are clearly offensive – I stress, offensive and not defensive – in nature.

Therefore, before we actually start doing something about the provisions of solidarity foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty, we should make sure that we do not diminish the security of our fellow EU Member States or that of our neighbours.

I urge the Council to do everything in its power to initiate wide discussions within the EU regarding a need to develop a common definition and updated approach towards arms sales to third countries.

 
  
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  Janusz Władysław Zemke (S&D).(PL) Mr President, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the export of arms is always related to EU security policy. The export of weapons is not an autonomous or isolated sphere. These matters are not restricted just to the military or financial sphere, because behind the export is the profit of the firms involved, and this is always related to policy. Therefore, I would like to support those who are proposing that a discussion be held at a meeting of the full Council on Union policy in the area of export and military cooperation. For example, we have a considerable number of remarks and doubts in relation to the export of Mistral assault vessels to Moscow, but if we look at it another way and think about, for example, the construction of a European anti-missile defence system, I think it would be in our interest to involve Russia. In other words, to put it briefly, these matters are not as obvious as they may appear.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D). (SK) I am not in any sense an expert on armaments or similar things, but I am certainly standing here today as a pacifist, and I would like to view this problem from the perspective of an ordinary citizen of the European Union. Bearing in mind that the European Union is producing weapons non-stop at the moment, and that there are almost 30 wars around the world, as well as countless other conflicts, whether regional or local, we should also realise that we are producing weapons that are directly intended for destruction and for killing.

Perhaps we should also give some thought to whether we would prefer the money which we contribute every year to the budgets of individual states for arming or equipping individual armies to be transferred in some way to education, which would actually be far more useful than weapons in a time of economic crisis. It would also interest me very much how some of you might perhaps answer the question: how many individual Member States have reduced their defence budgets in this time of economic crisis and by how much? Perhaps we should all give some thought to that, because I do not think we are providing a good example to the younger generations by believing that shooting, for example, which is actually a form of destruction, should be elevated to the level of an Olympic sport.

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) Mr President, this was a very interesting debate and I would like to come back to two concepts in a little more detail.

First of all, I would like to reframe the concept of responsibility. Article 4(2) of the common position lays down that the decision to transfer or deny the transfer of any military technology or equipment shall remain at the national discretion of each Member State. Consequently, this responsibility rests, first of all, at national level and clearly, the common position does not take this responsibility away from Member States but it does introduce a broad range of provisions to ensure effective coordination and exchange of information between them.

The second concept that I would like to come back to is the concept of transparency. The common position lays down that Member States must draw up an annual report on their arms exports. A European Union report drawn up on the basis of these national reports shall be published annually providing information on the financial value of the licences granted, broken down according to destination and category of military equipment, as well as on the number of licences refused and any subsequent consultations with Member States.

Apart from the European Union’s annual report, the common position requires Member States to publish national reports concerning exports of military technology and equipment. The aim of transparency sought by the common position, therefore, applies both at European Union level and at national level, but it is true that the European Union should set an example in this respect.

I would also like to say that, as several of you have pointed out, the common position represents considerable progress compared with the code of conduct. The common position was adopted in December 2008, that is, less than two years ago. It is reasonable for us to allow the new provisions introduced by the common position time to take effect before embarking on any revision of a new system of this kind, even though, having listened to you and indeed understood what you have been saying, it may seem tempting to make it more restrictive or link it with a system of sanctions.

Finally, to clarify a very specific issue, I would like to say, rest assured, that the common position has been discussed on many occasions at the political level, in the Council in particular, especially in the context of the arms embargo on China.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE). (FR) Mr President, I have no rule of the Rules of Procedure to call upon. I simply wanted to convey to you this very important news: the Iranian Minister for Foreign Affairs has just announced that he has suspended Mrs Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s sentence to death by stoning.

All of us in this Parliament have fought, and the democratic forces of the world are fighting at this moment, to achieve much more than a suspension and for her sentence to be set aside. It is a start and we shall continue to take action. I am sorry but I think that information had to be shared.

 
  
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  President. – Thank you, Mrs Ries. That is precisely what I said at the opening of the sitting, when I announced this news, and I am glad that you are confirming it. We are continuing this battle for the trial to be reviewed and, in general, for human rights to be upheld throughout the world.

The debate is closed.

 

12. Draft bill on Israeli NGOs (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the debate on the oral question to the Commission by Franziska Katharina Brantner and Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group, Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, Alexandra Thein, Ivo Vajgl, Baroness Sarah Ludford and Leonidas Donskis, on behalf of the ALDE Group, Véronique De Keyser, on behalf of the S&D Group, and Marie-Christine Vergiat, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group, on the draft bill on Israeli NGOs (O-0046/2010 - B7-0319/2010).

 
  
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  Franziska Katharina Brantner, author. – Mr President, I am here as a friend of democracy and I am also here as a friend of Israeli democracy. It is because I worry about Israeli democracy that we tabled a question before the summer about a law that would apply to Israeli NGOs, which resembled some of the laws we know from other less democratic parts of this world. Part of that law was about including NGOs in the register of political parties and taking away their tax exemption status. That was deeply worrying for us.

Happily, we noted that this has been changed and removed, but unfortunately, the law still foresees a draft law to further increase transparency regarding money that comes from foreign political entities. It does not require the same from private donors, which we find very worrying, and specifically addresses the European Union as one of the donors, when it comes to people supporting that law.

The EU is one of the targets of the new law because a lot of people in Israel who do not necessarily like democracy or human rights think that the EU supports project NGOs that go against the interests of Israel, without actually defining what these interests are.

We are deeply worried and we would like to know what you think this would mean for EU funding? How do you think we should react to it? And can we not at least expect the same transparency rules for every donor – private or public, from the EU or any other country – when it comes to NGOs in Israel?

 
  
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  Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, author. – Mr President, since I cosigned the oral question to the Commission on the new Israeli ‘NGO transparency bill’ – as it is referred to by the Israeli NGO which calls itself NGO Monitor – the bill has been considerably softened, as Franziska Brantner has just explained. My group and I welcome these changes. It is no longer required of all recipients of foreign funding for the purpose of political activities in Israel to register under the ‘political party’ register. It seems that these organisations are no longer at risk of losing their tax exemption status, and potential breaches of the law would be punished by a fine.

As I said, these changes are to be welcomed. The Israeli authorities and a number of Israeli NGOs may not have liked our reaction to the original bill, but, as we have seen, our actions have had effect.

Having said this, the aim of the present draft still raises concern. Firstly, it seems to be directed at intimidating the EU and its Member States. In the background note that we received from the NGO which I already mentioned (Israeli NGO Monitor), we read the following, and I quote: ‘The EU and the Member States channel tens of millions of euros annually to a narrow group of highly-politicised Israeli NGOs through non-transparent processes. The degree to which European States are using NGO funding to influence Israeli political and public debates has no parallel in relations among democracies. Therefore, greater transparency regarding foreign government funding is central to the Israeli democratic process and the public’s right to know.’

Needless to say, a number of those allegations are absolutely untrue but they are very revealing. They reveal how strong the distrust is between a number of Israeli opinion makers and the EU and we need to do something about it. They also reveal how embattled important segments of Israeli public opinion feel; that is also a matter of concern. Both elements make a peaceful solution in the Middle East even more difficult than it already is. My question to you Commissioner is: what do you intend to do about this to improve the situation?

 
  
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  Véronique De Keyser, author. (FR) Mr President, the Goldstone report had an unexpected outcome.

The intention was to establish the truth about possible war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and, in fact, it caused an outcry in Israel. Justice Goldstone was subjected to personal attacks and the NGOs that had the courage to give evidence became targets. Shortly after this media storm, a number of draft bills emerged intending to further control NGOs and weaken all opposition to government policy.

Among these was a draft bill on NGOs which initially sought to consider them as political organisations and therefore not exempt from taxation.

Secondly, a draft bill on criminalising the boycott of Israeli goods, even goods from the settlements, including boycotts called for by a government, an organisation or a citizen of foreign origin. To put it plainly, if a French person calls for a boycott of goods from the settlements on the Internet, he could be penalised, and if the Palestinian Authority does so, it will receive the same treatment.

Thirdly, a draft bill on universal jurisdiction which gives Israel competence to decide on cases of this kind.

Various other draft bills that restrict freedom of speech or of movement are in progress. It is not possible to list them but they are all on the same lines and they are worrying. They amount to a direct attack on freedom of speech which is an inalienable human right and a necessary corollary of democracy.

For the Knesset to have amended the law on NGOs to the point where it has become almost acceptable for the NGOs themselves is a good thing. It is to be hoped that the other draft bills will meet with the same fate, especially the law on boycotts, which will be submitted to the Knesset for first reading on 15 September.

I wish to draw the Commission’s attention to this point: if we can no longer say that goods imported illegally under the terms of our agreements may not be bought in Europe, it is as though we were prohibiting advice against the purchase of, for example, counterfeit goods or stolen watches on a market stall. Parliament will monitor this issue closely.

In this regard, I would ask Europe: what are we in Europe doing in this Israeli-Palestinian peace process? Where was our High Representative? Where are we in this process that is so important?

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat, author. (FR) Mr President, at the beginning of this year, the Israeli Government adopted a draft bill that directly calls into question the funding granted by the European Union to NGOs in Israel.

I myself cosigned this question and I am pleased that this allows us to assess the excellent work of the Israeli NGOs, which are fighting on a daily basis for peace, democracy and, more generally, for human rights in the territory of the State of Israel. These NGOs are all too often the forgotten ones in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although they are doing a remarkable job, as I have already said, and they suffer much harassment.

The Israeli Government has backtracked slightly under pressure, particularly from us, but without changing the direction of its policy. Indeed, the Israeli authorities are seeking to put in place a veritable legal arsenal in order to prevent any criticism of their policy, including from abroad.

I, too, am focusing on the provisions that seek to prohibit boycott activities and, worse still, one that calls into question the principle of universal jurisdiction that is enshrined in many international treaties of which Israel is a signatory. Unfortunately, however, we know that the Israeli Government sometimes takes a ‘variable geometry’ approach to international law. In fact, we know that these proposals represent the Israeli Government’s reactions to the Goldstone report.

Commissioner, the Union has established a privileged partnership with Israel which nothing seems able to call into question. It seems to us, however, in this House, that there are limits. We must bring about an end to the Israeli Government’s harassment of the NGOs that criticise its policy and unreservedly request that it withdraws these proposals that are unworthy of a state that claims to be a democracy.

Can you assure us that, even if this legislation is adopted, although I hope that does not happen, the European Union will nonetheless continue unconditionally to finance these NGOs in Israel? Can you tell us what the Commission intends to do to convince the government to withdraw these measures and to safeguard the right to freedom of association, which is a fundamental pillar of democracy? Can you assure us that liaison officers with responsibility for human rights will be appointed in Israel as part of the process of setting up the European External Action Service so that the NGOs have negotiators on the ground?

 
  
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  Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, civil society organisations play a vital role in open and democratic societies. Israel has an unquestionable tradition of a free, open, and vibrant civil society playing a positive role in many sectors, including monitoring human rights, both in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as highlighting environmental and cultural issues.

The EU has been cooperating with Israeli non-governmental organisations for many years and has a keen interest in continuing this fruitful cooperation, in particular, since many Israeli NGOs have a reputation for professional excellence in their fields. This is why we followed with concern the debate in the Knesset on the bill on the ‘disclosure of funding from abroad’. We have made these concerns clearly known to the Israeli authorities on many occasions.

As spelled out in the Commission’s European Neighbourhood Policy Progress Report, the first version of the bill, last February, contained new requirements on the activities of civil society that – if adopted – would have substantially hampered NGO work in Israel.

A new and substantially revised version of the bill was discussed during the summer by members of the Knesset, the government and civil society representatives. In August, a new draft was adopted at first reading in the Knesset.

In the latest draft bill, provisions removing tax exemptions for NGOs and including an obligation to register in the political parties’ register have been shelved. These are certainly very welcome changes.

However, in our view, the reporting obligations imposed on NGOs would still become unnecessarily stringent, not least because the current administrative requirements for NGOs in Israel already ensure adequate transparency of public funding. Furthermore, these new transparency criteria would only cover public funding from abroad, while private foreign sources would not need to be disclosed – as has quite rightly been underscored. That approach would discriminate against those working with foreign public funding, including from the EU.

In the ENP Action Plan, Israel and the European Union have agreed to engage in a regular dialogue on civil society issues and to promote Israel-EU links between civil society. The latest EU-Israel working group on human rights met on 2 September, and also discussed in detail the issue of NGO funding.

The bill will go through further discussions and readings in the Knesset in the coming months. We will continue to follow developments closely.

 
  
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  Hans-Gert Pöttering, on behalf of the PPE Group.(DE) Mr President, Mr Füle, ladies and gentlemen, the proposed legislation on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Israel has given us all great cause for concern. We were worried that the ability of NGOs in Israel to act would be significantly restricted.

During a visit by a delegation of committee chairs from the European Parliament, which I took part in as chair of the Working Group on the Middle East, we expressed our concern to our colleagues in the Knesset in Jerusalem, in particular, during a very positive meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, Dan Meridor. I would like to see clever, level-headed people such as Dan Meridor playing a much more prominent public role, rather than the Foreign Minister, for example, whose position we do not agree with at all.

As all the speakers have said, the draft includes some improvements. I very much welcome what Mr Füle has said, but there are still some questions which need answering. Whenever restrictions are imposed on the tasks and the sphere of influence of human rights organisations and other NGOs, we must make our voice heard. The legislation has not yet been adopted and a decision is expected during the session of the Knesset in October. We will continue to monitor the situation very carefully.

As a genuine friend of Israel, I would like to say that the Israeli Government and the Israeli Parliament must be treated in the same way as any other government or parliament. Israel rightly claims to be a democracy. Therefore, it must also accept criticism when we feel that it is appropriate to give it.

I would like to add that I do not understand why the Israeli embassy in Brussels issued a statement to the press yesterday saying that we are discussing a non-existent subject today and that the debate should not take place because of the peace process in the Middle East.

I would like to call on the Israeli Government and to make it very clear that we are opposed to all the statements made by the President of Iran concerning the security of Israel, that we are opposed to terrorism of whatever kind and that when Israelis are killed in Hebron, we will issue a strong condemnation. However, we must also say to Israel that settlement building must not restart after 26 September. Instead, Israel must lay the foundations for the continuation of the peace process. Israel has a great responsibility in this area and we hope very much that there will be a stable and lasting peace in which both Israel and the Palestinian state have secure borders. The dignity of both the Israelis and the Palestinians is important.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Richard Howitt, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Mr President, in the week when there is the resumption of direct peace talks and on the day which marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year – and I wish shana tova to all Jews in Europe and in the world – I deeply regret that the Israeli Knesset still intends to impose onerous and unacceptable reporting restrictions on all human rights organisations in receipt of foreign funds, including funds from the European Union.

We have heard from the NGOs affected, both in our Middle East Working Group and in Parliament’s Human Rights Subcommittee, that they undertake bona fide human rights work but that they are being intimidated and harassed by accusations of political bias.

Such restrictions on international aid for human rights NGOs exist in countries including Burma, Tunisia and Rwanda. They should not be introduced in a country like Israel, and they are contrary to Israel’s obligations to support freedom of association under the Conventions of the International Labour Organisation.

There are too few voices for peace and human rights on both sides of the conflict in the Middle East. Those who do speak out are often overwhelmed by others who seek the path of violence.

Pluralistic democratic societies operating in conditions of peace and stability cherish civil society, even when its message may sometimes be difficult. As George Orwell said, ‘freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’.

 
  
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  Chris Davies, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I refer to the letter from the Israeli Ambassador, Mr Curiel, to the chair of our Human Rights Subcommittee.

It was my intention to welcome, and indeed endorse, his declaration that we should be prepared to support the principle of transparency in the funding of organisations. We would expect that here, and why not in Israel too.

Then my eyes turned to one of the last paragraphs of his letter, where he expressed his resentment to any comparison being made between pluralistic Israeli civil society and some other countries. He uses these words: ‘Embarking on such a wrong path may lead us all to dwell on Europe’s own credentials past and present’. If that is not a reference to the Holocaust, I do not know what is. The implications are clear: you Europeans do not have the right to criticise Israel because of your past. You have blood on your hands.

I was not responsible for the actions of the Nazis. I was not born at the time, most of the rest of us here were not born then, and this European Union was established to try and ensure that evil of that kind never took place again. I resent the idea that we have to turn a blind eye to Israel’s appalling behaviour – in Gaza, the economic blockade, the occupation of Palestinian territory and infringements of human rights – all too often.

I resent the idea that we should be forced not to ask why a people which suffered so much in previous centuries should now inflict such suffering upon the Palestinian people today.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, some people are saying that today’s debate is no longer topical. However, while pressure groups have been attacking European funding for Israeli NGOs since 2005, the working conditions of civil society in Israel continue to deteriorate.

Since the publication of the Goldstone report, many representatives of organisations have been defamed, intimidated and arrested. Fourteen draft bills are currently under discussion. They all have the aim of restricting independence and freedom of association. I would remind you that Israeli defenders of human rights are no longer allowed to enter the occupied territories without a permit from the army.

Israeli democrats and pacifists, who have been able to benefit from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, are concerned, because even in an amended form, this draft bill specifically targets the financing of international organisations while private funding is not affected.

We will no longer accept that those people who have the courage to denounce the daily humiliations suffered by Palestinians, the expulsion of families, demolition of houses, land confiscation and water deprivation, should be reduced to silence.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, like all sovereign states, Israel has an absolute right to supervise, monitor and regulate as it sees fit the activities of domestic and international NGOs which operate on its territory, particularly if they are of a political nature and might be supportive of terrorism or coming from states which support terrorism.

Israel is a parliamentary democracy, characterised by a vigorous civil society in which all shades of non-violent opinion can be openly represented and discussed. NGOs operating in Israel have a freedom unparalleled anywhere else in the Middle East, which is generally a repressive environment for civil society. Russia has passed draconian legislation against NGOs, despite being a member of the Council of Europe, but Russia is big and has oil and gas, whereas Israel is small and resource-poor, which perhaps explains why Russia largely escapes scrutiny in this respect.

Today’s debate therefore appears suspiciously like another Israel-bashing exercise by the usual suspects, of the kind in which this Parliament indulges all too often – never mind that the draft law proposed to the Knesset has undergone considerable alteration and improvement. With direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians having just resumed, we in the European Parliament risk condemning ourselves to irrelevance with unhelpful debates like this one.

 
  
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  Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(EL) Mr President, the proposed bill is in keeping with the broader strategy to de-legitimise the fight to defend human rights in Israel, by muzzling dissenting voices within the country and supplementing similar acts of intimidation, such as arrests at demonstrations against the war in Gaza, in the past.

Last May, the Directorate General of External Relations found that the conditions of NGOs in Israel had deteriorated. However, since then, not once has the European Union publicly condemned the decisions on the proposed legislation, nor has it called publicly on Israel to respect the freedom of expression of its citizens. The European Union cannot declare allegiance to the rule of law and recognise the dangers and yet turn a blind eye when human rights are not respected. It must take a public stand by calling on Israel to withdraw the bill.

At a time when NGOs being funded by the European Union are under attack and their financial support from the Community is being undermined, the European Union cannot continue to strengthen relations with Israel. It must set conditions for continuing trade and suspend the association agreement until such time as the state of Israel respects freedom of expression and partnership. Moreover, Israel must comply with Article 2 of the association agreement on human rights and withdraw the proposed bill.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Stavros LAMBRINIDIS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the EFD Group. (NL) Mr President, this is a curious debate, in more ways than one. To sum it up in one sentence: on the basis of outdated parliamentary questions, we are debating a current Israeli legal procedure which seeks to ensure that Israeli NGOs are as financially transparent as possible. Please bear in mind that the draft bill that is being challenged carefully weighs up the right of organisations to operate freely in a democracy against the right of Israeli citizens to know who is funding the activities of the NGOs in question. For many years, transparency has been a European political motto. Is there any reason why this so frequently professed principle should not be properly applied to a situation where the European Union and its Member States grant substantial amounts of money to Israeli NGOs? If this House is opposed to that, then it is, in my opinion, putting up a poor show, both here in Parliament and in the Jewish state. With such a politically suspect attitude, you will certainly alienate the right-minded citizens of Europe, and that means the taxpayers.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI). – Mr President, I am deeply disturbed by the content and tone of some of the contributions to this debate today. As direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority make a faltering start, I would urge this House to be cautious in its remarks, at a time of great sensitivity in the Middle East.

From the experience of my own constituency of Northern Ireland, I can testify to the fragility of such talks. Outside interference is often counter-productive and destabilising to progress. This is made all the more acute by the indiscriminate attack last week which killed four Israeli citizens. I am sure Members will join in condemning that attack, and indeed in commending Israel for its commitment to the talks.

Turning to the legislation in question, we should acknowledge that the Israeli Government has worked with its Parliament to address concerns. The bill that will progress through the Knesset has seen significant changes. Those changes exemplify Israeli democracy in action and responsiveness to reasonable and measured criticism. The remaining measures are focused on applying the principles of openness, accountability and transparency to the NGO sector. NGOs across the world regularly advocate these as key principles for healthy public life in a democratic society.

Furthermore, the requirement that foreign government support should be acknowledged in public advertising campaigns and websites is comparable with the EU funding requirement to acknowledge and promote the receipt of EU funding. I would suggest that this makes the opposition by NGOs – and by some within this Parliament – to such proposals both illogical and hypocritical.

That debate represents interference in the internal affairs of a state outside the European Union and on a matter which is already being addressed. Many in Israel will conclude that the motivation for this is born of anti-Israeli sentiment when, at a time of peace negotiations, we should be a source of encouragement for those negotiators.

 
  
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  Chris Davies (ALDE). – Mr President, I thank Mrs Dodds. Would the honourable Member accept that she is relatively new to this House. Some of us who have been here a remarkably long time already, it seems, have actually been through a number of Israeli-Palestinian direct peace negotiations and have found that keeping quiet does not necessarily contribute to the process whatsoever?

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI). – Mr President, of course I will accept that I am relatively new to this House, but I would also expect the honourable Member to recognise that I am not new to situations of conflict or to dealing with a situation of terrorism, within my own constituency of Northern Ireland.

I actually have personal experience of such terrorism and, having taken part in the negotiations which led to a more peaceful democratic future for my people in Northern Ireland, my experience is that outside interference, and particularly very skewed outside interference, is both wrong and unhelpful.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein (PPE). – Mr President, listening to this debate I would like to share with you that for many years, I was Director-General of a Polish NGO which promoted Poland’s joining the European Union, supported a ‘yes’ in the referendum and ran many programmes on political education, democracy, etc.

We also had our sponsors in Poland and abroad. They were private persons, businesses and political foundations, as well as various European Union programmes, and, of course, we were obliged to declare the sources of our money and the sums received. This was also true for all money we got from the EU budget. It would never occur to me to see this as any kind of discrimination or as hampering us in any way.

When it comes to this discussion, I am sorry to say we are losing ourselves in debates that are based on outdated documents. We are losing the big picture, and that is what we really need. This is about standards, this is about democracy, the democracy based on active citizens often organised in lively, dynamic NGOs.

Transparency is a standard of democracy, and a bill or any legal document that requires transparency for any private or public funding should be praised, and not condemned, in this Chamber.

Maybe rather, we should also encourage reporting on private donors. Why should transparency hamper activity, weaken the situation of NGOs, discriminate? Why do we need transparency? These are the questions we should ask ourselves for any organisation in the world that we support.

Israel is a democratic state. There was a lively discussion in the Knesset about this draft bill, which resulted in last August’s bill. So, thanking Commissioner Füle for all the information that he has provided us, I can only wish him, the Commission and all of us, further continuing, developing, good cooperation between the European Union and Israel.

 
  
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  Proinsias De Rossa (S&D). – Mr President, could I first of all respond to the notion that outside interference is in some way damaging to peace processes. If one were to follow that logic, the European Union, and indeed the world at large, should turn its back on every single conflict around the world and pretend it is none of its business. That is a nonsense argument, Mrs Dodds, and I urge you to review your view on it.

It is entirely legitimate for this Parliament to examine potential threats to freedom of speech and freedom of association in any state with which we have a trading relationship. Our treaties oblige us to engage in trade on an ethical basis. Israel, which has a very close trade relationship with the EU, cannot be exempt from such scrutiny.

I welcome the changes that have been made so far to the NGO funding bill in the Knesset law committee, owing no doubt to the international pressure that has been mounted, but it is still only at the first stage. It still has to go back to committee and go through a second and a third stage. We do not yet know what the final version will be like.

However, the bill as it remains is a draconian and unbalanced bill which will discriminate in favour of private donations from foreign entities, which will not have to disclose the source or purpose of such donations. Either this is a bill about transparency, or it is not. If it is, then it has to be complete transparency.

I am sceptical regarding the final outcome and believe that Parliament, the Commission and the Council must maintain their vigilance and make it clear that legislation, if passed, which goes beyond balanced transparency requirements will have a bearing on our relationship.

I would like to comment briefly on the proposed boycott legislation, which will attempt to criminalise anybody who supports a boycott of the sale, in Europe, of goods produced illegally in the illegal settlements. I would regard that as a breach of the right to political action.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder (EFD). (NL) Mr President, just a moment ago, my fellow Member, Mr De Rossa, said that a debate on the draft bill which is being challenged had already taken place and that amendments had been made to the bill. Might I point out that that debate is still ongoing? As chair of the Israel Delegation, I was informed of that earlier this week, but what has struck me – and that is where I have a question for you – is that you say that those amendments were the result of outside pressure. Are you suggesting that our colleagues in the Knesset are not entitled to change their minds, as the chair of the committee concerned did when he proposed that private donors also come under the transparency act? Surely, that is the opposite of external pressure? In other words, do you think that external pressure is the only thing that can make members of the Israeli Knesset change their minds? I find that belief quite biased.

 
  
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  Proinsias De Rossa (S&D). – Mr President, I would not make the nonsensical statement that only outside pressure can encourage parliamentarians to change their minds, but it is obvious that international pressure does help to change minds. I know that to be the case in Ireland. In the peace process in Ireland, it helped to change the minds of the IRA and of Sinn Féin. Obviously, in Ireland, we also exerted internal pressure on them, but international pressure too is, of course, an important part of the democratic process. We are, after all, one world.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE). (FR) Mr President, I am, at times, astonished by the tenor of some of our debates here in Parliament. That is the case today.

What are we talking about? What is on the agenda? Not the Goldstone report. Not the settlements. Not operation ‘Cast Lead’. No, the title of the debate is ‘Draft bill on Israeli NGOs’, a bill which is still under debate in the Knesset, which has not yet voted on it.

Our Parliament therefore demanded, back in April, to debate this issue immediately after it had been raised by the Israeli Government, and even before the Israeli Members of Parliament were able to debate it. It is all the more patronising – I am sorry but that is the only word for it – given that this bill, and this has already been mentioned, has now been substantially amended. Indeed, it is an insult to the work of our colleagues in the Knesset to think that it was our oral question here, in this Parliament, that transformed matters. It shows a total lack of understanding of the Israeli mentality and of the vitality of the democratic process, of the NGOs, and of the Israeli Members of Parliament.

Mr Pöttering mentioned a visit which he has just made to Israel. I too have returned from Israel; I returned on Saturday. I met elected representatives from Kadima, from Labour, and some from Likud, and I can assure you that they have been working with the NGOs for months on this issue. They have not waited for us. So, I do not understand: every democracy in the world – and this has also been said – is moving towards more transparency, ethical conduct and accountability in public office. This is true of governments, political parties – obviously – public administration, the Member States too, the Commission and our Parliament; they all follow the same process of transparency, a process which is all the more necessary and understandable in the case of a region as troubled as this one is by the tragic conflict taking place there.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Nicole Kiil-Nielsen (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, I would simply like to ask Mrs Ries, since she does not think there has been any impact on the Knesset or on the Israeli authorities, to explain the communiqué from the Israeli Embassy which we were just talking about and to explain certain e-mails we have received over the past few days.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, I did not say that they had not been influenced, any more than Mr De Rossa, no doubt, thought that it was our work and our work alone that had changed the course of events in that country. All I am saying, having discussed the matter only last week with the Members of Parliament of that country, is that they had started the process of debating and amending this bill well before and independently of our intervention. I think that some of the remarks that we are making here are particularly patronising, and I would be very reluctant to speak for the Ambassador who sent that communiqué yesterday. I do not think it is my place to do so.

 
  
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  Heidi Hautala (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, personally, I have dedicated a lot of my political career to promoting transparency in political decision making, but I can also rather easily see that this draft bill is very selective in its attempts to create transparency.

In the Subcommittee on Human Rights, in June, we actually had NGOs from Israel and we asked them about this law. They were concerned. We also heard other views and I personally had correspondence with the Israeli Ambassador to the European Union about this bill.

So I would say that the work that we have done in Parliament on this oral question in the subcommittee has helped create the conditions for a sound public debate, which will have an impact.

But, above all, what impressed me in that hearing in the subcommittee was the good spirit in which the Israeli and Palestinian NGOs work with one another. I think we should find new ways to support their cooperation, because that could play a very important role in the peace process.

 
  
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  Fiorello Provera (EFD).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this debate confirms many prejudices about Israel, which continue to influence the European Union’s Middle East policy.

Today we are discussing a bill in the Knesset that actually no longer exists, since it has been substantially changed. The new bill calls for total transparency regarding funding from abroad for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in Israel, some of which, it has to be said, are more involved in politics than in humanitarian aid.

This call for transparency does not appear to me to restrict people’s freedom of association, but today we are discussing it as if it did. We should not be surprised, then, at the diffidence of Israeli politicians towards the European Union, and that may account for why we are not sitting at the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating table, even though we are the main donor in the region.

We should instead be discussing how to improve the transparency and traceability of our procedures for financing the NGOs and United Nations agencies operating in the region. By doing so, we would remove any doubts about our political positions.

I will conclude with a proposal: instead of discussing this bill, why do we not organise a debate on the growing anti-Semitism in Europe, especially after the statements by Mr De Gucht?

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Mr President, in February 2010, the Knesset passed an act which abolished the tax exemption enjoyed by all organisations working with foreign groups. This was followed in April by a bill which aims to ban all non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in legal proceedings abroad against Israeli officials. It is obvious that critics of the system soon become public enemy number one in Israel. The New Israel Front is being publicly accused of having destroyed the foundations of the Israeli state, simply because it helped to produce the Goldstone report.

The EU must take up a clear position with regard to this growing intolerance. In Israel and in the Palestinian state, NGOs are an important part of the citizens’ involvement in politics and, therefore, deserve protection as part of a democratic system. We expect any country which, like Israel, wants to enter into a closer association with the EU, to play by European rules and respect European standards.

 
  
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  Ria Oomen-Ruijten (PPE). (NL) Mr President, I have learnt, to my astonishment, that Israel has been attempting to keep this issue off the European agenda. I always go by the principle that, if you believe in your own legislation, you should not be afraid of debate and that debate can create a climate in which NGOs, which are the issue at stake here, can go about their work in Israel without obstruction. Therefore, a debate in this House can only help dispel concerns.

Mr President, I am pleased to note that a great deal has happened in the period between Mrs Heidi Hautala submitting an oral question on 27 April and today’s debate. I understand from the ambassador’s letter and the translation of the draft bill that significant amendments have been made. I am pleased that is the case. However, what does worry me is how the new legislation will be enforced and the question of whether or not it will be enforced selectively. In my opinion, the transparency of NGOs is part and parcel of every democracy, which is why it is important that Israel, too, ensures that there are no unreasonable obstructions to their activities. I am putting this question to Mr Füle: do we have guarantees that all NGOs in Israel will be treated equally and that this new legislation will not lead to restrictive measures for NGOs which are, wholly or partly, funded from abroad?

My third point concerns transparency, which is being used as an argument – and that is all well and good – but what I do not understand is why private donations do not fall within this legislation. The way I see it, that is a significant omission.

Mr President, in all other respects, I agree with the comment made by my colleague, Mr Pöttering, about the settlement policy.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). (SK) I must say that I am surprised by the tone of this discussion. Today we were supposed to discuss our proposals and our views on a bill which is still being amended, and where we might suggest to our colleagues from the Israeli Knesset, who are just as much elected as we are in the European Parliament, what our good advice might be or our valuable experience in the passing of this type of law.

Unfortunately, this discussion has degenerated into a kind of fight by one section of this Parliament against Israel in general. We should remember that Israel finds itself in a very difficult position and a difficult situation, that it is the only democratic state in that region, and that it faces attacks from almost all of its neighbours. That is the first thing, and just to clear up any doubts, in the previous election period, I was the deputy chair of the delegation of the European Parliament for relations with Israel. I therefore have some experience, and very good experience too, I must say, with colleagues from the Israeli Knesset, and I never had the feeling that when we visited Israel and we had questions that were perhaps not agreeable to them, that they did not want to answer those questions. Finally, many of you who are also sitting here in this debate worked together with me in that Delegation, or are even doing so today. So let us move on, let us come forward with some good proposals and, in my opinion, our colleagues from the Knesset will embrace those proposals and will be happy to adopt the act in that way.

 
  
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  Margrete Auken (Verts/ALE). (DA) Mr President, the previous speech brought to mind an email that we received a while ago from an American-Israeli friendship organisation saying that it was now high time that people started to treat Israel as a democracy. It reminded me of the well-known story about Gandhi, who was once asked what he thought of Western civilisation. He answered: ‘That would be a good idea’. I think we should treat Israel as if it is a democracy and make the demands that are necessary for it to be a good democracy.

The point has been made clearly here today that we cannot simply be satisfied with transparency with regard to public funding when we do not have it with regard to private funding, even if everyone knows where the large private funds come from. We cannot take Israel seriously if they cite the persecution of Jews and the holocaust as an excuse for treating others badly. This trivialising of the suffering of Jews is, in my view, perhaps one of the most disgraceful things we have heard in this debate. Those violent acts that were committed must not be used as an absurd excuse for not complying with the important ground rules of democracy. We must make appropriate demands of Israel and not treat it like a camp for delicate children or make allowances for it as if it is in some way handicapped.

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE). (CS) This question to the Commission from the Members on the left is, so to speak, off message and therefore nonsensical. It is not only that the bill the Knesset will vote on next month currently has a different form. I firmly believe that a democratically functioning country such as Israel has the right to pass laws, as long as they are not contrary to international law, and that was not the case even with the original government proposal. I would like to remind you that in my country, it is standard practice for voluntary organisations to name their sources, including sources from foreign and private sponsors.

The European Union cofinances non-governmental organisations all over the world and we are not always sure what the support is eventually used for. On the other hand, we should therefore applaud the fact that the Israeli Government and parliament are trying to achieve greater transparency in relation to the financial sums flowing into political movements and politically active non-governmental organisations from abroad. We should rather be concerned that some of them use resources from terrorist organisations abroad to undermine peace efforts and threaten the security of Israeli citizens.

I am sorry that some Members on the left are bothered about the idea of good relations between Israel and the European Union. Our priority, however, is peaceful coexistence between Israel and the future Palestinian state, and not the spreading of prejudice and gossip. However, what bothers me is the fact that the Commission has not been invited to the intergovernmental negotiations, and my question for the Commission is: Are you capable of changing this situation?

 
  
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  Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, someone might surely object to the reasons that have led the European Parliament to debate and pass judgment on a legislative act that a democratically elected parliament like the Israeli Knesset is adopting.

Such objections are understandable, but there are at least two basic reasons why this debate is necessary. The first is the unique nature of the situation in the Middle East, resulting from a conflict that has lasted too long and does not only involve Israel. The second is the important role played by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in that area, both on the humanitarian aid side and in connection with development cooperation policies. Besides, the Israeli authorities themselves should assess that role carefully, because without the work done by all the NGOs, the tensions in the region would be greater and much more serious.

For that reason, it will be perfectly natural to suggest to the Knesset, when it intends to legislate on this subject, that it should set out two clear objectives in addition to the changes already made: to ensure transparency for funding, applying without bias to everyone, including organisations like the settlers’ NGOs, for example; and to make it possible in practical terms for all the NGOs to work, since their work is important, not least for the future of the peace negotiations themselves.

 
  
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  Sari Essayah (PPE). – Mr President, the principle of the draft bill is that foreign government funding for NGOs should be fully transparent.

Do we have a problem with transparency? Hopefully not. In most EU Member States, we have legislation about NGO funding and its transparency as well as the funding of political parties. In Finland, for example, we have just passed a law about the funding of political parties by means of which we wanted to prohibit all kinds of foreign funding except from European sister-parties. We do not want foreign forces to be able to buy influence in Finnish political life.

All us politicians would be very astonished if some fellow European Member State government started funding our national NGOs for political campaigns. At least we would like to know the source of the money and the possible motives.

The Quartet representative, Tony Blair, pointed out the double standards so commonly applied in European attitudes towards Israel in his speech last week in Herzliya. He said, do not apply rules to the government of Israel that you would never dream of applying to your own country.

So the European Parliament should support Israeli legislators in ensuring transparency rather than attacking with false accusations, and interfering in, a democratic legislative process.

Are we, as Europeans, fully aware that EU-funded NGOs’ projects do not always promote peace, but rather work against mutual understanding and create more distrust and hostility between Israelis and Palestinians?

So this new legislation is important for European taxpayers as well, so that we will know how our money is spent in that area.

 
  
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  Marek Siwiec (S&D).(PL) Mr President, they say that before signing an agreement with a bank, you should read the small print at the bottom. In the question we are discussing, today, it is important to read what is said at the very end of the question. The authors ask how this matter will affect the future of the relationship between the EU and Israel. My answer is that it will have a very favourable influence, because we are saying, today, that we have a partner in the Middle East which is a democracy, and that there are people there who want to be careful with European money and who want to take care over how that money is spent. It is the only country in the region where they are so careful about European money. Not far from that country, millions of euro are disappearing without trace, and we do not know how this money is being spent. If, today, we can feel a moment of satisfaction, it is because we are promoting democracy in Israel. We are saying that it is a democratic country, and that it is building a democracy in accordance with our standards. The European Parliament has achieved something exceptional during this debate. In good faith, we have defended non-governmental organisations in Israel – organisations which do not feel they are in any danger – and we are protecting them from legislation which has not yet come into force. I would like this to be seen as a good message from this debate.

 
  
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  Zoran Thaler (S&D). (SL) The trend of restrictive legislation in Israel points to an ever widening gulf between Israel’s ideal of being the only real democracy in the Middle East, as we proudly like to point out, and the actual situation which, despite all this undeniable democracy, also includes suppression of the legitimate rights of the neighbouring Palestinian population to self-determination and to their own country and freedom.

Since this is the policy of the Israeli Government, anyone who opposes it, whether an individual or a non-governmental organisation, will sooner or later become an enemy of its dictatorship. It is difficult, impossible, to be a democracy behind high walls while, at the same time, oppressing others. That is an illusion.

This is why Israel will have to make a choice between remaining a democracy and developing democratically – in the sense of recognising and allowing its neighbouring population, the Palestinians, to exercise their democratic rights – and maintaining its current policy of undermining those rights and occasionally sliding into undemocratic behaviour, lack of openness, narrow-mindedness, xenophobia and repression of its civil society. Unfortunately, the inevitable price of such a policy towards the Palestinians will be the destruction of Israel’s own democracy.

 
  
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  Ulrike Lunacek (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, I would like to thank Commissioner Füle for the words he very clearly expressed about Israeli civil society – which is very vibrant, as we all know – but also for his criticism of the law that has been changed.

One of the points that I found very positive in the process that has been going on is that some of the very bad parts of the law actually have been changed. However there are still some issues that might need closer review by the Members of the Knesset. You mentioned one of them – the fact that private funding is not part of the law where transparency is required. We know very well – in our countries as well – that there is private funding and there should be transparency. Somebody else said that political parties should be open about which private individuals, companies, etc. are funding them. In my own country, there are problems about that.

That is an issue that, in all friendship with Israel and the Knesset, I hope will still be changed so that civil society in Israel will be as transparent as most of it is anyway, but will also be active in the future for peace in the region.

 
  
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  Ivo Vajgl (ALDE). (SL) There is no doubt that Israel is a democratic state, but no democratic state is immune to undemocratic actions or pressures.

In this case, which concerns pressure exerted on non-governmental organisations in Israel, we are dealing with undemocratic actions, and indeed, we were warned of them taking place when we visited Israel as a delegation. Furthermore, now that I have spoken to a number of contacts in Brussels, I firmly believe that they did take place.

Here, today, we are debating one particular law. However, there are actually three laws which, each in their own way, essentially place NGOs and anyone working with them in an equivocal position. That is not good for any democracy. Since our debate will also have an impact on the peace negotiations, I have to say that so far, the greatest harm caused to the peace talks has been Israel’s Foreign Minister Lieberman’s statement that Israel would continue building settlements in the occupied territories.

 
  
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  Alexandra Thein (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, I would firstly like to thank Israel for taking seriously the many concerns about its proposed legislation and for at least watering down the provisions slightly.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have, for many years, been required to disclose their sources of funding in a completely transparent way and even to publish this information on their websites. The planned legislation, even in its watered-down form, is ultimately aimed only at specific NGOs: firstly at human rights organisations and secondly at those which receive public funding. This includes, for example, public money from the United Nations or the European Union. In contrast, far-right groups or non-governmental organisations which are privately funded and which, for example, support the building of illegal settlements, are not subject to any legal restrictions and do not have to make their funding sources public. The problem with the proposed legislation lies in this unequal treatment.

 
  
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  Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, the debate today has shown once again the great importance that we all attach in the European Union to civil society. A free and active civil society underpins the development of a healthy democracy.

I have taken note of the many remarks you have made today and will convey them to our Israeli partners. I will also find a way to inform the High Representative and Vice-President on certain aspects of our debates, as she is our representative in the Quartet and is effectively ensuring that the European Union continues to play a very important role in the Middle East peace process.

Before I conclude, let me make two more very important points. The first is that we will continue to provide funding to NGOs for eligible projects which respond to our objectives. Secondly, we will continue dialogue with the Israeli authorities within the framework of existing political arrangements. Dialogue must remain open with this very important partner at all levels and through all channels.

Let me assure you, in conclusion, that the Commission will continue to follow this issue and will continue to advocate to our Israeli partners the need to promote and further facilitate, rather than restrict, the work of an active NGO sector.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Olga Sehnalová (S&D), in writing. (CS) Voluntary organisations are a legitimate and essential component of civil society in a normal democratic country. However, it is equally legitimate to demand transparency in respect of their finances, both in terms of public and private sources. The question which needs to be addressed is therefore the level and specific legislation for securing this transparency. It would therefore be good to approach this question dispassionately, without prejudice, and with some confidence in the work of our democratically elected colleagues in the Israeli Knesset.

 

13. Situation of the Jordan River with special regard to the Lower Jordan River area (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the debate on the oral question to the Commission by Paolo De Castro, Véronique De Keyser, Jo Leinen and Adrian Severin, on behalf of the S&D Group, on the situation of the Jordan River with special regard to the Lower Jordan River area (O-0092/2010 - B7-0452/2010).

 
  
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  Paolo De Castro, author.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Jordan River is a major asset of not only environmental, but also agricultural and economic significance for Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and the degradation it is suffering cannot fail to worry us.

It is important to point out that roughly 98% of the 1.3 billion cubic metres of natural fresh water in the lower course of the river is diverted away every year, and long stretches of the river are at risk of running dry. This is devastating not only in terms of biodiversity, but above all in terms of local communities’ access to sources of water. Several international actors, including the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly and the United States Senate, have addressed the situation of profound degradation of the Jordan River.

We, too, must demand intervention, not only from the local governments and authorities, but also from the Council, the Commission and the Member States, to provide technical and financial assistance for the rehabilitation of the river. In particular – as stated in the joint resolution signed by all the political groups, whom I thank for their wholehearted support – we must ask the Commission to insert a clear, specific reference to this project in the action plans of the neighbourhood policy with Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

An initial step could be to set up a joint study on the situation of the Jordan River. We are well aware that water is a precious, inalienable asset, so I would like to point out that distributing the water fairly means paying equal attention to the demands of all the communities in the region. This is a matter of supreme importance if we want to achieve lasting peace and stability in the Middle East.

We have been watching the resumption of peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians in recent days with some hope, as these negotiations have identified water resource management as one of their essential points. We hope that the governments, local communities and civil society organisations in the countries and territories involved will begin to cooperate effectively as soon as possible in order to save the lower Jordan. This is a duty not only because of the high symbolic value of this river but, above all, in order to improve the living conditions of the local communities.

 
  
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  Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to discuss the critical situation of water in the Middle East.

The European Union considers water to be a serious concern in the region and I fully share the concerns of the honourable Members of this House, as this region is characterised by water scarcity, water stress and the deterioration of the quality of water, which are likely to be further aggravated by climate change effects.

We are aware of the impacts this can have on the people in the region, the environment and regional security. The European Union considers that water is a peace priority in the region and this regional challenge requires a regional solution.

As you are fully aware, the European Union has been involved in encouraging urgent steps towards a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, where water is one of the ‘final status issues’ to be resolved, along with borders, refugees, Jerusalem and security.

The European Union recognises the specific situation of the lower Jordan River Basin and the need for more efficient water management including its tributaries. We are therefore engaged in a range of activities at national, sub-regional and regional level with all neighbouring parties. We are supportive of water reforms and policies that encourage the application of sustainable water management.

Through the European Neighbourhood Policy and other measures, the European Union is supporting confidence-building measures, promoting cross-border cooperation and bringing together water resource communities that have shared water concerns.

European Union activities target capacity-building of different water authorities and users, the collection and sharing of data, the availability of treated waste water, water conservation measures, including water networks, and efficient irrigation systems.

European Union efforts address both the demand and supply side of the water sector and establish the conditions that will enable an integrated management of water resources in the future.

The European Union is not alone in its efforts. Member States and other donors are active and we closely coordinate our activities with them in order to ensure complementarity.

 
  
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  Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, on behalf of the PPE Group.(EL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the European Parliament is taking a very positive step in highlighting the challenge which the Jordan River represents today. The Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly has drafted a special study on the Jordan River and the Jordan Valley and has called in its resolutions for them to be protected, because the Jordan River is a monument of our global heritage, a religious and cultural symbol for millions of people around the world and an ecological, tourist and economic fund for the area.

The aim, therefore, today is to highlight its problems and the need for action to protect it, to step up efforts being made by the European Union – the Commission referred to these efforts and we have touched on them on other occasions during work on the common position – and to call for regional cooperation on fair access for the peoples of the countries on the banks of the Jordan River and for shared responsibility for its protection.

The motion for a resolution also highlights best practices, such as the special master plan prepared by Israel, which calls for an exchange of best practices and an exchange of expertise, because the Jordan River is a collective issue for the area. Importantly, the real risks are also highlighted: not only the lack of water, not only pollution, but also the loss of biodiversity and the risk of its drying out unless something is done.

In order to highlight this international and regional cooperation, the motion proposes a special committee for the Jordan Valley, in which the countries directly affected by the Jordan (Israel, Palestinian Territories, Jordan) can participate, together with other countries in the area, where the Jordan rises, which also have a share of responsibility, such as Lebanon and Syria. I believe that this resolution will gain the support of plenary and the message that the European Parliament sends out will be a well-formed, targeted and strong message.

 
  
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  Véronique De Keyser, on behalf of the S&D Group.(FR) Mr President, as has been said, the situation concerning the Dead Sea and the Jordan River is extremely worrying since it is predicted that, if nothing changes in 2011, the river will simply run dry.

If no action is taken at international and at regional level to put a stop to this development, the situation will result in an extraordinarily important loss for cultural heritage, for biodiversity – Mrs Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou mentioned this point – and also for the security and the economy of the region.

I would like to bring to your attention an NGO which has taken what I consider to be an absolutely remarkable initiative. This NGO, Friends of the Earth Middle East, has decided to bring together the Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli mayors who live along the river, to rally them and encourage them to think about what they could do to improve matters somewhat.

The association and the mayors have carried out some interesting studies concerning the measures that each country could take and the impact those measures would have. They range from waterless toilets to changes in agricultural methods, to changes in the types of crops grown because they absorb too much water, and so on. There is a wide range of measures that can be taken. So this is not a political debate, even though we are well aware that, as soon as we talk about water in the region, things become political.

I believe that everyone could support that, and I would like Europe and the Commission to take inspiration from the very clear conclusions of this report in the relations they have with these countries, particularly through the action plans.

However, there is one short paragraph that I set great store by – paragraph E – which says that there is overexploitation of water by the Israeli settlers. This is true; it has been confirmed by reports by the World Bank and by Amnesty International. It takes us back to the heart of politics, but it is a truth that must sometimes be told. We have not placed it at the heart of the resolution but we do set great store by it.

 
  
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  Antonyia Parvanova, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, as the Vice-President of the Euromed Assembly’s Committee on Energy, Environment and Water, I had the opportunity to see the concrete and dramatic ecological reality of the Jordan River area during a field visit which took place last February.

The Special Report on the Situation in the Jordan Valley, for which I was rapporteur, highlighted the fact that all parties concerned – in particular, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, but also Lebanon and Syria – must find a common solution to the two most pressing problems: an equal distribution of water that respects the need of all the people in the region, and a healthy and protected environment for the generations to come.

The first step identified in our report is that Israel and the Palestinian Authorities have to agree together on common data concerning available water distribution and demographics as a starting point for further negotiations, since both sides as well as independent reports have presented different figures up to now.

One of our main conclusions was that, in order to solve the water problem by cooperation, it is necessary to implement plans for a joint administration, decision making on an equal footing, and the joint management of water resources in the region. I believe that the recommendations in our report match areas where the European Union has a real expertise and could be involved as an active player, paving the way for future partnership between the parties involved.

In conclusion, I would like to remind you that, while efforts are being made to resume the discussion towards an overall peace agreement, we have the responsibility not to use the situation in the Jordan Valley for political and ideological purposes.

I hope our debate today will serve the interests of all parties in the region and lead to concrete and unbiased conclusions for an active involvement of the Union towards future sustainable solutions.

 
  
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  Margrete Auken, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (DA) Mr President, I totally agree with the two previous speakers, but I would like to take the opportunity to say that I believe that very many people here fail to see how impossible it is to insist that the Palestinians bear their share of the responsibility. They do not have the opportunity to do so. How many people here are aware that, since 1967, 50% of the banks of the Jordan on the West Bank have been occupied by Israeli settlements? 50%! On top of that, 45% has been requisitioned as military areas and nature reserves. They have quite simply been shut out. The awful thing for the Palestinians – particularly in the Jordan Valley – is that because we have not seen forceful resistance from them, they have simply been forgotten. If there is no military action, if nothing dramatic happens, they are simply forgotten.

It is, of course, a horrible lesson that we are teaching the poor Palestinians in particular – that they need to get themselves noticed – and loudly even. This problem needs to be solved. However, we must not forget that if possible – if possible – the suffering of the Palestinians is even worse in this area than in the rest of the West Bank, and that, as the situation currently stands, they do not have the chance to live up to the responsibility they ought to be taking. Thus, there needs to be an integrated solution, and we therefore also need to consider the political picture. It is not only Israel, it is not only Syria and it is not only Jordan – no! However, the Palestinians cannot be involved as long as they have no possibility of getting involved.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, water is indeed a sensitive and potentially inflammatory issue in the Middle East. High-level delegations from Israel and the Palestinian Authority are currently discussing water rights as part of the comprehensive framework for peace.

As a member of the Quartet, the EU supports a two-state solution as the ultimate guarantor of peace and stability in the region. Therefore, we must be very careful not to prejudice the delicate negotiations currently under way in Washington. Blaming the Israeli settlers, as Mrs De Keyser seems to be doing, in particular, for Jordan River water overuse, sends precisely the wrong signal to the people of Israel – our democratic ally – about the EU’s professed position as an honest broker.

Conserving the watershed of the Jordan River is an important regional issue that is not of course confined solely to Israel and the Palestinians, yet Israel’s opponents in this House and elsewhere are blatantly seeking to exploit this issue as part of their campaign to undermine the Jewish State.

In succumbing again to this anti-Israeli agenda, we are in danger of having the EU seen by Israelis as unworthy of its privileged role as a partner for peace.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (ES) Mr President, there is no problem in Mrs De Keyser making a particular assessment, not at all. The fact is, however, that according to the Peace Treaty signed between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan in 1994, an agreement was reached to cooperate in the ecological recovery of the Jordan River along the shared borders and to protect its water resources.

This was an agreement, in addition to others that Israel signed in 1994, with which it is failing to comply. This is the problem we have with Israel: it does not comply with the agreements that it signs.

That is why it is extremely important that the initiative undertaken by President Chirac in 2008, calling for an initiative for the Jordan River basin, be given substance and supported by the European Union.

We believe it very important that a Jordan River basin commission be set up as a trilateral forum to cooperate in the rehabilitation of this river, drawing up and applying water conservation and recovery policies. It is true that, as a result of the failure to comply with the 1994 Peace Treaty, Palestinians have been excluded from the Israeli security area established in the West Bank along the Lower Jordan and that the settlers are illegally occupying land that does not belong to them. Given that the occupation is accompanied by an irregular and illegal use of the water, another problem is being added to the political one, which is the problem of environmental sustainability.

As 2011 has been set for the coming into operation of new waste water treatment plants, I hope the European Union will support, promote and encourage the need to set up that Jordan River basin commission.

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE).(RO) Today’s debate on the situation facing the Jordan River is extremely important to the group I belong to and I would like, if I may, to welcome in particular in this Chamber the involvement in this issue of our colleague, Rodi Kratsa, Vice-President of the European Parliament.

I would also like to emphasise, as you are well aware, that environmental protection organisations have long warned about the critical ecological state the Jordan River is in. This is a river which seems to be dying from what is tantamount to general indifference.

On the other hand, I have read in the press that, in spite of the extremely critical conditions, Christians, particularly Orthodox, continue to be baptised in the Jordan River.

However, there is a danger that the river will run dry in 2011, which would have drastic repercussions for the region’s already fragile ecosystem, especially for the Dead Sea. This means that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis will be affected by an ecological disaster.

However, apart from the ecological aspect – as other of my fellow Members have also highlighted in this Chamber – which is an aspect that certainly needs to be tackled urgently with EU help, the Jordan River’s situation is also particularly important as a factor for promoting regional cooperation.

I believe that we must avoid a situation where its waters are used unilaterally, with total disregard for the region’s water supply security.

Cooperation among the states bordering the river and local communities is therefore paramount to rehabilitating this resource which is vital for economic development. This can enable the Jordan to become a symbol again of cooperation and coexistence, including from a cultural perspective, if there is strong political will to do so.

Finally, the Jordan’s situation is also important in terms of the resumption of direct Palestinian-Arab negotiations, as control of the water resources features among the unresolved issues.

 
  
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  Proinsias De Rossa (S&D). – Mr President, could I suggest to Mr Tannock that it is not helpful at all to ignore the reality that settlers deliberately choose sites where they have good water supply, and that this in turn deprives Palestinians of that water supply. They are not the only problem in relation to water in the area, but they certainly do play a role in it.

The Jordan, unfortunately, is being deprived of something like 98% of its flow because it has been diverted by other states, including Israel. It is a transboundary river, with something like four states, including the Palestinian West Bank, bordering that river. Potentially, if it is handled right and if Europe plays its role properly in the area, it can be a source of reconciliation through the promotion of joint management of what is an important cultural, religious and indeed economic resource for the region.

To take the line that you take, Mr Tannock, that everything that involves some minor criticism of Israel is, in some way, an attack on Israel is simply to ignore reality. There are also others there who have diverted water. The Friends of the Earth, for instance, pointed out at a recent seminar organised by my group, the Socialists and Democrats, that the Jordan River once carried an average of 1.3 billion metric metres of fresh water to the Dead Sea. That has now been reduced to 20-30 million annually. By the end of next year, it could be a dead river unless we take action.

 
  
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  Alexandra Thein (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, firstly I want to reject the numerous accusations from outside and, in some cases, from within Parliament, claiming that we are discussing this subject at the wrong time, after the peace talks have begun. The parliamentary question which I helped to draw up was tabled at a time when none of us thought that direct peace talks would start up again. I have been involved in this area since the early 1990s and this subject has been under discussion in Parliament for a long time.

This is ultimately all about preventing the Lower Jordan River from finally running dry. The lower part of the river has already been reduced to a mere trickle. It consists only of waste water and contains no fresh water at all. All the scientists are agreed that the Lower Jordan River will be as good as dead in one or two years.

I find it disturbing that the resolution addresses Israel, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian Authority on equal terms. The Lower Jordan River area is located entirely in zone C, which means that the Palestinian Authority does not even have a right to access the area, never mind any administrative rights or any influence at all over it. It has already been said that the Palestinian Authority can do nothing in this area. Therefore, this resolution should be aimed at other countries.

When a country, in this case Israel, uses 75% of the water available in the Lower Jordan River, although part of the water has already been taken by other countries, and leaves almost no water for the Palestinians to live on, this is a political issue. This problem was supposedly resolved in the Oslo II Agreement and we have not made any progress since then.

The specific difficulty at the moment is that the Palestinians are constantly attempting to drill wells, which are immediately destroyed, and also that the Israeli water authority, which is a monopoly, is not drilling wells for the Palestinians, but only for the illegal settlements.

 
  
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  Nicole Kiil-Nielsen (Verts/ALE). (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should just like to start by paying tribute to the coalition of ecologists that we welcomed some months ago in Brussels, an association of Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians. It drew up some excellent reports on the situation in the region, on the state of the Jordan River, and on the risk of its disappearance.

The European Union, which allocates substantial funds to development projects in the Middle East, must play more of a role in drafting and implementing a rescue plan for the river involving all parties in the region. The countries bordering the river, such as Syria, Jordan and Israel, divert the greatest part of it, while the Palestinians – as someone just said – receive only around 5% of the resource.

In the Jordan Valley, the Israeli settlers consume six times more water than the Palestinians, particularly through the polluting intensive agriculture intended for the export of agricultural products to Europe. The extension of these settlements with their lush vegetation must stop, as must the destruction of Bedouin camps and their water tanks, which happened again this summer, some weeks ago. It is madness!

The preservation and fair distribution of water in the region must be a priority for us.

 
  
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  Mário David (PPE).(PT) The environmental disaster under discussion today concerns all of us, as Europeans, although it is occurring outside the area of the European Union.

The concept of sustainable development in which we believe is one without administrative boundaries or religious creeds. It sees the planet as a whole, not as the sum of its parts. Hence, the Jordan River is a problem for all mankind, not just the people and communities which are directly affected by water shortages or the poor quality of the water. Our good sense tells us to ‘think globally, act locally’. That is what we are here today to do: think globally.

As the European Union, we must contribute to acting locally as a way of minimising and reversing the continuing degradation of the flow and quality of the Jordan River. The EU already has a legislative and institutional framework and tools at its disposal in order to act, or help to act. I am talking about the Union for the Mediterranean, its secretariat and the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP), managed by the European Investment Bank. This is obviously an issue that the Parliament delegation, which I chair, will follow closely in our relations with the countries of the Middle East.

It is clear than any action leading to the resolution of this environmental tragedy should, in the first instance, be undertaken by the states and local authorities whose people will benefit from it directly. In view of this, I would like to emphasise two ideas that appear in the resolution. The first of these is the creation of a commission for managing the basin of the whole Jordan, made up of representatives of the states or authorities that use its waters. Europe can help here, for example, by sharing the experience of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine. Secondly, best practice can be supported and disseminated on joint Union projects involving Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian people, particularly those backed by the Friends of the Earth in the Middle East, whom Mr De Rossa has already called upon today to help with the efficient and proper management of water resources in the Jordan Valley basin.

Finally, Mr President, and in an even broader context, I would like to highlight the example of cooperation and peaceful coexistence that this plan represents. At a time when we are welcoming and encouraging the return of the new process of direct dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, albeit while lamenting the absence of the EU in the process, we welcome the direct involvement of both parties.

 
  
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  Olga Sehnalová (S&D). (CS) The issue of the drying up of the Jordan River is undoubtedly a serious regional environmental problem which affects the ecosystem of the whole area and the life and health of its inhabitants. Long-term excessive extraction of water, along with pollution and drought, are the main reasons for the situation, as is an inability to ensure effective water management.

As some Members have already said, more than 90% of the flow of the river is extracted for supplies of drinking water and especially for agricultural irrigation and industry. The annual flow has fallen from a former level of 1.3 billion cubic metres to about 100 million cubic metres. The political conflict clearly makes it more difficult to solve this environmental problem.

However, water does not have to be a source of conflict. It can also be an example of positive practical cooperation in the region and it can play a key role in building mutual trust. Peace based on everyday cooperation and shared values has a greater chance than any solution from a round table.

 
  
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  Malika Benarab-Attou (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the progressive drying-up of the Jordan River is a direct consequence of the tragedy that Palestine is experiencing. Water is a highly political issue. Let us not forget that.

Let us remember some facts: the World Bank informs us that, for two years, the one and a half million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip have been without chlorine, which is essential for disinfecting the water; 50% of homes did not have access to water before the bombings of January 2009, so imagine what it is like now. Médecins sans Frontières say that, now, following the attacks by the Israeli army on the infrastructure, 90% of the water supplied to the inhabitants is unfit for human consumption. Every day, 80 million litres of untreatable sewage is discharged into our Mediterranean as a result of the destruction inflicted on the infrastructure in Gaza.

It is true that Baroness Ashton has visited Gaza on several occasions, but where is the political courage to apply to Israel the same standards as we have in Europe? Must clean water, like the land, be monopolised by the Israeli settlers? Consequently, the European Union must suspend the association agreement with the current Israeli Government, which remains deaf to all our requests, whilst the occupation and the settlements, which are illegal, remain. Without justice, there will be no peace.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). (SK) As we have heard many times in today’s debate, and we will surely hear again, the Jordan River is of unimaginable cultural, environmental and economic significance, as well as political and strategic significance, of course. The exploitation and misuse of the river is therefore unacceptable. Since 1964, its flow has been diverted to Israel and also to other countries: to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other countries that have been mentioned here. Many of these countries are destroying the river and polluting it. According to conservationists, the misuse of the Jordan has almost destroyed its entire ecosystem. Recovery from its current state would take decades.

According to estimates, the Jordan River is one of the hundred most threatened places in the world from an environmental perspective. Of course, that fact is also due to a situation where Israel and the surrounding Arab states are incapable of agreeing on the conservation and protection of the river, and I therefore firmly believe that the European Union should and must get involved in this process very actively, by making financial assistance for development projects in middle eastern areas dependent on renewing the lower flow of the river, for example.

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (S&D). – Mr President, competition for water can exacerbate – or even ignite – conflict, whether it is the receding glaciers of Jammu and Kashmir, the tensions amongst Central Asian countries over the depleted Aral Sea, rival tribes vying for the same waters between Sudan and Somalia, or indeed here, in this debate about the Lower Jordan Valley.

The rehabilitation of the Jordan River and the cooperation required to achieve it might just enhance the prospects of peace too. That river has been immortalised in the holy books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, with references associating it with the prophets Moses and Elijah, and as the burial place of four companions of the prophet Mohammed. The Jordan River was crossed by the Israelites under Joshua, and it is here that the miracle took place of Jesus walking on the water.

We should not need another miracle for its waters to be protected for the benefit of the peoples of the region today, and for future generations there to live in peace and prosperity.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) I believe that a biased resolution or approach to the situation of the Jordan River is inappropriate in the context of resuming the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Water resources are a delicate subject in the Middle East and should be discussed towards the end of the negotiations to avoid any damage to the peace process. The EU must avoid needlessly turning this into a political issue and encourage the signing of a regional agreement on the Jordan River’s rehabilitation.

As I regard the Jordan River as a regional issue, I welcome the continuing cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities on managing the water. The joint contribution of both states has resulted in the recent approval of 61 of the 96 projects proposed with this in mind. Nevertheless, the problem of insufficient water resources is still unresolved.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D).(RO) The rehabilitation of the Jordan River is a multi-faceted issue as it is of universal historical and religious significance. The problems it faces involve ecological, humanitarian and international security concerns, all intertwined.

I believe that the current debate must mainly concern how to salvage the river physically and not be about criticising one or other of the parties involved. If the salvage project succeeds, this will have a knock-on effect on all the other aspects. In this regard, I think that paragraph E in the draft resolution is not linked directly to the subject in question, which may create unwanted confusion.

The European Union can and must make a considerable contribution to anticipating the adverse impact which the famous river’s total degradation and, ultimately, disappearance may have. The European Union must take a much more active role in the negotiations between the parties involved, helping to establish some balance.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Mr President, we know that the Jordan River plays an important role in Middle Eastern politics because of its location on the borders of various countries. Although the river has helped to bring peace between Israel and Jordan as a result of the treaty which allows Jordan to extract larger quantities of water, in the case of Syria, the situation is reversed. It is an open secret that Israel’s fear that its water could be taken away by Syria is the real reason why Israel refuses to give back the Golan Heights.

If the Jordan River really has become a trickle of waste water because of constant water extraction, and this is probably the price that will have to be paid for greening the desert, the situation in the Middle East will undoubtedly deteriorate in the near future, particularly as some of the leaders of Hamas are talking about the liberation of the whole region between the Mediterranean and the Jordan as being a moral and religious duty.

However, the shortage of water in the Jordan River also has wider repercussions, because as the Jordan dries up the amount of water reaching the Dead Sea is also reduced. Therefore, the potential for conflict and the area of conflict will increase. We should take this into consideration in our Middle East strategy.

 
  
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  Véronique De Keyser (S&D).(FR) Mr President, thank you for allowing me to clarify a point that it would seem I did not have the opportunity to deal with persuasively just now.

On the issue of the exploitation of water and the overexploitation of water by the settlements, I should like to refer my fellow Members to the Special Report on the Situation in the Jordan Valley by the Euromed parliamentary assembly which, itself, quotes time and again from the World Bank report entitled Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Sector Development and from the Amnesty International Troubled Waters report, and so on. These reports put exact figures on this exploitation, which is four to five times greater amongst the Israelis. I have figures from one to six. So these are the facts; I do apologise but they are not documented by me.

 
  
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  Mariya Nedelcheva (PPE).(BG) The European Union is a responsible partner and shares responsibility for the events happening across the globe through its foreign policy. As a donor involved in funding development projects in the Middle East and as an active participant in the Middle East peace process, the European Union and the European Parliament in particular must devise their strategy for and possible contribution to the rehabilitation of the Jordan River so that it preserves its importance as a source of life for the region.

Just a few months ago, the NGO Friends of the Earth in the Middle East warned that the Jordan River may run dry in one year if the countries in the region fail to take action. The fall in the river’s level also entails consequences for the whole climate and landscape in the region. The situation poses a real threat to guaranteeing the livelihood of the population in the region where irrigation is difficult. Apart from the purely pragmatic aspect of these problems, let us not forget that the Jordan River is a powerful spiritual symbol.

One of the European Union’s basic attributes is the balance between values and pragmatism. With this in mind, let us continue to be responsible politicians and demonstrate once again our unique European approach through our concern for the Jordan River.

 
  
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  Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, transboundary challenges call for common efforts. The European Parliament has rightly drawn attention to the need for a cooperative approach in this area. The European Union promotes the spirit of cooperation needed to address the Middle East region’s serious water challenges and advocates treatment of the problems at source, and not just the downstream symptoms.

Let me conclude by confirming that the European Union will continue to contribute to the efforts to alleviate the water deficit in this region and to ensure the provision of clean water resources, preserving the environment and safeguarding drinking water for the people of the region. The European Union will continue to support activities conducive to a future rehabilitation of the Jordan River and to the possible future establishment of joint and integrated management of the river basin, if that is the choice of the countries in the region.

The European Union will keep supporting dialogue and promoting cross-border cooperation on water issues between the various neighbours in this region, contributing to confidence building. Serious efforts and political commitment are needed from the neighbours themselves to balance the available resources and demands. This includes not just governments, but also civil society. As in Europe, individuals, companies and local municipalities need to contribute to the sustainable management of water resources. This is a challenge that confronts us all.

 
  
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  President. – I have received 5 motions for a resolution(1) in accordance with Rule 115(5).

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on 9 September 2010.

(The sitting was suspended at 17:55 and resumed for Question Time at 18:00)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Diana WALLIS
Vice-President

 
  

(1)See Minutes.


14. Question Time (Council)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is Question Time (B7-0454/2010).

The following questions are addressed to the Council.

Question 1 by Vilija Blinkeviciute (H-0355/10)

Subject: Disabled people and the Europe 2020 strategy

The European Union strategy for jobs and growth over the next decade adopted by the European Council is intended to help Europe recover from the crisis and, by promoting competitiveness, productivity and social cohesion, to strengthen Europe’s role at EU and international level. However, it is highly regrettable that disabled people, who currently constitute over 12% of the EU’s population, have been forgotten in this strategy. Although the Council has constantly called for greater attention to be paid to the integration of disabled people when dealing with disability issues, no specific tasks, objectives or commitments are set out in the Europe 2020 strategy that might form a basis for the improvement of the lives of the more than 65 million disabled Europeans. Almost 78% of disabled people are not integrated into the labour market and have no opportunity to earn a living. Most of them are dependent on benefits, which, sadly, have also been reduced as a result of the recession.

How does the Council intend to guarantee employment for disabled people and their participation in the labour market on equal terms? Does the Council not think it necessary to adopt specific guidelines for disability policy over the next decade or a dedicated strategy with clearly defined objectives and commitments?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) The Council is committed to increasing job opportunities and participation in the labour market for all citizens, including people with disabilities.

Some of the key objectives set out in the Europe 2020 strategy approved by the European Council on 17 June 2010 are specifically aimed at disabled persons: they are designed to foster employment, improve educational attainment and promote social inclusion, not least by reducing poverty.

The Europe 2020 strategy also specifically refers to persons with a disability in the flagship initiative ‘European Platform against Poverty’. The initiative will have an impact both at EU level in the form of Commission proposals and programmes to combat discrimination, including discrimination against persons with a disability, and at national level. Member States will need to define and implement targeted measures for specific risks groups, such as the disabled.

In line with the conclusions of the European Council in June 2010, Member States need to act now to implement these priorities at national level. All common policies are also required to support the strategy. This holistic approach is intended to reduce social exclusion for people with disabilities, an aim which also appears in the resolution on a new European disability framework adopted by the Council in June. The resolution calls on Member States and the Commission to make disability issues an integral part of all flagship initiatives under the Europe 2020 strategy and to tap the human capital of people with disabilities, not least by establishing suitable training and employment measures.

In its resolution, the Council also invited the Commission to produce a new European disability strategy for the coming decade in conjunction with the disabled and their representative bodies, building on the Europe 2020 strategy and other key documents.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D). (LT) Minister, thank you for your answer, but I would nevertheless like to state that the voice of the European Union’s 65 million disabled is still not heard enough. Therefore, I also have the following question: should we not speed up the adoption of the directive on combating discrimination in all EU Member States in order to ensure that disabled people can live like fully fledged citizens? So my question would be this: what is the status of the directive on combating discrimination?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) The Council Working Party on Social Questions is currently examining the Commission proposal for a new directive to implement the principle of equal treatment, irrespective of religion or belief, disabilities, age or sexual orientation.

The directive has to be adopted unanimously by the Member States. A number of presidencies have put a great deal of work into this proposal and at this stage, the Presidency is not able to predict how long the discussions will continue nor what the outcome will be.

 
  
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  Janusz Władysław Zemke (S&D).(PL) I would like to thank you for the information, but unfortunately, it was of a very general nature. You spoke about legitimate matters, but I would like to ask a specific question: is additional funding planned for the training of disabled people, and how much money would be made available? Without additional funding, without financial assistance on a European scale, it will be very difficult to help these people.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) I would like to ask you what the timetable is and what the Council’s intentions are regarding the regulation on the rights of passengers travelling by coach. I am referring in particular to people with disabilities and reduced mobility.

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) In terms of financing, there will be a general budgetary debate to address the question of how future budgets can encompass various flagship initiatives and legislative developments adopted as part of the Europe 2020 strategy. Since the strategy contains several new policies in favour of people with disabilities, we will need to consider how budgetary resources can be deployed to reflect those new policies.

In the case of legislative developments, we need to consider what the Commission can contribute in terms of existing legislation. The Council is essentially seeking to provide active protection for people with a disability in line with its competences as set out in the treaties. For example, 10 years ago, the Council adopted a directive prohibiting discrimination at work, including on the grounds of disability. The Council obviously intends to continue to work on this issue.

 
  
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  President. – Question 2 by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (H-0358/10)

Subject: Budgetary adjustment and private debt

Attempts to achieve financial reform at European level aim to improve public finances and balance Member States’ budgets. At the same time, action is being taken to clean up the wider financial sector, and particularly the banking sector, which is directly linked with the real economy. These efforts, however, are concerned only with the public debt situation, not with private debt, which is the second component of a country’s overall debt. What impact does private debt have on the social situation of each Member State, and what are the links between private and public debt? What does the Council intend to do in the event that (a) private debt is greater than public debt, (b) it is increasing? How will it tackle such a tendency, given that the Stability and Growth Pact does not envisage tackling private debt?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) The current macro-economic and budgetary surveillance procedures set out in Articles 121 and 126 of the treaty constitute the cornerstone of economic policy coordination.

The European Council in March 2010 set up a task force chaired by the President-in-Office of the Council and made up of all Member States, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. The task force was charged with analysing the measures needed to create an improved crisis resolution framework and better budgetary discipline by exploring all the options for strengthening the legal framework.

The task force presented a progress report to the European Council in June. The report highlighted the need for reinforced budgetary surveillance, notably with a greater emphasis on debt levels and trends, but also taking into account the overall sustainability of that debt in the light of the Stability and Growth Pact.

The task force also advocated adopting more effective macro-economic surveillance procedures in order to identify macro-economic imbalances at an earlier stage and then produce recommendations designed to prevent the situation worsening and avoid any knock-on-effects.

Lastly, we will need to define specific indicators, although private debt will undoubtedly be a key issue. The Council meeting on 8 June and the European Council on 17 June approved the task force’s orientations. The task force is due to present its final report and findings at October’s European Council meeting. We will then be able to begin the process of adopting new EU legislative texts or amending existing legislation as appropriate. The Presidency will definitely make any such initiatives a priority.

 
  
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  Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (PPE).(EL) I thank the Minister for trying to answer my question but, unfortunately, I did not understand something which you said in response to my question: is private debt taken into account in the new plans – I refer, Minster, to the plans which you decided on in October – and, within the framework of the planned economic governance, is there room for a new interpretation of the Stability Pact, the methods of application and private debt? I would be grateful if you could answer my question.

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) As I said, the process has been set in motion, the task force has been meeting and indeed met two days ago. There will be one or two more meetings before the October Council and it is too early to start discussing the details of how debt criteria will be implemented in future in conjunction with the Growth and Stability Pact. Once we have the conclusions of the task force on economic governance, which will present its report to the October Council, we will be able to begin the process of adopting or amending European legislation accordingly, and that may include addressing private debt issues.

 
  
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  President. – Question 3 by Silvia-Adriana Ticau (H-0361/10)

Subject: TEN-T network review

A ministerial conference was held on 7 and 8 June 2010 in Saragossa (Spain), organised by the Commission, with the objective of launching a review process for the TEN-T network. This process will, in principle, take place over the second half of this year and the beginning of next year, and will focus on developing the methodology for defining the nucleus of the TEN-T network and its nodes for interconnection with the transport infrastructures of the EU's neighbours. Following this process, each mode of transport should be able to enhance its contribution to trans-European transport, with intermodality ensured between different forms of transport and, above all, with suitable financing mechanisms in place.

Given that the greater part of this process will coincide with the Belgian Presidency of the Council, can the Council provide information on the proposed timetable and the actions planned by the Belgian Presidency concerning the review of the TEN-T network?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) The June 2009 Council conclusions welcomed the publication of the Commission Green Paper on a TEN-T policy review for better integration of the trans-European transport network at the service of the common transport policy and called on the Commission to present a proposal to the institutions on amending the TEN-T guidelines.

The main new feature in the proposal is the two-layered planning approach: there would still be a TEN-T base made up of fairly dense networks of railways, roads, inland waterways, ports and airports which comprise the comprehensive network, most of them part of national networks which would then be subsumed into a central network. This central network would allow for genuine European planning, focusing on steadily increasing the effectiveness of the network resources and achieving a significant overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions linked to transport.

In June, the Council took note of the information provided by the Presidency and Commission on the results of the TEN-T Days, an annual ministerial conference on the trans-European transport network which was held in Zaragoza on 8 and 9 June 2010. The discussions focused primarily on how to recast the planning and implementation framework for the future TEN-T and on how to mobilise funding effectively.

The Commission is currently engaged in a public consultation exercise on future trans-European transport network policy to develop criteria and conditions for overall and central network planning. The consultation procedure will be concluded on 15 September and the results will be presented to the TEN-T Finance Committee on 30 September.

The planning options will then be discussed both bilaterally – by the Commission and the Member State in question – and on a multilateral basis in the form of committee meetings to discuss revising the TEN-T guidelines.

At the start of 2011, the Commission will launch an impact assessment of the proposed revision of the TEN-T guidelines. Draft TEN-T guidelines should be available in May or June 2011.

As the draft guidelines have not yet been presented, and in view of the current public consultation exercise and the multilateral and bilateral discussions scheduled for late 2010, the Belgian Presidency is obviously not in a position to make any headway on the TEN-T review at present.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) One of the objectives of the TEN-T network review is to integrate the trans-European network with the transport infrastructure in neighbouring countries.

I think that it is important for us to speed up this process because the mid-term review is coming up this year and at the start of next year, and it is important for us to be able to allocate financial resources as well up to 2013 and, obviously, to plan the future financial outlook.

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) Obviously, the problem that you refer to is considerable and will undoubtedly be one of the considerations linking the current study and the plans which are implemented in the way in which the networks will be transformed, adapted and designed.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Madam President, Minister, a letter from the chair of the European Parliament Committee on Transport and Tourism was published recently, in which he says that, within the framework of the spending cuts imposed on Greece under the Memorandum of Understanding with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, the Greek Government intends to close a series of railway lines that form part of the TENT-T network and which recently received funding from the Structural Funds for the purposes of modernisation.

As this decision is out of order for environmental reasons, for reasons in terms of reducing road traffic and for reasons of infringement of EU legislation, I should like to ask if the Council intends to examine the complaints made by the committee chair and if it intends to ask for any such decision to be revoked.

 
  
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  Janusz Władysław Zemke (S&D).(PL) I would like to refer to the question which was asked a moment ago. Construction of the TEN-T network is of fundamental significance for European integration. It is very expensive. Therefore, it must be carried out very consistently.

In relation to this, I have a question: in the preliminary budget estimates for 2014-2020, is an increase planned in the funds available for this purpose?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) In terms of the first question on the reduction in Greece’s capacity to invest in the networks, on the one hand, I think that the Commission is qualified to tackle the subject but we can find out about this. On the other hand, I have no specific answer to give on how to respond to Greece’s reduced capacity. We can, however, contact the Commission services to see how we can respond more specifically to this question.

In terms of the concern about cohesion and the financial means to be provided, I refer you to the financial framework for 2014-2020 and I refer this question to Parliament. You will also be asked to express an opinion on the subject, in line with the principle of codecision on budgetary matters, and I am counting on you to include on the agenda future budget discussions on the means that will allow us to achieve this famous cohesion in connection with the transport objectives.

 
  
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  President. – Question 4 by Georgios Papanikolaou (H-0362/10)

Subject: Evaluation of the Open Method of Coordination

In 2000, the Council introduced the concept of the Open Method of Coordination in relation to sectors (employment, social protection, social integration, education, youth and training) which fall within the remit of Member States. Its aim was to improve cooperation between Member States and ensure exchanges of best practices in order to bring about the convergence of policies between individual countries.

In view of the above, will the Council say:

Does it consider this specific strategy to be successful? Could it provide specific results?

Does the Presidency consider that the concept of the Open Method of Coordination should be re-examined or revised?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) In its conclusions on 30 November 2009, the Council mentioned the fact that the open method of coordination has actively contributed to the smooth running of the job markets, as well as to social inclusion. The exchange of employment best practice has proved and will, in the future, still prove to be particularly useful. That will require effective monitoring of the employment guidelines that will soon be adopted by the Council, following advice from Parliament - which you have furthermore delivered today – and a key role for the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council in the context of the new governance, which should be decided on by the European Council, in particular, within the framework of the European Semester.

Last year, moreover, when the Council adopted a new strategic framework for European cooperation in the area of education and training, the new members recognised that achieving the main strategic objectives defined in the framework involved effective use of the open method of coordination, which proves that they continue to support this particularly useful method in the areas that fall within their national jurisdiction.

The recent 2010 joint progress report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the ‘Education and Training 2010’ work programme highlights the considerable progress made, thanks to the open method of coordination in terms of European coordination on education and training.

Likewise, in its conclusions of 7 June 2010, the Council drew attention to the interest expressed in the general discussions currently being held on the Europe 2020 strategy in developing the integrated approach fully through joint work at a European level, by using the framework provided by the open method of coordination in the field of social protection and inclusion, as a mechanism that has demonstrated its considerable potential.

However, faced with the new challenges and perspectives offered by the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy, in particular, with regard to monitoring the implementation of the objective defined by the European Council on poverty reduction and social aspects of the employment guidelines, in particular guideline 10, the Presidency, during the informal, meeting of the ministers of social affairs on 9 July, invited the Member States to launch a process of reflection on strengthening the open method of coordination.

In its resolution of November 2009, which establishes a renewed framework for European cooperation in the area of youth 2010-2018, the Council has already set out a certain number of general principles that must be observed in all the policies and activities relating to young people, within the framework of a renewed and more integrated method of coordination. To this end, the Presidency will organise a conference on 14 September and the EPSCO Council of 21 October should, at the Presidency’s initiative, once again debate this issue and reach some conclusions on the subjects of employment and social inclusion.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE).(EL) Thank you for your reply, but I should like you to clarify the following for me: it is true that the open method of coordination in vital sectors – which you too listed: education, employment, training, issues relating to young people – is a very important tool at our disposal within the framework of subsidiarity and the powers vested in the European Union.

My question is: could we have a report from time to time on this method so that we can exchange opinions and so that we, too, are informed at political level? Also, how could the European Parliament participate more actively in this procedure, so that we can highlight it better?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) I refer you to the last part of my reply. As I was saying, on 21 October, the EPSCO Council will, at the Presidency’s initiative, debate the question once again and should reach some conclusions on the issue of employment and social inclusion, which will of course be passed on to you.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D). (LT) Minister, thank you for your reply on the significance of the open method of coordination, but I would like to point out that 2010 was declared the European Year for Combating Poverty, and it so happens that when there is huge unemployment throughout the entire European Union and growing social exclusion, we must combat poverty. How much impact do you feel the open method of coordination has on poverty reduction and is it enough, shall we say, if we exchange good practice and see how Scandinavian countries pay great attention to combating poverty and social exclusion? Will this reduce poverty in the Baltic states?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) More effective mutual coordination and learning should indeed have positive effects. You have just underlined one of the aspects in terms of achieving common objectives on social issues. In general terms, it is true that in terms of growth, employment and the fight against poverty – which is at the forefront in 2010 – active inclusion policies may not only reduce poverty, but increase the supply of labour. The reforms in the pension systems may also raise employment levels and sustain public finances. The same applies to healthcare systems.

I therefore believe that over the course of 2010, which is dedicated to the fight against poverty, we will be able to implement this mutual coordination and learning.

 
  
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  President. – Question 5 by Nikolaos Chountis (H-0366/10)

Subject: Memorandum of Understanding concluded by Greece with the EU and IMF and rocketing inflation

The Memorandum of Understanding with the IMF and EU signed by Greece specifically states that one of the obligations of the Greek Government is to reduce inflation to below the average for the euro area in order to make its economy more competitive. In May, however, inflation reached 5.4% compared with 1.6% for the euro area, thereby further eroding the disposable income of Greek wage earners and significantly undermining the competitiveness of the Greek economy. This hefty rise in inflation has been caused by increased direct and indirect taxation imposed by the EU and IMF, as well as by ongoing and unrestrained speculation. Does the Council agree that the fiscal measures imposed by the EU and IMF have largely contributed to this inflationary spiral which is further undermining the competitiveness of the Greek economy? What structural measures will it recommend to the Greek Government with a view to containing it?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) The Council has often emphasised the Greek economy’s long-term structural problems in various multilateral supervision exercises. Along with the excessive deficit procedure, on 16 February 2010, the Council recommended that Greece implement a set of measures to improve the running of the commodity markets and the corporate environment, to sustain the growth in productivity and employment, to improve the efficiency and the rate of absorption of the Union’s structural funds, to correct the country’s excessive budget deficit and ensure the long-term viability of its public finances.

Greece presented the first report on the implementation of these measures on 16 March and the second in May. In June, the Commission and the International Monetary Fund carried out a preliminary analysis within the framework of the financial stabilisation mechanism valued at EUR 110 billion, granted to Greece jointly by the Member States of the euro area and the IMF. The analysis was completed in August but the Commission’s final report has not been formally referred to the Council.

The Commission has notified the Member States in the euro area of the preliminary results of the analysis and if, according to the Commission’s assessment, the economy develops in line with the projections that form the basis of the adjustment programme that backs up the financial stabilisation mechanism, the increase in the inflation rate will have a negative impact on the commodity markets. The Council will therefore monitor the situation carefully and will continue to take appropriate measures to help the Greek authorities to encourage economic growth and maintain a healthy budgetary policy.

If the Commission believes that the changes in the economy comply with the underlying projections of the adjustment programme that backs up the financial stabilisation mechanism, the rise in the rate of inflation will, as I was saying, be likely to have a negative impact on the markets. The same goes for the budgetary situation, which the Council will monitor carefully.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Minister, I am afraid that you did not answer the question I asked you. The measures imposed on Greece under the Memorandum of Understanding – the procedure which you described in the Memorandum of Understanding with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union – are contradictory. On the one hand, in a bid to generate state revenue, taxes have been imposed, but they cannot be collected, because the workers have no other income, nor do small enterprises, and while talking about reducing inflation, they are planning new revenue-raising taxes by increasing VAT on high-street goods and fuel oil.

The question I want to ask you is this: according to my sources, Greece was encouraged at yesterday’s ECOFIN meeting to introduce new revenue-raising taxes and these measures are translating into rocketing inflation. What I want to ask you, therefore, is if the ECOFIN meeting discussed, if the European Union proposed, corrective measures to prevent rocketing inflation in Greece over and above revenue-raising taxes?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) I cannot tell you exactly what decision Ecofin has reached over the last few hours, but the Council has indeed repeatedly criticised the Greek economy’s long-term structural problems during various multilateral supervision exercises. In its recommendations on the 2009 implementation of the broad economic policy guidelines by the Member States, the Council noted that Greece must intensify its efforts to rectify the macro-economic imbalances and remedy the structural weaknesses in its economy, in line with the Lisbon strategy for employment and growth.

The Council recommends that Greece increases its competitiveness in the professional services sector as well as its investment into research and development, uses the structural funds more effectively, reforms public administration, and takes a series of measures in the labour market within the framework of an integrated strategy on flexicurity.

All I can say is that the Greek authorities have confirmed that they have prioritised several planned structural reforms in a whole series of areas, and they fully understand the difficulties that this will create in the country.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE).(EL) Minister, my honourable friend, Mr Chountis, states in his question that inflation was 5.4% in July and was reported to be 5.5% in August and it would appear that, with the new measures taken, which – as my honourable friend quite rightly said earlier – relate to high-street goods, it will be very hard to reduce inflation. At the same time, you tell us that there is again talk in the Council of measures and new taxes.

My question is: we have more specific measures to encourage growth, both on the part of the Council, on the part of Europe and the support mechanism, but also on the part of Greece. Do we have a specific timetable?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council.(FR) Although I understand that runaway inflation poses a number of problems and that, should this inflation continue, several financial mechanisms would need to be readjusted, I can only tell you that as Greece is a member of the euro area, it shares responsibility with the other Member States for ensuring the euro area is stable, and that Greece’s economic policy, just like that of any other Member State, is an EU-wide concern. All Member States are supposed to conduct sound national policies, in accordance with the Stability and Growth Pact and the broad economic policy guidelines. Greece should therefore assume responsibility for dealing with these issues effectively, so as to reduce the risk of jeopardising the proper functioning of the monetary and economic union.

 
  
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  President. – Question 6 by Laima Liucija Andrikiene (H-0368/10)

Subject: Priorities of the Belgian Presidency regarding the UN and its bodies

What are the priorities of the Belgian EU Presidency with regard to the UN in general and the UN HRC in particular? Have the representations of the EU Council and the European Commission in Geneva already merged or is the process still in progress?

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council.(FR) In preparation for the 65th United Nations General Assembly, the Council, at its meeting of 14 June 2010, adopted the European Union’s priorities.

I wish to point out that following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy represents the Union on matters relating to the Common Foreign and Security Policy within international organisations.

The priorities adopted by the Council focus on the following themes.

First of all, promoting a stronger United Nations – the European Union will contribute to building a strengthened multilateral system, in particular, by improving the representation, transparency, responsibility, efficiency and effectiveness of the United Nations.

The second priority will be to contribute towards international peace and security. The European Union plans to raise the profile of its positions and contributions in terms of crisis management within the relevant United Nations bodies, in particular, at the Security Council.

The third priority theme will include the environment and sustainable development, in particular, with the aim of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The fourth priority concerns human rights. Ever since its inception, the European Union has always been one of the staunchest defenders of human rights and one of the most prominent players in the United Nations system in this area. The European Union will actively encourage the integration of human rights in all aspects of United Nations activity, by