Index 
Debates
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Wednesday, 20 October 2010 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Implementing measures (Rule 88): see Minutes
 3. Preparations for the European Council meeting (28-29 October) - Preparations for the G20 summit (11-12 November) - Financial, economic and social crisis: recommendations concerning the measures and initiatives to be taken - Improving economic governance and stability framework in the EU, in particular, in the euro zone (debate)
 4. Voting time
  4.1. Revision of the framework agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission (A7-0279/2010, Paulo Rangel) (vote)
  4.2. Adaptation of Parliament's Rules of Procedure to the revised framework agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission (A7-0278/2010, Paulo Rangel) (vote)
  4.3. Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities as regards the European External Action Service (A7-0263/2010, Ingeborg Gräßle) (vote)
  4.4. Amendment of the Staff Regulations of Officials of the European Communities and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of those Communities (A7-0288/2010, Bernhard Rapkay) (vote)
  4.5. Draft amending budget No 6/2010: Section II - European Council and Council; Section III - Commission; Section X - European External Action Service (A7-0283/2010, Roberto Gualtieri) (vote)
 5. Formal sitting - Mid-term address by Jerzy Buzek, President of Parliament
 6. Voting time (continuation)
  6.1. Draft amending budget No 3/2010: Section III - Commission - BAM (Banana Accompanying Measures) (A7-0281/2010, László Surján) (vote)
  6.2. Draft general budget of the European Union - 2011 financial year (vote)
  6.3. Parliament's position on the 2011 draft budget as modified by the Council - all sections (A7-0284/2010, Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska) (vote)
  6.4. Parliament's calendar of part-sessions – 2012 (vote)
  6.5. Improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding (A7-0032/2010, Edite Estrela) (vote)
  6.6. Combating late payment in commercial transactions (A7-0136/2010, Barbara Weiler) (vote)
  6.7. Role of minimum income in combating poverty and promoting an inclusive society in Europe (A7-0233/2010, Ilda Figueiredo) (vote)
  6.8. Financial, economic and social crisis: recommendations concerning the measures and initiatives to be taken (A7-0267/2010, Pervenche Berès) (vote)
  6.9. Improving economic governance and stability framework in the EU, in particular, in the euro zone (A7-0282/2010, Diogo Feio) (vote)
 7. Explanations of vote
 8. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 9. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting: see Minutes
 10. Instrument for Stability - Financing instrument for development cooperation - Financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide - Financing instrument for cooperation with industrialised countries - Financing instrument for development cooperation (debate)
 11. Ukraine (debate)
 12. Question Time (Council)
 13. Composition of committees: see Minutes
 14. Aid for Pakistan and possible implication for the European industrial sector (debate)
 15. Indication of the country of origin of certain products imported from third countries (debate)
 16. Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) (debate)
 17. Agenda of the next sitting: see Minutes
 18. Closure of the sitting


IN THE CHAIR: JERZY BUZEK
President

1. Opening of the sitting
Video of the speeches
 

(The sitting was opened at 09:05)

***

 
  
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  Edit Herczog (S&D). – Mr President, yesterday, we had a discussion on the budget. It was clear during the debate that the report by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) had not been received by the relevant services. We checked the issue. The report was completed and sent properly, so probably some mistakes occurred during the procedure.

However, it is not important to find who is responsible and what happened exactly. What is most important is that we wish to be sure that our report, which was also our base for the trialogue, and where the biggest difference lay as compared with the Council paper, is sent to the Council official documents. I therefore brought it with me and deliver it to you, as well as to the Council. We kindly ask you to make sure that the proposal by the ITRE Committee, which was adopted unanimously, will arrive at the Council in due time. Thank you very much for your support in this matter.

 
  
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  President. – We will do what you want. It is great. The beginning of today’s discussion is fantastic!

 

2. Implementing measures (Rule 88): see Minutes

3. Preparations for the European Council meeting (28-29 October) - Preparations for the G20 summit (11-12 November) - Financial, economic and social crisis: recommendations concerning the measures and initiatives to be taken - Improving economic governance and stability framework in the EU, in particular, in the euro zone (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the joint debate on the following:

- Council and Commission statements on preparations for the G20 summit (11-12 November),

- Council and Commission statements on preparations for the European Council meeting (28-29 October),

- report A7-0267/2010 by Mrs Berès, on the financial, economic and social crisis: recommendations concerning measures and initiatives to be taken (mid-term report), and

- report A7-0282/2010 by Mr Feio, on improving the economic governance and stability framework of the Union, in particular in the euro area.

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) Mr President, Mr Barroso, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Council, I would like to thank you, Mr President, for the opportunity to talk about the preparatory work being carried out within the Council for the next European Council.

This European Council will have a busy agenda. Its focal point will, without doubt, be economic governance. As you are aware, the task force chaired by President Van Rompuy met on Monday and approved its final report.

This report contains important and specific recommendations and proposals that should enable us to make a qualitative leap in European economic governance. In particular, its recommendations seek to improve fiscal discipline, broaden economic monitoring, develop and broaden coordination, strengthen the crisis management framework and strengthen institutions.

All these recommendations can be implemented quickly through legislation. Naturally, we hope the European Council will be able to endorse them in order to enable the Commission, Parliament and the Council to make swift progress on these highly important matters. This would, in any case, send a positive signal as to our intention to take the measures necessary to address the important economic challenge ahead of us.

It is true that some people have raised the issue of exploring other options that go further than these recommendations and beyond the scope of the treaties. I am talking here about issues such as suspending voting rights or introducing new voting rules such as reverse majority.

Clearly, these are not easy issues, either technically or politically. They will be discussed at the European Council next week.

Another important item on the European Council’s agenda is the preparations for the G20 summit. Indeed, the European Council shall have to define the Union’s position on the basis of the preparatory work carried out yesterday by the ECOFIN Council. Generally speaking, it is important for the Seoul G20 summit to mark a speeding up of the efforts to implement the framework laid down for promoting stronger, more sustainable and more balanced growth. In particular, we need to address the major global economic imbalances which can compromise growth.

Since 2008, with the onset of the crisis and the measures taken to deal with it – in other words, since the G20’s long-awaited rise to prominence – things have changed radically. The reason is very simple: relevance. The very nature of many decisions that have direct consequences for our fellow citizens has shifted within the space of a few months from the local or national level to the international level. Globalisation means that we now have to act simultaneously at European level and at international level on most issues.

We all know that the European Union needed time to reach an agreement on a new treaty that was also meant to strengthen the Union’s role on the international stage. It took us the best part of the last 10 years to deliver this treaty but only the last 10 months to realise how important it is.

The G20 has proved somewhat successful since its inception, but I believe that the hardest and most important test is the one awaiting it in the next few weeks and months, when we will have to confront the serious risk of losing momentum.

The European Union is currently preparing two important meetings, both in Korea, the first in two days’ time. This is the meeting of G20 finance ministers and governors of central banks, and the second one is the G20 summit in mid-November.

In terms of substance, the Union’s contribution to strong, sustainable and balanced growth is based on: 1) growth-friendly and differentiated fiscal consolidation plans; 2) the Europe 2020 strategy for structural reforms necessary for supporting, among other things, job creation; 3) the programme for reforming the financial sector and markets; and 4) the strengthening of the Union’s economic governance. On this last point, we could present the findings of the task force at the November summit, once they have been adopted by the European Council.

I would add that the European Union is very interested in the peer review process within the G20. As Europeans, we are used to this type of exercise and we know how interesting and useful it can be. Clearly, everyone must play his or her part and show a genuine willingness to contribute to the framework for growth.

The war against protectionism is not won in a single battle but by maintaining a general state of alert, day after day. For the rest, although the work of the technical bodies, such as the Financial Stability Board chaired by Mario Draghi, is progressing well, and overall integration, particularly in certain areas, is, in my opinion, going in the right direction, it is also important to carry out a long-term reform of the International Monetary Fund.

The Europeans are ready to honour past commitments, particularly those made last year in Pittsburgh, to ensure that the new IMF is more representative of the new international economic reality and hence, that emerging economies play a bigger role and have more of a voice. However, let me be clear on this: Europe cannot be expected to make all the concessions in this regard on its own.

All developed countries must contribute. We have already made known what we are specifically willing to negotiate on, in terms of representation, governance and share of the vote. We believe this is a good basis for reaching a compromise. So, let no one blame Europe if nothing changes in this respect.

As a Union, we have negotiated among ourselves on all this and on a number of key issues and terms of reference for the G20 finance ministers’ meeting, which is due to take place this week. We have done so to ensure that Europeans not only speak with one voice but also focus on defending and promoting that which represents their most important interests. The Presidency and the Commission will do everything in their power to defend and support these interests resulting from our common position, which is the fruit of several months’ work by all the Member States.

With regard to climate change, in theory, the intention is not to have a detailed discussion at the European Council, since the Environment Council already adopted, on 14 October, a very comprehensive text with conclusions establishing the European position. It is becoming ever more urgent to progress with the implementation of an ambitious scheme for combating climate change after 2012, and to that end, the European Union continues to defend a step-by-step approach which is based on the Kyoto Protocol and the results of the Copenhagen conference and which paves the way for a comprehensive and legally binding global framework, by taking into account the political guidelines outlined in the final Copenhagen document.

The Cancún conference must achieve a balanced result which addresses the parties’ concerns and enables us to establish the progress made up to now. The Union has expressed its preference for one legally binding instrument which would encompass the main elements of the Kyoto Protocol. It could, however, envisage a second period of commitment under the Kyoto Protocol on several conditions. This should take place within the context of a broader agreement to which all the major economies would subscribe and which would embody the ambition and effectiveness of international action and would fulfil the urgent need to protect environmental integrity.

I would like briefly to mention the preparation of the European Union’s position in view of the summits with the United States, Russia and Ukraine. This will be the first time that the preparations for the summits with the Union’s key partners have been discussed by Heads of State or Government, in line with the conclusions of the European Council of 16 September. The idea is for the Heads of State or Government to have an open debate on the main challenges in our relations with our partners. Without wanting to anticipate this debate, let me briefly expand on the key issues of these forthcoming summits.

It will certainly be important to focus the summit with the United States on a few key issues. Generally speaking, it will have to mark a strengthening of transatlantic cooperation, which is a fundamental vehicle for devising effective solutions to the common challenges ahead of us. Furthermore, the day after the G20 summit, the Europe-United States summit will represent an important opportunity for taking these results on board and developing a common approach to several current economic issues. We should also seek to develop a common approach in relation to the emerging economies.

The summit should also – at least we hope – make it possible to revive the Transatlantic Economic Council by turning it into an economic forum that goes far beyond purely regulatory issues. The Council could usefully examine ways in which to tackle the crisis and to promote growth and jobs, on the basis of a strengthened mandate.

We also intend to use the summit to prepare for Cancún, and we are obviously expecting an important positive signal from our US partners.

Finally, important foreign policy issues will also be on the agenda, notably with regard to Sudan and Iran.

Concerning the summit with Ukraine, another debate is planned this afternoon with the High Representative, so you will forgive me if I do not say any more on this matter this morning.

At the summit with Russia, the European Union intends to express its full support for the partnership for modernisation, which will enable us to strengthen our cooperation in all areas, particularly in key areas such as innovation and energy.

Those, Mr President, Mr Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, are the main points due to be discussed at next week’s European Council: a busy and important agenda indeed.

 
  
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  José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. – Mr President, today, we are debating first of all the issues that will be addressed next week by the European Council. I will concentrate on what I believe are the most important topics: economic governance in the European Union, of course, and externally – apart from the very important summit with the US and also the summit with Russia – what I believe are the critical summits: the summit in Seoul of the G20 and also the Cancún conference on climate change.

The reform of our economic governance is a cornerstone of our sustainable recovery and our credibility. This is why the Commission has taken a very ambitious approach since the beginning of these discussions. The proposals submitted by the Commission last month seek to translate the urgency deriving from the crisis into an ambitious legal reality. They tackle the key issues of giving the European Union real clout in economic policy through adequate coordinated fiscal surveillance and addressing macro-economic imbalances, so, as we have very often said, now creating a real economic Union in Europe.

I very much welcome the attention that this Parliament is paying to these proposals. An early first reading agreement would prove that the European Union is committed to putting its new vision into action. We should look to have these rules in place by the middle of next year. I therefore urge Member States to go all the way towards these important goals and to pursue this agenda as a matter of urgency.

We have, by now, moved towards a stronger consensus on key areas for action, reinforcing the Stability and Growth Pact and dealing with macro-economic imbalances, thanks also to the proceedings of the task force under the Presidency of Herman Van Rompuy.

Once all discussions are finished and all decisions are taken, the result of this combined process should be a vision for economic governance which will be much more comprehensive, much more attuned to the need to prevent problems in the first place, and much more solidly based through the use of sanctions.

But let me be clear. The overall result must represent a real change from the current situation. We must show to our citizens that the European Union has been drawing all the conclusions and the lessons from the crisis.

Some other matters still need to be settled. One issue of particular importance is how to replace the current crisis mechanism agreed in May with a mechanism of a more permanent nature once it comes to its end in 2013. We will do everything to avoid facing such crises ever again, but we will also do all we can to be better prepared for critical developments than we were last time. Preparedness and the presence of a robust and permanent crisis mechanism can prevent such developments from arising in the future.

The Commission takes good note of the views expressed by Member States that favour a treaty change, for which, as everyone knows, the unanimity of Member States is required. At this stage, the Commission will concentrate on the substance. By this, we mean the design of a permanent mechanism that can provide defence in critical moments, whilst minimising moral hazard and making sure that such an instrument will only be used as a last resort in the common interest.

If and when realised in full, the result of all this work will be what we need: a system that provides incentives for Member States to conduct sound economic and fiscal policies, and a system that provides incentives for investors to observe responsible lending practices.

Overall, I believe we are on track. We have been learning lessons from the crisis. For the sake of its citizens, the European Union is putting in place a system of governance that is completely renewed when compared with the state of play before the crisis, and now we are putting all this system on a much sounder footing.

Our track record on economic governance, but also on Europe 2020 and financial regulation, will give us the right platform to go forward to the G20 in Seoul. This summit comes at a critical time. It will be a real test of whether the G20 can deliver the coordination the world economy needs through cooperative solutions at global level. I believe it can, and I believe that the European Union will play a key role in making Seoul a success.

What do we want to achieve in Seoul? First, we need to remind ourselves that the G20 did play an important role in addressing the crisis. It did so through acting collectively, and as we move into a new phase, we need to continue to act collectively, cooperatively. That means accepting that global imbalances are a concern for all and that all major economies play a part in finding the solution. And yes, we cannot ignore the reality that exchange rates are an important factor here.

Second, we need to see action on the international financial institutions as well. IMF reform, in particular, is overdue. We need others to match the flexibility the European Union has already shown.

Third, with the support of this Parliament, we are in the midst of a fundamental reform of our own financial system, and once again, I want to thank you for the emphasis you have put on the need to achieve this as soon as possible.

We need to keep up the momentum on the G20 as well. Progress has been good, but now we have to be sure that it carries through into implementation.

I want the financial sector to play a part in this. That is why the European Union should remain committed to push for a financial transaction tax at global level. In the meantime, the Commission wants to explore other ways of ensuring that the financial sector makes an equitable contribution at European level, such as the financial activities tax.

The next G20 will also include development as an agenda item for the first time. A multi-year action plan will be adopted to guide our common effort in this area. The Commission has, from the beginning, been a strong supporter of this idea, together with the Korean chair. We need to show that the G20 growth agenda also encompasses and benefits developing countries. At the same time, we want to engage emerging economies in an international development framework which is in line with key principles of development policy and allows for greater coordination.

Yesterday, when I spoke here in Strasbourg with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, he specifically mentioned this point to me and he was very grateful for the support of the European Union for this agenda.

Finally, the G20 needs to take a lead in pushing ahead the trade agenda. Far from being an alternative to the WTO, our agreement with Korea should inspire our partners to push ahead to a rapid conclusion of the Doha Round negotiations by seizing the moment.

On the run-up to Cancún, I want to say a word about this very important conference. We need to stay focused on our goals here, to be ambitious for Europe, and also ambitious for the world. We need to move the international process forward. This is not easy. We know that in some of our key partners, the pace of change has slowed rather than accelerated.

Let us not forget that in the meantime, we are putting in place the most concrete and effective system for cutting emissions in the world. This is our strongest card and the closer we get to implementing the new Emissions Trading System, the stronger it gets. We have credibility second to none, grounded in a strong consensus between this Parliament, Member States and the Commission on what we have to do.

When we get to Cancún, let us not be distracted by arguments about form. We should go into the UN process with plenty of confidence and determination. Cancún will not be the end of the story, the final breakthrough, but it can be a very important step on the road. The EU needs to convey a clear and consistent message in order to move the negotiations forward. We should aim at a set of concrete action-oriented measures which can deliver confidence and trust in the process and bring us closer to our final goal.

That is why I wrote to the Members of the European Council last week. I set out what I believe to be a balanced, realistic position – one which continues to drive us forward without creating unrealistic expectations. This is a time for Europe to take the lead by setting out how Cancún can make a series of important steps forward, delivering on important commitments like the fast-start finance and, above all, by making clear that we are continuing to set an example.

The European Union economy will grow more this year than previously foreseen, but recovery is not yet firmly established; there is no room for complacency, as we have said several times, particularly when one sees the still very high figures for unemployment.

We all know that we have faced real challenges in the past months as expressed in a clear way in the report that you are going to discuss now from Mrs Berès. I welcome the ambition and large consensus in this House on these important issues, but we all know that this is a time when unemployment is hitting hard, when public spending is being squeezed. Our citizens show their concerns and we must take them into consideration.

We also, however, know that we have been able to find answers as the European Union. We have proposed some important pieces of legislation on economic governance. We have come forward with Europe 2020. That is, I want to remind you of that point, a strategy for growth because growth – smart, inclusive sustainable growth – is the answer. These concerns are also echoed in the excellent report by Mr Feio.

We have proposed a wide range of financial market regulation measures. Let me welcome the agreement of the legislator on our proposals on financial supervision. The reality is that if most observers were asked two years ago whether the European Union was ready to have a European supervisory system, most would say ‘no, it is not possible’. Now we have shown that this is possible.

We are pursuing a holistic approach to covering the different dimensions involved. Let me therefore also underline the agreement reached yesterday by the Council on the Commission’s proposal on hedge funds. I hope that this position can now lead to conclusive negotiations in the European Parliament so that the European Union can finally benefit from this long-awaited regulation and, once again, we will be in a position of leadership on that matter in Seoul.

We are also making progress in other areas because we have to look at the real economy. Let me also congratulate this House for the work in favour of a new directive on combating late payment in commercial transactions. The directive will give better protection to creditors, in most cases SMEs, while respecting the freedom of contract. Public authorities will have to pay within 30 days or else pay an interest rate of 8%. You know how much this regulation is awaited by SMEs that remain the most important sector of our economy.

Our work is not yet complete. All proposals need to be carried through to their end, but they are starting to show their results. The objective is to get us out of the crisis and through recovery, achieving again the growth rates that create employment and make sure that our social market economy will be fit for the 21st century. Many thanks for your attention.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: GIANNI PITTELLA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès, rapporteur.(FR) Mr President, Mr Chastel, Mr Barroso, the financial, economic and social crisis that the world has been in for several years now is going to cost USD 60 trillion worldwide, which is the equivalent of one percentage point of annual growth. We have to do something about it. It will result in an 11% unemployment rate in our European Union by the end of the year. It is unfolding against the backdrop of a new currency war, caused by the risk of a double-dip recession, in the words of our economists.

Faced with this situation, I have sensed the feeling, in this House, that it is our duty to send a strong message to the other institutions, to the Commission and the Council, to say that we must join forces again around the added value of the European project, and that the issue at stake can be summarised in a few words: we have a collective responsibility and we need to implement an EU-wide strategy that will enable us, in the area of energy, to be strong on the inside and thus, strong on the outside. We must count on our own strength and, to do so, we need the European level.

However, Mr Barroso, to our mind, economic governance is not a vision. It is a means of furthering this strategy, and it is on the basis of this strategy that we decide which resources are needed. These are, first and foremost, financial resources. There is the challenge of bringing the review of the financial perspective into line with this focus on a strategy for a European energy community. There is the need to harness a proposal that you are rejecting: the taxing of financial transactions. There is the need to grant a substantial European loan to finance long-term investments. There is the need to restore the balance of taxation in Europe so that it promotes work and jobs instead of capital, and so that it is environmentally friendly. There is the need to coordinate the Member States’ budgets with the European project so that efforts are aimed in the same direction.

In terms of governance, we suggest appointing a ‘Mr Euro’ to ensure harmonious and balanced economic governance. We also suggest not focusing exclusively on the situation of countries in debt but balancing it with an assessment of countries in surplus. Moreover, we suggest that, in a monetary union, debt should also be managed in common and that we should be able to envisage mutual debt issuance. We would like financial reform, which you are working so hard to achieve Mr Barroso, to focus on the needs of Europeans and not only on financial stability objectives. We want to see the financial markets reformed in a way that revives the notions of ethics and moral values, that aids job creation and long-term investments.

No European project can succeed if it is not backed by the Member States. The only way for the European Union to show the best it can do is to make the Member States want to support it. A debate that is focused solely on the drudgery of imposing sanctions will not make Europeans want to get involved again with their Member States in the project. What we are asking for is strong action based on the added value of the European project so that we can lift Europeans out of this recession and ensure that, in the future, everyone in Europe has a job, is out of poverty, and can once again have faith in the European project.

That is our ambition. I hope, Mr Barroso, that you will be able to share it and take up many of the suggestions that we are making here, on behalf of this entire House.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Diogo Feio, rapporteur. (PT) Mr President, Mr Barroso, Mr Rehn, I should like to congratulate you in particular on the positive dialogue that Parliament has held with the Commission. Representatives of the Council, I should like to start by thanking everyone who has worked on this report and made it possible, especially all the shadow rapporteurs, with whom I had the opportunity to exchange opinions and build consensus. Consensus building was often difficult, with several tendencies within Parliament: from left to right, advocates of more sovereignty or a more modern type of sovereignty, and advocates of certain institutions. So many opinions were given, but they were given with one goal in mind: that of finding solutions to the current crisis.

The crisis demonstrated that Europe did not respond in time and often did not respond well. The crisis showed that many governments within the European Union were still upholding a policy that was not based on the true facts. It is for precisely that reason that solutions are necessary, and the European Parliament must put forward these solutions with an appropriate and firm voice. Some of these solutions will be short- and others long-term.

We are essentially tabling eight recommendations. The idea of multilateral surveillance of macro-economic developments in the Union and in the Member States is being tabled, so as to better achieve the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy, to achieve a Europe of growth, and to strengthen a pact that is about stability, but also about growth.

Proposals are also being made to strengthen the Stability and Growth Pact and look in particular detail at what is going on regarding debt, to enhance economic governance in the euro area by the Euro Group, and to establish a robust and credible excessive debt prevention and resolution mechanism for the euro area, which could involve establishing a European Monetary Fund. The ideas of reviewing the EU budgetary, financial and fiscal instruments, of financial market regulation and supervision with a clear macro-economic dimension, and of improving the reliability of EU statistics, have also been tabled.

Finally, it has been suggested to better represent the Union in the area of economic and monetary affairs. Parliament is demonstrating or could demonstrate a firm voice on all these issues. We are aiming for better institutional coordination between the European Parliament and the national parliaments. We can contribute to this solution being able to provide better solutions to future crisis situations or difficulties. From now on, Europe has the instruments to respond better in the field of economics; Parliament contributed greatly to this and will continue to do so.

We are currently starting a legislative debate on six proposals that have been tabled by the Commission and, regarding which, I believe Parliament will maintain its own position. It is for this very reason that I would also express my surprise that there was no mention of Parliament’s position and the dialogue that this House had with the Council in a recent Council document tabled just yesterday.

However, I would finish by saying one thing: the European Parliament has its own positions, irrespective of our differences. The European Parliament is committed to a strong Europe and better economic governance, with more growth and better prosperity.

 
  
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  Marta Andreasen, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. – Mr President, in my opinion on Mr Feio’s report on governance and the stability framework, I emphasised three points.

The first was the need to be serious about sanctioning Member States that breach the Stability Pact. Just a couple of days ago, the French Prime Minister and the German Chancellor even agreed to change the treaty to bring in tougher sanctions against countries that threaten the euro’s stability. I also emphasised the need to prioritise spending in the budget in case a Member State has to be rescued. Finally, I raised awareness about the need to evaluate the impact on the credit rating of the European Union since it acted as guarantor of the European financial stabilisation mechanism.

The relevant paragraphs have been amended and no longer form part of my opinion. I feel obliged in these circumstances to disown my opinion.

 
  
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  David Casa, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. (MT) There is no doubt that the European Union was exemplary in the way it chose to proceed with the regulatory and supervision measures. This is reflected in the new supervision package which allows for certain systematic risks to be identified and for this to be done in a timely manner.

On the other hand, when it comes to the concept of economic governance, nobody can deny that there is still a long way to go. Any Member State that ignores its obligations and responsibilities, particularly with respect to the Growth and Stability Pact, creates serious problems for other Member States. Therefore, we are obliged to do our utmost to encourage serious observation of the rules that were agreed upon so as to guarantee stability within the Member States, both financially and physically.

I am very satisfied with the opinion recommendations I put forward to the Employment Committee and pleased that these have been taken into consideration. I believe that the report has made a case for better job surveillance in the European Union, and for the strengthening of the Employment Committee.

 
  
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  António Fernando Correia De Campos, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. (PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we all acknowledge that monitoring of the short- and long-term macro-economic variables in the European Union has failed, not least regarding budgetary frameworks and accumulated national debt. The crisis has made all the more pressing the need to strengthen the single market, taking into account the proposals of Mr Monti and Mr Grech. It is essential to develop e-commerce and transnational trade, simplify online payment procedures, standardise products and services, and harmonise fiscal instruments, so as to reinforce consumer confidence and boost the economy.

The Union must emerge from the crisis in a way that is sustainable, guaranteeing robust growth and responsible budgets, but also employment objectives. It should be mandatory for indicators such as the unemployment rate and the rate of employment among the active population to be part of the oversight system.

The indicators that will measure the progress of the 2020 strategy cannot be forgotten either. The feasibility study on issuing joint Eurobonds could constitute an opportunity to examine in greater detail financial instruments for defending against speculation, and to put them into practice.

We would like it if this could be more than just a study. The creation of the European Monetary Fund deserves our support and we see it not as simply a disciplinary instrument but, above all, as a means of reducing the speculative manipulation of the sovereign debt markets. Our cooperation with the rapporteur, Mr Feio, has been profitable and has made it possible to achieve a text that is comprehensive, balanced and rich.

 
  
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  Martin Schulz , on behalf of the S&D Group.(DE) Mr President, if you look at your list of speakers, you will see that the next speaker is my colleague, Mr Jáuregui Atondo. Before he takes the floor, please permit me, as chair of our Group, to inform the House that this morning, Mr Jáuregui Atondo, was appointed by the Spanish Government as its Minister for the Presidency. As you can imagine, that is quite an honour for our group. I offer him my sincere congratulations.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Ramón Jáuregui Atondo, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs.(ES) Mr President, I would like to thank my friend Mr Schulz very much. I only have one minute to tell you that I believe that in the last few months, Europe has made extraordinary progress in terms of economic governance.

Curiously, the summit between France and Germany the day before yesterday also opened the door to a new hope: the possibility of revising our frameworks and treaties on economic governance.

I know that this is an issue that scared the Member States a little. However, I believe that as pro-Europeans, we know that in order to achieve the economic governance that we need to build, there will probably need to be reforms, which will have to be agreed reforms.

I sincerely believe, however, that this agreement between France and Germany opens up the opportunity for the Feio report, which we will adopt later – as proposed by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs – to consider the need to adapt our constitutional framework to governance that is not only a stability pact. This is in-depth governance, in order to bring together the economies in a way that seeks to be competitive, create jobs and produce the redistribution to which we, as social democrats, have always aspired.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Joseph Daul, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the common thread between the meetings of the European Council and the G20 is the need to make the necessary adaptations after the financial crisis.

For the European Union, these adaptations consist of putting our respective national and EU public finances in order and protecting our currency, the euro, by consolidating it internally and defending its value against the other major currencies. The European Council will be dominated by discussions on Europe’s economic and financial governance. The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) welcomes the initial lines that the Van Rompuy task force has taken, including the plans for a system of sanctions against Member States that do not adhere to the criteria of the Stability Pact.

However, there is still more work to be done, with more Community method and less intergovernmental method. I welcome the work that the Commission has done along these lines. I would ask the Council to remember that this Parliament is now colegislator and will play a full role in defining the forthcoming reforms. The more Parliament is brought on board in the early stages, the more chance we have of achieving a satisfactory and timely outcome. I call on President Van Rompuy to heed this message.

Ladies and gentlemen, Europe must make its voice heard in the debate on relative currency values, and the European Council must establish our position on the subject next week, before the Seoul G20 summit. Europe must join with its partners, in particular, the United States, in reminding the emerging countries of their responsibilities. Currency dumping and the social consequences it entails must no longer be allowed.

Three major subjects will be on the table at the Seoul Summit: reform of the international monetary system of course, but also the stability of commodities – especially food and energy – and global governance. Europe has a message to deliver on each of these subjects, but this message will only be credible if we put in place effective internal, Community-wide instruments to govern and manage our public finances.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will not be able to influence global governance and will not really have a place on the international stage unless we can make the often unpopular effort to clean up our finances and unless we stick to our priorities of combating climate change and development policy.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Martin Schulz, on behalf of the S&D Group.(DE) Mr President, I would like to quote a passage from the statement made by the Heads of State or Government at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh held on 24-25 September 2009 – in other words, a year ago. The Heads of Government committed themselves at that summit to the following: ‘To launch a framework that lays out the policies and the way we act together to generate strong, sustainable and balanced global growth. We need a durable recovery that creates the good jobs our people need’. Great! I presume that a similar passage will be written again this year at the next summit, and also at all the other summits. This leads me to ask what has been done in the meantime to bring about the strong, sustainable and balanced growth that will bring the jobs our people need. The description is correct, but what is being created is a philosophy at European level – in the European Council – that says that unilateral cuts in public services through budget reductions are a cure-all for stabilising our continent, rather than giving consideration to the fact that investment that stimulates growth is a basic prerequisite for creating more jobs and, through greater economic growth, bolstering state revenues – as is so urgently needed to consolidate state budgets and enable states to perform their duties. What we are seeing in Europe is that as a result of a more or less black-and-white Manichaean process under which all expenditure is bad and all cuts are good, we find ourselves in a situation in which the countries worst affected by the crisis – Ireland and Greece – are in recession or have zero growth. What is actually being done in practice is achieving the opposite of what was described here as the objective. That is a dramatic development. It is all the more dramatic when those who were at the source of the crisis, who caused the crisis – the financial sector, those who speculated with wild abandon – have not been held accountable by being made to contribute to state revenues through measures such as a financial transaction tax. This may have been advocated at European level, but even at the time it was being advocated, it was already being put on ice on the grounds that ‘We’ll never get it though the G20’. Of course we will not get it through the G20 if we do not even try it first at European level!

This is an injustice that is particularly dramatic because the lack of action on the part of the Heads of State or Government – the fact that they are leading us in the wrong direction of social imbalance – is continually being reinforced. The people in revolt on the streets are right in that social imbalance in Europe is not being fought against, but rather is being intensified further by incorrect policies. It is the job of this Parliament to make this apparent and to develop strategies to counter it. That is why we insist on the financial transaction tax. The report by Mrs Berès and the report by my colleague, Mrs Podimata, will show us whether this House is prepared to say: ‘We know that it will not be easy, but we insist that the European Union makes a start at levying taxes transnationally on the financial sector if it cannot be taxed at national level’.

There is a further worrying development. What happened in Deauville between Mr Sarkozy and Mrs Merkel turns the institutional structure of the European Union on its head. I ask myself when Mr Van Rompuy will draw the appropriate conclusion. He has been asked to work with his task force on detailing the necessary reforms – that should really have been your job, so it was a bit of a cheek to ask Mr Van Rompuy to do it – but to cap it all, the poor man is working on it in secret and before he can present anything at all, our charming couple in Deauville waltz up and announce: ‘We have already decided everything’. What Nicolas and Angela did – this self-appointed Franco-German management committee – is an assault on the institutions of the European Union.

(Applause)

If I were Mr Van Rompuy, I would tell them where they could stick their job. You cannot keep being a doormat for ever and putting up with such abuse. There is one more thing, however: if our fine couple had glanced across the channel from Deauville, they would have seen the white cliffs of the British coast, where a referendum is required for their amendments to the treaty – at least, if Mr Cameron is to be believed. Does anyone really think that Mr Cameron would accept the amendment without incorporating further brakes into the treaty to slow down European law? That really would open a Pandora’s box. I do hope that our charming couple do not come crashing to the floor.

I therefore repeat: Europe is being led in the wrong direction, both institutionally and in substance.

 
  
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  Guy Verhofstadt, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, perhaps I may begin where Mr Schulz left off. Maybe we could ask for a convention now if they want to change the treaty. Normally, what we have to do is to ask for a convention. That is the first thing to do, but things are not that far advanced, I think. What we need now is to make an urgent deal in the European Council on economic governance and on strengthening the Stability Pact.

It is now nearly a year since the start of the Greek debt crisis. It started in December 2009, and it is now time to arrive at a conclusion, an agreement, on this. There are, in fact, three proposals on the table at the moment. Let us be clear about that. We have received the proposal from the Commission, the proposal from the task force and, yesterday, the proposal under what we call ‘the deal of Deauville’. That is the third one on the table. And it is good, I think, that this Parliament is analysing the differences between the three proposals to decide if they are appropriate.

The Commission made what were, I think, good, bold and coherent proposals a few weeks ago. The task force proposal differs from them in that it proposes that the Council should act on the basis of recommendations and not proposals from the Commission. That is a big difference, because recommendations can be changed and proposals from the Commission cannot. In addition, there is a more lengthy procedure for analysis in the task force proposal, which also sets it apart from the Commission proposal.

However, we have to say that the task force proposal keeps the semi-automatic character of the sanctions and maintains the reverse majority rule that was proposed by the Commission.

As of yesterday, we have a third proposal, ‘the deal of Deauville’. I have to say that an agreement between France and Germany can often be helpful for Council business, but that this time, on the contrary, it is not. This is because the Franco-German Deauville proposal simply relies on keeping the old-school QMV within the Council, so rather than needing to find a majority to block the automatic Commission sanctions, their proposals require such a majority for the sanctions proposed by the Commission to be initiated. I think that is an enormous difference, because the semi-automatic character of sanctions in the Commission proposal is not present in the Deauville proposal.

I do not know if you know Deauville, but, aside from the beach and some beautiful hotels, there is a casino. We should, therefore, perhaps be speaking not of the Deauville deal but rather of the Franco-German casino compromise, because a casino compromise is what it is. Under this proposal, Member States are allowed to go on playing with the euro and the euro area.

If you have enough support in the Council, you can go for it; you can do exactly what Greece did. If you have enough support in the Council, go for it. Faites vos jeux! You can go for it.

The first part of the Deauville deal simply weakens not just the task force proposal but, above all, the Commission package. I find this completely incomprehensible, certainly from Germany. For ten months, they have been asking for bolder sanctions, and yesterday, they did just the opposite. It amounts to a weakening of the bold proposals of the Commission. And this comes at precisely the time when Mr Trichet, the President of the European Central Bank, is asking for bolder solutions, for bolder proposals, even bolder than the initial proposals by the Commission.

My conclusion is that this Parliament has one mission: to reverse the Deauville deal, or the casino compromise. Let us stick to the good proposals from the Commission and carry out our necessary legislative task.

 
  
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  Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(FR) Mr President, Mr Chastel, Mr Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Verhofstadt has worn himself out today! However, what he had to say is important, as was Mr Schulz’s speech. I have my own thoughts for you also.

Do you all know the film ‘Jules et Jim’? Well, there is a woman – Mrs Merkel. We know who Jules is – it is Mr Sarkozy. The trouble is who is Jim? Is it Mr Cameron or Mr Barroso? That is the dilemma for the Commission.

I think Parliament and the Commission need to speak to each other frankly now, because the Council’s policy – Mr Verhofstadt is right on this point – and that of its Franco-German board of directors is anti-European Union. Their policy does not reflect the essence of the EU, and our role today is to go beyond the differences that pit us against each other – Mr Daul is right on this point – and to save the European Union and the Community method. To do this, the Commission, this Parliament and all of us need to understand that there will be no winners in this game unless we find a common approach between the Commission and Parliament, Parliament and the Commission.

Mr Barroso, I believe you when you say that you want a tax on financial transactions or on financial activities. This is not the problem; the problem is, how do we actually do this? It is not enough to say ‘I want’. My four-year-old son says ‘I want’. The issue is to work out how we can achieve our goal, and I think the Commission should not be asking for yet another study, as the Environment Council did yesterday to find out if climate degradation is really so bad that we should be stepping up Europe’s CO2 reduction – even though it is utterly ridiculous to ask for a new study. No. What would a major study on financial transactions bring to Europe, and what would a tax on those transactions bring? A 0.01% tax on financial transactions would be worth EUR 80 billion. If you set aside EUR 30 billion for a reduction in national contributions and hence a reduction in national budgets, you get an extra 50 billion for the EU budget. EUR 120 billion minus 30 billion makes 90 billion, plus 50 makes 140 billion. So, it is possible to implement the European policies we need to implement post-Lisbon, and the Member States and Europe will be the winners. However, this presupposes that we have a European vision.

Secondly, Mr Barroso, about the deficits: in my opinion, there are deficits and then there are deficits. It is like cholesterol: there is a positive marker and a negative marker. A deficit which invests, and therefore provides a country, or Europe, with prospects, is not a negative thing. If we invest, as we have done before, in the industries of the past which are unproductive – I am talking about coal – we are investing in something that throws money away because it is futile, and therefore we lose out. However, if we invest in the energies of the future and the production of the future, we gain.

Therefore, what we need to do, and I am asking this of the liberals also, is not simply to talk about ‘stability, stability’, but also to differentiate between what we should be doing and what we should no longer be doing; not simply to talk about a ‘deficit’, but to say, ‘this is productive’, or ‘this is not productive’. If we agree, though this will be difficult, if we manage to come to an agreement, we will be in a position to oppose the Council’s constant manipulations.

The problem today is that many governments want to reduce the European policy aspect, whereas our role is to defend and to increase the European policy aspect, because without it, we will not be able to get ourselves out of this.

You see, Mr Barroso, we have a common interest, but we need to take it to its conclusion. It is not Parliament that you should be putting pressure on, but the European Council.

 
  
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  President. – As you can appreciate, I have been quite flexible about the timing, partly because all the speeches have been very agreeable as well as very powerful – the IMF, casinos and cholesterol – all great fuel for this discussion.

 
  
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  Michał Tomasz Kamiński, on behalf of the ECR Group. (PL) We have all been recounting various anecdotes during these debates today, which also brought an historical association to my mind. For 18 years of my life, I lived in a country of real socialism, where Party congress after Party congress kept setting new economic targets and the citizens of my country – and the same goes for other countries of real socialism – were told by party congresses that things would get better, and how they should get better. What is more, there was a ministry of domestic trade in my country at that time, even though there was no domestic trade.

Listening to some of the speeches today, my impression is that the proposal we heard from the European Commission is one which aims to reinstate the priority of economic over political thinking. Over that political mindset which would stifle any sound economic action, because today, politicians at national level and – as we hear – for populist considerations, really like to point their finger at Europe. They say that we need to cut down on Europe and that Europe is not the solution, as this, to some extent, gets them off the hook in the eyes of their voters. If we do not implement something which will make countries realise that they there will be harsh consequences if they conduct economically irrational policies, we will not get anywhere. What is also needed here is solidarity, however. In the Franco-German proposal, I see the real danger of ending up in a situation where the stronger countries will have greater leeway, and where Greece will be unable to go beyond certain limits. Greece will have to cut expenditure, but when it comes to the stronger countries, their luck will be in, and suddenly we will find that they will be allowed to break these rules on political grounds. What I want to say is this: we need European solidarity, and that is why we need European solidarity.

In conclusion, Mr President, I should like to say that I know that you stand guard over this European solidarity. The latest decision of the European Commission on the gas agreement between Poland and Russia – for which I would like to thank you – is a fine example of how the Community aspect is something that works, and which works in the interests of countries like Poland. I would like to say once again, Mr President, that we cannot wave away reality with a magic wand. If we reach a point where the political solutions, compounded with the dose of populism that exists in some parts of Europe today, dominate over economic thinking, then your ambitious plans to intensify the market – which I consider a very good plan (sentence unfinished). I believe that as MEPs, we are well aware of how far we still are from a common market, just from the mobile phone roaming bills we get every month. If we have a common European market but we still have to pay roaming bills, it shows quite clearly that we still have a long way to go before we achieve our aim of economic integration.

 
  
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  Patrick Le Hyaric, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(FR) Mr President, Mr Chastel, Mr Barroso, if I have understood you rightly Mr Barroso, we are starting from completely opposite analyses, since you said that the economic crisis is behind us, whilst our group, the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left, believes that it is getting worse. To resolve the crisis, you are recommending austerity with the Stability Pact and now, the reinforcement of sanctions. I think we should be doing the opposite: improving working wages, a new fiscal approach to help support these and a tax on financial transactions, improving social welfare, protecting public services and a bold employment policy.

Sadly, I fear your strategy could land the European Union in deep trouble. Have you not heard the strength of the peoples’ protests throughout the European Union? For the sixth day yesterday, millions of people marched throughout France, with the backing of 70% of the population. Can you not see the danger that is threatening us today? The European idea, because it is based on competition and a policy of completely free trade, is colliding head-on with money in these economic wars, and now these currency wars. Why do we not look at a new system: a human and social development fund instead of the Stability Pact, in conjunction with the European Central Bank, which should be able to refinance the Member States’ debts and the national banks through money creation, at interest rates that would be favourable to social criteria?

The way I see it, the European Union must take the initiative in creating a new global monetary order, starting with taking up China’s proposal for a common international trade currency. Like Thailand and Brazil, why does Europe not start by introducing a tax on foreign currency, to ease currency tensions?

Commission President, representatives of the Council, I think the time has come for us to think of new initiatives and to listen to our people.

 
  
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  Nigel Farage, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, well President Barroso, you are certainly flexing your muscles, using the powers given to you by the Lisbon Treaty which you pushed through using illegitimate means. You now do everything you can on the world stage and within the EU to acquire all the attributes of statehood.

Nowhere could that be more apparent than in your recent proposal for a direct tax to be levied by the European institutions on the peoples of this continent.

Of course, in previous times, there was a very successful independence movement that campaigned on the slogan of ‘no taxation without representation’ and you certainly are not a representative. We have not voted for you and we cannot remove you, so I think with this direct tax, you have actually made a mistake.

And what an expensive club it is becoming. Just two years ago, Britain’s net contribution was GBP 3 billion a year. This year, it is GBP 6 billion. Next year, it will be GBP 8 billion. The year after that, it is due to be GBP 10 billion and now, we hear that you want to take away the British rebate. You want to get rid of the British rebate, which will mean by 2013, our contribution will be GBP 13 billion. It will have quadrupled in the space of six years.

The taxpayers of Britain, realising all of this, seeing your direct tax, will simply conclude that we cannot afford the European Union.

But I do see a ray of hope: the Deauville deal between Merkel and Sarkozy, the thing that you are all so terrified of today. I hope it happens. Let us have a new treaty. You yourself seem to be almost supporting it. Let us have a new European treaty and let us put it to a referendum in lots of countries, particularly in Britain, and the British people will conclude that this is a very bad deal for Britain. They will vote for us to leave the European Union and begin the unravelling.

Thank you. We are happy to go.

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

 
  
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  Martin Schulz (S&D).(DE) Mr President, I have a question for you, Mr Farage. Perhaps you would be so kind as to answer it for us. You are so concerned about the British tax coffers. Just like me, at the beginning of this term of office, you had the option of choosing from which coffers your daily allowances would be paid: from the UK coffers or from those of the European Union. Please would you tell the House whether your daily allowances are paid from the EU budget or whether you have opted for the national system in the UK?

 
  
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  Nigel Farage (EFD). – Mr President, I think we ought to do away with this notion of European money. Prior to there being a direct tax, there is, as we speak today, no such thing as European money: it is our money. We are a massive net contributor to this European Union for no single economic benefit in return whatsoever! It is our money!

 
  
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  José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. – Mr President, I do not usually intervene, but there is a point of order that I want to make.

It is not the first time that Mr Farage has said when addressing me ‘You have not been elected’. I have certainly not been elected by you, but I have been elected by this Parliament.

(Applause)

I was elected by this Parliament in a secret ballot, and you belong to this Parliament. I consider that repeatedly saying that I, or the Commission, have not been elected constitutes a lack of respect for the Commission and for the Parliament to which you belong.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Francisco Sosa Wagner (NI).(ES) Mr President, we will see if I can bring a little calm to this fierce debate.

It is regrettable that along with the European Union, some of its Member States are still part of the G20. Despite this anomaly, which certainly weakens Europe’s image in the world, it would be good if at least there was an overall common position in this global forum.

In my view, what would that common position be? In my humble opinion, I believe the following: firstly, the adoption of a global agreement to tackle the consequences of the crisis cannot be delayed by adopting just a financial agreement; secondly, Europe must maintain the euro as the benchmark currency or, if it is preferred, as an anchor to prevent turbulence in the market from dragging us along and causing us to repeat the errors made throughout the 20th century; thirdly, the euro must herald what Europe must represent in the world of democratic values and public freedoms.

In summary, we need to be aware that, in a global world, in this global game, those who only play national cards lose.

 
  
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  Othmar Karas (PPE).(DE) Mr President, Mr Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, this debate shows one thing: the Deauville deal hinders us from overcoming the crisis, the Deauville deal is a backward step for the European Union and the Deauville deal shows us that neither member of this charming couple has learnt anything from France and Germany’s inappropriate behaviour in 2002 and 2005 when these countries began undermining the Stability Pact. Instead, we are now seeing a continuation of such inappropriate behaviour.

We want to overcome the mistakes of the past. We want a European answer to the nationalism and the vetoes that have been built into most European regulations. We did this in the case of supervision of the financial markets. We are doing so with the report in response to the crisis. We are doing so with the Feio report and we are doing so with our daily legislative work. Let us concentrate on that and not allow ourselves to be sidetracked further, including in this debate. We need to move forward. We need to find the answers. The report by the five groups sends a clear message. We have not yet overcome the crisis. Fiscal and monetary policies are no substitute for structural reforms. We are clearly stating that we want deficits to be reduced as a prerequisite for securing the future. You cannot reduce deficits by simply taking a pair of shears to them. It has to come about as a result of reforms, investments, savings and changes. This report sends a clear response that we want to have more Europe as part of the solution. Let us break through to the next step in integration – the creation of an economic union, the creation of a social union, the creation of a defence and security union, and let us make the internal market the home market of all our citizens. The community of Europe – the initiative of the European Union – is the answer. The task force and the Deauville route have failed.

 
  
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  Stephen Hughes (S&D). – Mr President, as we have heard, the task force chaired by Herman Van Rompuy has now produced its report. It contains proposals for crisis resolution and budgetary discipline: in other words, only part of the picture.

I would emphasise that these are only proposals. I am sure the ECOFIN Ministers who dominated the proceedings of that task force would like it to be the end point, but it is not. It is the beginning. We are right at the very beginning of the legislative process. I hope all of the institutions will realise that the work of the European Parliament on the Commission’s legislative proposals will now need to be conducted in a fully democratic process with the Council.

The task force said that its aim was to achieve a quantum leap in terms of more effective economic governance. I think what it is proposing is actually more like a potential step back in terms of prosperity and well-being for Europe. It is proposing a strengthening of instruments, but only instruments that focus upon fiscal discipline. That is a problem. Economic coordination is more than fiscal discipline and economic union will not be achieved as long as that balance is not properly recognised. It will inevitably lead to distorted economic policies which take insufficient account of other worthwhile policy objectives for the conduct of macro-economic policy, and by that I mean growth, investment and employment.

President Barroso, we do not need another task force to come up with a balanced set of policy measures. We need the Commission to use its right of initiative to bring forward the proposals that will address growth, investment and employment.

Regarding the proposals now on the table, I believe that Parliament has an enormous responsibility in the coming months. We need to make some changes along the lines of the Feio report to be voted on today. I think we need three main changes there: the excessive balances procedure has to be broad enough to cover labour markets, including unemployment levels, and therefore the Employment Council needs to be included wherever relevant; the qualitative assessment of public debt levels and developments in the corrective arm of the Stability and Growth Pact should pay full attention to levels and developments in public investment as well; and the linkage with 2020 throughout the new system needs to be explicit and operationalised as fully as possible.

On governance, I would mention only two points at this early stage. The Council needs to guide the system and assume ultimate political responsibility throughout, as well as ensuring the due involvement of all relevant Council formations – not just ECOFIN – wherever that is necessary.

Finally, the European Parliament needs to be fully involved throughout the process in order to ensure the highest level of democratic legitimacy. Just look at the proposal for the European Semester to see to what extent the role of the Parliament is missing in all of this. Some of us across the political groups are working on strengthened proposals for parliamentary involvement. I hope they will be accepted by the other institutions to give this process the democratic legitimacy it needs.

 
  
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  Olle Schmidt (ALDE).(SV) The last year has shown that the EU can take important decisions in difficult situations. Unfortunately, the last few days have been a disappointment. When the EU needs clear and stringent budget rules, France and Germany hesitate. This causes us concern. Our message is: leave Mr Rehn’s proposal alone!

I would like to thank unreservedly Mrs Berès and my colleagues in the Special Committee on Financial, Economic and Social Crisis, who have shown that we in the European Parliament can reach across the party boundaries and find common solutions in the interests of Europe. The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe has proposed an amendment to the effect that if a financial transaction tax is introduced, it must, of necessity, be done on a global scale. It is important in this case that it is done at a global level.

Nationalism must not be allowed to gain a foothold in Europe again. It is a market economy with clear boundaries and free trade that creates prosperity. We need a more unified Europe, a more open Europe, a stronger Europe – we quite simply need more Europe.

The proposed penalty options will initially apply only to the countries of the euro area. In this regard, we would like to see a wording that includes all 27 Member States. I would therefore like to present an oral amendment to the Feio report which I hope that Parliament will be able to support. The rapporteur and the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament have stated that they are willing to do so. I will read the text in English:

As far as possible, all 27 Member States should apply to the maximum all the economic governance proposals, recognising that for Member States outside the euro area, this would be done on a voluntary basis.

(SV) Today is not the time to create an EU that is in danger of tearing the Union apart.

 
  
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  Pascal Canfin (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, Mr Barroso, Mr Rehn, I genuinely hope that you will look at the work done by the European Parliament on the subjects we have been dealing with today – the Berès report and the Feio report – because, of course, we are now working as colegislators on economic governance. I can tell you that together with four pro-European groups in Parliament at least, we have made a genuine effort to work on compromises that will achieve something. We have just come from the discussions to try to tie up the problems.

Some people are talking about the budget, some are talking about tax measures, and some are talking about governance. What we need today is for the Commission – and it is your role to do this, we are trying to do it and it is your role to do it also – to propose an overall package: something in the spirit of the Monti report that is also along the lines of what Michel Barnier has been trying to do in the context of the internal market. I am waiting for an overall package from Mr Barroso, which should show us how to get ourselves out of the economic crisis. It should not just be about macro-economic governance, but should be along the lines of reading three or four dossiers on macro-economics, tax and the budget and then saying ‘here is the package’.

I am sure that if you do that, you will have a very large majority in the European Parliament to support the initiative. If we only look at the issue of public finance, for example, two or three years ago, the Commission and its departments were themselves saying that, of all the countries, Spain was sticking to the Stability and Growth Pact most closely and that Spain’s public finances were in order. The problem is that the instability came from elsewhere and now Spain is in a terrible situation, as is Ireland. We can clearly see that focusing on public finances alone will not help us resolve the crisis.

The compromises that we have proposed in the various reports that have been presented today, which will be voted on tomorrow, represent the sum of these issues. They are a way of saying that, yes, we do need to strengthen budgetary discipline. Of course we do. However, to ensure that this budgetary discipline does not lead to social breakdown, but only to public expenditure cuts, we need, at the same time, a European budget package that will finance investment and a tax package that will allow Member States to impose certain taxes.

My last question for Mr Rehn, and for Mr Barroso especially, is therefore: are you genuinely in favour of the common corporate tax basis? Do you genuinely support it? It has been shelved by the Commission for 10 years now and for 10 years, you have failed to deal with the matter. It is now time that you did so.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Roberts Zīle (ECR). (LV) Thank you, Mr President, Mr Barroso (who has left the Chamber).

First, I should like to thank the rapporteur, my fellow shadow rapporteurs and the chair of the committee, Mr Klintz, for the compromise that we at last managed to arrive at. I shall only speak in relation to two items in the report, with which I am not satisfied, and they concern neither Germany nor France. Firstly, as the result of aggressive cross-border investment, since 2004, private household debt and business debt in many new Member States has grown, even by as much as 10 fold. Moreover, the absolute majority of these loans were taken out on terms that left all the exchange-rate risk with the borrower. This, in turn, means that the governments of these countries have little room for manoeuvre in their macro-economic policy apart from cutting public spending and raising taxes. At the same time, the primary concern of households is solely to make loan repayments in euro terms. Unfortunately, there is scant reference to this in the report.

My second point, which is linked to the first, is this. Let us picture such a new Member State, whose GDP has fallen back to a pre-accession level, to a pre-2004 level, only with a private debt 10 times as large and public debt five times as large, and this Member State can deduce from this report that even cohesion policy may be altered, altered in such a way that the main criterion will no longer be per capita GDP but crisis management in a specific territory, which could have extremely significant political consequences. Thank you.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, the declarations by Germany and France in the so-called Deauville agreement are unacceptable and show the true faces of those who are calling the shots in defence of economic and financial interest groups. These declarations also demonstrate impatience, arrogance and aggression towards the response of the workers and populations hurt by their neoliberal and anti-society policies – the Stability and Growth Pact and competition policy – in Greece, France, Spain or Portugal, where there is already a general strike planned for 24 November.

It is time for those who run the European Union to acknowledge the failure of these neoliberal policies: increasing unemployment, social inequalities and poverty, and which are causing recession in the countries with weaker economies, where the EU’s impositions could provoke a real social disaster.

Unfortunately, that is not what is happening. All the promises to bring an end to tax havens, to properly tax financial transactions, and to bring an end to speculative financial products, have collapsed.

That is why we are protesting here: giving a voice to the many millions of workers threatened with poverty, to the unemployed, to older people with pathetic pensions, to the young and jobless, and children at risk of poverty to whom they want to deny a dignified future.

It is time for a break with these policies so that we can have a truly social Europe: a Europe of progress and development.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD). (LT) I would like to say a few words about the work of the Special Crisis Committee. It really has done a great job and has made good recommendations and proposals. Of course, ideally, there would be a place for all of these in the documents being drafted by the Commission. It is essential that the Commission does not forget the fundamental and most important issues. One of these is the establishing of a regulatory and supervisory system, which leaves no financial market, no financial instrument and no financial institution off the record book. The Commission should target its actions for the creation of new jobs and link them with measures to combat poverty and social exclusion. All efforts in this direction must, above all, be focused on employing young people. Emergency infrastructure decisions on renewable energy sources, green power, energy efficiency in the transport and building sectors, and a European energy network, are necessary to overcome the crisis. It would be good if, exactly one year on from this meeting today, the Commission could come and say: ‘The provisions of the resolution you proposed did not just remain on paper; we adapted these specific proposals by the Special Crisis Committee and they have already had a real impact’.

 
  
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  Krisztina Morvai (NI). (HU) As was the case in the previous major debate of this week here in the European Parliament, namely, the debate on poverty, the politicians of the European Union are once again surprised and sad to see that the situation of Europe’s citizens is not improving, but rather constantly deteriorating. Poverty is growing steadily, and so too are misery, unemployment and homelessness. And they are so surprised at this, as if it were the consequence of regrettable natural disasters or tsunamis. No, this is the result of decisions taken by European politicians. The increasing misery and poverty stem directly from the neoliberal policy which you – excepting those who opposed them – pursued, and this trend will continue. Poverty and misery will continue to rise if you do not opt for a different value system.

These two reports can be likened to a scenario where a medical panel determines that the therapy used for a patient so far has caused him harm and made his condition worse, and then proceeds to say that the therapy prescribed on the basis of the diagnosis must be continued, that they must continue what they had done before, but with stricter supervision and punishing the patient if he does not comply, if, for instance, he fails to take his medication. What is at stake here is a conscious choice between value systems. So far, the European Union has deliberately chosen a value system where it always pursues the right decision from the perspective of money and profit, the right decision from the point of view of multinational companies and banks, and never from the perspective of people and the community. It has always looked for what is right from the point of view of an unbridled competition that is not restrained by concerns for justice and morality, and never for what is right from the perspective of social justice and solidarity. This needs to be changed, and from now on, good decisions must be taken.

 
  
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  Corien Wortmann-Kool (PPE). (NL) Mr President, despite some positive signals, the risk of the crisis worsening has not gone away. The banking system remains unstable and a number of Member States face the threat of government deficits getting out of hand if nothing is done. Therefore, we urgently need an economic union.

Mr President, the task force has yet to deliver any concrete results but, as this House’s rapporteur for the Stability and Growth Pact, I would like to tell Commissioner Rehn: we are able to work quickly. I address those words to the Council as well. We are able to work fast, but only on the basis of the Commission’s proposals. Is the Council prepared to accept that?

I would also like to sound a note of warning against the change in the treaty which has been requested, because that could be a decoy which will only force us to put off the necessary measures until another day. We must now do everything that is possible under the Treaty of Lisbon. Parliament now has a new colegislative role in the Stability and Growth Pact and it will take full advantage of that role in order to bring about a robust economic union, with a robust Stability and Growth Pact.

 
  
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  Sergio Gaetano Cofferati (S&D). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the crisis has had a very great impact on society in all European countries. If we look at the consequences from a social viewpoint, we swiftly reach the conclusion – one that is driving much of the Commission’s work – that the worst is yet to come. Unemployment is set to increase and the weak signs of recovery noted in some countries are not enough to guarantee the creation of new jobs. We must therefore accept that it will be essential to face up to the most acute social aspect of this crisis, which was born out of the financial system but which has rapidly spread into economic and social realms.

For this reason, we must arm ourselves with other instruments to defend the people who are hardest hit. We are about to discuss a proposal for a framework directive on a minimum guaranteed income in all European countries, which I consider very important for combating poverty, on the one hand, and for helping those who will be struck by the sting in the tail of this crisis in the coming weeks and months, on the other.

The best way to combat a crisis, however, is through policies of growth. Growth needs resources, targeted investments and a clear agenda of priorities towards which a significant proportion of the available resources should be directed. The Union budget is not enough. For this reason, the Commission clearly stated a need for additional resources to be spent on infrastructural investments and investments earmarked for competition quality and employment. This path leads to the creation of Eurobonds and a tax on financial transactions. There is no alternative. This is why the solutions we have indicated – and I hope that Parliament will approve their formulation – are important as well as innovative.

 
  
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  Wolf Klinz (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, at the height of the financial crisis, the G20 countries promised joint action to stabilise the financial markets. Today, two years later, we are still a long way away from a global answer. In many instances, the measures adopted pursue national interests and considerations. The initial energy has dissipated and all too often we are back to ‘business as usual’. Mervyn King of the Bank of England put it succinctly when he said: ‘The need to act in the collective interest has yet to emerge’. In its interim report, the Special Committee on the Financial, Economic and Social Crisis makes it clear that Europe is at a critical crossroads. We need to intensify our integration, we need to harmonise our economic and budgetary policies more, we need European infrastructure projects in the areas of energy, transport and telecommunications. We need a functioning internal market and labour market, and we need the resources required in order to achieve the demanding growth targets set out in the EU 2020 strategy. We need innovative sources of financing if we are to be able to exploit the potential of the SME sector. We need more Community method and less intergovernmentalism. A standstill here is a backward move; it will not preserve the status quo.

The debt crisis in Europe clearly demonstrates that stability and confidence are not achievable without discipline. The proposals made by Commissioner Rehn and by Mr Van Rompuy’s task force are intended to ensure that the Member States act in a disciplined manner. I regret to say that in Luxembourg the other day, the finance ministers cast aside these proposals at the behest of our Franco-German couple – a missed opportunity and a bad day for our citizens, who quite rightly feel betrayed by politics yet again.

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Mr President, the combined topics of this morning’s debate have a strong common theme of our continued response to the financial crisis and to finding ways to make our management of the risk more effective, whether it be risk management of public debt, risk management of our financial markets and products, or the risk management of global imbalances. Whether it is the behaviour of our banks or the behaviour of Member States’ treasury departments, we need to ensure a common high standard of behaviour with respect to adhering to an agreed set of rules.

Stronger financial and fiscal discipline by both the private and public sectors needs to be enforced. We need to ensure that, in the search for growth opportunities by the EU, the financing tools used by the EU and the individual Member States are of the highest calibre and as transparent as possible. The use of innovative financing needs to be approached with caution, and the moves by the EU to leverage its own budget need to be taken into account, knowing all the risks and the potential for moral hazard.

The European Financial Stabilisation Fund is a large off-balance sheet vehicle reliant on a credit rating. To leverage the EU budget in the issuance of project bonds by the EIB needs to be subject to intense scrutiny. As we all know, complex financial instruments and leverage bring their own risk. There is no free money and there are no short cuts.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, speaking on the Berès report on the crisis on behalf of the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left, in order to explain why we shall not be voting, I wish to say, as there is a surfeit of historical references, that today’s text, compared with the initial text submitted by the rapporteur, looks like an old papyrus, like an old parchment on which the initial text has been scratched out and the new text written, leaving traces of the previous text; what we call a palimpsest. The savage ‘scratchings out’, by the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and the European right, of the rapporteur’s initial, honest and honourable attempt to map the causes of the crisis and provide bold proposals, have given rise to a text which is no longer a text of the European Parliament, the only democratic institution in the European Union; it is a Commission text, a text which conceals the cause of the crisis and commits EU policy to the Merkel, Sarkozy and task force initiatives.

We made proposals to improve the text. We criticised the Stability Pact and the functioning of the European Central Bank. We tabled amendments in order to see if everyone talking even today about the European Union taking a wrong turn meant the same thing. Our proposal was inspired by today’s demonstrations in France, by the demonstrations by workers in Germany, whose incomes are being cut so that Siemens has money for bribes, by the demonstrations by workers in Greece, who are currently being treated like guinea pigs, a text, in other words, which has ended up in a form which we cannot accept.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio (EFD). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we should have listened to the advice of the Nobel laureate, Maurice Allais, who called for a clear separation between business banks, credit banks and speculative banks, in accordance with the principles of the Glass-Steagall Act, which is not discussed in this report.

As far as the proposal to tax European taxpayers is concerned, my response is ‘No tax in Europe!’ If this European Union proposal goes ahead, you can rest assured that we will have our own Tea Party here as well: there will be a mass protest. The European public has no intention of paying for a service they are not getting and they are perfectly right.

We are continuing to fund the banks. However, what are the banks doing in the midst of this economic and financial crisis? They are buying securities, even ones that contain dodgy derivatives and so on. They are still buying them. And what is the ECB doing while this is going on? The ECB – set up to be an unchallengeable body – is letting it go on. It seems clear to me that this is a Europe for bankers. If even the Masonic leaders claim this to be true, I do not see why we cannot claim it too.

We believe that there is only one way to combat speculation effectively: transactions carried out at the same time as negotiations are paid for, and only in cash. Mrs Merkel dared to say it and she was shouted down. There must be some reason for that.

 
  
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  Sirpa Pietikäinen (PPE). – Mr President, it is only two years since the financial crisis broke out and only six months since the Greek issue, and we are seeing all willingness fading away in our nation states.

Today, we have a clear message from the European Parliament in the Berès report and the Feio report. We need more current economic and financial policies. We need more Europe, and a better Stability and Growth Pact with its mechanisms strengthened. The most recent decision by the ECOFIN Council is a slap in the face for European citizens. This is not adequate. We need to strengthen the strategy for growth, so that in this environment, it is sustainable and socially responsible, and we need better governance mechanisms for EU 2020. We need more and better European economic governance for national actions to support this line, including the financial transaction tax that I urge the Commission to look at very carefully, including in a European context. We need a better and stronger united Europe speaking with one voice at global level. We need a better financial regulation and there is a long way still to go.

To conclude, we need a Commission initiative. We need the Commission to act in the interests of European citizens, instead of a number of task forces.

 
  
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  Udo Bullmann (S&D).(DE) Mr President, Mr Chastel, Commissioner, this could actually have been a time of great answers, but in hindsight, it does not look like it. What is on the table for the so-called reform of the Stability and Growth Pact is no great answer; once again, it is the lowest common denominator – the small morsel that could actually be agreed upon. I congratulate the Commission. You are still at the table – the Member States are not quite going it alone. I also congratulate the Council. Success has been achieved, France and Germany have an agreement – we do not know whether it is a good one or a bad one, but at least they are no longer stuck in the quagmire.

What does all this mean? It means that next year, if the growth figures collapse again, we will stand up in front of everyone and have no answer to the economic situation. Where is the section, the legal statute, in which you propose how we can together learn to drag ourselves out of the debt crisis? That is where my group feels there is a gap and that is the debate that we are going to have in this House. Yes, we agree with those Members who want greater commitment to reform. That is something that we want too. However, we then need to discuss the substance. If you are not prepared to provide a more solid foundation for the actual orientation of our budgetary policy, then we can see no reason to continue discussing EU 2020. It is already a paper tiger – we can throw it in the waste paper basket today if you will not debate the substance of it with us more forcefully.

We want to make a difference. Yes, it makes a difference whether we invest in limping bureaucracy or in the energy sources and jobs of the future. Where is the point in your proposals where we can make this difference? That is what we are waiting for. This debate has yet to take place. That will be the decisive thing for us.

Moreover, we will not accept a catalogue of indicators that is based on the legislation. This Parliament will not have the wool pulled over its eyes. We want to debate whether employment and unemployment are an important feature of budgetary development or not, and we want to do so before the legislation is passed.

 
  
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  Ramon Tremosa i Balcells (ALDE). – Mr President, the current financial crisis offers the opportunity to make clear headway in the process of European integration. I want to focus my intervention on the creation of a European common treasury for the eurozone countries. This would be a clear improvement of the institutional framework for European economic governance.

I know that this is a very delicate issue for some countries, but we will have to deal with it in the coming years. The European treasury would improve the coordination of the stimulus policies implemented by Member States. The European treasury would also be able to issue eurobonds to finance the construction of European infrastructures. The EU needs its own resources in the context of future diminishing budgets in the EU Member States. A European common treasury collecting some taxes at European level would allow the reduction of national transfers to the EU.

Without real autonomy in income, there will not be real autonomy in expenditure. The creation of a European common treasury is a political decision. The sticking point in this discussion is the lack of political will or, to be more precise, the lack of political will on the part of Germany. In the 1990s, Germany had the political vision to push for the launching of the euro, despite the difficulties faced with its reunification process. In my opinion, Germany should lead now and move towards a common European treasury.

 
  
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  Ivo Strejček (ECR). (CS) If you have been listening to this debate here from early on, then I think that all those who say that the European Union is at a crossroads are correct. On one side, are those who advocate a strong Community approach. On the other side, it is fair to say, are a minority in this Parliament who think that the European Union should henceforth work more on an intergovernmental principle. The proposal to introduce various forms of European taxes also fits with this, even though it is called innovative financing. This echoes calls for the strengthening of the European Union, transferring more powers to the European Commission at the expense of the Member States. It is a shame that no one has yet said that the European Union and the European Commission should start reducing their programmes, reducing the number of its often controversial agencies and reforming the common agricultural policy.

 
  
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  Jürgen Klute (GUE/NGL).(DE) Mr President, economic governance as it is being developed here focuses solely on savings and competition policy. As has just been mentioned by the honourable Member from Spain, the problem of Germany’s orientation towards exports has not been addressed at all. Yet this is clearly a central problem, both in the euro area and in the European Union as a whole. German competition policy is being conducted to the detriment of internal demand in Germany. This is not being discussed at all. Above all, however, it is also being conducted to the detriment of wages. It is a wage battle – a wage competition. This wage competition is exerting enormous pressure on our neighbouring European countries, on European trade unions and on European workers. Neither the Commission nor the Feio report have addressed this problem. Any economic governance worthy of the name must take corrective action in this area rather than remaining silent.

 
  
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  Jean-Paul Gauzès (PPE).(FR) Mr President, Mr Chastel, Commissioner, in 1968, our fellow Member Mr Cohn-Bendit’s friends wrote, ‘words, not deeds’ on the walls of Paris. Today, citizens are asking for the opposite: deeds, not words. We are hearing a lot of words, but our fellow citizens are not seeing results. The European Union’s slowness to respond is not good enough given the imperatives we need to deal with.

We need to move forward together, with a united European spirit. In this respect, I would like to say a word about the role of Parliament. Here too, there is still work to be done in terms of upholding the codecision principle. The President of the Commission thanked Parliament several times for its support, but Parliament is not here simply to play a secondary, support role, or to ratify decisions taken by the Council without having the chance to discuss them first. Parliament is on a par with the Council. It is time we recognised this, and the debate on economic governance will be a test in this respect.

Finally, as regards the forthcoming G20 summit, the European Union must present a united front to ensure that this international body plays the role that is expected of it and does not merely indulge in endless talk.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: STAVROS LAMBRINIDIS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Elisa Ferreira (S&D).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, I should like to start by thanking Mr Feio for his cooperative efforts and the spirit of compromise with which he has imbued his report. However, the conclusion that we reached was that on certain issues – and this also happened with financial supervision – Parliament is able to unite and take up a strong position in defence of the public interest, and that this strong position has to be acknowledged by the Commission and the Council. This issue is particularly relevant at a time of launching a legislative package of six proposals which are extraordinarily sensitive and on which Parliament has codecision powers.

We will be equally active, but without concessions. Our spirit is one of dialogue, but not of going beyond the objectives that we intend to defend. Mr Feio underlines some aspects that are related to this issue in his report. One of these is that economic governance is more than just a set of penalties. Growth and employment need their own initiatives. Initiatives are needed to combat the growing internal divergences in the European Union. Specific proposals are needed on the European Monetary Fund. Stable solutions are needed for sovereign debt.

We are at a point when confidence depends on the ability of the Commission and the Council to respond to the public’s real anxieties, and those are unemployment, growth and cohesion.

 
  
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  Vicky Ford (ECR). – Mr President, better economic governance is required with earlier warnings and earlier actions. Traditional debt and deficit targets have been breached by many countries, but would not have warned us about the crisis pending in Spain or Ireland. Other measures are needed too.

Economics, however, is not an exact science and it is not just about numbers. Soviet history reminds us that central counting of tractor production does not, in itself, bring a strong economy, and centralised taxes or a centralised treasury are not a Utopian solution either.

There are many questions about what actions to take now. Threatening to fine a nearly bankrupt nation feels like an empty threat, and promises of continual eurozone bailouts will always bring moral hazard. I am aware that people are concerned about Franco-German deals, but perhaps they have a point. If the market lends the money, then maybe the market should take the loss, not the taxpayer.

 
  
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  Danuta Maria Hübner (PPE). – Mr President, as usual, there is both good and bad in our reality and in what we do. It is important to understand the past and the causes of the crisis, and I think the Union has done its homework on that, but today, the focus must be on the future. The global and European economic governance we build is for tomorrow, so it is not just a question of addressing this crisis.

Europe does not exist in a vacuum. When fixing Europe, we are doing so against the backdrop of a world which is very different today from 2008. The G20 was united in favour of the fiscal rescue two years ago, but its unanimity was driven by fear. Today it is divided. The common global good does not exist. There are many forces at work in leading the global recovery and rebalancing the world economy. A major role is played by fundamental structural change, which strongly influences European competitiveness. However, the role of currencies and exchange rates as global adjustment mechanisms has skyrocketed. A new global monetary system is emerging at an unprecedented speed, and the number of players is increasing.

To avoid the disaster of asymmetrical adjustments, we urgently need dialogue and collective action. If we achieve this, the question is whether Europe will be able to play its role in this collective action. What is clearly lacking for this is a bold, streamlining reform of the external representation of the euro area. By delaying this reform, we are foregoing potential influence. In the current global circumstances, Europe cannot afford to do that.

 
  
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  Robert Goebbels (S&D).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Europe is in a bad way and the world is not fairing any better.

Earlier on, the President-in-Office of the Council stressed that globalisation means we have to act at European level and at international level. However, if we look at what is going on in the European Union and internationally, it is quite clear that it is precisely this concrete action that is lacking.

Summit after summit, the great and the less great who are supposed to be governing us parade their inflated egos and wallow in their own pompous words, whilst the main conclusion of each summit is that it will meet again.

What is more, this so-called global governance that the G20 is supposed to embody has absolutely no basis in international law and operates outside the United Nations system. The G20 is self-proclaimed; it operates without written rules and is a club of rich nations which have surrounded themselves with a few so-called emerging countries, including such exemplary democracies as Saudi Arabia.

Earlier, Martin Schulz quoted an extract from one of these hollow declarations by the G20. We could do the same with the statements published after our European summits. Endless promises and empty words, never followed up with action. To crown it all, Europe is subjected to Franco-German mini-summits where this strange couple Merkel and Sarkozy claim to be showing us the way.

Guy Verhofstadt spoke just now about casino games. I am tempted to add, ‘no more bets!’ The Commission and Parliament need to unite so as not to squander Europe’s chips and to preserve the Community method.

 
  
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  Regina Bastos (PPE).(PT) Mr President, I will begin by congratulating the rapporteur, Mrs Berès, on the report we are discussing today, as well as everyone else who worked on it. As part of the Special Committee on the Financial, Economic and Social Crisis, I made a contribution on the issue of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), stressing their crucial role as a driving force for the European Union’s recovery, and its future growth and welfare.

In fact, there are more than 20 million SMEs in the European Union. Therefore, if each of those could create one job, that would mean an equivalent reduction in unemployment. This report sets out recommendations as economic strategies for emerging from the crisis: I will now highlight the main ones.

The first is the need to strengthen the social market economy, avoiding restrictions to competition and ensuring access to credit for SMEs. Then there is the awarding of fiscal incentives and even subsidies to SMEs in order to maintain and create jobs. Next is the creation of a new Small Business Act with a stronger social dimension. Then there is the establishment of a European network of senior consultants to spread their knowledge. Next is innovation as the most powerful engine for economic growth and, therefore, the essentiality of a fundamental link between industry and innovation. Then there is the establishment of new partnerships between industry and the academic world. Finally, there is the creation of an education system that meets the demands of the labour market, but also that of the need to create new qualifications for new jobs.

 
  
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  Liisa Jaakonsaari (S&D). (FI) Mr President, Commission President Barroso said at the start that economic governance has made such very rapid progress that just two years ago, no one could have even forecast it. That is correct, and that is why it is always worth checking to see if the train is on the right tracks, when speed is not an end in itself. The Berès report conducts such an analysis, and it is excellent.

Now that Mrs Berès’ Committee is continuing its work, it may also be worth listening to the economic policy dissidents: for example, the Nobel prize winner, Paul Krugman. He claims that finance ministers are witch doctors who are sacrificing jobs at the altar. We should listen to these people if we want to move away from an imaginary economy to a real one, and then we also need indicators of the real economy, which are employment and poverty.

I was disappointed with Mr Schmidt’s suggestion that capital transfer tax could not be tried out and introduced across Europe. That is a big disappointment, especially as his conclusion was ‘more Europe’.

 
  
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  Iliana Ivanova (PPE).(BG) In the report from the Special Committee on the Financial, Economic and Social Crisis we call, above all, for a European response, strong political and intellectual leadership with a European dimension, far-reaching integration and completion of the single European market for the benefit of European citizens.

We reached a compromise of paramount importance on key issues such as the Stability and Growth Pact, its penalty mechanisms, the path of structural reforms, budgetary consolidation and the European Union’s strategic investments. The priority actions of particular importance include those relating to the cohesion policy and small and medium-sized enterprises.

The cohesion policy must be one of the basic pillars of our economic policy. It will support the development of energy efficiency and trans-European networks which, in turn, will help revitalise the European economy and promote its sustainable growth. Small and medium-sized enterprises are, for their part, vitally important to our future development, growth and prosperity. A new definition must be coined for small and medium-sized enterprises which will also provide opportunities both for a more targeted policy supporting entrepreneurship and for proper action to be taken to reduce the administrative burden and red tape.

I sincerely hope that our proposals and recommendations will be reflected in concrete actions taken by the European Commission and mainly by Member States because we have no time to lose. We owe our citizens a suitable, rapid response so that we can emerge from the crisis more quickly and strongly.

 
  
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  Ivaylo Kalfin (S&D).(BG) The economic recession hit Member States with varying degrees of severity. However, the difference does not extend beyond the borders of the euro area, which might be assumed to be the case from an economic perspective. Unfortunately, the single currency has not resulted in economic alignment so far. In fact, precisely the reverse has happened. There are currently far more differences between the countries in the euro area than there were when the euro was introduced. This is extremely dangerous.

The Stability and Growth Pact indicators are clearly not accurate and do not work. This is why automatically imposing sanctions will not, in itself, yield positive results. This will have even less of an impact on all 27 European Union Member States. Even the opposite might happen, with the economic stereotypes which are ends in themselves creating new problems.

The solution is clear. Member States’ economies must converge as far as possible so that the same measures can be used to achieve the same results everywhere. This means more EU-wide policy, more instruments for European institutions, a higher budget and greater budgetary independence for the European Union, including through increasing the proportion of its own revenue.

 
  
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  Frank Engel (PPE) . – (FR) Mr President, the crisis is far from over and the unrest in countries such as France is a witness to this. In Europe, I think the crisis has become one of integration. A perfect example, once again, is the ‘Deauville deal’, which undermines the Community method and is a reflection of the delusions of grandeur still had by some Member States. At the end of the day, however, which of us is still great?

In 2050, I understand that Europe will still account for 6-7% of the world’s population, and its economic power will be crumbling. Will continuing to compete with each other in this way help us to take up the challenges of international competition, or will it be by allowing ourselves to be governed by the Community method and acting together that we will be able to meet these challenges? Europe will need resources in order to do this: new and innovative resources. The debate on the future financial perspective is a good opportunity to discuss these resources and try to identify them: in terms of research and development, and in terms of the external action service also.

What is the point of creating a 28th European diplomatic corps if it is just added to the existing bodies without thinning these out? We should do this to allow Member States some slack so that they can consolidate and we should give Europe the resources it needs so that it can finally conduct policies that mean something to our citizens. This is what they want from us.

 
  
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  Burkhard Balz (PPE).(DE) Mr President, without wishing to appear presumptuous, listening to the debate here this morning, I think we can conclude that some amount of work has been done in recent months. The Special Committee on the Financial, Economic and Social Crisis has also completed a great deal of work in the past year. That is apparent from the 1 600 amendments to the original draft report that have been tabled. The Committee has now been extended by a further year. In my view, this is quite correct. The crisis is far from at an end. Ireland has only just escaped bankruptcy, the state budget in Greece is certainly not yet back in good shape and the overall situation gives no reason to sound the all clear. The financial and economic reforms must therefore continue and it is too early yet to bring to a close the debate on the causes of the crisis and the conclusions that must be drawn.

It would therefore be incorrect to declare the work of the Crisis Committee more or less done and to end its mandate. Instead, we must carry out further work based on what has been achieved to date. That is why I feel that the interim report that has been tabled is acceptable to all. This is also demonstrated by the broad approval it has enjoyed in the Crisis Committee. Certainly, the text could have been worded somewhat more concisely and succinctly at some points, but we should see the report for what it is – an interim answer.

What is much more important than the wording of individual passages is that in the second half of the Committee’s work, we build on the preliminary work that we have done. We need to consider how and where the discussions of the Crisis Committee can be supported in the forthcoming debates by the legislative committees.

 
  
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  Antonio Cancian (PPE). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I listened to the various speeches this morning very carefully but I believe we could do with shedding a little more light to distinguish between instruments, that I incidentally consider to be well-defined and aligned, and strategy and our internal unity as the European Union.

As far as instruments are concerned, I believe that decisive progress has been made and that we are therefore going in the right direction. What I cannot understand is the strategy. In other words: are we all following the same approach? We have always spoken about stability but now, the time has come, in fact, it is overdue, to speak of growth. I am fully in agreement when we speak of stability and sacrifices but if we do not aim for growth at the same time by creating employment – the crucial topic during this period – I believe that we will not have done a good job.

President Barroso came here not long ago to give a State of the Union address, and I think we should remind him of this, clearly stating the Union’s strategy with regard to the financial market. This morning, I have not heard anyone talk about this strategy.

Allow me also to say that it would be an unpardonable error to seek to camouflage the obvious anarchy between Member States behind the concept of subsidiarity, which is referred to all too often and usually inappropriately.

 
  
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  Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš (PPE).(LV) Mr President, Commissioner, members of the Council, in the last two years, very many people in the European Union have suffered, suffered directly as a result of the crisis. No small number of people in my own country, Latvia, have also suffered. A 20% reduction in economic turnover, and an equally steep increase in unemployment. My countrymen and women understood that in these extraordinary circumstances, extraordinary solutions had to be adopted. What have these solutions been? In order to restore our public finances, the people of my country, Latvians, have patiently suffered a reduction in salaries of more than 30%, coupled with tax increases. As a result, stability in our finances has been brought about in Latvia. So why my indignation? I am indignant when I read today that Germany and France, far from wishing to strengthen financial supervision in the European Union, wish, in fact, to weaken it. Would this then mean that my countrymen’s and women’s work would have been in vain? Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot allow such a situation, in which some large Member States wish to continue to live irresponsibly, to prevail. We must strengthen the Commission’s proposal, so that Europe can have strong financial supervision. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  Gunnar Hökmark (PPE). – Mr President, I think we should be clear about one thing, namely, that the global economic crisis is mainly focused on the US and European economies. There are high levels of growth in other parts of the world, but not in Europe and not in the US. More than anything else, this is rooted in overspending and lack of growth. I think that is one of the most important challenges.

We need to kick-start growth but, in doing so, we need to have stability in public finances. That is why I find it worrying – adding to what has already been said by previous speakers – that some European leaders are now talking about more lax and flexible rules regarding the Stability Pact, and opting for a change to the treaty. I do not think that what Europe needs is a decade of discussions about treaty changes. That is more of a policy for disintegration than integration and competitiveness.

We need to strengthen the Stability Pact with as many automatic sanctions as possible. We need to ensure that budget deficits are reduced, in confidence and in good order, at the same time as we are reforming in order to open ourselves up for more economic growth – opening up European borders and opening up for more competition. That is the way ahead and what we should stand up for in the G20. That is also the aim for the European agenda.

 
  
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  Theodoros Skylakakis (PPE).(EL) Mr President, the Berès report on the economic crisis, which is the subject of one of our debates today, notes in paragraph 32 that some Member States, obviously implying my country, Greece, do not currently have opportunities to create real recovery plans and that all the options until the year 2012 are limited to public expenditure cuts, tax increases and debt reduction. This position is of huge significance to Greece, and others, because there are forces within the country which are arguing the very opposite.

I personally would like to support this position in the Berès report, as countries which have a huge deficit and debt and, in particular, countries which no longer have access to the international capital market, must reduce their deficits before recovery can take hold. There is no other way. Without deficit reduction, there can be no access to international markets. Without access to international markets, there can be no recovery. It is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for the citizens, but we must have the courage to tell the citizens the truth.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Mr President, one minute it shall be. There were two statements made here this morning that I want to focus on. One by Danuta Hübner when she says that Europe does not exist in a vacuum, and the second by Mr Chastel who said Europe cannot grant all concessions alone.

I think it is time for the European Union to get tough, particularly with the G20 countries and the United Nations. We are in a position where we have 11% unemployment, 20% youth unemployment, massive public debt and millions in poverty, and unless the other countries around the world are prepared to share the burden, then we should say we are not going to allow our countries to become uncompetitive and increase poverty within the European Union.

Secondly, I want to say that, within Europe, we not only need to speak with one voice but also act as one body; the self-appointed board of governors which was mentioned here this morning cannot be allowed to continue. They have an opportunity to make their case to the Council.

 
  
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  Jan Kozłowski (PPE). (PL) I would like to begin by expressing my satisfaction with the report on improving the economic governance and stability framework of the Union, and my gratitude for the outstanding work the rapporteur, Mr Feio, has put in. I am convinced that new initiatives, such as the financial supervision package and the European Semester, will allow us to avoid future crises, or at least dampen their impact.

However, I believe that the key issue is persisting with measures aimed at improved coordination and increased transparency of political strategies concerning the economies of the Member States. I would like to underline the importance of creating a good framework for budgetary cooperation at EU and Member State level, including the alignment of spending categories of the national budgets with those of the EU budget. This would make it possible to carry out insightful and systematic analyses of European public expenditure.

 
  
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  Gilles Pargneaux (S&D).(FR) Mr President, to begin with, I would just like to say a few words about the Franco-German proposals. I think our reaction should ultimately be a positive one. We are often saying that since 2007, our Franco-German engine has been missing. At the same time, it is regrettable that there is an element of enslavement for France in these Franco-German proposals, given that they were devised to help prevent France from getting into difficulties in view of its poor financial and economic health.

It is also important to point out that, unlike the Berès report, these proposals make no positive suggestions that would actually allow us to have genuine economic governance in the European Union.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). (SK) Crisis is a very complex phenomenon; so allow me just a few comments since there is little time.

Firstly, too great an emphasis is placed on the criterion of public debt within national economies when other indicators are equally important. At the same time, a certain amount of public debt is inevitable in times of crisis, inasmuch as the governments must compensate for deficits in the private sector with economic activity in the public sector, or more precisely, by public stimuli for the private sector which may slow down growth in unemployment. This is because, ladies and gentlemen, in all these numbers, we are forgetting about the people who did not cause the crisis; we are forgetting about unemployment and the worsening social situation. I would also like to emphasise the fact that without Europe-wide coordination on economic policies and finance sector regulation, the way out of the crisis will be very difficult.

In conclusion, I have one final appeal or request. Commissioner. For several years, I have been calling for real action to be taken as regards the situation concerning tax havens.

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE). – Mr President, I propose that in future, we have one representative for economic issues. We should have a high representative for economic affairs in the same way as we have a High Representative for Foreign Affairs. In future, we could merge Mr Rehn’s and Mr Barnier’s posts.

On another issue, it is a shame that we cannot speak with one voice at the G20 meetings. The European Union is helping France, Sarkozy and the chair of the G20. In future, the European Union should have one post, one person at this meeting, and we should speak with one voice.

 
  
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  Sven Giegold (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, yesterday evening, I was really suffering with Mr Rehn during the press conference when I saw how he had to present this deal, which was not really based on his proposals alone. After what we learned from the supervisory package, I think we have seen how Parliament and the Commission can work together in order to get a good result. I think this is really what we have to do now.

When we look at the deficit and debt procedures, as well as your good proposals on macro-economic imbalances, it is really crucial, in order to have a good deal, for countries with both surpluses and deficits to bear their share in order to get the euro back on track. I can only say that a majority in this House is ready to support the proposals you are making.

 
  
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  Miguel Portas (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, as the Franco-German directorate is no longer seated in this Chamber, I will direct my three questions on the recent frenzy of penalties to the Commission and Council.

The first is on the idea of deposits with interest: how on Earth do you rationalise adding one deficit to another deficit in order to combat the deficit?

The second question is on the possibility of suspending the Structural Funds, the only consequence of which will be jeopardising medium- and long-term growth, thus increasing the interest on the debt, thus increasing the short-term deficit.

That leaves me with question three: how about having penalties for stupidity and the sin of arrogance?

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, we have been promised economic growth, but the competition that European countries face from the developing economies will lead to the destruction of the manufacturing bases and jobs of our countries.

We can only compete with them by driving down the living standards of our workers. We must reject globalism, protect our economies and stop building up the strength of our competitors.

We have been promised improved economic governance in Europe. However, the economies of Member States are very different and a single economic prescription will not suit 27 different countries. Each country must prescribe the form of governance that it needs.

The economic crisis started with the activities of the banks, but the response of governments has been to rush to their rescue. We need to control the credit-creating activities, i.e. the money-making activities, of the banks. The banks must serve our economies and not be allowed to follow their own agenda, and they must certainly not be our favoured beneficiaries.

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE). (HU) We have experienced the most serious social and economic crisis in the history of the European Union, the chief causes of which include global inequality, lax financial regulation and the permissive financial policy of the United States. I think that the European Union was a little late in responding to the consequences of the crisis. The first reactions of Member States were not in harmony with each other. In future, we will need appropriate economic management mechanisms in order to deal with times of crisis. For the sake of our security, we must ensure that the European Union can rely on its own strength. In my opinion, the work of the Special Committee on the Financial, Economic and Social Crisis is still necessary, since the crisis is not yet over and the financial markets have not yet stabilised. Member States must harmonise their budgetary policies and share these with each other. The internal market is one of the indispensable levers of growth, and hence the EU 2020 strategy must focus on long-term investments and employment. We need to strengthen the position of SMEs, since their essential work is the driving force behind research, innovation and growth.

 
  
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  Antigoni Papadopoulou (S&D).(EL) Mr President, the European Union is indeed at a crossroads. The international economic crisis has limited growth and exacerbated unemployment, poverty and social exclusion. The rescue measures were positive, despite serious weaknesses. However, we clearly need more Community solidarity and coordination between national recovery plans.

The European Parliament wants more Europe from the Commission, less bureaucracy, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, more new jobs, more funds for financing projects in vital sectors and a stronger system for regulating, supervising and coordinating the economic, fiscal and social policies of the European Union.

I, too, support the establishment of a common Monetary Fund for the purpose of effective control of European economic governance. Finally, I am so proud of the Cypriot Nobel prize winner, Christoforos Pissalides, that I call on the European Parliament to invite him to present his views as to how unemployment and the challenges of our times should be addressed.

 
  
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  Philippe Lamberts (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, I would like to address the Commission and the Council, simply to highlight the three failings, as we see it, in the European governance proposals.

The first failing is that there is extremely strict discipline concerning deficits and debt and extremely loose discipline concerning investment, and I am thinking about Europe 2020. We really need equally strong discipline in both areas, as austerity on its own will not regenerate economic activity.

The second failing is that if we are so keen to exercise control over expenditure, we should also ensure that we are bringing in the necessary income. I have emphasised this many times before: we cannot have coordination on the budget if we do not have coordination on tax.

The third failing is what we see to be a democratic failing, and I find this particularly striking in the proposals by the task force. It appears that as far as the task force is concerned, Parliament does not exist, and I find this unacceptable.

 
  
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  Constance Le Grip (PPE).(FR) Mr President, I should like to focus my speech on the preparations for the forthcoming G20 summits. The previous speakers have said everything there is to say on European economic governance, the need to strengthen European economic governance, to strengthen the Stability and Growth Pact, and to involve the European Parliament and, of course, also the national parliaments more closely in the process.

I should like quickly to mention two challenges facing our nations and the members of the G20; challenges that must, in my opinion, be tackled during the course of the forthcoming G20 meetings.

Those are the currency war and commodity price volatility. As regards these two issues, which pose a genuine threat to global growth and which cause significant imbalances on our planet, I believe that the European Union must unite around common positions, so that it is able to speak with one voice at the forthcoming G20 summits, both the one in Seoul and also at those that follow, and in a more all-embracing manner on the world stage.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE).(RO) The effects of the crisis seem to be far from over at the moment. This is why I would like to remind you, in this context, of the important role played by the economic and social cohesion policy and, last but not least, of the absolute prerequisite which it represents.

This policy has become a key feature of the economic recovery package, providing added value and supporting efforts promoting modernisation and sustainable economic growth, thereby demonstrating European solidarity at the same time. I think that we require, first and foremost, major investments in every kind of infrastructure, be it transport, energy or telecommunications. We need significant capital investment from a number of funding sources, both public and private, as well as through public-private partnerships, which, I feel, are still not used to their full potential.

 
  
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  Rachida Dati (PPE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should first like to congratulate our colleague, Mr Feio, on the quality of his report and the ambitious proposals that it contains. This also demonstrates that the European Parliament is playing a full part in a debate that is decisive for the future of Europe, and we can only be pleased that this is the case.

Furthermore, the Greek crisis has revealed the shortcomings that are undermining the economic governance of the European Union. On this point, I therefore take note of Mr Feio’s proposal to establish a permanent mechanism for financial stability. We must also deal with this problem at its source.

I believe that the solution for this also lies in strengthening the Stability and Growth Pact and particularly its sanctions. That is essential if we wish to achieve a lasting rehabilitation of national budgets, something that is not always popular. It is restrictive, but we have no choice.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D). (LT) The financial, economic and social crisis has affected every citizen of Europe. However, the hard times have highlighted even more the fact that the various national economic recovery plans were poorly coordinated and not effective enough. Furthermore, certain Member States really did not have opportunities to create genuine national economic recovery plans, including measures to stimulate growth and employment, because they reduced public spending even more during the recession and increased taxes in order to reduce national debt. Unfortunately, in some Member States, this is being done at the expense of ordinary people. I would also like to draw attention to the fact that the crisis highlighted very clearly the social inequality between different social groups. For instance, women are at much greater risk than men of finding themselves below the poverty line. Thus, the European Union must learn the lesson of this crisis and implement the initiatives it adopted in all fields by coordinating joint action with the Member States.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Mr President, scarcely have we half regulated the financial sharks of the stock market monopoly than we are faced with the problem of a global race to devalue currencies which, despite China’s slight accommodation today, has not yet been averted. Something that is anathema to us in Europe – namely, devaluation or intervention in the currency markets – is now a problem forced upon us by globalisation. The US wants to reduce public debt, the Japanese want to boost the economy and the Chinese want to increase exports. This soft currency policy conducted by other economic powers naturally harms Europe, as well as other countries, and therefore must, in my opinion, be an important topic of debate at the G20 summit.

After all, flooding of the world’s markets with cheap Chinese imports is easy if the currency is artificially undervalued. This kind of enduring intervention distorts the market; an extremely dangerous game which, in a worst case scenario, could bring the entire global economy to its knees.

Even if the prospects of success are doubtful, it is essential that plans for a financial transaction tax are broached at the summit.

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès, rapporteur. (FR) Mr President, I should like to thank Members who spoke for their contribution. I should like to reply to two or three of those speeches.

First, to Mr Zīle. I think that what he said is very important when we come to reform cohesion policy. We must make an assessment of this cohesion policy, to establish whether, over the course of the years that have elapsed since accession, the gamble that internal inequalities could be partly evened out by the application of these funds has proved to be correct, and to make an objective assessment so that we can learn lessons for the future.

Many Members – and I thank them – have spoken about the representation of the European Union and about world governance. This is entirely a question of strategy for our European Union, again at a time when currency wars seem on the verge of breaking out. We need to speak with one European voice, both internally and externally. Let us use our internal strength to be strong and united in our representations to the outside world.

Next, to echo what my colleague, Robert Goebbels, said, it is true that the G20 is not the solution we ultimately aspire to for world governance, where everyone has his or her place and where there is room for the arbitration authorities that we need. This harks back to the speech made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations yesterday, to the effect that we must follow our future course within the United Nations, through a root-and-branch reform of that institution and its governance.

Finally, Mr President, to round off this debate, I should like to return to the topic of public investment, and come back to what my fellow Member, Mr Lamberts, was saying. In our report, we call for an annual review by the Commission of public and private investment needs and for the introduction of performance indicators that will actually enable us to have a long-term investment strategy for the benefit of jobs, and hence, for the benefit of European citizens. This strategy would be founded on a sustainable vision and the concept of solidarity, which is at the heart of the European Union.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Diogo Feio, rapporteur.(PT) Mr President, I should like to start by thanking all the Members who have been contributing, even those yet to speak before the end of the debate. It is time to move from words to actions. From now on, following this vote, which I hope will be in favour, Parliament will have its own position on the subject of economic governance. This position will advocate the spirit of the Union: greater transparency and more publicity. It will advocate economic governance as a goal for the growth of all 27 Member States of the European Union and better coordination between them, with greater economic and monetary union.

In short, it will advocate a Europe of greater solidarity, preparation and effectiveness; a Europe for all, with different voices but singing from the same hymn sheet; a Europe with Council, Commission and Parliament positions. The Europe of economic governance is not the Europe of two-party summits: it is the Europe of institutional voices, of the European Parliament and of the public having a voice.

What stands out is the crucial role that this House and the national parliaments must have in this area. They must have their own vision on the necessary macro-economic supervision of Member States, they must have their own voice regarding how the Europe 2020 strategy is implemented, and they must pay close attention to the issue of reinforcing the Stability and Growth Pact. Parliament has a series of different proposals in relation to the other institutions.

Therefore, we have reached – Mr President, I will stop here – the time to debate the issues on the table in a strong and unified way.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, let me start by thanking rapporteurs Berès and Feio and the honourable Members for this very substantial and substantive debate.

I do appreciate that the volume of the contributions corresponds to the importance of the issues discussed. I want to make a few comments, responses and remarks on the debate and reports, and I will begin with the international scene.

In the world economy, the pre-crisis imbalances are re-emerging, which threatens a sustainable recovery and job creation. It is therefore essential that the G20, first the ministerial meeting this week, and then the summit in two weeks, is able to pursue effective international policy coordination to rebalance global growth.

All countries must play their part in rebalancing: surplus countries by reinforcing domestic demand, and deficit countries by focusing on export growth. This is a matter of millions of jobs in the world economy and in the European Union.

The European Union is working for a strong and stable international financial system in which exchange rates should reflect economic fundamentals. This is an essential element of the G20 goal of rebalancing global growth for the sake of sustainable recovery and job creation.

For the same reasons, it is essential for the EU to reform and reinforce its own economic governance. The reports prepared by Mrs Berès and Mr Feio are important contributions to this effect, and the Commission’s legislative proposals, once adopted, will make a quantum leap towards a true and effectively functioning economic and monetary union.

There were some questions about the Commission’s views on levies and taxes on financial institutions. I discussed this with President Barroso and we thought it would be useful to clarify our position in this regard because there were some confusing statements made concerning this issue.

We are in the midst of a fundamental reform of our own financial system and we need to keep up the momentum at the G20 as well. The Commission has put forward a proposal, first of all, on a stability fee or a bank levy so that the private sector, the banking and financial sector, would and will participate towards the costs caused by the crisis and towards the resolution of future crises.

This is on the table and, in some Member States, this is being implemented.

Secondly, the Commission wants the financial sector to play a part in covering the costs of the crisis and that is why the EU – and the Commission – are committed to pushing for a financial transaction tax at global level.

Thirdly, the Commission has, in the meantime, tabled as one option for own resources in the EU budget a proposal that the financial sector should make an equitable contribution at EU level, such as a financial activities tax.

This is our view. We have proposed a bank levy or stability fee; we have raised the possibility of a financial activities tax as a source for own resources; and thirdly, we are committed to pushing for a financial transaction tax at the global level.

In the report by Mr Feio, there is a proposal on establishing a European monetary fund. The Commission is in favour of establishing a permanent mechanism for crisis prevention and crisis resolution which must have two sides, two elements, two dimensions. There needs to be an accent on crisis prevention as well as on crisis resolution, because it is better to be safe than sorry.

As regards crisis resolution, we have clearly stated already in May that a robust framework for crisis management for the euro area is necessary, and the Commission intends to make proposals for a permanent crisis resolution mechanism in due time.

A few general principles have emerged, especially that crisis prevention and resolution must go hand in hand and that any financial assistance must be subject to strict conditionality.

Such a permanent mechanism must minimise moral hazard and provide incentives for the Member States to pursue a responsible fiscal policy and incentives for investors to pursue responsible lending practices.

Mr Schmidt proposed an amendment concerning voluntary participation of non-euro area Member States in the sanctions regime. You know that at the first stage, we are proposing a regime for the euro area Member States and, at the second stage, for all 27 Member States. The Commission can accept and endorse this amendment, which aims at involving the non-euro area Member States in the sanctions regime on a voluntary basis.

We have made satisfactory progress in the context of the task force and achieved convergence towards the Commission’s initiatives to reinforce economic governance, notably focusing on prevention and pre-emptive action, putting an emphasis on debt sustainability, agreeing a method to address macro-economic imbalances and establish an effective enforcement mechanism.

Even though there has been a convergence of views towards the Commission’s proposals in the task force, the normal legislative process is only just starting. So far, we have only seen the beginning. We are perhaps at the end of the beginning, but now the real normal legislative process is just starting, and the European Parliament, as the colegislator, has indeed the crucial and decisive role.

We want to work together with you, and we call on the Council and Parliament to deliver the legislative decisions by the summer of next year so that we can have the new system of economic governance in force by next summer, 2011, when we have the next major round of assessment of effective action.

This is really a matter of credibility for the European Union in terms of reinforcing economic governance, and I fully agree with you that it is indeed the Community method that makes the European Union work and deliver.

I listened to you very carefully on this. I appreciate your firm commitment to the Community method, starting with the speeches by Mr Daul, Mr Schulz, Mr Verhofstadt and Mr Cohn-Bendit, although I cannot stretch to such oratory elegance as the ‘Deauville deal’ or the ‘casino compromise’.

Anyway, let us demonstrate together once again that the Community method can deliver, and now it must deliver, the new system of economic governance, and let us thus complement the strong monetary union by a strong and effective economic union to make a real and complete economic and monetary union.

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council.(FR) Mr President, I shall be brief and begin by thanking the two rapporteurs, Mrs Berès and Mr Feio, on behalf of the Council. They embody Parliament’s involvement in a subject area as important as this. I should also like to say that I urge you to analyse without delay initiatives in relation to economic governance – Commission initiatives that should enable us to implement European economic governance – and particularly in relation to the principle of codecision.

I consider the Council to be at Parliament’s disposal so that real progress can be made on these proposals.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today, Wednesday, 20 October 2010.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Paolo Bartolozzi (PPE), in writing. (IT) I would like to express my appreciation for the important contribution that this work will make in identifying a set of measures to be taken to overcome the current crisis and prevent the possibility of further crises.

After the limits of a system of self-regulation were highlighted to a worrying degree by the recent financial crisis, it is becoming increasingly necessary for us to choose a global control system. The current phase of economic and financial instability, the most severe for decades, has led to an employment and social crisis on such a scale that decisive action is required to eliminate its negative repercussions and prioritise the opportunities that open up in a globalised economy.

The crisis in recent years has sorely tried most of the advanced economies. Recovery is still slow for some countries even today, and the ongoing fragility of financial markets makes global coordination and the choice of appropriate economic and industrial strategies key aspects in combating the financial crisis. Global supervision should, in fact, promote the stabilisation of solid financial markets and sustain the current recovery, guaranteeing strong growth in demand and employment levels.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) The current economic crisis proves that the economic governance model currently used in the EU has not worked sufficiently well, thereby failing to achieve full convergence between Member States. This situation requires an improvement in the economic framework and the development of ambitious monitoring instruments which are more clearly defined and better targeted. It is vital for Member States to abide by the regulations and decisions stipulated at European level, especially those relating to the Stability and Growth Pact. With this in mind, I wish to welcome the initiative tabled by Mr Feio, intended to encourage such actions as devising more controls and monitoring more closely trends in public debt and revenue.

I would like to end by adding that the Romanian Government recently adopted its fiscal budgetary strategy for 2011-2013, which includes the measures required to restore the budget deficit to under 3% and maintain debt below the 60% mark. This reform process will create the conditions required for economic recovery.

 
  
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  Dominique Baudis (PPE), in writing.(FR) The financial, economic and social crisis has now been raging for two years. It has resulted in an unemployment rate of more than 10% in the EU and in the risk of a new recession. This is a crisis that we are unable to bring under control.

The next G20 summit will take place on 11 and 12 November in Seoul, under the Presidency of France. Establishing the G20 was the brainchild of President Sarkozy, who believes that nowadays, the global economy is no longer regulated by the 8, but by all the major developing countries, too. This framework allows for the development of an ambition grounded in a long-term vision. This crisis demands that we have genuine economic governance, rules restricting social dumping in developing countries, financial regulation, and a reform of the international monetary system. To achieve this, Europe must know how to speak with one strong and determined voice.

 
  
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  Ivo Belet (PPE), in writing. (NL) Mr President, one of the most eye-catching features in these recommendations is the tax on financial transactions. Such a measure will enable us to kill several birds with one stone: it is an effective instrument against speculation and the revenue will enable us to address government deficits and the funding for pressing social projects (the environment, development aid, infrastructure projects, etc.). Parliament has now made it clear that we in Europe must persist with this action, even though the rest of the world may, for the time being, be holding back because they have got cold feet. The next step is the European Commission carrying out a feasibility study. What we have decided on today is a specific intervention and an answer to the financial crisis. It also sends out a clear signal to European citizens that we have learned from all the things that have gone wrong over the past few years and that we are tackling the crisis in order to make Europe stronger, in the interests of European citizens, in particular.

 
  
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  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D), in writing.(RO) The regulatory structures which existed prior to the economic and monetary crisis in the European Union and United States showed a lack of consistency and were overwhelmingly based on disparate macro-economic analyses. Due to the lack of any global consistency in these regulatory structures, countries responded off their own bat. They failed to take into account that, in a globalised world, monetary policies adopted nationally have a significant impact on other economies. The creation of the European Systemic Risk Board and European Financial Supervisory Authorities strengthens financial supervision within the EU. However, there are still insufficient regulations available at international level for managing crises in the finance sector. The EU must stress at the G20 meeting in November the importance of having a supervisory and regulatory system whose actions will include making it compulsory to register financial transactions and instruments. We have a responsibility to the economy and we must first of all be strong at European Union level to enable us to lead the way globally.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing.(PT) Once and for all, the EU and its leaders will have to recognise that the severe crisis we are experiencing did not come from the US! It is a systemic crisis resulting from capitalism in its current phase of development – neoliberalism. In view of this, the crisis in the EU comes from the very foundations of the EU itself, which has neoliberalism as one of its main tenets. Faced with the disastrous results of its policies, the powers that have essentially determined the direction of the EU are showing signs of a worrying arrogance and aggressiveness, seeking to impose unacceptable setbacks on progress, particularly for workers and people from the most vulnerable countries, through an intolerable attack on their sovereignty. This is the meaning of the joint declaration that Germany and France decided to make in Deauville before the meeting of the G20 and the European Council. They seem to be ignoring the fact that forging ahead on the path that brought us here can only lead to disgrace. This is the message that is echoing across Europe in the protests of workers and the public. It is time for them to listen! The real response to the crisis lies in giving value to work and in a fairer distribution of income, namely through taxation, thus benefiting work as opposed to capital.

 
  
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  Louis Grech (S&D), in writing. – We are in the middle of a crisis, which has, to a large degree, damaged the financial, economic and social sectors and has had a negative impact on the integration process of the internal market. The single market might be the necessary catalyst to initiate a real European economic and financial recovery from the crisis and rebuild much needed confidence among the citizens. The crisis, in itself, may serve as a window of opportunity to implement measures which will stimulate economic growth, competitiveness and social progress in Europe by putting citizens at the heart of the European economy. I support the rapporteur’s commitment to give clear indications for a way out of the crisis: taking concrete measures and initiatives focusing on the importance of the internal market, employment and the role of SMEs. Moreover, a new holistic and inclusive approach has to be adopted whereby citizens’ goals, particularly those related to economic, social, health and environmental concerns of citizens, are fully integrated into the economy. We need a new paradigm of political thinking, making the European citizen the main political variable in the determination and formulation of Union legislation and policy.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) The economic recovery is under way in Europe. However, the climate remains uncertain. Global economic recovery is still fragile, with the pace of the process varying from country to country. The top priority is still to create a stable basis which will systematically promote sustained, balanced economic growth. To this end, we must create a system which will support simultaneously the response to the crisis, prevention and medium- and long-term cooperation. The European Union must be a strong partner, capable of not only applying its experience in economic and political integration, but of also making a significant contribution to global economic governance. We need to devise credible and viable economic policies in the medium term and coordinate a macro-economic policy which will be based on a framework for sustained, balanced growth, drawn up by the G20. A strategy for the EU’s economic policies must include the following: an action plan on using the structural reforms to reinforce economic growth and employment, consolidated fiscal reform and increasing economic governance of the EU and euro area. A G20 development agenda must be adopted, with a multiannual action plan, which will promote economic growth and flexibility for developing countries.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing.(LV) In the situation that has developed, the major and most important thing is to find a diagnosis and the causes that led us to the crisis. People in various EU states have experienced the fall-out from the crisis in different ways. It is essential to pinpoint the mistakes, malpractice and unprofessional conduct of national governments in order to prevent the situation their people find themselves in from getting worse in the future. Latvia’s government has, for example, already borrowed an amount exceeding twice its annual budget from international financial institutions. With each passing day, the Latvian Government adopts measures relating to the tax system and fiscal policy in general that disadvantage the people and are leading to business liquidations and the emigration of Latvian entrepreneurs. The Latvian Government is constantly trying to amend the pensions legislation so as to reduce payments to pensioners. This is leading to a social explosion and comprehensive injustice. We have to send a strong signal to national governments that reducing social payments and pensions in a time of crisis is a crime against the population. I am convinced that the unprotected and needy strata of society must not bear the responsibility for the mistakes of governments.

 
  
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  Sławomir Witold Nitras (PPE), in writing. (PL) I would like to thank Mr Feio for his work on the draft report. It seems to me that we are returning to business as usual rather too quickly as far as the threats facing Europe are concerned. We are not giving proper attention to the warning signals from the financial markets, or from people such as President Trichet, who indeed called the Commission proposal a good but inadequate step towards strengthening the Stability and Growth Pact. Our role today, as the European Parliament, is to defend the European Commission’s proposals against the governments of the Member States which have not, apparently, learned any lessons from the crisis.

If the European Council had properly adhered to the provisions of the pact, the scale of the European crisis in public finances would have been much smaller. If, today, we allow governments and, in particular, the governments of Germany and France, to water down the Commission’s proposals, the crisis will deepen, and we will have to wonder whether the entire common currency project has any point in its current form, and whether we will inadvertently prove that the euro was a failed experiment. Parliament faces a major task. We must defend the euro, and oppose any short-term political aims. We must force all Member States to conduct responsible budgetary policies, painful though it may be. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) The word ‘crisis’ comes from the Greek word Krino that literally means ‘to decide’, ‘to choose’. It therefore indicates a moment that separates one stage from another. We must look beyond and consider the past in order to implement the structural changes that will make our small and medium-sized enterprises more competitive and able to face up to the greater pressure that will come from a globalised environment.

In doing this, we must also guarantee employment for a good proportion of the more vulnerable part of our workforce and their families. The European Union needs new economic governance that will ensure the stability and rigour of national public finances. A financial and economic crisis such as the one we are currently experiencing must never happen again. Europe’s new economic governance must take into account not only the level of government debt, but also its sustainability in the medium to long term. Private debt and the sustainability of social security systems are just as important as government debt as such for the stability of public finances. Indeed, countries that controlled government debt have plunged into a deep crisis precisely because of the serious indebtedness of families and companies, while countries with high government debt have come through well.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE), in writing.(DE) The economic and financial crisis has revealed all too clearly the shortcomings and weaknesses of the existing instruments and methods for coordinating economic and currency policy. In the past, some Member States, particularly France and Germany, were too hesitant at introducing stricter regulation. Overcoming the economic crisis is one of the greatest challenges we have faced and one to which there can only be a European answer, not a national answer. This also applies to sanction mechanisms, which are still being blocked by some Member States. Under the new rules of the internal financial market, however, it is high time that the currency union were strengthened and, at the same time, public debt, in particular, reduced in order to secure the future of the European economic area. The national parliaments, in particular, need to be more intensively involved in this process in order to Europeanise the debate in the Member States. Only then can a European answer be found with which to overcome the crisis and achieve a robust, strong economic union.

 
  
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  Jutta Steinruck (S&D), in writing.(DE) Since the financial crisis of 2008, the G20 Heads of State or Government have been meeting regularly every six months to discuss economic and financial issues and to bolster cooperation in order to achieve stable and sustainable growth for the world economy for the benefit of all. However, I believe that, in order to find a sustainable and appropriate response to the financial, economic or social problems of the crisis, we need a broader-based approach and a more balanced perspective on these problems. The Finance Ministers of the Member States are not in a position to evaluate the situation on the labour market and to come up with answers to the pressing labour and social policy issues that give due consideration to the needs of workers or the people in general. I therefore call for regular meetings of the Ministers for Employment and Social Affairs in the G20. Moreover, I call on the EU and those Member States that are also members of the G20 to develop this idea further and to cooperate more closely with one another in the field of employment and social policy and to aim for a more balanced approach at summit level. We cannot allow competition to undermine the protection of workers’ rights. We need to enforce these rights, not only for the citizens of the European Union, but also for the citizens of other countries around the world.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D), in writing. – (RO) The EU, with its 500 million citizens, accounting for 7% of the world’s population, produces 30% of the global GDP. The latest statistics show that the EU posted a trade deficit of EUR 17.3 billion in August 2010. During the first half of this year, the EU recorded the highest increases in exports with Brazil (+57%), China (+41%) and Turkey (+38%), while the highest increases in imports were with Russia (+43%), China and India (both +25%).

In order to achieve the EU 2020 strategy objectives, the EU should reduce its energy dependency on its traditional suppliers. During the first half of this year, the EU-27’s trade deficit in the energy sector rose by EUR 34.3 billion compared with the same period last year. Furthermore, the European Union needs an eco-efficient industrial policy which will guarantee the link between innovative capacity and the EU’s production units, thereby helping create jobs across the whole EU and maintain its global competitiveness.

This is why the European Council should include on its agenda, during its meeting on 28 and 29 October, future industrial policy and EU energy security, as well as proposals on how to reduce the impact of climate and demographic change.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: JERZY BUZEK
President

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR). (PL) Yesterday, in Łódź, Poland, an employee of a European Parliament constituency office was murdered at work. He was my assistant, Marek Rosiak. What the murderer said while he committed the crime left no doubt that his motive was hatred for the Law and Justice Party, Poland’s main opposition party. The hate campaign waged against this party for some time now has culminated in tragedy. Apart from the crime itself, the European Parliament must also condemn hatred and violence, which have no place in European politics and European democracy. Mr President, I ask you to hold a minute’s silence in memory of Marek Rosiak, a man who died while working for the European Parliament.

 
  
 

(The House rose and observed a minute’s silence)

 
  
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  Ria Oomen-Ruijten (PPE). (NL) Mr President, we have just shown how dignified we, as a Parliament, can be. However, on entering the Chamber just now, I was, first, harassed by people who think that we ought to sign certain resolutions and, then, surrounded by balloons promoting certain amendments. Mr President, I find such behaviour detrimental to the dignity of this Parliament and I would ask that you think twice about this and look into how we can keep the corridors clear.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (EFD). – Mr President, may I ask you to make a ruling please? We see that balloons are displayed in the Chamber. Can you make a ruling on whether that is permissible or not. If it is not, may they be removed? If it is, my colleagues and I have some very tasteful UKIP balloons in purple and yellow which we would like to bring along next time.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. – Dear colleagues, we will vote today on this very important issue. This issue is connected with your demonstration here. I ask you to leave this demonstration until the vote, which will be in about 40 minutes’ time. I ask you to do that. It is a small gesture for all of us. Generally speaking, I support you, but please do not demonstrate in the Chamber.

(Applause)

 

4. Voting time
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  President. – The next item is the vote.

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

 

4.1. Revision of the framework agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission (A7-0279/2010, Paulo Rangel) (vote)

4.2. Adaptation of Parliament's Rules of Procedure to the revised framework agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission (A7-0278/2010, Paulo Rangel) (vote)
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  President. – I would like to mention that this has been the result of our lengthy negotiations with the European Commission. I would like, above all, to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Rangel, and also Mr Lehne, who negotiated on our behalf with the European Commission. Mr Swoboda, Mrs Wallis, Mrs Harms, Mrs Roth-Berendt and Mr Rangel also took part in the work, and I would like to thank them very much for the outcome of the negotiations. My thanks also go to President Barroso and to Vice-President Šefčovič. We were all very frank with one another. The result has been very good, so I congratulate both sides. I am looking forward to good collaboration in the future.

 

4.3. Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities as regards the European External Action Service (A7-0263/2010, Ingeborg Gräßle) (vote)

4.4. Amendment of the Staff Regulations of Officials of the European Communities and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of those Communities (A7-0288/2010, Bernhard Rapkay) (vote)

4.5. Draft amending budget No 6/2010: Section II - European Council and Council; Section III - Commission; Section X - European External Action Service (A7-0283/2010, Roberto Gualtieri) (vote)
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  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, we have now completed the legislative process on the European External Action Service. Above all, I would like to thank the many people who are now with us in the Chamber, the MEPs, for their exceptionally hard and challenging work. The chairs of several committees of the European Parliament played a leading role in this work. I would like to thank the chairs for their sound work, but would like to extend my thanks, in particular, to a number of people who represented this House both as negotiators and as rapporteurs, and whose names I would like to mention here. Their names are: Elmar Brok, Guy Verhofstadt, Roberto Gualtieri, Ingeborg Gräßle, Crescenzio Rivellini and Bernhard Rapkay, as well as the MEPs who worked on the budget, László Surján and Sidonia Jędrzejewska.

I have named them, in particular, because they put an enormous amount of work into ensuring that we obtained a good agreement on the European External Action Service. We believe that this agreement will be useful to the European Union. I would like to congratulate everybody but, in particular, let us also congratulate Lady Ashton and those who negotiated alongside her, and congratulate the Council on the result. Also among us is Ambassador Christoffersen, who also took part in the negotiations. Applause, please.

(Applause)

 
  
 

I have some flowers for Lady Ashton, but she is not present. As usual, it is necessary to wait for the ladies! I did not expect that but we must be prepared for that – we as men have to be prepared for everything!

(Applause)

 

5. Formal sitting - Mid-term address by Jerzy Buzek, President of Parliament
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  President. – Colleagues, I have a short speech, as I promised you one year ago.

We are at the mid-way point of my Presidency. At the very beginning, I promised that I would inform you of my activities.

As the President of the European Parliament, I represent all of you. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I have always felt the honour and responsibility of acting on behalf of this prestigious Chamber.

But this speech is not about me: this speech is about you and about your activity. It is about all of us, what we have achieved together at the European Parliament in the last 15 months, and what is ahead of us.

 
  
 

Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, the crisis. What our citizens expect from us politicians, above all, is to overcome the crisis: to fight poverty and social exclusion, and especially so this year. The crisis did not start in Europe, but it is here, in Europe, that it has to be overcome. This House has demanded ambitious reforms from the European Commission and the Council. Above all, however, we have adopted key financial reforms such as the Financial Supervision Package, regulations limiting bankers’ bonuses and concerning requirements for the capital held by the banks. In doing so, we have laid the foundations of the walls which will protect our citizens from future crises.

We must do more, however: we need to integrate our European markets better, because that is what will guarantee economic growth and lower prices. Professor Monti’s report must become law. It is worth noting that important parts of the report came from your initiatives – the initiatives of Members of the European Parliament and our committees.

When I represented this House before the European Council, I said that we must be honest with people about the need to tighten our belts in this difficult time, the need to work longer and retire later. That is the only way we will be able to maintain Europe’s prosperity. It is a long-term programme of structural reforms, which cannot be achieved from one day to the next. This will help us to implement the Europe 2020 strategy and to secure competitiveness and jobs, which are the most important things for our citizens. Recovering from the crisis and proceeding to long-term development are our most urgent tasks.

Second, solidarity. The crisis has shown how important European solidarity is. I have been to the places which have been particularly hard hit – Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Greece. I gave messages of solidarity, but also stressed that there is no solidarity without responsibility. We have managed to head off the crisis to a large extent. We have saved the patient, but now we have to make sure he can leave hospital on his own two feet. What we need, therefore, as I said earlier, is a long-term strategy for getting out of the crisis. We also need proper economic management. We need structural, social and educational change. At times of crisis, we have to show realism, but also sensitivity.

Third, energy policy and climate change. Energy is a major commodity in the economy. Energy and climate protection are some of our main priorities, and key political drivers for other economic initiatives. Energy security, coupled with environmental protection and electricity that is as cheap as possible, has become the main challenge of the 21st century, as we are all well aware. That is why, on 5 May 2010, together with Jacques Delors, we announced the Declaration on the creation of a European Energy Community. We would like that name, ‘European Energy Community’, to become a hallmark of all EU enterprises operating in this field. I repeat: the Commission, Parliament and the Council have already done a lot of work in this area, and work is ongoing on these topical issues, but it is also important to give an additional stimulus and provide these activities with an ‘umbrella’ which will allow them to be put into effect properly. I am pleased that today, I will be signing a new regulation on the security of gas supplies which we have adopted together.

Much work still needs to be done before the energy market becomes a single common market. I will continue working on this with you. The most important thing is for our activities in the field of energy also to protect the climate. We are leaders in this field, and want to remain the leaders. We, as the European Parliament, have signed an agreement on the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), thereby creating a ‘green parliament’ which will save energy and start using alternative sources of energy.

Fourth: external affairs. As MEPs, we are ambassadors of democracy and contribute to the organisation of free and fair elections as part of our mission. Not a week goes by without one of us promoting our fundamental values alongside our business interests. We are the world’s largest economy and the greatest donor of aid, but we are not making full use of our strengths. We need to revise the way in which we achieve our aims, and we have to incorporate support for democracy and human rights in our trade negotiations. We should not apply double standards, regardless of whether our negotiating partners are large and powerful or small and weak.

My role as President is to strengthen our common voice and to communicate our citizens’ views beyond the borders of the EU. We have thus strengthened our parliamentary diplomacy. I have represented you at the G8 parliamentary meetings. I have made official visits to China and the USA. Our relations with the US Congress, where we have a representative office, have improved in quality. I was the first President of Parliament to visit Russia in 12 years.

Thanks to our common efforts, we have set up a Secretariat for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean and are successfully cooperating with Latin America through EUROLAT. However, we should admit that we still have a lot of work to do before we get parliamentary cooperation under way in EURONEST, which is part of the Eastern Partnership.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have just finished voting on the European External Action Service. Soon – and this I deeply believe – it will become our great strength and create our European potential. We negotiated firmly with the Council to make this a modern Service which represents the Union point of view and the common interests of Europe. However, we must acknowledge that all parties were very open to compromise, and so our congratulations must be mutual. All of us took part in the discussions.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us stay with foreign affairs for the time being, and let me go back over what we have done this year: we rejected the SWIFT agreement. This was an exceptionally important moment. The US Government has seen that the post-Lisbon Parliament means business. In future, not only the USA, but the governments of many other countries will find this out. When future historians come to evaluate this vote, they will say that we did the right thing in the interests of our citizens. We struck a balance between security and the protection of personal freedom. This is important because, as MEPs, we represent our citizens.

Fifth: human rights. They are a priority for our Parliament, and they are mine, too. I always raise this issue wherever necessary. I know that 735 defenders of human rights stand behind me, and that behind them are 500 million citizens. In Russia, I asked President Medvedev about the murders of human rights activists and journalists such as Anna Politkovskaya and Sergey Magnitsky. When Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Prize, I repeated my appeal for his immediate and unconditional release. Tomorrow, we will decide who will be awarded the Sakharov Prize this year. I am resolved to use the Sakharov Network of Sakharov prize winners, as well as the forum of former presidents of the European Parliament, as an effective tool in our struggle for human dignity, human rights and democracy throughout the world. Human rights activists can be certain that their fate matters to us. They matter to us! The European Parliament is a place where people matter.

Sixth: Women’s rights. I have repeatedly called for more women to be elected to the highest EU positions. I have had overwhelming support from all Members of this House. I also supported the initiative to introduce quotas on electoral lists. A political system which cannot ensure proper representation for 52% of its population in decision-making bodies loses contact with society. Europe must be united in a coalition for work and, at the same time, family life. It is important, particularly at times of economic crisis, that maternity does not become victim to insecure working practices. We have just held a debate on this issue, and it is also related to overcoming the demographic crisis in Europe. As I confirmed 15 minutes ago, I decisively support any such action in this House, although the Chamber is possibly not the best place for such action.

Aristotle said that excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue. We must ensure the equal participation of men and women in public life. Let us follow in Aristotle’s footsteps.

Seventh: institutional reform. Since I was aware of the importance of the Treaty of Lisbon, I was in Ireland, as were many of you, convincing the Irish people to endorse the treaty. I was also with President Klaus in the Czech Republic, calling for its ratification. We worked hard to bring the treaty into force, and we succeeded.

Ladies and gentlemen, one of the most important changes has been to strengthen the legislative power of our Parliament. We now have new rights, but also new responsibilities. The treaty, in strengthening Parliament’s role, still allows us to take many decisions using the intergovernmental method. For this reason, we still need to promote the Community method as an effective tool for citizen scrutiny. Yet let us remember that the decisions on the direction the European Union is to take still depend largely on the Member States, on Heads of Government, presidents and chancellors. The possibility of cooperation with a view to strengthening the European institutions which have given Europe strength in the past is very important, and I am convinced that this will happen in future, too.

As President of the European Parliament, I have put all my energy into strengthening the position of our House with regard to other European institutions on the basis of the Treaty of Lisbon. I did this because we represent the citizens and we are directly elected by them, so we also owe them full representation before the European institutions.

We have made substantial progress towards increasing the answerability of the Commission to this House. We have also introduced changes in the way Parliament itself operates. For the first time, we will have a monthly question-and-answer session with the President of the European Commission, the first debate on the state of the Union has already taken place, we have regular meetings of the Conference of Committee Chairs and the College of Commissioners, and I also hold meetings with the Commission and the College of Commissioners.

We have initiated dialogue with the Council Presidency on legislative planning. I regularly meet the Head of the Government in charge of the rotating Presidency. For the first time, the President of the European Council has not just appeared at a plenary session, but also met with the Conference of Committee Chairs immediately after the European Council. Finally, and I consider this to be extremely important, we are building a close partnership with the national parliaments. I would like to thank, as we all would, the national parliaments for their willing cooperation. We will now be jointly responsible for legislation at European level. It is our common responsibility for the future of Europe.

Eighth, and this is my final point, the budget – our most important task for the future. It is our duty to make sure that the 2011 budget contributes to economic growth. The budget’s structure determines the list of political priorities. We must take great care that it contains the money promised to our citizens. The ‘cuts’ must not be dictated by empty populism. They must not deprive our citizens in fields such as education, training, scientific research or infrastructure projects. We must always ask questions about the financial repercussions of less expenditure at European level. Will the financial repercussions mean less Europe?

Our late fellow Member, Egon Klepsch, a former President of this House, when discussing Parliament’s first vote on the budget, said that Parliament was defining the European ‘public interest’, which, he said, was the real test. We now face just such a test, all of us, today.

I shall now proceed to the conclusion.

 
  
 

We have a lot of urgent legislative work ahead of us. At the end, I would like to speak once again about the most important ones. Our goal is to come out of this crisis and to safeguard our citizens against another one. I repeat: this crisis was not born in Europe, but it has to be eradicated here in Europe. We cannot overcome the crisis using traditional methods. This is why in Europe, debates – very wide debates – and the imagination of its citizens are so important.

Besides the single market, it is important to strengthen the market of ideas, of our fundamental values. We have to discuss the role of the state and the future of Europe, the transfer of knowledge, alternative systems of social security, new education methods, culture.

As your representative, I had the privilege of taking part in important events: the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the 60th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Solidarity trade union, and the 20th anniversary of the reunification of Germany. Let us say, from the total nightmare of war to the spirit of solidarity and the reunification of Europe.

In my discussions with our partners from outside the European Union, I see that our European model is respected around the world. Let us be proud of our community method of cooperation – for the past sixty years, it has given us peace and now a united Europe.

If we believe in Europe, we have to believe in ourselves. In order to dissuade any doubts about the European Union, we have to go back to its roots. Then we will understand that peace, stability, prosperity and an open society are not given to us once and for all. The dangerous and unthinkable could happen again if we do not contain populism and do not care for our basic values of freedom and solidarity for all.

In remembering the past, let us arrange the present and let us think of the future. Our political forefathers chose the right path. Now it is up to us to shape how the 21st century will be in Europe and in the whole world. This is a battle which is worth fighting for. With colleagues like you, I am not afraid to take this battle on.

Thank you very much.

(Applause)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: GIANNI PITELLA
Vice-President

 

6. Voting time (continuation)
Video of the speeches

6.1. Draft amending budget No 3/2010: Section III - Commission - BAM (Banana Accompanying Measures) (A7-0281/2010, László Surján) (vote)

6.2. Draft general budget of the European Union - 2011 financial year (vote)
 

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska, rapporteur. – Mr President, in the Committee on Budgets, we voted on more than 1 600 amendments to the 2011 draft budget. Inevitably, there are some technical adjustments that should be voted in the plenary. As far as the integration of Letter of amendment No 1 for 2011 in Parliament’s reading is concerned, some technical adjustments need to be made in both the new European External Action Service section and that of the Commission, following the proposed transfers of appropriations between sections.

In the European External Action Service section, these concern notably the budgeting of the 1.85% salary adjustment for the new Service, as is the case for the other institutions. The amounts affected by the letter of amendment in the Commission section will also need to be modified accordingly. This also applies to some Parliament amendments on administrative lines, which need to be aligned with the final amounts presented in the budget lines of Section III.

For the agencies, the remarks following certain agencies’ budget lines will be technically adjusted to make them consistent with the final figures adopted. In line 02 01 04 04, remarks adopted in Amendment 996 should be added as such to Amendment 1010 on operational line 02 02 01 (as part of the package on pilot projects and preparatory actions). In line 19 05 01, the words ‘other than the United States’ should be deleted from the heading and the remarks, as decided by the Committee on Budgets. In line 19 09 01, an oral amendment adopted in the Committee on Budgets should be inserted in the remarks. The following words should be added: ‘part of this appropriation is intended to support, amongst others, initiatives such as the EU-LAC Foundation decided at the summit of EU-LAC Heads of States and Governments and the Biarritz Forum’.

It is necessary to renumber some budget lines in order to avoid contradictory numbering of some lines created and to follow nomenclature rules. This will affect neither the multiannual financial framework headings nor the budgetary chapter of the amendments adopted in the Committee on Budgets. This concerns Amendments 386, 389, 521, 833, 997, 998, 999, 1016, 1018, 1021, 1022, 1023 and 1024.

 
  
 

- Before the vote on Amendment 700:

 
  
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  María Muñiz De Urquiza (S&D).(ES) Mr President, I am sorry, but it is impossible to follow the vote at the speed at which you are reading the amendments.

 
  
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  President. – I am only too happy to go more slowly … We will try to reconcile the need for speed with the rights of all MEPs to discharge their duties and to vote.

- Before the vote on block 3:

 
  
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  József Szájer (PPE). – Mr President, I ask the forgiveness of the House but the PPE Group’s voting list is wrong regarding Amendment 967. The right vote is ‘yes’.

 
  
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  President. – This applies to a subsequent vote. Very well. This is internal information for the group.

- Before the vote on Amendment 987:

 
  
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  Göran Färm (S&D). – Mr President, like my colleague from the PPE Group a little while ago, I also have to point out a mistake in our voting list. The S&D voting list should read: minus, plus, plus. Nothing else.

 
  
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  President. – This is also internal group information.

- After the vote on the budget:

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council.(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this satisfaction is due to the fact that you have just passed amendments to the Council’s position on Draft amending budget No 3/2010 and on the draft budget for the financial year 2011.

As a result, I have taken due note of the differences between our two institutions and, in accordance with Article 314(4)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, I do, of course, agree to the Conciliation Committee being convened by the President of the European Parliament.

 
  
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  President. – This is not a case of the Council granting a favour but of observing the terms of the treaty. We, as Parliament, will obviously play our part in full.

 

6.3. Parliament's position on the 2011 draft budget as modified by the Council - all sections (A7-0284/2010, Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska) (vote)

6.4. Parliament's calendar of part-sessions – 2012 (vote)
 

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  Joseph Daul (PPE).(FR) Mr President, yesterday evening, my group discussed amendments that the services have told us are unacceptable. As a result, and following the discussion I had this morning with the heads of delegation and the group leaders, I request that the vote on the calendar be postponed.

 
  
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  Martin Schulz (S&D).(DE) Mr President, we have had no opportunity to discuss this as a group. I was informed about it by Mr Daul a few minutes ago, during this morning’s debate, and I have discussed it with the chairs of other groups, namely Mrs Harms and Mr Verhofstadt. I also want to address this point to my group, as we have not, so far, had the opportunity to discuss this. I believe that, with a postponement, there would be a very good chance of reaching a broad consensus over the calendar for 2012. I therefore believe that we should vote through this postponement today.

 
  
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  President. – Mr Schulz spoke in favour of Mr Daul’s proposal. I will now give the floor to Mr Fox, who is against this proposal.

 
  
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  Ashley Fox (ECR). – Mr President, I was in the Chamber on Monday evening when the Green Group asked for a postponement. Mr Daul and Mr Schulz were here and they both voted against that postponement.

(Applause)

So what has changed? Is it really some important legal issue, or is the truth that they realise they are in severe danger of losing Amendment No 4 and they want to postpone it so as to apply pressure to members of their own groups?

(Applause)

This has nothing to do with the fictitious reason we have been given, and I would urge colleagues to vote against this delay and vote in favour of Amendment No 4.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. – I will put the request to postpone the vote tabled by Mr Daul to the vote.

(Parliament approved the request to defer the vote)

 

6.5. Improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding (A7-0032/2010, Edite Estrela) (vote)
 

- Before the vote on Amendments 50 and 125:

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE).(SV) There are several translation errors in the Swedish version of this report. Among other things, there is confusion between the terms barnledighet (parental leave) and mammaledighet (maternity leave). However, in Amendment 125 in particular, there is a very serious translation error. The Swedish version of Amendment 125 states that paternity leave should be on full pay. It does not say this in other versions. This means that there is no difference between Amendment 50 and Amendment 125 in the Swedish version. It would be good if this could be corrected.

 

6.6. Combating late payment in commercial transactions (A7-0136/2010, Barbara Weiler) (vote)

6.7. Role of minimum income in combating poverty and promoting an inclusive society in Europe (A7-0233/2010, Ilda Figueiredo) (vote)

6.8. Financial, economic and social crisis: recommendations concerning the measures and initiatives to be taken (A7-0267/2010, Pervenche Berès) (vote)

6.9. Improving economic governance and stability framework in the EU, in particular, in the euro zone (A7-0282/2010, Diogo Feio) (vote)
 

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  Olle Schmidt (ALDE). – Mr President, this is an important oral amendment: ‘whereas, as far as possible, all 27 Member States should follow to the maximum all the economic governance proposals, recognising that, for non-euro area Member States, this will in part be a voluntary process’.

It has been accepted by the PPE Group, it has been accepted by the S&D Group and even the Commissioner has accepted it. I hope that you all can accept this oral amendment. It is important for me, it is important for the ALDE Group, and it is especially important for my country, Sweden, if we are ever going to join the euro.

 
  
  

(The oral amendment was accepted)

 
  
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  President. – That concludes the vote.

Because the voting has gone on so long, as a result of your excellent work, I would like to ask those who have requested to give explanations of vote to change these explanations from oral to written or postpone your turn until tomorrow, because 62 requests have been put forward and we are unable to deal with them all.

 
  
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  Michał Tomasz Kamiński (ECR). – Mr President, I would like to congratulate you on the excellent job you did today. I really appreciate the way you exercised your chairmanship today, and I hope you will share your wonderful skills with other vice-chairs of Parliament.

 
  
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  Nicole Sinclaire (NI). – Mr President, I have voted today and my constituents can see how I voted today, so therefore, they should have the opportunity to have my explanation of vote today.

 
  
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  President. – I made a request that you should change your oral explanation into a written explanation. This will still allow you to give your constituents the reasons that prompted you and others to vote in a certain way on the various issues. We do not wish in any way to deprive you of any rights. I only ask you to join the other MEPs who are giving up their right to make an oral explanation in order to give a written explanation. That is all.

 
  
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  Barbara Matera (PPE). (IT) Mr President, I will comply with your request: Mr Mastella and I will put our explanations in writing. Secondly, I join my fellow Member in again congratulating you, Mr President.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE). (IT) Mr President, if you agree, and to keep everyone happy, we can defer the oral explanations to tomorrow.

 
  
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  President. – Yes, I most certainly agree. If Mrs Sinclair is also in agreement. I count on the goodwill of the MEPs, calling on them to make oral explanations tomorrow or written explanations today and we will allow Mrs Sinclair the opportunity to make hers now.

 

7. Explanations of vote
Video of the speeches
  

Oral explanations of vote

 
  
  

Draft general budget of the European Union – 2011 financial year

 
  
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  Nicole Sinclaire (NI). – Mr President, I have the following comments for my fellow MEPs.

Today was the first time post-Lisbon that we have voted on the budget. You all applauded yourselves and you think you have done a good job but, in fact, while countries across the European Union are having to cut public services and having to cut their public budgets, you wanted to increase yours.

You have increased your entertainment budget by EUR 2 million, an 85% increase. Is this the real message that you want to send to the people of Europe? You have also passed provisions on maternity pay that are going to have a severe impact on my constituents within the UK. This is going to cost jobs; this is going to affect public services. I hope you are proud of yourselves today. This is not the way to run Europe.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE). (IT) Mr President, at this point, for the sake of fairness, I will give an explanation of vote in favour of the result achieved on the Estrela report.

 
  
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  President. – Let us not draw this out any longer now, however. We have given the floor to two MEPs. For the other explanations – there are 61, we still have 59 to go – decide either to give them in writing or give them tomorrow at the end of the vote.

 
  
  

Written explanations of vote

 
  
  

Report: Paulo Rangel (A7-0279/2010)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the revision to the framework agreement which will govern relations between Parliament and the Commission, in the light of the Treaty of Lisbon, as I believe that this revision creates a relationship of greater transparency and dynamism in the relationship between Parliament and the Commission. Before the Treaty of Lisbon and in accordance with the legal basis of Article 295 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, the treaties did not explicitly encourage the EU institutions to conclude interinstitutional treaties. I therefore believe that this revision to the framework agreement reflects the institutional balance that has been created by the Treaty of Lisbon, and consolidates the achievements made with this new treaty. This text thus represents a compromise between the two parties and ensures a more coherent and sensible implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto (EFD), in writing. (IT) In all democratic systems, parliamentary scrutiny of the actions of the executive is a fundamental issue, just as concentrated reciprocal communication between government and citizens’ representatives is of great importance. This interinstitutional agreement between Parliament and the Commission satisfies – as far as is possible in a complex and continually evolving system like the European Union’s – some requests legitimately put forward by Parliament regarding the European Commission. It is therefore a good thing that Parliament’s scrutiny of the Commission is facilitated, as the latter is a technical body that cannot be the political brains of an entire continent and must answer for the substance, reasons and methods of its actions. It is also, without doubt, positive that the chance for yet greater involvement of the Commission in Parliament’s work is being sought, in particular, in plenary sittings, in order that it may respond to the requests of representatives of citizens of the European Union and answer for the position of the Commission on current political, economic, social and international issues in a timely fashion. What is certain is that if the EU wishes to move towards a democratic structure different from that of today, relations between the Commission and Parliament will have to improve and intensify. I voted in favour of the report by Mr Rangel.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) This proposal achieved the first constructive framework agreement. The European Parliament’s increased powers following the Treaty of Lisbon are very important for further cooperation with the European Commission and for future relations regarding the implementation of further agreements. Thus, this document lays down further guidelines for cooperation between these two institutions. The European Parliament and the Commission will be able to develop a close dialogue on the Commission’s Work Programme and international agreements. Parliament will have the right to obtain confidential documents. Parliament will be informed on the progress of international negotiations and, furthermore, Parliament will also be able to become an expert to provide proposals to the Commission on these issues. The framework agreement also provides for comprehensive Parliamentary scrutiny, strengthened provisions on the election of the President of the Commission and of the latter as a body, and on its composition, its possible modification and reshuffling. Parliament is striving for better and more transparent cooperation with other institutions. I welcome the fact that closer cooperation between these two institutions will help the Member States to transpose European Union legislation into national law as quickly and effectively as possible.

 
  
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  Lara Comi (PPE), in writing. (IT) The constitutional architecture of the European Union is increasingly taking on the form of a nation state. Besides the resulting considerations about the future of the Union, we need to acknowledge the acceptance of this similarity. In fact, the modelling of relations between the Commission and Parliament is – rightly, in my view – derived from this, in the manner that has already been tested and whipped into shape over decades (if not centuries) in each of the Member States. In particular, the supervisory and interrogatory role of Parliament should be appreciated, as it helps reduce the so-called democratic deficit and makes the relationship between citizens and the Commission more transparent.

 
  
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  Mário David (PPE), in writing. (PT) I welcome the success of the negotiations and the compromises reached in this new framework agreement, the fifth interinstitutional agreement between Parliament and the Commission. This new agreement undeniably marks an important step forward in terms of relations with the Commission. Although the agreed compromise falls short of all that Parliament was aiming for, we have an agreement that ensures a coherent and sensible implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon. I would like to highlight the importance of the negotiations on the interinstitutional dimension of the EU’s international relations, allowing Parliament to be fully informed in good time so that it can have a say on the international agreements during the negotiation process. Lastly, with regard to the duty to supply information, I would like to emphasise that early cooperation with Parliament in relation to requests for legislative initiatives based on citizens’ requests will be crucial to securing the bond between Parliament and the public. I am therefore voting in favour of the bulk of the proposals in this report.

 
  
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  Robert Dušek (S&D), in writing.(CS) The draft report on the revision of the framework agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission aims to achieve the institutional balance between Parliament and the Commission advocated in the Treaty of Lisbon. Although the interinstitutional agreements do not alter the enactment of primary law, in this case, they clarify relations between EU institutions. The final version of the proposal is, according to the rapporteur, a balanced compromise between the views and positions of both institutional parties, whereas the trickiest negotiations were in the EU’s international relations. Parliament should be fully informed so as to facilitate the awarding of consent, and so that we do not once again have a lack of international agreements. Negotiations on them have already been completed.

Parliament acquired new powers from the Treaty of Lisbon for the better and closer monitoring of the transposition of EU legislation into national law, and its application, which is very welcome. Common European legislation does not mean much if certain Member States fail to implement it at national level. I agree with the wording of the report, and I will vote in favour of its adoption.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The interinstitutional agreements within the European Union are crucial for effective monitoring, control and balance of powers. Thus, following the necessary adaptations established by the Treaty of Lisbon, I am pleased to see Parliament’s increased powers in its relations with the Commission. As reflected in the report, this means greater and more effective control over the Commission’s proposals, along with greater transparency in the legislative process.

This was therefore one more step towards effectively wielded democratic power, and it will contribute to a Europe that is closer to its citizens. In addition, I should not neglect to point out the great powers of negotiation that this proposal required, particularly on the part of the rapporteur, Mr Rangel. I would like to offer him my congratulations at this point.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) I welcome the adoption of this report and the excellent work accomplished by the rapporteur, Mr Rangel. This report reflects and gives form to the institutional balance established by the Treaty of Lisbon, resulting in a clear and important improvement in relations with the Commission. The revised draft framework agreement on the relations between Parliament and the Commission is the fifth agreement of its kind to be signed between the two institutions. In terms of the legislative process and scheduling, it is important to point out the changes relating to the ‘Better Regulation’ approach and the announcement of a revision of the interinstitutional agreement on this issue, along with the new regulations regarding the impact assessments carried out by the Commission. Regarding the interinstitutional dimension of the EU’s international relations, Parliament’s aim is having the right to be informed so that it can give its approval with full knowledge of the facts, and prevent the non-agreement of international agreements when negotiations have already been completed. I would also like to point out the allocation of observer status to MEPs at international conferences, who can now also attend all the relevant meetings. This role is crucial for strengthening Parliament’s democratic powers, especially during the negotiation of major international conferences such as United Nations conferences on climate change.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Last Wednesday, we voted for the revised framework agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission, a revision that sets, within this agreement, Parliament’s new powers resulting from the Treaty of Lisbon.

These new powers of the European Parliament are essential and represent a radical change in the European institutional procedure. Enhanced parliamentary control over the Commission, Parliament’s approval power for international agreements, Parliament’s participation in the Commission’s working programme, Parliament's participation in electing the President of the European Commission are so many crucial developments in the building of a more democratic European area.

What also appears fundamental to me are the additional guarantees that we are obtaining in terms of obligations to inform Parliament: we will have better access to confidential documents relating to international agreements and negotiations. The European Parliament must and should be involved in these ‘international procedures’, before and afterwards. This agreement therefore lays down a new balance for a more democratic European area and it is a good thing that all this is drawn up in an official agreement.

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing. (FR) Passed with a large majority, the revised framework agreement signals indisputable progress in relations between the European Parliament and the Commission.

It is indeed time for the institutional balance put in place by the Treaty of Lisbon to be rigorously reflected. Among the key elements of this revision, we especially need to welcome the equality of treatment between Parliament and the Council, particularly when exchanging information and accessing meetings. In this respect, I can only be glad about the provisions introduced concerning the negotiation of international agreements. How could Parliament give its approval in full knowledge of the facts if it is not informed throughout the negotiation procedure?

MEPs are well and truly determined to implement fully the increased powers at their disposal since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force: evidence of this was the rejection in February of the Swift agreement. One thing is certain; we will have to remain vigilant in order to maintain this new institutional process.

 
  
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  Peter Jahr (PPE), in writing. (DE) The Treaty of Lisbon allows the European Parliament a considerable measure of new powers of codecision. As a result, there should, not least, be a deepening of democracy in the European Union and improved participation by European citizens.

By codifying and realising these rights, the new framework agreement takes account of these entitlements and the new balance between the Commission and Parliament. This is very much to be welcomed, as Parliament will now be better able to do justice to its role as the representative of the EU’s citizens. It is now up to us to use these new rights responsibly.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – This is a great achievement for the Parliament and a positive framework for relations between Parliament and the Commission. I particularly welcome the acknowledgement of Council and Parliament’s ‘equal footing’ and the implications that has for Parliament's access to confidential documents, its right to be informed of Commission meetings with national experts and its participation in international conferences. I am also pleased that Parliament will have a strong role in legislative programming and will have frequent opportunities to debate and question these issues with the Commission in plenary and committee.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) Relations between Parliament and the Commission have been much altered following the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon, with greater powers for Parliament in various matters, particularly those that relate to ordinary legislative procedure and budgetary issues, and a stronger role as regards EU foreign policy. These changes mean that the European public now has a new role in relation to decision making at EU level. It is therefore necessary and expedient to review the framework agreement that governs relations between Parliament and the Commission.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. (LV) I fully agree with Mr Rangel’s report. Until now, the European Commission has, on many occasions, taken no notice of the resolutions of the European Parliament. This, to my mind, is unacceptable. For example, the resolution of the European Parliament of 11 March 2004, in which the European Parliament recommends that the Republic of Latvia grants non-citizens the right to vote in local elections and simplifies the naturalisation process for elderly people has hitherto not been implemented. I should like to know why the relevant European commissioners have yet to address questions to the Latvian Government. Why is this resolution of the European Parliament being ignored? Perhaps as a result of the signature of the new agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission, this type of inactivity on the part of the Commission will be appropriately judged by the European Parliament, and people who do not do their work properly will, on the next occasion, be excluded from membership of the Commission.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) I warmly welcome the preparation of the report on the revised framework agreement on relations between Parliament and the Commission. I also welcome its adoption in plenary, to which I contributed, as an essential framework for the further democratisation of the European Union through a division of powers between the Commission and Parliament which better respects their respective abilities.

This framework agreement is particularly important as it is the first since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, which gave increased powers to Parliament, especially at a legislative level.

I believe that under this new framework agreement, Parliament is a more active partner in building the European project, as it can fulfil its powers more completely, effectively and responsibly.

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella (S&D), in writing. (FR) Despite the significant measures that Mrs Figueiredo’s resolution is proposing on the role of a minimum income in tackling poverty and promoting an inclusive society in Europe, I regret that the majority of the European Parliament was not more ambitious. As a socialist, I do believe that a framework directive is indispensable for effectively tackling poverty, which affects 17% of the European population.

This framework directive, proposed by my colleague, Frédéric Daerden, would lay down the principle of a suitable minimum income in Europe, established on the basis of criteria that are common to all Member States and in accordance with national practices for collective negotiation and with national law. It is our duty to be ambitious for a more social Europe.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE), in writing. (IT) Before the Treaty of Lisbon and the new legal basis for Article 295 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, treaties did not specifically encourage European Union institutions to conclude interinstitutional agreements. These agreements cannot alter the provisions of primary law but they often clarify them.

I am convinced that this draft strictly reflects the institutional balance established by the Treaty of Lisbon. I give my consent because this agreement represents a clear and significant improvement in relations with the Commission. Like all agreements, the final text tends to be a compromise between both parties; this final compromise nevertheless offers a balanced judgment and a reasonable and consistent application of the Treaty of Lisbon.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – The Rangel report points out the most important achievements for the European Parliament contained in the revised framework agreement with regard to the following:

On ‘Legislative procedure and planning: mutual cooperation’ it includes improving the involvement of Parliament, the review of all pending proposals at the beginning of a new Commission’s term of office, taking due account of the views of the Parliament, and the commitment by the Commission to report on the concrete follow-up to any legislative initiative requests pursuant to Article 225 TFEU.

On ‘Parliamentary scrutiny’, it includes new rules of participation of Commissioners in election campaigns, the Commission’s obligation to seek Parliament’s opinion when it intends to revise the Code of Conduct, and nominees for the post of executive directors have to come before the responsible parliamentary committees for a hearing,

It also sets out the obligations to provide information and requirement for the Commission to be present in Parliament.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE), in writing. (PL) The entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon has given both the European Commission and the European Parliament new rights. The draft of the amended text of the framework agreement is an expression of a more effective implementation of the changes arising from the treaty based on the relations between the two institutions. It introduces beneficial changes to legislative procedure, parliamentary scrutiny and the obligation to provide information. It represents major progress in relations with the Commission and is an important step towards closer cooperation. Exchanges of information and constructive dialogue will allow us to achieve more effective and transparent results, which is a key issue from the point of view of the EU citizens whose interests we represent. That is why I regard it as so important that priority is given in the agreement to the participation of members of the Commission in plenary sittings and other meetings related to Parliament’s activities. I am particularly pleased that the Commission has undertaken to cooperate closely with Parliament on motions for legislative initiatives proposed by citizens at an early stage.

Thanks to this, we in Parliament can be closer to our citizens, which will strengthen our democracy. Nevertheless, in order to operate effectively in the interests of EU citizens, the Commission should give MEPs observer status at all international conferences and, where possible, facilitate our presence at other significant meetings to an even greater extent, as well as inform Parliament of the negotiating positions adopted by the Commission at such meetings and conferences.

 
  
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  Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL), in writing. – I voted in favour of the Rangel report A7-279/2010. However, I strongly disagree with the rapporteur’s assumption that ‘the Treaty of Lisbon significantly deepens democracy in the EU, giving to citizens of the Union, mainly through the Parliament, a reinforced power of scrutiny of the Commission’.

 
  
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  Viktor Uspaskich (ALDE), in writing. (LT) This new framework agreement on relations may potentially consolidate the achievements of the Treaty of Lisbon and this could represent a significant breakthrough. Particularly important are the amendments improving legal procedures and strengthening parliamentary scrutiny. I agree with all the amendments which contribute to improving information exchange and promoting the effectiveness of relations between the European Parliament and European Commission. It is important to ensure that this institutional partnership has as little red tape as possible. The new framework agreement on relations regulates the ‘special partnership’ between Parliament and the European Commission. We must not forget that the most important partnership of all is the partnership between the European Union and its citizens. The European Union must try harder to find common ground with its citizens and prove its importance in their daily lives.

The rapporteur rightly indicated that this agreement represents a ‘new interinstitutional balance’, i.e. a healthy compromise. However, there are some issues on which the European Union cannot negotiate – fundamental human rights and freedoms. Greater powers mean greater responsibility. It is one thing to talk of common values, but implementing and defending these values is a different matter. Unless this is achieved, the various branches of the European Union institutional system will be unable to fully realise their potential. To be a cohesive force, the European Union must have credibility.

 
  
  

Report: Paulo Rangel (A7-0278/2010)

 
  
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  Mário David (PPE), in writing. (PT) Now that the revision of the framework agreement on the relations between Parliament and the Commission has been adopted, a subsequent adaptation of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure to the aforementioned framework agreement is a natural step. I am therefore voting for this report.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) I agree with the amendments to Parliament’s Rules of Procedure with a view to their being adapted to the revised framework agreement on relations between Parliament and the Commission. Given the Commission’s openness in giving more information to MEPs, there is agreement that MEPs are obliged to respect the rules of Parliament on the handling of confidential information. The openness of the Commission in providing more information to MEPs requires the chairs and rapporteurs of the committee responsible and of any associated committees to jointly take appropriate action to ensure that Parliament is provided with immediate, regular and full information, if necessary on a confidential basis, at all stages of the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements, including the draft and finally adopted text of negotiating directives.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) Relations between Parliament and the Commission have been much altered following the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon, with greater powers for Parliament in various matters, particularly those that relate to ordinary legislative procedure and budgetary issues, and a stronger role as regards EU foreign policy. These changes mean that the European public now has a new role in relation to decision making at EU level. It is therefore necessary and expedient to adapt the Rules of Procedure to the revised framework agreement on relations between Parliament and the Commission.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) The adaptation of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure to the revised framework agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission follows on naturally from the revision of the framework agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission, allowing the framework agreement to be passed immediately so that it can be put into effect as is required, and as will thus be ensured. The background and agreement that the two reports share also warrant my approval of the latter.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – The Rangel report points out the most important achievements for the European Parliament contained in the revised framework agreement with regard to the following:

On ‘Legislative procedure and planning: mutual cooperation’, it includes improving the involvement of Parliament, the review of all pending proposals at the beginning of a new Commission’s term of office, taking due account of the views of the Parliament, and the commitment by the Commission to report on the concrete follow-up to any legislative initiative requests pursuant to Article 225 TFEU.

On ‘Parliamentary scrutiny’, it includes new rules of participation of Commissioners in election campaigns, the Commission’s obligation to seek Parliament’s opinion when it intends to revise the Code of Conduct, and nominees for the post of executive directors have to come before the responsible parliamentary committees for a hearing,

It also sets out the obligations to provide information and the requirement for the Commission to be present in Parliament.

 
  
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  Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL), in writing. – I voted in favour of the Rangel report A7-0278/2010. However, I strongly disagree with the rapporteur’s assumption that ‘the Treaty of Lisbon deepens significantly democracy in the EU, giving to citizens of the Union, mainly through the Parliament, a reinforced power of scrutiny of the Commission’.

 
  
  

Reports: Paulo Rangel (A7-0279/2010), (A7-0278/2010)

 
  
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  Bairbre de Brún and Søren Bo Søndergaard (GUE/NGL), in writing. – I voted in favour of the Rangel reports A7-0278/2010 and A7-0279/2010. However, I strongly disagree with the rapporteur’s assumption that ‘the Treaty of Lisbon deepens significantly democracy in the EU, giving to citizens of the Union, mainly through the Parliament, a reinforced power of scrutiny of the Commission’.

 
  
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  Joe Higgins (GUE/NGL), in writing. – I abstained in the votes on the Rangel reports A7-0278/2010 and A7-0279/2010. Despite supporting many measures mentioned in the reports, such as increased role for the Parliament in the drawing up of the Code of Conduct for Commissioners and the enhanced role of the Parliament in international negotiations, I strongly disagree with the rapporteur’s assumption that ‘the Treaty of Lisbon significantly deepens democracy in the EU, giving citizens of the Union, mainly through Parliament, a reinforced power of scrutiny of the Commission’.

 
  
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  Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL), in writing. – I voted in favour of the Rangel reports A7-0278/2010 and A7-0279/2010. However, I strongly disagree with the rapporteur’s assumption that the Treaty of Lisbon significantly deepens democracy in the EU, giving citizens of the Union, mainly through the Parliament, a reinforced power of scrutiny of the Commission.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. (LV) Mr Rangel is proposing very important amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament. It is possible that, directly as a result of these adjustments to the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament, the problems that we debate will be resolved more quickly. I should especially like to see that the decisions and recommendations of the European Parliament are carried out in EU Member States. Only when we put our own house in order will the EU’s recommendations to third countries carry considerably more weight. For example, the recommendations in the European Parliament resolution of 11 March 2004 on the situation of non-citizens in Latvia have still not been implemented. I hope that the revised Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament will help EU institutions to form a clear picture of the violations of basic human rights taking place in Latvia.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) Through this agreement, Parliament has ‘improved’ and strengthened itself and the democratisation of the European Union has been reinforced. The adoption of this report is a strong signal of the desire to consolidate the principle of separation of powers. The framework agreement is of great importance since it defines the relationships between Parliament and the Commission at a time when Parliament has obtained greater powers, particularly in the legislative process, now at the same level as the Council. Indeed, notwithstanding the supplementary and application treaties and protocols, further legislation aimed at specifying and better defining some issues was required. In particular, I applaud the fact that the framework agreement clarifies the points relating to the political responsibility of both institutions, the circulation of information, external relations, enlargement and international agreements, the implementation of the budget, the political and legislative programme of the Commission and the European Union’s multiannual programme, the legislative competence of the Commission and the exercise of its specific powers, monitoring the implementation of EU law and the participation of the Commission in the work of Parliament.

 
  
  

Report: Ingeborg Gräßle, Crescenzio Rivellini (A7-0263/2010)

 
  
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  George Becali (NI), in writing. (RO) I voted in favour of this regulation. This includes technical, financial and administrative details and explains the interinstitutional relations which this European service and its structures need to have. It has been, and still is, our desire for the EU to be a powerful, acknowledged player in foreign policy. To achieve this, we also need rules and European regulations tailored to the job.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec (PPE), in writing. (FR) When the European External Action Service was set up, it was necessary to amend the financial regulation in order to improve control and follow-up of the EEAS’s implementation.

The Gräßle-Rivellini report increases budgetary and financial responsibility, improves transparency and promotes the EEAS’s effectiveness. The proposed improvements will contribute to creating a culture of financial integrity necessary for promoting confidence in the proper functioning of the EEAS.

I also welcome the parts of the report demanding that Parliament be granted significant power of control. Thus, I agree with the rapporteurs in asking that Parliament be able to exercise its discharge rights fully and that the heads of delegations submit their budgetary implementation reports to the Committee on Budgetary Control.

 
  
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  Mário David (PPE), in writing. (PT) I am voting in favour of the bulk of the measures proposed in this report, which aim to give the European External Action Service (EEAS) a culture of financial integrity necessary for trust in the smooth and unquestionable future functioning of the EEAS. The different backgrounds of the staff members will make the EEAS a melting pot of corporate cultures, and it will gradually have to establish a culture of its own. In defining the structure of this new service, it is important to establish its financial rules and ensure the maximum safeguards from the beginning in such a way that financial probity will be ingrained in the corporate culture of the EEAS. I would also like to stress that in order to ensure democratic scrutiny and improve the confidence of European citizens in their European institutions, every year, Parliament should be presented with a statement of assurance on the internal management and control systems put in place in the Union Delegations.

 
  
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  Marielle De Sarnez (ALDE), in writing. (FR) The European External Action Service (EEAS) is now well set to become an operational diplomatic corps. Parliament ensured that 60% of staff are to come from other European institutions, which will ensure a certain degree of independence from Member States. The principle of geographical balance was introduced so that a suitable and significant presence of nationals from all Member States is guaranteed.

This vote has strengthened Parliament’s role: the heads of delegations of the European Union appointed in ‘strategically important’ regions will indeed be heard by Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. Furthermore, Parliament will have a right of scrutiny on how the EEAS’s budget is used and its staff will have to follow specific training on budget management.

 
  
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  Philippe de Villiers (EFD), in writing. (FR) The European Parliament has been asked to give its opinion on the proposal for a regulation tabled by Ingeborg Gräßle and Crescenzio Rivellini pertaining to the creation of a general budget of the European Communities for the European External Action Service (EEAS).

It is impossible to support the creation of a future European diplomatic service that will be under the administrative, budgetary and political control of the Commission. France, which can pride itself on having the oldest diplomatic service in the world, will have to yet again hand over diplomatic prerogatives to a European Union whose citizens are totally indifferent to the positions it adopts.

This diplomatic service, for which the Commission has called so enthusiastically, will be a total departure from national heritages. EEAS officials will be unable to receive instructions from Member States and will have to work for the ‘greater’ good of a European Union that is a reference only for Eurocrats themselves.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI), in writing. – Mr President, I have always been opposed to the creation of the EEAS – nothing would have changed my opinion on it. But I am aware of the assurances given as the EU went about its campaign of persuasion, garnering support for the EEAS.

We were told that the EEAS would be budget-neutral. Yet where are we now? Budget neutrality is now but another EU promise whistling in the wind. We are now 34 million over the planned budget due to demands for yet more staff and other start-up costs, and the EEAS isn't even operational!

The EEAS represents yet another example of wasted taxpayer’s money, for a service my constituents do not want but have forced upon them by bureaucrats who seek to squeeze more and more power away from national governments towards the EU. Such bureaucracy is unacceptable and must be cut back in these times of economic crisis, not enhanced.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The proposal for a regulation aims to amend the financial regulation applicable to the general budget of the Communities due to the institutionalisation of the European External Action Service (EEAS) resulting from the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon by the Member States. This new entity lacks a budgetary framework, hence the need for this amendment. The assimilation of the EEAS as an institution allows it to have budgetary autonomy and gives it the power to deal with its own administrative expenses, subject to the discharge to be made by Parliament.

I hope that the EEAS will carry out its activities in a competent, effective, complementary and, above all, non-competitive way with the diplomatic representations of the Member States. On this matter, the Commission has stated that it wishes to ensure that the EEAS can fulfil this task of a unified external action without leading to a weakening of sound financial management, accountability and the protection of the financial interests of the Union. I hope that this will come about.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Köstinger (PPE), in writing. (DE) The European External Action Service (EEAS) will be the future foreign policy mouthpiece of the European Union. In this service, our different positions will find one voice – communicating a strong message – and it is important to give it our support. In order for the EEAS to be able to work effectively, efficient financial control is necessary. Only if the EEAS forms part of the Commission can the best possible control be ensured. The clear distribution of rights and obligations will allow it to work smoothly. I support Mrs Gräßle’s and Mr Rivellini’s successful report, and I have, of course, voted in favour of this constructive contribution from the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the report by Mrs Gräßle and Mr Rivellini establishing the Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities as regards the European External Action Service (EEAS), because I believe that the promotion of financial integrity is important in order to ensure that the European institutions are managed properly and transparently. The creation of this new diplomatic service, as provided for by the Treaty of Lisbon, represents a great step for the European Union, which can finally benefit from a single diplomatic body that has the task of facilitating actions aimed at making the European Union’s external relations more coherent, safe and efficient. Lastly, it is important to emphasise that the European External Action Service will manage its own administrative budget and will also be responsible for those parts of the operating budget which fall under its mandate.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The new European External Action Service, created following the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon, requires a budget in order to carry out its activities and achieve the objectives outlined in the treaty. In view of this, it is necessary to amend certain provisions in the appropriate financial regulation, with the aim of taking account of the changes introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer (GUE/NGL), in writing. (ES) I voted against this European Parliament legislative resolution, because creating the service that they want to finance represents another step towards the militarisation of the European Union’s foreign policy. As well as my opposition to this militaristic foreign affairs philosophy, my reason for voting against it is that the most basic principles of transparency and democracy have been absent throughout the process of creating the European External Action Service (EEAS). The organisation and financing of this service do not include the necessary strict control over staffing and financing by the European Parliament, meaning that the EEAS is worryingly lacking in democracy and transparency. It is therefore no surprise that the proposed structure for the EEAS relegates the European Parliament to a secondary, irrelevant position in EU foreign policy, which my group and I firmly reject. I have therefore voted against it. I cannot be in favour of the proposed budgets for this type of service with its militaristic tendencies.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI), in writing. (DE) In addition to the duplicated structures that will be created by the European External Action Service (EEAS), personnel costs will also rocket in the wasteful and bureaucratic way that is typical of the EU. Of the 1 643 posts that the EEAS will start off with on 1 December, 50 are, believe it or not, director-general posts, and during the initial phases, there will be barely more than 30 members of staff under one director-general. When the final structure is complete there will not even be as many as 80. The aforementioned directors-general will, on average, earn EUR 17 000 per month. Below these directors-general, there is another level containing 224 directors and 235 heads of unit. In addition, we are still waiting for specific tasks and objectives to be defined for the EEAS staff. We want the EU to have a strong voice in the world, but this surely does not require a bloated administrative apparatus that will cost EU citizens billions as a result of duplicated structures and members of staff who will enjoy a very lucrative source of income. I therefore voted against this report.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D), in writing. (LT) In negotiations with representatives of the European Council and the Commission, Parliament and, in particular, negotiators from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, managed to ensure that the budget for the EU’s new diplomatic service would be used more transparently. Parliament will approve its budget discharge annually and the Commission will have to provide MEPs with detailed information about its expenditure on a regular basis. I voted for this report because it underlines that when employing citizens of EU Member States, greater geographical coverage would be ensured along with proper and meaningful representation for the citizens of all Member States.

I agree with the rapporteur that we must aim to ensure that employees are chosen according to their abilities and also that gender equality is taken into account. It is important for the European External Action Service due to be launched on 1 December to quickly become effective and to embody, above all, the EU’s interests and, where necessary, national interests.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE), in writing. (IT) The European External Action Service (EEAS) will manage its own administrative budget and be responsible for it. In fact, in establishing the new service, and particularly in drawing up its financial rules, it is necessary to provide the appropriate economic safeguards from the beginning.

Therefore, in order to promote their financial probity, it is important to ensure the smooth interaction of the various services responsible for supervision of financial matters, especially in EU delegations. By means of strengthening these safeguards, we hope to enhance the confidence of European citizens in European institutions. Consequently, the structural improvements presented in this proposal aim to impose the financial integrity necessary for trust in the smooth and unquestionable functioning of the EEAS.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – It has been a bumpy ride, but thanks to Parliament’s efforts, the EU’s External Action Service now has the potential to be the driving force for a more effective and more legitimate EU foreign policy. We welcome that key Green concerns – such as on gender balance and common training to create an ‘esprit de corps’ – have been largely addressed, and that Parliament will have greater democratic scrutiny on the functioning of the EEAS, notably through the introduction of individual budget lines for the EU’s major overseas operations. The EP also succeeded in safeguarding the Community method and, thanks to Green pressure, development priorities.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI), in writing. (DE) In order to be able to represent the interests of European states on the international stage in a more effective manner, foreign policy actions must be discussed in advance and then communicated to the outside world with one voice. An attempt is now being made, through the European External Action Service (EEAS), to bring the Union’s external policy instruments into a coherent framework – the existing resources are being brought together and complemented by new resources. In view of the novel nature of this structure, ambitious provisions with regard to transparency and budgetary and financial accountability need to be applied. Since Parliament’s budgetary authority includes the EEAS, the service must be integrated into the Commission structure. Otherwise, it will be impossible to grant discharge within the meaning of the treaties. The annual activity reports are also provided to the budgetary authorities.

 
  
  

Report: Bernhard Rapkay (A7-0288/010)

 
  
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  George Becali (NI), in writing. (RO) I, too, believe, as my fellow Members do, that the EEAS needs to have autonomy within the staff regulations for European officials. I support the provision which stipulates that EU officials and temporary agents who come from Member States and diplomatic services must enjoy the same rights and be eligible to apply for new posts. I hope that recruitment on the widest possible geographical basis, and by that, I am alluding to the new Member States, will become a reality.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The European External Action Service is an essential instrument for an EU that is more open to the world and able to establish fruitful contacts with many different regions and countries. In order for this service to function, it is essential to give its officials proper roles and to clarify their status and that of temporary staff from the national diplomatic services who have a role within it. This amendment of the Staff Regulations of Officials of the European Communities and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of those Communities shows that it is, therefore, fully justified. I hope that the service will operate in tandem with the national diplomatic services and act as a positive factor to enhance their performance. I hope that the main priorities of European policy will not neglect their external component and that, in the course of their action, the service does not neglect the crucial role of European languages in universal communication, nor the global European languages which are most suitable for establishing direct communication with large parts of the world.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) The European External Action Service is now an integral part of the European administration: it is open, efficient and independent, under the terms of Article 298 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). In the modification of the Staff Regulations and Conditions of Employment of Other Servants, I would like to highlight the equal status given to EU officials and temporary staff from the diplomatic services of the Member States, in particular, with regard to eligibility to take on all tasks under equal conditions and in promoting equal opportunities for the underrepresented gender.

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE), in writing. – I abstained on the occasion of the final vote on the Rapkay report on 20 October 2010. I fully support the formation of the European External Action Service and value highly the efforts of Elmar Brok and other MEPs who have managed to successfully balance the original draft presented by the High Representative. My intention was to draw attention to the fact that the amendment on geographical representation, which was supported by the AFET and BUDG committees, has not been adopted in the JURI committee. As a result, there are doubts whether the final version of the report can provide the European Parliament with a legal basis with regard to geographical balance.

 
  
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  Andrey Kovatchev (PPE), in writing. (BG) I wish you, Lady Ashton, and the new EEAS, on which we are pinning great hopes that yet another European dream will come true, every success, and hope that Europe will address the world with a strong, authoritative single voice. This is what a huge section of our Parliament wants. You can be sure that we will help you.

I wish to explain why I abstained from voting on the amendment to the Staff Regulations of Officials of the European Communities. I think that indicative targets for geographical balance are beneficial to the new institution. We need a highly qualified diplomatic service which has people from every Member State so that they can enhance the representation of the EU in the world.

I am sure that the service will be a success if it can benefit from the experience of all Member States. I realise that the number of Member States has increased more than fourfold since the start of the European integration process. It is understandable that the countries recently admitted lag behind at this stage in terms of level of representation. However, there must be determination and clearly defined legislative texts to overcome this.

I believe in your desire and determination, which you have expressed to us on numerous occasions, to work towards genuine, suitable geographical representation for the new service so that you can be the High Representative of the whole EU. We will follow its activity closely.

 
  
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  Edvard Kožušník (ECR), in writing. (CS) I appreciate the fact that we managed to put some safeguards, in the form of amendments, into the report, which will guarantee that when it comes to filling positions in the European External Action Service, officials from certain Member States will not have an advantage over officials from other states. European Union foreign policy is, after all, only one specific area, and therefore, in addition to qualifications and broad geographical representation, a principle must apply according to which state officials from all Member States will be appropriately represented among the staff of the European External Action Service. I therefore think that it is very important that Parliament has proposed to delete provisions that allowed the transfer of officials from the Council or the Commission to the European External Action Service without competition for the vacancy.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The European External Action Service works in collaboration with the diplomatic services of the Member States and is made up of officials from the relevant services of the General Secretariat of the Council and the Commission, as well as staff seconded from the national diplomatic services of the Member States. Thus, for the purposes of the Staff Regulations and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants, the EEAS should be treated as an EU institution. In view of this, EU officials and temporary agents from the diplomatic services of the Member States should have the same rights and obligations and be treated equally, particularly as regards the eligibility to assume all positions under equivalent conditions. The amendment provided for in this resolution is therefore necessary.

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE), in writing.(HU) I supported this report which was preceded by very serious debates, primarily as regards filling the posts of the European External Action Service. The principle of geographical balance was the main cause of these debates, a principle that – along with the priorities of institutional and gender balance – was eventually included in the report in a much attenuated form.

The new Member States are undoubtedly not entirely satisfied, but it is nevertheless a good thing that a compromise has been reached, and we trust that in future, this may be revised to be even fairer. To this end, we must do everything possible to ensure that the diplomats designated by the individual Member States have comparable and high qualifications. We should be pleased, however, that we have taken an important step towards a unified and effective foreign representation of the EU, since given the current and future challenges, this is one of the most important aspects of EU policy.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – We have adopted with a big majority the compromise package reflecting the Green position, to which our group has substantially contributed.

 
  
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  György Schöpflin (PPE), in writing. – To those of us from the new Member States, the omission of any legally binding commitment to geographic balance in the European External Action Service is a disappointment. It is true that there have been several political statements promising that the interests of the new Member States will be taken into account. However positive a political commitment might be, the absence of a legal provision is regrettable. Without legal provision, it is hard to see how voters in the new Member States will feel that they own the service. This is why a number of us have had misgivings about giving our full support to the Rapkay report.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE), in writing. (PL) We are coming to the end of the rather tumultuous work on the form to be taken by the European External Action Service, on which we are about to vote today. We have talked a lot about sustainable development in terms of gender and geography and a lot about transparency of recruitment based on pre-defined rules and regulations, but the most important issue is how good and effective the EEAS will be, which is why meritocratic criteria are so important when it comes to staff recruitment. I would like to stress the requirement, indeed the necessity, of ensuring that employees from the Directorates of the European Commission that are relevant in terms of subject matter, as well as from the Council and Parliament, participate in these services.

The point is not the representation of European institutions, but the fact that these persons should have the right qualifications in various spheres of EU activities, such as complex aspects of energy, trade, agricultural and other issues, not to mention human rights or terrorism. I have concerns that most of the people involved in the EEAS will have general diplomatic skills, but no familiarity with the complex factual issues they will have to deal with.

 
  
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  Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein (PPE), in writing.(PL) Abstaining from voting is not a solution. Those who are absent are always in the wrong. I think that in the resolution as a whole, there are many more good measures than those which are of less value. We need the European External Action Service. It should begin its work as soon as possible, to increase Europe’s importance in the world.

The resolution which has been adopted says that all Member States will be represented in the service. Now we have to take care that this does really happen. This creates confidence in the process of establishing the External Action Service. It should be remembered that it was on mutual trust that the European Union was built, and that Poland has greatly benefited from this. I am going to be watching the process very carefully.

 
  
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  Rafał Trzaskowski (PPE), in writing.(PL) Only a year ago, introduction of the concept of geographical balance to the debate on the European External Action Service met with huge opposition, even from within the European Parliament. Today, no one at all is in any doubt that this is a problem and that it has to be solved. The commitment found in all the most important documents related to the EEAS to take steps to ensure equal representation of all the Member States of the European Union in the new Union diplomatic service is a success. The review planned for 2013 will allow us to judge if these steps have been taken.

 
  
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  Traian Ungureanu (PPE), in writing. – The results of the vote on the Rapkay report show that a considerable number of MEPs from new Member States either abstained or voted against it. I was one of the MEPs who abstained. My main concern was the lack of ambition of its wording on the principle of geographical balance within the employment policy and staff of the future European External Action Service (EEAS). The report failed to introduce a legally binding commitment to geographical balance in EEAS, thus relying only on political promises made by key EU decision makers on foreign affairs. This is why most new Member States do not feel reassured by the proper application of the principle of geographical balance in the future EEAS. It is regrettable that the rapporteur chose such a minimalist line, while the reluctance of the Council to explicitly accept this binding commitment raises even more concern. I am calling on the Council and the Commission to examine the voting result on this report closely and deliver on their promises of respecting the geographical balance principle while recruiting the future staff of the EEAS. It will be one of the MEPs’ priorities to monitor this process closely in future.

 
  
  

Report: Roberto Gualtieri, László Surján (A7-0283/2010)

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the Parliament resolution as I agree that it is vital that the EU is able to use all of its external instruments within a coherent structure, and that the provision of budgetary resources in 2010 in order to establish this structure, in its initial phase, is the political purpose of this report.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) I voted against the report, which refers to the European External Action Service set up on the basis of the Treaty of Lisbon. Financial and any other form of aid for this service is unacceptable because it deploys political and military resources for misguided actions under the Union’s foreign policy, ultimately resulting in further militarisation of the European Union. At the same time, it moves Europe away from the independent and pacific role which it should play in settling international problems. This makes it part of the tension and a participating force in divisive, military interventions in war zones.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) It is becoming necessary to adapt the budgetary instruments to the new reality of the European External Action Service (EEAS). However, I believe that efforts to ensure adequate funds for its capabilities and efficient and effective operation in line with what was intended, along with the effective monitoring of its costs, are broadly justified.

In the early days of its effective existence, the European institutions and Member States should pay special attention to the EEAS so that they can properly monitor its activities and identify its main problems.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) This proposal for an amending budget comes under the realisation of the Treaty of Lisbon in order to facilitate the implementation and operation of the European External Action Service (EEAS). I therefore support this initiative, and it is important to ensure that it is implemented within the principles of efficient management of European resources, while highlighting a good relationship between cost and benefit, along with the requirements of budgetary restraint, due to the impact of the economic crisis on public finances.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Our vote against this report, which represents another step towards establishing and employing the European External Action Service (EEAS), is a position consistent with our opposition to the creation of this service. A central point of the Treaty of Lisbon and a fundamental element of federalism in the European Union, it will involve more than 5 000 people in the future 130 EU embassies in various countries.

A diplomatic mega-structure that will inevitably subordinate the representatives and interests of the Member States, imposing on them, and here too, the interests of the powers that have been determining the course of the EU. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the EEAS will not be linked to military and intelligence structures. There is, therefore, the prospect of a worrying militarisation of the EU and of international relations, which we will fight vigorously.

It should also be asked, as the EU’s budget is extremely reduced, where will the contributions come from to cover this expenditure? All this at a time when the effects of the crisis are getting worse, with the so-called ‘austerity’ policies putting enormous pressure on national budgets; when salaries and social security benefits are being cut, and taxes on income from work are being increased.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) Following the amendment to the Staff Regulations and an amendment to the Financial Regulation so that the creation of the European External Action Service is encompassed in those documents, it is now necessary to approve a budget for its proper functioning. Hence, for this service to function properly and achieve the objectives for which it was created, it must be given a budget that is sufficient to provide the human and material resources necessary for it to perform its activities well.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer (GUE/NGL), in writing. (ES) I voted against this European Parliament legislative resolution, because creating the service that they want to finance represents another step towards the militarisation of the European Union’s foreign policy. As well as my opposition to this militaristic foreign affairs philosophy, my reason for voting against it is that the most basic principles of transparency and democracy have been absent throughout the process of creating the European External Action Service (EEAS). The organisation and financing of this service do not include the necessary strict control over staffing and financing by the European Parliament, meaning that the EEAS is worryingly lacking in democracy and transparency. It is therefore no surprise that the proposed structure for the EEAS relegates the European Parliament to a secondary, irrelevant position in EU foreign policy, which my group and I firmly reject. I have therefore voted against it. I cannot be in favour of the proposed budgets for this type of service with its militaristic tendencies.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Consideration surely does need to be given to the precise form of the European External Action Service (EEAS) that is to be established. A system in which each of the 50 directors-general would initially have 30 and later a good 80 staff members would mean bloated and expensive administration.

Similarly, the establishment of the EEAS is expected to bring with it a wave of promotions. A few issues have not yet been cleared up sufficiently. Possible effects on the building costs must be subject to prior scrutiny. Other factors, such as actually giving proper weight to German as a working language, as laid down in the treaties, have been ignored. For these reasons, I feel that, in its present form, the funding for the EEAS must be rejected.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the Parliament resolution as I agree that it is vital that the EU is able to use all of its external instruments within a coherent structure, and that the provision of budgetary resources in 2010 in order to establish this structure, in its initial phase, is the political purpose of this report.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – The setting up of the European External Action Service (EEAS) necessitates an amendment of the 2010 budget and of the proposed 2011 budget. A new Section X has to be created in the budget and the 2010 budget has to be modified in order to provide 100 additional posts in the EEAS establishment plan and a financial envelope for financing an additional 70 contract staff. The bulk of resources necessary will simply be transferred from the sections of the European Council, Council and Commission. The prevailing feeling in the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) is that the HR, Baroness Ashton, has not entirely lived up to the promises she made to the EP on the setting up of the EEAS. AFET considers that the EP should be consulted on staffing priorities within the service (e.g. when it comes to geographical balances) and that the issue of gender balance would be better addressed in the recruitment procedure for the EEAS. From a Green/EFA point of view, the fact that until now, Baroness Ashton has not transferred the Commission staff in DG RELEX dealing with peacebuilding and crisis response to the EEAS is considered a major shortcoming, especially as the HR has given messages of assurance to the EP on this transfer.

 
  
  

Reports: Ingeborg Gräßle, Crescenzio Rivellini (A7-0263/2010), Bernhard Rapkay (A7-0288/2010), Roberto Gualtieri, László Surján (A7-0283/2010)

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. (FR) We firmly oppose the creation of a European External Action Service. Foreign affairs and diplomacy come under national sovereignty, and that is why we voted against all the reports on this matter.

A common foreign policy conducted in the sole interest of the European Union will necessarily find itself, sooner or later, in contradiction with the fundamental interests of one, several or all Member States. For instance, if there is a conflict where countries are asked to get involved, but their citizens are opposed. Or if a policy that is particularly hostile or particularly favourable towards a country or group of countries is promoted, going against the age-old traditions of some diplomatic services or the vital interests of some Members.

Worse still: the treaties already stipulate that, whatever happens, all this will be subject to other commitments or constraints on an even greater, possibly global, scale: NATO, the UN, goodness knows what else. Therefore, it is not even a strong and independent diplomatic service that is being proposed here, but an instrument of submission to non-European leadership.

 
  
  

Report: László Surján (A7-0281/2010)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) Given that the annual allocation for financial assistance for monitoring measures in the banana sector amounted to EUR 75 million in 2010, where the major portion of this financial assistance stemmed from a reallocation of heading 4 of the budget, which equated to EUR 55.8 million, and that in 2011, this heading is only EUR 875 530, we agree with Parliament’s proposal to invite the Commission to submit a new proposal to deploy the flexibility instrument for the remaining amount of EUR 74 124 470. This proposal is justified by the fact that there is a need for financial assistance for monitoring measures in the banana sector, particularly when we consider that EU financial assistance to ACP banana supplier countries affected by the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) liberalisation in the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) must be ensured if the EU wishes to maintain its influence as a global player. We should also mention that it makes complete sense to implement this proposal, given that these measures are provided for in point 27 of the interinstitutional agreement on the use of the flexibility instrument.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the resolution as I agree that EU financial assistance to ACP banana supplier countries affected by the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) liberalisation in the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) should not be questioned, and that the budgetary effort is not held up. I therefore agree with the Commission proposal to amend Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1905/2006 in order to allow the financing of Bananas Accompanying Measures (BAM) over the years 2010 to 2013, with an overall budget of EUR 190 million, with a potential supplementary EUR 10 million, if margins allow.

 
  
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  Marielle De Sarnez (ALDE), in writing. (FR) The banana sector is a vital sector for some EU regions, especially the French overseas départements and territories; that is why, faced with competition from Latin American countries exacerbated by agreements under negotiation, Parliament has adopted funding measures aimed at helping this weakened sector.

MEPs would like to see the flexibility instrument mobilised to the tune of EUR 74.12 million. This is a strong signal from Parliament to the Commission and the Council, which only made provision for 18.3 million. Similarly, it is an opportunity for Parliament to point out that it is time to stop dipping into the budget for EU external action to finance the Banana Accompanying Measures. The EUR 190 million in aid promised for the 2010-2013 period shall have to be financed by new funds, which is what Parliament will demand during the new financial perspective.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) The Commission is proposing an amendment to Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1905/2006 in order to finance Bananas Accompanying Measures (BAM) over the years 2010 to 2013, with an overall budget of EUR 190 million. The proposed annual breakdown provides an amount of EUR 75 million in 2010. It is worth noting that the margin available under heading 4 is only EUR 875 530. The most important part of this financial assistance in 2010 comes from a reallocation within heading 4 of the budget, namely EUR 55.8 million from a total of EUR 75 million, which affects instruments and actions that the EU, and Parliament in particular, deem to be of major interest. In addition, the need for financial assistance linked to accompanying measures for the bananas sector was not provided for in adopting the multiannual financial framework (MFF) in force. However, EU financial assistance to ACP banana-supplying countries affected by the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) liberalisation in the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) should not be questioned, and the fiscal effort should not be held up. I therefore agree with the change to the draft amending budget No 3/2010, as proposed by the rapporteur.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The report aims to establish the measures necessary for financial assistance to countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) that will be affected by the liberalisation of the banana trade between the EU and 11 Latin American countries, under which the EU is committed to not applying quantitative restrictions or equivalent measures on banana imports to its territory.

When the Geneva Agreement was signed, which provides for this liberalisation, the EU committed to channelling EUR 200 million to ACP countries by way of compensation for the impact that this measure would have on their exports to the EU. We criticised this agreement at the time, as it will mainly benefit the US multinationals that dominate the global market in the sector.

Several ACP countries, as well as several banana producers in those countries, expressed their concern about the agreement’s consequences, believing that the sum of EUR 200 million will not offset all its effects. Now, the report provides for ‘an overall budget of EUR 190 million, with a potential supplementary EUR 10 million, if margins allow’. Furthermore, there were no proper warnings of the impact on the banana-producing countries and regions of the EU, such as the Autonomous Region of Madeira. For these reasons, we abstained from the vote on the report.

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE), in writing. (IT) The European Parliament proposal for a resolution on Council’s position on Draft amending budget No 3/2010 of the European Union for the financial year 2010, Section III – Commission, allocates new resources to finance the Banana Accompanying Measures for ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) countries. The Commission proposal, made in fact without the involvement of any branch of the budget authority, provides for an appropriation of EUR 75 million to be entered into the reserve pending the adoption of the relevant amending regulation. I am bound to point out that Parliament and Council have failed to reach an agreement over this matter. Parliament had, in fact, considered using the flexibility instrument, which has proved excellent for dealing with similar situations, because the funds in question are ready for mobilisation and have a legal foundation. Council, on the other hand, had a different idea, due to the reluctance of Member States to use the flexibility instrument, which led to an increase in their contributions as a consequence For these very reasons, the Committee on Budgets acknowledged the impossibility of reaching an agreement over the 2010 budget.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The EU has always focused on helping developing countries, particularly the ACP countries. The specific case that is being handled in this amending budget proposal is that of the ACP banana-producing countries. This special aid takes the form of the liberalisation of the banana trade between the EU and 11 Latin American banana-producing countries. This kind of aid is, in our opinion, better and more effective than direct aid whereby funds are applied without discretion. By helping the banana sector in these countries, we are helping them develop their economy, create jobs and fight poverty.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) The thinking is that, in order to overcome the economic crisis, as much money as possible should be made available to fund the EU’s priorities for 2010. This was made possible by reallocating budget funds. Financial support for accompanying measures for the banana sector were not envisaged when the current multiannual financial framework was being drawn up.

To cushion trade liberalisation at the WTO level and the associated reduction in most favoured nation status tariffs, we are told that EU financial support for ACP countries that supply bananas is now to be maintained. Especially in times in which the EU itself is wrestling with the economic crisis, this kind of utilisation of the flexibility instrument must be rejected.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – Due to changing trade arrangements, notably the liberalisation of trade within the WTO, the reduction of the preferential margin for ACP banana-exporting countries has had a negative impact.

The European Commission proposes therefore to support the main ACP banana-exporting countries by establishing Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) with a budget of EUR 190 million over 4 years (2010-2013). The objective of this assistance is to help ACP banana exporters to launch adjustment programmes. Although the banana question is a long-standing issue, financing the BAM remains problematic.

The Commission and the Council did not integrate it into Heading 4 of the multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2007-2013, and the Committee on Development considers that the proposal is not compatible with the ceiling for Heading 4 of the MFF and asks the Commission to make substantial amendments or replace it with another text.

 
  
  

Draft general budget of the European Union – 2011 financial year

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) I am pleased with the 2011 draft budget, which is being discussed today, as it dwells precisely on the stated priorities. For the first time, Parliament is on an equal footing with the Council on these matters. This is the first budget following the Treaty of Lisbon. For this reason, and due to the crisis that Europe is experiencing, it is important that the reconciliation process is successful. It is vital that the EU is given a budget for the implementation of priority areas and the new powers that were bestowed upon it by the treaty. It is important to fight for our convictions and for a budget that is visionary in a time of crisis. Parliament’s proposal reflects this ambition. On the other hand, the values proposed by the Council mirror the austerity of budgets adopted at a national level within the EU. The EU, however, must have the ability to react to policy changes caused by major challenges. The EU has a duty to present an ambitious European budget which can assist economic recovery. Only by strengthening areas such as science and innovation, and by contributing to economic growth and to more and better jobs, can we make Europe a more attractive place to live and work.

 
  
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  Ole Christensen, Dan Jørgensen, Christel Schaldemose and Britta Thomsen (S&D), in writing. (DA) We, the Danish Social Democrats in the European Parliament, have voted in favour of Amendments 700, 701 and 706 to the budget. We have done so, even though the comments contain a passage stating that the EU should move towards a low carbon economy. We are well aware that the supporters of nuclear power are attempting to use this term to conceal the fact that they are really talking about an economy in which nuclear power plays a prominent role as a source of energy. We would like to stress that we believe it to be a very bad idea to spend EU resources on nuclear power, and it is with this proviso that we voted in favour of the amendment.

 
  
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  Anne E. Jensen (ALDE), in writing. (DA) In the vote on the EU’s 2011 budget, the Danish Liberal Party voted against a number of amendments relating to the removal of money for export refunds. The expenditure for export refunds is determined by law and will therefore be paid regardless of what amount is specified in the budget. However, if the expenditure is not specified in the EU budget it will have to be paid out by the individual Member States. At a time when the national budgets are being cut back, it would be economically irresponsible to burden the Member States with this significant additional expenditure. The Danish Liberal Party is pleased about the considerable reduction in the EU’s export subsidies in recent years and will continue to work to bring about a change in the underlying legislation so that the phase-out can continue. The Danish Liberal Party also voted against a statement that prevents the payment of a special male bovine premium for bulls used for bullfighting.

The reason why the Danish Liberal Party voted against this proposal is that this premium is only paid in Denmark, Sweden and Slovenia, where, as we know, bullfighting does not happen. Finally, the Danish Liberal Party voted against allocating DKK 300 million to a European dairy fund. Dairy prices have risen over the last year and, against that background, the Commission has concluded that, under the current rules, it will not be possible for money to be paid out from such a fund.

 
  
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  Véronique Mathieu (PPE), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of the amendment on the budget which places a portion of the 2011 budget for the European Police College (CEPOL) in reserve. I welcome the vote in plenary which, with 611 votes for, 38 against and 6 abstentions, strengthens Parliament’s position on CEPOL. Indeed, Parliament will release the appropriations set aside if it receives satisfactory information from the agency on the follow-up to the 2008 discharge.

These requirements are clear: inform Parliament of the results of the OLAF inquiry; publish the list of members of the Governing Board; provide a final external auditor’s report on the appropriations used to finance private expenditure; and ensure that changes are made within the Governing Board in order to avoid a repeat of this situation in the future. I very much hope that CEPOL will react swiftly and provide evidence of its willingness to cooperate fully with Parliament.

 
  
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  Marit Paulsen, Olle Schmidt and Cecilia Wikström (ALDE), in writing. (SV) A strong and modern Europe needs a future- and growth-oriented budget, while, at the same time, the economic situation demands reflection and restraint. We have therefore chosen to keep to a budget-restrictive line with the focus on broad investments in research, development and innovation that create growth and jobs in accordance with the Europe 2020 strategy. Since we want to see a Europe that is sustainable from the point of view of the economy, social matters and the climate, we voted in favour of investments in the environment and in human capital and control of the financial markets, but always within the bounds of existing resources.

An unjustifiably large proportion of the budget is still utilised for the EU’s agricultural policy, and tomorrow’s challenges will not be met by applying yesterday’s policy. We therefore voted against the proposed dairy fund of EUR 300 million and our own proposal to abolish the EU’s export subsidies for agricultural products, for example, as well as subsidies for tobacco cultivation. Since everyone has to do their bit in these difficult economic times, we also voted in favour of reducing the EU’s administration costs.

 
  
  

Report: Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska, Helga Trüpel (A7-0284/2010)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) In view of the fragile recovery of the euro area and the weak public finances in many Member States, if the budget is used wisely, it can stimulate economic recovery, but it is necessary to know how to make the most of it. With regard to citizens, it is worth noting the increase within the Competitiveness for growth and employment heading and the ‘Cohesion for growth and employment’ heading, although there is a reduction for education and training. There is a notable increase in the European Social Fund (ESF), but it is regrettable that only 1.4% of the funds are earmarked for the implementation of social policy, in which health sees a reduction of EUR 15.77 million in relation to 2010. In the field of regional development, there is an increase of about 3.2%, which is considered essential. Regarding agriculture, it is worth noting the extreme volatility of the dairy sector, highlighting the need for a permanent approach to address this issue, namely, through a fund for the dairy sector. With regard to fisheries, there is a regrettable reduction in the allocations to the common fisheries policy (CFP).

 
  
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  Charalampos Angourakis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) The EU budget for 2011 is designed to underpin the profitability of big business and the savage attack by the monopolies and bourgeois governments on workers’ labour and social rights. It provides even more hot money, subsidies and facilities to monopoly groups, in addition to the 5 trillion or so already given to them by national bourgeois governments, in order to bolster their position in the inexorable competition between the imperialists, with a clear view to reviving the capitalist system. Its basic approach is, on the one hand, to give out money to capital and, on the other, to slash any – already paltry – spending on workers, small commercial and handicraft enterprises, poor medium-sized farm holdings and young people, and to provide even more money for imperialist intervention by the EU and for the mechanisms which it uses to repress and persecute the people.

The first budget approved by the European Parliament, with its allegedly enhanced powers under the Treaty of Lisbon, is worthy of its reactionary nature. It proves once again that the European Parliament is faithfully serving the needs and interests of the monopolies and is deeply hostile to the workers and grassroots needs. The working and grassroots class movement needs to step up its fight, so that the workers do not pay the price for the capitalist crisis.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward, Brian Crowley and Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE), in writing. (GA) There has been increasing volatility in international dairy markets in recent years. The EUR 300 million of exceptional funding given to the dairy sector in the 2010 budget was especially beneficial for dairy farmers, who were suffering greatly because of the crisis. We voted in favour of a new budget line, so that there would be a dairy fund to support innovation, diversification and restructuring and to increase the bargaining capacity of dairy farmers in order that imbalances in the food supply chain could be addressed. In addition, we welcome what the report says on the support being given to the School Milk Scheme, and the Commission’s proposal in relation to increasing the funding of this scheme and the funding of the School Fruit Scheme.

The aim of the common agricultural policy is to ensure the security of the food supply, to protect the environment and biodiversity, and ensure a proper income for farmers. In this regard, we welcome what the report says about asking the Commission to include a cash buffer in the 2011 budget lest there be increased market volatility in 2011, to reduce red tape, and to improve and clarify access to funding.

 
  
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  George Becali (NI), in writing. (RO) I agree with my fellow Members who do not support the budget reductions proposed by the Council. The best argument against this is the situation of the Member States which have proceeded with this action domestically. I am referring in particular to Romania. The pressure exerted on consumption by restricting it has not brought us out of the crisis, but has actually created unprecedented social pressure. I agree then with the EUR 300 million increase in the milk fund. I have adopted the same stance in support of additional financial allocations for this product throughout the entire period of the European crisis. I strongly support the idea of the European stabilisation mechanism and the need for the two new budgetary lines created to be specific, with figures provided and not blank, as is the case now, so that this European intervention instrument can become a reality rather than just a theory. I hope that Parliament’s viewpoint will be respected during the conciliation, that an agreement will be reached with the Council and that we will be able to vote ‘yes’ in November to the 2011 EU budget.

 
  
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  Zuzana Brzobohatá (S&D), in writing. (CS) The European Parliament, for the first time in its history, has discussed the draft general budget of the European Union for 2011 according to the new rules under the Treaty of Lisbon. A number of changes that Parliament’s plenary has made clearly show that the degree of control and the democratic functioning of the European Union has increased. With regard to the improvement of democratic procedures, but also with regard to the structure of the budget, I supported this proposal.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the Parliament resolution as I agree with Parliament’s horizontal priorities for 2011 in the areas of youth, education and mobility, which require, under the various policies, specific cross-sector investment as a means of promoting growth and development in the EU. I agree with the proposed increase in funding for all programmes related to these priorities, namely the Lifelong Learning, PESSOA and Erasmus Mundus programmes. I also agree that the mobility of youth employment is an essential tool for ensuring the development of a competitive and dynamic labour market in Europe, and as such, it needs to be strengthened. I welcome the increase in funding for the European Employment Service and therefore strongly support the launch of the preparatory action ‘Your First Job Abroad’, which aims to help young people enter the labour market or gain access to skilled jobs in another Member State as a first step towards a specific non-academic programme for the mobility of young people.

 
  
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  Françoise Castex (S&D), in writing. (FR) This budget does not measure up to what the European Union needs for it to come out of the recession, bring about recovery and face up to its responsibilities in terms of solidarity. In this respect, I regret the fact that the proposal by the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament for creating a line of ‘own resources’ funded by a tax on financial transactions was quite simply rejected by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats). This inconsistency between what the right says and does is outrageous given that they have been saying for months to citizens and to the media that they support such a tax. However, when it comes to voting, and when the European Parliament has the power to make it happen, these are the very people who want to see this proposal buried. While the EU is expanding, and more and more powers are being entrusted to it, the resources at its disposal are dwindling. This is a bad signal for the recovery of growth and employment in Europe, in general, and for European citizens, in particular.

 
  
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  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, Christofer Fjellner, Gunnar Hökmark and Anna Ibrisagic (PPE), in writing. (SV) We would like the EU’s priorities for the budget to be focused more on the future, increased competitiveness, investments in infrastructure and research, rather than propping up agricultural policy. We have today adhered to our priorities by voting for legal certainty, increased appropriations for research and more money for climate measures, but also for a reduction in appropriations for agricultural subsidies, export subsidies, tobacco cultivation and dairy funds. Even though it did not contain all of the priorities that we would have liked to have seen, we have, of course, voted in favour of the EU budget for 2011.

 
  
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  Marielle De Sarnez (ALDE), in writing. (FR) We have just adopted the 2011 budget that the European Parliament wanted. This vote has enabled us to reaffirm our priorities towards the poorest, for whom a EUR 100 million package has been requested, and also towards dairy producers for whom we would like to see the milk fund continue.

Struggling businesses should also carry on receiving support from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund which should be permanent and have its own budget. Finally, we would like to see the European budget be given its own resources and a tax on financial transactions finally introduced.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE), in writing. (FR) At a time when States, local communities, taxpayers and businesses are accepting financial sacrifices, the Union cannot exempt itself from this virtuous process. Disproportionate increases in the Union budget, which some wish to see, are not acceptable. That does not mean that the time has come to cut strategically essential expenditure, such as the common agricultural policy, thanks to which we enjoy independence in terms of foodstuffs and benefit from a source of exports (and hence of earnings).

On the other hand, this would be a good time to question the contribution derogations enjoyed by certain States for historical reasons, and which have no grounds to exist today. The idea of a European tax cannot be contemplated in the present context: the fiscal pressure bearing on Member States should be reduced first.

 
  
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  Philippe de Villiers (EFD), in writing. (FR) The European Parliament has spoken on the draft legislative resolution on the Council’s position on the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2011.

The European Parliament’s examination of the general budget of the European Union has always provided an opportunity to see more clearly how this Union’s powers have been extended over the years and, vice versa, how the Member States’ sovereignty has been lost.

This report lays open the fiscal pressure that will be brought to bear on taxpayers. Even though citizens’ disillusionment with the European Union is clear, the latter is still increasing its budget by 6% to finance policies that it has arrogated to itself. Why this increase, when 10% to 15% of resources remain unused and the Commission is demanding restraint in all Member States?

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI), in writing. – I believe any proposal to increase the EU budget to be unacceptable, on the basis that I cannot justify to my constituents increasing EU spending by nearly 6% in 2011. Today, the UK Chancellor is outlining drastic public sector cuts – cuts that the EU have urged Member States to make. Yet, at the same time, the same EU deems it appropriate that the budget of this place increases by 6%. Do as I say, not as I do, seems to be official EU policy. I find that unacceptable.

I could not look my constituents in the eye, some who will undoubtedly lose their jobs as a result of cuts in UK spending, and say that MEPs spent even more of their money wisely – and remember it is their money – by boosting the coffers of the EEAS, Europol and regulation of financial services. And I certainly could not justify increasing the entertainment budget of this place either. That is why I voted against this budget. It is for others to justify why they endorsed it.

 
  
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  Lena Ek (ALDE), in writing. (SV) A strong and modern Europe needs a future- and growth-oriented budget while, at the same time, the economic situation demands reflection and restraint. I have therefore chosen to keep to a budget-restrictive line and have focused on broad investments in research, development and innovation that create growth and jobs in accordance with the Europe 2020 strategy. Since I want to see a Europe that is sustainable from the point of view of the economy, social matters and the climate, I therefore voted in favour of investments in the environment, in individuals and in control of the financial markets, but always within the bounds of existing resources.

A large proportion of the budget goes to the EU’s agricultural policy. Unfortunately, the current structure of the common agricultural policy is rarely focused on meeting the challenges of the future. Thriving rural areas are very important. However, continuing with export subsidies and subsidies for tobacco cultivation are not the right way to go. What we need instead are reasonable conditions for food production in Europe, decent animal protection and incentives for farmers to produce green energy. Since everyone has to do their bit in these difficult economic times, I also voted in favour of reducing the EU’s administration costs.

 
  
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  Göran Färm, Anna Hedh, Olle Ludvigsson and Marita Ulvskog (S&D), in writing. (SV) We Swedish Social Democrats have today voted in favour of the draft EU budget for 2011. It is a restrained budget, but it also contains necessary investments in research, energy and initiatives for young people, and it enables the establishment of the EU’s new External Action Service and new authorities for financial supervision.

However, it is also a budget in which many of the EU’s new priorities lack reasonable financing, for example, the EU’s new strategy for growth and employment (EU 2020), climate policy and the EU’s foreign policy and aid policy, particularly the aid for Palestine.

In order to keep the budget down, we proposed more cuts in the EU’s agricultural aid, but this was rejected in the vote. We also voted for an examination of the system of the EU’s own resources, including a tax on financial transactions. Irrespective of the form that a new system for the EU’s revenue might take, it must be budget neutral and respect the Member States’ competence in the sphere of taxation.

With regard to Parliament’s own budget, we believe that those committees that are gaining a heavier workload as a result of the Treaty of Lisbon need to be strengthened. This justifies an increase in staff for Parliament’s and the groups’ secretariats. However, we do not believe that MEPs need more staff. Parliament has now decided to maintain the appropriations for an increase in the assistants allowance in reserve, and this should not be released unless all conditions are met. We would have preferred to have seen Parliament’s resources being increased by means of redistributions and measures to increase efficiency, rather than increasing the total budget.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The EU budget is vital for the development of EU activities, and, especially in times of crisis, for the effective allocation of funds relating to cohesion policy.

I believe that the Council should not reduce these funds arbitrarily, as observed for priorities such as funds allocated to innovation, and for objectives of growth and competitiveness. The Council has cut commitment appropriations by 0.55% and payment appropriations by 2.77%, approving a final budget of EUR 141.8 billion for commitment appropriations and EUR 126.5 billion for payment appropriations, which may be especially critical if it impacts on European growth and competitiveness.

I therefore support Parliament’s maintaining of the initial funding allocated to these areas.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the distinction between compulsory expenditure and non-compulsory expenditure has been suppressed, which means that Parliament and the Council are becoming jointly responsible for all EU spending, and that they decide upon it together. In addition, the annual budgetary process is becoming a special legislative procedure with the budget approved through a regulation, which is liable to be seen as a special codecision procedure or, to avoid confusion, as a joint decision by Parliament and the Council. The 2011 budget which Parliament is proposing is ambitious, intelligent and respects the commitments which it has taken on in a rigorous and realistic way. We are making a priority of policies concerning young people, education, mobility, training, research, competitiveness and innovation. I would like to emphasise the preparatory action in which I was personally involved: ‘Your First Job Abroad’. This will boost the mobility of young people in the EU and help to combat unemployment. This EU budget continues to amount to about 1% of gross national income. This clearly demonstrates the need to revise the multiannual financial framework, given the tight margins for its headings, and particularly for headings 1A, 3B and 4. It is also clear that a debate urgently needs to take place on the necessity of new resources for the Union budget.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We agree with the criticisms made of the arbitrary cuts and reductions effected by the Council on the draft budget, leaving it almost EUR 7 billion lower in 2011 than was agreed in the multiannual financial framework (MFF) 2007-2013. This is all the more unacceptable as the sum agreed in the MFF is already an extremely small amount, which compromises any economic and social cohesion right from the start. Hence, it accentuates the damaging effects of the policies that the EU has been pursuing.

We are, therefore, also of the opinion that a substantial reassessment of the budget is absolutely necessary, along with an immediate review of the maximum limits of the current MFF. However, this criticism cannot lead us to accept the intention of ‘lisbonising’ the budget that is mentioned in the report which would keep it subservient to the Treaty of Lisbon’s fundamental pillars: neoliberalism, federalism and militarism. In other words, essentially keeping it subservient to the same policies that caused the profound crisis that the workers and peoples of Europe are currently facing. What is needed – starting with the necessary reinforcement of the Union budget, based on contributions from the Member States in proportion to their gross national income – is a break with these policies and a genuine commitment to cohesion, social progress and environmental conservation.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. (FR) The Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December last year. It confers new powers on the European Union: hence, new opportunities for spending money. No one or hardly anyone here has the decency to highlight that there is something scandalous about asking for an increase in resources allocated to the European Union or the creation of a new tax when Member States are being ordered to practise austerity and to slash their social protection.

In France, Europe has an enormous direct cost: EUR 8 billion per year, a figure that is increasing all the time. In other words, it accounts for a major part of the social security deficit, for example. The indirect cost is even greater, in terms of unemployment, weak growth, relocations, and so on, linked to European policies. The European budget is not complementary to national budgets; it competes with and raids them. With structural policy cofinancing systems, which are nothing other than a sprinkling of patronage, it is also an incitement to spending. An aggravating circumstance is this: for 15 years, the European Court of Auditors has been unable to approve the management by the Commission of these tens of billions of euro. I believe it is time to have done with all this.

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing. (FR) I supported the European Parliament resolution on the draft general budget of the EU for 2011. If we want to be able to take on the political priorities of the European Union, the new expenditure made necessary by the economic crisis and the new powers conferred by the Treaty of Lisbon, we must support an ambitious draft budget, capable of delivering the investments required for more jobs and a return to sustainable growth, or, in other words, a budget that lives up to the Europe that we want.

The Council would like to reduce the Union’s budget, because Member States are facing substantial deficits. That is why we have introduced a new budget heading for the Union’s own resources, so that the budget does not depend so much on national contributions. We deplore the fact that the amendment calling for the establishment of a tax on financial transactions has once more been rejected by the right.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Köstinger (PPE), in writing. (DE) I support the European Parliament’s proposals for the draft 2011 budget. The important political areas and the individual opinions have been taken into account in the report. Parliament acknowledges that in future, the European Union cannot manage to fulfil its extensive and varied tasks with fewer financial resources. That applies, above all, to agriculture. The Opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on the 2011 budget already expressed the concern that, in the planning and utilisation of unused resources, the Commission’s assumptions are too optimistic. Large-scale European research projects are financially coupled to recoveries, the amount of which no one knows in advance. The Commission is called on to ensure the long-term financing of research and development in future and to draw up precise financing plans. Financial recoveries from the agricultural pot should be used for their original purpose.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing. (RO) I voted for this report as the European Parliament identifies the most important priorities in its policies in the areas of young people, education and mobility. I, too, have maintained on a number of occasions that they are vital and necessary components of the EU economic recovery strategy and the Europe 2020 strategy. Young people, education and mobility require specific cross-sector investments within the suitable policies in order to promote the EU’s growth and development.

I therefore support the need to increase the loans for all the programmes relating to these priorities, such as ‘Lifelong learning’, the ‘People’ programme and Erasmus Mundus. It is also just as important to increase the loans for the European network of employment services. To this end, I support the launch of the preparatory action ‘Your first EURES Job’, which aims to help young people enter the job market or access specialised jobs in another Member State, as a first step towards a specific non-academic youth mobility programme.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – On individual votes, I voted against provisions which I believe have negative consequences for EU citizens and people in developing countries. This includes EU funding for tobacco production, as well as EU agricultural export subsidies which harm developing countries. I also voted against increases in budget lines relating to expenses, travel and administrative costs. However, I welcome the positive elements of the Parliament's first reading, including funding for economic development in our regions, support for crucial research and development and increased overseas aid in line with the UK’s target to increase development assistance. I believe the EU budget is needed to provide long-term stability against the severe austerity measures which are being introduced by national governments in Europe. While national governments implement drastic cuts, in some cases, with a short-term vision, the EU budget can provide stability and long-term planning to help – through funds such as the structural funds and cohesion funds – create jobs, provide job training and boost European economies through the recovery, particularly by providing structural funds to deprived areas hit the hardest.

 
  
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  Barbara Matera (PPE), in writing. (IT) For the first time since the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force, the European budget has been adopted on a single reading. This is also the first time that Parliament has exercised greater decision making impact than Council. This increased power must, however, be accompanied by a high sense of responsibility and realism imposed by the persistent economic crisis.

In this regard, the Committee on Budgets has sent out a clear signal by opting to respect the margins imposed by the current financial situation and implementing a tough policy based on priorities to encourage growth with the emphasis on research, innovation and young people. I welcome this Chamber’s decision to follow the guidelines of the Committee on Budgets and the Member States, which are often forced into debt following excessive EU cash advances.

The Union Budget must nevertheless be reconsidered in the light of the new powers arising from the Treaty of Lisbon and the need for own resources. These matters require firmness during conciliation in order to provide adequate financial support to such an ambitious project as the EU 2020 strategy.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The entry into force of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) has strengthened EU policies and created new areas of competence – notably, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), competitiveness and innovation, space, tourism, the fight against climate change, social policy, energy policy, justice and internal affairs. These new powers presuppose a budget that will allow them to be put into practice and thus require all bodies with budgetary authority to be coherent and consistent with respect to their increased financial powers. We therefore have to provide the Community budget with the necessary funds to make it able to achieve the objectives outlined for 2014, so that the Europe 2020 strategy is not compromised. Of course, in this situation of crisis, the Member States are putting up some resistance to the increase in contributions, but they must acknowledge the intentions of the EU and the need not to jeopardise everything that has been achieved in terms of cohesion and integration.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) One of the things that the Treaty of Lisbon changed was the financial structures of the EU, in particular, the multiannual financial framework (MFF) and the annual budgetary procedure. The treaty gives the MFF binding legal status and states that it is to be laid down by the Council, acting unanimously after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. There is no longer a distinction to be made between mandatory and non-mandatory expenditure, for decisions on which both budgetary authorities are now jointly responsible, with the process being simplified accordingly. The fact that Parliament now has the right of codecision on the entire budget reinforces democratic control.

Some further steps to simplify the bureaucracy are also envisaged. It is important that the European Parliament, as the EU’s only directly elected institution, has its budgetary rights strengthened so that it can influence important EU decisions such as the demand for cost savings in the new External Action Service. However, I cannot support tendencies to centralise.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the draft budget because I approve of its general position and its contents. I agree with the re-established ceilings in relation to the cuts made by the Council. I believe that this vote is extremely important and I applaud the position expressed by Parliament, which really makes use of the new prerogatives. Indeed, thanks to the new budget procedure brought in by the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, Parliament can assert its importance and its powers in relation to the Council, defending a strong and ambitious budget, which, at the same time, is tough, in awareness of the fact that in order to relaunch the economy of the European Union – sorely tested by the recent economic and financial crisis – important investments in key sectors such as research and technological innovation are required.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE), in writing. (EL) The initial draft budget tabled before the Committee on Culture and Education by the Committee on Budgets fell short in that it failed to adopt ambitious measures to achieve the primary targets of the EU 2020 strategy in education, training and mobility. To be precise, the competent committee initially adopted the position of the Commission and the Council and proposed a freeze on appropriations for lifelong learning, education and young entrepreneurship programmes. However, it is comforting that, in the wake of the opposition and concerns expressed by the members of the Committee on Culture and Education on the downgrading of policies on education and training, especially at a time when unemployment is on the rise and is causing problems in numerous Member States of the European Union, the Committee on Budgets tabled the necessary amendments, which I supported, and increased the initial planned appropriations (for example, in the case of Article 150202 on lifelong learning programmes).

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the Parliament resolution as I agree with Parliament’s horizontal priorities for 2011, especially in the areas of youth, education and mobility, which require, under the various policies, specific investment between sectors as a means of promoting growth and development for the EU. I agree with the proposed increase in funding for all programmes related to these priorities, namely, the Lifelong Learning, PESSOA and Erasmus Mundus programmes.

I also believe that the mobility of youth employment is an essential tool for ensuring the development of a competitive and dynamic labour market in Europe, and that as such, it needs to be strengthened. I therefore welcome the increase in funding for the European Employment Service and strongly support the launch of the preparatory action ‘Your First Job Abroad’, which aims to help young people enter the labour market or gain access to skilled jobs in another Member State, as a first step towards a specific non-academic programme for the mobility of young people.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing. (FR) EUR 142 650 billion – that is the budget for the financial year 2011, adopted by the European Parliament at midday today. A tight budget, which is virtually identical to that proposed by the European Commission and adopted against a background of austerity. However, we all know that Europe cannot do more and better with less money.

That is why I, along with several other Members and also the Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget, Mr Lewandowski, am entering a plea for the European Union to award itself its own resources. A financial mechanism that would guarantee autonomy and room for manoeuvre with regard to the Member States which, crisis situation or no, have long since abandoned the idea of giving Europe the means for its ambitions. I see at least two reasons for not cutting back on the European budget.

The first derives from the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and the new powers for Europe in the fields of foreign policy, energy, financial supervision, to mention only a few. The second relates to the new 2020 strategy, which is intended to put Europe back on the track to sustainable growth, major projects and innovation. New challenges and powers which will need to be well funded. This leads us back to the one and only solution – direct financing of the European Union.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – This year’s budget debate again underlines the need to agree a meaningful system of own resources for the EU. The annual squabbling over the budgets between the European institutions leads to chaotic decision making and creates an acrimonious diversion, which could be so easily avoided through an own resources system, such as allocating part of the revenue from an EU financial transaction tax, a tax on aviation fuel or a carbon tax to fund the EU budget. Despite this, today’s vote broadly strikes a balance between responding to the extra demands created by the Lisbon Treaty, whilst limiting the growth in the EU budgets, in response to current budgetary difficulties.

 
  
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  Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL) , in writing. (SV) I have chosen to abstain in respect of the decision regarding Parliament’s draft budget. The enhancement of the Daphne programme dealing with violence against women is gratifying. I am also pleased that Parliament is rejecting the Commission’s and the Council’s proposal for cuts in financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority. However, I would also like to point out that I think that Parliament is acting irresponsibly by granting the EU system and itself such large sums in the form of programmes and subsidies and aid for bureaucracy, while the Member States are being forced into making brutal cuts in order to meet the requirements of the Stability Pact – in other words, the neoliberal pact that the majority of Parliament wholeheartedly supports.

The main winner is agriculture, particularly the establishment of a dairy fund of EUR 300 million. This decision will be embarrassingly difficult for us MEPs to explain to those struggling people who are demonstrating in one country after the next. Why should they suffer while the EU system’s budget expenditure is completely unaffected by reality?

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) This is the first EU budget that has been voted upon in accordance with the rules of the Treaty of Lisbon at the very first reading. Although some sensitive points still remain for conciliation which deal with issues that I consider to be of the utmost importance, such as an allocation for cohesion and agriculture, I welcome this proposal.

The approved document restores the Commission’s initial proposal relating to the section on cohesion for growth and employment after the Council had reduced the amount allocated. Although the amount for 2011 is already set out in the multiannual financial framework (MFF) with an upper limit of EUR 50.65 billion at current prices, it is worth noting that the rapporteur states that this heading will require a higher level of payments.

I also welcome the allocations in the competitiveness section for growth and employment, which includes provision for funding for most of Parliament’s proposals, such as those relating to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and programmes for young people, education and mobility.

I am voting in favour of this document, although it does not include the proposals made by the European People’s Party (EPP) on intervention measures on the storage of cereals, milk and dairy products and powdered milk, which were unfortunately rejected by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI).

 
  
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  Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein (PPE), in writing.(PL) Abstaining from voting is not a solution. Those who are absent are always in the wrong. I think that in the resolution as a whole, there are many more good measures than those which are of less value. We need the European External Action Service. It should begin its work as soon as possible, to increase Europe’s importance in the world.

The resolution which has been adopted says that all Member States will be represented in the service. Now we have to take care that this does really happen. This creates confidence in the process of establishing the External Action Service. It should be remembered that it was on mutual trust that the European Union was built, and that Poland has greatly benefited from this. I am going to be watching the process very carefully.

 
  
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  Derek Vaughan (S&D), in writing. – I welcome the positive elements of the 2011 budget, which include funding for economic development in Wales, support for research and development, and overseas aid. I recognise that extra expenditure resulting from the European External Action Service and new European supervisory authorities is required and is supported by all Member States, including the UK, in the Council. However, I am concerned about expenditure in a number of areas that do not reflect value for money or have negative consequences for EU citizens and people in developing countries. This includes EU funding for alcohol and tobacco production, which conflicts with the EU’s health objectives, and EU agricultural export subsidies, which harm developing countries, as well as increases in budget lines relating to expenses, travel, publications and other administrative costs. In the current economic environment, it is more important than ever to justify expenditure on our priorities by tackling all wasteful and excessive spending in other sectors. I did not feel able to oppose this budget. During challenging economic times, voting against vital funding for a wide range of priorities would be counterproductive. However, I also believe that some increases were not justified and therefore I took the decision to abstain.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI), in writing. (DE) The key points in the EU budget for 2011 are investment in training, research and innovation – a necessity given the current situation on the labour market. The reduction in current unemployment in Europe needs to be at the heart of every decision – including when it comes to actually implementing the ambitious Europe 2020 targets. Prioritising youth in connection with the training and mobility programmes is a very worthwhile investment, with good opportunities for development for the labour market. There are some increases, but also cuts – the budget is a compromise, like every multi-party decision. Redirecting money into nuclear research, however, cannot be in the interests of the people of Europe and this money would be better spent, for example, on renewable energy sources.

 
  
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  Glenis Willmott (S&D), in writing. – The EPLP welcomes the positive elements in the Parliament’s first reading position, including funding for economic development in our regions, support for crucial research and development and increased overseas aid in line with the UK’s target to increase total overseas development assistance. We also recognise that extra expenditure resulting from the European External Action Service and the new European supervisory authorities is essential to implement these important new activities, and is supported by all Member States, including the UK, in the Council. However, we are deeply concerned about expenditure in a number of areas that do not reflect value for money or have negative consequences for EU citizens and people in developing countries. This includes EU funding for alcohol and tobacco production, which conflicts with the EU’s health objectives, and EU agricultural export subsidies which harm developing countries, as well as increases in budget lines relating to expenses, travel, publications and other administrative costs. In the current economic environment, it is more important than ever to justify expenditure on our priorities by tackling all wasteful and excessive spending in other sectors. The EPLP voted against the final budget resolution at this stage, to send a clear message ahead of negotiations between the institutions.

 
  
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  Artur Zasada (PPE), in writing. (PL) I have great pleasure in congratulating the rapporteur, Mrs Jędrzejewska, on her excellently prepared report. Today, for the first time, we have adopted an EU budget under the provision set out in the Treaty of Lisbon and, also for the first time, we have not exceeded the financial limits set out in the current financial perspective. I believe that the solutions proposed by Mrs Jędrzejewska express a realistic and pragmatic approach at a difficult time of economic crisis. I am also pleased to note that the budget adopted today strengthens Parliament’s priorities in financial terms.

 
  
  

Report: Edite Estrela (A7-0032/2010)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) The extension of maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks should be considered a fundamental right. This new period should not be seen as a threat, even taking into account the introduction of rights for fathers. Its implications for the legislative framework of the different Member States are negligible, including their impact on the economy, when, for instance, we consider the possibility of creating temporary work vacancies at a European level which promote professional mobility, which can stimulate the sharing of best practice and the continuation of the professional duties of women on maternity leave. The guarantee of a monthly salary of 100% while on maternity leave, along with the extension of the period prohibiting dismissal from six months to a year should not be called into question, taking into account both the demographic concerns and the current economic climate. Other simple yet significant measures are, for example, the possibility of flexible working hours in the period following maternity leave, preventive measures with regard to health and safety, and the extension of these rights to couples who adopt children, thus promoting a fairer legal framework.

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli (PPE), in writing. (IT) Unfortunately, in Europe, the birth rate varies from country to country and often depends not only on the guarantee of rights being protected but also on the social services available to working mothers, such as nurseries, for example. We still have a lot to do to reconcile working and family life.

The maternity protection system in force in Italy is, on the whole, in line with the new parameters proposed in the directive, not only with regard to the number of weeks of compulsory maternity leave, but also with regard to the payment of 100% compensation to cover income during the period of absence. It is significant that the directive clearly introduces paternity leave: an important objective to guarantee equality of rights between men and women and strengthen the responsibilities shared between parents.

 
  
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  George Becali (NI), in writing. (RO) I agree with extending the period of maternity leave to a minimum of 20 weeks with full pay, while providing, however, a certain flexibility to the states which already have provisions for this kind of leave. Workers who take their maternity leave must receive their full salary, which is 100% of their salary in the last month they worked or the average of their monthly salaries. The amendments adopted will prevent pregnant women from being sacked from the start of their pregnancy up until six months after the end of their maternity leave. Furthermore, women must have the right to return to their job or a job with the same remuneration, professional category and career path as they had prior to going on maternity leave

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Bennahmias (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Extended maternity leave, improved working conditions ... women have been at the heart of the debate today in the European Parliament. Eighteen years after the first directive on pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth and/or are breastfeeding, the economic and demographic situation in Europe has certainly changed. We have therefore voted today in plenary to amend the legislation in force on maternity leave, in order to encourage the employment of women while enabling them to have a family in the best possible conditions.

Enabling women to reconcile their family life with their professional life, but also fulfilling gender equality objectives: that is what we are protecting today for all European women. The European Parliament has, by a majority, supported a fully paid 20-week period of maternity leave. We shall therefore now have to negotiate with Member States to reach a compromise on this text.

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE), in writing. (ES) If we had to give a title to the results of this initiative having found out the results of the vote, it would be Rebellion in the halls. Before the vote, we were aware of the resistance among Members from the various groups to adopting the extension of maternity leave to 20 weeks, the need to pay people in that situation 100% of their salary, extending the measures in the case of disabled children, and the inclusion of paternity leave. All the signs were that these measures would not be adopted, but that was not the case. The fact that many Members did not comply with their group’s voting lists made the miracle possible. Today, Parliament has lived up to the expectations of the men and women of Europe. This is also one more step forward along the road towards equality, which we are still a long way from achieving, but which we have to make a reality by working together as men and women.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I welcome the fact that following much anticipated discussions, today, the European Parliament approved this very important directive. On the basis of this new directive, the length of maternity leave will be extended from 14 to 20 weeks on full pay. Today, in order to solve as soon as possible the demographic problems we face due to the low birth rate and ageing society, we must share family commitments. Therefore, it is very important that this directive should lay down the right for men to take at least two weeks paternity leave. A child also has an undisputable right to bond with both parents. This proposal will allow us to create a better balance within families and will improve integration in the labour market. Parliament has shown that it can achieve the objectives laid down in the Europe 2020 strategy of enabling families to balance work and personal life better while striving for economic growth, welfare, competitiveness and gender equality. I really hope that this directive adopted by Parliament will also be approved by Council as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE), in writing. (RO) The EU is currently facing demographic problems caused by the falling birth rate and rise in the number of elderly people. Improving the provisions promoting a work-life balance is one of the ways which can be used to respond to this demographic decline. Gender stereotypes obviously persist in society, which pose an obstacle preventing women from accessing jobs, especially high quality jobs. Women are still regarded as being the principal carers of children and other dependants, which means that they are faced on many occasions with the need to choose between motherhood and a professional career.

Women are frequently seen as ‘high risk’, ‘second class’ or ‘unsuitable’ workers, given the strong likelihood of them getting pregnant and exercising the right to maternity leave. It is therefore fundamentally important that the new forms of leave do not reflect or confirm current stereotypes in society. Parents’ involvement in their children’s lives, from the very first months after they are born, is of paramount importance to the child’s healthy development from a physical, emotional and psychological perspective.

 
  
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  Vito Bonsignore (PPE), in writing. (IT) The birth rate in many Member States is still undoubtedly very low. The institutions must therefore encourage births by means of an appropriate family support policy. I voted in favour of Mrs Estrela’s report as it heads in this direction. I consider it right, in fact, that we should harmonise maternity rights between Member States (always taking into account first and foremost the health of the new mothers and their newborns) in order to avoid discrepancies and a reduction in the competitiveness of States that adopted advanced measures to protect motherhood some time ago.

In this regard, I appreciate the proposal to extend maternity leave to 18 weeks in all EU countries, a practice which is already in force in several Member States: in Italy, for example, twenty-one and a half weeks’ leave are granted. Lastly, I consider it essential to guarantee the right to resume the same job or be allocated an equivalent working position.

 
  
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  David Casa (PPE), in writing. – I am against the concept of 20 weeks at full pay and voted against that particular amendment. Nevertheless, I decided to vote in favour of the final text as amended because of the insertion of a clause that was negotiated by the PPE, allowing for a degree of flexibility during the last four weeks. I have thus decided to support my political group in the attainment of this compromise.

 
  
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  Françoise Castex (S&D), in writing. (FR) I am pleased that the European Parliament has made progress on this matter since the debate on the demographic challenge for which I was the rapporteur in 2007. This vote proves that it is still possible these days to achieve new social acquis: with mobilisation and political action we can protect the achievements of past victories, but also obtain new rights. Today, we have strengthened women’s rights, but also those of men, with this paternity leave. The latter represents a real change in attitudes and, over the years, will contribute to improving the allocation of roles between parents.

 
  
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  John Bufton, William (The Earl of) Dartmouth and Nigel Farage (EFD), in writing. – Regarding Amendment 9: UKIP voted in favour of this amendment which merely stated that ‘All parents have the right to care for their child’. UKIP by no means supports the legitimacy of this directive, as it should be for elected national governments to decide welfare and social policies. However, the UK Government is far too cavalier in taking children into state care, so voting in favour of this recital will be a shot across their bow. Regarding the proposal in general: UKIP do not accept the legitimacy of this directive as it should be for elected national governments to decide welfare and social policies. This directive will bring unbelievable costs to employers and the government, which we can ill afford at this time. This will also further the discrimination of women by making them even more costly to hire than they already are, especially for small businesses, which are the backbone of the UK economy. UKIP is furthermore sympathetic to parents with disabled children and those choosing to adopt. However, the EU has no right to create such rules on maternity and cannot be allowed the legitimacy to do so. UKIP voted against this directive to ensure that legislation is accountable through the ballot box and not through Brussels bureaucrats.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) I voted in favour of the report because it is very important for gender equality and to the defence of the rights of workers – men and women – in terms of maternity and paternity rights. This is an important step forward in defending and promoting women’s rights and equality in general in the workplace, given that, according to the report, ‘the vulnerability of pregnant workers and of workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding makes it necessary for them to be granted the right to maternity leave of at least 20 continuous weeks, allocated before and/or after confinement, and renders necessary the compulsory nature of maternity leave of at least six weeks allocated after confinement’.

I also voted in favour of the report on the basis of an additional, very important element in it: the recognition of the father’s right to two weeks’ paternity leave.

 
  
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  Derek Roland Clark and Paul Nuttall (EFD), in writing. – Regarding the proposal in general, UKIP do not accept the legitimacy of this directive as it should be for elected national governments to decide welfare and social policies. This directive will bring unbelievable costs to employers and the government, which we can ill afford at this time. This will also further the discrimination of women by making them even more costly to hire than they already are, especially for small businesses which are the backbone of the UK economy.

UKIP is furthermore sympathetic to parents with disabled children and those choosing to adopt. However, the EU has no right to create such rules on maternity and cannot be allowed the legitimacy to do so. UKIP voted against this directive to ensure that legislation is accountable through the ballot box and not through Brussels bureaucrats.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) This proposal aims to improve the conditions of security and health associated with parenthood. On this issue, I would argue that the asymmetries between men and women must be reduced, and that a balanced reconciliation of professional life with family and private life must be promoted. This will be the only way to promote parenthood with shared responsibilities. Starting from this presupposition, I agree with the rapporteur’s proposal and believe that extending maternity leave to 20 weeks, six of which must be after giving birth and which may be shared between the parents, would make it an appropriate period.

I also welcome the proposal included in the report that aims to guarantee payment of the full monthly wage during maternity leave, which is 100% of the last monthly salary or the average monthly salary. Finally, it would seem appropriate to me to apply the same measures in cases where a child younger than 12 years old is adopted, and to apply them to self-employed women.

I declare that I voted for this report for the reasons outlined above.

 
  
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  Lara Comi (PPE), in writing. (IT) Gender equality is often a slogan, an empty statement of rights that is not always accompanied by the shouldering of responsibilities and solid arguments. This draft directive, on the other hand, strikes a correct balance between the biological role of the woman and the rights owed to those who perform that role to the full. With demographic matters that are coming more and more to resemble an emergency and an economy that demands higher and higher female employment rates, these measures are a common sense response. Recognition of equality is complete when certain rights are also extended to fathers, allowing family undertakings to be shared in the most appropriate manner, and when flexibility of organisation is left up to each family.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D), in writing. (RO) I voted to improve the safety and health at work of pregnant workers out of respect for the principle of equal gender rights and non-discrimination based on gender, as well as to encourage women to become more involved in the labour market.

One of the upshots of this measure is to create a work-life balance for women. In addition, women need this legislative support to protect their health and children. Another important aspect of this measure, aimed at job security for women, is the ban on making them redundant during the period from the start of their pregnancy until at least six months after the end of their maternity leave. A salary ceiling has also been set for the maternity leave period, which again is intended to meet social security needs.

Last but not least, one crucial argument in support of this vote is to increase the birth rate, which is a particularly serious problem facing EU Member States.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing. (RO) According to the statistics, the birth rate is falling in the EU. This low birth rate, combined with an ageing population, will pose a real problem for us in the future in terms of paying for pensions and medical care charges in Europe. Families, particularly women, should not be penalised if they want to have children. Pregnant workers and workers who are breastfeeding must not carry out activities which, based on assessments, pose a risk of exposure to certain agents or particularly harmful working conditions that jeopardise the safety or health of these workers. This is why I support the notion of implementing measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. These measures must not put women at a disadvantage in the labour market or be detrimental to the directives on equal treatment for women and men.

 
  
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  Michel Dantin (PPE), in writing. (FR) France is one of the countries of the Union with the highest birth rates. This is due to a set of measures contained in an all-embracing family policy. The resolution as it stands after the votes on the amendments does not bring about any real improvement. On the contrary, it will throw everything into question because the budgetary burden of the measures cannot be borne at this time. Those are the reasons that led me to withhold approval from the text, which is, incidentally, well meaning.

 
  
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  Mário David (PPE), in writing. (PT) I broadly agree with the measures proposed in this report, as I believe that this issue is one of the major challenges that Europe will have to overcome in the coming decades: the ageing population. This is the case in Portugal, for example, where I see it at close hand. However, like other EU countries, the birth rate is not high enough to ensure that generations are replaced, and this harsh situation is jeopardising the future. I believe that more flexible policies with regard to maternity and paternity leave can help to reverse these trends. It is therefore vital to send families a consistent message of support for motherhood and fatherhood, with concrete measures for the better reconciliation of professional, private and family life. Meeting this challenge is vital in order to achieve the economic and social objectives set out in the Europe 2020 strategy and as a way of trying to reverse demographic ageing on our continent. In Portugal, too, maternity leave is already paid at 100% of earnings for 120 days. I would therefore argue that women’s salaries should be assured during maternity leave in the manner described in this report.

 
  
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  Luigi Ciriaco De Mita (PPE), in writing. (IT) The vote for a legislative motion for a resolution amending Directive 92/85/EEC was taken not only to support new and better measures for the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding but also, more generally, to support new measures to promote a better work-life balance. Even though the Italian legal system is more innovative, the increase in the number of weeks of maternity leave at European level represents a strong boost in favour of family assistance to newborn babies. The support for paternity leave is also a step in the same direction even though making this compulsory is not perhaps the best way to pursue the laudable aim of ensuring the greater effective presence of both parents at the most demanding time for the new household and ensuring the father is more aware and involved. Support for and extension of the rights of adopted children allows a reinforcement and, it is to be hoped, also a simplification of the adoption process. Finally, with a view to striking a better work-life balance, I feel it is also important to have supported the call to Member States to strengthen childhood services with care facilities for children up to the age of compulsory schooling.

 
  
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  Marielle De Sarnez (ALDE), in writing. (FR) The vote on the Estrela report on the rights of pregnant women and young mothers at work will make it possible to harmonise the length and pay of maternity leave with a minimum level. The European Parliament has chosen to have a strong position to negotiate with the Council and has therefore supported the principle of a 20-week period of leave paid at 100% (may I point out that in Sweden, maternity leave can be as long as 75 weeks, with 14 weeks exclusively for the mother, and the remaining can be shared with the father).

This is a strong gesture in favour of European parents and as a result, women and men will be helped in finding a better balance between family life and work life. It is now up to European governments to look into the budgetary possibility for taking on such a change and accepting it. In the end, it is likely that the minimum leave will be the one proposed by the European Commission and supported by the MODEM delegation, namely, an 18-week period of leave, which would be in line with recommendations from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE), in writing. (FR) I believe that this vote, which has passed by a large majority, is a strong signal that is being sent to the Council: in addition to the extension of maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks on full pay, we have voted in favour of the introduction of two weeks’ paternity leave. It is our duty to ensure that no one will have to choose to give up children for work or work for children.

What is more, I welcome the fact that Parliament has voted for measures that will allow adoptive mothers to be treated equally in law with birth mothers. This is a parliament that has, at last, given equal rights to adoptive mothers and biological mothers. Adoptive parents are parents in the full sense of the word and deserve to be treated as such. Legislation cannot continue to discriminate against this type of parenthood.

This is therefore a great day for the many families that are unable to reconcile their family life with their professional life. Furthermore, the difficult economic conditions were no reason to decide to leave all those families that also make a significant contribution to our society in the lurch for more decades to come.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE), in writing. (FR) Extending the period of maternity leave to 20 weeks on full pay is a false friend. Such a legislative measure will harm the employability of women in businesses, which will regard it as too great a burden to bear in the event of maternity. It will, furthermore, compromise a woman’s return to work in exactly the same position as she held before going on leave. Finally, opting for 100% remuneration over a long period represents a cost for social security systems (in a context in which the European institutions are calling strongly on States to reduce their budget deficits).

It is for these reasons that I have been unable to support this report, and why I consider that we should retain a sense of realism and allow Member States to keep a certain degree of flexibility on this matter.

 
  
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  Harlem Désir (S&D), in writing. (FR) Parliament has just voted at first reading for extending maternity leave to a minimum of 20 weeks all over Europe, paid at full salary, except for high earners, and the possibility for fathers to take at least two weeks’ leave following the birth of a child. This is a victory for the proponents of a social Europe and a step towards more equality between men and women in Europe.

A section of the right used the future cost of these measures as an excuse to reject this progress. Yet helping parents to reconcile family and work life will make it easier for parents to go back to work, will boost European birth rates and will safeguard the health of mothers and babies.

The left of Parliament, with Portuguese Socialist rapporteur Mrs Estrela, held strong, the European right was divided and the move towards progress won the day. The battle must now be won at the Council, where several governments are threatening to block this directive. Members of national parliaments should take this up and intervene with their government so that governments do not undo what the European Parliament is proposing for a Europe that protects its citizens’ rights.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI), in writing. – Whilst I support the rights of pregnant women, I cannot, in this current economic climate, support this report. The impact assessment estimate for the UK, if maternity leave is extended to 20 weeks, is almost GBP 2.5 billion per year on average. This would result in the cost of maternity leave in the UK doubling. Evidence shows that women are currently benefiting considerably from the provisions already in force within the UK, 9 out of 10 women taking the 20 weeks maternity leave, as well as 3 in 4 women taking all their paid leave. With such a high uptake, it is clear that more European red tape on top of the current legislation is unnecessary in the UK.

In addition, the proposed requirement for 20 weeks’ full pay would result in social regression. This is due to the fact that women on the highest salaries will receive the highest compensation. I fully support the need for adequate, flexible maternity leave, but I believe it is for the elected UK Government to decide, with an input from parents and their employers, how much our own economy can afford to give and how a maternity package is to be delivered.

 
  
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  Lena Ek, Marit Paulsen, Olle Schmidt and Cecilia Wikström (ALDE), in writing. (SV) Working to achieve a society in which men and women are equal is a matter of principle that is extremely important – no one should be discriminated against on account of being a parent. We should add that it is extremely important from a socio-economic perspective for women and men to be able to combine family and working life in order to achieve a high level of employment.

We therefore think it is regrettable that the report does not constitute a clear step forward for equality in Europe. It reflects an outdated view of equality where the mother is to take the main responsibility for the children instead of both parents sharing the responsibility. It is also wrong to propose, as the report does, that it be compulsory for mothers to be prohibited from working for six weeks after giving birth.

We have therefore chosen to vote in favour of those parts that we believe to be positive, such as the amendment that protects national systems that have more ambitious parental insurance, the increase in the minimum length of maternity leave and the inclusion of paternity leave in the directive. However, we abstained from voting on the report as a whole, as we believe that it is too vague, ambiguous and outdated. The main reason is the lack of a clear and unambiguous gender equality perspective.

 
  
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  Göran Färm, Anna Hedh, Olle Ludvigsson and Marita Ulvskog (S&D), in writing. (SV) We Swedish Social Democrats chose to support Mrs Estrela’s report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Directive 92/85/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding.

We would have liked the directive to focus on parental leave rather than maternity leave. We would also have liked it to be less detailed and more flexible – particularly as this is a minimum directive – for example, with regard to the level of remuneration and the time limit for the period immediately after confinement. However, we believe that the report is important in terms of improving the current directive, which provides very limited possibilities for combining work and parenthood in many EU Member States. With this decision, we now have a first bargaining offer, with regard to which the Council must adopt a position.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The Democratic and Social Centre – People’s Party (CDS-PP) has long seen the birth rate issue as a state priority and recognises that it is impossible to stimulate the birth rate without protecting parenting. The chapters dedicated to the family and the birth rate are not a new inclusion in our programmes. Likewise, our defence of the rights of mothers and fathers to raise a family without this being seen as an extra burden or a cause of work difficulties is nothing new.

Policies that support families and the birth rate, like those that we advocate, are, however, cross-sectional and are not confined to extending maternity leave. Nonetheless, this is a measure that we applaud, having advocated an extension of parental leave to six months in our 2009 government programme. That is why we would like to see the Socialist Party at our side in Parliament defending mothers and fathers. This would be a very different position from the one that this party has taken in national politics, where it is cutting child benefit, the reimbursement of medicine costs for the chronically ill and income tax deductions for spending on education and health, and where it is drastically increasing the tax burden on the public, particularly lower income families with children.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) The EU is facing a demographic challenge marked by low birth rates and an increasing proportion of elderly people. The improvement of provisions to promote a balance between professional and family life helps to address this demographic decline. In Portugal, the birth rate is not high enough to ensure that generations are replaced, and this situation is jeopardising the future. I would therefore argue that in order to counter this trend, improved health and safety should be encouraged for workers who are pregnant, who have recently given birth, or who are breastfeeding, which calls for the promotion of a balanced reconciliation of professional life with private and family life. I agree with the position of the rapporteur and with the changes introduced, such as the extension of the minimum period for maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks, the principle of pay equivalent to complete earnings, the establishment of health and safety requirements in the workplace, and the prohibition of dismissal. I also agree that, if adopted, the right to divide a period of parental leave between both members of the couple should be recognised.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The vote in favour of the report on improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers, workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding, is the culmination of a long discussion process in the European Parliament, which was already left over from the last session and in which we have actively participated, contributing to the report’s adoption.

Although we are still in the first reading of the directive’s proposal, it is positive in the area of women’s rights because of the signal that it sends out, particularly to the countries that still do not have 20 weeks of maternity leave on full pay and that are still not applying two weeks of paternity leave, also with full pay.

The adoption of this proposal for negotiation with the Council acknowledges the fundamental social value of maternity and paternity, respecting the rights of working women who want to become mothers.

The adoption of this proposal also represents a victory over the most conservative positions that still exist within the European Parliament, meaning that the struggle to defend women’s rights, maternity and paternity rights, and the rights of children, will continue.

We hope that the Council will now accept the European Parliament’s position, which increases the Commission’s proposal from 18 to 20 weeks, and aims to amend the directive that is currently in force and which only sets aside 14 weeks for maternity leave.

 
  
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  Robert Goebbels (S&D), in writing. (FR) I supported my colleague, Mrs Estrela’s, calls for an improvement in the health and safety at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. Woman is the future of man, wrote Louis Aragon. Children are precious. They must be protected. So must their mothers.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), in writing. (FR) By voting in favour of a 20-week minimum maternity leave (it is currently 14 weeks) with full pay, and by endorsing a compulsory two-week paternity leave in the European Union, the European Parliament has moved in the direction of undeniable social progress.

Having said that, I voted for extending maternity leave to 18 weeks rather than 20 weeks. Indeed it seems to me that a 20-week period, although an extremely generous proposal, is liable to backfire on women and be used as an additional argument to not recruit them or to complicate their return to work. Moreover, I regret that the provision that planned the possibility of extending maternity leave in the event of complication (premature birth, disability, etc.) was rejected.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE), in writing. (FR) I regret the outcome of this vote. We all share the desire to enable new mothers to form a strong bond with their babies during the period of convalescence after giving birth. However, I am deeply concerned about the economic impact of such a measure, which will cost our country EUR 1.5 billion.

During this time of economic crisis, it is not demagogy that will pay the bill. Businesses will not be able to pay it, Member States’ budgets even less so. Such measures could penalise certain careers or put a brake on the employment of young women. Perpetuating a traditional system in which the father brings home the pay and the woman looks after the children, as some would like, is a step backwards. Freedom of choice is also a right for women.

The negotiations that will now begin between the 27 Member States in the Council will be difficult.

 
  
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  Pascale Gruny (PPE), in writing. (FR) I did not wish to support this report insofar as an increase from 14 to 20 weeks on full pay would have catastrophic financial consequences for several Member States. The OECD study shows that there will be very substantial costs for the social budgets of Member States.

For France, the annual amount is EUR 1.3 billion, and for the United Kingdom GBP 2.4 billion. In the current economic situation, increases in these budgets cannot be absorbed. What is more, businesses would have to bear these additional costs, which is impossible. However, supporting women during maternity is essential. Applying these measures poses a very great risk to the employment of women. The OECD study also shows that extending maternity leave would result in a decrease in female employment.

In wishing to help women, there is a risk of penalising them in the job market. I wish to help women in their employment and to support them during maternity. The increase from 14 to 18 weeks proposed by the Commission was a real step forward. Another advance would have been to have progressive measures concerning childcare methods.

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing. (FR) I voted for the Estrela report and I am glad that Parliament has taken such a progressive position towards mothers, future mothers and fathers. The extension of maternity leave to 20 weeks is undeniable social progress, which embodies the social Europe that we earnestly desire. This text improves the balance between family life and work life.

The introduction of a compulsory two-week paternity leave is also a big step forward in the change in attitudes and in the division of roles between parents. The argument of additional costs that this measure would incur would be valid if women did not already supplement their maternity leave with sick leave and/or paid leave. Businesses and social protection systems are already paying these costs.

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (S&D), in writing. – I am proud to have voted for the extension of maternity rights and condemn Conservative and Liberal Democrat MEPs who first conspired to obstruct parliamentary agreement of this directive and today voted to deny decent rights to working women. I want to record the fact that I wished to vote for a different compromise on the length of the period for maternity pay but respect that this option fell because a majority in Parliament supported 20 weeks. I recognise there will be a further negotiation on this point before the directive is finally agreed, and that it was vital for this Parliament finally to agree a text to enable the process to move forward. I fully agree with my British Labour colleagues who seek to protect low paid women in particular and, in this respect, call on the British Government to fully respect the non-regression clause in the directive.

 
  
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  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE), in writing. (SL) The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) has pointed out that many of the proposals (amendments) put forward exceed the scope and purpose of the directive. I do agree with them but, in deciding how to vote, I have made an exception this time. The position of women in the EU in terms of employment, wage levels, exposure to poverty ... is significantly weaker than that of men. I believe that equal opportunities are one of the basic principles underpinning the work of the EU and, for that reason, I will be using every opportunity to make the positions of women and men equal. Today’s vote is not a final one, but it will give us a strong negotiating position in the Council.

 
  
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  Cătălin Sorin Ivan (S&D), in writing. (RO) Extending the period of maternity leave to 20 weeks with full pay for this duration are measures which restore the dignity of mothers. This is why I voted unreservedly for the proposal in the report, in the confidence that Member States will heed our decision and incorporate it into their national legislations.

Apart from supporting mothers, this report also recommends states to introduce fully paid parental leave, thereby recognising the role of both parents in bringing up children. We have sent out an important message with our vote today, which calls for a decent living, extending beyond ideological limits and national social systems.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE), in writing. (FR) I did not wish to support this report because extending the period of maternity leave from 14 weeks (as provided by the current directive) to 20 weeks on full pay would have a considerable financial impact on Member States (EUR 1.3 billion for France) at a time of economic crisis that is hardly favourable to budgetary growth.

Second, the additional costs for businesses in Member States where the latter partly finance maternity leave (for example, Germany) would be very high. Third, the negative consequences for the employability of women are real, not least when it comes to returning to the job market.

Finally, the European Parliament, in adopting measures that are not financially practicable and which could even be counterproductive in terms of women’s participation in the job market, is damaging its credibility in the European decision-making process. Extending maternity leave to 18 weeks, as proposed by the Commission, would have been an important step in improving the situation of women, by avoiding the pitfalls in the text as finally adopted by the European Parliament, when what is really important is to enable women to reconcile their professional life with their family life.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing. (PL) In the face of an ageing population and the difficulties with which the European economy is dealing, we have to use all opportunities available to us to encourage women to have children and to make it easy for them to return to work. Many women are eminent specialists in their fields, and Europe’s economy cannot do without the services of this highly qualified workforce. The situation is similar with women living and working in the countryside. Often, they are not given maternity leave in the full meaning of the word, but have to return to work as soon as possible. This obviously puts both their health and their child in jeopardy. That is why they should have the same privileges as women working outside agriculture.

 
  
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  Sandra Kalniete (PPE) , in writing. (LV) I voted in favour of extending the minimum obligatory period of maternity leave to 18 weeks, but against extending it to 20 weeks. I fully appreciate the need to ensure appropriate conditions for mothers who have recently given birth. However, in the long term, extending the minimum period of leave to 20 weeks would be disadvantageous for young women planning to have a family and a professional career. What is more, Member States will currently simply be unable to meet the additional costs from their budgets. Businesses have objected to a minimum 20-week period of maternity leave because it will cause additional costs that cannot be met in the current economic situation. There is therefore a risk that many employers will simply not hire young women. We can already see that it is difficult for young people to find jobs, and extending maternity leave will reduce women’s ability to compete with men in the job market still further. I believe that we must not allow this to happen, and that we must think for the long term. Fixing maternity leave at 20 weeks would mean billions in budgetary costs throughout Europe. Those are costs that neither national governments nor taxpayers can currently afford. Of course, we shall come under criticism from one part of society, but we are here to work and to make decisions that are as good as they can be and that are in the interests of all Europeans.

 
  
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  Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (PPE), in writing. (EL) I expressed a different opinion in the votes on the question of leave. I prefer the Commission’s proposal of 18 weeks.

The proposal is realistic and balanced in relation to market conditions, not only because of the economic crisis, but also because of the demands and professional obligations and ambitions of working women themselves.

Women should not be over-protected beings shunned by the labour market.

Moreover, as I have consistently argued, efforts to reconcile family life with work and raising children basically require social infrastructures and corporate social responsibility throughout a woman’s working life.

 
  
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  Constance Le Grip (PPE) , in writing. (FR) I voted against the Estrela report because extending maternity leave to 20 weeks is, in reality, a good idea only at first sight. Indeed, this extension is portrayed as granting more rights to women, whereas in my opinion, it would have negative repercussions for women trying to access the labour market.

It is to be feared that this proposal, if it were to be implemented, could backfire on women and would, as a result, make them less employable. Contrary to what the rapporteur and those who support this text are claiming, there is no obvious connection between birth rates and the length of maternity leave.

What is more, the proposal to extend from 14 to 20 weeks with full pay is not a financially acceptable position for many countries. Indeed, the extra costs incurred by this extension can be afforded neither by businesses nor by Member States. The initial proposal by the European Commission, namely the increase from 14 to 18 weeks, was a big enough step forward.

 
  
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  Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska (PPE), in writing. (PL) I would like to underline that on Mrs Estrela’s report, I voted in favour of the rules on 20 weeks’ maternity leave, protecting women from unfair dismissal six months after returning to work and in favour of full pay and protection of women while breastfeeding, but in this case, without specific recommendations, as I believe that these rules should stay within the competence of the Member States.

In the case of multiple births, I believe that leave should be extended correspondingly. I am always in support of any ideas that will help women have a safe maternity experience and guarantee them better conditions for returning to the job market.

 
  
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  Toine Manders (ALDE), in writing. (NL) The delegation of the Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) to the European Parliament has today voted against the proposal for a directive extending (paid) maternity leave to 20 weeks. We are of the opinion that the previously established minimum of 14 weeks is sufficient. Women who find that they are still unable to return to work at the end of their maternity leave can take leave under the provisions of their countries’ Sick Leave Act. This proposal would entail an extension of social security, which is a matter that Member States should be able to decide on themselves, certainly in times such as these, when all the Member States have to economise. There are other, less rigorous ways in which measures allowing a better balance between work and private life could be put in place. The proposal carries the risk that young, talented women might be left with fewer opportunities in the labour market, because employers will not want to run the risk of having to pay many months’ maternity leave to their female employees. Nor does an increase in birth numbers in the EU, which is the desired solution to the problem of an ageing population, have to be regulated at EU level. As far as the VVD is concerned, EU rules to regulate exemption from work for breastfeeding purposes are superfluous. The VVD Group in the European Parliament: Hans van Baalen, Jan Mulder and Toine Manders

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – I voted in favour of this report. As all EU citizens have the right to live and work throughout the EU, it is vital we afford women a minimum entitlement to maternity leave wherever they are working at the time of having a baby. Decent maternity leave is part of a wider issue of female participation in the labour market and tackling the financial implications of an ageing society. The EU goal is for 75% labour participation by 2020, and a crucial element of this will be giving all mothers the ability to take maternity leave which they can afford and then return to work. In an ageing society, where the demand for social care is increasing and the number of people providing the care is decreasing, more realistic leave such as maternity leave is needed. Women should not feel that having children is incompatible with their work – our policies need to enable care for younger and older persons. The implementation of this will not come into force for at least 5 years. Furthermore, with an increase of just 1.04% of women’s participation in the labour market, the additional costs of extending maternity leave would be covered.

 
  
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  Clemente Mastella (PPE), in writing. – (IT) One of the priorities laid down in the EU’s social agenda is the need to promote policies to facilitate a work-life balance, aimed at women and men alike. A better work-life balance is also one of the six priority areas of action set out in the 2006-2010 ‘Road map for equality between women and men’.

Improving these provisions is therefore an integral part of European policy in response to the dwindling population recorded of late. Motherhood and fatherhood are certainly inalienable fundamental rights for the purposes of social balance. It is therefore to be hoped that the review of the directive in question will be to the advantage both of working women and men who wish to take responsibility for their families.

We cannot separate respect for a better balance between the principle of protecting health and safety from that of equality of treatment. These and other aspects persuade me to support the need, however, to leave Member States plenty of room for flexibility in establishing rules on leave when necessary. This is only for reasons of economic sustainability, in order to cover the additional costs arising.

 
  
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  Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The report adopted proposes maternity leave of 20 weeks without any loss of earnings. This measure alone could mean a big social improvement in women’s lives in about two thirds of EU countries. This is the case in Portugal, where women are only entitled to 16 weeks fully paid. The inclusion of two weeks of paternity leave is also an important step in the struggle for equality between men and women. More importantly, this report has been approved even though it goes against the measures that have recently been adopted as a result of austerity policies which favour cuts in public spending and the reduction of social rights. I therefore hope that this report can contribute to the strengthening of work and social rights across the EU and in all the Member States.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The unanimous view within the EU is that one of its main problems is low population growth due to low birth rates. Anything that can contribute to changing this situation is therefore important. The protection of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers in the workplace and the reduction of imbalances between men and women are important steps in that direction. In spite of the crisis that we are currently experiencing, the measures approved here today are very important in reversing the decreasing population trend that the EU is facing in the near future.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer (GUE/NGL), in writing. (ES) I voted in favour of the European Parliament legislative resolution on ‘the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding’, because I believe that improving women’s rights in the workplace is a real step towards gender equality in an area in which, unfortunately, many barriers exist. The discrimination suffered by women in the labour market is very worrying because, in most cases, it is they who must take charge of domestic duties and juggle them with their professional employment. This situation is exacerbated in the months before and after childbirth, requiring greater protection in order to prevent the discrimination women currently suffer. It is my understanding that the increase to a continuous period of maternity leave of at least 20 weeks allocated before and/or after confinement, with a compulsory minimum of six weeks after childbirth, is a step forward in terms of a woman’s right to reconcile family and professional life.

 
  
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  Louis Michel (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Extending the period of maternity leave is an important project in terms of the place that is given to babies and parenthood in our society. I support the proposal to grant 18 weeks of maternity leave and also the principle of paternity leave. We must avoid the adverse effects of measures that are too generous and risk bringing about discrimination in employment. I am, moreover, a supporter of more freedom of choice for pregnant women or women who have recently given birth. They must be able to decide when they wish to take the non-compulsory part of their maternity leave. That should help them to achieve a better work-life balance and to remain employable.

It is equally important to create a proper status for women who wish to return to work after taking a career break. I should also like to draw attention to the fact that the right to parental leave and the guarantee of the same job to come back to must be workable for employers, in particular, in small and medium-sized enterprises, or else they may well hesitate to hire or promote women of child-bearing age.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE), in writing. (SK) In view of the far-reaching demographic changes and the ageing of European society, the European Union must actively adopt measures to support parenthood.

The extension of the minimum time period of maternity leave will, in my opinion, make provision for the fact that the first months of a child’s life are crucial for his/her healthy growth and mental balance. Therefore, I support the payment of salary in full for the duration of the maternity leave. This should have a positive effect on women so that they may become mothers without worrying about the risks of poverty and social exclusion. The right to return to the same work position or an equal position with equal working conditions after birth must be guaranteed. Moreover, the possibility to apply for a change of working hours or working arrangements must be granted, as well as the possibility to refuse overtime work shortly after giving birth.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Morin-Chartier (PPE), in writing. (FR) I am opposed to the project of extending maternity leave to 20 weeks with full pay. The adoption of this scheme would have major consequences on the budgets of the Member States and businesses; for France, the additional annual cost would be EUR 1.3 billion, an unbearable financial burden at a time of budgetary cuts. Although it is a nice idea, the consequences on women's employment could be negative. We would not want this measure to mean a step backwards for women. Women returning to work following their pregnancy and young women seeking work run the risk of being heavily penalised by this measure. In contrast, the proposal for a maximum of 18 weeks was still socially fair. I am calling for innovative ideas to be implemented as quickly as possible with regard to childcare and work-family balance, in order to enable mothers as well as fathers to play their role of parents fully.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) My decision to vote in favour of this proposal arises out of the need to improve the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. The amendment to the directive is, in fact, aimed at promoting gender equality in the world of work, promoting a better balance between women’s working and private lives. Women are frequently perceived to be ‘at risk’ or ‘second choice’ individuals given their high probability of becoming pregnant or taking maternity leave. It is important to support certain forms of leave to combat certain prejudices and stereotypes. We must not, however, forget that motherhood and fatherhood are essential rights if we are to ensure the possibility of achieving a work-life balance. There are clearly certain points connected with some amendments on which I have voiced a contrary opinion. I believe, in fact, that European law must establish a general framework that offers minimum guarantees and safeguards within which Member States can be left room to decide on the most suitable measures at their own discretion. There are, in fact, differences linked to culture, to welfare and to social security systems that must be taken into due consideration, and also by virtue of respect for the principle of subsidiarity.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE), in writing. (EL) I voted in favour of the report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Directive 92/85/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. Two important factors determined my vote on certain amendments: firstly, the vital importance of guaranteeing the safety and health of young or future mothers and, secondly, the fact that Greece has specific legislation to protect pregnant women.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the proposals on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding, which include 20 weeks maternity leave and two weeks paternity leave, both without any reduction in earnings.

These are social measures that fit with the Europe that we want, with the aim of supporting the birth rate, the family, the health of babies, and parents’ jobs.

However, this is a project that is difficult to carry out, and it may, perversely, exacerbate discrimination against women in the world of work because: (1) it puts extra pressure on social security systems, which, in many cases, are already only just sustainable; and (2) it introduces new constraints on the labour market, which already no longer meets the needs of the current workforce. I am afraid, therefore, that these measures to support working parents may lead to increased levels of unemployment and/or precarious work among young mothers.

Parliament’s negotiations with the Council have to be realistic and pragmatic, and also ambitious, if the future law, when it comes into force, is to really fulfil and promote the values of the proposal that was voted upon in plenary this week.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE), in writing. (IT) With my vote, I call for a new global approach that will make it possible to send a powerful message to companies to the effect that human reproduction concerns men as well as women. The framework agreement on parental leave is an important aspect of the equal opportunities policy that promotes the reconciliation of working life and private and family life, but limits itself to setting minimum requirements and may therefore only be considered a first step.

I agree with the communication that considers children’s rights to be a priority of the Union and calls on Member States to observe the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols as well as the Millennium Development Goals. As far as this directive is concerned, this means guaranteeing all children the possibility of receiving care appropriate to their developmental needs as well as access to appropriate, high quality healthcare.

 
  
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  Rovana Plumb (S&D), in writing. (RO) Today, the European Parliament has made an investment in the European Union’s future by promoting motherhood through extending the period of maternity leave to 20 weeks, with full pay. This can be described as both a quantitative and qualitative improvement. The simplistic argument of short-term economic benefits did not stand up, with the sustainability of European society prevailing, which is impossible to achieve without healthy demographics and therefore, by extension, without greater protection for mothers and their children.

I drafted the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and I voted in favour of: motherhood not being penalised and full pay being given; pregnant workers not being sacked during a period from the start of their pregnancy until six months after the end of their maternity leave; mothers being entitled to return to their job or an ‘equivalent position’, which means with the same remuneration, professional category and career path as they had prior to going on maternity leave; going on maternity leave not affecting their pension scheme; female workers not being obliged to work at night or overtime during the 10 weeks prior to the date they are due to give birth and for the remainder of the pregnancy if this is required for the health of the mother or foetus, and during the whole period of breastfeeding.

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE), in writing. (RO) I voted against this resolution because I believe that maternity pay is a matter which must be decided at national level, based on the principle of subsidiarity. Furthermore, I think that, at a time of crisis, adopting this measure may have the totally opposite effect, as it will act as a factor dissuading companies which want to employ women.

 
  
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  Evelyn Regner (S&D), in writing. (DE) I support improving the European minimum standard for maternity protection. However, in the end, I voted against this report, as I come from a country that has established a particular combination of maternity protection and waged/unwaged parental leave. Alongside 16 weeks of leave on full pay and an absolute ban on working, women also have the right to unwaged maternity leave with child benefit. The amount of child benefit drawn during unwaged maternity leave depends on its duration and the most recent level of income. The Austrian rules go far beyond the minimum standards stipulated in this report.

Moreover, I am also in favour of introducing fully paid paternity leave, although a different legal basis should be chosen for this. I believe that such paternity leave should not be regulated by the directive on maternity protection, but should instead be regulated by a dedicated directive that is not aimed at the protection of the health of mothers and children.

 
  
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  Mitro Repo (S&D), in writing. (FI) I voted in favour of maternity leave lasting 20 weeks. Longer periods of maternity leave are important for the development and welfare of children, who represent society’s best form of capital. In Finland, there is a viable system for maternity and parental leave. A system like ours is not, however, available to everyone in Europe. For this reason, it is important to ensure that women do not have to suffer financially if they decide to have children. Businesses alone should not be saddled with the financial burden of maternity leave: the public sector must unquestionably share the costs. Small and medium­sized enterprises, in particular, are at risk of facing difficulties. Neither should the female dominated sectors have to bow to excessive economic pressure. The position of women regarding pay is alarming. It must not be made any weaker. It is vitally important to see that that does not happen.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. (ES) Finally, Parliament has done a little justice for working mothers in the European Union, although it is not all the justice that they deserve. It has been a long process. At the end of the last parliamentary term, we were on the verge of adopting a text in Parliament that would have meant a giant leap forward for the rights of working mothers. We could not vote because the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) (PPE Group) and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE Group) joined forces against it and decided to return the report to the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.

After months of work, today, we once again voted on a text which, although not as ambitious as the one previously rejected by the PPE and ALDE Groups, is quite brave: it allows mothers to maintain their salary during maternity leave; it increases their legal protection against redundancy; it allows greater flexibility in terms of working hours in order to better balance motherhood with work; it extends maternity leave to at least 20 weeks (although some of us would have liked it to be 24 weeks, as the World Health Organisation recommends); it facilitates the mobility of working mothers within the EU and it makes progress on joint responsibility for fathers, although not as much as some of us would have liked.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE), in writing. (IT) Today’s vote encourages workers who wish to become mothers, marking an important step forward toward greater protection that will help millions of European women to reconcile the role of mother with that of worker more effectively. Economic interests have not helped: now we are embarking on a path that goes towards meeting the needs of new families. The outcome of the vote looks toward a society that places growth, training and education at the centre of political action. I believe that fears that extending maternity leave on full pay from 14 to 20 weeks will penalise women are unfounded: it is our specific duty to protect the weakest workers, allowing them the right to stay at home with their children. Today’s victory in Parliament also represents a personal satisfaction due to the efforts I have personally made with the aim of ensuring that no breastfeeding workers have to carry out heavy or dangerous duties, exempting them from overtime and night work. Now we pass the baton to the Member States and I hope they will commit themselves to it to the full. With today’s decision, the European Parliament has shown that it no longer wants women who are on the horns of a dilemma but women who are free and aware of their role in our society.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi (EFD), in writing. (IT) In an ageing Europe, policies favourable to women who choose to have children are essential. With legislation as fragmentary as it is today, there are too many differences between Member States in supporting motherhood, which prevent many women from being able to become mothers. This directive establishes a minimum period of maternity leave of 20 weeks, of which at least six will be on full pay.

It is obvious that in countries such as Italy, this law is superfluous because the period on full pay is much longer than the minimum period laid down by the directive, and the periods when women can be absent from work to look after their children extend up to eight years of age. In other countries, however, this finally means laying the basis for guaranteeing dignity to mothers. The proposal also envisages that fathers may have two weeks of paid leave so that they can be with their wives during the period immediately following birth.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D), in writing. – Today, I voted to support improved rights and a better work-life balance for working parents. Of special importance in this report are the provisions for women who are breastfeeding at work. Breaks for breastfeeding allow mothers the time they need to provide the best and most natural form of nutrition for their developing child. Nutrition is a key determinant of health throughout life. I am pleased that this report is favourable to those mothers who have gone back to work and still choose to breastfeed their child and provide them with the nutritional benefits.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter and Isabella Lövin (Verts/ALE), in writing. (SV) We believe that well-developed statutory parental leave is of the utmost importance for every country. In the final vote, however, we did not want to vote in favour of Parliament’s legislative proposal because it went against several principles that are very important to us. Firstly, the proposal wants to introduce a mandatory six weeks’ leave just for the mother.

We believe that parents themselves should be able to choose how they take their parental leave and that this proposal would be a step in the wrong direction for gender equality in Sweden. Secondly, we do not believe that it is reasonable to set the level of remuneration for parental leave at full pay. As far as Sweden is concerned, this could force a reduction in the length of parental insurance in order to finance such a costly system. We are of the opinion that the organisation of social security systems is a matter for the national parliaments.

 
  
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  Brian Simpson (S&D), in writing. – The EPLP wholly supports the need to increase protection for women who are pregnant, have recently given birth or are breastfeeding, and therefore voted in favour of a number of the directive’s key proposals. These include the extension of maternity leave to 20 weeks, full payment for mothers for the first compulsory six weeks after childbirth, and two weeks fully paid paternity leave. However, the EPLP is concerned that the proposals adopted by Parliament could have unintended consequences in countries which already employ a more complex set of maternity provisions. In particular, we are concerned that the proposals could allow a regressive government to cut its maternity provision so that the lowest paid working women could actually lose out over the period of their maternity leave. While some aspects of this report will form an invaluable improvement in Member States with very low levels of maternity provision, these amendments may lead to social regression in other countries.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE), in writing. (PL) Today, the European Parliament has adopted a report to ensure the health of pregnant mothers and those on maternity leave. By adopting a common position in this form, we are sending out a clear signal that we support changes to improve European standards for the protection of young mothers. Women are guaranteed a minimum duration of maternity leave, which will henceforth be on full pay. By preventing unfair dismissal, we have also increased protection for the jobs of women returning to work after their maternity leave.

The changes the directive introduces are a step in the right direction, guaranteeing women in Europe a minimum entitlement to maternity leave. I am also pleased that fathers will be encouraged to care for their children by introducing a two-week paternity leave.

 
  
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  Catherine Soullie (PPE), in writing. (FR) The vote on Mrs Estrela’s report is vitally important. The position adopted is purely demagogic and irresponsible. By demanding 20 weeks of maternity leave, we are discrediting the European Parliament. We are the citizens’ voice; to adopt such unrealistic positions would not do justice to them. Very significant costs for the social budgets of Member States would be incurred: as regards France, for instance, the amount would be EUR 1.3 billion.

The current economic situation does not allow us to absorb this kind of increase within state budgets, not to mention the consequences for our companies who will have to bear part of these additional costs. We need to support and encourage women to better reconcile maternity and work, not scupper their chances of finding a job.

The increase from 14 to 18 weeks proposed by the Commission was a real step forward; a step that could have been built on by giving some thought to new childcare options. The message conveyed by this text carries huge responsibility: maternity would clearly become a barrier to personal development in the workplace.

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella (S&D), in writing. (FR) I welcome the adoption of this report on the proposal for a directive on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding, and of measures aimed at helping workers to achieve a work-life balance. We have made maternity leave longer and better paid, and we have, for the first time in European history, introduced paternity leave. This vote will stand out in the history of the fundamental rights of European mothers and fathers.

To all those who wanted to sacrifice social rights on the altar of the economic crisis, I tell them to go and get the money where it is and not to penalise citizens further. An improved maternity leave and the introduction of paternity leave; these are also fights for a more human society, whilst the family is increasingly becoming the final safeguard against the upheavals of life.

 
  
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  Keith Taylor (Verts/ALE), in writing. – I voted in favour of a legislative proposal guaranteeing enhanced and extended paternity/maternity pay in Parliament today. I did so after lobbying from supporters and opponents. I am well aware of the financial conditions in the UK, which will be further worsened by recent budget announcements of more spending cuts. Nevertheless, the European Parliament was in favour of 20 weeks’ maternity leave at full salary, and 2 weeks’ paternity leave, and I believe that this is a sensible investment in the economy, helping reach the EU target of 75% labour participation by 2020. It improves the health of babies and protects the health and welfare of mothers. It is a step to close the existing gender pay gap. On average, in the EU, women earn 17% less than men. If we do not guarantee decent wages during maternity leave, women are punished in their earnings for having children. It is also a positive encouragement to increase fathers' involvement in caring for children. Apart from death and taxes, birth is the only certainty in life. Our children are the future and the improvements voted through today will provide a better and more secure start to their lives.

 
  
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  Marianne Thyssen (PPE), in writing. (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we need to get more men and women into work, and ensure they stay in work, if we are to preserve our prosperity and be in a position to afford to pay out pensions. In addition, at a time of stiff international competition and budgetary stringency, we must therefore have the courage to take measures which invest in families and which take some of the pressure off the task of juggling work and family. Extending maternity leave is one of the means to that end. For this reason, I support an extension to maternity leave. However, at a time of budgetary difficulties, we have to be realistic. A twenty-week maternity leave period on full pay is not a feasible solution for our social security systems and government budgets. On those grounds, I have abstained from the final vote, even though I support an extension to maternity leave. On the other hand, I do support the Commission’s original proposal for an extension of maternity leave to 18 weeks, provided the current capped compensation scheme is enforced. I hope this proposal will stand a better chance in the second parliamentary reading.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D), in writing. (RO) I voted for the report on the proposal for a directive on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding.

I believe that it is of paramount importance for workers on maternity leave to be paid their full salary and that the maternity allowance should be 100% of their last monthly salary or average salary, if the monthly salary is lower than this. This means that women will not be penalised for the period of maternity leave they have taken when it comes to their retirement pension.

Given the demographic trends in the EU, the birth rate needs a boost by means of specific legislation and measures aimed at contributing to a better balance between professional, private and family life. In order to help workers achieve their work-life balance, it is vital for longer periods of maternity and paternity leave to be provided, including for the adoption of children under the age of 12 months. Setting the statutory period of maternity leave to 20 weeks is in line with the recommendation made by the World Health Organisation on 16 April 2002 on a global strategy on infant and young child feeding.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE), in writing. (DE) I voted against this report as it fails to stringently observe the principle of subsidiarity and interferes with national payment arrangements and the obligations of the Member States. Furthermore, it also contains elements such as abortion and the freedom to reproduce for which I am unable to share in the responsibility on religious grounds.

 
  
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  Viktor Uspaskich (ALDE), in writing. (LT) Ladies and gentlemen, women must not be punished because they have decided to have a family. It is not simply an ethical question, but also a strategic one – the EU is currently experiencing demographic changes due to the low birth rate and greater numbers of elderly people. During these difficult times in particular, we must not frighten women away from the labour market. We need more working women if the EU wants to increase its competitiveness globally. The time has come to combat stereotypes that have taken root in society. Working women are often perceived to be ‘high risk’ or ‘second rate’ workers. It is essential, therefore, that the new leave arrangements presented in this report should help break these stereotypes. We should also offer more help to women who have been abandoned by society. EU statistics show that in Lithuania, single mothers face the greatest risk of poverty. The risk of poverty for working people in this group is 24%. It was a long road until the EU legally guaranteed gender equality. However, we must achieve even more and turn theoretical gender equality into real, tangible gender equality, which is applied in everyday life.

 
  
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  Frank Vanhecke (NI), in writing. (NL) I have voted in favour of the Estrela report because I do not want there to be any misunderstanding about the following: it goes without saying that women have particular needs during and immediately after pregnancy, that it is very much in the interests of society as a whole that these needs are met and that society, therefore, must also bear a great deal of the responsibility for this. However, I would ask some questions of principle. First of all, is it really reasonable for us to impose, from our European ivory towers here, mandatory rules which would apply throughout the whole Union, including in Member States which, in economic terms, still have a long way to go?

Who is going to foot the bill for that? That brings me to my second fundamental comment: is it reasonable to impose the burden, so to speak, of these measures exclusively on the shoulders of employers? Will this ultimately not lead to a situation which is the precise opposite of that intended; that is, there will be fewer jobs available for young women, because employers will simply not be inclined to bear all on their own the consequences they risk entailing should their young female workers get pregnant? It is all very well to vote ‘socially’ in this House, but we are not the ones who have to carry the burden of social voting.

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FR) The directive on maternity leave has finally been adopted today, 20 October, by the European Parliament. I voted for this text, which represents genuine progress for women.

The directive has yet to be accepted by the Council. The text passed today aims to confer on women in the European Union the right to 20 weeks’ maternity leave, which is four weeks more than in France, where women currently have the right to 16 weeks’ maternity leave.

The text we have adopted also provides a right to 20 days’ paternity leave (more than the 11 days granted at the moment in France).

The directive also provides that women must receive the whole of their salary during their leave: a significant signal in the current crisis situation.

Moreover, the text includes a social non-regression clause, which means that where the law in Member States is more generous on certain points, it will continue to apply. This is certainly a case of progress therefore, and I welcome it.

 
  
  

Report: Barbara Weiler (A7-0136/2010)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of this report, as there is a wide disparity in many countries as regards the payment terms to businesses when the state, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and large companies are involved. We are well aware that in the current economic crisis, and with its increased difficulties, companies are increasingly struggling with liquidity problems, and that in many Member States, they are even exposed to an increased risk of bankruptcy. The directive which attempted to regulate this matter had a limited effect, and the proposal that we have now adopted represents an important step in setting and meeting deadlines for payment, not only in relations between the companies and public bodies, but also in the relationships that companies establish with one another. We will now have legislation that offers us greater effectiveness in meeting payment deadlines, with a clear system of penalties for late payment, and that also represents an effective improvement in counteracting the frequent abuse by the state and large companies of their dominant position over the SMEs. This directive must now be implemented quickly by the Member States, so that the serious problems caused by the establishment of long payment terms and the dragging out of payments are finally resolved.

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli (PPE), in writing. (IT) Fulfilling contractual obligations in commercial transactions by both public and private administrations is not merely a question of civic duty, but also of taking responsibility for a set of negative conditions that could afflict creditor companies, particularly SMEs. Being able to count on prompt payment means guaranteeing these enterprises stability, growth, job creation and investments.

Unfortunately, according to European Commission data, late payments represent a frequent occurrence in Europe and damage competitiveness. Public authorities are particularly to blame for creating difficulties, often due to incorrect management of their budgets and cash flow or as a result of too much red tape in their administrative machinery. Sometimes, a decision is also made to work on the basis of new expenditure structures, without taking into account undertakings made previously, which should be honoured within the contractually agreed terms.

I therefore consider it our duty to adopt measures that make up for the shortcomings in the previous Directive 2000/35/EC, seeking in this way to discourage the phenomenon of late payment by adopting measures that induce debtors not to pay late and other measures that allow creditors to exercise their rights fully and effectively in the event of late payment.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (ALDE), in writing. (GA) I voted in favour of this timely report and for the establishment of a 30-day target period for paying bills. SMEs are a cornerstone of the European economy; these smaller enterprises constitute 99.8% of all EU enterprises, and they create 70% of all employment in the EU. The measures for tackling late payments contained in the report are practical measures for supporting SMEs and for ensuring that smaller companies do not lose out because of unpaid bills.

The new rules could create better conditions for investment and should enable SMEs to focus on innovation and development. In addition, I welcome what the report says about ensuring that new measures do not increase the existing level of bureaucracy and that no extra bureaucracy or administrative problems are created for SMEs.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing. – (LT) I voted for this report and am pleased that the European Parliament and the Council managed to reach this agreement, which is very important, particularly for small enterprise. While small and medium-sized enterprises are the foundation for European Union competitiveness and the largest creator of jobs, the crisis has shown very clearly that, at the same time, the owners of small and medium-sized enterprises are the most vulnerable, and the policy pursued by the Member States is not especially favourable to promoting and developing them, because EU legislation, such as the Small Business Act, is not being fully implemented and applied. Many companies went bankrupt during the crisis and this is a huge loss. I am therefore very pleased with this step which, although small, is of great significance to small business, providing clarity on payment periods. We will begin to really create an environment that is clear and understandable to small enterprises and will help to establish a business culture.

 
  
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  Sergio Berlato (PPE), in writing. (IT) With the adoption of the new directive against late payments, a measure that represents tangible support to companies, and particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, the European Parliament is making a decisive contribution for the benefit of citizens and the European production system. The recast directive in fact lays down categorical payment terms and appropriate penalties to encourage prompt payments within the Union by both public authorities and private companies. According to estimates, this measure should put back approximately EUR 180 billion into circulation in the economy: this is the actual sum owed by public authorities to the enterprise system in the Union.

The late payment problem is particularly keenly felt in Italy, where public authorities take 128 days on average to make payments as opposed to a European average of 67 days. The negative effects of late payments in commercial transactions are therefore considerable. I hope that this directive is implemented as quickly as possible by national governments in order to remove one of the greatest obstacles to development in the European internal market.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto (EFD), in writing. (IT) At last, we have got here, after months of postponement: we have voted on the report that is a real breath of fresh air for the future of our companies. Late payments represent a phenomenon which, especially in Italy, has brought tens of thousands of companies to their knees, costing the Italian economic system in the region of EUR 30 billion, according to calculations by professional associations. Leaving aside specific considerations and national situations, I am voting in favour of the report, which sets out black and white rules once and for all for both public and private operators. The economic crisis has already caused dramatic numbers of bankruptcies and closures of plants, companies and the cessation of business activities. Through this measure, Europe can really give a hand to many small businesses that are permanently strangled by bank loans due to the crisis and may already be sailing through stormy waters due to unpaid receivables that are late in arriving. When this directive is applied, at least we will avoid many cases where companies are forced out of business due to debt caused by other public or private operators.

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE), in writing. (RO) In an unstable economic climate, late payments can have an extremely adverse impact on small and medium-sized enterprises which need money to pay their employees and suppliers. The new regulations on late payments in commercial transactions, which Parliament and the Council agreed on, on 5 October, should facilitate and speed up the process for companies to recover the money they are due. It is small and medium-sized enterprises which keep the economy going, even during a crisis. This is the case in every European economy. The European Parliament has ensured that all parties will be on an equal footing and that the rules will apply to all, which will benefit many European SMEs.

Thanks to this agreement, SMEs will stop operating as banks for public enterprises or large companies. Along with the European Parliament’s recommendation for SMEs to be charged VAT only after invoices have been paid, setting a definite deadline for paying invoices will help those who are worried about their survival at a time when markets are in decline.

 
  
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  Vito Bonsignore (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the report because I feel it is of fundamental importance to deploy all possible actions with the aim of strengthening the competitiveness of SMEs. Furthermore, combating late payment in commercial transactions, which represents an unacceptable abuse, must be pushed forward, particularly at a time of economic recession such as the one we are experiencing. The negative effects of late payment are considerable, representing considerable costs for creditor companies, reducing cash flows and the possibility of investment, and impacting on the competitiveness of SMEs.

This directive rightly includes measures to discourage debtors from paying late, measures that allow creditors to exercise their rights, and also identifies specific and precise rules such as default notices, compensation for recovery costs and the 30-day deadline, unless particular derogations apply, for the payment of debts. These put public authorities under an obligation and discourage them from forms of behaviour that could have negative impacts on SMEs, compromising the credibility of policies adopted.

Fast payments are also a necessary and preliminary condition for investment, growth and job creation.

 
  
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  Françoise Castex (S&D), in writing. (FR) I also declare myself satisfied with the solution found regarding payment deadlines and I am pleased that the proposal by the Socialists and Democrats allowing a longer timescale for public health services, where complex budgetary procedures result in longer payment deadlines, has been taken up. Furthermore, if contractual freedom between private businesses is respected, a substantial safeguard is introduced by prohibiting excessive payment deadlines towards creditors, who are often SMEs.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) I abstained in the vote on the report because it reinforces the Commission’s efforts to put pressure on debtor states, by proposing strict measures at a time when their public finances are in poor shape. The pressure for debts to be settled immediately, with the threat of serious monetary penalties in the form of interest, mainly serves the interests of the businesses taking advantage of the crisis to seek cutbacks in social protection and a freeze on or cuts to workers’ wages. The argument that this will help small and medium-sized enterprises does not stand up because, with the figures quoted in the regulation, the enterprises in question are not small and medium-sized enterprises. This sort of action would be warranted if preceded by bold support for the real economy of wage-earners and action to promote social and economic cohesion.

 
  
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  Lara Comi (PPE), in writing. (IT) I support the need to reinforce Directive 2000/35/EC and identify instruments necessary to eliminate or reduce late payments in commercial transactions. My focus is on the SMEs that represent an essential part of the European market in creating wealth and jobs. This political choice by the European Commission is a step in the right direction, with the aim of making the business climate more favourable for SMEs. With regard to the deterrent 8% interest rate, I am somewhat concerned about the results from certain regions of my country and other European states that are really struggling to respect the new rules. I hope that this new approach can be a real opportunity for change. Now we must concentrate on monitoring implementation of the directive within internal legal systems, with the involvement of regional and local authorities, to ensure that this is carried out everywhere in a standard manner.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing. (RO) I hope that the entry into force of the directive on combating late payment in commercial transactions will benefit most the European Union’s small and medium-sized enterprises, which will therefore be afforded more protection and be provided with resources to increase investments and create new jobs. At the same time, I hope that the directive will facilitate the development of debt-collecting mechanisms, as late payments from public authorities cause imbalances in the operation of small and medium-sized enterprises and, by extension, of the market too.

 
  
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  Luigi Ciriaco De Mita (PPE), in writing. (IT) Late payments in commercial transactions between undertakings, and between undertakings and public authorities, are one of the things currently hampering the recovery of economic growth. Approval of the new directive on combating late payment in commercial transactions represents a major innovation that will require appropriate preparation, above all, of the public sector, in both political and administrative terms. In political terms, so that financial and budgetary planning can take account not only of the impact of European Union rules on the Stability and Growth Pact, but now also of the impact of the new rules on late payments, which, if not satisfactorily managed, could have both a direct and reflex effect on the room for manoeuvre of governments at various levels. In administrative terms, appropriate preparation is required for the correct financial management of public bodies, beginning with the ratio between liabilities and expenditure, so that tax revenues and, hence, the people, are not weighed down by burdens such as interest payments which could have a significant effect on public finances. Finally, it seems important for there to be particular awareness and flexibility regarding several sectors, such as the health sector, in which the public authorities have run up significantly late payments owed to undertakings, for regular goods and services provided.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI), in writing. – In the current economic climate, it is hard enough for small and medium businesses to survive without the added burden of late payments in commercial transactions. Therefore, any mechanism that helps to protect these businesses from the added costs and financial implications surrounding late payment should be welcomed.

However, I believe it is up to the British Government to regulate on this issue, not the European Union, to ensure firms and government bodies live up to their payment obligations. This report, while with merit, does require further clarification on certain aspects and therefore I have chosen to abstain on this vote at this time.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for the report on combating late payment in commercial transactions because it will enable the adoption of harmonised measures, which could be particularly important to the performance of companies – small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular – in the current situation of economic crisis. However, I consider guaranteeing a system of abolitions for the health sector to be positive.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) Delayed payments are a problem with extremely serious consequences for the health of the global economy and a particularly devastating impact on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The effects of this are even more pernicious in the current period of economic and financial crisis. The bad example given by public administration is unacceptable, as is happening to a particularly severe degree in Portugal. Measures are needed to rein in late payment in commercial transactions so as to protect the good health of the European economy, avoiding situations where production structures are financially stifled and there is overcharging on financing products, thus increasing dependence on the banking sector. I would like to highlight the particular case of agricultural producers, who often see settlements that are owed to them delayed by supermarkets and distributors. The maximum period of 30 days – which may be waived to up to 60 days – for payment after services have been rendered and billed is quite reasonable for the balance of commercial relations, and it will be key to fostering a culture of timely fulfilment of commitments.

 
  
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  Louis Grech (S&D), in writing. – The adoption of the Weiler report today marks an important shift in the threshold of the payment dimension in business relations. Currently, it is common practice – and, more worryingly, an accepted practice – for public authorities to pressurise SMEs to sign off agreements allowing the delayed payment of bills.

Malta is a case in point. Numerous SMEs, which account for over 70% of employment in the private sector, have encountered serious cash flow difficulties due to delayed payments from undertakings, especially from public authorities, including the government.

In a number of Member States, the 60 day capping on public authorities will serve as an important protective clause for SMEs and citizens. However, for this provision to be truly effective, there must be correct transposition and implementation of the directive in each Member State coupled with stringent monitoring on the part of the Commission. It is only then that this new rule can be truly translated into tangible benefits for citizens and SMEs in particular.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing. (PL) Payment terms in business transactions are a priority issue for the proper functioning of the European economies. Unfortunately, there are considerable disparities between Member States when it comes to complying with terms of payment, and this makes it necessary to verify carefully Directive 2000/35/EC of 8 August 2002, which is currently in force.

Lack of discipline in transactions is a particular threat to small and medium-sized enterprises in countries which have been hit by the economic crisis. Late payment frequently causes difficulties both on the internal market and in cross-border trade. For this reason, I support the rapporteur’s proposal to tighten up legislation, introduce instruments to protect enterprises and introduce mandatory compensation to enforce the late payment of invoices and interest.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Köstinger (PPE), in writing. (DE) I welcome the decision of the report to stand firmly on the side of small and medium-sized enterprises. Late payment is a massive economic problem in commercial transactions within the EU. In the agricultural sector, too, it is a serious matter if liquidity problems are shifted on to agricultural undertakings. Clearly defined payment deadlines will put a stop to these methods. I support the 30-day payment deadline as standard proposed in the report and also the introduction of a general upper limit of 60 days. I find it incomprehensible that, in many Member States, payments of public money in connection with transactions with public administrations are delayed. Late payments seriously impair the business environment and the internal market and have a direct effect on the Member States. The flat-rate compensation that has been called for, which is to be paid from the first day on which the payment becomes late, represents a tangible method of preventing this.

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of Mrs Weiler’s report because I believe it is essential to safeguard the creditors of public administrations, which largely consist of small and medium-sized enterprises. This measure will allow approximately EUR 180 billion of liquid funds to be put back into circulation: this is the amount of the overall debt owed by public administrations to businesses throughout the EU. This is a truly important step because enterprises will be granted the automatic right to demand the payment of overdue interest and also obtain a fixed minimum amount of EUR 40 as compensation for the costs of recovering the debt. Enterprises will also, in any case, be able to demand reimbursement of all reasonable costs incurred for this purpose. I believe that this initiative will serve as a spur to Member States to draw up prompt payment codes. They may, in fact, maintain or introduce laws and regulations containing provisions that are more favourable to creditors than those established by the directive.

 
  
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  Erminia Mazzoni (PPE), in writing. (IT) Among the many proposals contained in the Small Business Act, the one regarding amendment of Directive 2000/35/EC was among the most urgent, in my opinion. Late payments have become a routine practice for public authorities in many countries (and this certainly includes Italy). If the European average is 180 days from the due date, we can only imagine the extremes of lateness in some cases and the consequences for those who manage small and medium-sized enterprises.

The paradox is that a State demands prompt payment of duties and taxes, handing out penalties and applying interest from the first day of lateness, but ignores its own commitments when it is the debtor. The amendment we are voting for is very important, above all, at this time of severe economic difficulty, but it will not be enough on its own to resolve the problem. If individual Member States do not amend their procedures for recovering debts from public authorities in order to make them shorter and more effective, the approved provisions will be ineffective.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The late payment of commercial transactions, whether between companies or between companies and public entities, is responsible for cash flow problems in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and, in turn, often contributes to further delays in payment, thus starting a vicious cycle that is difficult to counteract. We are sure that the implementation of the new rules proposed here will represent an important step towards ending this situation and thus help companies to face this period of economic and financial crisis. The proposed penalties are proportionate and necessary, and it is hoped that they will discourage the improper commercial practices that have been adopted by commercial operators.

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE), in writing.(HU) It was essential that the resolution on the Late Payment Directive be accepted, and that is why I voted for the resolution. The debate this morning also revealed that the effects of the crisis, which, in the recent past, did not spare our Member States, either, are still closely felt. We need to make numerous changes in view of the smooth operation of the internal market. As part of these changes, the report rightly recommends the transition to a culture of timely payment. This will make it possible for payment delays to incur consequences which will make them disadvantageous.

According to the impact assessment preceding the review, the authorities of several Member States are known for poor payment practices. I sincerely hope that today’s decision will be able to change that as well. Finally, making life easier for SMEs can be at the forefront of our concerns in this regard as well. The proposed alternative dispute resolution mechanisms can offer a solution, as can making public the practices of Member States. Making the most of the opportunities offered via the European e-Justice portal can help creditors and enterprises operate with fewer worries.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE), in writing. (SK) I welcome the Commission’s proposal tackling the problem of late payments which is becoming a serious issue, particularly in cross-border commercial transactions, because it violates legal security.

In order for the consequences of late payment to be such as to discourage it, it is necessary that fast-acting procedures for the recovery of undisputed outstanding debt related to late payment be introduced within the establishment of a culture of prompt payment. The amending proposal, aimed at the enforcement of payment of such claims against an enterprise or a public authority via a broadly accessible on-line procedure, will be a positive step towards the simplified and speedier recovery of this kind of outstanding debt. It will be beneficial primarily to small and medium-sized enterprises which suffer most from late payment and laborious recovery procedures.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Outstanding debts represent a considerable financial risk, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. A lack of a payment moral, especially in times of crisis, can severely restrict liquidity. There is certainly a benefit to be gained from measures that lead to a greater consciousness about payment. I have abstained because I am not convinced that it makes sense to regulate this at the pan-European level or that doing so would have a positive influence on the payment moral.

 
  
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  Claudio Morganti (EFD), in writing. (IT) The report tackles the problem of late payment, a problem that destabilises the market and, above all, damages small and medium-sized enterprises, for which I have a particular regard. My vote in favour of the report should be seen as a hope for the birth of a new commercial culture which is more prone to timely payment, and in which late payment is considered as an unacceptable abuse of the client’s position and a breach of contract, and not as a normal practice.

 
  
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  Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė (PPE), in writing. (LT) I voted for this legislation because I believe that better handled payment arrangements are beneficial to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and business culture in general. I believe that one of the provisions put forward in this document is particularly progressive: the call to publish lists of reporting entities quickly. These measures would not only encourage companies (particularly SMEs) to pay one another on time, thus reducing the risks of liquidity problems, but would also increase the credibility and, in turn, the competitiveness of such companies.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of Mrs Weiler’s report, inasmuch as I believe that it is essential to establish a maximum ceiling under which enterprises must be paid.. This need is even more pressing and essential at these times of crisis. Small and medium-sized enterprises, together with entrepreneurs, play a significant role in all our economies and are key generators of employment and income and drivers of innovation and growth. Unfortunately, all too often recently, we have seen situations of companies that are owed several millions by public authorities but are unfortunately forced to close down or declare bankruptcy due precisely to these late payments. I therefore hope that at the implementation stage, other factors are also considered, establishing a loosening of stability pact ties for public authorities and, at the same time, a gradual reduction in payment terms. This would bring both requirements together and the entire system of the country would benefit. I hope that the directive is quickly transposed by the Member States so that it may be applied as soon as possible. It is a duty on the part of we law makers and a right owed to creditor companies.

 
  
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  Robert Rochefort (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Late payments can result in financial difficulties, and even bankruptcy for some businesses, especially SMEs: according to the European Commission, late payments cost the European economy around EUR 180 billion every year. Other studies talk about EUR 300 billion per year, an amount equivalent to the Greek public debt. In the current economic climate, I am glad that the Council and Parliament have been able to agree from the start on an ambitious review of European legislation in this area. The European Parliament’s contribution was substantial in this matter. We were successful in making sure the final text is inspired by the many improvements voted for in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, in particular: higher legal interest rates payable in case of delay; for business to business transactions, a default 30-day rule and an extension to 60 days which can be prolonged under certain conditions; for public institutions, a maximum of 60 days; greater flexibility for public health institutions and for public medical and social institutions; and finally, a simplification of the compensation for recovery costs (a flat rate of EUR 40).

 
  
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  Crescenzio Rivellini (PPE), in writing. (IT) I would like to congratulate Mrs Weiler on her outstanding work. The European Parliament has given the green light to new laws to limit late payment by public authorities to their suppliers, the majority of which are small and medium-sized enterprises. Parliament has provided that public authorities must be bound to pay for services or goods acquired within 30 days. If they do not do this, they must pay interest on late payment at a rate of 8%.

The principle of paying for work on time is a fundamental principle of correct behaviour but is also of crucial importance in determining the solidity of an enterprise, its available funds and its access to credit and finance. This new directive, which will now be implemented in national legal systems within 24 months of its adoption, will therefore benefit the entire European economy.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – Given that late payment is a phenomenon with numerous and interlinked causes, it can only be combated with a wide range of complementary measures. Parliament therefore considers that a purely legalistic approach with the aim of improving remedies for late payment is necessary, but not sufficient. The Commission’s ‘hard’ approach with a focus on harsh sanctions and disincentives must be broadened to include ‘soft’ measures with a focus on providing positive incentives to combat late payment.

In addition, practical measures, such as the use of electronic invoices, should be encouraged in parallel with the implementation of the directive.

 
  
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  Marco Scurria (PPE), in writing. (IT) Italy is the country where enterprises suffer most due to late payment by public authorities, with an average period for payment to suppliers of 180 days as opposed to the European average of 67 days. This leads to financial problems, a drastic reduction in investment opportunities and a loss of competitiveness, particularly for SMEs.

The directive we have voted for today discourages debtors from paying late and allows creditors to protect their interests effectively against such lateness, introducing the right to legal interest caused by late payment even when not specified in the contract. It also forces public authorities to pay within a maximum of 60 days from the payment request, provided the service has been performed satisfactorily.

The adoption of this directive is truly a great help for our enterprises: nowadays, one company in four closes down as a result of problems of insufficient financial liquidity. These new rules on payments will mean that companies will regain their market competitiveness and no jobs will be lost.

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella (S&D), in writing. (FR) By adopting with a resounding majority the report by my colleague, Barbara Weiler, on the proposal for a directive on late payments, the European Parliament has introduced balanced and clear rules which promote solvency, innovation and jobs. Small businesses and public hospitals will benefit from the measures that we are proposing.

The former will no longer be faced with financial issues following late payments and the latter will be able to benefit from an extended payment period of 60 days because of their special status, with funding coming from reimbursements in accordance with social security systems. Moreover, the agreement that we should get with the Council will allow a speedy entry into force of the directive and transposition by Member States as early as January 2011. I welcome the effectiveness of this vote.

 
  
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  Salvatore Tatarella (PPE), in writing. (IT) Over recent years, late payments have become an increasingly important burden in the financial management of businesses. They represent a serious and dangerous problem that drags down the quality of the tender system, seriously undermining the survival of small businesses and contributing to the European economy’s loss of competitiveness. The statistics are alarming, above all, with regard to Italy, where the average payment is made at 186 days, peaking at 800 days in regional government with regard to the health sector. It is a real disgrace, which has very often forced many SMEs to close. Through this report, we are taking a great step forward by setting 60 days as the limit for payments from the public sector to the private sector. Of course, the adoption of this legislation will not solve the problem as if by magic, but it definitely represents a starting point to set off a virtuous cycle, above all, with regard to dealings with public authorities. The efficiency and immediacy of public authorities in paying invoices is an important step that will also have benefits for the European economy. I hope that the Member States, above all Italy, transpose the legislation very quickly.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) This report has made a significant contribution to resolving the problem of late payments in commercial transactions between companies or between companies and public entities. The initiative is aiming for greater liquidity among the European Union’s companies through harmonisation. The struggle against late payments is particularly welcome in the current period of crisis, since long delays have negative repercussions on companies’ activities. The measure aims to contribute to the smooth operation of the internal market by urgently reforming the deadline required and the penalties to apply where it is not respected.

In this context, I welcome the legislative proposal, whose stipulation of a general deadline of 30 days for paying for transactions between companies and between companies and public entities – with the latter able to benefit from 60 days in exceptional cases – garnered widespread support in the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), of which I am a member.

I also view positively the establishment of an interest rate to be applied, where payment is late, based on the European Central Bank’s reference rate plus 8%. In my opinion, this measure equates to a strong boost for the economic activity of small and medium-sized enterprises, which often see their economic performance seriously damaged because of bureaucratic obstacles.

 
  
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  Marianne Thyssen (PPE), in writing. (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have just voted on the revised directive on combating late payments in commercial transactions. I have thrown the full weight of my support behind this agreement. Excessively long payment periods and, indeed, late payments, are a threat to healthy company management, they affect competitiveness and profitability and could ultimately jeopardise the company’s continued existence. As the current directive does not appear to be effective enough in discouraging late payments, I also support the strengthening of the existing rules. As far as maximum payment periods are concerned, we will be putting in place additional guarantees for companies because, in principle, payments have to be made within 30 days. This is of particular importance for payments between companies and government bodies. After all, from now on, Member States and governments will themselves have to lead by example. This is a question of credibility, that is, a question of European institutions in future being required to comply with the same legal deadlines as everybody else. The fact that the directive clearly stipulates that any contractual deviation from standard payment terms will only be possible for objective and fair reasons will be an important factor in its enforcement. To conclude, I hope that the fixed compensation in respect of recovery costs will force late payers onto the straight and narrow path and, better still, keep them there. That would be good for our companies and good for jobs.

 
  
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  Iva Zanicchi (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of Mrs Weiler’s report on combating late payment in commercial transactions.

Business activities are greatly hindered by debts or late payments that often represent the reason why otherwise solvent enterprises fail due to a kind of domino effect. Late payments represent a frequent event in Europe that is damaging to enterprises, particularly small enterprises.

Furthermore, in most Member States, public authorities customarily pay late in situations of financial difficulty. A need has therefore emerged to strengthen existing legal measures by undertaking to combat late payment to support companies, particularly SMEs, and establish exact terms and appropriate penalties for those who are in breach.

 
  
  

Report: Ilda Figueiredo (A7-0233/2010)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of this report, as poverty is a very serious problem which affects 85 million of our fellow Europeans, so no one should remain indifferent to it. It needs to be at the forefront of our priorities, and it merits a collective response which ensures that those who find themselves in a situation of social vulnerability have a modicum of dignity. Poverty affects our young people and our elderly, but also, increasingly, our workers. 6 million jobs have been lost in the last two years alone, along with a worsening in the low level and instability of workers’ wages, even if they manage to stay in their jobs. We need a systemic approach that addresses and resolves the causes of the problems, nipping incipient problems in the bud. However, at the same time, we cannot currently provide immediate and urgent responses to their consequences. In view of this, ensuring that those who are vulnerable in our society receive a minimum income for living and are given immediate responses to enable them to get out of this situation is not only a necessity, but also a requirement that we should endorse, and one that must be achieved within a framework of responsibility and exigency.

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli (PPE), in writing. (IT) The EU has shown its commitment to combating poverty in Europe within the framework of initiatives promoted for 2010, the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, and with regard to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Considering the severity of the economic and social crisis and its impact on the increase in poverty and social exclusion, some vulnerable population groups such as women, children, old people and young people have experienced the negative effects of the situation more keenly. In this situation, even though a minimum income may constitute an appropriate system for protecting such categories, it does not take into account the principle of subsidiarity and, therefore, the fact that this subject is the responsibility of individual Member States.

Because inequalities exist between wages and social levels in Europe, it is difficult to establish a minimum common income threshold. I believe that it would instead be useful to encourage individual Member States to improve policy responses to combating poverty, promoting active inclusion, an adequate income, access to quality services and a fair redistribution of wealth. Above all, however, Member States should be encouraged to make better use of the Structural Funds at their disposal.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE), in writing. (RO) The international community has confirmed its commitment to combating poverty on several occasions. Such a global approach is required because poverty is not confined to the underdeveloped countries in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia, but to 17% of the EU population as well.

I believe that last month’s UN summit marks an important development, leading to the adoption of a specific action plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The EU, for its part, has suggested a 25% reduction in the number of people living in poverty by 2020 and an allocation of 0.7% of gross national income to development aid. Moreover, the European Parliament is encouraging, by adopting this report, the active inclusion of disadvantaged groups and providing effective economic and social cohesion.

I would like to mention the large contribution made by Romania to the UN programmes for combating poverty, amounting to EUR 250 million. As development aid must be reciprocal, my country will continue to observe its commitments. However, I think that more attention must be focused on groups at a high risk of poverty, such as the rural population or the Roma ethnic minority.

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE), in writing. (ES) The aim of this initiative is for various measures to be adopted at European level to eliminate poverty and social exclusion. The economic crisis has exacerbated the situation of many Europeans. Unemployment has risen and, under these circumstances, the situation of the most vulnerable people, such as women, children, young people and the elderly, is more precarious. This is why we need to adopt measures at European and national level, and minimum incomes are a good tool for ensuring that those who need them can live in dignity. The ultimate objective, however, is full integration into the labour market, which is what enables genuine social cohesion. In this respect, I hope that we will be able to ensure that economic development is accompanied by social development and, in particular, to influence the development of the social economy. I also hope that we will be able to fulfil the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy of reducing the number of people at risk of poverty by 20 million.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted for this report because, despite all the statements on combating poverty, European citizens continue to live in poverty, social inequalities have increased and the number of poor workers is also increasing. The European Union must take more active measures to combat poverty and social exclusion, paying particular attention to people in precarious employment, the unemployed, families, elderly people, women, single mothers, disadvantaged children and people who are ill or who are able-bodied to varying degrees. Minimum income is one of the basic measures for combating poverty, helping to lift these people out of poverty and ensure their right to have a decent living. I would like to draw attention to the fact that minimum income will only achieve its objective in combating poverty if the Member States take concrete actions to guarantee minimum income and implement national programmes for combating poverty. Furthermore, in some Member States, minimum income schemes do not meet the relative poverty threshold. Therefore, the European Commission should address good and bad practices in the evaluation of national action plans. Hence, minimum income – the main element of social protection – is undoubtedly important in ensuring the protection of people facing poverty and their equal opportunities in society.

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE), in writing. (RO) Almost 300 000 families in Romania receive a guaranteed minimum income from the state, under a law which has already been in force since 2001, and for which a fiscal effort of almost EUR 300 million is made available. Against the backdrop of the current economic crisis, whose impact is especially being felt by citizens from those countries less developed economically, the recommendation made by the European Parliament for a minimum income scheme to be introduced in all Member States provides an obvious solution. Although no one can argue against the need for such a guaranteed minimum income scheme, it may obviously be open to abuse.

A good timeframe and control framework for the scheme are required because there is a risk of this scheme encouraging people not to work. Precisely to ensure that this does not happen, it is recommended that anyone receiving this income is also able to provide some hours of work for the benefit of the community. As of the end of 2008, 85 million people were living below the poverty line throughout the EU. These figures highlight the need for support, especially when we are talking about young or elderly people.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec (PPE), in writing. (FR) The economic crisis has made poverty considerably worse. Over 85 000 people are currently living below the poverty line in the European Union. In the context of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, I welcome the political commitment taken by the European Parliament to ensure economic and social cohesion that is strong and effective.

The Figueiredo report points out that introducing a minimum income at national level is one of the most effective ways of tackling poverty. However, I am against having a minimum income at European Union level. Such a measure would be demagogic and totally ill-suited in the current situation. The Structural Funds, too, play an essential role in tackling social exclusion. The European Social Fund, in particular, is a strong European investment designed to make the labour market more accessible to those experiencing difficulties. It should remain a strong instrument of the cohesion policy during the 2014-2020 period.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) I voted in favour of this extremely good report, because it insists on the need to take specific measures to eliminate poverty and social exclusion, by promoting a fair redistribution of income and wealth, thereby guaranteeing an adequate income and giving real meaning to the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. It calls on the Member States to ‘take a fresh look’ at policies to guarantee an adequate income, knowing that decent and viable jobs need to be created in order to combat poverty. It considers that social objectives should form an integral part of the crisis exit strategy and that job creation must be a priority for the European Commission and the Member State governments, as the first step towards reducing poverty. It considers that adequate minimum income schemes must set minimum incomes at a level equivalent to at least 60% of median income in the Member State concerned. It also stresses the importance of the existence of unemployment benefit that guarantees a decent standard of living, and also the need to reduce the length of absences from work, inter alia, by making state employment services more efficient. It also stresses the need to adopt rules on insurance, so as to establish a link between the minimum pension paid and the corresponding poverty threshold.

 
  
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  Ole Christensen (S&D), in writing. (DA) We, the Danish Social Democrats in the European Parliament (Dan Jørgensen, Christel Schaldemose, Britta Thomsen and Ole Christensen), have voted in favour of the own-initiative report on the role of minimum income in combating poverty and promoting an inclusive society in Europe. We believe that all EU Member States should adopt poverty targets and introduce minimum income schemes. At the same time, we believe that these targets and schemes should be adapted to the circumstances of the individual Member States. We believe that there are many ways to assess poverty and it ought to be up to each individual Member State to find the best way to do this and to construct a minimum income scheme that is tailored to that Member State.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) The current economic crisis has had an enormous impact on increasing unemployment, on unchecked impoverishment, and on the social exclusion of people all over Europe. Poverty and social exclusion have attained unacceptable levels: almost 80 million Europeans are living below the poverty line, 19 million of whom are children – the equivalent of almost two in 10 children – and many others are facing serious obstacles in terms of access to jobs, education, housing, and social and financial services. Unemployment has also reached unprecedented levels in all the Member States, with a European average of 21.4% in which one in five young people is unemployed. This situation is unacceptable and we need to do everything in our power to help resolve the tragedy that these people are living.

To this end, 2010 has been designated the European year for combating this scourge with the purpose of strengthening the EU’s political commitment and taking measures that have a decisive impact on eradicating poverty. I agree that there needs to be a minimum wage in every Member State, accompanied by a social reintegration strategy and access to the labour market.

 
  
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  Lara Comi (PPE), in writing. (IT) Economic and social cohesion is a fundamental prerequisite of any common policy, in Europe as in smaller contexts. Where there are differing interests, objectives will also diverge and it will be impossible to plan anything shared. Raising the living standards of those living beneath the poverty threshold is a priority. Public resources put to use in this context are, without doubt a medium-term investment since, if they are well distributed, they trigger instances of growth which feed themselves. Transferring fixed sums of money is always an uncertain business, if they are not part of a wider programme of incentives. Two situations require a different approach. The first situation, relating to social welfare, is where a worker is unable to earn enough to lead a dignified life due to physical or mental disabilities, or other related reasons. The second situation, relating to legal and economic issues, involves the rigidity of the labour market, which does not adequately equate productivity and salaries, or which does not allow you to work as much you would like or in proportion to how much you want to earn in order to lead a decent life. In these two situations, the public sector can and must intervene, leaving an incentive to hard work to be created in the others – and never the other way around.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D), in writing. (RO) Approximately one fifth of the EU population lives below the poverty line, with increased rates of poverty among children, young people and the elderly. The proportion of poor employees is growing hand in hand with the proliferation of precarious, low paid jobs. In 10 Member States, the material deprivation rate affects at least a quarter of the population, with the proportion exceeding half of the population in the case of Romania and Bulgaria. All these factors add up to the EU facing a poverty problem exacerbated not only by the recession, but also by the anti-social policies implemented by right-wing governments. The minimum income can guarantee social protection for broad groups of the population who are now living in poverty. This minimum income has an absolutely paramount role to play in preventing tragic situations caused by poverty and in halting social exclusion. In order to combat poverty effectively, there is also a need to improve the quality of jobs and salaries, introduce the right to an income, as well as the wherewithal to provide social welfare benefits, pensions and allowances. 2010 is the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, continuing the campaign for an inclusive society, adopted by the Treaty of Lisbon. This provides another reason for me to vote in favour of this campaign.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing. (RO) I believe that action needs to be taken at both European and national level to protect consumers against unfair terms for repaying loans and credit cards and to establish terms for accessing loans which will prevent households from getting into excessive debt and, consequently, from facing poverty and social exclusion.

 
  
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  Marielle De Sarnez (ALDE), in writing. (FR) In Europe, 20 Member States have got national legislation which sets a minimum wage and differences between countries can be very substantial. Thus, the minimum wage in Luxembourg is approximately EUR 1 682, whereas in Bulgaria, it is only EUR 123.

That is why the European Parliament has reiterated its call for a European minimum income. This minimum income could be one of the solutions to explore to prevent millions of Europeans from sliding into poverty. We feel it is important to point out that guaranteeing a minimum income should naturally be accompanied by an overall social strategy including access to basic services such as healthcare, access to accommodation, education, lifelong learning, and this for all ages and in a way that is suited to each country.

MEPs have highlighted that the real aim of minimum income schemes should not only be to assist but also to support beneficiaries so as to enable them to move from a situation of social exclusion to a working life.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE), in writing. (FR) My support for this report highlights the importance of solidarity within our European societies, particularly in this European Year for Combating Poverty.

Certain Member States, such as France, have played a pioneering role by creating a ‘minimum guaranteed income’ 20 years ago. However, experience has taught us that this system can generate adverse effects and, for example, encourage idleness in some. That is why the Union must consider measures which, like the French revenu de solidarité active, or earned income supplement, create a sense of responsibility in recipients and encourage them to seek employment, which is the first real element of social inclusion.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE), in writing. (FR) I have always called for, and I already included this in my election programme for the 2009 European elections, the introduction of a minimum income equivalent to 60% of the average income for each citizen of the Union. Today, however, this House has unfortunately voted against this legislative proposal at Community level.

In this European year 2010 for combating poverty, I am convinced that a framework directive on minimum income could have served as a reference text for national policies and legislation.

I believe this was the most effective way to reduce poverty and to bring 20 million people out of poverty by 2020. As a reminder, 80 million people are living below the poverty line in Europe.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D), in writing. (RO) I think that the risk of poverty exacerbation in Europe must be avoided at all costs as it can have an extremely adverse structural impact in the long term, from both a social and economic perspective. I voted for this report because I believe that a reasonable minimum income must be guaranteed to ensure a decent level of social protection, in particular, for the most vulnerable groups of people who have been hit hard by the austerity policies implemented by European governments during the current economic and financial crisis.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) Without being insensitive to the severe consequences of the current crisis on the public, as it is creating or exacerbating a situation of poverty for many Europeans, I do not agree with the statist view that aims to solve this problem with more social benefits, as in the case of a minimum income that is fixed at a European level.

More social benefits require more money from the state, and as this does not create wealth, it can only be achieved by increasing tax revenue. This means more taxes on everyone, making everyone poorer and more dependent on the leech-like state itself.

The fight against poverty must be carried out by employment policies and economic competitiveness. If Portugal were not seeing several companies closing week after week, it would not be seeing so many Portuguese people unemployed and living in poverty. I therefore believe that the fight against poverty should be carried out by stimulating the economy and the market, not by way of subsidies, which will always have to be funded by taxes which, as we know, stifle taxpayers and the economy and are an obstacle to economic competitiveness.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) As I said in this House a year ago, I advocate a new concept of sociality within the European Union which is able to ensure that everyone has a basic standard of living. In a Europe that is socially conscious, fair, evolved and cohesive, it is imperative to ensure measures that eradicate and minimise the risk of social dumping and the degradation of living conditions for its people when faced with the devastating effects of the current economic crisis. In order to make Europe stronger and more united, we must ensure the protection of basic rights for people throughout Europe. I understand that minimum standards are needed in the areas of healthcare, education and social pensions, and even at the level of pay, ensuring greater uniformity in employment conditions. In the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, I welcome this report for its contribution to encouraging all Member States to fulfil their responsibilities for active inclusion by rectifying social inequality and marginalisation. I would like to stress that there should be a realistic balance and respect for the subsidiarity principle. In view of this, I am voting for this report and against the proposed amendments.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) I would stress the importance of the adoption by the plenary sitting of the European Parliament of this report proposing the introduction of minimum income schemes in all EU Member States, for which I was responsible. It was adopted in this Chamber by 437 votes to 162, with 33 abstentions, and has emerged as a specific measure of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.

As this report says, ‘introducing minimum income schemes in all EU Member States – consisting of specific measures supporting people (children, adults and the elderly) whose income is insufficient by means of a financial contribution and facilitated access to essential public services – is one of the most effective ways to combat poverty, guarantee an adequate standard of living and foster social integration’.

The adopted resolution argues that minimum income schemes must fix minimum incomes at a level equivalent to at least 60% of median income in the Member State concerned. It urges the Commission to draw up an action plan, designed to accompany the implementation of a European initiative on minimum income in the Member States. It calls attention to the increasing number of working poor and to the need to tackle this new challenge, and it calls for a fair redistribution of income.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. (FR) Rarely have I come across such a demagogic and unrealistic report. Demagogic, because its aim is to introduce a minimum income equal to at least 60% of average income in all Member States and for everyone, without any nationality requirement. Is that gross average income or net average income? Is that the average standard of living which is used to calculate the poverty line? In my country, that is tantamount to encouraging assisted inactivity and to creating a powerful magnet for immigration.

Because, according to the definition used, this income could be higher than the minimum wage, which is what 15% of French workers earn; a record among developed countries. It is not assistance that Europeans need, but real jobs that pay a decent wage. Yet, and this is the unrealistic part, the report is silent on the true causes of poverty: the pressure on wages brought about by the external competition of low cost countries where social dumping is practised, and by the internal competition of non-European immigration; and the explosion of unemployment, relocations and business closures caused by unfettered globalisation. It also overlooks the extremely worrying case of the impoverishment of Europe’s middle classes. Priority must be given to fighting these causes.

 
  
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  Louis Grech (S&D), in writing. – Even though the European Union is one of the richest areas in the world, one still finds a high percentage of European citizens facing the problem of income poverty, limiting their ability to afford the basics in relation to food, health, energy and education. Poverty affects 85 million people in Europe. Moreover, following the current financial and economic downturn, there is a higher risk of poverty mainly affecting children, the young and the elderly, putting many households at a higher risk, reducing their access to medicine, healthcare, schools and employment. We have to ensure that wealth is evenly distributed among rich and poor Member States, among small and big countries, and among their citizens.

More funds have to be allocated to different studies and analyses relating to poverty and social exclusion, comparing the systems of the 27 Member States and identifying which policy works best. We have to continue combating poverty and social exclusion in Europe and around the world by taking urgent action and, more importantly, by working in solidarity despite the different fiscal or political pressures we might face.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Currently in Europe, 17% of the population, equivalent to around 85 million people, are living below the poverty line. Behind these figures, extreme poverty is the most worrying and is making progress, especially in these times of recession, which is why a minimum income is crucial.

As 2010 is the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, and following the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we voted, in the European Parliament, for a resolution that calls for a European minimum income equal to 60% of average income in each Member State.

Our report emphasises that introducing minimum income schemes in all Member States is one of the most effective measures to fight against poverty, ensure a decent standard of living and encourage social integration, and I welcome the adoption of this resolution.

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing. (FR) I supported the report inviting Member States to tackle poverty by introducing minimum income schemes on the model of the RSA [‘revenu de solidarité active’ - earned income supplement], formerly RMI [‘revenu minimum d’insertion’ - basic guaranteed income], in France. This type of tool has been clearly recognised as being very useful when tackling job insecurity.

The text proposes that this kind of minimum income amounts to 60% of the average salary for each country and, above all, is part of a comprehensive strategy for integration, with a lasting return to work and access to public services, primarily accommodation.

The text was adopted, but unfortunately, the alternative versions proposed by the left-leaning political groups, calling for a binding framework directive for implementing the minimum income throughout the Union, were rejected. The position that we have taken in favour of these minimum income schemes is therefore encouraging, but is likely to be insufficient.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing. (PL) Current data show that poverty levels in the European Union are increasing. In many Member States, poverty hits children and elderly people the hardest, and the increasing use of short-term job contracts and low, unsecure incomes bring the risk of deteriorating living conditions across the whole of society. Add to that the demographic crisis that is affecting some countries, and we have a recipe for guaranteed economic decline. It is our job to secure a decent life for all citizens.

We cannot allow our children and grandchildren to live under the threat of hunger, unemployment and social exclusion. We must guarantee future generations decent wage levels, career stability, access to public services and social integration throughout their lives – from the earliest age until retirement.

 
  
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  Alan Kelly (S&D), in writing. – There are an estimated 85 million people throughout the EU suffering from or at risk of poverty and I believe that at a European level, everything possible must be done in order to tackle it. It is vital that procedures such as this are introduced to help reduce the number of people at risk of poverty in the EU, in order to ensure that the EU 2020 goal of removing the risk for 20 million European citizens is met.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing. (RO) The economic and financial crisis has exacerbated the situation which the labour market is in across the whole of the European Union. Just recently, approximately 5 million jobs have been lost, which has caused poverty and social exclusion in Member States. I firmly support this report because I believe that urgent measures are needed to reintegrate those affected into the labour market, as well as the guarantee of a minimum income which will be able to ensure a decent standard of living and a life worthy of human dignity. I think that we must develop relevant indicators to enable us to introduce minimum income schemes in Member States, thereby ensuring an adequate standard of living fostering social integration and promoting social and economic cohesion throughout the entire European Union.

 
  
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  Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska (PPE), in writing. (PL) One effective tool for fighting poverty is guaranteeing citizens of the European Union a minimum income which includes salaries, pensions and benefits. A minimum income should be a universal right, and not depend on contributions made.

We should pay particular attention to social groups which are particularly susceptible to poverty and social exclusion, which include, in particular, disabled people, large families and single-parent families, the chronically ill and the elderly. An analysis of the experience of several Member States shows us what an important role minimum incomes play in fighting poverty and social exclusion, and that is why I voted for Mrs Figueiredo’s report.

 
  
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  Clemente Mastella (PPE), in writing. (IT) Nowadays, it is essential to include the prevention and combating of poverty and social exclusion in other EU policies with the aim of guaranteeing the respect for fundamental human rights, universal access to essential public services and the right to health, to education and to vocational training.

All this requires social sustainability of macro-economic policies, which implies changing monetary priorities and policies, including in the Stability and Growth Pact, and also all competition policies, internal market policies, and budgetary and fiscal policies. This report uses the term ‘minimum income’, which is a controversial term defined as an instrument that makes it possible to accompany beneficiaries in moving from situations of social exclusion to active life; it also underlines the importance of broader policies that also take into consideration other needs: healthcare, education, training, social services and housing.

I voted in favour of this report because I support the idea of the need for a European coordination strategy. I nevertheless believe that the minimum income is a responsibility of individual Member States, based on the principle of subsidiarity. It is difficult to establish a minimum threshold in the various Member States when great differences exist between wages and the cost of living in general.

 
  
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  Barbara Matera (PPE), in writing. (IT) The contents of the Treaty of Lisbon, the provisions of the 2020 EU strategy and the principles included in the Millennium Development Goals do not seem to be reflected, even in terms of future prospects, in the disconcerting reality, which is that great numbers of people live in misery even today. In Europe alone, nearly 80 million citizens live in conditions of poverty, 19 million of whom are children. The ambitious policies that the international community has set itself for poverty eradication have all too often proved ineffective and difficult to implement or amounted only to social welfare measures.

The objectives must instead be achieved by considering a more structural approach, evaluating specific initiatives coordinated at European level that have an impact on income, on social services and on healthcare with the aim of alleviating the impact of a financial crisis that has hit those who are most at risk in the labour market, namely women, older women in particular, and young people. I believe that the valuation of European initiatives aiming to establish a minimum income might represent one of the ways for combating poverty provided the principle of subsidiarity is observed.

 
  
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  Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The implementation of minimum income in all the countries of the European Union is a pivotal measure for combating poverty. I am therefore voting in favour of this important report.

The minimum income is, however, calculated for each country, and thus does not contribute to social convergence within Europe. National inequalities are being maintained in the crisis that we are experiencing at present. More cross-cutting social policies are therefore needed at a European level in order to ensure a fairer distribution of wealth. This is an important part of the EU’s role.

 
  
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  Erminia Mazzoni (PPE), in writing. (IT) The European Union has always proclaimed ‘social inclusion’ as one of its founding principles. It is difficult to combat the many situations that lead to marginalisation, removal and abandonment. Among these, poverty must certainly come high up on the list. Unlike causes such as disease, anti-social behaviour, race or gender, this represents a condition for which civilised countries should organise ordinary preventive measures.

A minimum income for citizens is a remedy, not a solution. In the resolution, I support the Commission’s call to include State actions within a framework of European coordination and ensure that the minimum income is accompanied by an integrated approach that includes healthcare, education and housing. I also add my own personal appeal to the Commission, in other words, that actions to support inclusion with the aim of prevention should be prioritised in the ‘Platform for combating poverty and social exclusion’.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The Member States cannot be insensitive to situations of extreme poverty, and they must ensure that no one is simply left to their fate in situations that are often deeply degrading. Extraordinary and exceptional help should be considered in these precise cases.

Nevertheless, experiences such as the Portuguese one of awarding minimum incomes without truly effective monitoring, but with an enormous number of people who are registered as beneficiaries, who could and should work, but neither work nor try to, are a perversion of the approach that must be addressed. I therefore abstained because of the fact that the aspects of proper monitoring of the system that I have described call it into question, both from a financial and a moral point of view.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The Member States cannot be insensitive to situations of extreme poverty and must ensure that no one is simply left to their fate, in situations that are often deeply degrading. Extraordinary and exceptional help should be considered, strictly in these cases.

Nevertheless, experiences, such as the Portuguese one, of awarding minimum incomes without any truly effective monitoring, but with an enormous number of people who are registered as benefit claimants who could and should work, but neither work nor try to, constitute a perversion of the logic that should be contemplated. That is why I abstained: because of the fact that the described aspects of proper monitoring of the system call it into question, both financially and morally.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer (GUE/NGL), in writing. (ES) I voted in favour of the European Parliament resolution on the role of minimum income in combating poverty and promoting an inclusive society in Europe, because I agree with most of the requests and opinions it contains; for example, the fact that Member States, the Council and the Commission need to implement ‘concrete measures to eradicate poverty and social exclusion’ and that ‘combating poverty begins with the creation of decent, sustainable jobs for groups at a disadvantage on the labour market’. On that point, I consider its advocacy of the establishment of a minimum income threshold in all Member States to be of great value, so that everyone, whether or not they are employed, can live with dignity. I supported this resolution because, in general, it demands greater social intervention to combat the poverty suffered by millions of citizens. To that end, it demands that Member States and the European institutions establish concrete measures to promote reintegration into the labour market worthy of those people who are living in poverty.

 
  
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  Siiri Oviir (ALDE), in writing. (ET) As a female Member, it particularly disturbs me that in the present economic crisis, women in the EU are threatened by extreme poverty much more than men. If you look at the figures from Eurostat, 27% of women today, before receipt of social security, are at risk of poverty. In European society, the sustained trend towards the feminisation of poverty shows that the existing framework of social security systems and the various social, economic and employment policy measures adopted in the EU are not designed for the needs of women or for abolishing the existing disparities relating to women’s employment. I therefore support the rapporteur, who says that women’s poverty and social exclusion in Europe require concrete, diverse and gender-based policy solutions, and accordingly, I also supported the raising of this issue with my vote.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of Mrs Figueiredo’s report. Work represents the greatest priority for the population. The solidarity on which the European model of social market economy is based and the coordination of national responses are vital. The initiatives undertaken by individual states will be ineffective unless we have coordinated action at EU level. It is therefore essential that the European Union speak with a single strong voice and have a common vision, subsequently allowing individual states a choice over the concrete application of measures in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. In the social market economy enshrined in and fostered by the treaty, the public authorities must implement settlement measures with the aim of accelerating and facilitating the achievement of balance in order to prevent difficulties for the public or at least minimise them. We need social policies to protect families, limiting inequality and the impact and the effects of the crisis. We need to improve systems of social protection by implementing long-term policies, also with regard to jobs, giving greater stability to employment while avoiding unsustainable burdens on our national budgets.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE), in writing. (EL) I voted in favour of the motion for a resolution – Amendment 3 – (Article 157(4) of the Rules of Procedure) to replace non-legislative motion for a resolution A7-0233/2010 on the role of minimum income in combating poverty and promoting an inclusive society in Europe. This provision, especially in the present times of economic crisis, does not conflict with the principle of a social market economy, a principle to which I subscribe unreservedly.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) Poverty is a major social problem all over the world, and unfortunately, the EU is not immune. Moreover, the already protracted financial and economic crisis that we are experiencing has exacerbated the poverty of people within Europe, creating a new wave of poor in some countries, such as Portugal, and even affecting what is commonly referred to as the middle class.

The allocation of a minimum income is an important social measure with a significant impact in economic terms, and many see it as a moral obligation. The crucial thing is that this minimum income is regulated in such a way that it acts as a lever to elevate people in poverty to an acceptable standard of living, and that it can never be an incentive for people to act passively in a difficult situation, namely by potentially lacking commitment in looking for a job.

 
  
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  Rovana Plumb (S&D), in writing. (RO) Poverty is a reality which affects people whose income is insufficient to provide them with an acceptable living, with the number of people in this situation on the increase due to the current crisis. In 2008, 17% of the EU’s population (approximately 85 million people) were exposed to the threat of poverty. The at-risk-of-poverty rate was higher for children and young people up to the age of 17 than for the total population, reaching 20% in the EU-27, with the highest rate being recorded in Romania (33%). The at-risk-of-poverty rate for those in employment was 8% on average in the EU-27, with the highest rate again in Romania (17%).

I voted for the need to adopt a system for calculating the minimum income (equivalent to at least 60% of median income in the Member State concerned) in every Member State, consisting of specific measures supporting people whose income is insufficient with a funding supply and by facilitating access to services. This step could be one of the most effective ways to combat poverty, guarantee an adequate standard of living and foster social integration.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Lifting 20 million European citizens out of poverty by 2020, such is the ambitious target set by the EU 2020 strategy, a target that could well remain a pious hope if Europe does not come to grips with the growing impoverishment that now affects more than 80 million citizens.

That is why the introduction at European level of a minimum subsistence income or its expansion to all Member States is important. Designed to be the ‘last safety net’, minimum income already plays a role in combating social exclusion.

We now need to increase its effectiveness while bearing three main things in mind: we must keep the differential between minimum income and guaranteed minimum wage, because work must remain attractive and being in employment is still the best way not to fall into poverty; we must make minimum income a part of a coordinated and comprehensive policy for helping vulnerable people (access to accommodation, healthcare, childcare and homecare); and we must cross out heading I concerning the integration of objectives that are assigned to it, and harness minimum income as a means to assist financially, at a given time, a person or family experiencing hardship.

 
  
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