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Verbatim report of proceedings
Monday, 12 September 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

22. One-minute speeches (Rule 150)
Video of the speeches

  President. – The next item is the one-minute speeches on matters of political importance.


  Rosa Estaràs Ferragut (PPE).(ES) Mr President, on 29 June this year the Majorcan pilot Antonio Planas, who was 49 years old, lost his life, the victim of a Taliban terrorist attack, along with 20 other people in Kabul. Antonio was married and he was the father of an eight-year-old girl. He worked for a Turkish airline and his death took place outside the EU.

I am using this minute to point out that all those Europeans who are the victims of a terrorist attack outside the EU do not qualify for the forms of compensation that they would qualify for if the attack had taken place within a Member State. Imagine the position of Antonio’s daughter and his widow: they are victims of terrorism but they cannot enjoy the same rights as if the attack had taken place in Spain.

Therefore, I would like to seek protection for all those Europeans who are the victims of terrorism when the death takes place outside the territory of the EU. In Spain a law is being formulated, the law for the recognition and comprehensive protection of victims of terrorism, which appears to be capable of correcting that grave error and of rehabilitating and protecting all victims of terrorism equally, in favour of memory, dignity, justice and truth, which are doubtless the ideas that underlie the law itself.


  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D).(RO) Mr President, I would like to highlight a number of serious abuses that have been committed by the government in Bucharest against local opposition MEPs, which are having a terrible impact on the citizens whom they represent in the European Parliament.

I am referring to the unprecedented situation in my county of Teleorman where the prefect is abusing his administrative power to block the activities of the local authorities, in spite of a number of legal judgments already issued in the relevant cases.

One serious example of this is the repeated attacks in court against the decisions approving the budgets for the County Council and in 34 locations, even though the prefect is not granted by law the powers to verify the suitability of administrative acts, but only their legality. The direct result of this is that any local funding is being suspended until the court issues its judgment. Several European projects are also at risk of being permanently compromised due to the accumulation of penalties and missed execution deadlines.

I call on the Commission to demand an explanation from the Romanian Government for the repeated, deliberate infringement of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and for blocking European projects, entailing particularly serious repercussions for a number of European citizens.


  Chris Davies (ALDE). - Mr President, Andrew Makinson, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Liverpool, recently used freedom-of-information procedures to reveal details of expenditure incurred by Mark Dowd, the Labour chairman of Merseytravel, using that public transport authority’s credit card.

Now this may have embarrassed Mark Dowd, but embarrassment is one way of holding office-holders to account. In any case, the Labour Party is committed to the principle of financial transparency. Now, however, Councillor Dowd has Merseytravel taking legal proceedings against Andrew Makinson, demanding an apology and payment of potentially huge legal expenses.

A public body with massive resources is trying to crush one individual who lifted a stone to discover what might lie beneath. This is an abuse of power by Councillor Dowd. It is the action of a bully. It suggests a desire to cover up the truth and keep the public in the dark. It should be condemned utterly.


  Rui Tavares (Verts/ALE). (PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, recently a peaceful and lawful demonstration in Angola was violently attacked by the police, and a number of demonstrators were arrested. Those demonstrators are still under arrest, and they have not had contact with their families or their lawyers. I would therefore like to suggest to Baroness Ashton that she contact the Angolan authorities and demonstrate to them that, as signatories to the Cotonou agreements, they cannot continue with their depressing record of human rights violations.

Mr President, Commissioner Oettinger recently made declarations to the effect that debt-ridden European countries should fly their flags at half mast, stating that this would have a great symbolic deterrent effect. It would indeed be symbolic, but of a Europe that had lost its values and ideals, since all Member States must have the right to exactly the same dignity with their flags – no more, no less. We should tell Mr Oettinger that he has not understood the European ideal, and that he should therefore either withdraw his words or resign. I would ask the President to pass Parliament’s concern on to the European Commission.


  Marek Henryk Migalski (ECR).(PL) Mr President, I would like to call the attention of the House to a matter which is somewhat similar to the one Mr Tavares has mentioned. Oil and gas workers in Kazakhstan have been on strike for many months. Some are on hunger strike, their demonstrations are broken up, strikers are arrested and pressure is being put on their families. Natalia Sokolova, a lawyer acting for the strikers’ trade union, has been arrested and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. Trade union activist Akzhanat Aminov has also been sentenced. However, yet worse things are going on there: people associated with the trade union movement have been murdered. Trade union activist Zhaksylyk Turbaev has been killed. Also murdered was 18-year-old Zhansaule Karabalaeva, the daughter of a well-known trade union activist. While not interfering in economic affairs, I think that in affairs or in contacts with the state of Kazakhstan all European Union institutions should be guided by considerations of human rights. It is these considerations which should determine our decisions as well as what support we give to the country.


  Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, for years the Republic of Cyprus has exercised its sovereign rights to explore the country’s sources of natural wealth. May I remind you that the Turkish Government has repeatedly obstructed and tried to hamper this exploration, as noted both by the Council and in European Commission reports. Today, as the hour approaches for the Republic of Cyprus to start the drilling procedure put out to international tender within its exclusive economic zone, the Turkish Government is openly threatening a Member State of the European Union, namely Cyprus, in breach of international law.

We call on the European Union to support one of its Member States in the exercise of its sovereign rights, the benefits from which, if the Cyprus problem is resolved, will serve both its communities and people, Greek and Turkish Cypriot alike.


  Oreste Rossi (EFD).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, how can we talk about a united Europe when an Italian citizen on holiday with his family in Sweden has been arrested for smacking his son? How can we justify such an arrest, when it has been followed by a trial and a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union stipulating that Italy may not arrest an illegal immigrant because illegal immigration is not a crime in itself? Why is the Court of Justice of the European Union intervening in support of illegal immigrants by overturning an Italian law but not intervening by overturning a Swedish law providing for the arrest of an Italian father who committed the crime of smacking his son in public? This is a case of double standards, and it shows just how far removed the European institutions are from the citizens.


  Slavi Binev (NI).(BG) Mr President, six Bulgarian sailors are facing the threat of court proceedings in Greece. The reason for this is that they were arrested on 23 June this year in Greek territorial waters on a charge of smuggling cigarettes. Interestingly, according to the provisions of maritime law, the ship’s owner and captain are responsible for its navigation and the content of its cargo, and not the crew.

I was dumbfounded by and even incredulous of the fact that the sailors did not receive any assistance from representatives of the Bulgarian authorities in Greece. Private individuals have covered their lawyer’s fees. I would like to make my esteemed colleagues aware of this serious problem, in the hope that we can ensure a fair trial for the crew, especially given that the detainees are aged around 60, with one of them in hospital for heart surgery and another a diabetic on insulin.

An explanation must be provided as to why the Greek authorities are acting illegally and have been denying the detainees justice for three months now. I call for a far-reaching investigation into this problem. The rule of law must not be undermined in any way.


  László Tőkés (PPE).(HU) Mr President, on 5 May last year the European Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to ban cyanide mining technologies throughout European Union territory. The European Commission has so far failed to do so and has dragged its heels over taking steps to comply with the European Parliament’s demands in this regard. Meanwhile, in Romania there is political pressure to force through a mining project that smacks of corruption and risks bringing about an environmental and natural catastrophe. The nuclear accident at Fukushima is a cautionary example of why we should not play with fire. I call on my fellow Members from Romania and Hungary to join forces to protect the environment in the Carpathian Basin that we share. Mr President, I ask for your assistance in prevailing upon the European Commission to give effect to Parliament’s ban on cyanide mining and to pursue the case of the Romanian mining project at Roşia Montană/Verespatak.


  Cătălin Sorin Ivan (S&D).(RO) Mr President, as has already been said, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on 5 May 2010 by an overwhelming majority of 488 votes, banning the use of cyanide technologies in mining. We conveyed several messages to the Commission, requesting a legislative proposal which would specifically reflect the wish of European citizens, which is to protect the environment.

Last week the Commission had the decency to tell us that ‘with regard to the introduction of a general ban on mining using cyanide technologies, the Commission considers that this is not justified on the grounds of actions linked to protecting the environment or health’.

Commissioners, by defying the decision adopted by the European Parliament, you will automatically be accomplices in allowing the destruction of an entire region in Romania, which is not only an economic, cultural and social disaster but also an environmental one in a country of the European Union.


  Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, the Palestinian problem has reached a critical turning point. The Palestinian Authority is due to raise the question of immediate recognition of the Palestinian state at the forthcoming UN General Assembly in New York on 20 September 2011. Israel is keeping up its attacks on the Palestinian people, extending its unacceptable settlements and the wall of shame in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank and maintaining the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

We condemn the pressure and economic stranglehold being exerted on the Palestinian Authority to prevent it from taking recourse to the UN General Assembly, the pressure to impose a solution which clashes with the will, the interests and the rights of the Palestinian people. We call on the governments of the Member States of the European Union to support the resolution to recognise an independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem, next to Israel, as a member of the United Nations at the forthcoming UN General Assembly.


  Gerard Batten (EFD). - Mr President, the Commission has recently replied to my written question, confirming that Commissioners Almunia and Kroes attended the Bilderberg meeting in St Moritz in June.

The Commission cannot give me details of what was discussed, but assures me that the Bilderberg meetings do not take decisions.

If Bilderberg meetings are just talking shops, why do the most important and powerful figures from around the world, including George Osborne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, bother to attend?

And what other summit of world leaders in politics, finance and business would go completely unreported in the mainstream media, such as the BBC? It is impossible not to reach the conclusion that the non-reporting of these events is anything other than a conspiracy between the organisers and the media.

It merely confirms the belief of many that the hidden agenda and purpose of the Bilderberg Group is to bring about undemocratic world government.

It is a disgrace that the European Commission is colluding in that.


  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). - Mr President, it has been well demonstrated that the whole idea of the euro zone – a single currency value for 17 very different economies – is flawed economically. Its purpose, of course, has been to facilitate political integration.

When the euro zone shows signs of unravelling, the logical remedy would be to unravel it completely. However, the chosen remedy is not less Europe, but more Europe. The German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has said that a new constitutional treaty is required. This has been described by Herman Van Rompuy as the establishment of a United States of Europe.

The British Conservative leader fantasises about having some sovereignty returned to the United Kingdom as the price for agreeing to federalism being foisted on the euro zone. Such a deal would not only be immoral, it would also be self-defeating in the long term. We would have helped to create a monstrosity to which a future British Government could feed the United Kingdom.


  Jim Higgins (PPE). - Mr President, ten years ago yesterday, 2 983 innocent people died in the horrific attack on the New York World Trade Center. This led to a huge outpouring of sympathy for the United States throughout the world.

The attack was motivated by a fanatical hatred of everything western by the Muslims. Muslim leader Osama Bin Laden saw the attack as the stark holy war, the destruction of the West and worldwide Islamic domination throughout.

The response by President Bush was a crusade: a crusade, a war on terrorism, the invasion of Afghanistan in search of Bin Laden, the invasion of Iraq in search of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The atrocities carried out, the number of killings, turned the world, which was pro-America, and pro-American sentiment into anti-United States condemnation.

Let us hope that yesterday’s ceremonies will renew all our determination to move forward, to build bridges, hope that peoples’ uprisings across North Africa will change the outcome and hope, last but by no means least, that any change that happens will come from within and not from the outside.


  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Mr President, every year September marks the start of another school year. The European Union’s global competitiveness is primarily based on the quality of its human resources. Indeed, the Union is acknowledged as a centre of excellence in the field of education.

Member States are faced with the impact of the economic and financial crisis. Some Member States, which are in the process of fiscal consolidation, have reduced their education budgets. Regrettably, many schools have been closed in Romania over the last two years, especially in rural areas, with the loss of thousands of teaching jobs. The main effect of these measures is to increase the school dropout rate, particularly in rural areas, thereby jeopardising the future of subsequent generations.

The future of Member States and the Union’s competitiveness depend on the quality of and, above all, universal access to education. Education is a right and must not become a luxury. This is why I call on the Commission to ensure that access to education is guaranteed in every Member State and that investment in education becomes a priority.


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, in many regions of Portugal, wine producers are facing a crisis, which could reach alarming levels due to a severe fall in their incomes and the enormous setbacks to production this year as a result of bad weather and vine diseases.

In addition to this, there are also legislative measures and proposals that are contributing to this financial meltdown, particularly for small wine producers. That is why the Douro designated wine region, which was first established more than 250 years ago and is where the famous port wine is produced, is experiencing a time of anxiety and indignation, as has already been revealed during the two protests that recently took place there. The same thing is happening in other regions; farmers were protesting just last week in Palmela.

We are therefore sounding this alarm here and are calling for emergency measures to be taken in an act of support and solidarity for Portuguese wine producers.


  Alajos Mészáros (PPE).(HU) Mr President, in Europe, citizens of European Union Member States have enjoyed additional Community rights since the Treaty of Maastricht. It was all the more of a shock, therefore, when Slovakia passed legislation last year under which individuals who become citizens of another country, including another EU Member State, will forfeit their Slovak citizenship. No attempt has been made to hide the fact that this legislation is directed primarily against Slovakia’s Hungarian community, to put an obstacle in the way of their adopting Hungarian citizenship, which is legally possible. Political forces driven by nationalist sentiment are ignoring the fact that in the EU this is in breach of Community law and stands in the way of ensuring mobility within Europe. Alongside the rights afforded by EU citizenship, it seems quite natural to express one’s relationship with another Member State by way of citizenship.

In addition to a purely legal relationship, moral motives are often another important factor. At an emotional level, an EU citizen who belongs to a minority may wish to be connected to two Member States at once if he believes this is the best way to ensure the preservation of his identity. In my view, the EU cannot simply stand by and watch European integration being distorted in this manner.


  Maria Eleni Koppa (S&D).(EL) Mr President, for years the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and the Greek socialists have consistently supported the prospect of Turkey’s accession to the European Union. Today, however, Mr Erdogan is being called upon to state whether or not Turkey itself ultimately wishes to accede, given that it is threatening Cyprus, a sovereign Member State of the European Union, with violence if it exercises its sovereign right to extract natural gas within the exclusive economic zone defined in accordance with the international law of the sea and given that it is saying that it will freeze relations with the European Union during the Cypriot Presidency in 2012. Turkey needs to provide answers and to decide what it wants.

I call on the Commission to condemn these statements and to emphasise in its annual report that it is unacceptable for a candidate country to challenge the sovereign rights of a Member State and ignore international treaties.


  Willy Meyer (GUE/NGL).(ES) Mr President, the people of the EU should have the chance to express their views on the economic adjustment and all the budget cuts that are taking place in the EU, cuts that prey on the social model and on democracy itself.

Spain is the first country to have carried out express constitutional reform without submitting that reform to referendum, destroying the constitutional consensus that it took so much work to achieve in 1977 following Franco’s dictatorship.

I think the time has come to let the people of the EU have their say and to submit all this economic adjustment to consultative and binding referendum, economic adjustment that carries before it many things: the European social model and the direct democracy that men and women of Europe alike are laying claim to in the streets, occupying squares and demanding that they be given the chance to express their views and decide. The EU cannot be built on the fringes of European citizenship.


  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE).(EL) Mr President, 20.7% of young people in the European Union are unemployed. The numbers are even more disappointing in countries such as Spain, where the unemployment rate among young age groups is close to 46.2%, and in Greece, where the figure is 38.5%. In what is admittedly an unprecedented economic situation, Europe needs a common strategy to reverse unemployment among young people, perhaps even a new pan-European employment pact. There are good examples of useful practices applied both in individual Member States and in third countries. There are the examples of Austria and the Netherlands and there is also the USD 400 billion anti-unemployment campaign currently being run by the Obama administration in the United States.

What more is Europe waiting for, in order to implement a similar coordinated initiative, within the context of its competences? In the final analysis, it is morally and economically wrong for children to bear the debts and the sins of their parents. It is a moral and economic disaster to allow the emergence of a lost generation.


  Antigoni Papadopoulou (S&D). - Mr President, I would like to draw your attention to the events that shocked Cyprus on 11 July; that is to say, the explosion that took place at the Evangelos Florakis naval base, which caused 13 deaths and injured 61 people as well as destroying the island’s biggest power station at Vasilikos. In the aftermath of the explosion, the total damage to the economy of Cyprus is estimated to be more than EUR 3 billion.

This situation becomes much more serious – not only for Cyprus, but for the whole EU – given the generally fragile economy across Europe. Under the circumstances, and in the light of the Cypriot Presidency of the EU, in my capacity as MEP for Cyprus I would like to ask the EU to express its active solidarity with my country by providing sufficient funds for the restitution and reparation of the losses. I have already tabled a relevant question to the responsible (....)

(The President cut off the speaker)


  Eleni Theocharous (PPE).(EL) Mr President, I too wish to speak about Turkey’s threat of war against the Republic of Cyprus and its insulting and offensive stance, which is an insult not only to Cyprus, which it refuses to recognise, but also to the entire European Union, as well as being a threat to stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and to security in the area. That is why it has attracted strong statements both from Mr Füle and from Baroness Ashton.

No one should expect Cyprus to open the energy chapter in the face of such behaviour by a country in blatant breach of international law and the law of the sea. No one should expect Cyprus to open any other chapter. We are asking for solidarity from the European Union in putting an end to this behaviour on the part of Turkey. If Turkey does not comply, it should remain outside the European Union and the accession procedure should stop at once.


  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D).(RO) Mr President, according to the latest annual report published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 41 new psychoactive substances became available in 2010. A high proportion of these were identified as legal drugs. The widespread use of legal drugs highlights the speed and complex way in which the drugs market is responding to the current control measures.

Although these substances have been responsible for numerous hospital admissions and deaths in European Union Member States, their impact on people’s health has not been investigated very often, thereby showing the need for a more holistic approach to tackling this worrying problem.

I think that the rapid growth in the use of legal drugs poses a public health problem for the European Union and action needs to be taken at European level to analyse and control it, and inform the public about the dangers entailed in using them.


  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE).(PL) Mr President, it is with sorrow and regret that I want to report the incidence within the European Union of flagrant violations of the fundamental civil rights enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, and in particular of the rights of national minorities. Lithuania is violating EU standards in this area.

For almost two years there has been no law in Lithuania governing the rights of minorities. Neither is there an institution to which minorities would be able to appeal when they suffer discrimination. The removal by the authorities of bilingual street and place names in regions where a minority accounts for a clear majority of the local population in this particular case concerns Poles, and the imposition of fines on these people is a blatant example of this discrimination. Recently a new law on education has come into force, which will mean the closure of almost half of Lithuania’s Polish schools. How long is the Union going to tolerate this?


  Boris Zala (S&D). - (SK) Mr President, Eurosceptics seem to have been proved right by the developments in the EU. However, I firmly believe that economic problems and the stability of the euro pose more of a challenge. It is a challenge for all of us, so that we may summon up the courage to take significant steps towards European integration. Let us not be intimidated by assertions of a superstate or diktats from Brussels. Close EU integration is the response to the Europe-wide war that lasted throughout the first half of the 20th century. The Balkan wars of the 1990s showed us where Europe might be without the EU. The Lisbon Treaty is an important step forward. The dynamics of world politics and economic globalisation are so rapid that they place new demands on the EU. Our citizens expect us to lend the world rational initiatives, stable economic development and support for democracy and liberation movements. The European Union must be equipped with all the tools of executive power, and must be able to act flexibly and effectively.


  Mairead McGuinness (PPE). - Mr President, I want to raise a case that has been brought to my attention: that of an Irish citizen detained in Sri Lanka, a Mr Jayasundaram. He was arrested there in September 2007 and, although no warrant was issued or charges brought against him, he was accused of providing support to the militant liberalisation group LTTE. It is a matter of grave concern that no evidence of this charge was ever provided. He has been moved from prison to prison and has suffered from several medical complaints throughout his detention.

In 2008, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that his detention was arbitrary and in direct violation of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They also advised that any laws or measures taken to combat terrorism must comply with all obligations under international law. Despite the best efforts of the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Ireland in Sri Lanka and our Department of Foreign Affairs and various human rights organisations, he still remains in detention. I believe this House should be aware of that.


  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D).(PT) Mr President, nothing can hide the fact that the EU is becoming a disappointment. It has forgotten its principles, it ignores its institutions, it disrespects its Member States and, despite all the Treaties, it is unbelievably being governed from one summit to the next by Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy.

The Member States, the Commission and, above all, Parliament are being sidelined. All of us here have been elected by European citizens and have been charged with codeciding on the best policies and the best course of action for Europe to follow, and we cannot continue to sit back and accept that things are being done in a way that we disagree with. This way of treating countries and disrespecting nations whose history demands appreciation and respect is becoming customary. I feel nothing but offended by Commissioner Oettinger’s proposal for the flags of all heavily indebted countries to be flown at half-mast, alongside the other EU flags. This is simply deplorable! It is not by hurting the dignity of nations and their citizens that Europe will find its way out of the crisis. Europe will find its way out through solidarity and unity. It needs leaders who can do that.


  Seán Kelly (PPE). - Mr President, I have listened here for the past two years to much controversy about the Canadian oil sands, with many people advocating that we should not import any oil from Canada. This is something that I think has aggrieved Canadians because they feel they are misrepresented.

During the summer I had the privilege of visiting Alberta, where the oil sands are mainly located, as part of the European Energy Forum. There we could see at first hand the working of the mines, both open-cast mines and in-situ mines. We also had access to all sides of the industry, including environmentalists. That openness is something that you would maybe not find in other regimes from whom we are very pleased to import oil, some of them totalitarian and totally undemocratic and who use the money to bolster their own regimes.

So all I am saying is that we should look at it with an open mind and then make a decision subsequently.


  Nuno Melo (PPE).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner Oettinger’s recent proposal for the flags of all heavily indebted countries to be flown at half-mast in the buildings of the EU institutions is disproportionate and unjustified, if not humiliating. Europe is an area of both cohesion and solidarity. It is not an area of exclusion, and it is certainly not an area of stigmatisation.

Portugal is making such a huge effort to resolve its problems that its people are being obliged to make huge sacrifices and, having reached this point, we and the other countries experiencing difficulties need the European institutions to show cohesion, support and solidarity. Portugal is an old nation with a history of crises. It has always overcome them and it will continue to overcome them.

What is more – to conclude, Mr President – if breaking the rules of the euro area stabilisation agreement were a reason to fly flags at half-mast, then no country would be exempt, and Germany would certainly be no exception.


  President. – That concludes this item.

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