Index 
Verbatim report of proceedings
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Thursday, 16 December 2010 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. European Heritage Label (debate)
 3. Participation of Switzerland in the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and in the action programme in the field of lifelong learning (debate)
 4. Welfare of laying hens (debate)
 5. Support for strengthening the European Union ban on shark finning - Increased European Union support for grassroots sports - An EU homelessness strategy (Written declarations)
 6. Voting time
  6.1. European Heritage Label (A7-0311/2010, Chrysoula Paliadeli) (vote)
  6.2. Participation of Switzerland in the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and in the action programme in the field of lifelong learning (A7-0334/2010, Doris Pack) (vote)
  6.3. Control by Member States of the Commission’s exercise of implementing powers (A7-0355/2010, József Szájer) (vote)
  6.4. Human rights in the world 2009 and EU policy on the matter (A7-0339/2010, Laima Liucija Andrikienė) (vote)
  6.5. A new strategy for Afghanistan (A7-0333/2010, Pino Arlacchi) (vote)
  6.6. Establishing a permanent crisis mechanism to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area (vote)
  6.7. Situation in Côte d'Ivoire (B7-0707/2010) (vote)
  6.8. Welfare of laying hens (vote)
 7. Explanations of vote
 8. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 9. Welcome
 10. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law(debate)
  10.1. Malaysia: the practice of caning
  10.2. Uganda: the Bahati Bill and discrimination against the LGBT population
  10.3. Eritrean refugees held hostage in Sinai
 11. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting: see Minutes
 12. Voting time
  12.1. Malaysia: the practice of caning (B7-0708/2010)
  12.2. Uganda: the Bahati Bill and discrimination against the LGBT population (B7-0709/2010)
  12.3. Eritrean refugees held hostage in Sinai (B7-0712/2010)
 13. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 14. Council positions at first reading: see Minutes
 15. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes
 16. Documents received: see Minutes
 17. Written declarations included in the register (Rule 123): see Minutes
 18. Forwarding of texts adopted during the sitting: see Minutes
 19. Dates of forthcoming sittings: see Minutes
 20. Adjournment of the session
 ANNEX (Written answers)


  

IN THE CHAIR: MIGUEL ANGEL MARTÍNEZ MARTÍNEZ
Vice-President

 
1. Opening of the sitting
Video of the speeches
  

(The sitting was opened at 09:00)

 

2. European Heritage Label (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The first item is the report by Mrs Paliadeli, on behalf of the Committee on Culture and Education, on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Union action for the European Heritage Label (COM(2010)0076 - C7-0071/2010 - 2010/0044(COD)) (A7-0311/2010).

 
  
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  Chrysoula Paliadeli, rapporteur. (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, encouraging a European conscience that respects and defends multiculturalism represents a major challenge to the European institutions in their effort to achieve broad cohesion and solidarity between the citizens of the Member States of the European Union.

Knowledge of our history, familiarity with our multicultural cultural heritage and information for the young generation about the ideas and people who were at the forefront in building the European Union may help to bridge the gap between the European Union and its citizens.

The European Commission has undertaken, on the instructions of the Council of the European Union, to draft a proposal to transform the intergovernmental European Heritage label into a Community institution. Broad public consultation and an impact assessment have illustrated that integrating this institution into European initiatives would help to improve the image and credibility of the label, provided that it is based on clearly predefined criteria and emphasises the symbolic, rather than the aesthetic, nature of a monument or site; in other words, it would make a statement that European history is the result of a rich and mutually complementary common cultural heritage and that the European Union is rooted in strong values, such as freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, cultural diversity, tolerance and solidarity.

We started with a very ambitious approach to the label; as a weapon in our foreign policy arsenal which would go beyond the borders of the European Union, it could be awarded to other states in Europe and – why not – even outside our continent. For the moment, it would appear to be more realistic for it to be used as a means of deepening cohesion between the Member States of the Union and for it to be restricted initially to its Member States.

We countered the Commission’s proposal that the label should be awarded to a maximum of 27 sites with a proposal that the procedure should be repeated every two years, in order to maintain the value of the institution and allow time for sites to be selected and then monitored, once the label has been awarded. We agree that, because of the symbolic value of the award, as a factor that contributes to European unification, transnational sites need to be favoured, because they support cohesion, promote the creation of networks and encourage cooperation between Member States or regions. That is why they should take first place in the quota. For practical reasons, one Member State will act as coordinator between the European group of experts and the Commission.

We approached the transformation of the label not as an administrative transformation of the old transnational institution, but as a new institution with clearly defined selection criteria and binding obligations on the part of recipients if they are to keep it. The group of experts, the networking, the symbolic character and the monitoring of the awardees indicate a different approach which should not be confused with the previous transnational institution. That is why, in the aim of safeguarding the old institution and promoting the validity of the new institution, we felt that the transitional provisions in Article 18 in the Commission’s proposal were not needed. We also sought ways of strengthening the role of the twelve-member team of experts in the Commission text by adding another member proposed by the Committee of the Regions, and we tried to ensure the team was more involved in the label award or withdrawal procedure.

In the same context, and in order to strengthen the role of the European Parliament, we insisted on the Commission’s obligation to publish a full list of pre-selected sites, before the final selection, and to advise the European Parliament and the Council accordingly. This will give the European Parliament and the Council time to react if any issues arise.

To close this brief presentation, I should like to thank the shadow rapporteurs, the Commission representatives and the Council for their creative contribution to the report which you will be asked to vote on shortly. I trust that we shall cooperate in the same spirit at the next stage of the consultation.

 
  
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  Androulla Vassiliou, Member of the Commission. (EL) Mr President, I should like to start by thanking the European Parliament, especially, the rapporteur, Mrs Paliadeli, and the shadow rapporteurs, for their solid support for the Commission’s proposal on the European Heritage Label. As you know, this proposal was one of the first approved by the new Commission after it had taken office and it is one of our priorities in the cultural sector over the coming years.

Our aim, through this label, is to give European citizens, especially young citizens, new opportunities to learn about their common and, at the same time, diverse cultural heritage and history and the development of the European Union. I am certain that this will help to bring European citizens closer to the European Union. The European Heritage Label will also help to increase cultural tourism and will bring physical and financial benefits.

Cooperation between Parliament and the Commission on the label has been extremely constructive over recent months and I am delighted that our approach coincided on numerous basic issues. Most of the amendments that you approved today are completely in line with our ambitions for the new label. We share Parliament’s view that the quality and validity of the initiative are of vital importance. We also appreciate the action you have taken to maintain maximum clarity, simplicity and flexibility in the rules and procedures, so that they are easy for the public to understand and for the Member States and the European Union to apply.

However, a small number of your amendments are politically more delicate. I refer mainly to the transitional provisions deleted. The sites awarded the intergovernmental label and the Member States have huge expectations of the transitional period, which will give them the opportunity to participate in the new system quickly, provided, of course, that they satisfy the new quality criteria. This is possibly one of the main issues we need to discuss with the Council at our trialogues over coming months.

However, I am certain that compromises will be found which are acceptable to all sides and which will safeguard the long-term success of the European Heritage Label. That is why we hope to continue his excellent cooperation with Parliament in this sector. Thank you once again for your excellent cooperation.

 
  
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  Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, as is only right, I would like to congratulate our rapporteur not only on her work but, most of all, on her ability to listen.

This report, while it may not appear very important in the overall context of this Parliament, seems to me likely to bring about real Community action. Small streams make great rivers.

If the Committee on Culture and Education voted to keep the name of ‘European Heritage Label’ – for which the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) was hoping in particular – it is because this initiative is not limited to the period of history of the European Union, but focuses on the grand idea of Europe, a much older concept.

The label is a powerful tool that should primarily promote European identity through cultural diversity. It should not be seen as a simple transformation of the intergovernmental initiative, but rather as a real tool which, based on experience, will bring real added value, both through the impetus it may give to the promotion of European values by Member States or local authorities and in terms of our citizens’ knowledge of these values.

Its aim is to strengthen European citizens’ sense of belonging to Europe, and to help bring about a common awareness. At a time when public attachment to the European idea remains a major challenge we must face, Europe also needs symbols that develop and strengthen it on a daily basis, as unfortunately it would seem that European identity is an obvious fact that is yet to be invented.

 
  
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  Mary Honeyball, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Mr President, I completely agree with all the other speakers that this is an excellent initiative and I am very pleased that the Committee on Culture and Education and Mrs Paliadeli are putting this forward.

I would like particularly to thank our rapporteur who has done excellent work on this. It is a very good means of promoting Europe, of promoting our common culture and history. I am sure it will be a huge success and we have put in place various ways of making sure it is successful. The final sites will be chosen by a panel of experts who will have specialist knowledge in this area and, as I have said before, we will particularly be looking at cross-border sites to promote the idea of Europe.

There are also particular criteria that we ask the successful candidates to meet: we want to raise the European significance of the sites chosen; the successful candidates will be expected to organise education events, especially for young people; there will be an exchange of ideas on initiating common projects with other sites awarded the label; there will be artistic and cultural activities which will foster dialogue; and there will be access, of course, for the widest numbers of the public to visit these sites.

So I think the sites, when they are up and running, will have a huge benefit for Europe and will be something that people will be able to come to and enjoy, and will promote the idea of Europe and what we in Parliament and the EU are doing.

So I commend this report to you all. I am sure when the scheme is set up and running it will be a huge success and I have been very proud to be part of this initiative.

 
  
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  Oriol Junqueras Vies, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(ES) Mr President, the European Heritage Label is, without doubt, a very important project, for at least two reasons: firstly, it enables European citizens to feel closer to their common and diverse history and heritage; secondly it is a good tool for promoting cultural tourism and boosting the economy.

I would therefore like to thank Commissioner Vassiliou and the rapporteur, Mrs Paliadeli, for their initiative and their hard work, and I would like to take this opportunity to say that, although initially, it was an initiative by the Member States, we now need to give it a clearly EU dimension.

This means that the European Heritage Label should not be the sum of the places selected by the Member States, but rather it should reflect a common European vision. Having a European vision requires common criteria and absolute transparency in the pre-selection process by the Member States. It also means that we must respect regional, cultural and linguistic diversity.

Its success depends on us.

 
  
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  Emma McClarkin, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, the promotion and development of heritage sites in Europe is a necessary and welcome project which deserves our full attention. Our rich and diverse cultural heritage is something that the citizens of Europe should be proud of and, indeed, is one of the primary reasons why millions of people from around the world visit Europe every year. The project has the potential to deliver for historical sites the possibility to access additional funding and to preserve and develop their facilities, which is a much needed asset during these tough economic times, but where we raise expectations for citizens, we have the responsibility to deliver.

However, from the outset, this report was couched in a federalist language that sought to promote a fake or forced European demos, and the attempt to rename the scheme the European Union Heritage Label was politically based and would exclude thousands of potential locations whose history and heritage predates, and indeed overshadows, many contemporary sites.

In addition, attempts by myself and others to ensure that the focus of the label remained on heritage, and not on political integration, were rejected. This will inevitably lead to the unfair exclusion of many important sites.

Funding for this programme also raised serious concerns, especially given the austerity measures currently afflicting culture departments across Europe. I hope that we were able to contain this, going forward. The excessive proliferation of sites and the probable duplication of the UNESCO scheme are also likely to add problems.

The central goals of this label should have been to preserve and celebrate our shared and diverse heritage, but unfortunately, we have not guaranteed that we will add value. This is something that we need to be mindful of.

 
  
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  Giancarlo Scottà, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased with this initiative, which aims to transform the European Heritage Label into a formal action of the European Union in order to increase its effectiveness, visibility, prestige and credibility.

To this end, I should like to emphasise the importance of the professionalism of the members of the panel of experts appointed to evaluate the sites, as well as the rigorousness of the procedures for attribution of the label and reviewing its maintenance as time goes on. These elements are essential to ensure the specificity and quality of the label itself.

The label must, however, focus entirely on symbolic and educational value, rather than on the beauty of the site – as other initiatives for the promotion of cultural heritage tend to – so as to clearly differentiate it from these. Therefore, I also agree that transnational sites should be held in particular consideration, in virtue of their symbolic importance.

 
  
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  Hans-Peter Martin (NI).(DE) Mr President, a label of this kind makes good sense, but only under two conditions: the first is that it should have high visibility to ensure awareness – after all, we already have an abundance of symbols like this. The second condition is that the associated bureaucracy should not be allowed to become an end in itself, as with so many similar initiatives and EU institutions. It really would be a paradox of European cultural tradition if something that could be so beneficial to us, clearly setting out a position quite different from China in the way it deals with its ancient culture, or from the United States with its historically small repository of cultural sites, were to be seen in the final analysis as an extremely bureaucratic and complex way of creating jobs for the boys.

We need to be quite clear about one thing: culture is the source for the inspiring ideas and visions that are frequently espoused here, but far less frequently put into practice. This particular opportunity to establish an identity that is also encompassed by the principle of subsidiarity, can only exist through culture, which is why we need to do even more in this area. I am also thinking of the specific promotion of writers and other artists, without the self-perpetuating bureaucratic organisations and institutions we tend to have in a European context.

 
  
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  Marco Scurria (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to greet Commissioner Vassiliou and thank her for her strong backing for this initiative, just as I should like to thank Mrs Paliadeli and all the shadow rapporteurs for the good work they have done.

Europe is experiencing economic and financial difficulties at present. Indeed, we are currently discussing how to intervene to help several countries of the European Union that are in difficulty. Obviously, that is an important thing to do, but Europe must not lose sight of the importance of the values that have allowed the Union to emerge victorious from the innumerable challenges it has had to deal with during its history.

Europe’s wealth lies in its history, its culture, its art, its leading figures, its landscapes, its symbolic places, its intellectuals, its philosophers and – dare I say it – in its civilisation. This label can represent all of this and highlight all the myriad forms of European identity that the Member States have contributed over time.

We must now look at the negotiations with the Council to resolve a few differences of interpretation on several points. I believe the disputed points will be resolved swiftly and perhaps even easily, given the importance of this topic. I also believe that as soon as this report is definitively adopted, we shall all feel more European, due to the values and traditions we share. I believe that through the Commission, the work carried out by Parliament and with the Council, we really are doing a good job for all our citizens.

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

 
  
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  Hans-Peter Martin (NI).(DE) Mr President, I am much obliged to Mr Scurria. I greatly appreciate what he had to say on this matter. I would just like to ask him, as a representative of the largest group here in this House, how he would assess the risk that we may get tied up with too much red tape in relation to the administration and implementation of this cultural heritage label? Does he have any proposals for ensuring that this is kept within reasonable parameters, so that we are not faced with a plethora of endlessly deliberating juries and our actual common goal is not missed, namely, a highly visible label that is also recognised accordingly in the media.

 
  
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  Marco Scurria (PPE).(IT) Mr President, I am very happy to respond to Mr Martin because we know that the bureaucracy issue is sometimes what distinguishes and separates European citizens from their institutions. Seen from this point of view, I think the path set out by this report is quite clear. We shall also talk about it with the Council.

Once the Member States have decided which sites the European label could be given to and once we have a panel of true experts coming together, who are given the chance to select the sites within a necessary but not excessive amount of time – and we still need to work out who will have the last word on this, but it is an issue that we shall have to discuss both with the Council and Commission – I do not see excessive bureaucratic issues from this point of view. There are bureaucratic issues for many other measures but not on this one regarding the label, which I think can easily be followed in a secure timeframe and with clear results for all European citizens.

 
  
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  Maria Badia i Cutchet (S&D).(ES) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would also like to join in congratulating Mrs Paliadeli on the excellent work that she has done.

I think that we can now say, once the report is adopted, that it is going to be the successful culmination of a new commitment to Europeanism, and I do not believe that it is trivial to make a commitment to Europeanism in the current times.

I also believe that the decision of the Member States, the Commissioner and the Commission to place the European Heritage Label within the sphere of the European Union is going to help increase its visibility, prestige and credibility, but it is also going to strengthen the deep-rooted ideals of cohesion and solidarity between European citizens.

The label is an important step towards European integration, because it is going to bring us and all citizens closer to our common history.

When there are so many voices to be heard which so often are laying claim to individual history – frequently national history – I believe that an initiative such as the one that we are voting on today to lay claim to a common history and make it known has a really symbolic and extremely important value.

I believe that what we are going to do with this European Heritage Label will also help the younger generations to understand the ideas that were behind the founding fathers of the European Union, so that they can see that this European Union, this European integration process that we are going through, is a process, and that like all processes, its conclusion depends on those that are working within it. I think that in this respect, the European Union is going to be what its citizens want it to be. I therefore urge everyone to work together. I obviously heard Mr Martin just now saying that we should avoid bureaucracy. Of course we should! However, above all, what we need to commit to is our common history, and making it known.

 
  
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  President. – Mr Takkula has asked permission to ask a question.

Mr Takkula, you may put a question to Mrs Badia.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). (FI) Mr President, my chief purpose was to ask to speak, because I am coordinator of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and because I would like, on its behalf, to thank Mrs Paliadeli for this magnificent report and to say a few words about the history of our people and about the European Heritage Label. So actually, my question is …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  President. – Mr Takkula, one moment: the procedure… we are going to give you the floor soon as an additional speaker, because the representative of your group was indeed not present.

We will call on you along with the various speakers who speak next and you will have two minutes to speak.

 
  
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  Marek Henryk Migalski (ECR).(PL) Mr President, Commissioner, a short while ago, when interpreting Mrs Badia i Cutchet’s speech, the interpreter used the term ‘Europeism’, presumably in error. No such word exists in the Polish language and, in fact, I have the feeling that the initiative we are currently discussing is constructing something that does not exist: ‘Europeism’, or some kind of artificial creation, which is a pawn in a political game.

I believe that what we are doing is unnecessary. As a famous philosopher once said, ‘entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity’. It is my impression that the European Heritage Label represents an entity being multiplied beyond necessity. I will not mention the huge question mark hanging over the issue of how the label is to be granted and withdrawn. I will not mention the fact that the initiative will cost European taxpayers EUR 1 350 000. My question is of a fundamental nature, quite apart from these other serious matters, namely: why are we doing this? Do we really need to construct something which is not Europeanness, but merely the Europeism I mentioned earlier?

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, the current idea of culture is nothing new – we have heard it before during the discussion of other reports in Parliament and we have heard it again here today – it is on the verge of being considered instrumental in the European Union. This is expressed in various ways: whether in the context of so-called cultural diplomacy, in which culture is seen as a tool for foreign policy, or in the area currently under discussion of creating a European Union Heritage Label so as to, in the words of the rapporteur, ‘enhance the Europeans’ faith in the European Union and its leaders’ and ‘fill in the gap between the European Union and its citizens’.

The rapporteur judiciously realises that there are other more-effective means of achieving this, about which a great deal more could be said. I should like to point out that no label will be enough to erase the visible effects the policies that the EU has been implementing and its economic governance have had on the citizens and peoples of Europe: in short, the plans of true social terrorism it has been putting into action with the connivance of national governments.

We should also consider the effects of policies such as the common agricultural policy or the common fisheries policy, amongst others, on the destruction of important cultural labels and the live elements of the cultural and historical heritage of the European peoples. Let us consider the future disintegration, over the course of just a single generation, of coastal or secular rural communities. This initiative, which has a predominantly symbolic significance, is based on developing the fallacy of a single European identity and a single European culture and, moreover, on values such as freedom, democracy, tolerance and solidarity, via the particularly sensitive area of cultural heritage and, in turn, that of history, which gives rise to the serious concern that this will encourage the alarming procedure of rewriting history that we have been witnessing recently.

Culture, like other historical phenomena, does not come from some kind of homogenous shared identity but rather, it is indicative of antagonisms, conflicts and cultural domination. Let us again ask ourselves about the meaning of the designation ‘European Union Heritage Label’, which is conferred on the basis simply of where the elements of heritage in question are located. Knowing, as we do, that European heritage is borrowed from many cultures and could also be claimed by the Islamic world, by the Mediterranean cultures or by the cultures of those people subjected to European colonialism, is it Heritage of the European Union or Heritage in the European Union?

Mr President, I should like to close by saying that, in general, with a few exceptions, the amendments tabled by the rapporteur have improved the Commission’s draft, but in this case, the report’s specific objectives are far less important than the misconceptions underlying it.

 
  
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  Corneliu Vadim Tudor (NI).(RO) Mr President, today, 16 December, we celebrate the 240th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth, the composer of the united Europe’s anthem.

Given this excellent report from the Committee on Culture and Education, as a Romanian historian and writer, I would like to propose for a European Heritage Label an exceptional site which is unique in the world – St Andrew’s Cave, located close to the place where the Danube flows into the Black Sea. As is confirmed by Origen, one of the fathers of the Christian church, who learnt about it from his father, who, in turn, learnt about it from Andrew’s disciples, the first man to be called by Jesus Christ came here, to this small cave in the province of Scythia Minor, and spread the light of the Gospel. This is almost certainly the first Christian church in Europe.

During the first few months of 2011, I am going to take the necessary steps to obtain community support for a grand project. I intend to erect an impressive statue of our Saviour Jesus Christ in the Romanian part of Transylvania, in the Braşov region to be exact. It will be 40 metres high, making it taller than similar statues in Brazil, Portugal and Poland. It will also have a church at its base where weddings, christenings and religious services to mark the great Christian feasts will be celebrated. In the dark days ahead, we will come through and emerge victorious only in the light of the Christian cross.

 
  
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  Hella Ranner (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I am very pleased that this initiative, which is already implemented in some Member States, has now come before the European Union as a whole. It was right and proper that a biennial cycle should have been chosen for awarding the label. I would also like to express my thanks to the rapporteur in this matter. However, I must admit that I have a slight reservation about the fact that we must manage to draw a precise distinction between UNESCO’s world cultural heritage programme and the European character of this label. Otherwise, it will be hard for our citizens to understand why this particular label has a special European dimension.

I have taken a look to see what sites have been nominated by the Member States so far and have found, naturally enough, that they are primarily man-made structures. Our idea in the Committee on Culture and Education was not just to recognise buildings, although buildings are an important element, but, more importantly, objects of value and other sites, or even experiences, that are associated with European development.

Which brings me to the last point in my comments. It will be particularly important to appoint appropriate experts to the juries who have assimilated these aims and who will help to implement and develop them. This being the case, there would be no need to fear the bureaucracy that could conceivably arise.

 
  
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  Silvia Costa (S&D).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, during a stage in its life in which Europe is undergoing a crisis of identity and prospects, I think that the establishment of a European Heritage Label that identifies those sites – both material and immaterial – of high symbolic and educational value for the history, culture and creation of the European Union, is particularly significant.

My sincere thanks go to the rapporteur, Mrs Paliadeli, who efficiently took on board the proposals and additions suggested by many of us in the Committee on Culture and Education, providing, in particular, for procedures that are more certain and more respectful of the Treaty of Lisbon with regard to the subdivision of tasks among Member States, the Commission, the Council and Parliament. As some of my fellow Members have picked up on, we also strove to make sure there was no overlap between the label and other initiatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) or the European Council’s historic and cultural itineraries.

Indeed, on the basis of well-defined criteria, the Member States will present not more than two actively managed sites every two years. This is an important point: the Member States must show that they believe in the sites and therefore manage them in an educational way, involving the people. The Commission, meanwhile, will be responsible for pre-selection after hearing from a panel of experts, but it will also assume a monitoring role, will assess the effectiveness of the management of the sites every six years, and may also withdraw the label. Parliament comes out of this with a stronger role because not only does it appoint four of the 16 members of the European panel, but also because it has an active relationship with the list of pre-selected sites.

I also support the solution provided to the complex problem of the marks already assigned on an intergovernmental basis to many Member States that, in any case, though not suitable for the new system and the new criteria, will retain their earlier mark and will not therefore be downgraded.

I also appreciate the priority given to transnational sites, which will be a very interesting challenge for Europe, and the role assigned to the Committee of the Regions as part of an approach of subsidiarity, as well as the emphasis on the necessary involvement of Member States in the selection phase, including municipalities and regions, in order to avoid their being only partially involved. However, I think an extra effort by the Member States would also be useful. It would be very important for them to launch competitions aimed at young people in schools and universities to start a process to identify the sites, which would also become a way to reconstruct a common European history and destiny and mean that they, too, would contribute to the sense of belonging and European citizenship.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (FI) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would first like to thank you for the opportunity to speak for a moment on behalf of my group, the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, about this important report on the European Heritage Label.

Listening to the debate today, sometimes my impressions recalled what a certain teacher once told me: anything that can be misunderstood will be misunderstood. By this I mean that some try to see this excellent project – whose purpose is to raise Europe’s profile and show that Europe’s strength lies in its diversity, in the fact that it is united in its diversity – as a threat to the notion of the nation state, or a threat to European identity, or to something else. It is not about that.

I believe that this is an excellent initiative, and I would say that we need to know more about Europe. We need to know about one another, because in that way we can build a better Europe in the future.

Europe is a mosaic of nations where common ideas about democracy, human dignity and freedom of opinion have developed. They are core values that we want to take forward.

When we talk about the European cultural heritage, it has to be said that we have a very rich one. I believe that this small investment that we are making, EUR 1.3 million for the entire programme, will benefit those sites that acquire the European Heritage Label many times over, and even financially. The financial benefit is not what is most important here either: above all, it is the psychological benefit derived from a strengthened European spirit and a better understanding of how this Europe of mosaics was born and what its basis and foundation are. When we know our background and history, then we will also be able to build a sustainable future.

Mr President, again I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Paliadeli, for her report. In my view, it is an excellent and necessary one. Furthermore, it is well worth moving ahead with the European Heritage Label project on the basis of the report.

 
  
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  Raffaele Baldassarre (PPE).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, creating a European identity and increasing citizens’ interest in the European Union and its origins are two challenges that the European institutions must face up to in order to achieve broad cohesion and solidarity.

Furthermore, these challenges are at the heart of the goals of the Treaty of Lisbon. Indeed, Article 3 of the Treaty establishes the EU’s obligation to safeguard European cultural development. If the European dream is going through a difficult phase at the moment, this is not only down to the impasse regarding Europe as a political project, or the ongoing economic crisis, but is also due to the difficulties faced by a Union founded on an as yet unresolved identity.

In this situation, it is more necessary than ever to reduce the gap between the European Union and its citizens, bringing the multinational yet shared cultural heritage of the European Union to its citizens and, above all, to future generations. This is the meaning and importance of a European Heritage Label: to bring Europe together in its diversity, promoting a shared culture and favouring integration between the places involved within its territory.

In order to realise this objective, the new label will focus on the symbolic educational value rather than on the aesthetic beauty of a site, favouring cooperation between sites and supporting joint projects amongst them. I should therefore like to pay tribute to the excellent work done by Mrs Paliadeli and the rest of the Committee on Culture and Education, in particular, with regard to the procedure for selecting the sites and strengthening the role of the European Parliament during the selection process.

I am sure that the Member States’ decision to insert the label within the framework of the European Union will contribute to increasing its visibility and prestige, so as to realise the objectives of cohesion and solidarity among European citizens.

 
  
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  Cătălin Sorin Ivan (S&D).(RO) Mr President, I, too, would like to begin by thanking the rapporteur for the excellent report she managed to produce and for the negotiations she conducted with the Commission and Council. Even though she failed to have the European Union Cultural Heritage Label established, the European Heritage Label is still excellent, as is the project itself. I firmly believe that if it follows in the footsteps of the European Capital of Culture project, it will be hugely successful. It is an excellent initiative, especially as it gives rise to cross-border projects.

A number of states are collaborating in order to share the same values and traditions which they have enjoyed together for hundreds of years. I come from a city located at the European Union’s eastern border, perhaps the largest cultural city on the eastern border, just 10 km from the border. However, I have also been to Santiago de Compostela, which is virtually on the European Union’s western border – two cultural centres with very many things in common, but also with very many differences between them. One place is an Orthodox centre of pilgrimage, while the other is a Catholic centre of pilgrimage. We see the values we share most clearly when we go outside the European Union’s borders, when we travel on other continents. We then get a very clear picture of the values that we have been sharing for hundreds of years and of the fact that we have a common culture and certain features that differentiate us from other peoples. The European Union, or rather European Heritage Label, acquires its significance therefore when we go outside the European Union’s borders.

I congratulate you once again on this report and I firmly believe that it will be a successful project.

 
  
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  Csaba Sógor (PPE).(HU) Mr President, I welcome the fact that in the course of this session, this is the second proposal we are voting on that intends to bridge the gap between the European Union and its citizens. Converted from the intergovernmental programmes of several European countries into an official EU action, the introduction of the European Heritage Label will strengthen the sense of belonging to the EU, and will reinforce the recognition of differences and intercultural dialogue. It will make citizens, especially young people, aware of the importance of their role in European history and European symbolism. It can raise our awareness of our common cultural heritage.

The sites that are awarded the label will be more accessible, especially to young people, and the objects embodying our common history will be put to use more appropriately. What please me most, personally, are the organisational aspects of the action, namely, that the selection and supervision procedures will be conducted along common, unambiguous and transparent criteria, and professional exchange of experience will proliferate. As an elected Member representing a national minority, I note with satisfaction that in the case of Romania, for example, sites nominated by objective, international experts will also have the chance of being selected in addition to the four objects already holding the label. Such sites include the Teleki Library in Târgu-Mureş, which is known as one of the bastions of Hungarian culture, or the Black Church of Braşov, which is considered a quintessential example of Saxon Gothic architectural excellence.

 
  
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  Olga Sehnalová (S&D). (CS) Mr President, the European Heritage Label is undoubtedly a good initiative, and a continuation of the intergovernmental project now operating since 2006. The aim of the initiative is to contribute towards the creation of a common European identity, increasing interest in the European Union and its values.

The concept of ‘cultural heritage’ is very broad, and that is a good thing. I am delighted that the proposal for amendment incorporating industrial heritage into this category was also adopted in the report. Industry is one of the important components of common European history – after all, Europe was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, and the beginning of the EU is linked to the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community. It is also linked, however, with the common history of movements for civil and social rights.

One of the areas expected to benefit from the European Heritage Label is the area of tourism. I firmly believe that this is an opportunity to make use of the monuments of common European history to develop tourism in those regions which are not traditional tourist destinations too. This type of monument is, in my opinion, unjustly overlooked, and all that is required is to discover and make use of its potential. I therefore welcome and support the report very much, and in this context, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Paliadeli.

 
  
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  Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska (PPE). (PL) Mr President, in the period before the Treaty of Lisbon was enacted, we were faced with a situation in which the citizens of the EU were becoming markedly less interested in its affairs and activities. Adopting the Treaty of Lisbon was intended not only to provide a solution to problems relating to the need for better functioning institutions, but also to involve Europe’s citizens more closely in the EU’s activities, for example, by means of the citizens’ initiative. The European Heritage Label is a further step towards building a European identity and strengthening the links between citizens and the EU.

Over the past four years, the Member States have designated 64 sites with particular significance for Europe. By discovering our shared history and learning about the European Union’s role and its cultural diversity based on common democratic values and human rights, we can strengthen the sense of belonging to a large European family, within the framework of the EU, in the inhabitants of our Community.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE).(GA) Mr President, I welcome these proposals and I think they will grow and develop the tourism industry, something which is much needed these days.

Despite all the criticism that Europe gets, I think most citizens still value Europe and particularly a label with Europe on it. I have seen that in relation to the European City of Sport. Limerick, in my own constituency, got that award recently and it was much valued. The same is true of the European Cities of Culture and it will certainly apply to the European Heritage sites.

There are a few good things about this which should be commended. One is that you have to maintain the site, so that you will not get it forever without actually ensuring you deserve it. Secondly, there is the point made by Mr Martin, which was well answered by Mr Scurria, that red tape will not stifle it. I think we can be very proud of this. It has a lot of potential.

 
  
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  Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė (PPE). (LT) Mr President, there are often discussions among citizens on the future of the European Union. The foundations of a strong Union and a successful future are built on trust and mutual accommodation, just like in a family. The European Heritage Label is a means for people to find out more about others, to find those things and recognise personalities and movements that symbolise the building of Europe. The identification of a shared cultural heritage is an opportunity to strengthen a single and united Europe. All nations and countries, we all have a different, varied historical experience, often painful, but it is these differences that go together to make up our family and form our European identity. In particular, I would like to emphasise the division of Europe that lasted for many years and the different or total lack of opportunities for the development of democracy. I am talking about Eastern Europe and occupation by the Soviet Union. However, there was always a struggle for the idea of a united Europe there too, and we must appreciate …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Piotr Borys (PPE). (PL) Mr President, nobody can accuse us of not being consistent. In the Treaty of Lisbon, we established citizenship of the EU for its inhabitants, and yesterday we had the opportunity to vote on the citizens’ initiative. Today, we are adopting a symbol, namely the European Heritage Label. This will unquestionably boost the EU’s identity and citizenship or, in other words, all the values that are of such importance to us. I believe that this label will act as an outstanding complement to both the UNESCO list and the European Cultural Routes, as well as the European Capitals of Culture. Anyone who travels knows the value and importance of such schemes.

I believe that promoting European culture to the very heart of Europe, to Europeans, is a fundamental aspect. A good deal of Europe is still undiscovered in this respect, but the promotion of European culture outside Europe also plays a key role. What is most important is that this label be promoted successfully by the Commissioner and the Member States.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE). (EL) Mr President, I should like to take my turn in congratulating our rapporteur, Mrs Paliadeli, on her excellent report and on all her efforts to date. This new European Heritage Label highlights our culture, highlights the European spirit and satisfies all of us who frequently visit sites in Europe and think it is a shame that we do not highlight the added value of Europe, all these historical monuments that we badly need to advertise.

At the moment, as you know, Europe is concerned not only with the economic crisis, as is only natural; Europe post-Lisbon wants to highlight its cultural cohesion, the rich history, the mosaic that defines it. Of course, this needs to be done with the active participation of the European Parliament and I trust that negotiations with the Council on Article 18 will turn out well.

 
  
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  Iosif Matula (PPE).(RO) Mr President, I welcome the intergovernmental European Heritage Label project being turned into a formal European Union initiative at a time when the initial project has not enjoyed the high profile and prestige which it deserves. This project allows us to open a door as well to countries which enrich our continent’s culture without being part of the European Union.

One key aspect is the re-evaluation of sites which have already been designated under the intergovernmental agreement, as well as ensuring fairness with regard to states with a different number of initially registered sites. In addition, in the case where the sites cannot be re-evaluated directly, it is important for them to have the opportunity to reapply for the label in order to offer them more opportunities.

Awarding the European Heritage Label for an unlimited period, without a regular re-evaluation, would help make more efficient use of the reduced budget allocated to the project. The European Heritage Label will raise the general public’s awareness of the diversity of our common cultural heritage and cultural tourism.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, creating a European identity and increasing the level of interest in the EU are major challenges. They are capable of generating cohesion and solidarity on a large scale. The European Heritage Label could meet its objectives in a more effective way if it was managed as an EU initiative. It must be based on the same criteria and have a very clearly defined monitoring system. One of the upshots of this will be to boost cultural tourism. Just as in the case of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the label will increase tourist numbers and provide a fresh boost to local economies.

I welcome the Commission’s intention to use the European Heritage Label along with the other instruments designed to establish a stronger link between the EU and its citizens. I wish to end by stressing the importance of promoting intercultural dialogue.

 
  
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  Androulla Vassiliou, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, it seems that the majority of Members who took the floor stressed the importance of this European initiative and the real added value of it. They stressed the importance of this initiative in promoting Europe, the common European history and heritage, the educational value of this initiative and its significance in creating and encouraging more cultural dialogue.

I am very pleased and very grateful for this approval. I would like to make it clear that the experts who are going to be appointed for the decisions on this important initiative will certainly have the highest professional credentials to make sure that they choose not only the best and highest value sites, but also ideas. Let me remind you that this heritage is not only about sites, but also about intangible cultural heritage. For example, in Portugal, we have the decree which was the first decree in Europe abolishing the death sentence. That was included with the list of labels, so this heritage can be intangible as well.

I also want to clarify that our purpose is indeed to have a simplified procedure – quality but simplification is important. That is why we have not accepted the Council’s proposal that after the experts’ group, the initiative would go to comitology, as that would create red tape and waste valuable time for the decision to be adopted.

I would like to finish by saying that in these times of economic crisis which create divisions between the peoples of Europe politically, socially and economically, we need initiatives like this which will bring the people of Europe together. They will have a sense of identity, and we have to stress the importance of our common cultural heritage whose richness does indeed lie in its diversity. Common but diverse cultural heritage is what will unite us.

I would like to thank you once again for your support, especially Ms Paliadeli and the shadow rapporteurs for this excellent cooperation we had, and I am looking forward to the final adoption of this important initiative in the near future.

 
  
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  Chrysoula Paliadeli, rapporteur. (EL) Mr President, I should like to start by stating that I share the views expressed, both on the impact assessment of the European Heritage Label and its added cultural value. The label alone cannot bridge the gap between the public and the European Union. It can simply help, together with other initiatives, to address the problem. Of course, I cannot hide the fact that, in times of crisis, such as the recent crisis we have been experiencing, with the savage attack on the euro and the European Union, the public does not look solely to culture to resolve their basic day-to-day issues. However, a knowledge of history and respect for multiculturalism may act both as a cohesion instrument and as an incentive to growth for local communities, by calling on them to cooperate at local, regional, national and transnational level, as stated in the Commission proposal and as accepted by us. From this perspective, the idea of a cultural heritage label for the European Union – my thanks to Mr Ivan who remembered the initial proposal – which is designed to enhance the European public’s awareness of their common heritage and, at the same time, to support cultural tourism, is a positive step in this direction. Values such as democracy and freedom, which are rooted in Europe’s cultural past, are as important as transparency and solidarity nowadays, especially if we want to bridge the gap between the European institutions and the citizens of the Member States of the Union and the gap between the citizens of the Member States. Of course, we shall need to address bureaucracy issues, but I can assure you that the transparency and composition of the European team of experts will be subject to extremely clear conditions. There is no doubt that the institution will operate with absolute clarity.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today at 12:00.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) Turning the European Heritage Label initiative into an official EU action will provide particular added value to all the actions being carried out by Member States, while also making an important contribution to creating a common European identity. I welcome this initiative and the report that has been presented. I also want to mention that the European Heritage Label could be extended very successfully and with a beneficial impact to activities relating to traditional rural tourism, a flourishing sector in European states. Indeed, this is one of the proposals I am going to submit to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development when presenting the opinion on the role which rural tourism and agritourism play in achieving the EU’s objective of turning Europe into the number one tourist destination in the world.

 
  
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  Emil Stoyanov (PPE), in writing. (BG) I would like to congratulate Mrs Paliadeli on her work on this report. Establishing and awarding the European Heritage Label is an initiative that deserves special attention. The European dimension and the significance of the sites put forward will help to foster European identity and a sense of European citizenship. Our continent’s history is an important element that could contribute to the integration of the peoples of Europe. Our younger generation must be properly aware of our common European heritage because it is very important for there to be no variations in the different versions or attempts at populist interpretation, as this is our common European history and it reflects our entire cultural and linguistic diversity. The selection procedure must make sure that only sites of suitable quality are chosen. I believe that Member States should submit their proposals in close collaboration with local and regional authorities. This will help popularise the sites at national level and bridge the gap between the European institutions and European citizens. As a Member of the European Parliament, the only democratically elected body which represents its citizens, I believe that it needs to play a greater role in this initiative.

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI), in writing.(HU) I fully subscribe to the statement in the report that there is an enormous gap between the EU and the citizens of the European Member States, as more than half of them have a none too favourable opinion about the EU. With the renaming of the European Heritage Label as the European Union Heritage Label, and with the accompanying modifications, we are launching another grandiose, costly and superfluous campaign of EU self-advertising and propaganda. Disregarding such minor details as a monument to the Slovak nationalist and separatist, Stefanik, being deemed an exemplary artefact of the heritage of European Union cooperation, this new initiative, too, will fail to bring people closer to the EU. Furthermore, it is unclear that if the European Heritage Label does indeed not intend to duplicate the already existing UNESCO World Heritage List, then why is it intended to be extended to third countries, and which countries does the report have in mind in this regard?

 

3. Participation of Switzerland in the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and in the action programme in the field of lifelong learning (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the recommendation by Mrs Pack, on behalf of the Committee on Culture and Education, on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and the Swiss Confederation establishing the terms and conditions for the participation of the Swiss Confederation in the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and in the action programme in the field of lifelong learning (2007-2013) (12818/2010 - C7-0277/2010 - 2010/0231(NLE)) (A7-0334/2010).

 
  
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  Doris Pack, rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, I am very pleased that we have the opportunity to lead this debate today because I remember that we both always cooperated with Switzerland in the European Council and are therefore both aware of how important it is for Switzerland to participate in these programmes. In 2006, before these programmes were renewed, we, the European Parliament, were naturally aware that we do not exist in isolation, but that we should try to bring everyone else onboard with us. Although Switzerland is not part of the European Economic Area, it was interested in participating in the field of training and education. Like everyone else, I was very pleased with this development. In 2004, I was part of a delegation that visited the Swiss Parliament’s Committee on Training. We discussed the relevant issues in detail, for example, mobility and cooperation between schools and universities. It was clear to me at the time that this motion would eventually be forthcoming and I welcome it now.

In drawing up these programmes, we were not just thinking of our own interests, but also those of all neighbouring countries, such as the countries of the Western Balkans and Switzerland itself, situated in the middle. That is why we have made some good progress today. Concerning the previous debate, I can tell you now that Switzerland also intends to issue a request to join in the cultural programme. It is also interested in participating in the cultural heritage labelling scheme, something it can only do if it participates in this programme.

Ladies and gentlemen, what is it that we need to do today? We can either say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. None of us would dream of saying ‘no’ because we have always been in favour of Switzerland coming on board. I should add that by ‘coming on board’, I mean that it will also pay its share. According to Article 218, our only choice is to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and, of course, we are going to give a clear yes to this.

What are the key points of this agreement with Switzerland? Naturally, the conditions, rules and procedures for projects and initiatives involving Swiss participants will be the same as for participants from the Member States and the projects they propose. Switzerland will have to set up a national agency, just as we all have done in our respective countries, that will coordinate the implementation of the programmes at national level and that will be required to make a financial contribution to each of the programmes each year. In 2011, this would amount to EUR 1.7 million for the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and EUR 14.2 million for the Lifelong Learning programme. With reference to the financial controls and audit provisions, Switzerland will be required to adhere to the provisions of the European Union, including those relating to the controls by the institutions of the EU and by the Swiss authorities. The agreement will remain in place until one of the parties pulls out. However, I do not believe that anyone would enter into a programme like this with the intention of ever withdrawing again. It is in the interests of the younger generation in Switzerland and, of course, of the young people from the countries surrounding Switzerland who would like to participate in school exchanges with Switzerland as part of the Comenius-Regio programme, or in individual school partnerships, as well as the Erasmus programme.

Naturally, representatives from the Swiss authorities will be able to attend our committee meetings on points which concern their country. Let me say one thing here: we are anxious that Switzerland should take the plunge with this step. It has expressed an interest in such an arrangement for a long time. It is our hope that European awareness in Switzerland will be strengthened when the younger generation has an opportunity to interact with other young Europeans. Perhaps this will mean that future referenda will have a different outcome from those in the past. We are placing our faith in the younger generation and in these two marvellous programmes. I am confident that the cultural programme will be added in three years’ time.

 
  
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  Androulla Vassiliou, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, according to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the conclusion of this agreement between the European Union and the Swiss Confederation needs the consent of Parliament before the agreement can come into force.

I want to thank the Committee on Culture and Education, and particularly its chair, Doris Pack, for their constructive approach to the agreement.

Since Switzerland refused to join the European Economic Area, no agreement, until now, has allowed direct or indirect cooperation in education between the EU and Switzerland.

However, Switzerland has, for a long time, shown interest in our education and youth programmes. It has even developed a national support system to encourage partnerships with EU Member States’ organisations active in these programmes. Furthermore, Switzerland has participated in the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area.

Switzerland has also followed closely, albeit from the outside, the debate on education policies in the European Union. Switzerland will be the first country to take part in our programmes that is neither an EU Member State nor a member of the European Economic Area, nor a current or potential EU candidate.

The Commission welcomes the participation of Switzerland in the two programmes. The agreement will allow Swiss education and youth organisations, as well as individual students, teachers and young people, to participate in the EU’s Youth in Action and Lifelong Learning programmes on completely equal terms with EU citizens. Projects and initiatives submitted by participants from Switzerland will be subject to the same conditions, rules and procedures that apply to projects from Member States.

Switzerland has established a national agency to coordinate implementation of the programmes at national level. It will make an annual financial contribution to each of the programmes and will attend programme committee meetings as an observer for the points that concern Switzerland.

Thank you, honourable Members, for the good work you have done in this case.

 
  
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  Marco Scurria, on behalf of the PPE Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, other than the Commission, I should also certainly like to thank the Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education, Mrs Pack, for the work and dedication that she has lavished on this dossier.

What we are talking about today is important because it is an instrument like ‘Youth in Action’ that creates the spread of ideas, closeness and friendship amongst the countries of the European Union, but also, and above all, amongst those that are not part of it, such as Switzerland or other countries besides.

It is the great richness of our multiannual programmes that, through actions such as ‘Youth in Action’, ‘Erasmus’, ‘Erasmus Mundus’, ‘Permanent Education’, ‘Media’, ‘Media Mundus’ and many others, they allow relationships to be built between the countries of the European Union and third countries.

Through these programmes, you see, we have brought the European Union to life, allowing many citizens – primarily young people – to meet, swap experiences, come to know others and to become known themselves. We have given teachers and workers in general the chance to improve their professional skills and we have given directors, producers and associations of various countries the chance to do better work.

Hence, these programmes are important and so we were a bit concerned when we did not see them on the Commission’s Work Programme for next year. Today, therefore, today we are approving an important step, which makes the EU grow, strengthens citizenship on our continent, and – given that we spoke about it a little while earlier regarding the European Heritage Label – it is a step that contributes to creating this European identity of ours.

 
  
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  Joanna Senyszyn, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (PL) Mr President, on behalf of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, I endorse the rapporteur’s draft report on agreeing to the participation of the Confederation of Switzerland in the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and in the action programme in the field of lifelong learning. The agreement has been appropriately negotiated and protects the EU’s interests, and the legal bases for European programmes in fields relating to education, training and youth provide for Switzerland’s participation. The principles governing this participation have been outlined in detail, which guarantees that the programmes will be implemented appropriately and fairly. Switzerland is keen to cooperate with the EU in the field of education, training and youth, and so our agreement should be self-evident.

We are delighted that the EU’s education programmes are so attractive and effective that other countries are joining them. The latest European Commission research shows that the ‘Youth in Action’ programme increases young people’s linguistic abilities and their chances in the labour market. The opportunities for adult education are still not being fully exploited, however, even though there is enormous potential in this area.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (FI) Mr President, right from the outset, I wish to thank our committee’s excellent Chair, Doris Pack, who also drafted this report. I might say that when this proposal was in the hands of Doris Pack, it was in good hands. As our worthy Commissioner knows very well, Mrs Pack has much professional experience and expertise in these very areas of lifelong learning and youth programmes. When preparations were being made regarding this issue, it was a joy to observe how well this work progressed. It is excellent that young people in Switzerland are also to share in the success stories that we in the European Union have created.

It is quite true that even those who take a critical view of the European Union, who are even opposed to it, nevertheless unanimously agree that the European Union does indeed have success stories, such as the programmes that relate to lifelong learning, youth and culture. This is one of the best aspects of the European Union, and one which we should do much to ensure remains visible.

It is because of the European Union and these programmes that we have been able to encourage young Europeans to pursue a path of education and training and to increase their personal capital. It has also, however, increased the capital of nations.

In this connection, it is very important that Switzerland is not in any way excluded from this system of cooperation, even though it is not a member of the EU or the EEA. Instead, young people in Switzerland should be given the opportunity to participate in the programmes and things should therefore be taken forward on a reciprocal basis. I believe that that will generate added value in all respects.

Mr President, finally, I wish to thank our rapporteur. I hope that this programme will be a success story for the Swiss too, as it has been for us, the citizens of the Member States of the European Union.

 
  
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  Marek Henryk Migalski, on behalf of the ECR Group. (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, this report was adopted unanimously in the Committee on Culture and Education, where everyone acknowledged that it was a good idea. It really is a good idea which should be entirely uncontroversial, since it exemplifies the values we are discussing. In fact, this may well be one of those reports to which the Chamber can lend its unanimous support, even if Switzerland’s situation is a unique one, as the Commissioner said. It is a very interesting country which is very special in political terms, and which engages in very interesting forms of cooperation with Europe while not being party to many European agreements, and for this very reason, it is worth building links with this country by means of uncontroversial and universally accepted programmes of this kind.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška, on behalf of the EFD Group.(SK) Mr President, even though Switzerland has not yet decided to become a Member State of the European Union, it has long shown a serious interest in broad cooperation with the EU in the area of education and professional training for young people. After the establishment of the Youth in Action and Lifelong Learning programmes in 2006, a legal foundation was put in place for cooperation between Switzerland and the EU in this area.

The European Commission, in accordance with the recommendations of the European Council following talks with Swiss counterparts, has drawn up an agreement making it possible for us to develop effective cooperation with our Swiss friends in the area of education and professional training of young people, as well as in the area of lifelong learning. The agreement is correct, balanced and expresses the interests of both signatories to expand mutual cooperation and support the exchange of knowledge and expertise in the interests of improving the quality of the education process.

In my opinion, Commissioner, this agreement between the EU and Switzerland therefore represents a step in the right direction.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D). (LT) Mr President, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mrs Pack, and I agree entirely with her recommendations on the ‘Youth in Action’ and Lifelong Learning programmes and the participation of Switzerland in these. I would say that Switzerland is not just a beautiful and orderly country; it is of great interest to the European Union due to its direct democracy, the confederation of cantons. On the other hand, the European Union must also be of interest to Switzerland, because Switzerland is entirely surrounded by EU Member States. Finally, Switzerland is tuning its pulse of life to the European Union. I believe that once this programme has been adopted, it will be possible to do this even better. Switzerland will come even closer to the European Union, and the EU will understand Switzerland better; as our colleague Doris Pack mentioned, we will be able to anticipate better results in referenda.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (ALDE). – Mr President, I welcome the moves for Switzerland to increase its cooperation with the EU in the fields of education, training and youth. The Youth in Action programme is a very important programme for young European citizens. It is a programme that needs to be highlighted more, and its aims and objectives need to be realised, in particular, with regard to the European Voluntary Service’s activities under the Youth in Action programme.

Given that next year is the European Year of Volunteering, it is particularly significant that the European Voluntary Service – which supports young people’s participation in voluntary activity and aims to develop solidarity and promote active citizenship amongst young people – is strengthened.

In Ireland, volunteering in grassroots sports organisations offers sporting and leadership opportunities to thousands of young people. These organisations encourage active citizenship amongst young people, while promoting health, fitness and an active lifestyle. The programme and its voluntary measures should be enhanced and strong links should be forged with Switzerland in this regard.

There are many possibilities under the Youth in Action programme, and any measures to enhance its aims and to encourage and support young people in the EU should be sustained and strongly encouraged.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D). (LT) Mr President, rapporteur, I would like to thank you for your work and say that I really support your recommendation that the European Parliament should approve the Council decision on Switzerland’s participation in the ‘Youth in Action’ and Lifelong Learning programmes, because the Commission’s agreement with the Swiss authorities meets all the requirements, provisions and conditions. Furthermore, the Swiss National Agency will cooperate on the implementation of the programmes at national level and will contribute financially to each programme on an annual basis. This bilateral agreement is very important both for Switzerland itself and the European Union, because the young people of Switzerland will be able to take advantage of various opportunities according to the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and vice versa. The European Union’s young citizens will be able to participate in all projects alongside Switzerland’s young people. I am therefore delighted that although it is not part of the European Economic Area and is not an EU Member State, Switzerland is nevertheless cooperating closely with the European Union in the fields of education, training and youth affairs.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Mr President, ever since I came to the European Parliament, I keep asking myself why Switzerland and Norway have not joined the European Union, and I wonder if it is because they have the best of both worlds. The benefits of being in the European Union without the obligations. Here today, I am a bit dubious as well. The Commissioner mentioned they will have to pay. Of course they will have to pay, but normally non-members pay more than members of clubs.

However, I will bow to the superior wisdom and experience of Doris Pack in saying that this may be the way forward. It may help create greater European awareness among the citizens in Switzerland and they may one day join the European Union. If that happens, which I hope it will, I think all the credit will have to go to the Commissioner and Doris Pack for their enlightened approach. In this season of goodwill, I am prepared to go along with the proposals.

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE).(HU) Mr President, Commissioner, European youth is a generation that has been given the privilege to grow up on a peaceful continent almost free of boundaries, which is characterised by mobility and multilingualism, and which also offers a wide range of cultural and economic opportunities. In order to ensure that more and more young people engage in active citizenship, we need to establish stable aid schemes in the field of youth policy. It is true that Switzerland is not a member of the European Economic Area, but it closely cooperates with the European Union, and it does so not only in the fields of education, training and youth. Since 2008, Switzerland has participated in, and financed, several projects that aim to reduce economic and social differences within an extended Europe. Switzerland has expressed solidarity with, and commitment to, the enlargement of the European Union, and aims to establish firm economic and political relations with the new Member States. I agree with the key points of the agreement on the participation of Switzerland in the programme, which would make it an equal partner …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Silvia Costa (S&D). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, if this programme is brought to fruition today, it is thanks to the determination of Mrs Pack and the will of Commissioner Vassiliou.

As an Italian-Swiss citizen, I am happy that Switzerland is the first country from outside the European Union to participate in EU education programmes for young people, both in higher education and continuing skills training. Indeed, let us remember that even if Switzerland is not part of the European Union, it has made a major contribution to building the values and freedoms that are a shared heritage of the European continent.

It is a symptom of the success of programmes such as ‘Youth in Action’ that Switzerland requests that the mobility of our European programmes be extended to their young people and therefore, it is of significant importance that Switzerland is not only requesting a larger economic area but also a larger educational area. I believe that it will be very interesting for the young people of the European Union and Switzerland to get to know each other better, and I am sure that this will lay foundations that will also have an influence on the future of the European Union.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Mr President, understandably enough, Switzerland, which provides some of the financial backing for the ‘Youth in Action’ and Lifelong Learning programmes, now wishes to participate in these programmes. However, in the spirit of learning, it would also be good if the EU were to take a leaf out of Switzerland’s book when it comes to direct democracy. When the Swiss population decides against the erection of minarets, this decision is accepted. Likewise, the recent initiative on the deportation of foreign criminals. The Swiss authorities are aware that when the people say ‘no’, they mean ‘no’, so that they do not simply continue to hold ballots until they get the result they want, as has happened in the EU in the case of Ireland, for example.

The fact is that the original rejection of the constitutional treaty for Europe at that time may have made it easier for some Swiss to vote in favour of the Schengen and Dublin Agreements. They might find it easier to form an alliance with a loose federation of states than with a centralist European Union. This is something that cannot be concealed by the voices currently being heard in Switzerland calling for accession to the EU. Not everything in the European Union garden is rosy; centralising tendencies are on the rise and developments are moving inexorably in the direction of a transfer union.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Piotr Borys (PPE). (PL) Mr President, I would like to extend my very warm thanks to Mrs Pack and the Commissioner for taking this initiative. I think that Switzerland, an enclave surrounded on all sides by EU Member States, does, in fact, need to be open to the programmes. I think that young people are not always aware that, since they are not yet part of the European Union, they cannot benefit from this supranational European programme, which provides an excellent way to integrate young people and exchange best practices, and which really does ensure that cooperation and lifelong learning can be truly European.

I would also, and most importantly, like to offer thanks for the fact that today, we will be able to transfer a model of European programmes to a country which is not a European Union Member State. In the same spirit of acceptance and invitation, I would also like to encourage Mrs Pack and the Commissioner maybe to extend similar schemes to include other countries that are willing. I am thinking here mainly about the Eastern Partnership and also the Balkans, or, in other words, countries that are not yet formally European Union Member States.

 
  
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  Hella Ranner (PPE).(DE) Mr President, like everyone else here, I have the feeling that Switzerland may come increasingly closer to Europe in this way, eventually, and hopefully soon, becoming a full member of the European Union, something that is certainly greatly to be welcomed. We should be encouraged by this small white spot in the middle of the map of Europe.

According to our estimates, the ‘Youth in Action’ programme will reach about one million people. The important prevailing aim is that youth organisations should take part. This is a signal to the next generation that their active participation is very welcome. I would also like to express my appreciation to Mrs Pack for her efforts.

We need to reach out from the Union to other countries, in this case Switzerland, as this is the only way that we can achieve success. Simply waiting for the Swiss to ask to join the European Union will probably not be enough in times like these. In addition, we must not forget that financial support for the Committee on Culture and Education in particular gives us reason to hope that Switzerland will also join in other programmes soon.

 
  
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  Androulla Vassiliou, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I should like to thank everyone for warmly welcoming this initiative. It was my pleasure to have signed this act between the European Union and the Swiss Confederation as my first act as Commissioner for Education, Culture and Youth. I welcome this development, and I wish Switzerland was also in a position to join us in the culture programme, which they cannot for internal constitutional reasons.

As many speakers stress, we welcome the creation of closer relations between the youth of Switzerland and the youth of the EU Member States. We see it as a means of paving the way for greater support for the European project in Switzerland, which we hope will change its mind in future and decide to join us in the European Union.

I also take note that honourable Members encourage other non-EU members to join this programme, something which we shall, of course, promote. Thank you very much for your support.

 
  
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  Doris Pack, rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, I am very pleased to see that some of my fellow Members from the ranks of the Euro-sceptics have voted in favour of this motion, agreeing how wonderful it is that Switzerland is to join this programme and that there will be greater European cooperation on education. This will open up horizons perhaps also for the Members themselves, but certainly for the younger generation in Switzerland. We are pleased with this.

Mr Mölzer is no longer here, but I note that he did not mention the fact that Switzerland did not hold a referendum on this cooperation. It is indeed remarkable that Switzerland decided against such a step in this area in particular. After all, it can be sure that the younger generation has been waiting a long time for the opportunity for such cooperation. Mr Mölzer obviously failed to notice that a referendum did not take place in this case. The people do not need to be consulted on every single issue. Good things, such as accession to the European Union, will be self-evident. I hope that the younger generation will benefit from the fruitful cooperation in these education and youth programmes and that they will become real Europeans who, at some stage, will say: ‘Now is the time for us also to join the European Union, sharing with the rest of Europe in all other policy areas. We are a single continent, and should also agree on these questions’. I am certain that these education programmes will play an important role in enhancing European awareness among the people throughout Switzerland.

 
  
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  President. – Thank you, Mrs Pack, I would like to congratulate you, not only on this report, but also on your hard work and enthusiasm, and also for being in Madrid at the weekend to promote the LUX Prize. I am not going to be able to be with you on the 17th, although I would very much have liked to be there. On the 18th and 19th, I will be able to participate in the meetings. Thank you, the truth is that Parliament needs people like Mrs Pack in order to achieve the effectiveness that we all need.

(Applause)

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today at 12:00.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Iosif Matula (PPE), in writing. (RO) I find it encouraging that Switzerland wants to participate in the European Union’s education and youth programmes, especially as this country is not yet a member of the EU or of the European Economic Area either. This involvement in EU programmes is also important from the perspective that we have not had, until now, a direct cultural and education agreement. However, Switzerland’s participation in the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area guarantee that we can create together the conditions for achieving the 2020 strategy’s objectives, establishing in the process a strong link between Member States and third countries. Meetings between young people, exchanges of experience between teachers and researchers and increased opportunities for lifelong learning will help us create a common European identity. However, I want to stress that we also need to consider including the other countries bordering the EU in our programmes because education and culture should not stop at our borders. This will enable us to rebuild the continent of Europe and encourage young people to become actively involved in shaping our common future.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE), in writing.(IT) The participation of Switzerland, a country that chose not to be a part of the European Union, in the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and in the action programme in the field of lifelong learning cannot be ruled out a priori, but should be carefully evaluated. I therefore support the terms of the agreement reached between the Commission and the Swiss Government, so I am voting for the report by Mrs Pack. It is right to grant the benefits of the programmes to Switzerland, but it is also right to safeguard all the financial and other interests of the European Union.

 
  
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  Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska (PPE), in writing. (PL) The aim of the Lifelong Learning programme, which is included in the Seventh Framework Programme, is to develop various forms of learning throughout people’s professional lives, by supporting cooperation between education and training systems in countries participating in the programme. The programme’s target group is not only students or secondary school pupils, but also adults, thanks to the Grundtvig programme, and training staff, for whom study visits are provided. The year-on-year increase in the budget earmarked for this programme, which amounts to nearly EUR 1.028 billion in 2011, is a sign of the justified need for development and cooperation in this field.

In a time of such high youth unemployment due to a lack of education adapted to the needs of the labour market, and a lack of appropriate professional training for graduates, we must concentrate on making the maximum possible use of the opportunities afforded to us by the Lifelong Learning programme, and find a solution for such a difficult situation. I welcome the initiative to include Switzerland in cooperation in this area. I hope that the joint exchange of experience will help raise employment levels and increase the mobility of the labour market.

 

4. Welfare of laying hens (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the debate on the oral question to the Commission by Paolo De Castro, on behalf of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, on the welfare of laying hens (O-0178/2010 - B7-0657/2010).

 
  
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  Paolo De Castro, author.(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, today represents an important opportunity to discuss the strategic issue of protecting animal welfare in agriculture. On 1 January 2012, the terms of Council Directive 1999/74/EC will enter into force, laying down minimum standards for the protection of hens, tantamount to the abolition of conventional battery cages as a system of rearing for the production of eggs. This method of animal housing will be banned in favour of systems of rearing that guarantee better animal welfare.

Mr President, the memory of the Council of the European Union on Agriculture, held on 19 July 1999, is fresh in my mind. It was an important day, on which, as the representative of my country (at the time I was the Italian Minister for Agriculture), I contributed to the approval of this important directive by voting for it.

Now, one year after the irrevocable entry into force of the new legislation, data show that European producers are proceeding to adapt their production system, but not without running into difficulties. What we need is a concrete commitment from the Commission to safeguard animal welfare, to protect producers who have adapted their system of rearing to Council Directive 1999/74/EC, and, at the same time, to effectively guarantee the passage of the new legislation, avoiding distortions in terms of market competition.

This is why my fellow Members and I felt it appropriate to add this important topic to the agenda of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, which I have the honour of chairing. Hard work over recent months, involving all parliamentary groups, resulted in the oral question of 28 October 2010, which puts three important issues to the Commission:

Firstly, to report on the implementation of the new legislation within the Member States;

Secondly, the actions to be taken in the Member States to guarantee compliance with the terms of the directive, and compromising where necessary with those undertakings that show a genuine desire to adapt.

Lastly, measures and guarantees to be adopted to avoid crises in the egg market in the coming years and to prevent unfair competition from third countries that are not obliged to respect the European Union directive within the European internal market.

These are the queries to which we are awaiting concrete and definitive responses from the Commission. Lastly, we ask the Commissioner to guarantee a more transparent market, along the lines of the concept of so-called reciprocity of rules, in order to facilitate the prospect of greater international convergence on the animal welfare standards applied by the European Union.

Attending to this matter, which we have discussed a number of times in committee since the start of the legislature, is essential to prevent Europe’s efforts on animal welfare – our efforts, Commissioner – from being rendered useless by a market that is incapable of recognising the social values that are bound up in foodstuffs. We need to reduce the distorting effects of the possibility that producers outside the European rules system could translate the lesser restrictions they are subject to into greater competitive advantages.

Mr President, adopting the motion for a resolution on the welfare of laying hens, which we will vote on this morning, could represent a first and important step in this direction.

 
  
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  Androulla Vassiliou, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, first of all, I was asked by Commissioner Dalli to pass on his apologies for not being able to be here in person, but I was pleased to take this question as former Commissioner in charge of animal welfare and health.

On behalf of the Commission, I would like to underline that the ban on conventional cages which was adopted in 1999 represents an important improvement for animal welfare in the European Union. Furthermore, it has stimulated intense debate worldwide. I also wish to highlight that Member States are primarily responsible for implementing EU legislation on the protection of laying hens.

The Commission is making every effort to monitor enforcement in Member States, including through inspections carried out by the Commission’s experts, and through the data provided annually by the Member States on the basis of a specific Commission decision related to animal welfare inspections on farms.

Last month, in November 2010, official data for 2009 on production sites for laying hens were submitted to the Commission by 24 Member States. As of today, only 18 Member States have submitted complete data. This data shows that 66% of the production sites in those 18 Member States were keeping laying hens with free range systems, 29% with barn systems, 3.5% with conventional cage systems and 1% with enriched cages.

However, the Commission is aware that important data gaps still exist and that three Member States did not reply at all while six Member States have only provided partial data. Therefore, the above picture is far from being complete. The Commission is continually asking Member States to complete the missing data on every possible occasion, including in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health and the meetings of the chief veterinary officers.

Furthermore, the Commission asked Member States by a formal letter to submit their national action plans to implement the ban in order to better analyse the situation across the EU.

At this stage, the Commission is concentrating its efforts to ensure that Member States take the necessary measures to implement the ban on conventional cages by the legal deadline. Member States are responsible for ensuring that eggs not produced in compliance with the directive on the protection of laying hens are not legally marketable according to EU legislation.

A better picture of the situation will be available next year after the stakeholder meeting. The stakeholder meeting will take place in January 2011.

Today, the import of shell eggs is very limited due to the short shelf life of the product as well as EU food safety requirements. According to EU legislation, packs containing eggs imported from third countries where there are not sufficient guarantees as to the equivalency of production standards are to bear the indication of farming method as non-EU standard. This label allows imported eggs not produced according to EU welfare requirements to be clearly distinguished.

The Commission will further examine the situation with all relevant stakeholders, as I said, in a meeting to be held on 19 January 2011 in Brussels, where options to ensure the smooth enforcement of the directive will be discussed.

 
  
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  Esther de Lange, on behalf of the PPE Group. (NL) Mr President, we are hurtling at breakneck speed towards a situation where millions of eggs will fail to comply with European rules. After all, as has been said earlier today, it is expected that 30% of all eggs produced in 2012 will breach the battery cage ban which we agreed in 1999.

Commissioner, this is merely a matter of simple arithmetic. It costs the farmer 8 to 13% more to produce this kind of animal-friendly egg, from hens not confined in battery cages. On the other hand, whether we like it or not, the average consumer will still opt for cheap eggs and is prepared to pay only 3 to 4% more for this kind of animal-friendly egg. The competitive disadvantage that arises from this situation therefore appears to be very clear.

The key question is: what are you, the European Commission, going to do to ensure that farmers who are complying properly with the rules and who have invested in alternatives are not penalised in favour of their colleagues who are lagging behind. Commissioner, please do not just fob us off with the same old line that Member States are responsible for implementation and checks. You are the guardian of the treaties, which is why all our eyes are on you. I also find it very unfortunate that we are still discussing data and relying on getting a better picture next year, because it will be too late then!

What are we going to do? The pressure must be increased! In our resolution, we are, of course, demanding maintenance of the cage ban, more inspections, that national action plans should ultimately have to be drawn up and an export ban on any eggs which are not produced according to the rules, amongst other things.

Commission, it is your move! If you do nothing, then not only will bona fide chicken farmers suffer, but so too, I fear, will your credibility and that of all European animal welfare regulations. Now, that is a situation that I believe we all want to avoid.

 
  
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  Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, on behalf of the S&D Group.(PT) Mr President, like the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr De Castro, 12 years ago, I, too, had the opportunity, as Minister for Agriculture, to participate in the decision to adopt the legislation that we are discussing here today. It was a very long and difficult debate because we were confronted with two contradictory values: establishing conditions for animal welfare and ensuring the sector’s competitiveness. The solution reached was to favour animal welfare and allow a sufficiently long period for the sector to adapt.

Although there is still one year until the new regulations come into force, the available data on farms that have not yet adapted are of concern to us, as the Commissioner indeed confirmed. We cannot allow companies that have invested and made a great effort to be in a position to comply with this legislation to be penalised or subject to unfair competition.

I am grateful to the Commissioner for the information that she has provided us with, but we would like to obtain more detailed information on what point each Member State has actually reached. We would also like to know what specific procedures the Commission is thinking of following to ensure that companies can, in general, comply with this legislation on 1 January 2012, other than those the Commissioner has mentioned, and if there is actually a framework of penalties with a modicum of uniformity between the various Member States. This is the intention of the resolution that we are discussing today, which will, I am sure, be widely supported in Parliament. However, my group will be voting against removing, in whole or in part, points F, 8, 9 and 14, which contain wordings and objectives that we doubt are compatible with EU law and that will reduce the resolution’s credibility if they remain.

 
  
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  George Lyon, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I would like to thank the Commissioner for the information at the beginning of this debate.

Regardless of whether you have the complete picture or not, the hard fact is that, as of 1 January next year, 80 million eggs in the European Union are likely to be produced under illegal cage systems. That is going to be a fact. We have a 12-month laying cycle. There is no way that figure is going to change dramatically by that time.

I would like to know what I am going to say to the likes of John Campbell of Glenrath Farms and all the producers in the United Kingdom who have spent, on average, GBP 2 million each to comply with the legislation and now incur an extra cost that is between 8 and 10% higher than under a conventional cage system. What do I tell our consumers back home, to whom we promised that, by 1 January 2012, there would be no more eggs on the market produced under the old conventional battery cage systems?

I know what I want this Parliament and the Commission to say. I want to be able to go back and tell them that we are going to take tough action to make sure that the legislation is complied with. No derogations and no extensions. After all, producers have had ten years to comply. I want Member States who are compliant to be able to protect their consumers and their producers by being able to ban imports of illegally produced eggs from those producers and countries which are not compliant. I also believe that the Commission should draw up a list, once it has the information, and name and shame those who have failed to comply. It is no excuse to say that we were not aware it was coming. Ten years is a long time in any business cycle to be able to prepare and invest.

Commissioner, when you are winding up this debate, I hope you will give us a strong statement saying that you understand the concerns of producers and consumers and a promise of tough action that protects both of them.

 
  
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  Martin Häusling, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, your answers have failed to convince me. The details provided by the Commission in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development were also far from convincing. As Mr Lyon has already stated, this is a problem facing us down the line. From 2012 onwards, 30% of the eggs on the market will be illegal. However, we have no idea how to deal with them. Apparently, we are to trust states to meet their reporting obligations – permit me to ask why we do not initiate infringement proceedings or at least threaten such action, so as to make it quite clear that, at the end of the day, European law must apply in all Member States and to all farmers? We have built up a very high level of credibility in respect of animal welfare, and this is something we must also defend. Citizens rightly expect these standards to be applied. The public is very sensitive to animal welfare issues. After all, we do provide funding and public support to the farming community because we have more stringent regulations in relation to environmental protection and animal welfare. It is not unreasonable to expect something in return from all Member States. For this reason, I should like to ask: What is the Commission going to do now? We have already made a demand at committee level. We actually need to place a catalogue of measures on the table immediately. We cannot accept the possibility of further discussions aimed at extending deadlines. It cannot be that we now penalise those who have implemented policy by allowing others to work with transitional deadlines for even longer. This will cause farmers to lose faith in the institutions of the European Union.

You raised a question in relation to labelling. What will happen with products that contain liquid egg instead of fresh eggs, for example? How can we label such products? This point must be regulated immediately at the very least.

It has already been said several times that 10 years is a long time. Everyone in the European Union must have known that these deadlines would have to be observed. There can be no excuse for Member States, including new Member States, saying: ‘Sorry, but we ran out of time. Ten years really was not enough’.

The European Union is in pole position when it comes to animal welfare. We can use it to back up our arguments worldwide. We can use it in argumentation with consumers, which is why we must implement this consistently if Parliament and the Commission are not to lose credibility in relation to the implementation of European standards. For this reason, we are urgently calling on the Commission to take action, rather than wasting even more time risking a situation that will satisfy no one from 1 January 2012 onwards.

 
  
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  James Nicholson, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, first of all, can I also say I am not totally convinced by what the Commissioner told us today. There have been two occasions when officials from the Commission came to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and their performance and what they told us was not only unacceptable, it was abysmal and it was a disgrace.

Now I have listened to what the Commissioner said and I have listened with tremendous interest to some of the things she did say, but she has not given us anything other than the fact that they are going to meet the stakeholders in January.

So what are you going to say to the stakeholders in January, Commissioner? What is going to be the outcome of that? We want to know, because you have got to realise that, today, the last hens are already in the conventional cages that have got to meet that deadline. They are already there. There is normally a 13 to 14-month laying cycle for hens that go into conventional cages.

Now, you made a comment during your remarks and maybe you will reply or enlarge on it: you said that eggs from outside the EU not meeting equivalent standards would have a different mark. What do you mean by that? Will you take on board the point that eggs within the EU produced unlawfully after 1 January 2012 will either have the same stamp, will not be allowed to be exported outside the country in which they are produced or will not be allowed to go onto the market?

We have a terrible problem here because, as George Lyon said, there are 83 million eggs – we know that for a fact – which, on 1 January 2012 are going to be illegal. Now that is also a terrible plight for us in Europe, where people require eggs to eat. So what are we going to do here?

I really think we need to know where we are going. Will you give us an assurance that you will come back to this House in March with a proper proposal as to what you intend to do – what measures you intend to bring in – to actually control this situation? As has been outlined by others, many producers have already spent millions of pounds in conforming to the standards. They cannot now be asked to take further pain by others who are not prepared to do the same.

 
  
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  John Stuart Agnew, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, the Commission has created a huge crisis in the egg industry. Like it or not, 100 million birds will still be in cages on D-day – or should I say E-day? There is neither the cash nor the logistics to prevent this.

Insisting on the ruthless enforcement of its rules in a year’s time from the comfort of an armchair may give the speaker a great feeling of satisfaction, but it could seriously jeopardise the long-term health of the British egg sector.

Let us look at the practical implications. How do you remove and dispose of 100 million hens in 24 hours? Or, how do you safely smash and dispose of 83 million eggs every day? On the assumption that you somehow succeed in either of these, where will consumers turn for their 83 million daily eggs? To Ukraine, to India, to Argentina, to Brazil, where all the eggs will have been laid in battery cages. Do any of these countries have a reputation for high welfare standards?

Once this trade starts, it will expand very rapidly by virtue of its competitive advantage. It will be very difficult to stop. It will completely undermine the efforts of colony egg producers in the UK. In effect, we will export a large slice of our industry which has just made massive investments to stay compliant with EU rules.

I believe that an intra-Community trading ban is a complete non-starter. Not only will it be impossible to police across open borders, but it could be challenged by the WTO. So the least bad solution – and I say ‘least bad’ – is to allow temporary derogations to non-compliant producers with conditions attached.

There are some naked images I enjoy looking at, but I do not enjoy the visual image of lorry-loads of naked, unstamped eggs leaving foreign battery cage units en route to the UK in 2012. Unstamped eggs are a gift to a fraudulent trader. We have learnt this the hard way in the UK.

Our UK solution is to mechanically stamp eggs with the code numbers that represent their method of production at the laying farm itself. This operation is proceeding on my own farm at this very moment, and the machinery is reliable. The Commission say it is far too difficult for them to organise the stamping of a special code on non-compliant eggs, despite its obvious necessity. Yes, this is, of course, the same Commission that is forcing UK sheep farmers to unnecessarily identify sheep individually with unreliable electronic equipment. What a glaring inconsistency.

The ‘least bad’ solution – and I use that expression again – is for the EU to insist that non-compliant Member States spend their regional funds on stamping machines and also to pay for an inspectorate whose staff are nationals of compliant Member States. This inspectorate will also visit packing stations and build up a database of the processors who use these battery cage eggs in their products.

Most UK retailers are keen to avoid trading in battery caged eggs after the deadline, but they can only succeed in this if these eggs are properly identified.

 
  
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  Mike Nattrass (NI). – Mr President, this is not just a matter about hens in unsuitable cages, but it is about the ability of the EU to oversee the single market.

States were given 10 years to comply by 1 January 2012 or the product would be illegal. The Germans, Scandinavians, Dutch, British and others have complied, but certain large producers have simply refused. This involves massive capital costs and to comply means borrowing money. The regulation has put about 15 pence on a dozen eggs. Those bandits who do not comply might be given more time and would be clearly rewarded because they would have been given a price advantage.

Eggs from illegal cages will undercut those who obeyed the EU. One producer borrowed GBP 10 million to comply with this directive. He did the right thing.

Is the Commission going to renege and make his eggs uncompetitive? If more time is given, then the moral of this story is that, if the EU makes a directive, it pays to ignore it.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: LIBOR ROUČEK
Vice-President

 
  
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  Esther Herranz García (PPE).(ES) Mr President, in January 2012, 400 Spanish egg producers could disappear, which is around 30% of the total number in my country, with the loss of the production of 300 000 tonnes of eggs.

The European Union could stop producing the 80 million eggs, which amount to 2 million tonnes, and if we do not act very intelligently, the only thing that we would achieve would be that they would be covered by imports from third countries, whose animal welfare standards are much lower than those in the European Union.

This 1999 directive, which requires that the space in cages for laying hens be increased, demands that we act intelligently and positively, because otherwise, we will only weaken European production and give extra trade opportunities to third countries where the amount of space per bird is much smaller than what we currently have in the European Union.

This directive requires a great deal of effort from European producers, as in Spain alone, it is understood that the cost is around EUR 600 million. It should also not be forgotten that it has an economic impact that extends to the egg products industry and the food industry in general.

I therefore ask for your support for the amendment tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) to paragraph 2, which asks for a solution to be found at least for responsible farms and responsible businesses that are in the process of transforming their farms and will have completed that transformation by January 2012. We need to support them in transforming their facilities and give them time to complete that process, thus preventing farms from suffering irreparable damage and preventing an overnight shortage in the EU market, which will consequently increase prices for consumers.

We need to respect the directive, give the egg and egg products industries a chance and also respect the right to animal welfare and the right of consumers to a reasonable price.

 
  
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  Ulrike Rodust (S&D).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, at this point, I would like once again to point out that a decision has already been made to ban the practice of battery farming in cages. The Member States and the egg producers have had plenty of time to implement the directive for the abandonment of conventional battery practices. The time has not run out quite yet – there are still twelve months to go before the practice is to be completely banned.

I believe that we must ensure that battery farming is completely banned by 1 January 2012. It must be possible to threaten the Member States who have not succeeded in implementing the directive by then with legal action, such as financial penalties.

We also need to ensure that eggs which originate from farming practices that do not comply with European law are not sold in the internal European market.

 
  
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  Britta Reimers (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we have known for twelve years that battery farming practices would be banned in the EU from 1 January 2012 onwards. How can it be that twelve years have not been enough for some Member States to implement this ban in good time and to prepare their poultry industry accordingly? This is just one of many examples of how poor implementation leads to frustration. Egg producers in Member States who have implemented the changes in good time are already experiencing competitive anomalies that run counter to the principles of the EU.

I am calling on the Commission to require that the relevant law should be upheld in all Member States and to do all it can to ensure that it is implemented. Eggs should no longer be produced in battery cages after January 2012 and the then illegal eggs should no longer be allowed to reach the shops, putting an end to their negative effect on competition. The farmers who have changed their practices to comply with EU requirements should not experience financial disadvantage while those who flout the changeover reap the economic benefits.

It is impossible to explain to people in Europe why EU law does not apply equally in all Member States and why some Member States are always seen to be dragging their feet. The recent crises show where this can lead us. We need a Europe that acts in a concerted way, rather than one in which every member can do as it pleases, regardless of the rest.

 
  
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  Vicky Ford (ECR). – Mr President, like many mothers, I want decent animal welfare standards but I also want affordable eggs. I am not a poultry expert and my daughter’s four attempts to keep pet chickens have all fallen prey to the local fox.

Therefore, I would rather listen to the professionals – like the farmer, the keeper of 30 000 happy EU-compliant hens, that I visited in my constituency last month. In the UK, the pig-farming industry learnt – to its great cost – the mistake of introducing higher animal welfare standards unilaterally. The UK’s egg farmers put their confidence in the Commission, and have invested hundreds of millions of pounds getting ready for this legislation.

Public confidence in the EU is at an all-time low. You must protect those who have complied, in good faith, with this legislation. It is not time to play chicken with the egg farmers.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE). – Mr President, I would like to thank the Commission for the answer, incomplete as it is. There are very specific questions raised by the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and they have not been answered fully.

I would particularly question the figures, and perhaps you might clarify them? Did you say that 66% of production is now free-range? That is not the information I have. I dare say that the information you have is therefore selective, and you do need to have a very thorough stakeholders meeting because those are, let me say, very enriched figures. They do not at all give the true story of egg production in the European Union.

Let me also say that if it was easy to comply with this legislation and if our consumers really – and I mean this – really, really wanted welfare-friendly framing systems, they would pay the price for them. They want them. They do not value them, and they do not want to pay the price for these. I have not received one query from a consumer in my time here in the European Parliament since 2004 begging me to have this legislation implemented.

Remember that, folks. That is the fact of the situation. Having said that, it is important that this legislation passed by this House is fully implemented and that those who have invested huge amounts of money to be compliant are protected by the European Union. I think the Commission knows it will have a legal problem on its hands.

Let me address the market situation. There will be a very visible pile-up of eggs: 83 million of them on 1 January 2012 that are illegal! Morally and ethically, we cannot dump those eggs. It would be horrendous if we did, and also the market would suffer and prices to consumers would rise, and there would be protests and revolt.

The Commission needs to tell us what is going to happen on that day, because it is inevitable these eggs will be on the market and there will be a black market in eggs of some description, so we do need clarity on this.

Those who are in the transition phase also need to know that there will be no roll-back, because they are confused about the messages they are getting.

Of all of the issues we debated this week, this is a crucial one for our consumers, but also our producers. We need some answers from the Commission.

 
  
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  Iratxe García Pérez (S&D). (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, as you will see, in this House we monitor compliance with legislation, including legislation that has not entered into force. If we extended that exercise to other sectors with deadlines still pending, we would have to have 15-day plenary sittings.

Today, we are discussing a sector that does not receive aid from the common agricultural policy and is suffering due to increased feed prices. It is not easy for the sector to cope with additional costs, but it must do so in order to comply with the high production standards that we set in the EU.

Everything appears to point to the fact that by 1 January 2012, producers in many Member States will not have been able to comply 100% with the deadline set. It is calculated that there will be a shortfall of 30% of production in order to cover the needs of the EU market.

The result is that fresh eggs will be produced here, and they will indeed be more expensive for consumers. We will buy eggs for processing elsewhere, and we will close the proportion of EU production that went to that market. By then, I hope that we will have had more success in requiring mutuality in our relationships with third countries.

I will conclude: the legislation will be compulsory from 2012. In the meantime, the Commission can enforce other legislation that is in force, such as electronic identification of sheep and goats, which adds value in terms of traceability and good veterinary conditions and also has a direct impact on animal welfare.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE). (PL) Mr President, it is quite clear what the resolution under debate is saying – there are to be no exceptions and no derogations. The European Commission is to prepare instruments for enforcement and for penalising production that is not adapted to the requirements. Unfortunately, nothing follows, either, from the statement in the preamble to the resolution that some producers will have had 12 years to adapt, while others will have had eight and yet others only five. I would add that the producers who have been given the shortest length of time to adapt supported the adaptation efforts of their counterparts in the old EU Member States by buying their non-adapted cages, unaware of the problems they were causing for themselves. Experts have found evidence to show that demand for table eggs in the European Union will exceed supply after the Laying Hens Directive has been implemented, which, in practice, will mean imports from third countries of eggs produced in cages which are certainly not adapted. I therefore call on the Commission to assess the feasibility of maintaining the ban on the use of conventional cages from 1 January 2012 while also finding solutions and clearly defined criteria for those producers who will not complete the modernisation process by 1 January 2012, as referred to in two amendments supported by my group.

According to its authors, the key argument in favour of adopting this resolution, aside from animal welfare and competitiveness, is the fact that the transitional period for making adaptations was well-known and enshrined in the directive, and that this deadline cannot be changed. I hope that the Members who accept this line of reasoning and vote in favour of the resolution will all be just as determined and unanimous when it comes to voting in favour of there being no further transitional period after 2013 for the differentiation of direct payments in the European Union, since a deadline of 2013 was enshrined in the Treaty for this transitional period. It is enshrined as such, and I do not think we should change it.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D).(HU) Mr President, the debate so far has made it clear that there is a serious conflict of interests between those who have completed the transition to the new system and those who have not yet done so. However, there is also a serious conflict between the old and the new Member States. I completely agree with Mr Kalinowski in that the old Member States had far more time for the transition, and in fact, they passed on their old, obsolete structures to the new Member States prior to the accession of the latter. Even so, it is evident that the rules must be followed, and it is also evident that once again, the European Union is putting its own producers at a competitive disadvantage by specifying stricter rules for them than those it applies to external suppliers for imports. Not only does it require these rules to be observed, but also quite often fails to control them effectively. Therefore, I believe that the European Commission is about to take another decision which will put EU producers at a disadvantage in relation to external markets.

 
  
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  Georgios Papastamkos (PPE). (EL) Mr President, I fully acknowledge the need to safeguard equal terms of competition within the Union, for the benefit of producers who have complied with the enhanced requirements imposed by the directive. At the same time, however, we must support producers who undertake to comply, but who are unable to afford the high cost of adapting by the deadline set. Provision has been made so that products not produced in accordance with the legislation cannot be legally marketed and traded within the Community from 1 January 2012.

At the same time, however, products produced to lower animal welfare standards will continue to be imported from third countries. In other words, when numerous farms in the Union are in danger of going out of business, due to enhanced animal welfare standards, products will be imported from third countries that do not even meet the specifications which apply in the Union today. Yes, we must protect animal welfare, we must safeguard the proper treatment of animals, but we must also protect the European social and productive fabric.

 
  
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  Spyros Danellis (S&D) . – (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, although all European producers should respect Community legislation and make the necessary adjustments in time, it is estimated that 30% of egg producers will not have made them by 1 January 2012. Unfortunately, this state of affairs shows us that the European Commission has failed to convince producers that it is to their advantage and a policy that has failed to persuade the directly interested parties to defend it will have difficulty succeeding, whatever the policing measures imposed. We believe that an integrated approach, which links the cost of the investment with the benefit to both the producer and the consumer from the use of enriched cages, would do more to convince producers to adopt the measure and, of course, such an approach would safeguard the distinct difference of European products, based on quality, safety and animal welfare standards, and protect them against unfair competition on unequal terms from third countries, which is exactly what we fear will happen.

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the issue of animal welfare is one that this House has tackled many times and I believe that Parliament, together with the Commission and the Council, has made a considered and balanced decision. I do not think we can backtrack on this.

We therefore have the duty to look for the best ways to apply this measure and, in this case, we must structure it with a view to responsibility and enforce it in a responsible way with regard to all those operators who are adapting their production process. It is clear that we shall not be able to postpone this date and allow an additional period of time for the transition to a responsible system of animal welfare. It is incumbent upon us to think about all those people who have begun the transformation process and are carrying it out during a time of crisis and investment difficulties.

Therefore, I should like to emphasise the issue of the transition phase to you, which takes into consideration all those farmers who have begun the adjustment process in order to take account of animal welfare, but who have not yet completed it. At such a difficult time of crisis therefore, I believe that particular attention should also be paid to these producers.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, I do not think either that it is fair for us to talk in general about a 10-year period which Member States would have had available. Romania and Bulgaria, for example, joined the European Union only three years ago, but rules are rules and they must be observed by everyone.

However, I want to urge fellow Members to vote for Amendment 2, tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats). There is a large number of producers who have already started making investments to modernise their rearing systems or who are about to initiate such investments. However, these investments cannot be made overnight and it would be unfair for the producers in question to be penalised. I want to emphasise once again that it only concerns those producers who have started modifying their rearing systems, and the amendment refers to compliance with certain clearly defined conditions.

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, United Kingdom producers have been investing substantial sums of money – pushing up their production costs – in preparing for the implementation of this directive because they know that Britain will implement the law. Why should they have to face unfair competition from countries that fail to implement the law or possibly are granted exemption or delayed enforcement?

The measure has been drafted with the barest minimum of enforcement, left to the precious care of greatly varying standards in 27 Member States. The language is hardly suggestive of uniformly severe enforcement. Words like ‘proportionate’ and ‘dissuasive’ have been used.

I am not in favour of the EU passing laws on behalf of Member States at all. However, if such laws are passed, it is not acceptable for some countries to be forced to comply and others granted effective exemption. Will the Commission ensure that countries that fail to comply will be prevented from exporting eggs to countries that do comply, or at least that eggs from non-complying units will not be exported? Our producers are demanding protection from unfair competition.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, with regard to the subject being debated here today, allow me to start by reiterating that I believe, firstly, that directives should actually be complied with and that this is equally true for Directive 1999/74/EC, and, secondly, that concerns over animal welfare is a flagship issue that the European Union should uphold. That said, it is important to stress that adapting to the directive is quite burdensome for the sector’s companies: 30% per hen in Portugal. Moreover, there is no specific support from the Rural Development programme for this purpose.

As a result of the lack of capital in this sector, limited bank credit and the crisis in general, it is imperative and urgent to acknowledge that the adaptation of many companies has been delayed. It is therefore important to allow extra time for those companies – and only those companies – that have already started to adapt as required.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, none of us wishes to cast doubt on the need to implement a directive that dates back to 1999, as the credibility of this institution is at stake, and none of us wishes to cast doubt on the need to protect the wellbeing and health of animals.

However, directives also need to be based on good sense, so today in this House, I should like to make a few good-sense observations. Firstly, between 1999 and today, there has been a deep economic crisis that has hobbled businesses, industry and consumption, so many businesses have not been able to make the adjustments. Should we not take that into account?

Secondly, rigorous application of the directive from 1 January 2012 would remove many businesses from the market, paving the way for the import of eggs produced using methods that are much less protective of the animals than those required and practised in the European Union, or to the relocation of European production facilities to outside the European Union.

If this is what we want at a time of crisis – to favour a drop in employment and an increase in imports of eggs produced outside Europe, under different criteria than those imposed on our producers – then I think that we shall commit an injustice.

We worked a great deal on the idea of a substantial transition phase and I feel that I support it. Commissioner, I am asking you to guarantee it as well.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI). – Mr President, as many colleagues across this Chamber have said, protecting producers who have complied with this legislation and spent vast amounts of money is absolutely right and is the duty of the Commission at this stage.

However, I do feel that there is something the Commission needs to realise. I have spoken to many of my own farmers who find it difficult to find the money to invest in difficult financial and economic circumstances. I am interested in the reference to the marking or stamping of eggs. I have a recent letter from the Commission which actually indicates that an additional mark would have little or no benefit because the Commission did not believe that consumers would actually differentiate.

Therefore, I would ask the Commission to indicate to us whether it has changed its mind on this issue or whether it simply does not know? Again, I would ask the Commission to indicate if it intends to go down the route of an intra-EU trade ban. I have companies in my constituency which rely on the import of eggs from other European countries. Are they simply going to force these companies to rely on third-country imports? Most certainly, the eggs there will have been produced under much less stringent welfare systems.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE). (PL) Mr President, there can be no debate about the fact that farmers must adapt to the 1999 directive. We understand those farmers who have already invested money in modernising cages. We are not talking about giving more time to some farmers than others, as one of the previous speakers said, but about giving the same amount of time to everyone to meet the requirements made of them and to ensure that the standards are met.

The terms ‘illegal production’ and ‘consumer care’ have a very nice ring to them, but I would like to know why we do not show the same determination in protecting consumers against the consumption of imported eggs produced in conditions which do not meet the requirements introduced in the EU. I always try to understand the situation of different groups of farmers in the individual countries, and I am in favour of solutions that help them, since I know that as a group, they are in an exceptionally difficult situation in terms of revenue. It is a shame that others in this House do not share the same view.

 
  
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  Paul Rübig (PPE).(DE) Mr President, it must be clear to us all that the health of our animals and, by association, human health must be our prime concern. In the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) scientific committee, where we carry out technology options assessments, we also have the ‘Better Life’ project, which looks at ways of improving future conditions in the area of nutrition and feedstuffs. For this reason, particularly in the context of the Eighth Framework Research Programme, I would ask the Commissioner to work to ensure that the research programmes in the areas of foodstuffs/feedstuffs are strengthened, so that there is an improvement in research into the safety of foodstuffs and the health of animals and humans in this area and so that we can prepare the appropriate documents here for the citizens of Europe in the future.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE). – Mr President, thank you for your indulgence. I wanted to mention two other points in my contribution. The issue of eggs in shell is quite visible and clear. There is, however, a massive market for processed eggs for the confectionery sector and we need to know what sort of labelling requirements there will be for that product.

I think this is where we have the greatest concerns because more and more eggs are going into the processing sector, and my fear is that we will export our cages from the European Union and then import liquid-egg and dried-egg products from those very systems in third countries.

I see you nodding in agreement. This is a very real problem for the European Union.

My other concern relates to parallel production systems and a huge problem in the marketplace if we have enriched cages coming into production while the current systems remain in production. That could cause major problems for producers and, ultimately, for consumers. So the Commission has a huge balancing act to get this right.

 
  
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  Androulla Vassiliou, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, it is obvious that there is no consensus on this issue. I have heard Members here pleading for no exemptions and no derogations and, on the other hand, I have heard Members pleading for an extension. It depends on which country they come from and on the stage of development in each particular Member State.

Let me underline the Commission position. I want to repeat that, as of January 2012, conventional cages must be replaced by enriched cages or alternative systems. Therefore, eggs from conventional cages will not be legally marketable after January 2012. This is our position.

The Commission is making every effort, and we are concentrating on our efforts, to support Member States in complying with this directive. What are we doing? First of all, we are encouraging Member States to develop and complete national plans, in collaboration with the industry and major stakeholders, and we are receiving national plans which also incorporate sanctions for those industries, or those farmers, who are not in compliance with the directive.

Secondly, we are exchanging information with Member States on good monitoring practices for reporting on progress with enforcement. We are organising visits by Commission experts to see that the directive is being implemented, and we are organising appropriate meetings with stakeholders. As I said, on 19 January 2011, we have a big stakeholders’ meeting at which representatives of the Member States will discuss the current state of play, and we will see how best we can support Member States who are not in compliance, so that they can complete their compliance by the end of 2011.

This is our position. After January 2012, if there are still eggs which are not legally produced, those eggs cannot be marketed, and if non-compliance is demonstrated, the Commission could, of course, undertake all the measures available under the current legal framework – initiating infringement procedures in order to ensure proper enforcement of EU legislation. Alternatives to infringement procedures are also being studied, with a view to preventing the possible illegal circulation of eggs produced in conventional cages after January 2012.

Honourable Members made many other comments and I will make sure I convey all your concerns to Commissioner Dalli who, I am sure, will take serious account of your comments.

 
  
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  Esther de Lange (PPE). – Mr President, I know it is quite unorthodox to take the floor after the Commissioner has spoken. I am very happy with what the Commissioner has said. However, the conclusion that we are divided in this House on this issue is not justified. I would respectfully ask the Commissioner to look at the result of the final vote before judging whether this House is divided on this issue or not.

 
  
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  President. – I have received four motions for resolutions(1) tabled in accordance with Rule 115(5) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place shortly.

 
  
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  James Nicholson (ECR). – Mr President, can I first of all support what Esther has just said. Can I also ask the Commissioner that if she cannot speak today, she would maybe let us have a statement in writing, because I do not believe this House is divided for one moment.

Could she elaborate more on what she said on eggs from outside the European Union that do not meet equivalent standards to EU standards not being allowed in and having a separate mark. What mark does she propose for those eggs in the EU that are not allowed to carry a legal mark after 1 January 2012?

 
  
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  President. – Mr Nicholson, I am sorry, it was not a point of order. As I said, the debate is closed. You had the opportunity to raise your concerns before we closed the debate.

 
  
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  Paul Rübig (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I simply wanted to thank the House services because we have finished in an exemplary fashion today fifteen minutes before the vote, so that chaos will be avoided in the plenary sitting. This orderly procedure sends out the right signals to the public. I should like to express my particular gratitude to the House services.

 
  
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  President. – If only things were always like this. Thank you very much.

(The sitting was suspended at 11:40 and resumed at 12:00)

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Paolo Bartolozzi (PPE), in writing.(IT) Council Directive 1999/74/EC lays down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens under various systems of rearing with the added objective of protecting against unfair competition among producers in the different Member States. Although I support the principles of this directive, it must not be taken lightly that, as things stand, a great many European producers – having begun the process of converting their facilities – have run into real problems in completing the transformation and risk not being ready before 1 January 2012, the final deadline for complying with the directive.

If we also bear in mind the real difficulties faced by many producers in obtaining financing to support conversion processes and the serious economic difficulties that they are still having to deal with today – with serious repercussions on the stability of their businesses and employment levels – I am convinced that something has to be done. Member States should intervene to promote measures that can help European producers in the poultry farming sector who, aiming to adapt to the new European legislation, have embarked on the process of converting their facilities but are very unlikely to complete it before the start of 2012.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ROBERTA ANGELILLI
Vice-President

 
  

(1) See Minutes


5. Support for strengthening the European Union ban on shark finning - Increased European Union support for grassroots sports - An EU homelessness strategy (Written declarations)
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  President. – Written declarations 0071/2010, 0062/2010 and 0061/2010 have been signed by a majority of the Members in this Parliament and therefore, pursuant to Rule 123(3) and (4) of the Rules of Procedure, they will be forwarded to their addressees and published in the adopted texts of this session, together with the signatories’ names.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Madam President, on behalf of my co-signatories, Ivo Belet, Hannu Takkula, Mary Honeyball and Joanna Senyszyn, I thank all the Members for signing this declaration. It was significant that almost 50% of the signatories were women, so I would like to thank them very much for their cooperation and also pay particular tribute to Joanna Senyszyn. She did stalwart work and she might like to say a few words as well.

So to everybody, I thank you and wish you all fun and games and lots of sport for Christmas.

 
  
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  President. – The next item is Written Declaration No 61/2010.

 
  
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  Karima Delli (Verts/ALE).(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, it is with some emotion and on behalf of my fellow Members, Mrs Thomsen, Mrs Lynne, Mrs Figueiredo and Mr Protasiewicz, that I would like to express my sincere thanks for your support of Written Declaration 61/2010 on an EU homelessness strategy.

While today, the European Commission is presenting its flagship initiative – a European Platform against Poverty and Exclusion – this declaration sends a strong message from Parliament to the European Commission and Member States.

The time for talking is over. It is now time to act. Specific proposals can now be implemented. Let us make sure that we have put an end to rough sleeping by 2015.

I wish you all a happy holiday and I believe we will get off to a good start next year.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. – Mr Besset has requested the floor. Please go ahead.

 
  
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  Jean-Paul Besset (Verts/ALE).(FR) Madam President, on behalf of my three fellow Members, Mrs Pietikäinen, Mrs Sârbu and Mr Davies, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the 410 Members of the European Parliament who signed Written Declaration 71/2010 on support for strengthening the European Union ban on shark finning, which we tabled.

Indeed, this fragile species, like many others, is subjected to a veritable massacring at sea as a result of finning practices and the discarding of carcasses at sea following that mutilation.

Thank you for having overwhelmingly signed this Written Declaration. It sends a strong signal to the Commission to bring about the strengthening of regulations to protect this species.

(Applause)

 

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

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

 

6.1. European Heritage Label (A7-0311/2010, Chrysoula Paliadeli) (vote)

6.2. Participation of Switzerland in the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and in the action programme in the field of lifelong learning (A7-0334/2010, Doris Pack) (vote)

6.3. Control by Member States of the Commission’s exercise of implementing powers (A7-0355/2010, József Szájer) (vote)

6.4. Human rights in the world 2009 and EU policy on the matter (A7-0339/2010, Laima Liucija Andrikienė) (vote)
 

After the vote on Amendment 12:

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE).(IT) Madam President, what some fellow Members are trying to suggest – since it is Thursday and this is the last vote – is that if you just say ‘approved’ or ‘rejected’, that will be fine. There is no need to say ‘452 voted; 53 against; 22 in favour; and so on and so forth’.

 
  
 

Before the vote on paragraph 54:

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (S&D). – Madam President, it is a factual issue. We simply wish to remove the words ‘in Croatia’. I do not believe it is controversial with the other groups.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was accepted)

Before the vote on Amendment 25:

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (S&D).(DE) Madam President, because it is not yet indicated in our voting list, I just wanted to point out that the second part of this motion and the next each have a free vote. Thank you.

 
  
 

Before the vote on Amendment 7:

 
  
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  Barbara Lochbihler (Verts/ALE). – Madam President, there are two additions to the text. After ‘list of individuals responsible for’, insert ‘severe’. Then amend the next phrase to read: ‘human rights violations such as torture, censorship, rape and extra-judicial executions in Iran’.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was accepted)

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė, rapporteur. – Madam President, we have an oral amendment to Amendment 7. The text will read as follows: ‘Urges the Commission to draw up a list of individuals responsible for severe human rights violations, such as torture, censorship, rape and extra-judicial executions, in Iran, particularly after the 2009 elections, and to consider imposing sanctions on them in the form of asset freezes and travel bans’.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was accepted)

Before the vote on paragraph 140:

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė, rapporteur. – Madam President, as there are some positive developments in Russia, we would like to amend the sentence which starts with: ‘regrets that so far, all Strategy-31 demonstrations have been refused permission by the authorities’. The proposal is to replace the words ‘so far’ by ‘except for the very last one on 31 October 2010’.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was accepted)

 

6.5. A new strategy for Afghanistan (A7-0333/2010, Pino Arlacchi) (vote)
  

Before the vote on paragraph 30:

 
  
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  Nicole Kiil-Nielsen (Verts/ALE).(FR) Madam President, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance would like the first word of the last sentence in paragraph 30 to be modified, replacing ‘welcomes’ with ‘notes’.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was accepted)

Before the vote on paragraph 66:

 
  
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  Pino Arlacchi, rapporteur. – Madam President, following talks with other political groups, I propose to change the text of paragraph 66 to the following: ‘Notes the involvement of the Pakistan Intelligence Service (ISI) aimed at making sure that Pakistan, too, gets a satisfactory outcome from any peace dividend’.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was accepted)

Before the vote on paragraph 71:

 
  
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  Pino Arlacchi, rapporteur. – I propose to change all the text in the third part of paragraph 71 to the following: ‘and to ensure that drones, special forces and local militias against Taliban leaders are used according to General Petraeus’ orders for zero tolerance on the loss of innocent civilians’ lives’.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was accepted)

 

6.6. Establishing a permanent crisis mechanism to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area (vote)
  

Before the vote:

 
  
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  Antolín Sánchez Presedo (S&D).(ES) Madam President, as the co-author of Amendment 9, the technical clarification is that where it reads ‘ESM’, it should read ‘ESM/EMF’.

Seasons greetings to everyone.

 
  
  

Before the vote on Amendment 12:

 
  
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  Stephen Hughes (S&D). – Madam President, I would like to move this amendment on behalf of the S&D, EPP, Liberal and Green Groups. ‘Calls on the European Council to provide the necessary political signal for a Commission investigation into a future system of Eurobonds, with a clear specification of the conditions under which such a system would be beneficial to all participating Member States and to the eurozone as a whole’.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was accepted)

 

6.7. Situation in Côte d'Ivoire (B7-0707/2010) (vote)

6.8. Welfare of laying hens (vote)

7. Explanations of vote
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Oral explanations of vote

 
  
  

Report: Chrysoula Paliadeli (A7-0311/2010)

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). (FI) Madam President, I would just like to say that I voted for this excellent report. Mrs Paliadeli has done a splendid job in building the European cultural heritage and its very own label.

In my opinion, this is one excellent indication of how, ultimately, we can achieve special added value in the European Union at little expense. I believe that the sites that will receive the European Heritage Label will definitely benefit from it. It will be visible in the number of tourists they receive and it will help to make Europe better known.

It is very important that we remember that Europe is united in its diversity, and it is important for us to ensure that the people of the different countries of Europe can discover the mosaic­like European identity on a wider basis.

That is what I wanted to say, Madam President. When people here are leaving the House, it is a little difficult to concentrate, but I hope they will have listened to what I had to say.

 
  
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  Antonello Antinoro (PPE). (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the European Heritage Label is of fundamental importance for a continent that contains the majority of UNESCO sites, and it finally highlights the natural, archaeological, urban and cultural sites that have had an important role in the history, culture and integration of the European Union.

Approval of the label is an important step for the process of EU cohesion and is also educational and formative for cultural dialogue. One can also see how this decision is a good omen for future generations, who increasingly will have a shared vision of European heritage, which can bring them together historically and culturally.

As I thank the rapporteur for her efforts, I should like to offer her my heartfelt congratulations for the negotiations carried out with the Commission for a successful outcome to this initiative, which is so important for the future of the preservation of European culture.

 
  
  

Recommendation: Doris Pack (A7-0334/2010)

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). (FI) Madam President, I wish to say that the Lifelong Learning programme is one of Europe’s success stories, and Mrs Pack should be thanked for her excellent work. I voted for this report, and I was especially delighted that those who are vigorously opposed to European integration can also see that projects like the Lifelong Learning programme are needed.

It is very important that this programme can be extended outwards, and now Switzerland is to participate. Moreover, this will not cost us taxpayers in the European Union anything, as Switzerland is itself paying for its involvement. It is important that these best practices and best programmes that exist in the European Union are extended in this way. The Lifelong Learning programme and the Youth in Action programme are good examples. In this connection, I also want to welcome Switzerland to the European youth and culture programmes.

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (ECR). – Madam President, I would like to put one question to the House. Why is Switzerland doing so well? You would have thought that a country particularly exposed to the financial sector would have suffered unusually during the recent banking crisis, but the Helvetic Confederation in 2009 had a GDP per head 214% of that of the EU. Its people are twice as rich as the citizens of the Member States.

In part, of course, that reflects the deal that the Swiss have struck with Brussels. They are in the free market, they are covered by the free movement of goods and services and so on, but they are outside the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy, they control their own borders, they settle all their own human rights issues, they pay only a token contribution to the budget and they are free to sign accords with third countries in commercial areas.

What a great model for Britain! If seven million Swiss relying on bilateral free-trade agreements can give their people the highest standard of living on the continent, how much more so could we, a nation of 60 million, a trading maritime nation whose colonising and enterprising energies have touched every continent?

And we should not leave it at our relations with Brussels! Having got the power back, we should copy the Swiss in their system of localism and direct democracy and push powers down to the lowest practicable level.

 
  
  

Report: József Szájer (A7-0355/2010)

 
  
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  Cristiana Muscardini (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I abstained from today’s vote on this report on comitology because once again, people are trying to make anti-dumping procedures inapplicable or linked to discretionary political choices which, as we know, are still one of the few worthwhile defensive instruments to prevent unfair competition.

Even though Mr Szájer found a compromise with the Council, it really must be underlined that this proposal was unable to align commercial policy with comitology procedures, particularly in the part relating to trade policies, which damages European businesses at a time of serious crisis, creating fresh unemployment and a new wave of relocations.

Without suitable rules against counterfeiting, there is no point talking about measures to relaunch the European economy.

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (ECR). – Madam President, I am going to put this as simply as I can. Irish taxpayers and EU taxpayers are being gouged in order to prop up the European banking system and the single currency. Yesterday, the House of Commons in my country voted through a bilateral loans package to Ireland which was supported, I think, by sincere and generous MPs thinking that they were helping a friendly country.

But you do not help an indebted friend by pressing more loans on him at a ruinous rate of interest. Ireland has been ruined by the single currency. Between 1998 and 2007, it had real interest rates of -1%. Every Irish economist could see the crash coming but there was nothing they could do about it because there were no longer any Irish interest rates. There were no rates to be raised. Now, when the crash comes, it is worsened by the inability to devalue. A nation is being condemned possibly to a generation of deflation, debt and emigration so that we can keep this project of ours alive.

Instead of helping to bail out the euro in Ireland, we should be helping Ireland to bail out of the euro and to re-establish its own currency, possibly with a temporary link to sterling, allowing it to pay off its loans and to re-establish itself as an independent and prosperous state.

 
  
  

Report: Laima Liucija Andrikienė (A7-0339/2010)

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE).(RO) Madam President, I would like to begin by congratulating Mrs Andrikienė for her efforts in drafting this report. I would also like to say that I voted for Amendment 25 in its entirety as I feel that the climate of impunity in Russia is extremely dangerous.

The European Union’s intention is to defend on the international stage the same principles which also guide it internally, namely, democracy, the rule of law and human rights. In any case, it is perfectly clear that numerous human rights activists have been killed in recent years, which raises a question mark over the development of genuine democracy in Russia.

The message we wanted to convey to the Russian authorities via Amendment 25 is the urgent need to investigate the death of Sergey Magnitsky. The response from the authorities in Moscow to this initiative actually shows that the Russians are listening to the messages from the European Parliament. This is yet another reason for us to condemn vociferously the lack of any investigation into this case. We call on the Council to monitor this matter closely and to take the necessary measures, failing any progress.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE). (PL) Madam President, the European Union stands up for the weakest members of society and those who suffer discrimination, and helps the poorest and those who are in need. We award the Sakharov Prize to recipients from around the world. However, the European Union frequently fails to enforce respect for human rights within its own territory. I would like to draw your attention to the continuing problem of discrimination against minorities, including the Polish minority in Lithuania, an EU Member State which is a signatory to international agreements and treaties on the protection of human rights and minorities. The Lithuanian Parliament was to take a decision today on whether to limit opportunities to receive education in a minority language. It has postponed the decision to the near future.

Once again, I call on the Members of the European Parliament, the President of Parliament and the European Commission to ensure that observance of the principles of democracy and respect for the rights of minorities is enforced effectively in the EU Member States. Limits placed on the number of hours of mother-tongue instruction in schools and measures aimed at closing Polish schools in Lithuania are nothing other than discrimination against a national minority.

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE). – Madam President, I also supported Amendment No 25, especially the second part where the European Parliament suggests considering ‘imposing an EU entry ban for Russian officials involved in this case, and encourages EU law enforcement agencies to cooperate in freezing bank accounts and other assets of these Russian officials in all EU Member States’.

I think that this is an absolutely crucial issue for both Russia and the European Union, and I strongly encourage the Commission and the Council to follow the advice of the European Parliament. The powers of the European Parliament have recently been increased. It is now time to stop declaring and act instead, causing real pain and trouble to those responsible for human rights offences.

I think Russian and European Union cooperation can only have real prospects if a transparent solution is found to the Magnitsky and Khodorkovsky cases and those responsible are punished.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). (FI) Madam President, I voted for Mrs Andrikienė’s report. I think that it is very important that we speak about human rights issues and bring them to the foreground. This lies at the heart of the European Union.

We must also ensure that we practise what we preach. This is perhaps something of a problem. Of course, we have a lot of resolutions, but the challenge is how to live up to them.

It all starts with practical realities. Perhaps I should have had the floor to raise a point of order on the matter regarding Mr Arlacchi’s report. There were a good 50 on that side of the Chamber who stood up. My colleagues and I counted them. We found out that there were fewer than 40 of them, so no action resulted. If we treat some people in this way in this Chamber, people whose opinions are perhaps contrary to our own or those of the majority, there is no real justification on our part for criticising countries where there is a democratic deficit.

We in the European Union have to be very careful to ensure that all the work we do here is in accordance with the law, EU regulations and all the legal provisions on human rights. That is why I believe that there is room for improvement here, so that we can be credible when we explain these issues to Russia and the rest of the world. We must ourselves ensure that we are not discriminating against any one minority. Everyone who works in the European Union must have the opportunity to enjoy full human rights.

 
  
  

Report: Pino Arlacchi (A7-0333/2010)

 
  
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  Peter van Dalen (ECR). (NL) Madam President, in this debate, Parliament is once again following an all too familiar course. American NATO troops make a mess in Afghanistan and the European Union then has to step in as guardian angel and take the initiative on the issue.

What is then the standard reaction of many in this House: if the EU did just a little bit more, then everything would be fine again! President, this line of thinking gets one stage worse, if you read paragraph 63 of the report which recommends the involvement of Iran in helping to bring about a solution to the problems in Afghanistan. Madam President, I had to read this three times just to make sure I had not imagined it, but it really is there: ‘recommends the involvement of Iran’! I have rarely come across a proposal as strange as this. This is tantamount to using Beelzebub to exorcise the devil. I have therefore voted emphatically against this report.

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (ECR). – Madam President, I had the honour of visiting Afghanistan earlier this year with British forces. I met not only our own servicemen, but soldiers from Estonia and Denmark who are sharing their camp. I would like to begin by saying that I cannot adequately express my gratitude to the men and women from various of our Member States, as well as our allies overseas, who are pouring their energies into trying to bring peace to that unhappy, if beautiful, land.

I would just like to say one thing about this report. We seem to be making one error as a Western alliance, which has to do with our policy of eradication of poppy. Members here who represent rural constituencies will know that there is no one on earth more conservative than the small farmer, but by our policy of razing poppy crops in Afghanistan, we have taken a population that used to have a strong interest in order and property and turned them into badmashes, into brigands, because of our policy of destroying a crop for which there is a market: there is a worldwide shortage of opiates and morphines.

If we could only restore property rights, we would begin to give Afghanistan the basis of a flourishing civil society with an independent magistracy and, in due course, representative government.

 
  
  

Motion for a resolution B7-0733/2010

 
  
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  Joe Higgins (GUE/NGL). – Madam President, I voted against the resolution establishing a permanent crisis mechanism for the eurozone, because in Ireland and Greece, we see the reality that such mechanisms are to bail out a crisis-ridden financial system dominated by speculators and assorted profit-seeking sharks at the expense of working people, pensioners and the poor.

Today in Brussels, the European Council will most likely decide to amend the Lisbon Treaty to give itself more powers to impose strict conditionality on any financial assistance given to Member States, thus institutionalising the doctrine that society must pay for the crisis. I warn the Irish Government not to think it can foist this change to the Lisbon Treaty on the Irish people without a referendum. The Irish Government has already turned our country into a vassal state of the IMF, which is acting blatantly on behalf of the speculators and the financial markets. We demand a referendum on any change to the Lisbon Treaty so the Irish people will have the opportunity to resist being turned into full-time serfs of the financial markets.

 
  
  

Written explanations of vote

 
  
  

Report: Chrysoula Paliadeli (A7-0311/2010)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for the Commission proposal to expand the original concept of the European Heritage Label from an intergovernmental action to a formal EU action as a contribution to a stronger European identity. I voted in this way because I believe that the proposed purpose of this label should not be just the goal of promoting the internal cohesion of the European Union but also of demonstrating European unity and values outside its borders. The label should be evaluated and put into practice following effective demonstration of the results within the EU.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. (LT) I voted for this resolution on the Commission’s proposal to use the European Heritage Label as a tool, among other more efficient ways, to fill in the gap between the European Union and its citizens, as a way to stress that European history is the result of the diverse, yet rich and complementary, common cultural heritage. I agree that the decision of the Member States to place the European Heritage Label within the framework of the EU will not only help increase its visibility, prestige and credibility, but will contribute to achieving long-sought ideals of cohesion and solidarity among European citizens. I support the rapporteur’s position that, owing to the symbolic value of the label as a contributory vehicle towards European integration, transnational sites should be favoured since they promote commonalities; they promote networking and encourage cooperation and collaboration between States or regions. I believe that the idea of a European Union Heritage Label that aims to increase European citizens’ sense of sharing a common heritage (through knowledge of history and participation in activities that promote intercultural dialogue) and envisioning the building of the EU as a long and ongoing process is a step in this direction.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) In 2007, several European Union Member States came together to create a European Heritage Label. That initiative was intended to ‘strengthen the support of Europeans for a common European identity and to promote a sense of belonging in a common cultural space’ by selecting a certain number of special sites across the continent. In 2008, the Council of the European Union presented the Commission with its conclusions, inviting the Commission to submit a legislative proposal that would enable us, as was the case with the European Capitals of Culture initiative, to turn this intergovernmental initiative into a real European Union label. Following the Council’s suggestions, the Commission then instigated an impact assessment and public consultation. After that consultation, the Commission issued a proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Union action for the European Heritage Label. That is the text I supported.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted for this report because European history is the result of the diverse, yet rich and complementary, common cultural heritage. This demonstrates once again that the EU is rooted in strong values such as freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, cultural diversity, tolerance and solidarity. Owing to the widely recognised contribution of European culture to the world, the European Parliament approves of the idea of a label which would extend beyond the borders of the European Union and which could be used as an ambitious tool serving external policies. In order to achieve its political goal, the new European Heritage Label should focus on the symbolism and/or educational value of heritage sites. Furthermore, it should insist on close cooperation among the labelled sites so as to share best practices and initiate common projects. I would like to stress that the decision of the Member States to place the European Heritage Label within the framework of the EU will not only help increase its visibility, prestige and credibility, but will contribute to achieving long-sought ideals of cohesion and solidarity among European citizens.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) One of the things Europe is very rich in is cultural diversity, which is perfectly reflected in the diversity of its cultural, artistic, architectural and linguistic heritage. It is this diversity, along with a rich history and a great respect for heritage and its preservation, that makes Europe a unique place. However, although we all share a very rich and comparatively small area, the truth is that, in many cases, we are not very close to or interested in each other. I therefore think that this initiative could lead to closer ties between European citizens and increase knowledge of European heritage and the common values that we all share, making Europe a truly diverse union.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) In general, the amendments proposed by the rapporteur have improved the Commission’s initial draft. However, there are also some negative aspects. Regarding the promotion of multilingualism, the amendments proposed by the rapporteur do not touch on the central issue and therefore fail to correct the serious flaw in the original proposal. Indeed, real and effective promotion of multilingualism is achieved, not ‘by using several languages of the Union’, but rather by using the various languages of the Union. However, what is more important than the report’s specific objectives are the misconceptions underlying this concept. The European Heritage Label (or European Union Heritage Label) is based on developing the fallacy of a single European identity and a single European culture based on values such as freedom, democracy, etc.

There is no single ‘European cultural heritage’. Europe’s entire cultural history, like its entire history overall, is not just built on diversity and admirable creative and progressive energy, but also on violent, antagonistic conflicts, on intolerance, and on multiple strands and contexts of cultural domination. The field of heritage is particularly sensitive because of its intimate association with history, which is cause for serious concern that this will feed into the worrying processes of rewriting history that we have been witnessing recently.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing. (PL) The image of the European Union and its institutions in the eyes of its citizens is a matter of vital importance. Unfortunately, poll results show that a sense of European identity and unity is becoming increasingly rare among the European public, and the situation is the same for trust in the EU institutions. Promoting knowledge of our common history and common cultural roots may be particularly helpful in the process of bringing the EU closer to its citizens, and also in building a sense of cohesion and solidarity between them. The new European Heritage Label may be helpful in just this respect. Streamlining procedures and standardising the criteria for awarding the label will make it more prestigious and improve the EU’s image, as well as increasing its citizens’ trust in institutions such as the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Jacek Olgierd Kurski (ECR), in writing. (PL) Today, I voted in favour of the report on a proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Union action for the European Heritage Label. I believe that this is an interesting and valuable initiative which will help promote European culture and achievements and contribute to the development of tourism and individual regions. It is to be welcomed that we have emphasised, as Parliament, that the European Heritage Label will act as a complement to other cultural heritage initiatives, such as the UNESCO World Heritage List and the Council of Europe’s Cultural Routes, and not duplicate these initiatives.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – I welcome the Commission’s proposal to use the European Heritage Label as a tool, among other more efficient methods, for bridging the gap between the European Union and its citizens; as a way of stressing that European history is the result of the diverse, yet rich and complementary, common cultural heritage; and as a means of appreciating that the EU is rooted in strong values such as freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, cultural diversity, tolerance and solidarity. The Member States’ decision to place the European Heritage Label within the framework of the EU will not only help to increase its visibility, prestige and credibility, but will also contribute to realising long-sought ideals of cohesion and solidarity among European citizens.

 
  
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  Clemente Mastella (PPE), in writing. (IT) We are cheered by the Commission’s proposal to use the European Heritage Label, together with other initiatives, as a tool to bridge the gap between the European Union and its citizens; as a way to stress that European history is the result of a diverse, yet rich and complementary, common cultural heritage. It represents an appreciation that the EU is rooted in strong values such as freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, cultural diversity, tolerance and solidarity.

The decision of the Member States to place the European Heritage Label within the framework of the EU will not only help increase its visibility, prestige and credibility, but will contribute to finally achieving, on a large scale, the long-sought ideals of cohesion and solidarity among European citizens, creating a common European identity and increasing their interest in the Union and its origins – two fundamental challenges for the European institutions.

The new label must, however, focus on symbolism and educational value, rather than on the beauty of a site, and must insist on close cooperation among the labelled sites so as to share best practices and initiate common research and development projects.

 
  
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  Louis Michel (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Alongside other initiatives, the European Heritage Label is a additional way of bringing the European Union closer to its citizens and strengthening their sense of belonging to Europe. It will also enable us to further their understanding of the common history and heritage of Europe. The label will help encourage multilingualism and dialogue between cultures, and will support the establishment of networks aimed at promoting European heritage. It will stimulate economic attractiveness, particularly through cultural tourism. By supporting this label, we will improve multicultural dialogue.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) It seems to me that the effectiveness of the European Heritage Label is open to question precisely because Member States can decide for themselves whether or not to participate in the scheme. In addition – and here I agree with the rapporteur – the proposed selection criteria and the large number of sites that could acquire the label mean that quality and prestige could be lost. Close cooperation with existing initiatives in the area of cultural heritage, such as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage, may be a more effective approach. I did not vote in favour of the report because it does not deal in sufficient detail with the need to introduce a cultural heritage label based on the specified objectives.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) The decision to place the European Heritage Label within the framework of the European Union will ensure that citizens’ sense of belonging to the European Union will increase, stimulating ideals of cohesion, solidarity and integration. I voted for the report on the European Heritage Label because Europe has set itself the goal of creating a common identity, bringing the EU closer to its citizens through awareness of this rich and diverse historical and cultural heritage with which everyone identifies and through which young people can learn and find out about their own identity, sharing it with the other young Europeans. Formalising the label will also help promote those places that have made history in the creation of Europe.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) I enthusiastically welcome the proposal for a European Parliament and Council decision establishing a European Heritage Label. The goal of creating a joint European identity and promoting the Union’s interests is crucial to peace and social cohesion.

The proposed measure of promoting European heritage using a transnational website appeals to young Europeans and could encourage them to find out more about the continent’s history, to familiarise themselves with multinational heritage and shared cultural heritage, and to find out more about the people and ideas that led to the creation of the European Union itself.

This measure is of high symbolic and educational value, and will present European history and culture as a whole. I support the intentions expressed in the report of safeguarding the European Parliament and Council’s effective participation in selecting the sites and content presented, so as to ensure that the initiative is very transparent and democratic.

 
  
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  Crescenzio Rivellini (PPE), in writing. (IT) I congratulate Mrs Paliadeli on her excellent work. The European Parliament has today given the green light to the European Heritage Label, a register of historic sites whose importance transcends national borders. The European Union has around 500 million inhabitants, who mostly feel that they are, first and foremost, citizens of their countries of origin, and not European citizens. The lack of a strong European identity can be seen as an obstacle to European integration, but it is not at all surprising. The European continent is a vast patchwork of languages and customs, and the differences between the countries that form it are often more obvious than the common threads.

This initiative will enable the sense of belonging to Europe to be strengthened, as well as creating greater cohesion between citizens of different countries. This is why it is important to highlight the places that celebrate and symbolise European integration, as well as those that celebrate the ideas and values of the European Union. In addition, just like the sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, those bearing the European logo ought to attract more tourists, with beneficial effects for the local economy.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – The formation of a joint European identity and the growth in interest in the European Union and its genesis are challenges with which the European institutions are faced in their bid to achieve broad cohesion and solidarity. There certainly are other, more radical and obvious ways to enhance the Europeans’ faith in the European Union and its leaders (the recent financial crisis has shown that there is still much to be achieved at the upper levels of the administration). However, knowledge of the history of our continent, familiarity with its multinational, yet common cultural heritage, and stepping up the education of the younger generation in the ideas and people who led to the building of the European Union may actually contribute to bridging the gap between the EU and its citizens.

 
  
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  Joanna Senyszyn (S&D), in writing. (PL) As a member of the Committee on Culture and Education, I voted in favour of Parliament’s resolution on a proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Union action for the European Heritage Label. The idea of establishing an EU label is important from the point of view of making citizens more aware of the European Union’s history and cultural heritage, and of building a European identity and links between countries.

By selecting sites in the individual Member States which have applied to be granted the EU’s European Heritage Label, we will make people more aware of the fact that Europe’s history affects all of us, regardless of where we live, our language or our culture. Changing the European Heritage Label into an EU initiative will help make it more credible, visible and prestigious. This, in turn, may translate into economic and social benefits, inter alia, by making the sites awarded the label more attractive to tourists. Selecting sites to be awarded the label will also help to increase the younger generation’s interest in, and knowledge of, the ideas and peoples of Europe, and, in so doing, will bring Europe’s inhabitants closer together.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE), in writing. (PL) The European Heritage Label initiative is intended to promote the cities, people and activities that have contributed to the process of European integration. Its aim is to make citizens more aware of the fundamental values, such as democracy, solidarity, cultural diversity and tolerance, upon which our Community is based. The list of sites awarded a European Heritage Label will act as a kind of map of our continent’s traditions and culture, and a map of places that have played a key role in forming the European identity. Europe’s common, yet diverse heritage can strengthen its citizens’ sense of this identity, and strengthen European cohesion. This initiative will create a platform for cooperation between the countries and regions of Europe. Furthermore, it may have a positive impact on the tourism sector, by helping to make regions more attractive and, at the same time, improving their economic situation. I agree that this scheme should become an official initiative under the auspices of the EU, as this will make it more widely recognised, credible and prestigious. The increased visibility of the scheme will make it possible for a greater number of citizens to identify with the labels, which symbolise and commemorate European integration.

The scheme should operate in parallel and as a complement to UNESCO’s international scheme and the European Capitals of Culture, since the European Heritage Label operates on the level of educational and symbolic values and, to a lesser extent, aesthetic and architectonic qualities. We should search for ways to strengthen citizens’ sense of belonging to Europe.

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI), in writing. (HU) I consider European values, such as the Old Hungarian runic script, to be of great importance, and their recognition and appreciation through awards to be indispensable. In this case, however, we must preserve the tradition of giving this award to values actually located within the EU. It is unacceptable to extend it to third countries, as in doing so, we would only duplicate the UNESCO World Heritage List. On the other hand, I hope that this award will help us return to traditional European values, and awarding the label will truly be an expression of recognition. I abstained because of the abovementioned contradictions in the report.

 
  
  

Recommendation: Doris Pack (A7-0334/2010)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for the recommendation on the conditions for Swiss participation in the Youth in Action programme and in the Lifelong Learning programme because I consider it a positive factor in European youth strategy; this is because it is a stage in the cooperation process with this country on sectoral policies within the European Union. As Switzerland is willing to participate in human, economic and social terms in this project involving young people, the European Union can only benefit from including the young people of third countries like Switzerland in the process of raising awareness of the EU integration process amongst the younger generations.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. (LT) I voted for this recommendation because I have no doubt that the EU’s cooperation with Switzerland in the fields of EU education, science and youth affairs will be of mutual benefit to the improvement and effective implementation of policies in these fields. Switzerland participating in the 2007-2013 ‘Youth in Action’ and Lifelong Learning programmes will give these programmes an additional impetus and will create opportunities for participant exchanges, for sharing experience, while, at the same time, preserving financial and other EU interests.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) The ‘Youth in Action’ programme is intended to develop and support cooperation in the European Union youth field. It aims to encourage the participation of young people in public life, particularly those with fewer opportunities or with disabilities, and foster initiative, enterprise and creativity. In turn, the programme for education and lifelong learning helps to develop the Union as an advanced knowledge-based society in accordance with the objectives of the Lisbon strategy. Supporting and complementing the action of Member States, it aims to encourage exchanges, cooperation and mobility between Community education and training systems so that they become a worldwide reference for quality. Switzerland, which is not an EU Member State, does not currently take part in these actions. I think that the opposite should be the case, and that we must include our Helvetian neighbours in these policies, in the context of an open Union. That is why I voted in favour of this legislative resolution that embraces Switzerland in these important actions.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted for this recommendation prepared by the European Parliament because I approve of the Council’s draft Decision on Switzerland’s participation in the ‘Youth in Action’ and Lifelong Learning programmes. Although it has chosen not to join the European Economic Area, Switzerland is nevertheless cooperating closely with the European Union in the fields of education, training and youth affairs. This agreement is appropriate because Switzerland is committed to complying with the conditions and provisions laid down by the European Commission. Furthermore, projects and initiatives submitted by participants from Switzerland will be subject to the same conditions, rules and procedures as are applied to projects from Member States. Switzerland will conform to EU financial control and audit provisions. In accordance with the bilateral agreement, Switzerland will establish a National Agency to coordinate implementation of the programmes at national level and will make an annual financial contribution to each programme (in 2011, EUR 1.7 million to the Youth in Action programme and EUR 14.2 million to the Lifelong Learning programme).

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) Cooperation with Switzerland on education matters is an important step in EU-Switzerland relations. The two programmes in question support lifelong learning and the inclusion of young people in European integration, through tolerance and solidarity between young Europeans. The agreement between the Commission and Switzerland is adequate, given that Swiss participants in these programmes apply on an equal footing with all other young Europeans, and that Switzerland is committed to adapting to European rules and their supervision, as well as to contributing to both programmes financially.

 
  
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  Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE), in writing. – I welcome the adoption of this report in my capacity as the Chairman of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Switzerland. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Member States of the European Union agreed to establish the ‘Youth in Action’ programme, which puts into effect the legal framework to support non-formal learning activities for young people. The aim of this proposal is to provide for the participation of Switzerland in the Youth in Action and Lifelong Learning programmes. Switzerland is the only European country to take part in these programmes without being a member of the EEA, a candidate or a potential candidate country. Although it has chosen not to join the European Economic Area, Switzerland has shown sustained interest in closer cooperation with the EU in the education, training and youth fields.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing. (PL) We are all very much aware that a good education system which ensures that young people receive the best possible education is enormously important for every country. A good level of qualifications, knowledge and education has a direct impact on culture and the labour market and, as a result, citizens’ standard of living. Each country wants to be proud of its young people, and each young person wants the opportunity to get to know new cultures and languages and to acquire professional experience abroad. The European Union can be proud of its well-developed student exchange system and of its open labour markets, which mean that every young European has a great many opportunities for intellectual and professional development. Switzerland’s participation in the ‘Youth in Action’ programme demonstrates that cooperation with the European Union, particularly in the field of education, is of great importance to the country. We should not prevent young Swiss citizens from enjoying the privileges and possibilities of a Community education.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing. (RO) The attention being focused on education and training, on research and, in particular, on the resource provided to the European Union in its young people, is steadily growing. By providing new learning opportunities, we want to offer our citizens more chances. Education, training, cultural, research and youth programmes are a key element in this strategy. The aim of the ‘Youth in Action’ programme is to inspire a feeling of active European citizenship, solidarity and tolerance among Europeans, from adolescence to adulthood.

The programme promotes mobility both inside and beyond the EU’s borders and encourages the inclusion of all young people, irrespective of their educational, social and cultural background. As a member of the Delegation for relations with Switzerland and Norway, I voted for this report as I think that the agreement signed between the Commission and the Swiss authorities is completely appropriate and in their mutual interest. This will enable us to help as many young people as possible acquire new skills and offer them learning opportunities with a European dimension.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – Although it has chosen not to join the European Economic Area, Switzerland has shown sustained interest in closer cooperation with the EU in the education, training and youth fields. Initially, the legal bases for the EU education, training and youth programmes did not provide for participation by Switzerland, but this changed in 2006 when Parliament and the Council adopted decisions establishing the 2007-2013 Youth in Action and Lifelong Learning programmes. In February 2008, the Council authorised the Commission to open negotiations about Swiss participation in the two programmes. An agreement was reached in August 2009 and the Council has already adopted a decision approving its signature and provisional application from 2011. I supported this proposal.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE), in writing. (IT) The participation of Switzerland, a country that chose not to be a part of the European Union, in the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and in the action programme in the field of lifelong learning cannot be ruled out a priori, but should be carefully evaluated. I therefore support the terms of the agreement reached between the Commission and the Swiss Government, so I voted for the report by Mrs Pack. It is right to grant the benefits of the programmes to Switzerland, but it is also right to safeguard all the financial and other interests of the European Union.

 
  
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  Louis Michel (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Although not a Member State of the European Economic Area, Switzerland has continued to show interest in cooperating more closely with the Union in the field of education, training and youth. The conclusion of this agreement on Switzerland’s participation in the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and the action programme in the area of education and lifelong learning is a very positive consequence of that. Indeed, the notion of education and lifelong learning is vital to the competitiveness of the knowledge-based economy.

It can be applied to every level of education and training; it concerns every stage of life and all the different forms of learning. We must develop and strengthen exchanges, cooperation and mobility. Furthermore, it is important to encourage young people to take part in public life, particularly those with fewer opportunities or with disabilities, and to foster initiative, enterprise and creativity in order to promote a sense of active European citizenship, develop solidarity and encourage tolerance.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Understandably enough, Switzerland, which provides some of the financial backing for the ‘Youth in Action’ and Lifelong Learning programmes, now wishes to participate in these programmes. In the spirit of learning, it would also be a positive development if the EU were to take a leaf out of Switzerland’s book when it comes to direct democracy. When the Swiss population decides against the erection of minarets, this decision is accepted. Likewise, the recent initiative on the deportation of foreign criminals. The Swiss authorities are aware that when the people say ‘no’, they mean ‘no’ so that they do not simply continue to hold ballots until they get the result they want, then express surprise at a drop in voter turnout. The Swiss example should give us pause to reflect on the concerns that people have. I cannot fully agree to the regulations described in this report, which is why I have voted against it.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted for the recommendation on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Union and the Swiss Confederation establishing the terms and conditions for the participation of the Swiss Confederation in the Youth in Action programme and in the Lifelong Learning programme (2007-2013), because I believe that the agreement negotiated with the Swiss authorities by the Commission is fairly positive, increasing the programme’s benefits in Switzerland and safeguarding the European Union’s interests, not least its financial interests.

 
  
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  Crescenzio Rivellini (PPE), in writing. (IT) Today in plenary, we voted on the draft legislative resolution concerning the participation of Switzerland in the ‘Youth in Action’ programme and in the action programme in the field of lifelong learning. Although it has chosen not to join the European Economic Area, Switzerland has repeatedly shown its interest in closer cooperation with the European Union in the education, training and youth fields. Through this recommendation, we have concluded an agreement between the EU and Switzerland, granting the latter the possibility of participating in the ‘Youth in Action’ programmes and programmes in the field of lifelong learning.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – Although it has chosen not to join the European Economic Area, Switzerland has shown sustained interest in closer cooperation with the EU in the education, training and youth fields. Initially, the legal bases for the EU education, training and youth programmes did not provide for participation by Switzerland, but this changed in 2006 when Parliament and Council adopted Decisions establishing the 2007-2013 ‘Youth in Action’ and Lifelong Learning programmes. In February 2008, the Council authorised the Commission to open negotiations on Swiss participation in the two programmes. An agreement was reached in August 2009 and the Council has already adopted a Decision approving its signature and provisional application from 2011. Under Article 218(6) of the TFEU, the Council has to obtain the consent of the European Parliament before the agreement can enter into force. The Parliament and Council Decisions establishing the ‘Youth in Action’ and Lifelong Learning programmes, adopted in 2006, already provided in principle for Swiss participation. The agreement negotiated with the Swiss authorities by the Commission is quite adequate: it extends the benefits of the programmes to Switzerland, while safeguarding the financial and other interests of the EU. The rapporteur therefore recommends that Parliament approves the draft Council Decision.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE), in writing. (PL) Switzerland is a country which has to contend with the problem of unequal access to higher education, despite having excellent education programmes. Let us hope that cooperation with the EU will mean that young Swiss people, particularly those from the immigrant population, will have a better chance of accessing education. Member States’ experiences of programmes facilitating educational exchanges for young people show clearly that they not only promote a good education, but also play a positive role in terms of European integration thanks to acquisition of the languages, cultures and traditions of individual countries. At the same time, the Lifelong Learning programme represents an excellent opportunity to draw attention to the role of women in Switzerland. The country was the last in Europe to grant women the right to vote in federal elections, in the 1970s, and for a long time, women have constituted a social group which finds it difficult not only to participate fully in civil society, but also to access education and professional self-fulfilment.

Today, middle-aged women wishing to join the labour market are often faced with the problem of a lack of qualifications or experience, since a considerable number of them stayed at home in order to look after their families, due to the high costs of childcare.

 
  
  

Report: Laima Liucija Andrikienė (A7-0339/2010)

 
  
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  Charalampos Angourakis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) The two reports on human rights in the EU and in the world represent a challenge to the workers who, as the capitalist crisis develops, are suffocating under the barbaric attack on their rights and life by the EU, capital and the bourgeois governments trying to get them to pay the cost of the crisis and save the monopolies’ profits. It takes a great deal of cheek for the political representatives of capital to proclaim the EU as the guardian of human rights when it is in the process of adopting the new, even more reactionary NATO 2020 doctrine and is first in line when it comes to exploiting the people and natural resources and supporting puppet and reactionary regimes. At the same time, in all the Member States of the EU, labour and social rights acquired in hard, bloody fights are being slaughtered, grassroots and labour struggles are being savagely repressed, the immigrant hunt and racism are on the rise, fundamental grassroots freedoms and democratic rights are being restricted and communist parties are being outlawed and communist symbols banned in a series of countries. The standard references to alleged infringements of human rights in Cuba and other countries putting up resistance to the imperialist plans are raw threats, coercion and pressure to break the will of the people, so that they abandon their rights to freely decide their own fate.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) Traditionally, the plenary session in December is partly devoted to human rights. One of the ritual events that punctuate the session, apart from the awarding of the Sakharov Prize, is the adoption of the resolution on Parliament’s annual report on human rights in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter. One of the Union’s international commitments is indeed to promote democracy and human rights around the world. The report this year notes the continuation of grave violations in this area and a situation aggravated by the economic crisis, climate change, new technologies and the fight against terrorism. It recommends that the objectives of the Treaty of Lisbon be implemented, in particular, through the new European External Action Service. Mrs Andrikienė, rapporteur of the text, states that the priority of a consistent European foreign policy should be to promote democracy and human rights.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of the annual report on human rights in the world 2009 and the European Union’s policy on the matter, because it examines, assesses and, in specific cases, provides an analysis of the European Union’s work in the field of human rights and democracy and future challenges. As far as violence against women is concerned, the European Parliament expresses its deep concern about the entrenched gender-based discrimination and domestic violence in several countries, and points out that women living in rural areas are a particularly vulnerable group. I therefore approve of Parliament’s requirement that women’s rights be explicitly addressed in all human rights dialogues and, in particular, the combating and elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, all forms of harmful traditional or customary practices, for example, female genital mutilation and early or forced marriage, all forms of trafficking in human beings, domestic violence and femicide, exploitation at work and economic exploitation. As millions of children are still victims of rape, domestic violence and physical, emotional and sexual abuse, I agree that the EU must urgently take additional measures against child labour, and should apply more efficiently the instruments at its disposal.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The role of the European Union as a human rights defender is a fundamental characteristic which the institutions must not relinquish and which must be maintained as a priority of diplomatic work. Annex I of this report is the best proof of this, as it lists all the situations in which there have been human rights violations that we in Europe have denounced or have not shirked from condemning; from Afghanistan to Somalia, from Russia to Iran. We do not turn a blind eye or bury our head in the sand, even when strategic partnerships are at stake, because individual interests cannot be put before defending freedom and human rights.

In my opinion, the Union’s position must remain as follows: interventionist and courageous, fighting for human rights and democracy.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This report is part of a recurrent exercise in pure hypocrisy by the majority, dominated by the right and by social democrats, who claim the role of ‘ambassador’ for the defence of human rights. This is an exercise that is unmasking itself as it goes through the obvious contradictions that it contains, not least in making use of an alleged defending of human rights to promote intervention in countries where its own interests are at stake, whitewashing its allies and supporting them, particularly the United States.

Examples of this include the case of the so-called CIA flights and the complicity of many EU countries’ governments in the kidnapping, torture and illegal transfer of prisoners to Guantánamo Bay and the continued occupation of Afghanistan by NATO forces and the successive massacres of civilian populations under the pretext of combating terrorism. Further examples include the upholding of Israel’s policy of apartheid over the people of Palestine and support for Morocco’s continued occupation of Western Sahara. and support for the illegal US blockade of Cuba, condemned by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 consecutive occasions. These policies, like the majorities promoting them, leave a bad taste in the mouth: the time is coming when the people will be able to reject them.

 
  
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  Louis Grech (S&D), in writing. – The directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings aims at creating a more hostile environment for the human traffickers by punishing the criminals and guaranteeing stronger prevention and protection of the victims. It is unacceptable that human trafficking is still a state of fact in Europe affecting hundreds of thousands of people mostly from vulnerable social groups, such as minorities, women and children for reasons of sexual exploitation, forced labour, modern-day slavery, and others. I strongly condemn all exploitation of victims of human trafficking and therefore, I am in favour of strengthening protection of the victims and introducing higher sanctions for the traffickers. Improving the cooperation between EU countries and strengthening the coordination between various institutions and organisations at European, national and regional level is of particular importance for the successful implementation of the directive. The EU should use its international relations to commit its partners to curb human trafficking and ensure that the rights of the victims are respected worldwide. Moreover, it should include in its political dialogues with non-EU countries policy norms, standards and principles of the international human rights system for combating and preventing trafficking in human beings.

 
  
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  Sandra Kalniete (PPE) , in writing. (LV) I am voting for this resolution and the proposal for a categorical demand to be made to the Russian authorities to bring the persons guilty of the murder of the Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, to justice, and I call on Parliament to consider the possibility of denying Russian officials involved in this case entry to the European Union, and of freezing these officials’ bank accounts and other assets in all EU Member States. Such a demand would send a powerful signal to the Russian authorities that European Union citizens find the serious deficiencies in the Russian justice system, the selective application of laws in the interests of the authorities, and the fact that persons culpable of attacks on, or even the death of, the defenders of human rights, independent journalists and lawyers still remain unpunished far too often, to be unacceptable. This signal would confirm the EU’s support for the defenders of human rights in Russia, who operate in especially difficult circumstances.

 
  
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  Bogusław Liberadzki (S&D), in writing. (PL) Observance of human rights is one of the EU’s fundamental values, and one to which the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament pays particular attention, since it appears on the agenda of practically every meeting held by our group. It is important for Parliament as a whole also to devote its attention to this subject. We are seeing something of an improvement, albeit a slow one, in the situation throughout the world. There are still countries whose governments persistently violate human rights, yet there are also those where changes are afoot. The rapporteur’s oral amendment reflected these positive trends in Russia. The situation in Cuba is, however, still a cause for concern, as demonstrated by the prize giving ceremony for the 2010 Sakharov Prize. I voted in favour of this report with conviction.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – The annual report on human rights is inevitably a backward-looking exercise but I nevertheless welcome it. This report deals with the period July 2008 to December 2009, just before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. I warmly welcome Cathy Ashton’s commitment to human rights and her assurance during the debate that human rights will be mainstreamed into the work of the EEAS. I hope this will mean that when we debate the human rights report next year, we will be able to report a more coherent and consistent approach to human rights by the EU.

 
  
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  Clemente Mastella (PPE), in writing. (IT) This annual report aims to emphasise the European Parliament’s strong determination and long-term efforts to defend human rights and democracy in the world through the development of an increasingly integrated and effective European policy capable of guaranteeing greater coherence and consistency across all policy areas, whether through bilateral relations with third countries or through supporting international and local civil-society organisations. In particular, we insist on the importance of conducting a thorough assessment of the human rights aspects of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which should notably address the coherence and efficiency of the existing mechanisms such as the Action Plans, Progress Reports, Human Rights dialogues and the decision-making process of upgrading relations with non-EU countries.

We should like to give greater visibility to the future accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights as an opportunity to prove its commitment to defending human rights inside and outside its borders. We therefore call on all Member States to support this and commit their citizens to it.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE), in writing. (IT) The report on human rights in the world 2009 and the European Union’s policy on the issue form an extremely important tool to reinforce the role of the European External Action Service (EEAS) with regard to human rights policy. Indeed, these things have always been the hallmark that makes the European Union stand out in the world.

I agree with Mrs Andrikienė when I underline that freedom of religion or belief constitutes, amongst all human rights, an essential and basic right that must be respected, and that conditions related to respect for human rights which feature in the bilateral agreements with non-EU countries need to be enforced more strongly and more effectively. It is therefore right to call on the High Representative to incorporate freedom of religion or belief into EU human rights policy and to give a thorough evaluation of the situation of freedom of religion or belief in the EU annual report on human rights. I am voting in favour of the report by Mrs Andrikienė.

 
  
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  Kyriakos Mavronikolas (S&D), in writing. (EL) The European Union needs to do whatever it can to ensure that the principles and freedoms governing human rights are applied, so that it can play a leading role in this sector. A special human rights service needs to be created and, more importantly, areas in which there are EU representatives need to be monitored by the Union. The European Union must also supervise and closely monitor infringements of human rights in its Member States.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer (GUE/NGL), in writing. (ES) I did not support this report since it does not deplore or criticise the EU’s double standards regarding respect for and promotion of human rights, both in its Member States and in third countries with which it has special political and trade relations. As such, it does not state that EU governments have designed and implemented policies that are radically opposed to human rights in areas such as immigration, with mass expulsions and detentions based on race or security, allowing serious human rights violations such as detaining people illegally and transferring them to secret prisons where they are tortured.

The EU itself has adopted directives that are contrary to human rights, such as, for example, the Returns Directive, and it has initiated or developed special trade or political relationships with governments of countries such as Morocco, Colombia or Israel which systematically violate human rights. Although I appreciate the fact that for the first time, the human rights situation in the non-autonomous territories of the Western Sahara is included, I do not support this report due to the omission of all the above elements and of the negative impact on human rights of the EU free trade agreements, not to mention its unjustified and exaggerated criticism of countries such as Cuba and Venezuela.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) The report on human rights in the world 2009 is very detailed and addresses a wide variety of issues. Unfortunately, I somehow get the impression that there has been a desperate attempt to pack in every possible issue here without following a clear strategy. The fact is that the promotion of democracy throughout the world must be an important issue for the Europe Union. However, this requires a clear approach and a definite, consistent strategy for resolving these problems, some of which are extremely difficult. Since there is no sign of such a strategy, I abstained during the final vote.

 
  
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  Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė (PPE), in writing. (LT) Although it is more than 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, there are still many places in the world where this Declaration is nothing but a piece of paper. Sadly, there are many such places in Europe too, a continent where the protection of human rights as one of the principles of democracy was born. The European Union, which we can boldly say leads the world in terms of human rights, is making significant efforts to ensure that at least minimum standards of human rights protection are guaranteed in other places around the world. I therefore congratulate my colleague, Mrs Andrikienė, for preparing a really comprehensive report, and for drawing attention to the complex situation worldwide. I hope that this report will contribute to improving the situation and that such reports will be shorter in the future.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this year’s European Parliament report on human rights because it includes both countries that are geographically near to and far from the EU. In the report, the EP calls on China – the country with the highest number of executions – to make its national execution figures public, and thus allow for transparent analysis and debate on the subject. This should encourage the country to hasten the abolition of this barbaric form of punishment. On the other hand, it is shameful that the death penalty is still being used to this day in the democratic United States of America. The report expresses concern about children involved in, or otherwise affected by, armed conflicts or even forced to take an active part in them. In my amendments to this report, which were adopted by the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, I urge the Commission and the Council to ensure that in relations with third countries, compliance with the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflicts is mandatory. I also call for immediate steps to be taken by the EU and UN institutions to disarm, rehabilitate and reintegrate children who have taken an active part in wars.

I urge the North Korean authorities to make concrete and tangible steps towards improving human rights conditions. I urge Pyongyang to allow inspection of all types of detention facilities by independent international experts, and to allow UN Special Reporters to visit the country. I also call on the North Korean authorities to lift restrictions on the ability of international staff to monitor the distribution of aid, and to ensure that international aid reaches the needy.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) This report on the annual report on human rights in the World (2009) and the European Union’s policy on the matter details, exhaustively, human rights violations across the globe. The European Parliament’s unshakeable determination and longstanding efforts to defend human rights and democracy across the globe by applying a firm and effective policy in defending human rights in the EU should be recalled here.

With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, a historic opportunity to deal with the gaps that still exist in EU policy on human rights and democracy is opening up. I therefore join the rapporteur in calling on the European External Action Service to comply fully with the objective and spirit of the Treaty of Lisbon, to ensure that respect for human rights and its promotion is at the heart of the various fields of intervention of Union external policy.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Yesterday, the European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the Cuban citizen Guillermo Fariñas, who was absent. His chair was empty, because the Cuban Government would not have allowed him to return home. This is a shocking and symbolic example, serving as a brutal reminder that the human rights situation in the world is not improving. The practice of the death penalty close to home in Belarus, hangings and stonings in Iran, female genital mutilation in Somalia, mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the murdering of journalists in Russia, 215 million children working, arbitrary detentions, unfair trials, censorship, and so many other barbarities that require the European Union to be steadfast and uncompromising.

The report adopted today requires us to put human rights at the heart of the European Union’s external action, in its development, defence, trade, fishing, immigration and justice policies. The universality of these values must take precedence over geopolitics, once again cynically revealed on 10 December 2010 when 15 countries made a cowardly response to China’s express request that they boycott the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Chinese citizen, Lu Xiaobo.

 
  
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  Crescenzio Rivellini (PPE), in writing. (IT) I should like to congratulate Mrs Andrikienė on her excellent work. Parliament’s annual report on human rights – this year in relation to 2009 – is a point of reference for all those interested in the issue. This edition is even more important, because it is the first since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, which grants the European Union greater powers in foreign policy. In fact, the greatest hope for human rights is the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon in terms of foreign policy: The European External Action Service must reflect the priorities and the spirit of the Treaty.

One of the priorities of a coherent foreign policy should be the promotion of democracy and human rights. Lastly, I note that Parliament’s annual report on human rights not only provides a long list of problems; it also suggests solutions. The report notes the abolition of the death penalty in several countries, the progress made on violence against women, the protection of children, the fight against torture, protection for human rights activists, the promotion of democracy and religious freedom, and so on.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – As usual, the final text has good and bad news. Among the positive points: First of all, the amendment in two parts relating to Magnitsky was adopted with a large majority (+318, -163 and 95 abstentions). S&D and ALDE amendments were all adopted (LGBT, death penalty/lethal injection). Two GUE amendments were adopted (equal access to healthcare/treatment and Colombia). However, among the negative points, we have to mention that the two amendments tabled by the rapporteur (EPP) relating to the EIDHR and the need to dedicate more projects to democracy instead of HR were adopted.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of Mrs Andrikienė’s report because I believe that we need to stress once again that respecting human rights is the reflection of a modern society. All human beings are born free and equal, and it is clearly our duty to do everything possible to ensure that this is the case across the world. Notwithstanding the fact that the European Union’s external policy has made some important strides in recent years, the road to adopting a shared and coherent policy for the promotion of human rights is still a long one.

First of all, the Council and the Commission need to improve the European Union’s capacity for rapid response to violations in third countries. Beginning with the firm condemnation of the death penalty across the European Union, we need to strive to achieve and reaffirm human rights on a daily basis. In this vein, I should like to conclude by noting that, as Mahatma Gandhi said, the protection of human rights is the necessary precondition for peace. This should never be forgotten.

 
  
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  Bart Staes (Verts/ALE), in writing. (NL) The report on the annual report on human rights in the world in 2009 and EU policy on the matter provides a near total overview of human rights problems across the world. The report also takes up new types of human rights issues, such as human rights protection and the fight against terrorism. Thanks to the amendments of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, a chapter has been included on the role of human rights in the newly-established European External Action Service (EEAS). This is very important given the fact that, as a new instrument, the EEAS is able to provide us with an opportunity to review the EU’s human rights policy and to defend human rights worldwide in a more coherent and decisive way. I therefore support 100% the proposal to appoint a high representative, who, together with his/her service, will coordinate the Union’s human rights policy on a permanent basis. The core message is clear: human rights should occupy a central place in the foreign policy of the European Union. There is still a long way to go, but Parliament will keep its finger on the pulse. That is an exceptionally positive thing.

 
  
  

Report: Pino Arlacchi (A7-0333/2010)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for the report on a new strategy for Afghanistan. I believe that international aid should be channelled directly to the Afghan authorities, thereby circumventing intermediaries. Regarding the peace process, the EU’s role should allow the Karzai government to be autonomous in choosing its dialogue partners, while insisting on the following prerequisites: banishing al-Qaeda, eradicating poppy cultivation, and a willingness to establish basic respect for fundamental human rights. As for the professional training of the police force, I agree with the objectives of focusing not just on increasing the number of police officers and soldiers, but mainly on training, on organisation, and on the relations of police forces with parallel judicial institutions.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. – I voted in favour of this resolution and supported a pragmatic approach towards Afghanistan and the new counter-insurgency policy which is geared to protecting the local population and rebuilding areas where security has been ensured. The new counter-insurgency policy must be given time to show results, there should be a political solution and negotiations with all sides should take place. I am convinced that any long-term solution must include concrete measures for the eradication of poverty, under-development and discrimination against women, enhancing respect for human rights and the rule of law, strengthening reconciliation mechanisms, ensuring an end to opium production, engaging in a robust state-building exercise, and fully integrating Afghanistan into the international community, as well as banishing al-Qaeda from the country. We have to pay tribute to the servicemen and women of all the Allied Forces who have lost their lives in defending freedom, and to express condolences to their families, as well as to the families of all innocent Afghan victims.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) The situation in Afghanistan is still a concern. Almost 10 years after the Western coalition drove the Taliban from power, peace and prosperity are still far from being a daily reality for Afghans. The strategy used for years in the country is flawed and must be changed. The Union must assert its views on the subject and take note of the failure of the United States’ military policy in the region. Our troops are bogged down, and no hope of exit seems possible under such conditions. For these reasons, I supported Parliament’s resolution calling for a new strategy for Afghanistan. The system that has been in place until now must be changed. We have to tackle corruption and waste so that international aid can at last fulfil its role. Peace will return through civil action. The coalition needs to be stricter when controlling these funds. On the other hand, we must stop interfering in Afghan affairs. The Afghan Government must be free to find its modus vivendi with all the groups that make up Afghan society. The path to development is still long, and we must not endanger these fragile balances.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) I abstained during the vote on the report on the new strategy for Afghanistan. The report does indeed contain several positive points and it acknowledges the highly unfortunate aspects of the current situation and the responsibility of the international community, especially NATO, the EU and the Member States, which are involved in various ways in the war in Afghanistan and the ‘management’ of its ‘reconstruction’. The report also highlights the fact that the distribution of money and international aid does not reach the Afghan people. It also illustrates how negative and absurd it is for foreign troops to remain in Afghanistan, given that, apart from the human victim aspect, it proves that the situation has worsened in terms of the poverty of the Afghan people, the level of respect for women’s rights, the spiralling rise in opium crops and even the emergence of mafia organisations and corruption through the privatised security system applied by the USA. Unfortunately, however, amendments by the conservative forces which contradict the original text have altered it. It welcomes ‘new counter-insurgency policy’, adopts President Obama’s timetable, calls for closer identification by the EU with NATO and the USA and recognises the efficacy of and need for troops to remain and secure the area.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) Nine years after the start of the military intervention in Afghanistan, it is possibly the greatest challenge faced by Europe and its allies in terms of foreign intervention and global security. The truth is that in the last decade, despite the strong – and uninterrupted – international presence in Afghanistan, security in the country has deteriorated. Terrorists continue to be supported and trained and, on top of this, the main socio-economic indicators are unsatisfactory. At present, therefore, the main objective of the international community and of Europe should be to encourage the creation of a strong and stable government, so the peace process continues to be supported, insofar as it respects the three basic commitments listed in the report: (i) Afghanistan’s commitment to banishing al-Qaeda from the country; (ii) eradicating poppy cultivation and combating drug trafficking; and (iii) a willingness to establish a basic respect for fundamental human rights.

Within this framework, and in accordance with the international commitments that have been made in the context of NATO, the military presence in Afghanistan should be progressively reduced, while maintaining international support for peacekeeping and security with a view to post-intervention stability.

 
  
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  Carlo Fidanza (PPE), in writing. (IT) This report is perhaps the best compromise that can be reached today on the new European strategy in Afghanistan. This is partly thanks to the numerous and crucial amendments tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), which made it less ideological and more pragmatic, and capable of recognising the criticalities discovered over nine years of operations on Afghan territory, as well as identifying the positives and lines of development to make the international community’s presence more effective and favour the transition towards a complete hand-back of sovereignty to the Afghan authorities.

A solely military response cannot be enough, it is true. It is, however, an essential precursor, in order to weaken the Taliban groups and drive them to cut all links with al-Qaeda and therefore to sit down at the negotiating table. Preventing civilian massacres remains a priority, of course, but we must not deny ourselves the use of drones, which are performing well in the areas around the border with Pakistan.

The commitment to the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL) needs to be reinforced in order to continue to train a police force that is capable of maintaining public order. The training of judges and administrative officials should be intensified in order to favour the strengthening of the Afghan institutions, reduce corruption and build the conditions to return Afghanistan to the Afghans.

 
  
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  Joe Higgins (GUE/NGL), in writing. – This report highlighted many of the problems facing Afghanistan. The report is critical of the role of the NATO-US occupation and of human rights abuses in Afghanistan, in particular, the increased repression of women and higher levels of poverty. The anti-war movement has warned of these problems since the start of the war. However, I abstained as I could not support the report’s support for the occupation and the ‘surge’ that has been carried out by the Obama administration. I abstained on amendments calling for more support to the Afghan State. I support respecting the sovereignty of the Afghan people, but the Karzai regime is corrupt and does not reflect the interests of the majority of the Afghan people. I call for all aid to be democratically controlled by the small farmers, workers and poor of Afghanistan. I note the tribute in this report to ordinary soldiers who have been killed and to the Afghan people who are victims of this war. I cannot agree, however, with the statement that military personnel died ‘defending freedom’. This is a war carried out in the interests of the major imperialist powers and not in the interests of ordinary people.

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE), in writing. (FI) Where is our money disappearing to in Afghanistan? I am pleased with the motion for a resolution on a new strategy for Afghanistan. The report highlights very well the many problems affecting that country.

There is no military solution for Afghanistan, something the report also states. If the troops have not been able to bring peace to Afghanistan, neither has the money that we have poured in. The report even says that between 2002 and 2009, more than USD 40 billion in international aid was channelled into the country. Of this 40 billion, just six billion went to the Afghan Government, the remaining 34 billion being channelled into the country from elsewhere. As much as 70 to 80% of this aid never got to its intended recipients, the Afghan people.

Furthermore, the costs of the war in Afghanistan over the period 2001­2009 amounted to more than USD 300 billion. However, these enormous sums of money are not doing the Afghan people any good. Instead, it is, for example, the arms industry, mercenaries and international companies that get to benefit from the money spent in Afghanistan. It is important that the report actually highlights this unsatisfactory state of affairs.

 
  
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  Sandra Kalniete (PPE) , in writing. (LV) I fully support the report where it calls for efforts to reconstruct Afghanistan and an improvement in the human rights situation. It cannot be denied that the security situation in Afghanistan today is much better than it was nine years ago. People live in a freer society, girls can get education, and medical services are more accessible than under the Taliban regime. However, serious problems, in the resolution of which there has been no progress, still remain. This can especially be said about the war against drugs, as is rightly emphasised in the report. According to expert opinion, 92% of the world’s opium is sourced in Afghanistan and is then distributed throughout the world, including the European Union. We must take into account the fact that the cultivation of opium poppies represents a significant source of income in rural areas, where other forms of earning a living are difficult to find. That is why the destruction of opium poppy plantations without offering alternative means of earning a living is not an effective solution.

The government of Afghanistan must make more purposeful use of international aid to develop small enterprises and agriculture in regions where opium is currently grown. The European Union’s investment in rebuilding Afghanistan is significant, but there is still much more to do. The most important thing is to guarantee security. I should like to stress that a premature withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan would not only be dangerous for the local population and a threat to the democratic world, but it would also thereby destroy all the good that has been achieved in Afghanistan. People have paid a high price for peace in Afghanistan, and we must not let them down.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – The rapporteur decided to focus exclusively on four areas where, he believes, targeted action could bring about real changes: international aid, the implications of the recently launched peace process, the impact of police training, and the elimination of opium cultivation. Although I do not support every conclusion he draws, I did vote for this well thought-out and useful contribution to the debate on Afghanistan.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE), in writing. (IT) The report on a new strategy for Afghanistan should be assessed positively overall, so I am voting in favour of it. The enormous problems that remain today in Afghanistan, each different and extraordinarily important for the future of this Middle-Eastern country, need to be dealt with using a new approach with a different definition of priorities compared to what has been done so far.

The primary question – as the report we are going to vote on correctly identifies – is the fact that ‘there can be no stability or peace in Afghanistan without the state first of all guaranteeing security for its citizens on its own responsibility’. In this regard, I hope that the rapporteur will reconsider the part in which he talks about the use of drones, perhaps through an oral amendment.

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Mélenchon (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FR) This report paints a disastrous picture of the consequences of a NATO-led war in Afghanistan that has had the complicity and support of the EU. It is regrettable that the report does not condemn the war itself and hesitates between maintaining NATO military forces on the ground and going ahead with their necessary withdrawal. Despite this, considering all the important criticisms it contains, I will abstain from voting.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer (GUE/NGL), in writing. (ES) One of the main reasons why I did not support this report is because not only does it suggest the immediate withdrawal of European troops, but also it ‘welcomes and supports’ the plan to strengthen EU action. Likewise, it scarcely questions the role played by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the grave human rights abuses committed. I consider it positive that the report includes the statements by General Stanley McChrystal in which he denies that there is sufficient al-Qaeda presence to justify the deployment of troops in Afghanistan. I also think that it is positive that the report calls for police training to cease being in the hands of private contractors as soon as possible, along with the recital stating that there is no obvious end in sight for the war in Afghanistan due to the militarism and warmongering that has taken place so far. I did not support the report because my firm, consistent commitment to pacificist values lead me to criticise this report, the spirit and focus of which are entirely opposed to the need to demilitarise the EU’s foreign policy and its foreign relations.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) In general, the rapporteur has quite correctly recognised the situation in Afghanistan. He is aware that resources and troops are being deployed completely incorrectly in Afghanistan and that additional resources and troops will do nothing to change this. He has correctly recognised that the presence and disdainful demeanour of the Coalition is the primary reason for its absolute rejection by the local population. He is also aware that it is not possible to foist democracy and Western values on the people of Afghanistan. However, the rapporteur must be criticised for harping on themes such as women’s rights which, although very important, are completely unacceptable at local level and therefore render the entire peace process even less likely.

In addition, the rapporteur, despite identifying their negative effect, also calls for more troops and more resources for Afghanistan. I am convinced that the Afghan conflict is an unjust war and that the continued occupation of the country is of no benefit either to Europe or to Afghanistan itself. Europe’s first line of defence is not at the Hindu Kush. It is for that reason that I have voted against this report.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI), in writing. (DE) The Member States of the European Union who are fighting at America’s side in the war in Afghanistan should withdraw their troops from this country as quickly as possible. The Afghan War will soon have lasted nine years and there is still no sign of any improvement in the security situation. On the contrary, the Islamist Taliban is growing in strength. Europe is wasting its resources instead of deploying them where they are urgently needed, for example, on the EU’s Balkan borders. It is hard to see what European interests are actually to be defended in the Hindu Kush. It would seem that the primary concern is not to establish democracy in Afghanistan according to the Western model, as the Americans claim. Instead, economic interests play a central role, particularly because, according to the New York Times, it is estimated that around USD 1 billion worth of natural resources lie buried in Afghanistan. Obviously, the EU is required to help US concerns to exploit these riches without disruption. It is for that reason that I have voted against this report.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) This report on a new strategy for Afghanistan was prepared following on from the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in which it was discussed how to move forward with implementing the Action Plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and in which the first semi-annual implementation report was tabled.

I fully support a strategy aimed at protecting the population and reconstructing areas where security is guaranteed, as well as political solutions in which all involved parties are called into the negotiations. I welcome the goal of gradually transferring responsibility for security to Afghan forces between now and 2014.

I unreservedly support Parliament’s call for the Commission to ensure total transparency in the financial assistance provided to the Afghan Government, international organisations and local NGOs. It is only by means of a transparent system that we will be able to maintain the coherence of aid and succeed in reconstructing and developing Afghanistan, which is the ultimate goal.

 
  
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  Crescenzio Rivellini (PPE), in writing. (IT) I should like to congratulate Mr Arlacchi. The report adopted today proposes that the new European Union strategy for Afghanistan should be based on four key factors: full support for peace negotiations between the Karzai government, the Taliban and other insurgent groups; an extensive training plan for the Afghan police; the elimination of opium crops; and halting the international aid scandal, in which 80% of aid disappears during the journey from donor countries to Afghanistan. Regarding the last of these points, it is noted that international aid for Afghanistan ends up being spent in bribes, forms of ‘legalised corruption’ and all kinds of stealing, often financing the enemy.

Since 2002, the EU alone has spent EUR 8 billion on this tortured country and despite this, the child mortality rate has risen, literacy levels have fallen and the amount of people living below the poverty line has increased by 130% over the last six years alone. In order to rectify the absence of coordination and communication among international donors, the EU is calling to set up a centralised database on all EU aid and to allocate funds directly to specific projects implemented in partnership with Afghan institutions.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – The report adopted today is based on the extensive consultations that the rapporteur has been engaged in over the past six months on the situation in Afghanistan and its relations with the international community, in an attempt to explain why so little has been achieved in Afghanistan in spite of the huge amounts of money and effort expended over the past nine years. The gap between hope and reality in Afghanistan has become more striking than ever, and a new EU strategy in that country should thus start from this premise. The report focuses exclusively on four areas where targeted action could bring about real changes: international aid, the implications of the recently launched peace process, the impact of police training, and the elimination of opium cultivation.

 
  
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  Geoffrey Van Orden (ECR), in writing. – This report has some useful references to the NATO/ISAF mission; to the deep problems of illiteracy and ill-treatment of women; to endemic corruption and the need for fresh thinking. It might have stopped there. However, it could not resist constant criticism of the coalition and, tacitly, of the US. It tries to find ways to elevate the EU role. It advocates increased ‘EU funding’ when clearly, the need is not more money but better control and use of the massive amounts already provided. The ECR therefore abstained.

 
  
  

Report: József Szájer (A7-0355/2010)

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this resolution because I believe that with this document, the European Parliament is strengthening its role in its relations with the Commission. I agree with the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs that it is of the utmost importance for Parliament to be able to fully and timely exercise its prerogatives and for the Commission to actively inform Parliament about all draft measures, amended draft measures and final draft measures that it intends to adopt under Article 291 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which provides that, where uniform conditions for implementing legally binding Union acts are needed and implementing powers are conferred on the Commission, the control on the exercise of such implementing powers by the Commission rests with the Member States alone. I feel that in light of the specificity and political sensitivity of implementing acts to be adopted under the external financial assistance instruments, and in line with the practice established with the democratic scrutiny dialogue, Parliament should have the opportunity to contribute to the process leading to the definition of the content of the draft implementing acts to be adopted under the external financial assistance instruments.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) In the architecture of the European Union, the Commission’s role is akin to that of government in a typical State. The Commission has the legislative initiative, but also the power to implement regulations, directives and decisions. The Commission can therefore be considered the executive branch of the Union. It has derived powers, which allow it to take measures to implement texts adopted through the ordinary legislative procedure. Just as regulations and circulars in France must respect the laws in place, the implementing acts of the Commission are not independent from European laws. However, it is possible that, in exercising this quite natural power to implement, the Commission may exceed its powers, in most cases, without necessarily seeking to do so. For democratic reasons, it is for other EU institutions to monitor the Commission’s activity so that the division of powers is respected. That is why I voted in favour of this proposal for a regulation laying down the general principles for control by Member States of the Commission’s exercise of implementing powers.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – I could not vote for this report because it sacrifices some of the European Parliament’s hard won new powers in international trade for the expediency of an agreement with the Council on implementing powers in other areas.

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Mélenchon (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FR) The Commission’s proposal is a concerted attack on democracy. This report settles for amending it without actually condemning that fact. The Commission is the only group of civil servants in the world that remains outside the control of its government (the Council). I shall be voting against this latest authoritarian move.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) There have always been efforts to centralise control within the European Union. These efforts seem to have increased recently in tandem with a rise in bureaucracy, despite all the statements to the contrary. It must remain a matter for the Member States to decide what powers they wish to cede to the EU and/or the Commission. This cannot be changed by judgments by the European Court of Justice, which seems to have been pursuing the principle of a centralised state in its judgments for years. Likewise, the Treaty of Lisbon cannot be exploited for this purpose, nor may such objectives be pursued under the pretext of crisis management. In theory, there is a clear acceptance of the subsidiarity principle. However, this is frequently ignored or skirted in practice. I voted in favour of the report because it basically goes against this trend.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) The compromise reached means that the commercial policy, including the instruments of trade defence, can be included within the general framework of comitology. This approach is entirely coherent and in line with both the spirit and the letter of the Treaty of Lisbon. In particular, I fully support the need to strengthen the decision-making and implementation process, providing the Commission with the requisite instruments in the common interest of the European Union, the Member States and all economic operators. I support the principle that the Commission should adopt definite anti-dumping and countervailing measures and that the Member States should vote on the basis of a qualified majority.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) This report on the proposal for a European Parliament and Council regulation laying down the rules and general principles on control mechanisms by Member States of the Commission’s exercise of implementing powers is motivated by the new rules on implementing acts introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon.

This is a delicate matter, not least in terms of agriculture and fisheries issues. Under the current system of committee procedure, the common agricultural policy accounts for the majority of acts.

Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the current regulations on the committee procedure will have to be replaced by delegated acts and implementing acts, under the terms of Articles 290 and 291 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Problems with adapting existing legislation to the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon are of the greatest importance, especially for policies – such as those on agriculture and fisheries – that have not been adopted under the codecision procedure.

Only the test of new legislation, heavily amended by the European Parliament and the Council, will be able to indicate whether the route set out will result in the effectiveness and implementation of European policies.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – In general terms, the report was well perceived by all groups and the amendments tabled by the committee reflect the agreement reached with the Council and Commission for a first-reading agreement. Our group is in favour of the agreement.

 
  
  

Motion for a resolution B7-0733/2010

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this resolution because there is a need for a permanent crisis mechanism in order to safeguard the financial stability of the euro The European Stability Mechanism and/or a European Monetary Fund should be based on solidarity, subject to strict conditionality rules and financed, amongst other sources, by the fines applied to Member States as the outcome of a procedure for dealing with excessive deficits, excessive debts or excessive imbalances. I believe that it is also important that the financing of the permanent crisis mechanism must be based upon the ‘polluter pays principle’, meaning that Member States creating bigger risks by their deficits and debt burdens should finance a larger proportion of the total assets. These penalties would be one of the means of avoiding financial and economic crises in euro area countries, such as the one that arose in Greece a few months ago and which is still continuing.

 
  
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  Charalampos Angourakis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) The war against the workers, the self-employed and small-scale farmers is a strategic choice by the bourgeois governments and the EU in order to support the profitability of capital. The debt and deficit are simply a pretext. All the national governments in the Member States of the euro area and the EU are being called upon to step up the adoption and application of even more savage, barbaric and anti-labour and anti-grassroots measures coordinated by the EU, the ECB and the IMF. The summit will create the ‘support mechanism’, which is basically a bankruptcy mechanism. The debate on resources and the participation of private capital is wool over the workers’ eyes. The aim is to ensure that the plutocracy does not go bust. Capital makes the markets more visible to the absolute regulator of Community mechanisms and amends the Treaty of Lisbon in that direction, so as to safeguard its profits by over-exploiting the workers and by plundering the wealth that they produce. Enhanced economic governance is being imposed in order to control capitalist restructurings and step up the attack on the life and rights of workers. In light of this all-out attack by capital and the plutocracy, there is an urgent need for a broader grassroots rally to radically reverse the power correlations for the benefit of the grassroots alliance and to achieve an exit from the EU, grassroots power and a grassroots economy.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) On Thursday, 16 December 2010, the Heads of State or Government agreed to maintain the financial solidarity mechanisms established several months ago in response to the crisis. This is to ensure the stability of the euro as a whole, in case of difficulties in one or more Member States of the euro area. However, the granting of financial assistance will remain subject to strict conditions, which I think is necessary. As does Parliament’s resolution, I welcome this commitment made by Member States, which shows true European solidarity. Unfailing solidarity is today the best answer that we can give the markets.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing. (LT) Important decisions were taken this year aiming to establish an EU framework for economic governance and financial supervision. The EU will see the launch of the European Systemic Risk Board, responsible for the macro-prudential oversight of the financial system in order to avoid periods of widespread financial distress and contribute to the smooth functioning of the internal market, thereby ensuring a sustainable contribution on the part of the financial sector to economic growth. I approve of the proposal to establish a permanent European Stability Mechanism and so further reinforce economic governance, in order to be able to ensure effective and rigorous economic surveillance and coordination, which will focus on prevention. I agree with the proposal set out in the resolution that Member States outside the euro area should have the possibility to be involved in the creation of this mechanism and they should be given the opportunity to obtain financial assistance if necessary.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this European Parliament resolution which discusses the need for Member States to establish a permanent crisis mechanism to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area as a whole. This instrument is aimed at effective and rigorous economic surveillance and coordination, which will focus on prevention and will substantially reduce the probability of a crisis arising in the future. In order to streamline the current processes of economic policy coordination and remove overlaps and to ensure that EU strategy is understandable to market operators and citizens, it is necessary to move to more integrated approaches and to bring about a change in the decision-making process. I agree that we must strengthen the involvement of the European Parliament in legislative procedures related to the crisis mechanism, so as to improve democratic accountability and to rely on the expertise, independence and impartiality of the Commission. As the European Stability Mechanism is meant to complement the new framework of reinforced economic governance, the European Parliament calls on the Commission to present a communication, following consultation with the European Central Bank, containing a comprehensive description of this permanent crisis mechanism.

 
  
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  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D), in writing. (RO) I voted for the European Parliament Resolution on establishing a permanent crisis mechanism to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area, given that this kind of mechanism has become a necessity in the current economic and financial crisis.

I also support this resolution as it calls for the mechanism to be inspired by the Community method, which involves decision making at a common European level. Having a permanent crisis mechanism is beneficial to all Member States, including those which have not yet adopted the euro, given the interdependency among Europe’s economies.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We voted against this resolution because we disagree with the positions being taken on the financial problems that the Member States are experiencing, without taking their causes into account, and without tabling fundamental measures for identifying a complete solution. Such solutions include the immediate abolition of the Stability and Growth Pact, the immediate amendment of the European Central Bank’s statute and guidelines, the immediate end to the liberalisation of the capital market and the derivatives market, and the immediate abolition of tax havens.

As the European Union does not wish to take any of these measures, it is opting for positions that scarcely reduce the current problem but that still have a significant dependence on the financial market and richer countries.

The resolution also insists on imposing penalties on Member States that do not comply with the rules established, notably in the Stability and Growth Pact, which will exacerbate the situation as a whole of those countries with weaker economies.

This means that the most important thing is the interests of the major powers, such as Germany, and that the much-trumpeted solidarity is still lacking.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins, Seán Kelly, Mairead McGuinness and Gay Mitchell (PPE), in writing. – We voted against CCCTB but did not want to defeat other important aspects of this report. Our support for the general provisions is not support for CCCTB.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD), in writing. (LT) I agreed with the proposals for resolutions, because we need to establish a permanent crisis mechanism that is credible, robust, lasting, grounded in the essential technical realities and inspired by the Community method, thus ensuring market stability and greater certainty.

 
  
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  Iliana Ivanova (PPE), in writing. – I voted for the EP resolution on the permanent crisis mechanism specifically because of the fact that during the debates in the Committee on Economic Affairs, the texts relating to establishment of a minimum corporate tax rate in the EU of 25% were deleted. I firmly support the idea for Member States to keep their national tax policies. It is crucial to preserve tax competition as a tool to facilitate cohesion and boost EU economic growth. Otherwise, how shall we drive EU competitiveness if we eliminate one of the best instruments to promote it and what shall we solve if we harmonise taxes clearly without the agreement of all Member States? I also support the proposition for Member States that create bigger risk by their deficits and debt burden to contribute more to the assets of the crisis mechanism because this would definitely encourage strict fiscal discipline and enhance the added value of having a proper economic and fiscal policy.

 
  
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  Bogusław Liberadzki (S&D), in writing. (PL) I am greatly concerned by the establishment of a permanent crisis mechanism to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area. This is a vitally important issue for the countries in the euro area, and for the remaining Member States of the European Union. Over 150 million EU citizens live outside the euro area. Stabilisation of the euro will make it easier for them to fulfil their ambitions of joining this area, and may protect the entire system from further turbulence. The resolution does not solve any problems in and of itself, but it can send a strong signal to the Council and the Commission and to the Member States. The resolution gives voice to Parliament’s firm intention to strengthen the Union approach and European solidarity. I voted in favour of this resolution, and I have high hopes of it.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – I welcome this resolution and, in particular, the oral amendment by Stephen Hughes which ‘calls on the Council to provide the necessary political signal for a Commission investigation into a future system of Eurobonds, with a clear specification of the conditions under which such a system would be beneficial to all participating Member States and to the eurozone as a whole’.

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Mélenchon (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FR) This report supports the establishment of the European mechanism for financial stability and the social cuts that this will entail. It requires full consistency with International Monetary Fund regulations and establishes the European Commission’s control over national budgets. I shall therefore vote against this report, which I also condemn.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) The motion for a resolution placed before us today with the specious title ‘Establishing a Crisis Mechanism’ is, in fact, a desperate attempt by the EU imperialists to bind all EU Member States together in a common European destiny, following the principle of ‘United we stand, united we fall’. Right from the start, the euro was a completely misjudged construct that was bound to fail. It is not possible to shoehorn together states with completely different national economies under a single shared currency. Because there is no desire for greater integration or for the transfer of taxes between the peoples of Europe, it will be necessary to abolish the existing monetary union and to establish a hard currency union. For this reason, I favour bringing this business to a close instead of allowing it to lurch from one disaster to the next. I am therefore voting against this motion for a resolution.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) I should like to reiterate what was said yesterday during the debate and say that I am very happy about the approval of Amendment 12, even if I would have added an even more direct reference. We need to find new and innovative instruments to finance the crisis mechanism. Through the issue of Eurobonds, the crisis mechanism would be financed on the markets, drawing on foreign capital and people looking to invest, without any negative effect on national budgets. A mechanism based solely on pro-rata contributions, under the form of mere provisions of reserves, would imply a major burden on Member States, which would have to find the cash or capital to deposit without this bringing any yield or return. In a situation like the one at present, where Member States are asked, on the one hand, to implement severe budget policies to reduce deficits and debts and, on the other, to pay contributions to participate in the stabilisation fund, there is a real risk of collapse.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – Among other things, this resolution calls on the European Council to specify as soon as possible the Treaty changes required in order to establish a permanent ESM. Parliament recalls that it has welcomed the establishment of a financial stability mechanism to address the risks of default by sovereign borrowers, partly using Article 122 TFEU as the legal basis of this plan, and that it has noted the inherent democratic deficit and lack of accountability of the Council’s rescue package decisions, which did not include consultation with the European Parliament. It also demands that the European Parliament be involved as colegislator in forthcoming crisis rescue proposals and decisions and underlines that, from a rational, practical and democratic point of view, consideration of the economic governance legislative package cannot be dissociated from the decision taken by the European Council to create a permanent crisis mechanism.

 
  
  

Motion for a resolution B7-0707/2010

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this resolution which calls for democracy to be restored in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) following the presidential elections which took place on 28 November 2010. The illegal decision by Côte d’Ivoire’s Constitutional Council, whose members appointed the outgoing President, to change the results declared by the election commission in contravention of a law that the Constitutional Council has a duty to implement, goes against the will of the people of Côte d’Ivoire as expressed when they voted in the elections. This decision must be overturned because otherwise, this country will be unable to break free from the political deadlock that followed the elections and the instances of violence already being reported will increase. In the interests of the welfare of the people of Côte d’Ivoire and peace in the country, I therefore support the appeal to Mr Laurent Gbagbo and the call for him to step down and hand over power to Mr Alassane Ouattara, to whom the electorate gave their votes as a sign of their trust.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) For many years, Côte d’Ivoire was the archetype of good decolonisation. The exemplary student of new-found independence, in the 1970s and 1980s, the country experienced considerable growth. Unfortunately, a latent political crisis has gradually undermined Côte d’Ivoire. The last presidential elections brought the opposition leader, Mr Ouattara, to power. The outgoing president, Mr Gbagbo, refused to hand over power. Ever since, the country has sunk into unbelievable confusion. Two parties are fighting for power and serious incidents have cost supporters from both sides their lives. I voted in favour of the European Parliament resolution calling on Mr Gbagbo to respect the results of the polls and make way immediately for his legitimate successor. The text also supports the action of the African Union, which is currently putting pressure on the country in order to ensure a return to democracy.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D), in writing. (RO) The manner in which the second round of Presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire took place is regrettable. Violence, resulting in deaths and injuries, eventually led to the evacuation of international observers, a fact that raises a big question mark over the correctness of this poll, but also over the post-electoral progress in this country.

I hope that this country, which was once a model of democracy for the African continent, will successfully rise above the impasse of electoral confrontation.

Massive participation at the ballot box, despite the tensions, expresses the major preoccupation of the Ivoirians for the future of their country. I therefore believe that it is essential for the will of the citizens, expressed by voting in an election that has been cancelled six times in the past, to be respected.

Côte d’Ivoire has the chance to bring to an end a decade of political, military and provisional government crises that divided the country into loyalist south and rebellious north. The only viable solution is for the will of the electorate to be respected.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The situation in Côte d’Ivoire is to be condemned at all levels. It is worrying to note that the sovereign will of the electorate is not respected and that the presidential candidate who won the elections, according to Côte d’Ivoire’s Independent Electoral Commission, has been blocked from taking up his post by the Constitutional Court. There were related cases of serious attacks on freedoms during the second round of the elections, not least a climate of tension and violence that led to several deaths and injuries. The political situation in Côte d’Ivoire is untenable, the attitude of the Constitutional Court is unacceptable, and Mr Gbagbo’s ill grace in losing goes against the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – I fully support the call in this motion for Mr Gbagbo to step down and hand over power to Alassane Ouattara, the democratically elected President of Cote d’Ivoire.

 
  
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  Louis Michel (ALDE), in writing. (FR) We have a duty to make sure that the election results coming in from the polls are respected, for they express the will of the people of Côte d’Ivoire. The results issued by the Constitutional Council of Côte d’Ivoire go against the will of those people. We cannot accept this unconstitutional, anti-democratic hold-up. On 28 November 2010, Mr Ouattara was declared the legitimate winner of the presidential elections by the Independent Electoral Commission of Côte d’Ivoire (CEI) and by almost the entire international community. It is imperative for the stability of the country and the sub-region as a whole that the stalling strategy being used by Mr Gbagbo should be brought to an end as quickly as possible.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) The political situation in the Côte d’Ivoire is extremely critical. In principle, I believe that it is not the job of the European Union to play the role of the world’s police force because foreign countries must be able to determine their own destiny without needing the blessing of the EU or USA. However, in this case, we are not faced with the will of the people of the Côte d’Ivoire, but rather with the tyrannical subjugation of this people by an established elite. Some years ago, we had a situation in Europe where people were forced into a highly dubious form of state by political powers who had the necessary military means at their disposal. It is important that these powers should not be driven from their positions by violent means. However, it is equally important that peaceful means should be used to put pressure on these persons, so as to make it difficult for them to continue with their unjust policies. For this reason, I have voted in favour of this motion for a resolution.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) This resolution is motivated by the serious political and institutional crisis taking place in Côte d’Ivoire following the second round of the presidential elections on 28 November 2010.

The elections, which were monitored by the United Nations (UN) and the European Union, took place in a generally satisfactory way. However, the results presented by Côte d’Ivoire’s Independent Electoral Commission, announcing Mr Ouattara’s victory, were rejected by the country’s Constitutional Court, which reversed the result, alleging fraud in some areas and declaring the current president, Laurent Gbagbo, the winner.

As the only source of democratic legitimacy is universal suffrage, whose results were certified by the UN, the European Parliament is using this resolution, for which I am voting, to call on Mr Gbagbo to resign and hand over power to Alassane Ouattara, and to strongly condemn the acts of intimidation directed at EU observers. Through this resolution, Parliament welcomes the European Council’s decision to adopt specific measures against those obstructing the process of peace and national reconciliation, and supports the EU’s decision to impose sanctions on Laurent Gbagbo.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – Huge consensus, today, on the vote on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. The EP Resolution, voted through with a big majority, states that the EP considers that the sole source of democratic legitimacy is universal suffrage, the results of which have been certified by the UN, and therefore calls on Mr Gbagbo to step down and hand over power to Alassane Ouattara; urges all the political and armed forces in Côte d’Ivoire to respect the will of the people that was reflected by the results of the 28 November poll, as announced by the CEI and certified by the UNSG Special Representative; and deplores the violent clashes that preceded the proclamation of the results of the second round of presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire and expresses its deepest solidarity with the victims and their families; regrets also the political obstruction and attempts to intimidate CEI members, which ultimately delayed the announcement of provisional results, thus hampering the due course of the democratic electoral process.

 
  
  

Motion for a resolution B7-0705/2010

 
  
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  Sonia Alfano (ALDE), in writing. (IT) I think it was a good idea for the Commission to attend Parliament today to report on the ban on the use of unenriched cages for laying hens, which will enter into force from January 2012. The implementation data are not very encouraging and, hence, very tough action is required against Member States that, out of indolence, have not made any progress for a while. The prohibition of these cages has been known since 1999, and those Member States that joined later were perfectly aware of having to take action on this issue according to precise timescales. Delay is unacceptable. Deadlines must be respected to make the European Union’s actions credible. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union requires the EU to enforce its policies, bearing in mind the welfare of animals as sentient beings. We must not always hide behind the problem of competitiveness, which should not be considered as an issue of quantity and prices but, above all, of quality, environmental sustainability and ethics, too. The critical and aware consumer must be at the heart of a new economic model that the EU should spearhead. I therefore hope that the Commission will proceed swiftly and determinedly to implement Council Directive 1999/74/EC, to protect both animals and consumers.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for this resolution, as I advocate some flexibility for those who have already started this adaptation process but who have been unable to complete it because of the current crisis. From 1 January 2012, the rearing of laying hens in unenriched cages will be banned, and this will establish the minimum standards relating to the protection of laying hens. It is therefore important to know that the Commission can show what progress has been achieved by the Member States in preparing for the ban on the rearing of laying hens in conventional batteries from 1 January 2012, what measures it will take against Member States whose producers do not comply, and what measures it will take to prevent potential unfair competition from third countries in the EU egg market from 1 January 2012.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) Just over 10 years ago, the European Union passed a directive intended to protect laying hens from the appalling rearing conditions in which too many farms were keeping them. Basing their argument on the significant deterioration of the situation in the sector, undermined by rising feed prices caused by cereals market speculation, a number of Member States have requested a review of the directive. It should be applied no later than 2012. Two years away from the deadline, many farms are nowhere near meeting the new standards. Parliament’s current resolution calls on the Commission to stand firm on this issue. It welcomes the consultation that the Commission has initiated with professionals from the sector, but urges the Commission to refuse the additional time that some farmers are requesting. It has been 10 years since the directive entered into force.

 
  
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  Marielle De Sarnez (ALDE), in writing. (FR) After 1 January 2012, eggs laid by hens kept in battery cages of less than 550 cm will no longer be sold. However, many factory farms are still not up to standard. There could be a shortage of eggs and rising consumer prices in cases where some Member States are not ready to comply with the ban. This would also lead to increased imports of eggs from third countries, which do not always abide by European health standards. That is why Parliament has sounded the alarm. Producers and Member States have been called to order so that they will act quickly, particularly considering that, to date, they have had more than 12 years to comply with legislation. Producers who have made investments in order to comply, and breeders of free-range hens, should enjoy fair competition within the European Union.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The issue raised here is fundamental, not just from the point of view of animal hygiene and welfare, but also the need to ensure the applicability and effectiveness of Directive 1999/74/EC, preventing potential distortions of competition. It has already been demonstrated in other situations relating to animal transportation that failure to apply and comply with EU rules by certain producers and distributors creates situations of unfair competition and market distortions. The Union therefore urgently needs to demonstrate coercive capacity in the application and following of its directives throughout its territory, in order for the market to function more efficiently, and without deviations and distortions by respecting these same rules.

 
  
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  Peter Jahr (PPE), in writing. (DE) The banning of conventional battery cages in 2012 represents an enormous success for animal welfare. However, these uniform standards must apply throughout Europe, otherwise they are pointless. It is vital that we fight for this Europe-wide deadline in the interests of animals and of producers who have already invested in alternative farming practices. In order to establish equal competition, the Commission must ensure that eggs that are not produced in the correct way are not allowed to reach the European market. At the very least, consumers must be able to identify eggs and egg products produced in compliance with European standards. I was the Christian Democrat spokesman on animal welfare in the German Bundestag when Parliament decided on this ban. At the time, I defended the resolution because it was to apply to the whole of Europe. I expect the Commission to take suitable steps to ensure that the deadline is met in all Member States. This means that there should be no more conventional battery cages in use in Europe after 2012.

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE), in writing. (IT) The ban on rearing laying hens in traditional cages enters into force in January 2012. The risk that many businesses will not be in compliance alarms us. We also fear possible shortages of supply and price increases on eggs, given that eggs from farms which are not in compliance with Council Directive 1999/74/EC will be banned from sale. I voted for the resolution because a delay would be unthinkable, but we have supported countries such as Spain and Portugal in bringing in an instrument that guarantees a ‘soft’ transition for businesses which have begun to change their rearing systems but which will not have completed the process before the deadline. It is not my desire to harm animal welfare and ask for a delay, but to underline a few essential points that need to be reiterated with force. Firstly, for the principle of reciprocity, the European Commission is asked to implement a monitoring system to supervise the quality of eggs imported into the European Union and guarantee total respect of European standards and rules. Subsequently, the Member States are asked to include measures in their regional development plans to support the laying-hen sector in this difficult time.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – I strongly support this resolution which demands that all the provisions of Directive 1999/74/EC on the welfare of laying hens be fully implemented by all Member States by the deadline of 1 January 2012. It declares that any extension of the deadline, or ‘phase-in period’, for any Member State is unacceptable – considering that producers have already had 10 years in which to comply – and would have grave ramifications for the successful and timely implementation of any future animal welfare rules. It also requests that the Commission launch swift and effective infringement proceedings, with heavy and dissuasive fines, for lack of compliance with all elements of the directive.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Eleven years on from a provision having been passed, it is hard to understand how it can be that so few steps have been taken for its implementation. This can mainly be laid at the door of the Commission, which, in the past, has often watered down its former provisions, so that they were no longer taken seriously. If it indeed proves to be the case that here, too, a lazy compromise will be reached, this will once again undermine the credibility of the EU. It is my fervent hope that by 1 January 2012, there will no longer be any illegal battery farms in the market or, at the very least, that these will be hit with such punitive taxes that they will no longer enjoy any competitive advantage. For this reason, I voted in favour of the report.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE), in writing. (RO) I voted in favour of Amendment 2 initiated by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) because a large number of producers have already started to invest with a view to modernising their rearing systems or are at the point of launching such investments. These investments cannot be implemented overnight and it would be unfair for the producers in question to be penalised. This amendment will allow an important number of Romanian – and not only Romanian – producers to start modernising works in the coming period so that they will not have to cease their activities.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) Council Directive 1999/74/EC stipulates that from 1 January 2012, unenriched cages can no longer be used. European farmers will have to choose whether to convert their systems to use enriched cages – which are more spacious, to improve the animal’s wellbeing – or to rear laying hens on the ground, outside, or in organic systems. According to recent surveys, it is thought that 30% of European farms still use unenriched cages. Real difficulties in adapting to the new system before the deadlines set by the directive have been observed. This is the case in Italy, for example. Through the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of 22 February 2010, the European Commission has stated that no exceptions are provided for in the application of the ban. An amendment to the resolution, however, meant that a possible alternative solution was reached for those producers who have started to replace their systems of rearing in favour of the new cages. I therefore voted for it.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing.(FR) The welfare of animals in general and of laying hens in particular is a serious business. To prove it, not only did the European Union legislate on the subject by means of a 1999 directive prohibiting battery cages for laying hens from 1 January 2012, but the transposition of that text also caused a disagreement between the Walloons and the Flemish in 2004. In this debate, it is essential to be sensible and to find a solution which takes into account both animal welfare and the economic interests at stake. Those who say that Community rules should be complied with, that unfair competition between breeders should be prevented, and that a 12-year transitional period is ample time to write off the investments are right.

However, the opponents, who are demanding a little flexibility in the rules, especially at this time of austerity, and saying that the switch to enriched cages or non-cage systems will cost the poultry sector, a non-beneficiary of direct aid from the common agricultural policy, a huge amount of money, are also right. That is why I supported the three amendments tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), which reflect the everyday reality for all European breeders.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – With the adoption of this resolution, the EP calls on the Commission to maintain the requirement for a ban on battery cages by 1 January 2012, as laid down in the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive (1999/74/EC), and strongly to oppose any attempts by Member States to secure a deferral of that deadline; it stresses that, as a matter of principle, postponement of the ban, or derogations from it, would seriously harm the welfare of laying hens, distort the market and penalise those producers who have already invested in non-cage or enriched cage systems; and it expresses its deep concern at the substantial numbers of Member States and egg producers behind schedule for meeting the 2012 deadline.

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI), in writing. (HU) I definitely support the idea that a solution must be found to cases where a producer has already started to replace the cages, but will presumably not complete this process before the expiry of the twelve-year grace period. Such farmers must be given assistance in order to ensure that they can complete the upgrading of their farms as soon as possible despite their meagre resources. For this reason, I voted for the proposed amendment.

 
  
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  Artur Zasada (PPE), in writing. (PL) I voted against the resolution, although I am firmly in favour of protecting animal welfare. There can be no disputing the need for adaptation to comply with the requirements of the directive, which introduces a ban on conventional cages, but we should give all Member States the same amount of time to implement it. The difficulties faced by many European producers in adapting to the regulations that are to enter into force as of 1 January 2012 will bring about a shortage of table eggs on the market and a significant rise in the price of such eggs, a fall in the sector’s competitiveness compared to imported eggs from third countries, and, most likely, production being stopped or greatly scaled down. Before the final introduction of the ban, we should assess the state of implementation of the directive, as an assessment of this kind could lead to proposals for transitional solutions for the gradual withdrawal of unenriched cages without putting producers who have already complied with the regulations at a disadvantage.

 
  
 

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

 

8. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
  

IN THE CHAIR: RAINER WIELAND
Vice-President

 

9. Welcome
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  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to welcome you to the afternoon sitting. The sitting is resumed and is the last sitting before the Christmas break and the New Year. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the Executive Committee of the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) from Baden-Württemberg under its chair, Mr Nothelfer. Based in Baden-Württemberg, the Commission tends the graves of 90 000 victims of war and tyranny in Baden-Württemberg alone. We thank you for your work and welcome you to the European Parliament.

 

10. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law(debate)

10.1. Malaysia: the practice of caning
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  President. – The next item is the debate on six motions for resolutions on Malaysia(1).

 
  
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  Barbara Weiler, author. (DE) Mr President, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, Malaysia is a wonderful country with age-old traditions and cultural riches. As members of the ASEAN delegation, we have frequently seen for ourselves how quickly and remarkably this country has grown. The resulting increase in economic power has led to Malaysia achieving top ten ranking when it comes to world growth rates, a fact that has greatly impressed us. It is for this reason that I would like to state on behalf of my own group, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, as well as all those here who signed the resolution, that we find it impossible to understand why Malaysia still practises this outmoded method of chastisement, which harkens back to the country’s colonial past and which seems almost mediaeval to us in Europe.

We are not alone in voicing this criticism: lawyers in Malaysia itself are equally opposed to the practice. Caning violates all United Nations human rights agreements and we believe that things need to change quickly.

We welcomed the charter of the ASEAN states, which emphasises in several articles and the preamble that – and I quote – ‘the promotion and protection of human rights’ is among the essential requirements of the ASEAN Charter, which has also been ratified by Malaysia.

Malaysia has long espoused democratic principles. However, this also involves the rule of law with universal standards. This is something we shall repeat again and again when we are in Malaysia and the ASEAN states, and the European Parliament will underline this with this resolution.

 
  
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  Marietje Schaake, author. – Mr President, the practice of caning – the hitting of a person with a cane – is a form of corporal punishment that is often applied in Malaysia and this is a reason for concern, because tens of thousands of people are subject to this kind of punishment, particularly immigrants, and the list of offences that can lead to caning is growing. Malaysia is thus violating its commitment to Resolution 8/8 of the UN Human Rights Council, which states that corporal punishment can be tantamount to torture.

The legal process leading to this form of punishment is often lacking and immigrants are not being informed about the charges against them, or are being denied the right of access to legal counsel.

We welcome the outspoken call by the Malaysian Bar Association – which represents 8 000 lawyers – for the abolition of caning. The European Parliament calls on the Malaysian authorities to enact a moratorium on caning and all other forms of corporal punishment, while working on the abolishment of this law in letter and in practice.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and the Malaysian Law Reform Committee should make adequate recommendations to the government concerning the abolition of corporal punishment laws.

 
  
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  Barbara Lochbihler, author.(DE) Mr President, this resolution condemns the practice of caning in Malaysia. The term caning should not be understood to mean an outmoded, harmless educational instrument, but is rather a horrific, demeaning and humiliating punishment, which is banned under the UN Convention against Torture. Anyone who doubts this should take a look at a video showing how this punishment is meted out in Malaysia. In terms of their brutality and horror, these images are nothing other than documentary evidence of torture. Malaysia uses this horrific and humiliating practice to punish at least 66 misdemeanours and approximately 1 000 people are beaten in the country’s gaols every year. In addition, in recent years, this brutal treatment has also been extended to migrants entering the country without papers and to drug addicts. It is estimated that a group of between 350 000 and 900 000 people are affected. We therefore urgently call on the Malaysian Government immediately to desist from this horrific, demeaning and humiliating practice and to repeal the relevant laws in the medium term.

Malaysia is a member of the UN Human Rights Council. As the previous speaker pointed out, this body also equates the application of corporal punishment with torture. For this reason, Malaysia would do well to remain in this body, but also to uphold the principles represented there.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock, author. – Mr President, Malaysia has moved towards a more Islamic form of governance in recent years. This is of some concern because Malaysia could be an important ally for the EU, being a strategically placed democratic Asian country with a developed economy.

Sadly, Western concepts of human rights are less developed in Malaysia. However, I am unsure as to why we have singled out Malaysia here. Malaysia is a Muslim majority country and such punishments are commonplace in many Sharia law-based countries, and are mandated by the Koran which serves as the ultimate legal authority for all Muslims.

Indeed, caning is a relatively mild punishment compared to some of the other extremely brutal methods of punishment used in some Muslim countries, including amputation, lapidation and beheading. Caning should also be seen in the Asian cultural context: for example, neighbouring secular Singapore also sentences criminals to caning, and the Indonesian province of Aceh, which receives a lot of EU aid, has recently introduced caning under its Sharia law policy.

In EU Member States, traditional implementation of corporal punishment is rightly banned, and let us hope that Malaysia one day will follow our enlightened example. But it is not at all clear in my mind that caning is illegal under international law, as stated in the resolution.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt, author.(DE) Mr President, when you love someone, you have certain expectations of them. It is the same when it comes to relationships between states. States with whom we have a particularly close relationship do not fall into the same category as some terrible dictatorships on other continents.

Malaysia is a valued close partner of the European Union. Its constitution is, in some respects, an example for a European constitution. That is why we view what is going on in Malaysia so seriously.

Mr Tannock, caning in Malaysia was not introduced by Sharia law, but is a carryover from British colonial times. Just as British colonial power no longer exists and Great Britain has changed in the meantime, Malaysia must also change and try to abolish this antiquated and barbaric punishment, which violates international law and human rights.

I want to be very clear on this. For decades, Malaysia has been a country characterised by tolerance between the various ethnic groups and religious communities. The country should stick to this path and it will do so as a particularly close partner of the European Union, which we hope will succeed in banning this barbaric form of punishment.

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

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Mr President, I would like to ask a question of Mr Posselt, for whom I have enormous respect.

I am not an international lawyer, but I can see no evidence whatsoever that international law forbids caning. It is very clear that it forbids war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and so on, but caning, in my view, is not forbidden by international law. The Convention on Torture, which Malaysia has not actually ratified, says that caning could amount to torture but is not always necessarily torture. So could Bernd perhaps explain to me why caning is illegal – as he stated again and as it is stated in the resolution – and against international law. If we do not stick to the facts, we bring this House into disrepute, in my view.

 
  
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  President. – Mr Posselt, that was not, in fact, a question from Mr Tannock.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt, author.(DE) Mr President, I interpret that last contribution as a question and would like to state in reply that caning does indeed constitute torture and that the prohibition on torture is integral to human rights and international law, irrespective of whether or not a particular country has ratified these principles.

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat, author. (FR) Mr President, Malaysia is one of those states for which cooperation with the European Union, although recent and relatively modest, appears to be rather positive. This is particularly true in economic terms of course, but also socially, in relation to education, women’s rights and the most vulnerable populations.

However, when it comes to democracy and human rights, the situation is far from ideal. Worrying signs persist. The situation we are discussing today is an unfortunate illustration of this.

While Malaysia has signed a number of international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), it still refuses to sign others and, in particular, the International Convention against Torture. Malaysia is one of the countries that apply the death penalty; indeed, this is a mandatory sentence for drug trafficking convictions. Corporal punishment is common practice in Malaysia and can be administered to anyone: men, women – notably those who are accused of illicit sexual relationships – and even children, for schoolchildren guilty of serious disobedience. What is worse, for those who are sentenced to receive such punishment, it is carried out with the help of doctors, in violation of their medical ethics, with said doctors being responsible for resuscitating the offenders before they suffer the rest of their sentence. Worse still, in recent years, the Malaysian Parliament has extended the list of criminal offences that are punishable by caning. Today, there are over 60 of them, including illegal entry into the country. In addition, since 2002, when this offence was created, thousands of refugees have suffered this punishment, this torture.

The Malaysian Government must stop these practices. At a time when the European Union’s dialogue with Malaysia seems to be bearing fruit, should the European Union not do everything possible to persuade Malaysia to make progress in this area?

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda, on behalf of the PPE Group.(RO) Mr President, I would like to begin by quoting some data from a study conducted by Amnesty International this month, in December 2010. At least 10 000 convicts and at least 6 000 refugees are caned each year in Malaysia. There are numerous canings in detention facilities, and Mr Tannock has said that, unfortunately, Malaysia is not the only country in which anachronistic punishments of this type are applied: there is also talk of Singapore.

What is, however, problematic in the case of Malaysia is the fact that a more significant number of crimes and offences attract a caning sentence: to be more precise, 66 in Malaysia, compared with 30 in Singapore. We are talking not only about violent or sexual crimes, but also drug taking, and especially infringements of immigration provisions. I concur, on the other hand, with the perspective that my colleague, Mr Posselt, has embraced, saying that we are talking about torture, which is absolutely prohibited under international law.

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, Parliament’s resolution is timely and important. Thousands of people are subject to caning in Malaysia every year. Caning is an inhuman and degrading form of punishment which should be abolished everywhere in the world. Caning is a form of torture.

According to Amnesty International, a Muslim woman was caned last year in Malaysia where Sharia law is applied. The reason for the punishment was drinking beer. Amnesty International has also reported on the caning of refugees and immigrant workers in Malaysia.

We urge the government of Malaysia to abolish caning as a form of punishment. We also call on the Malaysian Government to ratify the Protocol to the United Nations Convention on Torture, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Ziobro, on behalf of the ECR Group. (PL) Mr President, we are pleased by Malaysia’s economic development and the improved living conditions of the Malaysian people. At the same time, however, we are incredulous at Amnesty International’s report describing the widespread use of the punishment of caning in Malaysia. This really is a harsh punishment, use of which is often over the top, as it is sometimes meted out for minor and very dubious offences. In my opinion, it is particularly cruel to hand down this sentence to illegal immigrants or people found on Malaysian territory without valid documents, including political refugees from Burma.

The ruthless nature of this punishment, however, conceals the unspoken truth regarding the traditional conditions and nature of the punishment of caning as practised in Malaysia. Many of the misdemeanours which carry the punishment of caning are related to violations of Islamic religious law and customs deriving from this law. An example of this is the case of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, who was sentenced to caning in 2009 for drinking beer in a bar. The situation requires our response.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška, on behalf of the EFD Group.(SK) Mr President, traditional Islamic Sharia law, which is applied even in many moderate Islamic countries, permits corporal punishment for infringements of the law.

There was the notorious case from Malaysia of a punishment of six strokes of the cane imposed on the model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno for being caught drinking beer. After the announcement of the punishment, however, which was to have been performed with a rattan cane in a women’s prison, the punishment of six blows of the cane, handed down to a 32 year old mother of two children, was commuted to three months’ community service on the basis of a ruling by the Malaysian sultan, Ahmed Shah, who supervises compliance with Islamic rules in Malaysia.

Things went rather worse, however, for 46 year old Indonesian, Nasarudin Kamaruddin, who got 6 blows of the cane and one year in prison for the same offence. Judge Abdul Rahman Mohamed Yunos, who also sentenced Kartika Shukarno, said of the judgment ‘The aim of the verdict is not to punish but to teach’.

A similar argument was used in defence of his ruling by Wee Ka Siong, Deputy Education Minister, when he justified the corporal punishment of children in schools, adding that the punishment could be carried out only by directors of schools or assigned persons, that parents would be informed about a punishment, and that a witness would be present when the punishment was carried out.

Ladies and gentlemen, what we are talking about is nothing exotic. It is everyday life in the so-called moderate Islamic world. We must therefore not hesitate to provide help to people in these countries in abolishing such mediaeval punishments and customs, if we can do so by means of diplomacy or in other ways.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE). (PL) Mr President, we absolutely should condemn the use of caning and all forms of corporal punishment and inhumane treatment. Malaysia cannot invoke its domestic legislation, under which at least 66 crimes carry the punishment of caning, in order to justify its ruthless methods, which are tantamount to torture and which are considered illegal by international law and conventions. Amnesty International reports of an increasing number of refugees and emigrants subjected to caning in Malaysian prisons are also alarming.

The European Union, which has had more effective methods at its disposal to facilitate the protection of human rights since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, should show greater initiative in the fight against the brutal treatment of people throughout the world. Furthermore, the observance of human rights should be a key condition set by the European Union for the development of further political cooperation with Malaysia.

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR). (PL) Mr President, Malaysia is an economic tiger. It is a highly developed country which acts as a model for the entire region of South-East Asia. This tiger faces a major problem, however; namely, the use of caning as a punishment. Of course, one can talk of respect for cultural identity, and of the fact that we Europeans should be particularly sensitive when it comes to imposing our models on other continents. In this case, however, we really are talking about human rights, which are indivisible and transcend the borders of continents, races and religions. It is my view that the European Parliament not only should, but must, resolutely defend the fundamental right of human dignity, and caning most certainly violates this dignity.

 
  
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  Monica Luisa Macovei (PPE). – Mr President, inflicting physical pain is against human dignity. Caning is a gross violation of human rights. It is against the right not to be tortured, but also against the right not to be subject to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

In Malaysia, over 10 000 people suffer from this form of corporal punishment every year. Accounts show that the pain is so great that victims often lose consciousness. Reports show that a number of officers carrying out the punishment are eager to accept bribes to spare the victims. Therefore, in addition to gross human rights violations, we have government officials committing a crime by taking advantage of people’s suffering.

I call upon the Commission and the Council, as well as on the Malay Government, to urgently work for an immediate moratorium on the practice of caning, followed by its elimination from the law. Beating up people and whipping people on behalf of the government must stop.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, I consider it regrettable that in Malaysia, the practice of caning has reached such high proportions and is following an upward trend. Instead of restricting this practice, the Malaysian Government encourages it.

The authorities invoke a groundless argument, according to which caning is legal and has a considerable effect, in the sense that it diminishes criminal activities. Moreover, prison officers receive financial rewards for caning prisoners. Estimates confirm that the situation is worrying: more than 6 000 refugees and 10 000 convicts are victims of this practice each year. I believe it is very important that victims from outside of Malaysia should have the right to a fair trial. Currently, they are refused basic services, such as interpreting or legal counsel.

 
  
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  Mitro Repo (S&D). (FI) Mr President, caning by order of a court, where the person receiving the punishment is tied to a frame and his or her back and buttocks are beaten with a stick, is unethical and violates human dignity. In Malaysia, this practice has reached epidemic proportions.

A state that considers corporal punishment an effective way to prevent crime is not one governed by the rule of law, and the EU should not extend additional trade benefits to such a country. Such cruel and inhumane forms of punishment should be ended, in whichever country they occur.

With this resolution, Parliament is quite rightly urging the Malaysian authorities to put an end to corporal punishment and torture immediately, both in its legal system and in practice.

 
  
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  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D). (PL) Mr President, canings have been carried out in Malaysia since the 19th century, when Great Britain colonised the area. The Malaysian Government has recently added yet more crimes to the list of those punishable by caning, and the punishment is meted out for as many as 66 different misdemeanours. Prisoners sentenced to caning are detained in prison without any idea of when their punishment will be carried out. Amnesty International estimates that around 10 000 sentences of caning are handed down every year, and that 60% of those sentenced are illegal immigrants who do not even understand the punishment due to the language barrier. The country’s authorities do not see any need to change the law, however, as they regard caning as an effective way to fight crime.

The European Union has been cooperating closely with Malaysia for eight years. EUR 17 million were earmarked in the 2007-2013 Financial Perspective to develop the Malaysian economy. It is therefore justified to call on our partner to ratify the UN Convention against Torture, and to condemn in no uncertain terms the practice of caning as incompatible with the position of the UN Human Rights Council.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D).(RO) Mr President, more than 10 000 citizens are whipped or caned annually in Malaysia, where the legislation stipulates this punishment officially for 66 infringements. The list of these crimes has been extended in the last few years, which indicates a worrying tendency. The victims are both local and foreign, with numerous and grave abuses being committed against the latter, from the absence of the necessary information or an interpreter to the violation of professional ethics by doctors and the absence of legal assistance.

I, too, urge European institutions to intensify their efforts in relation to the abolition of this punishment which, under international law, is the equivalent of torture, and to exert pressure to bring about the observance of the right to an objective and impartial trial in Malaysia and the end of the mean treatment of migrants and asylum seekers.

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, the Commission condemns the use of corporal punishment. It conflicts with international human rights principles and norms, as set out by the United Nations. These principles are also reflected in the European Union guidelines for EU policy towards third countries on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The recent report by Amnesty International on the practice of caning in Malaysia is worrying. However, the Commission would like to suggest widening the resolution to cover all countries where judicial caning unfortunately still occurs.

The European Union, together with the United Nations, has quite regularly raised the question of caning with Malaysia. Some Member States also did so in the context of the ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and during the UN Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review, which took place in February 2009.

Only last week, at the United Nations seminar on the occasion of Human Rights Day, Malaysia was urged to ratify more UN conventions, in particular, the UN Convention against Torture. In early 2010, the same question was raised by the EU Head of Mission directly with the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

It is an issue to which we pay a lot of attention. The European Union and Malaysia will soon begin negotiations on a partnership and cooperation agreement, which will contain provisions on human rights. Once this agreement enters into force, it will provide a sound formalised basis for a reinforced and regular dialogue with Malaysia on human rights. In the meantime, we will continue raising this issue with the Malaysian authorities.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place at the end of the debates.

 
  

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10.2. Uganda: the Bahati Bill and discrimination against the LGBT population
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  President. – The next item is the debate on six motions for resolutions on Uganda: Bahati Bill and discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people(1).

 
  
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  Véronique De Keyser, author. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, exactly one year ago, we adopted a resolution in this House concerning gays and lesbians and the Bahati Bill in Uganda.

Why return, one year later, with an almost identical resolution?

Because the problem is far from solved. Firstly, the evangelist movement ‘The Family’, which was behind this Bahati Bill, has not given up, and we can still see this bill reappearing in Uganda.

The second reason is that, last October and November, Uganda’s Rolling Stone newspaper carried out a name and shame campaign and published a list of Ugandan homosexuals, who were immediately tracked down and attacked and are still in hiding as outcasts today. The Ugandan Constitutional Court has stopped the publication of this newspaper but it is clear that the atmosphere has deteriorated. This is a manhunt.

Thirdly, only 13 African countries recognise homosexuals’ rights. The remaining countries have very different laws, but some of them – Sudan, northern Nigeria, Mauritania – still punish homosexuals with death.

Yet, and I shall end with this, very recently, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries made a statement – a somewhat one-sided one in my view – to the effect that they were aware that this issue regarding homosexuals bothered us slightly, but that these aspects were part of their culture. No, they are human rights, they are universal values, and we really do want these universal values to be strongly defended by the Commission and by the entire European Union.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock, author. – Mr President, societies in Africa are, in general, socially conservative. In many African countries, sadly, homosexuality is indeed outlawed. Many people in Africa feel threatened by efforts to promote homosexuality, particularly when those efforts are led by NGOs and organisations based in the west. There is a widely held perception in some parts of Africa that liberal democracies are trying to push their own, more tolerant, values on societies with very different and ancient traditions.

But, be that as it may, it does not excuse or justify the rampant homophobia that exists widely in some parts of Africa. Sadly, this homophobia is often stirred up by governments and their media mouthpieces. Uganda is yet again in the news for the extremism and hysteria of some of its legislators. They are supporting a bill that would impose the death penalty, or life imprisonment, on homosexuals, depending on the nature of their so-called crime. I, like the ECR Group, reject this draconian bill, which would be an atrocious violation of individual rights, and call on President Museveni to veto it. Uganda is a country in which the majority of people survive on a dollar a day: surely the country’s legislators can find better ways to serve the interests of Ugandan society than to make gays subject to criminal prosecution.

 
  
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  Marietje Schaake, author. – Mr President, the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill before the Ugandan Parliament provides for the punishment of homosexual acts by imprisonment for terms ranging from seven years to life, or even the death penalty. The European Parliament strongly condemns this bill and, in so doing, we are not imposing European values on other states, as some have suggested, in an attempt to avoid responsibility for human rights violations and responsibility for protecting citizens from being attacked on the basis of their sexual orientation.

The real threat and the climate of fear were underlined in the October and November issues of Rolling Stone, a local newspaper, which listed the names and personal details of people alleged to be homosexual, inciting readers to harm or hang them. Several people were consequently attacked.

In fact, homosexuality is legal in only 13 African countries and it is a criminal offence in 38 others. In Mauritania, Sudan and northern Nigeria, it is punishable by death.

The Ugandan authorities are obliged, in accordance with the Cotonou Agreement, to observe international and human rights, and the Commission, the Council of the European Union and the External Action Service should also make full use of the toolkit for promoting and protecting the enjoyment of human rights by all LGBT people.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda, author. – Mr President, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by David Bahati in the Ugandan Parliament that provides for the punishment of homosexual acts by imprisonment of between seven years and life, as well as the death penalty, is simply unacceptable.

Let us remember that in Africa, legal homosexuality only exists in 13 countries, and is a criminal offence in 38 countries, whilst in Mauritania, Sudan and northern Nigeria, homosexuality is punished by death.

This is why we need to reiterate once again the fact that sexual orientation is a matter falling within the remit of the individual’s rights of privacy. It is guaranteed by international human rights law, according to which equality and non-discrimination should be promoted, while freedom of expression should be guaranteed. This is why we need to denounce again any attempt to incite hatred and advocate violence towards any minority group, including on grounds of sex or sexual orientation. We need to remind the Ugandan authorities of their obligations under international law and under the Cotonou Agreement.

This is why I also ask the Commission and the Council, and the European External Action Service as well, to make full use of the toolkit to promote and protect the enjoyment of full human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in their dealings with Uganda.

 
  
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  Filip Kaczmarek, author. (PL) Mr President, the attempts being made to discriminate against Ugandan citizens on the grounds of their sexual orientation are a serious matter. On this issue, Uganda has the support of many African countries which do not want the international community or the European Union to exert pressure on them to decriminalise homosexuality.

The misunderstanding is based on the fact that we believe that a ban on discrimination in this area is a universal human right, as Mrs De Keyser said before. The majority of African countries do not see it the same way, and this is why dialogue is so difficult. We say that we cannot remain silent on such matters, and they say that we are interfering in things that have nothing to do with us.

The draft amendments to Ugandan legislation really do represent a radical change. They introduce the possible use of the death penalty for repeated infringements of the prohibitions already in place, or for aggravated homosexuality, although it is not, in fact, clear what this is supposed to mean. We do not agree with these proposals, and we hope that they will not be passed.

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat, author. (FR) Mr President, Uganda is one of the African states where homosexuality is still severely repressed. Indeed, it has one of the most notorious and harshest reputations in this area, since Uganda, under the leadership of American fundamentalist evangelists, of which the Ugandan Head of State is a close associate, has launched a veritable crusade against homosexuals. We have lost count of the numbers of people who have suffered persecution and torture simply because of their sexuality.

Muslims and Christians have united – a first in the country – to condemn this abomination. Christopher Senyonjo, a 70-year-old Anglican bishop, was banned from officiating by his superiors for having been one of the few to have taken a stand in favour of homosexuals.

The bill already mentioned may indeed reappear at any time. It goes as far as to sentence to death homosexuals suspected of being HIV positive or of having relations with minors. It calls for them to be reported.

The local newspaper Rolling Stone, which has nothing to do with the magazine of the same name, actually published lists with the names and addresses of gay leaders under the revolting headline: ‘Hang them!’ The publication of this rag has been temporarily banned, but the damage has been done, as has already been said.

In Africa, homosexuality is very often seen as an evil from the West which is causing Africa to lose its ancestral values. NGOs say that 500 000 of the 32 million inhabitants of Uganda are gay. Many of them apply for asylum in European countries. Could we at least do our best to ensure that special consideration is given to these applications, and indeed to all men and women who are victims of oppression and torture?

 
  
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  Monica Luisa Macovei, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, I am alarmed by the use of criminal law against consenting same-sex relations taking place in private. This is already part of Ugandan law and the punishment can be life imprisonment. However, the Bahati Bill would make things even worse. The death penalty could be used, while association and expression of LGBT issues would be effectively banned.

The new bill will increase the climate of fear and hostility in a country where persecution of LGBT people is already under way. People would be required to report on each other on privacy matters. The lives of these people will be endangered. Human dignity will have no meaning in Uganda if such a law is adopted. We must not let this happen.

 
  
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  Michael Cashman, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Mr President, of course, much has changed in this last year. On 23 November, this House itself reiterated the principle of the universality of human rights and non-discrimination as a basis on which to enhance our partnership with the JPA. This House also called for the reinforcement of the principle of non-negotiable human rights clauses and sanctions for failure to respect such clauses, inter alia, with regard to discrimination, etc. based on sexual orientation.

The fact is that these countries choose to work with us. They choose to have partnerships with us. We have the ACP JPA, we have the Cotonou Agreements. Therefore, we are asking them to engage with us on shared, universal principles. These are non-negotiable. If they do not want to operate on that basis, I call on the Commission and the Council to take the necessary sanctions to reinforce the fact that we have principles which we will stand up for. Equally, in the future of the EU-Africa Strategic Partnership, we urge that all actions conducted under the terms of the various partnerships be pursued without discrimination on any grounds, including sexual orientation.

It is not colonialism to stand up for the rights of others. Human rights are universal and indivisible, and to stand back and do nothing when somebody else’s basic human rights are attacked is to be complicit in that action. You cannot promote homosexuality in Africa. Anyone in Africa who woke up and said: ‘Today I am going to be homosexual’ would be insane. Their life would be under threat and their family would have to turn them in to the police. Imagine you are that person and take the action necessary to defend those rights.

 
  
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  Alexandra Thein, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(DE) Mr President, the United Nations Convention on Human Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, ban discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. The European Union not only has obligations in relation to human rights within its territory, but also an international duty to insist on compliance with these rights and to criticise abuses when dealing with third countries, particularly when we provide financial support through the European Development Fund to third countries like Uganda, which have entered into partnership agreements with us.

Accordingly, we actually have the right to comment when these third countries fail to meet the human rights requirements set down in such partnership agreements. Hence, Uganda must respect international human rights standards because it was party to the Cotonou Agreement, which sets down our organised development aid to the ACP countries.

Just one year ago, we called on Uganda not to follow through on its plans for a law to criminalise homosexuals. One year on, the situation has deteriorated. There is still the threat of long prison sentences or even the death penalty. With others, I myself demonstrated in front of the Ugandan Embassy in May of this year. This had no effect. We wish to emphasise once again that the EU is generally opposed to the death penalty and to homophobic legislation of this kind.

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki, on behalf of the ECR Group. (PL) Mr President, this is an interesting and important debate. I would like to draw your attention to two problems. Firstly, the fact of the matter is that Uganda is not an island of discrimination in a sea of respect for human rights. Three quarters of African countries have extremely harsh regulations on this issue, which are tantamount to discrimination. This is unquestionably not so much Uganda’s problem as a wider problem involving the whole continent and African culture. The second question is as follows: it goes without saying that Uganda does not lead the field in respect for human rights in Africa. We know of many examples of violations of human rights, which means that this matter is part of a wider problem, and we must, of course, speak openly about this problem.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D).(RO) Mr President, our resolution is aimed at extremely serious cases of human rights violations and, unfortunately, the punishment of homosexuality as a criminal offence is the norm in Africa. This is reflected in the legislation of 38 states, with only 13 African states considering it legal.

In this context, the bill attempting to enforce certain sanctions in Uganda, from prison sentences to capital punishment, represents a serious attack against human rights, including the right to privacy. The publication in a local newspaper of a black list of 100 individuals accused of homosexuality and the incitement of readers to hang them is an example of a concrete threat to a community blamed for its sexual orientation.

As indicated in our resolution, our measure is not aimed, as we are often accused, at the imposition of specifically European values, but at the defence of human rights, which is one of the major objectives of the European Union. I believe that in this sense, the European External Action Service and the other European institutions need to impose more severe sanctions in order to ensure compliance with the international agreements to which Uganda is a signatory.

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE).(RO) Mr President, we also discussed Uganda and homosexuality in this House several months ago. Since then, nothing significant has happened. Certainly, sometimes it is said that ‘no news, good news’. In this case, however, this is not true, because while David Bahati’s project was not voted for, it was not withdrawn, either. It remains blocked in the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, and all the international pressure exerted did not manage, in the end, to bring about this effect, namely, the withdrawal of the project.

What is truly horrific, and some of my fellow Members have already expanded on this, is the anti-gay campaign that is taking place in this country. We obviously continue to count on the rationality of the authorities and, eventually, on the victory of a principle which says ‘No to discrimination’.

 
  
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  Joe Higgins (GUE/NGL). – Mr President, the hate campaign in Uganda against gay and lesbian men and women is truly appalling. The whipping up, by some religious elements and by sections of the media, of a vicious and reactionary homophobic campaign, which includes threats to kill gay people, means that very many lesbians, gays and bisexual and transgender people in Uganda are now living in great insecurity and fear. It is contemptible that some politicians are also using this issue and whipping up hatred, proposing even the execution of people who are gay.

I salute the courage of members of the gay community in Uganda who bravely fight each day against this menacing threat to their identities and their very lives. The homophobic campaign is driven by smears, lies and distortions about gay people and what being gay means. The strongest message must go out to the Ugandan Government – including a review of aid, although, of course, we do not want to hurt ordinary Ugandans.

We should encourage active solidarity with organisations in Uganda which champion the rights of gay people, to assist them in this crucial fight for justice and human rights, and for the basic right to be who you are.

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, the draft Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was introduced in the Ugandan Parliament raises serious human rights issues. The protection of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is a priority for the EU. I fully share the European Parliament’s concerns about the situation in Uganda, but also in other countries where punitive and discriminatory legislation against LGBT people has been adopted or is under consideration.

The Commission considers that the criminalisation of homosexuality as foreseen in the draft bill goes against obligations under the United Nations Human Rights Convention, to which Uganda is a party and by which it consequently has to abide.

The draft bill also goes against the United Nations declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity. The EU Presidency and the EU Head of Mission in Uganda raised this issue with the Ugandan Government on several occasions during meetings with the President, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Justice in formal political dialogue meetings, and also with the Uganda Human Rights Commission.

The publication by the Rolling Stone newspaper on 2 October 2010 of a list with the photographs and names and addresses of people who were identified as gay, together with the headline ‘Hang them’, was an outrageous act that put the lives of these people at risk, and we fully condemn it.

The European Union delegation continues to monitor the situation closely, together with the EU Member States’ missions represented in Uganda, as well as with partner countries like Norway and the United States and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The matter has also been addressed in the technical Human Rights Working Group, which is a forum for developing partners in Uganda to discuss, monitor, coordinate and take concrete action in human rights-related cases. The Commission intends to keep raising its concerns in relation to the draft Anti-Homosexuality Bill and to other actions to persecute LGBT people in Uganda on every occasion.

The Commission will continue to support local human rights organisations in their efforts to change attitudes in the country and to improve the legal situation for LGBT people.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place at the end of the next debate.

 
  

(1) See Minutes


10.3. Eritrean refugees held hostage in Sinai
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  President. – The next item is the debate on six motions for resolutions on the subject of Eritrean refugees held hostage in Sinai(1).

 
  
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  Marietje Schaake, author. – Mr President, about 250 Eritrean migrants are believed to be held hostage in the Sinai desert and inhumane treatment and rape are reported while these people await a ransom that needs to be paid to human traffickers for their release.

Recent events are part of a network smuggling sub-Saharan migrants through Egypt to Israel that has been operating in the Sinai since 2007. The Egyptian authorities are making welcome efforts to investigate the information provided by the UNHCR. Diplomatic procedures with the Egyptian authorities should be stepped up by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to eliminate the trafficking networks and prevent people from being smuggled.

At the same time, Egypt should improve the treatment of refugees according to international standards. This means that, during the justified defence of borders, no excessive or even lethal force should be used against immigrants or refugees, and this advice is something that we might also give ourselves in the EU once in a while.

 
  
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  David-Maria Sassoli, author. (IT) Mr President, the situation is very serious. We think that this issue – which is also being trailed by Europe’s media – ought to be dealt with by the European Union and by Parliament, as well as urging the Commission to look into it, since it is a real humanitarian emergency.

In this case, the Member States must do everything to try and help these refugees to leave that territory and we think that they could be accepted in European states. We call on the Commission to do everything possible to carry out this action, including using the funds available through the European Fund for Refugees.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock, author. – Mr President, the ECR Group condemns the appalling treatment being suffered by these innocent and mainly Eritrean victims of what amounts to a modern-day form of slavery inflicted by people traffickers. We welcome, too, the efforts made by the Egyptian Government to investigate the allegations and secure the refugees’ release, but we should also be focusing on why these unfortunate individuals flee in the first place.

The answer is because the regime of Eritrean President Afewerki is one of the most repressive on the planet. Anyone with a chance of fleeing his dictatorship does so, and some are able to build a better life for themselves elsewhere. Those unable to leave Eritrea are either subject to open-ended conscription in the army, or have to scratch out a living on the fringes of an economy bankrupted by years of futile war with neighbouring Ethiopia, widespread corruption and mismanagement of the economy. Eritrea has never held a national election.

Recent disclosures from the WikiLeaks website show that US diplomats described Afewerki as a cruel and defiant leader. I have no compunction about saying so publicly. We should do all we can to unseat this appalling African tyrant, we should end all EU aid to his regime and we should suspend the Cotonou Agreement privileges that his country enjoys.

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda, author. (RO) Mr President, every year, there are thousands of people who, driven by the difficult situation in the Horn of Africa, try to cross the border between Egypt and Israel. Many of these people end up, unfortunately, in the hands of Bedouin traffickers. We are talking about criminal networks that have no consideration at all for human dignity, as the lives of these people become a bargaining chip. According to the information provided by NGO activists working for the protection of these emigrants, incredible sums were requested, reaching up to USD 8 000 for the release of each person.

Certainly, we cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of these people who are subjected to a treatment of exceptional cruelty. Moreover, I would like to draw your attention to the vulnerable situation of women, who are repeatedly subjected to rape. At the same time, I believe that we should have a constructive attitude in this case. This means that we should recognise the efforts undertaken by the Egyptian authorities for their release and, in particular, support this country in the fight against human trafficking. We therefore have need not only of tough words, but of cooperation and concrete actions in this extremely complex issue, where a single state cannot cope.

 
  
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  Rui Tavares, author. (PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the situation of the Eritrean refugees currently in the Sinai desert is very serious, as has already been described by several fellow Members. Naturally, we must deal severely with the human traffickers who are currently holding these refugees hostage and demanding extremely high ransoms for them. However, at the same time, we must also protect the victims, because we cannot just want to deal harshly with the traffickers and then completely forget the victims. We also need to acknowledge the reasons that led them to be in the Sinai desert: their migratory route used to be through Libya, but the agreements between Italy and Libya, and between the EU and Libya, portrayed so many times here by the Commission as good news, mean that people coming from what has – quite rightly – been called a ‘giant concentration camp’ and ‘Africa’s North Korea’ have nowhere to run.

Action is needed, therefore: not just action in Egypt, which is clearly doing far less than it should be, but also in the European Union itself. To start with, I call on the European Commission to quickly send a delegation to Egypt in order to find out what the situation is on the ground. Action is also needed in all our institutions, because Eritreans are a clear case for resettlement, a policy that we have alongside the European Refugee Fund. These refugees cannot return to Eritrea and cannot remain in a transit country: the only solution is resettlement. Ladies and gentlemen, do you know why the resettlement package is not moving forward? It is not moving forward because in May, Parliament had already done its part of the codecision procedure on the resettlement case, but because of the famous dispute over delegated acts, the Council refused to do its bit. If the resettlement package had been adopted, we would now have the emergency procedure that Parliament inserted into the report that I myself wrote and which was adopted here with 500 votes: the European Commission would be able to start an emergency procedure to resettle these refugees. As the Council did not do its part in what we should be calling ‘a co-indecision procedure’, those people are in the Sinai desert, who knows for how long? This co-indecision procedure has consequences for the real lives of real people and it is time that the Council did its share of the chores.

 
  
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  Barbara Lochbihler, author.(DE) Mr President, it is thanks to a telephone call between an Eritrean priest in Italy and an Eritrean hostage that the European public learned that unprincipled human traffickers are now threatening to shoot the stranded Eritrean hostages if a ransom is not paid. The hostage takers have shown no scruples and have already beaten or shot some people.

This brutal crime prompted a closer look at what is happening at the border between Egypt and Israel, an area in which an increasing number of refugees are stranded as they try to enter Europe or Israel, but lack the necessary papers. There is a military exclusion zone on the Egyptian side. Anyone entering this area will be answerable to a military tribunal. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 85 unarmed refugees have been shot there since 2007, trying to cross the border. The Israeli Government talks of more than 1 000 migrants trying to enter their country without papers each month and has started to increase security and monitoring along the border. In addition, a large detention camp has been set up in the Negev Desert.

We are calling on the relevant governments to cooperate with the United Nations Refugee Agency and to guarantee the protection and rights of refugees at their borders. However, we also clearly recognise that we in Europe have a responsibility for the fate of those migrants who are turned away from our outer borders and who find themselves unable to return to their homes, suffering human rights violations as a consequence, as in the case of these Eritrean refugees.

 
  
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  Filip Kaczmarek, on behalf of the PPE Group. (PL) Mr President, the situation of the Eritrean refugees in Sinai is tragic. They are looking for a better life, but they often meet with death, torture and oppression. They are exploited and cheated. The Egyptian authorities are attempting to fight the problem of human trafficking, but their response is not always effective. We must help the refugees, the hostages and all those who need our help. We should support the Israeli and Egyptian authorities in their fight against human trafficking.

It is also worth giving some thought to the reasons behind these dangerous occurrences. I believe that we should aim to improve the situation in Eritrea itself and in other countries in the Horn of Africa, since improving the situation in African countries may reduce migratory pressure. We will not solve the problem by combating the social ills which are themselves caused by migration. We can only limit the less desirable effects, and the extent to which the determination of refugees is preyed upon. I would ask you to support the motion for a resolution by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats). We are convinced that our motion for a resolution is an improvement on the joint resolution in this instance.

 
  
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  Ana Gomes, on behalf of the S&D Group.(PT) Mr President, Egypt is not just turning a blind eye to the horrific treatment and exploitation of African refugees attempting to escape over Sinai to Israel from their countries, specifically Somalia and Eritrea. Egypt is also deporting them, even though they obviously qualify as refugees and asylum seekers, as they come either from one country that is in a terrible struggle with terrorism and without law or order, or from another – Eritrea – that is one of the most oppressive and tyrannical in the world. In fact, the Egyptian authorities are practising a policy of shoot to kill and 85 migrants have already died in Sinai since 2007, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

We call on the Egyptian authorities to comply with their obligations as regards human rights and migrants and refugees in particular, and for them to work with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. We also call on the European authorities to do the same and to fully support what Mr Tavares was saying on this subject regarding the possibility of resettlement.

 
  
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  Judith Sargentini, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, let us be honest. The resolutions, as they are currently worded, are a watered down version of what we started out with at the beginning of the week.

Let us once again be clear: ‘The situation is serious’. We are also highlighting the fact that Eritrean refugees in the Sinai are being held hostage. Yet, we are not prepared to discuss the links between Italy and Libya and the closing of Europe to migrants, as a result of which political refugees have had to flee to other places. They are now having to take routes which are even more dangerous than before.

Anyone who leaves Eritrea automatically becomes a political refugee, because it is impossible to go back and, if you did, you would be putting your family in danger. What pains me is that we, in this House, are not prepared to say: if Europe so badly wants to protect itself from migrants, it will have to open up its embassies in Eritrea, in order to make it easier for people to apply for asylum. We were not permitted to include that proposal in this resolution.

When I hear the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) refer to all the things that need to happen in Egypt, then I think: what is it that we have to do and how can we refuse to accept that people are at risk here, simply because we are reluctant to take on the responsibility? We are shutting people out and, in so doing, we are putting lives at risk.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška, on behalf of the EFD Group.(SK) Mr President, the Sinai border has become a route via which thousands of Eritreans fleeing their own country attempt to get a better life.

In their illegal pilgrimage for freedom, however, they are dependent on the assistance of smugglers who are willing, at a price, to help the refugees across the Sinai border, even without the necessary papers. In this lawless trade, refugees in the hands of the smuggling gangs have almost no rights at all, and are dependent on the vicissitudes of fate and on the whims of those into whose hands they have, for a fee, entrusted their own fate.

The death of seven Eritrean refugees killed on the Egyptian-Israeli border reveals to us something of the grim plight of refugees illegally journeying in search of freedom. Ladies and gentlemen, it is therefore quite right for us to engage in a solution to this problem and, together with the governments of the affected countries, to help to find a civilised solution to the problem of the Eritrean refugees.

 
  
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  Monica Luisa Macovei (PPE). – Mr President, on 7 December, the UNHCR expressed concern that some 250 Eritrean refugees are being held in Sinai by Bedouin smugglers.

We are aware that these refugees were compelled to pay a specific amount of money for their wish to live in better conditions. Reportedly, the refugees are kept in containers in the desert and are often beaten. The attitude of the Eritrean Government itself is alarming: instead of protecting its citizens, it considers them unwanted dissidents.

We call for rapid and joint action, primarily by Egypt and Israel, to stop the traffickers, to dismantle this organised crime network and, certainly, to strengthen efforts to protect current and future refugees by implementing UNHCR provisions and standards.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, right from the outset, I wish to emphasise that I support without reservation the resolution put forward by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats). Despite the clarity of the text, an agreement has not been reached with the other groups for the adoption of a common resolution, which is regrettable. The situation in the Horn of Africa is an alarming one. This region has become one of the important action centres of organised crime groups, given the high number of African emigrants in transit in this area.

The 250 hostages have suffered an inhuman and degrading treatment, and their situation is getting worse. Moreover, the prerequisites of an imminent release do not exist, as the families of the hostages cannot pay the requested ransom. Therefore, the European Parliament should send out a clear message for their release. Urgent action must be taken against criminal organisations, they should be brought to justice, and torture camps should be permanently closed.

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI).(HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, naturally, I deeply condemn the way the Eritrean refugees are treated, and likewise of course, I support the fact that the European Union should take steps to resolve the situation of these refugees as soon as possible. However, the direction formulated in this report is, to put it simply, a dead end. I consider two points to be utterly bewildering. That we set up a fund in order to aid these refugees is completely acceptable to me insofar as there are currently millions of citizens in the EU living in existential uncertainty and extreme poverty. Over three million people in Hungary are living below the poverty line, the majority of pensioners cannot afford to pay for their medicine and, as a matter of fact, this trend has been on the rise across Europe. Therefore, we should first be looking to help people in Europe while, at the same time, also expressing our empathy with the refugees, of course. The other issue is that Member States should admit the refugees voluntarily. When will you realise that the European Union is saturated with immigrants? The EU should act as a mediator between Eritrea and the Eritrean refugees to ensure their safe return home.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D).(RO) Mr President, the vast majority of Eritrean citizens that can now be found in the Sinai Desert have fled out of the way of an oppressive regime and, as such, should be regarded as refugees according to UN standards. Therefore, I believe that we need to insist that Egypt meets its international obligations to provide them with assistance. However, the matter of greatest concern, I believe, is the inhumane treatment these migrants are subjected to when held as hostages in the desert in expectation of a ransom. In particular, the claims of rape by dozens of women are revolting and should mobilise the international community.

In the same way, human trafficking in Africa has reached alarming proportions. Dozens of migrants were killed by Egyptian security services in recent years while attempting to cross illegally into Israel. I believe that human trafficking in this area should be combated with other methods, and I think that access on the part of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is necessary in order to ensure vital assistance for these people.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Ziobro (ECR). (PL) Mr President, Eritrean refugees are in a tragic situation. When considering this tragedy, however, we should also remember the reason for this state of affairs. The fact of the matter is that fundamental human rights are widely violated in Eritrea. Mass persecution occurs on a huge scale, with political opponents, Christians and also thousands of ordinary people as victims. This is the real reason behind the tragic problem we are discussing today, and this is why we must do everything to change the EU’s policy towards the Eritrean authorities, all the more so when we remember that the current leader of the country was warmly welcomed in Brussels by the European Commission in 2007, even though he is responsible for such terrible suffering by so many people, which forces them to flee and brings about ever more tragedies of this kind. This is why it is time for a pragmatic and decisive policy towards this tyrant.

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, the Commission shares the concerns of the European Parliament. The reports received speak of several hundred refugees, from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia, apparently being held hostage in Sinai by traffickers requesting hard payment for their release.

Since the first notification, we have been following the case, establishing the facts, assessing the situation and taking appropriate action. The European Union delegation in Cairo has close contacts with local civil-society organisations and liaises with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ regional representation in Cairo.

They are very much following the case. In coordination with the embassies of the EU Member States, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been approached. The EU has expressed our concerns, as well as our strong belief, that the Egyptian authorities should take appropriate measures to liberate these people and grant them appropriate protection. There are reports of ongoing investigations to find the group of refugees, and we hope that things will be clearer in the next few days.

This case is not the only cause for concern. Migrants and refugees in Egypt still suffer from many protection gaps. The most serious incidents are reported in the Sinai. Many migrants intending to cross to Israel via the Sinai border are subject to abuse and mistreatment. We have raised this issue several times with our Egyptian counterparts in the framework of the regular subcommittee meetings discussing either migration issues or political affairs, including human rights.

The latest occasion when the point was raised was at the meeting of the EU-Egypt Association Committee on 14 December in Cairo. The EU has regularly invited Egyptian authorities to improve the quality of the assistance and protection offered to asylum seekers and refugees, and has offered financial and technical assistance in this endeavour. The EU has also invited the Egyptian authorities to ensure that the principle of non-refoulement is observed for all migrants in need of international protection, including Eritreans.

The EU has asked that the UNHCR be given full authorisation to implement its mandate throughout the entire territory of Egypt, including in the Sinai region. There have been some positive developments that should be stressed. In the spring of this year, Egypt adopted new legislation criminalising human trafficking and also protecting its victims.

Another welcome development was the adoption of a Transplant Act, which criminalises organ trafficking. We hope that the Egyptian administration will now take effective measures to ensure efficient implementation of this legal framework, and we have offered our cooperation in this field.

We will continue to support the work of the UNHCR and civil-society organisations to ensure better living conditions, as well as proper legal protection, for migrants and refugees living in the country. We will continue to follow with care the case of the hostage refugees in Sinai and we will pursue our contacts with the Egyptian authorities in this regard.

I truly hope for an early solution to this case and I regret the reported loss of eight lives so far.

 
  
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  Rui Tavares (GUE/NGL). – Mr President, the Commissioner has read his well-prepared answer as if no one had addressed the Commission with particular points.

 
  
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  President. – You asked to speak on the Rules of Procedure. You should speak on that and not something else.

 
  
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  Rui Tavares (GUE/NGL). – Mr President, of course it is a point of order. We particularly asked the Commission to indicate if it would send a delegation to Egypt to see the situation on the ground. The Commission could at least ask for the completion of the resettlement. Codecision will give you power ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  President. – Unfortunately, that is not a point of order. Naturally, you are free to put this question to the Commission and the Commission can decide whether to answer you. Otherwise, this matter does not come under the Rules of Procedure.

That brings the debate to a close.

The vote will take place at the end of the debate.

 
  

(1) See Minutes


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

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

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

 

12.1. Malaysia: the practice of caning (B7-0708/2010)
 

Before the vote:

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE).(RO) Mr President, before we proceed to the vote, I would like to request on behalf of my group that when we vote on the situation of Eritrean refugees, we abandon the roll call vote for a joint resolution and request a roll call vote for the resolution proposed by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats).

 
  
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  President. – You have heard your fellow Member’s request. If there are no objections, we shall proceed as suggested. I see no objections.

 

12.2. Uganda: the Bahati Bill and discrimination against the LGBT population (B7-0709/2010)

12.3. Eritrean refugees held hostage in Sinai (B7-0712/2010)
 

Before the vote on paragraph 7:

 
  
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  Carlo Casini (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the amendment aims to make our judgment on Egypt’s actions more incisive. It is not only a matter of acknowledging that Egypt has at least done something, but asking it to intervene quickly and immediately to free these hostages, urging the country never to use lethal force to repel people crossing the Sinai. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is also called upon to make immediate contact with the people currently being held hostage.

‘urges the Egyptian authorities to take all necessary measures to secure the release of Eritreans held hostage, to avoid the use of lethal force against illegal immigrants crossing the borders of the country, to protect their dignity and their physical and psychological integrity and to guarantee that detained migrants have the opportunity to contact the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and that the High Commissioner has access to all asylum seekers and refugees in custody’.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was accepted)

After paragraph 7:

 
  
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  David-Maria Sassoli, author. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to add a paragraph to the resolution, which we feel is important and will not affect the structure of it too much. It concerns paragraph 9 of the joint resolution.

I shall read it: ‘invites Member States to tackle this humanitarian emergency through the voluntary resettlement in the European Union of all the asylum seekers involved in this crisis; asks the European Commission to coordinate this operation and use available funding through the European Refugees Fund’.

 
  
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  Carlo Casini (PPE).(IT) Mr President, I should like to ask the proposer of the amendment to clarify an issue.

According to the text read out, the requested intervention concerns all those who request the right of asylum. I should rather say ‘those who have the right of asylum’, because ‘who request’ is too dangerous, as there is the risk that anyone can request the right of asylum.

Vice-versa, by coordinating this amendment with the intervention of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, it will be the latter that will assess this.

In any case, I should ask the proposer to modify the amendment with the words ‘those who have the right of asylum’.

 
  
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  President. – I am aware that ten percent is generally sufficient. However, that would not have been enough in this case. Anyway, I did ask in advance and you had plenty of time. We will now vote on this amendment.

(The oral amendment was accepted)

 

13. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes

14. Council positions at first reading: see Minutes

15. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes

16. Documents received: see Minutes

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

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

19. Dates of forthcoming sittings: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

20. Adjournment of the session
Video of the speeches
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  President. – I declare the session of the European Parliament adjourned. In view of the weather conditions, I would like to wish my fellow Members a safe journey home. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a good beginning to what will, hopefully, be a prosperous 2011.

(The sitting was suspended at 16:35)

 

ANNEX (Written answers)
QUESTIONS TO THE COUNCIL (The Presidency-in-Office of the Council of the European Union bears sole responsibility for these answers)
Question no 1 by Bernd Posselt(H-0568/10)
 Subject: Multilingualism in border regions
 

In the Council’s view, how successful have the EU’s programmes to foster culture in border regions been, in particular as regards support for multilingualism and promotion of the teaching of the languages of neighbouring countries in nursery schools and schools?

 
  
 

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

(FR) Whilst the primary responsibility for the content of teaching – and hence for the choice of languages taught and the level at which they are taught – lies with the Member States alone, it should be pointed out that the Council has always supported initiatives and measures aimed at promoting language learning and linguistic diversity. These initiatives and measures include the transversal sub-programme of the Lifelong Learning Programme established by Decision No 1720/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council(1); the 2006 recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning(2), from which communication in foreign languages in particular stands out; the conclusions on multilingualism that the Council adopted in May 2008(3); and the Council resolution of 21 November 2008 on a European strategy for multilingualism(4).

Furthermore, the honourable Member’s attention is drawn to the fact that, under Article 15(5) of the aforementioned Lifelong Learning Programme, the Commission shall submit to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions an interim evaluation report on the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the implementation of the Programme, including an analysis of the results achieved, by 31 March 2011.

 
 

(1) OJ L 327, 24.11.2006, p. 45.
(2) OJ L 394, 30.12.2006, p. 10.
(3) OJ C 140, 6.6.2008, p. 14.
(4)OJ C 320, 16.12.2008, p. 1.

 

Question no 2 by Georgios Papanikolaou(H-0571/10)
 Subject: Contribution of culture to Gross Domestic Product
 

The programme of the Belgian Presidency makes particular reference to the importance which it attaches to the potential of the culture industry and to the contribution it makes to Member States' Gross Domestic Product. The programme states, specifically, that during the six months of the Presidency, the Council will devote particular attention to policies which will develop and support initiatives by the culture industry, especially those coming from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Given, moreover, that owing to the economic crisis, there is a need to make optimum use of innovative and relatively unexploited areas of growth, will the Council answer the following questions?

Is it satisfied with the progress made during the Belgian Presidency in supporting and encouraging the culture industry and SMEs operating in that industry?

Does it have accurate figures showing the percentage which this sector contributes to Member States' GDP? In which Member States does the culture industry make a significant contribution to GDP?

 
  
 

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

(FR) In its six-month programme the Belgian Presidency stated its intention to highlight, within the context of the Europe 2020 strategy, the potential of cultural and creative industries and the contribution they make to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), growth and employment in Europe. On 18 November the Council adopted its Work Plan for Culture, which defines the priorities in this area for the next four years, the cultural and creative industries being among the main priorities. Furthermore, in October the Presidency held an informal meeting of the Ministers of Culture on the topic of the cultural and creative industries. During that meeting, the Ministers emphasised that the strategies and measures to be developed for these industries at EU level should take into account small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), since they account for the majority of the businesses in the sector. On 26 November the Council adopted conclusions on the Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative: Innovation Union. The conclusions recognise that the cultural and creative sectors represent an important source of technological and non-technological innovation, and that this potential must be fully unlocked.

Although the Council has not compiled its own statistics on the matter, according to the Green Paper ‘Unlocking the potential of cultural and creative industries’(1), recent studies on the cultural and creative industries confirm that these industries employ around 5 million people across the EU and that they contribute an estimated 2.6% to EU GDP. Beyond their direct contribution to GDP, the cultural and creative industries are also important drivers in many other economic sectors. More detailed and harmonised statistics are currently being compiled by Eurostat, via the ‘ESSnet-culture’ project, with a view to more accurately assessing the economic importance of the cultural and creative industries. The results of the ‘ESSnet-culture’ project should be published by the end of 2011.

 
 

(1)See doc. 9073/10

 

Question no 3 by Seán Kelly(H-0576/10)
 Subject: Outcome of Cancun
 

Can the Council comment on the outcome of the Cancun climate negotiations? What steps does the Council foresee in the next 12 months to build on Cancun?

 
  
 

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

(FR) After three years of negotiations on the Bali Action Plan, the Cancun Climate Change Conference represented a significant step towards a new international climate agreement.

Indeed, the Cancun Conference succeeded in taking decisions which, firstly, allow for immediate action on the ground and, secondly, lay the foundations for a post-2012 international agreement that is firmly based on the objective of keeping the increase in world temperature below 2°C compared with pre-industrial levels.

As regards areas of immediate action, one can mention adaptation to climate change, technology, the fight against deforestation, and financing.

The Cancun Adaptation Framework has been adopted and an Adaptation Committee set up to strengthen consistent action on adapting to climate change that is aimed at mitigating the effects of changes that have already occurred. This new body should help to support those countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

A new technology facility has also been established with the aim of supporting actions to mitigate (reduction of greenhouse gases) and adapt to climate change. In order to facilitate the implementation of actions in this area, two new bodies have been created: the Technology Executive Committee and the Climate Technology Centre and Network. These new bodies are expected to continue to promote in a more effective way research and technology deployment, dissemination and transfer.

Furthermore, a system has been put in place to combat deforestation. Financial incentive measures will have to be developed on the basis of developing countries’ national strategies or action plans.

Lastly, a Green Climate Fund has been established to help meet the objective of providing the USD 100 billion pledged to developing countries by 2020.

However, Cancun is just the beginning. The Cancun texts lay the foundations for a future post-2012 international agreement. They strengthen the system of transparency for developed countries and establish the principles of such a system for developing countries. The big debate that will continue into next year concerns the legal form: the question is whether it will be possible to convince all the developed countries that are parties to the Kyoto Protocol to agree to a second commitment period, and whether the United States and the large emerging countries will agree to a new legal instrument under the convention.

Throughout next year the Council will begin the task of implementing the results and will focus on turning this process into a binding international framework that could be negotiated in Durban, South Africa. Above all, it will be necessary to ensure that the efforts made by the various parties really are in line with the 2°C target.

The European Parliament will be regularly informed of the progress of the negotiations.

 

Question no 4 by Jim Higgins(H-0578/10)
 Subject: De-stigmatising dementia in Europe
 

There are 38 000 people in Ireland with dementia and this number is predicted to double by 2026, in line with our ageing population. There are over 50 000 carers for dementia sufferers and an estimated 100 000 people are directly affected by dementia, all of whom are forced to watch their loved ones suffer social exclusion and discrimination.

How does the Council intend to act in order to raise dementia awareness and work towards its de-stigmatisation?

 
  
 

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

(FR) On 3 June 2003 the Council adopted conclusions on combating stigma and discrimination in relation to mental health. In those conclusions, the Council invited the Member States to give specific attention to the impact of stigma and discrimination-related problems due to mental illness in all age groups, and ensure that these problems are recognised, as well as to undertake action to combat stigma and promote social inclusion in active partnership and dialogue with all the stakeholders. It also invited the Commission to give specific attention to active collaboration in all relevant Community policies and actions, and in particular in activities relating to employment, non-discrimination, social protection, education and health, in order to reduce stigma and discrimination in relation to mental illness.

Since the most common type of dementia within the European Union is Alzheimer’s disease (70% of cases), on 26 September 2008 the Council adopted conclusions on a common commitment by the Member States to combat neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s.

The EU High-Level Conference entitled ‘Together for Mental Health and Well-being’ was held in Brussels on 13 June 2008. During that conference, the European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being was launched. The result was the creation of an EU framework for cooperation on mental health in the context of which actions are undertaken in five priority areas. Two thematic conferences on these areas were held during 2010 – ‘Promotion of Mental Health and Well-being in Older People’ (Madrid, 28-29 June 2010) and ‘Combating Stigma and Promoting Social Inclusion’ (Lisbon, 8-9 November 2010) – with the Commission and the Member States acting as co-sponsors.

Only a short while ago, the Belgian Presidency organised, in relation to the priority area of the mental health of older people, a high-level conference on dementia, which was held in Brussels on 25-26 November 2010. It followed on from the conference in October 2008 on the fight against Alzheimer’s and related diseases, organised by the French Presidency, and was in accordance with the European Commission’s 2009 communication on a European initiative on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias(1).

 
 

(1)Doc. 12392/09.

 

Question no 5 by Georgios Koumoutsakos(H-0580/10)
 Subject: Attracting recruits to the merchant navy, and retaining and training them
 

It is well known that the European merchant navy has contributed substantially to Europe's economic recovery. However, the EU faces many challenges if its fleet is to be competitive. One of these – perhaps the greatest – is how to attract suitable recruits. If a high level of technical expertise is to be achieved, an articulated policy is needed to attract young people to the merchant navy and keep them in the profession. A high-quality merchant navy is not merely the objective; it is the precondition for a competitive European fleet. However, the growing shortage of European seamen and the reduction in technical naval expertise pose a very real threat to this sector and the maritime profession.

Has the Presidency considered the issue of attracting recruits, keeping them in the sector, training them, and improving the quality of life of seamen? Does it believe that the issue should be prioritised further by including it on its work programme?

 
  
 

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

(FR) In the area referred to in the honourable Member’s question, the Council cannot legislate without a proposal from the Commission. The Council will examine any potential proposal from the Commission in this area.

 

Question no 6 by Vilija Blinkevičiūtė(H-0583/10)
 Subject: Availability of books for visually impaired or dyslexic people
 

Millions of Europeans have difficulty reading normally as a result of a visual impairment or dyslexia. These people need to have access to books in specially adapted formats: on cassette in Braille or in large print. Unfortunately, publishers are rarely interested in books in these formats and only 5% of publications worldwide are available in formats suitable for the visually impaired.

Does the Council agree that remedying this state of affairs would entail changing international copyright law in order to let people legally share collections of books across the European Union and beyond? This would enable people with reading disabilities but who speak an EU language to read more books both inside and outside the EU. What would the Council think of a specific, legally binding legislative proposal on the availability of books in formats suitable for visually impaired or dyslexic people to encourage the Member States to exchange books for the visually impaired with third countries?

 
  
 

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

(FR) With regard to the more general issue of equal treatment of persons with disabilities, in June 2010 the Council adopted a resolution on a new European Disability Framework(1), in which it concludes, inter alia, that access to employment, goods and services, and education, and to social and public life, among other spheres, is a prerequisite for the full inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society(2). In this regard, the Council is currently examining a proposal for a Council directive, tabled by the Commission, on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, with the aim of guaranteeing equal treatment in areas other than employment, including in access to goods and services.

More specifically, with regard to the issue of works being accessible to visually impaired people, it should be pointed out that, on 14 September 2010, the Commission signed the ‘EU Stakeholders Dialogue Memorandum of Understanding on access to works by people with print disabilities’. The Council will certainly examine any potential proposal from the Commission in this area.

At international level, the European Union and its Member States have proposed a ‘Draft Joint Recommendation Concerning the Improved Access to Works Protected by Copyright for Persons with a Print Disability’ to the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). This proposal is intended to provide a quick and practical solution to the problem at hand.

 
 

(1)OJ C 316, 20.11.2010, p. 1.
(2)Point 17.

 

Question no 7 by Nikolaos Chountis(H-0589/10)
 Subject: Permanent stability mechanism and involvement of private banks
 

On 28 October 2010 the Council approved a set of changes proposed by the Task Force. It intends to adopt, among other measures, a permanent stability mechanism in which the private sector will have a role. The presidents of the European Central Bank and of the Eurogroup have, however, expressed reservations with regard to the involvement of private banks in the permanent mechanism, stating that this would increase the cost of borrowing for weaker countries.

Could the Council say why private-sector involvement in the permanent financial stability mechanism has been accepted? What is its involvement supposed to achieve? Does this pave the way for a controlled bankruptcy system for states in the eurozone? Is the Council looking into the concerns expressed by Mr Trichet and Mr Juncker?

 
  
 

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

(FR) The Council has not examined the issues raised by the honourable Member.

The honourable Member’s attention is drawn to the statement made on this subject by the Euro Group and ECOFIN Ministers on 28 November 2010, to the effect that the financial package of the programme for providing a loan to Ireland will be financed by an Irish contribution through the Treasury cash buffer and investments of the Irish National Pension Reserve Fund. The remainder of the overall package should be shared equally amongst the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM), the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) together with bilateral loans from the UK, Denmark and Sweden, and the International Monetary Fund.

According to the statement, the Euro Group will rapidly examine the necessity of aligning the maturities of the financing for Greece to that of Ireland.

At its meeting of 16-17 December, the European Council is due to give its verdict on the guidelines for the new future stability mechanism and on the small amendment to be made to the Treaty in order to establish that mechanism.

 

Question no 8 by Gay Mitchell(H-0592/10)
 Subject: EU-Russia links
 

The recent Deauville summit between France, Germany and Russia has the potential to open a new relationship between the EU and Russia. Does the Council have any plans to strengthen EU-Russia links?

 
  
 

Council Answer

15.12.2010

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

(FR) The European Union attaches great importance to maintaining close and productive relations with Russia, one of its strategic partners. These relations cover a very wide range of areas, such as economic relations, issues relating to justice, freedom and security, external security, research, education and culture. All these areas are covered, firstly, by the road maps for the four Common Spaces, adopted in spring 2005, and secondly, of course, by the negotiations on the new EU-Russia agreement, which have just begun their 13th round. The agreement reached between Russia and the EU on 24 November on the bilateral issues that are still outstanding, in relation to Russia’s accession to the WTO, should greatly facilitate the ongoing talks.

At the Rostov Summit, held on 31 May and 1 June 2010, the EU and Russia launched the Partnership for Modernisation, to give fresh political impetus to the implementation of the four road maps and to help resolve any outstanding issues in EU-Russia relations. A joint statement adopted at the summit gives a broad outline of the proceedings. The aim of the Partnership is to establish a flexible framework in order to promote reform, sustain growth and enhance competitiveness, based on the four spaces, also by complementing the partnerships for modernisation which have been developed bilaterally between a number of Member States and Russia, albeit without superseding the ongoing negotiations for a new EU-Russia agreement.

The aim of the Partnership for Modernisation is not only to promote trade and investment, but also and above all – based on a very broad definition of the word ‘modernisation’ – to promote democracy and the rule of law, without which there can be no real modernisation of society. Thus, the joint statement focuses on areas such as the efficient administration of justice, strengthening the fight against corruption and improving dialogue with civil society. A work plan has been developed by the Russian coordinators and the Commission and was presented at the EU-Russia summit in Brussels on 7 December 2010. This work plan is a flexible instrument which should be regularly updated.

Other projects aiming to strengthen our relations are also under way, in particular the discussions concerning the long-term liberalisation of the visa regime between the EU and Russia. At the Permanent Partnership Council on Freedom, Security and Justice, held on 19 November 2010, our ministers agreed on a ‘common steps’ approach, following which a possible abolition of the visa regime could be negotiated. This approach was confirmed at the highest level by both parties at the last EU-Russia summit in Brussels.

Finally, cooperation in crisis management is also very good and has been successful in Chad and off the Somali coast. Our experts are currently examining ways of formalising such cooperation based on already existing arrangements, while, naturally, respecting the EU’s decision-making autonomy.

All these measures are in addition to the intense political and technical dialogue that is taking place between the EU and Russia, including at the highest level, and which is enabling us to work tirelessly towards approximating our positions on the entire range of areas covered by the existing EU-Russia agreement and the four Common Spaces.

The Council has also begun a debate on relations with strategic partners, particularly in the context of the establishment of the European External Action Service, and Russia is, of course, one of the main countries to which the Heads of State or Government are currently turning their attention.

 

Question no 9 by Eleni Theocharous(H-0596/10)
 Subject: Turkish embargo on vessels and aircraft of the Republic of Cyprus
 

Turkey is continuing its embargo on vessels and aircraft of the Republic of Cyprus in breach of EU decisions, ICAO rules and the Additional Protocol. Does the Council Presidency intend to take action to prevail upon Turkey to change its stance, particularly in view of the Council summit meeting scheduled for next December? If so, how?

 
  
 

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

(FR) Despite repeated calls from the Council, and as is emphasised in particular in the Declaration of the European Community and its Member States of 21 September 2005 and in Council conclusions, specifically those of December 2006 and December 2009, Turkey continues to refuse to fulfil its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement and has not removed all obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions on direct transport links with Cyprus.

Furthermore, Turkey has not made progress towards normalisation of its relations with the Republic of Cyprus. It has continued to impose its veto on Cyprus’ membership of certain international organisations, including the OECD, as well as its participation in the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies.

The EU’s position on this subject is clear and has not changed: the full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement is a contractual obligation that Turkey must fulfil. This message has been clearly addressed to Turkey in the December 2010 Council conclusions on enlargement. The Council conclusions clearly state that, in the absence of progress on this issue, the Council will maintain its measures from 2006, which will have a continuous effect on the overall progress of our negotiations with Turkey. Progress is now expected without further delay.

The Council will continue to closely monitor this issue, as well as other aspects linked to the reform measures to be taken by Turkey, and to raise them at all levels, as appropriate, since the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement and the normalisation of relations with the Republic of Cyprus are requirements against which Turkey’s progress in the negotiations is measured.

 

Question no 10 by Ilda Figueiredo(H-0598/10)
 Subject: End of the 'common position' on Cuba
 

As is well known, the EU's relations with Cuba are made more difficult by the 'common position' adopted by the Council in 1996.

The existence of such a position is a unique phenomenon: the EU does not have a common position of this nature on any other country in the world. It is therefore clear that it is discriminatory. Its continuation is in no way in the Union's interests, and puts it in a position where it simply serves the interests of the US, which maintains an equally unjustifiable economic blockade, supported only by Israel and rejected by 187 countries at the most recent UN debate.

Is the Council now debating urgent action to put an end to this unacceptable common position?

 
  
 

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

(FR) Since the start of the Belgian Presidency, ‘Cuba’ has appeared twice on the FAC agenda: in July (26 July 2010) and in October (25 October 2010).

In October the members of the Council held an exchange of views, over lunch, on recent political and economic developments in Cuba and on the options for the EU’s policy towards Cuba. They agreed to review the situation and to ask the High Representative, within the framework of the EU common position on Cuba, to explore the possibilities on the way forward for relations with Cuba, and to report back to the Council as soon as possible.

 

Question no 11 by Brian Crowley(H-0603/10)
 Subject: European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion
 

Can the Council outline the specific targets achieved by the European Union during the 2010 European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion?

 
  
 

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

(FR) The target of lifting at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and exclusion by 2020 was approved by the June 2010 European Council as part of the Europe 2020 strategy objective of promoting social inclusion(1). This target should be measured on the basis of three indicators reflecting different dimensions of poverty and exclusion: the at-risk-of poverty rate, the material deprivation rate and the share of people living in jobless households.

The Europe 2020 strategy also contains seven flagship initiatives, including the European Platform against Poverty to ensure social and territorial cohesion such that the benefits of growth and jobs are widely shared and people experiencing poverty and social exclusion are enabled to live in dignity and take an active part in society. This platform will be presented by the European Commission by the end of December 2010.

On 21 October 2010 the Council adopted, in the framework of the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy, a decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States(2), including Guideline 10 specifically relating to promoting social inclusion and combating poverty. Since the Europe 2020 strategy emphasises, in particular, the principle of access for all to high quality, affordable and sustainable services, on 7 December 2010 the Council also adopted conclusions on Social Services of General Interest(3).

On 6 December the Council adopted the ‘Declaration on The European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion: Working together to fight poverty in 2010 and beyond’(4), to ensure that the achievements of that European Year continue. To lend still more weight to these achievements, the relevant ministers of the Member States are requested to sign the declaration at the Closing Conference of the European Year, which will be held in Brussels on 16 and 17 December 2010.

 
 

(1)Ten-year strategy for jobs and smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (doc. 7110/10).
(2) Doc. 14338/10.
(3) Doc. 16515/10.
(4) Doc. 16435/10.

 

Question no 12 by Pat the Cope Gallagher(H-0605/10)
 Subject: Attacks against Christian communities in Iraq
 

Following the adoption of the European Parliament resolution of 25 November 2010 on Iraq (P7_TA(2010)0448), can the Council state what actions it intends to take to prevent further human rights violations against Christian communities in Iraq?

 
  
 

Council Answer

15.12.2010

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

(FR) The Council is deeply concerned by the violence that is raging in Iraq, notably against persons belonging to minorities, and is paying close attention to the development of the situation in the country. The attack on the congregation inside Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, in which many innocent civilians were wounded or killed, was a real tragedy. The High Representative, Baroness Ashton, immediately condemned that intolerable attack against innocent believers.

The EU is deeply concerned and condemns all forms of intolerance and violence against persons because of their religion or belief, no matter where they are committed. In many countries, the fundamental rights of persons belonging to religious minorities are still not respected. The EU is absolutely determined to combat discrimination based on religion or belief, as confirmed in the November 2009 Council conclusions, in which the EU ministers decided to strengthen the EU’s efforts to promote freedom of religion or belief in bilateral relations and in a multilateral context.

The Council addressed the issue of violence against religious minorities in general and in Iraq in particular during its November meeting and adopted conclusions on that country. It expressed its deep concern and outright condemnation of the recent attacks in Iraq against Christian and Muslim believers. It condemned all incitement to and acts of violence, including those motivated by religious and ethnic hatred.

On that occasion, the Council also underlined the urgent need for a stable and representative Iraqi Government, which is able to rededicate itself to the pursuit of national reconciliation. It welcomed the first steps towards the formation of an inclusive new Government in Iraq. This new government will have to tackle continuing violence in Iraq, as well as many other major challenges. The Council will continue, of course, to put forward its point of view, and it looks forward to engaging with the new Iraqi Government, notably on issues relating to human rights.

The EU will continue to raise the issue of human rights, including the protection of persons belonging to minorities, whenever the opportunity arises and at all levels, and to stress the importance of honouring all the commitments made at international level, in particular those which the Iraqi Government made in Geneva in 2010 on the occasion of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

The EU is preparing to sign a partnership and cooperation agreement with Iraq. The Council hopes that a new government will soon be in place in that country, so that the process of strengthening our relations can continue. The EU continues to provide development aid to Iraq, with said aid including an important section on the rule of law, and the Council recently extended until June 2012 the ‘Rule of Law’ mission EUJUST LEX, which includes a training programme in Iraq.

The Iraqi Government has indicated that it intends to fulfil its international obligations in the area of human rights; minorities will be protected by the Iraqi Constitution. We will continue to cooperate constructively with Iraq in order to support the efforts that the country is making in this area.

 

Question no 13 by Laima Liucija Andrikienė(H-0611/10)
 Subject: Assessment of the OSCE summit
 

Can the Council comment on the latest OSCE summit which took place on 1 and 2 December 2010? What are the results of this summit? Is there any progress in terms of reforming the OSCE? Was there significant coordination on the part of the EU Member States before the summit?

 
  
 

Council Answer

15.12.2010

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

(FR) At the OSCE summit held in Astana on 1 and 2 December 2010, the members of the Organisation adopted a commemorative declaration. That declaration contains a full and unequivocal reaffirmation of all the principles, norms and commitments made by the participating States of the OSCE within the framework of that organisation, starting with the Helsinki Final Act. Furthermore, the commemorative declaration contains a commitment by the participating States that they will enhance the OSCE and work towards strengthening its effectiveness and efficiency.

It should be noted that it was not possible to adopt an action plan for the OSCE during the Astana summit; this was and still is a priority for the European Union. However, thanks to the EU’s efforts, the commemorative declaration tasks the future Chairmanship-in-Office of the OSCE (Lithuania) with organising a follow-up process with a view to developing a concrete action plan for the Organisation, with the support of all its bodies and of the participating States.

Lastly, EU coordination on the eve of and during the summit was excellent. As a result, the EU was able to play a central and constructive role. The President of the European Council, Mr Van Rompuy, also gave a speech on behalf of the EU, in which he outlined its vision of the future of the OSCE and reaffirmed its support for the Organisation.

 

Question no 14 by Mairead McGuinness(H-0613/10)
 Subject: Strengthening the EU at the centre
 

Is the Council concerned about the prospect of increasingly strengthening the EU at the centre with a handful of strong Member States, with weaker Member States on the periphery, potentially leading to disillusionment with the EU project to the detriment of all Member States?

Is this both politically and economically damaging and what actions will be taken to address the situation?

 
  
 

Council Answer

15.12.2010

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

(FR) The Council has not discussed this issue and is therefore unable to respond to the honourable Member.

 

QUESTIONS TO THE COMMISSION
Question no 20 by Marian Harkin(H-0574/10)
 Subject: European Year of Volunteering 2011
 

Given that the European Year of Volunteering 2011 is now only weeks away, I would like to ask the Commission the following.

What are its plans to further promote volunteering as an expression of European active citizenship?

Will it ensure a lasting legacy of the European Year of Volunteering 2011, by supporting a comprehensive EU policy document on volunteering such as a white paper on volunteering?

 
  
 

(EN) The European Year of Volunteering (EYV) will be presented at the European Union, national and regional level with the full involvement of civil society organisations. The activities range from conferences, debates, exchange of good practices, from the EYV Tour to showcase volunteering in all the Member States to media events across the EU.

Volunteering provides a valuable contribution to European integration. 2011 will be the year for awareness-raising with four main objectives:

The first is to reduce barriers to volunteering, which in many cases will require legislative and administrative action at the national level. The EY will provide input for policy development to make this happen, by initiating a dialogue within Member States and between the Member States and the volunteering organisations.

The second objective is to empower volunteering organisations and improve the quality of volunteering, e.g. through exchanges of best practice. The recent Call for Proposals(1) for Flagship Projects is one tangible step that the Commission has taken to address this objective.

The third objective is to reward and recognise volunteering activities. There are two angles to 'recognition': one is about the measurement of the contribution of the volunteering sector to the economy and society, i.e. improving the availability of internationally-comparable statistics in volunteering. The second angle concerns the validation or recognition of skills and competences that an individual can gain through volunteering.

The fourth objective is to ensure that there is increased awareness both within Europe and abroad of the value of volunteering and its contribution to the economy, society and individual's lives.

The Commission would like to assure the honourable Member that there is strong commitment to ensure that the Year has a meaningful, lasting and positive legacy for volunteering beyond the end of 2011. The Commission will draw upon the results of the various conferences and events during the Year that will serve as platform for broadening and deepening the outreach, content and quality of volunteering. We do not yet know the precise nature of the political outcomes of the Year — we'll find out more during the Year itself. However, under Article 11 of the Council Decision that set up the Year (Council Decision 2010/37/EC of 27 November 2009(2)), the Commission is obliged to write a Report to the other EU institutions (Parliament, Committee of the Regions, European Economic and Social Committee, Council) after the Year has ended. This report will help identify avenues for further action in the area of volunteering.

 
 

(1) http://ec.europa.eu/citizenship/news/news1092_en.htm
(2)OJ L 17, 22.1.2010

 

Question no 21 by Michael Cashman(H-0588/10)
 Subject: Follow-up to the FRA report on Homophobia, Transphobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
 

The Fundamental Rights Agency recently presented the report Homophobia, Transphobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

The report comprehensively highlights issues pertaining to: the right to life and protection from hatred and violence; threats to freedom of assembly and expression; the latest anti-discrimination directive currently under consideration by the Council; the evolution of EU jurisprudence and policies to cover discrimination linked to gender identity; the mutual recognition of same-sex unions; and the protection of LGBT people seeking international protection.

Will the Commission propose a comprehensive LGBT equality roadmap to follow up on the Agency’s recommendations in all these fields?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission rejects homophobia and transphobia as a blatant violation of human dignity.

The Commission is determined to ensure that EU law always complies fully with Article 21 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. This provision of the Charter is binding for the Member States when they are implementing EU law.

In this respect, the Commission welcomes the update to the report on “Homophobia, Transphobia and Discrimination on grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”, presented by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in the European Parliament's LIBE Committee on 30 November 2010. The opinions of the Agency contained in this updated report are being studied attentively by the Commission.

 

Question no 22 by Alexander Mirsky(H-0594/10)
 Subject: Injustice towards representatives of national minorities in Latvia
 

On 11 March 2004 the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the accession to the European Union of 10 States, including Latvia and Estonia ((P5_TA(2004)0180, A5-0111/2004). It stated unambiguously that Latvia must facilitate naturalisation for elderly people and give the right to vote and to stand for election in local elections to those ‘non-citizens’ of Latvia who were permanently resident in the country.

I can inform you that, while Estonia acted on the resolution, Latvia completely ignored it. At present 335 000 non-citizens in Latvia, making up 15% of the population, the majority of whom were born in Latvia and have lived there all their lives, are deprived of their basic rights: non-citizens of Latvia are not allowed to vote, or to stand as candidates, in local elections. To what extent does a situation in which 15% of a country’s population do not have the right to vote accord with European law? How will the Commission help the State of Latvia to remedy this totally unjust treatment of its inhabitants?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission is aware that the situation of the Russian speaking minority in Latvia is a sensitive issue. It raises many concerns which have also been expressed through a number of previous questions from the Parliament. The replies highlighted the efforts that have been undertaken in the framework of the pre-accession strategy in order to promote the naturalisation and integration of such persons, in line with the Organisation on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Council of Europe recommendations. The Commission has itself contributed significantly to assist Latvia in its efforts to promote integration.

At the same time, due regard must be given to the fact that the conditions for obtaining and losing citizenship of the Member States are regulated exclusively under the national law of the individual Member States. Consequently, every Member State is free to define the conditions for the acquisition of its nationality. According to EU law, the Commission has no power to intervene in these matters.

As regards electoral rights, EU law grants the right for the EU citizens to participate in municipal and European Parliament elections in the host Member State in which they reside without holding the nationality(1). Other aspects related to the organisation of the elections in the Member States fall within the responsibility of the Member States, including franchise for citizens residing on their territory who are not EU citizens.

 
 

(1)Council Directive 94/80/EC of 19 December 1994 laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections by citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals, OJ L 368, 31.12.1994, and Council Directive 93/109/EC of 6 December 1993 laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament for citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals, OJ L 329, 30.12.1993, respectively

 

Question no 23 by Brian Crowley(H-0604/10)
 Subject: EU Drugs Action Plan 2009-2012
 

Can the Commission make a statement outlining what progress to-date has been achieved and the remaining challenges in relation to the implementation of the EU Drugs Action Plan 2009-2012?

 
  
 

(EN) The honourable Member requests an outline of the progress achieved in relation to the implementation of the EU Drugs Action Plan 2009-2012(1), as well as the remaining challenges ahead.

The Commission is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the EU Drugs Action Plans. It published the first assessment of the implementation of the EU Drugs Action Plan (2009-2012) on 5 November 2010. This assessment(2) has been sent to the Parliament and Council.

The assessment shows that progress was made on the majority of actions under the Drugs Action Plan. Notable achievements include:

– a decline in the number of new HIV cases among drug users;

– increased cooperation to combat drug trafficking; and,

– a more strategic approach to drug-related research.

Nonetheless, a number of challenges remain to be addressed, such as:

– the increase in the number of deaths caused by cocaine overdoses;

– the rapid emergence of new psychoactive substances, which are marketed as legal alternatives to illicit drugs ("legal highs") and which can pose health and social risks;

– the increase in the combined use of licit and illicit drugs (poly-drug use);

– the swift change in drug trafficking routes, as organised crime groups seek to circumvent the barriers set up by EU Member States to disrupt their trade; and

– the need to increase focus on policies to reduce the demand for drugs in third countries with regards to external assistance.

Next year, the Commission will launch a wide-ranging independent evaluation of the EU Drugs Strategy 2005-2012 and its two implementing Action Plans. This will be the most comprehensive assessment of EU drugs policy to date, taking stock of eight years of drugs policy in the EU.

 
 

(1) OJ 2008/C 326/07
(2) COM (2010) 630 final

 

Question no 27 by Justas Vincas Paleckis(H-0584/10)
 Subject: Relations between the European Union and Belarus
 

The current presidential election campaign in Belarus is a little more transparent and democratic than the previous one, although it still falls far short of EU standards. The EU has promised the Belarusian authorities some EUR 3 billion in loans and aid if the elections are democratic. The Belarusian economy may face serious short-term problems. In response to the challenges presented by the economic crisis, various EU Member States, including Lithuania, have decided to launch a number of joint projects with Belarus and Ukraine in the fields of energy, transport and culture, which they intend to implement with support from the EU. Agreements between Belarus and Poland, Lithuania and Latvia should soon enter into force, making it easier for border residents to cross the border. Negotiations may start early next year between the EU and Belarus on lower visa fees and re-entry.

How does the Commission view the contribution made by EU countries, in particular those adjoining Belarus, to furthering relations between the EU and Belarus? What form should that contribution take following the presidential elections in Belarus?

 
  
 

(EN) Since the release of the political prisoners in 2008 in Belarus, the EU has developed a policy of gradual and critical engagement with the country. This policy has permitted the resumption of high level meetings, the expansion of sectoral dialogues and the participation of Belarus in the Eastern Partnership (EaP). In addition, the EU is currently working on a draft Joint Interim Plan for reforms (to be negotiated and implemented by Belarus) and is discussing negotiating mandates for visa facilitation and readmission agreements that will strengthen contacts between people.

We understand that Belarus, together with other EaP partners and some Member States, intends to put forward revised proposals for joint projects to be supported under the EaP. Once they have been received, we will look into them carefully and assess whether they can benefit from EaP support.

Support of individual EU Member States, including the country’s neighbours, to Belarus is welcome, if it is provided in conformity with the EU approach towards Belarus, as agreed by the Council. In addition, local border traffic agreements between Belarus and the three neighbouring Member States are being finalized. The Commission welcomes the signing of such agreements which will strengthen contacts between the people across the borders.

The Commission learnt with interest the recent reported statements according to which Belarus might count on more than EUR 3 billion support in the next three years, if it holds free and fair elections and improves relations with the EU. While the Commission is not in a position to give a figure, a further increase in EU assistance would be in line with the approach set out by the Foreign Affairs Council in its conclusions on Belarus of 25 October 2010.

On elections, we share the view that some progress have been observed compared to past elections. In line with the OSCE-ODIHR recommendations, the Commission has conveyed to Belarus the EU’s requests regarding the conduct of the elections. We will be watching the conduct of the upcoming elections closely. Clear and measurable progress in the conduct of the elections compared to past elections would give new impetus to take the EU's engagement policy towards Belarus further.

 

Question no 28 by Nikolaos Chountis(H-0586/10)
 Subject: Secret negotiations between the EU and Turkey
 

According to an article in the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, ‘secret negotiations’ are taking place between the Commission and Turkey with a view to opening Turkish ports to Cypriot ships and opening Ercan airport, which is in the occupied part of Cyprus, to flights from the European Union.

Can the Commission deny or confirm this? If negotiations are in fact taking place, is there a link between the separate obligation for Turkey to open its airports and ports to Cypriot vessels and the opening of Ercan airport to flights from the European Union? What is the Commission’s view of opinion JURI_AL(2010)450882 of Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs, which states that the entire island of Cyprus is part of the EU customs union and that, therefore, legislation on this issue cannot be based on the common commercial policy since that 'would imply that de facto the line separating the territory of Cyprus would be tantamount to an external border of the Union’? Does it intend to follow the committee’s opinion?

 
 

Question no 29 by Barry Madlener(H-0595/10)
 Subject: The Commission's secret negotiations with Turkey
 

Can the Commission confirm that it is conducting secret negotiations with Turkey so that Turkey can open new chapters and eventually become a member of the EU(1)?

If so, how does the Commission explain this? If not, why not?

 
 
 

(1) http://www.euractiv.com/en/enlargement/commission-discrete-secret-negotiations-with-turkey-news-499528.

 

Question no 30 by Eleni Theocharous(H-0597/10)
 Subject: Turkish commitments
 

Information has recently come to light relating to secret consultations between Commissioner Füle and the Turkish authorities. Mr Füle has neither denied nor confirmed this information. Does the Commission insist that Turkey fully honour its commitments or would the partial fulfillment thereof also be acceptable? Could it accept a formula by which Turkey simply opens its air space without having to open its airports or else opens one or two ports or airports instead of all of them? Does the Commission continue to believe that, in return for opening Turkish airports and Turkish airspace, the illegal airport of Tymbou could be opened?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission fully supports the on-going efforts at reaching a settlement of the Cyprus problem, which would be to the benefit of Cyprus and the EU in general. In addition, the Commission expects Turkey to fully implement the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement.

The Commissioner responsible for Enlargement is in regular contact with all stakeholders, and closely monitors the developments as regards the Cyprus issue.

Dialogue with all stakeholders takes place within the parameters of the Council's declaration of 21 September 2005 and its conclusions of 11 December 2006.

As regards the second issue raised in the question, the Commission takes good note of the opinion of the JURI committee referred to in the question. Nonetheless, in the Commission's view, Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) is the right legal basis for the so called Direct Trade Regulation.

When proposing the direct trade rules with the northern part of Cyprus, the Commission used the legal basis which corresponds to the content of the measures. The purpose of the proposal of the Commission is to provide for a classical trade concession regime, not to lift the suspension and apply part of the acquis in the northern part of Cyprus. The extension of the acquis is only possible after a settlement and reunification of the country. For obvious reasons, the acquis is not enforceable in those areas before reunification.

The Commission therefore proposed the adoption of this act on the basis of Article 133 of the EC Treaty (now 207 TFEU) which is the relevant legal basis for such trade regimes.

The fact that the areas in question are part of a Member State (Cyprus) does not make this legal basis inappropriate. These areas are outside the customs and fiscal territory of the EU, which is a consequence of the suspension of the acquis there.

The Commission proposal has nothing to do with the status of the 'Green Line' in Cyprus and is in no way tantamount to considering it as an external EU border.

The Commission stands by its proposal and understands the opinion of the Parliament's Committee on legal Affairs to be an intermediate step in the ongoing parliamentary procedure. The Commission will formally react upon adoption by the Parliament of its position.

 

Question no 31 by Takis Hadjigeorgiou(H-0591/10)
 Subject: Achieving the objective of reducing the school drop-out rate
 

Will the Commission say whether it is concerned about the estimate included in the progress report on Turkey for 2010 about the large number of children (according to reports, this number exceeds 200,000), particularly girls, who are forced to leave State schools early, coupled with the alarming level of health safety of girls at these schools?

What measures will it take to address the problem?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission is aware of the importance of the problem posed by school drop-outs, especially in the case of girls in the East and Southeast of Turkey, and it is closely monitoring the efforts made by Turkey to address this issue. While the number of early school leavers remains considerable, Turkey displays a positive trend in this area.

As presented by the Commission in its 2010 Progress Report on Turkey, the share of population aged 18-24 with at most lower secondary education and not in further training decreased steadily from 58.1% in 2000 to 44.6% in 2010. School enrollment rate in Turkey in primary education increased significantly as a result of the 1997 Basic Education Law. Across Turkey, net primary school enrolment rate (grades 1-8) rose to 98.47% for boys and 97.84% for girls during the 2009-10 educational year. These figures also indicate that the gender gap in primary education has virtually closed at national level. In secondary education (grades 9-12), the net enrolment rate rose to 64.95% in the 2009-10 school year. However, there are huge geographic variations: enrolment rates in individual provinces range from 27% to 89%, with Eastern provinces coming out worst, as enrolment to secondary education is not compulsory in Turkey. There is also a significant gender imbalance, net enrolment rates being 67.55% among boys and 62.21% among girls.

The Commission supports Turkey's efforts to increase the enrolment of children in primary and secondary education under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). In this respect, let me mention two projects which were recently approved by the Commission:

The first project is entitled "Increasing Primary School Attendance Rate of Children in Turkey" and seeks to decrease the incidence of drop-outs, especially in the South-East of Turkey. The total EU contribution for this project EUR 2.88 million. Implementation of the project is expected to start in late 2011.

The second project is entitled "Increasing Enrollment Rates Especially for Girls in Secondary Education". The total EU contribution for this project EUR 16 million. By increasing the enrolment rates for girls in secondary education, the Commission also aims to facilitate women's access to labor market. The implementation of this project is expected to start in 2011.

 

Question no 32 by Pat the Cope Gallagher(H-0606/10)
 Subject: Accession talks between Iceland and the EU
 

Can the Commission provide an updated assessment of the ongoing accession negotiations between Iceland and the European Union.

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission's first progress report on Iceland has been sent to the Parliament on 9 November 2010 and was discussed in the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) the same day.

Progress was made on the political criteria as Iceland has taken steps to address the shortcomings identified in the Opinion on the appointment of judges and conflict of interest. The report assessed the follow up to the conclusions of the Special Investigation Committee positively. The Commission now needs to closely monitor the effect of these measures on the ground.

On the economic criteria, the picture is a mixed one: while the economy has been stabilising, ensuring the proper functioning of the financial sector and reducing debt levels are still a challenge.

Finally, the report confirms the assessment of the Opinion as regards the main challenges of the accession negotiations: fisheries, environment, agriculture and reform of the financial sector.

As for the accession negotiations, we are still at a relatively early stage. Presently the Commission services are in the midst of the so-called 'screening exercise' – the analytical examination of the acquis - which started on 15 November 2010 and will continue until mid-June 2011.

The Commission services have started with the more complex chapters e.g. financial services, environment, agriculture, fisheries (on the screening agenda for 16 and 17 December 2010) in parallel with less complex chapters, especially those covered by the European Economic Area (EEA). The Commission's first impression after some four weeks of screening meetings with experts from Iceland is that the Icelandic authorities are preparing well for the exercise and are fully aware of the tasks involved.

'Negotiations proper' have not yet started – the Commission is presently in the process of evaluating the degree of preparedness of Iceland and identifying any potential shortcomings in implementing the acquis that may need to be dealt with in the accession negotiations.

In view of the information obtained during screening meetings, the Commission will assess where negotiations can proceed and propose accordingly to the Member States. The Commission hopes that it will be possible to open accession negotiations in a couple of policy areas by mid-2011.

Overall, Iceland is well prepared to take on the obligations of membership in the medium term, particularly in the fields covered by the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Schengen area.

 

Question no 34 by Chris Davies(H-0575/10)
 Subject: Implementation of climate change legislation
 

When will the Commission publish details of progress made by each Member State in complying with the requirements of relevant climate change legislation and its assessment of current progress towards meeting the 2020 CO2 reduction targets?

 
  
 

(EN) The 2010 Report on "Progress towards achieving the Kyoto objectives", published by the Commission on 12 October 2010, (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/g-gas/reports_en.htm" ) shows that, according to the Commission's latest projections which incorporate the effect of the economic recession and implemented national policies and measures as of 2009, the existing emission reduction policies would not be sufficient to reach the EU greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in the year 2020.

In addition, in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy, the Commission will annually report on the progress made towards the 2020 climate and energy targets at Member State level. This evaluation will be a part of the Annual Growth Survey to be published in January every year from 2011 onwards.

 

Question no 35 by Seán Kelly(H-0577/10)
 Subject: State aid and the banking crisis
 

Since September 2008, the Commission has approved 15 bank recapitalisation schemes, 2 impaired asset schemes, 6 schemes covering banks' liquidity and 21 guarantee schemes. Has the Commission considered the long-term effects of the numerous bank bailouts, including inter alia how much taxpayers' money has been lost forever due to reckless banking practices? What does the Commission consider to be best practice amongst the range of schemes proposed by different Member State governments in terms of protecting taxpayers from large exposures to banks' toxic assets?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission would like to note that the choice to use public resources to support financial institutions is made by Member States based on their own policies and on the decisions made by their own government bodies. The Commission oversees closely such allocation when it is regarded as State aid, based on the need to maintain fairness in the different markets across the European Union. The Commission would like to stress that limiting the distortions of competition caused by the considerable amounts of aid provided to the financial sector in the EU is a priority for the Commission.

The Commission has approved the schemes the honourable Member has mentioned in his question on the basis of Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This legal basis allows the Commission to find compatible with the TFEU aid that has been granted to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State. When assessing whether aid measures could be found compatible on this basis, the Commission also has to verify whether the aid is appropriate, necessary and proportionate. In that context the Commission can take into account the amount of aid provided through a scheme.

The Commission would furthermore like to point out that most schemes contain conditions which ensure that a bank that uses the scheme is subject to restructuring. During its assessment of the restructuring plan, the Commission focusses on the criteria specified in the Commission Communication on the return to viablity and the assessment of restructuring measures in the financial sector in the current crisis under the State aid rules (hereinafter "the Communication"). The restructuring plan therefore has to show: (1) how the bank in questions returns to viability, (2) that sufficient burden-sharing is achieved and (3) that the distortions of competition caused by the aid are remedied.

The Commission has assessed a large number of different schemes and individual measures before Member States implemented them. These measures are intended to address different problems that financial institutions may suffer. The Commission does not favour any particular type of measure, on the conditions that they can be found compatible with the internal market and they comply with the guidance provided by the Commission in the field of State aid.

 

Question no 36 by Nadezhda Neynsky(H-0582/10)
 Subject: Adequate geographical allocation of posts within the European External Action Service
 

At the October part-session, the European Parliament adopted the Rapkay report on the modification of the Staff Regulations applicable to EU Officials, in the context of the European External Action Service. One of the most hotly-debated issues was the application of the geographical principle, with the aim being to ensure that the Member States are not only adequately represented, but also able to lend added value to this newly-formed diplomatic service as regards the regions in respect of which they have proven expertise. Could the Commission undertake to adopt this approach?

 
  
 

(EN) I am committed to creating a truly European service made up of Commission, Council and Member State diplomats. It will be a challenge to bring these different work cultures together but the benefits will make it well worth it.

I intend to strictly follow the provisions of the Council Decision particularly as regards the requirement to set up transparent selection procedures for European External Action Service (EEAS) staff based on merit, while at the same time ensuring adequate geographical and gender equality. The EEAS should thus profit from the diversity and wealth of experience developed in the various Foreign Services in the Union.

If we want the Service to be successful, we must concentrate on regional expertise of our diplomats. However, I believe it would be wrong to link particular regional expertise to a particular Member State or group of Member States. This would in practice narrow down the pool of potential candidates for a particular post instead of allowing us to rely on a selection of candidates based on their qualities and a broadest possible geographical basis and it would go against the very essence of the meritocratic selection procedure we are aiming at.

 

Question no 37 by Andres Perello Rodriguez(H-0590/10)
 Subject: Destruction of cultural heritage in the Cabanyal neighbourhood (Valencia, Spain)
 

Last April, the Spanish Constitutional Court blocked plans by the Valencian regional government to demolish buildings in the historical fishing neighbourhood of Cabanyal. The Valencian government had been trying to get around a ruling made last year by the Ministry of Culture which prevented the implementation of municipal plans to extend Avenue Blasco Ibáñez to the sea front, destroying the heritage of a neighbourhood which is home to some of the EU's best examples of nineteenth-century industrial and civil architecture. Recently, both the Valencian Community ombudsman and the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union itself have granted permission to proceed with citizens' complaints about the plan, condemning the indiscriminate demolition of buildings and the local authority's refusal to grant permits to renovate these.

The Commission has also processed a complaint from environmental organisations regarding the absence of an environmental impact assessment for the project. In view of the new information provided above, does the Commission plan to take any action to safeguard European cultural heritage in the Cabanyal neighbourhood?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission fully agrees with the honourable Member that the preservation of cultural heritage is of high importance. The Commission actively promotes these principles, for example within the framework for cooperation on culture policy, the European Agenda for Culture, and the EU Culture Programme 2007-2013.

However, the type of case described by the honourable Member does not fall within the Commission's scope of actions in the field of culture, which is laid down in Article 167 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The Commission therefore cannot intervene in the case described by the honourable Member.

Notwithstanding this, the Commission asked the competent regional authorities whether Structural Funds were involved in the plans of extending Avenue Blasco Ibáñez to the sea front of Valencia. The reply was negative.

As regards the honourable Member's reference to a complaint regarding the absence of an environmental impact assessment and the demolition of buildings, according to an investigation carried out by the Commission there is at this stage no approved plan or project and the alleged building demolition has been suspended by Spanish Courts.

 

Question no 38 by Gay Mitchell(H-0593/10)
 Subject: Body scanners
 

At the beginning of this year, Commissioner Reding vowed to oppose the use of body scanners. As we have seen over the course of the year, the threat of terrorism has not abated. Has the view of the Commission changed since the beginning of the year?

 
  
 

(EN) On 15 June 2010 the Commission, as a whole, adopted the Communication on the use of security scanners at EU airports(1), in which it indicated that only an EU approach in the use of this equipment could legally ensure both the highest level of aviation security as well as the best possible protection of fundamental rights and health.

However, before proposing any legislation in this sector, which could mean including security scanners in the list of the eligible screening methods, the Commission indicated that it is necessary to further assess the impact of the use of this equipment in terms of detection performance, fundamental rights and health.

The Commission is currently working on this impact assessment whose outcome is foreseen for the beginning of 2011.

 
 

(1)COM(2010) 311 final.

 

Question no 39 by Ilda Figueiredo(H-0599/10)
 Subject: End of the 'common position' on Cuba
 

As is well known, the EU's relations with Cuba are made more difficult by the 'common position' adopted by the Council in 1996.

The existence of such a position is a unique phenomenon: the EU does not have a common position of this nature on any other country in the world. It is therefore clear that it is discriminatory. Its continuation is in no way in the Union's interests, and puts it in a position where it simply serves the interests of the US, which maintains an equally unjustifiable economic blockade, supported only by Israel and rejected by 187 countries at the most recent UN debate.

What action is being taken by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy with a view to putting an end to this unacceptable 'common position' against Cuba and supporting the re-establishment of normal bilateral relations?

 
  
 

(EN) The Foreign Affairs Council of 25 October decided to start a reflection period and gave a mandate to High Representative / Vice-President Ashton to explore the possibilities on the way forward for relations with Cuba, and to report back to the Council as soon as possible. This process is under way. The objective is to identify the most effective way to promote EU values and interests in Cuba and how to further engage in order to accompany the current process in Cuba (liberation of political prisoners and announcement of economic reforms). The agreement of all 27 Member States will be needed to repeal the 1996 Common Position.

 

Question no 40 by Alan Kelly(H-0600/10)
 Subject: Banking stress test
 

Can the Commission provide clarification on the matter of the Banking stress tests which it endorsed previously?

In these tests, the Commission gave an effective endorsement to the future of both Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland. However, is Commission policy now radically to restructure these banks because of excessive debt problems?

Now that there has been further corporate deposit flight out of these banks, how does the Commission propose to ensure a fully functioning banking system in Ireland, given that these banks are considered of systemic importance to the Irish nation?

 
  
 

(EN) The EU-wide stress tests coordinated by CEBS in July 2010 focused mainly on credit and market risks and contained adverse scenarios that were extreme but plausible at the time they were made.

In Ireland the economic situation changed rapidly, and adverse risks have materialised. While the tested banks satisfied the agreed benchmark for the exercise (albeit not by a large margin), the deteriorating situation after the EU stress test increased market expectations regarding capital ratios.

The PCAR exercise carried out by the Irish authorities addressed those market expectations by applying higher capital target levels than those agreed in the EU wide stress test. The EU wide stress test did not apply an individual target capital level for each Member State since the outcome of the test would not have been comparable. Instead, it was agreed to apply a prudent regulatory benchmark that was significantly above the minimum solvency ratio. Nevertheless, it is both legitimate and appropriate that the Irish authorities decided to be more ambitious and raise the capital levels of the Irish banking system above the agreed levels in order to reassure the markets.

As for the honourable Member's question regarding the future of the Irish banking system, since the beginning of the crisis the Commission has always insisted on the need to ensure the viability of fragile credit institutions beyond the simple injection of additional capital. Strengthening the solvency of a financial institution effectively tackles the most acute risks but it does not guarantee the long term viability of that institution. In this context, the Commission, together with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Irish authorities are committed to the fulfilment of an in depth restructuring of the Irish financial system that will reduce its size and increase its efficiency and robustness.

 

Question no 41 by Zigmantas Balčytis(H-0601/10)
 Subject: Monitoring the assessment and implementation of national energy efficiency action plans
 

The Commission communication entitled ‘Energy 2020: A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy’ stresses that the EU’s energy independence indeed largely depends on internal energy infrastructure, but also depends on the way in which Member States succeed in ensuring energy efficiency, particularly in buildings and transport. In the communication, the Commission expresses dissatisfaction with the national energy efficiency action plans submitted by Member States, because progress in these fields is too slow.

Does not the Commission consider that it ought to play a greater role and improve coordination with the Member States in drafting national action plans, as well as to monitor their implementation more, in order to ensure that the European Union can abide by the commitments it has accepted for the period to 2020?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission's analysis of the impact of the National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAPs) that Member States submitted in 2006-2008, and of the objectives for energy efficiency in their draft National Reform Programmes under the EU2020 process, indicates indeed that more effort is still needed to reach the EU's target of 20% energy savings by 2020.

The Energy Services Directive(1) specifies that Member States must submit their second NEEAPs by 30 June 2011. Sharing the honourable Member's view that it could usefully play a more active role, the Commission is supporting this through:

a concerted action to facilitate regular exchanges between relevant officials from all Member States on good practice in the implementation of energy efficiency measures;

the proposal of a template for NEEAPs;

offering training courses for experts from the Member States expected to be working on NEEAPs; and

the establishment of a helpdesk to provide on-line advice on the preparation of NEEAPs.

In addition, in the framework of the forthcoming Energy Efficiency Plan, the Commission is working on the preparation of a proposal for a possible revision and reinforcement of the Energy Services Directive. This could streamline and clarify the requirements for NEEAPs and give them a reinforced role covering the whole energy sector and providing a basis for an annual review of progress.

 
 

(1)Directive 2006/32/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2006 on energy end-use efficiency and energy services and repealing Council Directive 93/76/EEC: OJ L 114, 27.4.2006

 

Question no 42 by Ivo Belet(H-0602/10)
 Subject: State aid for sports infrastructure
 

Dutch media report that the Commission has begun an investigation into possibly unlawful state aid for some football clubs’ infrastructure. The clubs concerned are said to be Vitesse, Willem II and MVV Maastricht.

On its website the Commission says that most infrastructure is in principle local and only exceptionally has an impact on trade between Member States. For large sports infrastructure projects the Commission advises local authorities that the construction company should be nominated by a public call for tender, that the stadium should be under public management (or that a private manager should not be overcompensated) and that the site should offer facilities for various activities and users and be let out at market rates.

Can the Commission say on which criteria it has questions?

What specific measures can / must clubs concerned take so they are not penalised?

Can the Commission provide more clarification on this point in the communication on the future European sports policy, which it is currently preparing?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission has received several complaints concerning the alleged State aid to the Dutch football clubs mentioned in the honourable Member's question. However, the alleged State support did not concern infrastructure projects but rather measures preventing those clubs from going bankrupt and assisting them to deal with financial difficulties. Currently, the Commission is carrying out a preliminary assessment of these complaints.

As regards the honourable Member's second question, in line with Article 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in order for a measure to qualify as State aid, it has to involve a transfer of State resources. Consequently, the potential State aid could result from an intervention of the public authorities and not of the club as such. Furthermore, to qualify as State aid, the measure in question has to involve an economic advantage to the beneficiary of aid, distort or threaten to distort competition, as well as to affect trade between Member States. In principle, the market character of the transactions concluded between the authorities and a given football club, is a possible way of avoiding State aid issues.

Given the small number of decisions taken in this field, the Commission Communication in the field of sport currently being prepared is unlikely to include such guidance. However, it is not excluded that such guidelines could be envisaged by the Commission in the future.

 

Question no 43 by Bogdan Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz(H-0608/10)
 Subject: Benchmarking for energy-intensive industries
 

As part of the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy, in October the Commission issued a communication on a new industrial competitiveness policy. A stable industrial production base is vital for Europe’s economic growth model. In its communication the Commission emphasised that conditions for competitive production in Europe need to be secured for energy-intensive industries.

In this context, is the Commission aware that the forthcoming decision on benchmarking in the Emissions Trading Scheme poses a serious threat to the competitiveness of energy-intensive industries in Member States which are dependent on a specific fuel mix?

Does the Commission consider it justified for manufacturers in these countries to be faced with very high costs of complying with regulations solely because of their geographic or historical dependence on a specific fuel mix?

Does the Commission agree that in order to safeguard employment and future investment in EU manufacturing industry, these countries should have the opportunity to compete in the global economy?

 
  
 

(EN) The planned Benchmarking Decision is a technical implementation act based on article 10a of the Emissions Trading Directive (2003/87/EC), as amended in the climate-energy package. Article 10a gives certain indications on how the benchmarks should be determined. In principle the Union-wide harmonised benchmarks should be established on the basis of an average performance of the 10% most efficient installations in a sector to ensure that allocation rewards reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Directive, the benchmarks should also take account of the most efficient techniques, substitutes, alternative production processes, high efficiency cogeneration, efficient energy recovery of waste gases, use of biomass and capture and storage of CO2.

In particular, the Directive requires that the benchmarks are calculated for products rather than for inputs, to maximise emissions reductions and energy efficiency throughout each production process of the sector or the subsector concerned. Taking into account the local fuel availability of individual installations would therefore undermine the basic principles for benchmarks mutually agreed upon in the Emissions Trading System (ETS) Directive.

It is also important to recall that the emissions trading scheme is a measure, by which the carbon efficiency of production processes is internalised in the price of carbon and products, aiming at achieving reductions of emissions in a cost-effective and economically efficient manner. The benchmark-based free allocation cannot run counter to this objective.

As part of the political agreement on the climate-energy package, the ETS Directive also ensures a redistribution of a significant amount of auctioning revenues to certain Member States, where the historical fuel mix was an important criterion. The auctioning revenues can and should be used to support the transition to a low-carbon economy. Member States can use a wide range of measures to facilitate this process, targeting infrastructure, consumers or producers; this may not only concern the industrial sector but also energy production. Insofar as support is limited to specific companies, state aid rules allow for a number of measures under certain conditions, e.g. measures to increase energy efficiency.

 

Question no 44 by Mairead McGuinness(H-0610/10)
 Subject: Marine pollution
 

Every year, approximately 10 billion tons of litter end up in the world’s oceans and seas, turning them into the world’s biggest landfill. In its answer to Parliamentary questions E-0825/2010 and E-0104/2010, the Commission recognised in particular the increasingly large mass of plastic waste – known as plastic soup – gathering in the North Pacific Gyre and the problems created by marine litter along the coasts of Europe. Last month, in recognition of the growing problem, the Commission organised a workshop on marine litter.

Can the Commission set out for Parliament the conclusions of the workshop and the proposals it will be bringing forward to tackle the issue of marine pollution?

In particular, has the Commission made progress on the issue of plastic litter and the potential use of biodegradable plastics?

 
  
 

(EN) As an acknowledgement of the growing problem of litter in the marine environment, the Commission organized a workshop called: Marine Litter: plastic soup and more in November 2010. The Commission was very pleased with the interest shown by different honourable Members and representatives of a wide range of different stakeholders: science, plastic producers, environmental Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs,) local organizations as well as from Member States, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the USA National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration.

The report of the meeting and the presentations are available on the website of DG ENV.

The workshop conclusions were as follows:

- There is need to address both sources of waste: waste which comes from the land and from the sea-users. Partnerships with relevant stakeholders such as the shipping industry, fishermen, the offshore industry, local authorities and the producers of plastic products will need to be established.

- Innovations in design and in the use of different polymers, exchange of good practices and pilot projects will teach us more. And there should be a balance between the development of binding and non-binding measures. The upcoming review of the Port Reception Facility Directive will be a good opportunity to look at possible amendments to strengthen this binding measure.

- Cooperation and agreements with the plastic industry are essential to set reduction targets so that use can also be made of market based instruments. An annual high level event could facilitate this.

- There are still knowledge gaps, which must be filled. We need more and better standardized monitoring of marine litter with the EEA and within the regional seas convention areas. Further research is needed on toxicity and on the impacts of litter, especially micro-plastics.

- More awareness has to be created and targeted at specific groups, such as youth, consumers, municipalities, port authorities. The concept of a 'plastic footprint' or eco-labels on plastic products could assist in this difficult and challenging task.

- Finally, there is the international agenda at regional seas level, in coordination with UNEP, in addressing IMO/MARPOL and in cooperation with the USA towards a global approach.

With regard to the question of the potential use of biodegradable plastics, we learned that this type of plastic degrades well under controlled circumstances but much less so in the environment. It needs therefore to be properly collected and will in itself not solve the problem of litter on our beaches and in our seas.

 

Question no 45 by Laima Liucija Andrikienė(H-0612/10)
 Subject: Prospects of Russia joining the WTO
 

How does the Commission assess the most recent statements by Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about Russia's intention to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the end of 2011 and the possibility of establishing a ‘harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok’?

Can the Commission give its views on whether the customs union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus is actually working and whether under this union Russia's bid to join the WTO is feasible?

 
  
 

(EN) The EU has always been one of the foremost advocates of Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and continues to be supportive and fully engaged in the remaining multilateral negotiations. On 24 November 2010, the EU and Russia reached a satisfactory bilateral deal in the context of Russia's accession to the WTO. This deal brings Russian WTO entry closer and opens the way for Russia to accede in 2011, provided the outstanding multilateral negotiations are completed. The EU will continue to assist Russia in its technical work towards this goal.

The EU is interested in further deepening economic integration with Russia. A closer economic relationship would benefit both parties if it would lead to greater mutual market access, remove trade barriers, further improve the business climate and open up possibilities for investment.

In the current negotiations between the EU and Russia of a new bilateral Agreement to replace and update the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the EU would like to incorporate substantial trade and investment related provisions for the benefit of both Parties since this could be an important first step to furthering a closer economic community between th