Index 
Debates
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Wednesday, 15 February 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Implementing measures (Rule 88): see Minutes
 3. Delegated acts (Rule 87a): see Minutes
 4. Preparation for the European Council meeting (1-2 March 2012) (debate)
 5. Employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2012 - Contribution to the Annual Growth Survey 2012 - Guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (debate)
 6. Composition of Parliament: see Minutes
 7. Employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2012 - Contribution to the Annual Growth Survey 2012 - Guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (continuation of debate)
 8. Voting time
  8.1. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and the Schengen acquis (A7-0013/2012 - Timothy Kirkhope) (vote)
  8.2. Guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (A7-0011/2012 - Pervenche Berès) (vote)
  8.3. Food distribution to the most deprived persons in the Union (A7-0032/2012 - Czesław Adam Siekierski) (vote)
  8.4. Radio spectrum policy (A7-0019/2012 - Gunnar Hökmark) (vote)
  8.5. Contractual relations in the milk and milk products sector (A7-0262/2011 - James Nicholson) (vote)
  8.6. Amendment of Rule 48(2) on own-initiative reports (A7-0399/2011 - Stanimir Ilchev) (vote)
  8.7. Feasibility of introducing stability bonds (B7-0016/2012) (vote)
  8.8. Employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2012 (A7-0021/2012 - Marije Cornelissen) (vote)
  8.9. Contribution to the Annual Growth Survey 2012 (A7-0018/2012 - Jean-Paul Gauzès) (vote)
 9. Explanations of vote
 10. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 11. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting: see Minutes
 12. Economic crisis, growth and employment (debate)
 13. Situation in Syria (debate)
 14. 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council (debate)
 15. Guidelines for the 2013 budget - sections other than the Commission (debate)
 16. Composition of committees and delegations: see Minutes
 17. Blind persons’ access to books (debate)
 18. Deposit guarantee schemes (debate)
 19. Third-country legislation and EU data protection laws (debate)
 20. Agenda of the next sitting: see Minutes
 21. Closure of the sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: MARTIN SCHULZ
President

(The sitting opened at 09.00)

 
1. Opening of the sitting
Video of the speeches

2. Implementing measures (Rule 88): see Minutes

3. Delegated acts (Rule 87a): see Minutes

4. Preparation for the European Council meeting (1-2 March 2012) (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the preparation for the European Council meeting on 1 and 2 March 2012 (2011/2918(RSP)).

 
  
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  Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council. – Mr President, the Spring European Council is, as you know, the European Council’s annual rendezvous to discuss economic and social issues, and the next meetings of Heads of State or Government will be no exception. The European Council will seek to address the current economic crisis, notably, by providing guidance on Member States’ economic and employment policies, putting particular emphasis on accelerating structural reforms to increase competitiveness and create more jobs and on fully exploiting the potential of green growth.

However, let me stress that this is not to say that we are in a business-as-usual mode. Indeed, we cannot afford complacency. Because of the crisis, we need more than ever to make full use of our new tools – the European Semester and the ‘six-pack’. This is an important priority for the Danish Presidency and we will work in all relevant Council formations to ensure strict implementation of the new rules in order to ensure their credibility, but also to provide opportunity for anchoring this process at the level of Heads of State and Government.

The European Council will conclude the first phase of the European Semester on the basis of the Commission’s Annual Growth Survey and the discussions held in the different formations of the Council. It is the Presidency’s intention to summarise all these contributions in a synthesis report. Furthermore, the EPSCO and Ecofin Councils will adopt conclusions.

In this context, the European Council will identify the main challenges facing the EU and give strategic advice and guidance to Member States on the different policies. Let me recall that a number of orientations have already been set out at the informal European Council on 30 January regarding stimulating employment, especially for young people, completing the single market and boosting the financing of the economy, in particular, of the SMEs. Those measures requiring actions at the national level are to be duly reflected in Member States’ national reform programmes.

As regards measures to be taken at EU level, the Council will report back on the implementation in June. We expect the March European Council to assess the economic situation and express the EU’s determination to continue to take all necessary measures.

Regarding guidance to Member States on their national reform programmes and stability and convergence programmes, the European Council will discuss the implementation of the 2011 European Semester country-specific recommendations and commitments under the Euro Plus Pact. It will call on Member States to give priority to the areas identified in the Commission’s AGS and in the Council discussion on the European Semester and to reflect this in the NRPs and SCPs. The European Council will also call on the Member States taking part in the Euro Plus Pact to update their commitments and to make them more precise, time-limited, operational and measurable.

Regarding innovation and following up on the orientations set by the European Council, the Danish Presidency will prepare reports setting out progress achieved in this field. On that basis, we expect the European Council to stress the areas where more progress is required to unlock innovation potential, for instance, a single innovation indicator.

On the second issue on the agenda – international summits – the forthcoming G8, G20 and Rio+20 meetings will address issues important to the EU. The difficulty is, of course, that they will take place in June and the March European Council should therefore take stock of preparation and signal those issues of particular importance.

On the G20 and the G8, the Mexican Presidency has identified the following priorities for the summit: economic stabilisation and structural reforms as foundations for growth and employment; strengthening the financial system and fostering financial inclusion to promote economic growth; improving the international financial architecture in an interconnected world; enhancing food security and addressing commodity price volatility; promoting sustainable development, green growth and the fight against climate change.

The Mexican Presidency will organise preparatory ministerial meetings on foreign affairs, tourism, agriculture and labour. The EU position at the meeting will be thoroughly prepared in the coming months in the relevant Council formations in order to ensure a strong and coordinated EU position.

The UN Rio+20 conference: at this conference, it is an important priority for the Danish Presidency that we should promote a strengthened global institutional framework for sustainable development and advance work on global and coherent post-2015 goals for sustainable development.

The European Council is expected to underline its strong commitment to an ambitious outcome of the UN conference to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June of this year and stress the need for strong participation from the private sector and civil society. The Council will further develop the EU position on Rio+20 in order to ensure a strong European voice in Rio.

In accordance with the conclusions of the European Council in December 2011, the European Council will also take up the issue of status as candidate country for Serbia. As you are aware, the European Council, on 9 December 2011, noted that considerable progress has been made by Serbia towards fulfilling the political criteria. With a view to granting Serbia the status of candidate country, the European Council tasked the General Affairs Council to examine and confirm that Serbia has continued to show credible commitment and has achieved further progress in moving forward with the implementation, in good faith, of agreement reached in the dialogue, including on IBM, has reached an agreement on inclusive regional cooperation, and has actively cooperated to enable EULEX and KFOR to execute their mandates.

In the light of its examination, the General Affairs Council will take the decision on candidate status on 28 February, to be confirmed by the March European Council. I hope that a decision can be taken to give Serbia status as a candidate country but that will, of course, also require that Serbia has done what is necessary to live up to the criteria formulated in December.

Finally the European Council is expected to address foreign policy, probably with the focus on the Southern Neighbourhood and the Arab Spring.

 
  
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  Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, Europe is in an unprecedented economic situation. After the years of crisis, our forecasts show that growth is at a virtual standstill and will remain slow for the foreseeable future. Unemployment, especially youth unemployment, is unacceptably high and may remain so for many years.

This is the background against which we need action and against which the actions of European institutions and national governments alike will be judged. We need to deliver on the greatest concerns of our citizens – jobs and growth – and we need to mark a turning point in the way we have addressed this crisis until now.

As we already said in our road map last October, we need decisive action to address Greece’s problems and restore public finances to health. We need to strengthen the European banking system and to build credible firewalls for the euro area, and we need stability and discipline to prevent a repeat of recent events, but unless we can also get our economy growing and creating jobs, we will only have a partial solution and we will not win the support of our citizens.

That is why the informal European Council was such an important stepping stone for the Spring European Council. It represented agreement among Europe’s leaders to concentrate on a few immediate priorities with substantial potential for growth and employment – first and foremost for our young people and for our SMEs, to help them to grow and to create jobs again. This message was already at the core of our 2012 Annual Growth Survey (AGS), adopted by the Commission last November, and with this AGS, we are launching the new European Semester. As you know, our survey is a contribution to the Spring European Council and we will call upon the European Council to give very strong backing to the priorities we have identified. I hope that we can also count on the support of this House to do so.

The Annual Growth Survey points to the number of priorities we have to achieve in the future and the priorities which should guide the Member States in drawing up their own new national programmes, which are due to be presented in April. On the basis of this, the Commission will put forward country-specific proposals for the discussion in May and adoption at the June European Council.

What is very important is that very little of what is in the Annual Growth Survey is completely new. There is, and has been for some time, a broad consensus on the need to cover jobs and growth as well as getting public finances in order. We need a balanced approach, covering growth and jobs and the improvement of fiscal consolidations and public finances, but what we need even more is implementation and respect for the commitments which we have already undertaken.

As far as new ideas are concerned, we have to remind ourselves that we already have a policy for jobs and growth. It is called Europe 2020. We also have a European Semester which represents a quantum leap in economic policy coordination in Europe. For the first time this year, the semester will take place within our strengthened system of economic governance based on the ‘six-pack’ legislation that the European Parliament played such an important role in developing. What is needed now is a firm commitment at national and European levels to picking up the pace of the reforms and to carrying that commitment through to 2012.

The Commission has already put forward a proposal regarding the problem which is probably the most burdensome and most difficult for our citizens – namely, youth unemployment. We cannot accept the fact that we have 7.5 million young people across Europe classified as NEETs, which means that they are not in employment, education or training. They definitely do not deserve this.

We need to tackle these high levels of youth unemployment and we need to do so in a sustainable manner. Getting young people on to the labour market is an essential element of our efforts to ensure future growth. We have already set up action teams that will visit the eight Member States with the highest youth unemployment rates and they will examine, together with national authorities and social partners, what we can do better, how we can make better use of EU and national funds, and how we can focus our efforts on social policies, SMEs and job creation for young people. I am very happy to report that our initial contacts with the Member States have been very encouraging and I hope that we will already be able to bring a positive report to the Spring European Council on this matter.

But these actions must be part of the wider reform of labour market policies aimed at getting more Europeans on to the labour market and increasing their employment opportunities. I am sure that these issues will be discussed again at greater length in a moment when you debate the Cornelissen, Gauzès and Berès reports.

I started my presentation in a slightly downbeat fashion, but I would like to conclude on a more optimistic note. While no one is brave enough yet to suggest that we have turned the corner, that the worst might be over, and that we might finally be back on the road to growth, I think it is fair to say that we now at least have far greater control over our future. The new measures that have been proposed by the Commission and agreed by this House – now I am talking about the ‘six-pack’ and other measures – are giving much more visibility to the European Semester and are allowing us to take action far earlier than before and to avoid the kind of fire-fighting that has dominated our discussions until now.

Yesterday, the Commission adopted its first alert mechanism report according to which the 12 countries should be subject to a more in-depth review. Our recommendations will now be discussed in the Council and Eurogroup and, of course, the feedback from this House into this discussion would be very welcome. This might not seem particularly optimistic, especially for the 12 Member States concerned, but it underlines the rapid and effective improvements that have already been made to the way in which public finances are managed in Europe.

We need to have the right tools in place to monitor progress, address risk and propose remedies well before a crisis hits. We must make sure that the crisis that we are now going through will never again be repeated. Thanks to widespread agreement between the Commission, Parliament and the Council, we now have the tools and, although it is early days, I would say that we have very strong indications that they are working. I fully expect the positive spirit of the informal Council to continue through to the Spring Council, that the Heads of State and Government will endorse the guidelines for growth and, more importantly, that they will meet their commitments on the ground.

 
  
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  Joseph Daul, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, trust is the foundation of the single market, the foundation of the European Union. However, the financial crisis has undermined this trust, the trust that our fellow citizens have not only for each other but also for policy makers, and this distrust continues to grow. In the face of this danger, we must be unambiguous. We need measures to restore confidence in the good management of our finances and the Treaty to be signed next month will be one of the cornerstones of this.

We also need measures to restore confidence in the governance of the euro and this cannot be achieved by issuing contradictory statements. In this regard, I am very surprised by the statements made by Commissioner Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the Commission, who is of the opinion that it would not be a tragedy if Greece left the euro area. I ask the Commission: is this your official position? I would ask the Commission to address this matter.

Ladies and gentlemen, after years of imprudent management of public finances in many of our countries, now is the time for change. This applies even more to Greece of course, but we will not avoid spending cuts —and Greece cannot take any more. Our Latvian friends showed the way some years ago, by reforming their public management without any outside help and accepting painful sacrifices that led to a return to growth.

That is why, for my part, I also trust in the Greek people’s enormous sense of responsibility and I am not among those who would have them believe they will immediately overcome the crisis without reforming.

That said, as I stated just after the last European Council, it will take more to build the economy than growth and employment reforms. However, the package proposed to us at this stage is not, in any way, up to the challenge. I firmly believe this is no longer the time for business as usual. It is time to make commitments on a par with those of the post-war Marshall Plan or even the 1992 single market project.

Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come for Europe to be ambitious. The time has come to establish a project which mobilises all our resources to restore growth and employment.

My group expects the European Commission to propose a legislative package of this kind, in close cooperation with Parliament, as we did with the ‘six-pack’. This package could include measures as ambitious as completing the internal market. We need to know which countries are still blocking this market. The Single Market Act, the Services Directive and the European Patent are all being blocked by an absurd dispute over location. This package must also reduce the burdens imposed on our businesses which stifle their competitiveness. In return, leave it to them to commit to providing more employment, above all, for young people. Ultimately, there is no magic formula for overcoming this crisis unless we demonstrate political will, have the courage to tell our fellow citizens the truth and see through our commitments.

As a former manager, I can tell you, I have lived through many crises and I would ask the Commission and the Heads of State or Government who are always thinking of the next election — I understand this and therefore, it is up to us, in Parliament and in the Commission, to show them the way, to put forward proposals, bold proposals for major projects, for example — to establish the internal market and condemn those who do not.

These are measures, small measures, which together will perhaps allow us to quickly return to 1% growth.

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

 
  
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  Ashley Fox (ECR), Blue-card question. – I welcome Mr Daul’s comments about the need to reduce youth unemployment. Mr Daul, do you agree with me that a good way of doing this would be to repeal the Working Time Directive?

 
  
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  Joseph Daul (PPE), Blue-card answer.(FR) Mr Fox, no, we need rules, and I am a firm liberal like you. However, allow me to explain my liberalism for you.

Imagine a football pitch. There are two teams playing. I hope the best team wins, but there is still a referee and rules to be respected. That is what I call liberalism.

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the S&D Group.(DE) Mr President, Mr Wammen, Mr Šefčovič, the Council is finally intending to come to grips with the important problems relating to growth and employment. For a long period, for many years and months, nothing has been done in these areas. The Council is also planning to resolve the imbalances in economic policy. This subject is also mentioned in the report which the Commission has published. However, perhaps too little has been said about the fact that both sides, the countries with deficits and those with surpluses, must do something to correct the imbalances, as Germany promised in the G20 meetings and resolutions.

As far as the rules are concerned, Mr Fox, you should take a look at reality, at the empirical facts. Many countries are following the rules, in particular, countries like Germany and Austria, which have the lowest levels of youth unemployment. We need to focus on reality and not on the ideology.

Of course, I support what the Council and the Commission are now doing. However, I doubt whether there has really been a change of direction, particularly when I look at what is going on in Greece. A lot of decisions have been made and a great deal of what has already been said today brings to mind the G20 summit in Cannes, for example. I will come back to that subject this afternoon. The case of Greece shows that we have not yet learned to change our way of thinking. The economic situation in Greece is being put at risk by radicals who are setting fire to Athens. It is being endangered by those people, and Mr Daul is right in this respect, who are not prepared to take over political responsibility in Greece. It is also being put at risk by a Troika which is calling for changes that will only make the situation in Greece worse and I do not know on whose behalf they are doing this, definitely not on behalf of social democracy or of many of the people of Greece. What will the extreme cuts in pensions, salaries and minimum wages achieve? A deeper recession and greater poverty. This will reduce people’s purchasing power, lower tax revenues and increase the deficit. This is the policy which the European Commission is unfortunately also supporting, together with the European monetary fund, for Greece in particular. We want to see a change of direction.

If wages and pensions are cut, but there is no increase in competition, because there are so many restrictions on competition, for example, then prices will rise and there will be more poverty. What the Troika is demanding, with the support of some members of the Commission, in other words, cuts in social security and dismantling the system of social dialogue, is in stark contrast to what has been said at G20 summits and in many other meetings. For us, social dialogue and the role of the social partnership is absolutely essential, in particular, as regards the reforms in Greece.

People are saying that the trade unions must take responsibility, but they must also be given responsibility. If we take responsibility away from them, we cannot expect them to assume responsibility.

There is an alternative route to the one suggested by the orthodox Troika. For this reason, I have proposed that three prominent Members of my group, three former ministers, should travel to Greece and investigate, together with the Greeks and the people who want to introduce the reforms, which measures will really effectively reduce the deficit, because they will lead to more growth and create more jobs. That is also the difference in our approach. To a certain extent, Greece is being blackmailed by the Troika and it has no say in the matter. This is putting democracy at risk. We want to work together with Greece on these issues. Greece does not need a headmaster from Germany or from elsewhere with a cane in his hand. Greece needs help and support. It needs to be advised, not dictated to. We want to give Greece advice. We want to work together with Greece to help it to emerge from this serious crisis, just as the Americans did with the Marshall Plan for Europe. We must not threaten the Greeks. We must help them, because help for Greece is also help for the euro area and for Europe.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(DE) Mr President, as Mr Wammen has just said, the Spring European Council meeting is traditionally the European Union’s rendezvous with social and economic reality in Europe. However, we have all heard that the finance ministers yesterday cancelled their meeting in Brussels at which they intended to approve the second aid package for Greece. What does that mean? What does it mean for Greece and for Europe?

I believe that our common goal is to keep Greece in the euro area and I would like to respond to Mr Daul on this subject. I do not agree with what Ms Kroes has said about Greece remaining in the euro area, but the reason why she has said it and why so many people are so impatient, is the behaviour of her sister party, Nea Dimokratia, in particular. If they could just call Mr Samaras to order, it would be very helpful. I believe it would be better for all of us.

We want Greece to stay in the euro area, but it is important to make one thing clear. In the past, the Greek Government has made a lot of promises, but has delivered very little. The introduction of another austerity package does not by any means indicate that what is being promised will actually be put into practice, and that is exactly what this is all about. It is about structural reform, which will lead to further aid being made available. If it takes the right course, Greece can count on our support. However, we no longer need preliminary work; instead, we are looking for action.

It has been said here that the situation in Greece is genuinely dramatic. In addition to the savings which are needed, Mr Swoboda, from 1991 to 2007, in other words, before the crisis, Greece had an average annual national deficit of 6.6%. Greece is now having to pay the bill for its poor policies in the past. Of course, we do not envy the Greeks. That is absolutely clear. We want to get the country and the economy going again and the trade unions will be an important part of this. Trade unions have played a constructive role in increasing competitiveness in Germany over many years.

Economic performance has fallen by 7% over the last three months. This is why we now need genuine structural reforms, in other words, a tax reform which is worthy of the name. Progress must be made with privatisation in important sectors such as energy generation, ports and lotteries, every area where the state is too heavily involved. The proposed cuts in the bloated civil service are also needed. Parts of the Greek political system have been based on this. People simply found positions for their supporters in a ministry, a public authority or a public company. In other words, the state sector is completely bloated.

I would like to remind everyone in this context that it was the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe which called for a sort of Marshall Plan some time ago. We call it the Hercules Plan and we will be happy to work on it. However, after the last Council meeting, our group also made three very specific proposals for measures to promote growth and create jobs. These proposals are addressed to the Council: the implementation of the European patent, the deployment of unused funding from the European Union budget and a plan to reduce the risk of infection within Europe. We want a debt redemption pact for the whole of Europe. We expect the Council finally to tackle this problem.

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

 
  
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  Joseph Daul (PPE), Blue-card question.(FR) Mr Lambsdorff, I do not wish to be rude but although I know Ms Kroes well, as she has been with us for a long time, I see things differently. If Greece files for bankruptcy, there are some insurers who will pay out 75% to certain companies. If it does not file for bankruptcy, these companies will be forced to give up 75%, or even 100%, of what they have invested in Greece. I am simply asking the question and we will ask Ms Kroes whether she ever thought about this.

Secondly, I spoke to Mr Samaras on the telephone yesterday evening. He expelled 21 members from his party on Sunday. That is what I call a brave man. Have you ever expelled 21 members because they didn’t vote in favour of a text? It is clear to me that Mr Samaras does not lack courage. He proved this on Sunday evening.

 
  
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  President. – It would have been nice if you could have told us which question you were asking Mr Lambsdorff.

(Heckling)

The question is whether you have already excluded 21 Members.

 
  
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  Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (ALDE), Blue-card answer.(DE) Mr President, I am looking around and I do not want to exclude any of the Members who are sitting behind me.

It is important to make it clear that we must not attach too much importance to these remarks. It is obvious that many people really have run out of patience. We want to see something happen in Greece. We are prepared to help and to show solidarity, but the phase of promises must be replaced by a phase of taking action. I believe that this is what lies behind these remarks. They are made on a pars pro toto basis. This is not just one voice speaking. Many, many people are saying the same thing.

 
  
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  Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, very often after I have listened to the speeches by the Council and the Commission, I find that I do not know which world we are living in. However, apparently, we are able to function on different planets.

Mr Šefčovič from the Commission, you mentioned 2020 and it made us think that once upon a time, there was 2020. A lovely fairytale. Once upon a time, there was also the Lisbon strategy. These were goals which were formulated, but were ultimately never put into practice. I am really very pleased that the Council has finally realised that we have high rates of youth unemployment. This has been the case for about the last eight years and they have just discovered the fact. Welcome to the real world! Perhaps you will discover other things which are happening in the world over the course of the next eight years. When you talk about youth unemployment, you could make the link with Greece. How do you plan to resolve the problem of youth unemployment in Greece? Now we come to one of the Commission’s central problems. If the neoliberal Taliban are in power in the Commission, then the Member States will have a hard time. I can tell you what is going on in Greece at the moment, and Mr Swoboda is right. It is not only irresponsible of the Troika, but I would almost say that it is criminal.

I will give you an example. I do not know which officials had their fingers in the pie. The Council and the Commission are saying that the Greeks need to save EUR 326 million. The response of the Greek Government and Mr Samaras, after they had attempted rather belatedly to put the situation in order, was that they would make the savings from the defence budget, to which some of the Commission officials replied that they must make the cuts in pensions. How did they come up with this idea and why? It is right that the money should be found from the defence budget. This is what I call the neoliberal Taliban.

You are all calling on Greece to make savings. Mr Lambsdorff, it is not true that nothing is happening. First of all, without taking into account interest, Greek debt fell last year from 10% to between 3 and 4%. They have reduced their debt by 6% of GDP. We cannot say to these people that they have done nothing. The situation is slowly starting to become outrageous. Sometimes I think I am going mad. We want to give the Greeks EUR 130 billion. Now there is a problem with EUR 380 million and we are putting a stop to everything because of the EUR 380 million. Not to beat about the bush, this is coercion. It is coercion of the Greek people and it is not a solution.

Therefore, I would finally like to say that if everyone here believes that this is the way to save Greece, then they are wrong. You cannot introduce reforms without the support of the people. If you constantly provoke the people, then they will make the wrong decisions. It may be that the people of Greece currently have the wrong ideas about certain subjects, but you will not solve this problem by making them walk on their knees. They must be able to walk upright.

I would like to say one thing to the Germans in this House. When Germany occupied Greece, it transferred 486 million from the Greek central bank to Berlin. This money has never been repaid. Taking inflation into account, this amounts to EUR 81 billion that Germany owes Greece. Why do you not tell the Germans this? This would pay off one-sixth of Greece’s debts. This is how European history can be explained. It is known as the European narrative in European history.

(Applause)

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

 
  
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  Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (ALDE), Blue-card question.(DE) Mr President, I would be very grateful if Mr Cohn-Bendit could explain to me what he believes the Taliban are. I am not familiar with the phrases ‘liberal Taliban’ and ‘neoliberal Taliban’. Mr Daul has just outed himself here as a liberal. I do not believe that he is a member of the Taliban, not even the neoliberal Taliban. We should stop all this nonsense. What is really important, and I would like to say that Mr Cohn-Bendit is right about this, is that we should all treat each other with respect. That also applies to the different peoples of Europe, including the Greeks, the Germans and the others. Treating each other with respect within the European Union should always be more important than wonderful rhetorical flights of fancy which are actually rather disrespectful.

 
  
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  Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Verts/ALE), Blue-card answer.(DE) Mr President, I would like to mention just one name. A Commission official by the name of Marco Buti made the following reply in an Ecofin meeting when he was told that the German banks had said that Portugal, Ireland and Greece would not be able to repay their debts in this way. Our colleague or comrade Marco Buti – an ayatollah, if you prefer that to the word Taliban, a neoliberal ayatollah, I am happy to correct myself – said: If anyone in my Commission were to submit these figures to me, he would be dismissed immediately. That is what I call an ayatollah. This is a person who puts religion before reality and many neoliberal officials in the Commission do just this. Reality is one thing, but with their ideology, they will destroy Europe. That is all I wanted to say.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Martin Callanan, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, European politics is no longer anchored in reality. EU summits are becoming a political ritual, somehow divorced from the real world.

Every summit – and we have seen lots of them in recent months – comes and goes with the same old mantras and demonstrations of hope triumphing over experience. A little bit more austerity and immediately confidence in the euro will somehow magically come flooding back. Another Treaty package to tinker with the rules and the markets will suddenly realise that they have been wrong all along and the euro is, in fact, completely sound. And then at the end of them all, we see the same ritual – the stern-faced leaders emerge, they gaze at the cameras and they repeat the same old mantras: ‘we will do all we can to save the euro’. But they never actually quite specify exactly what they are going to do to save the euro.

If politics has traditionally been seen as the art of the possible, the EU is turning it into an art of delusion. Surely, eventually, this nonsense needs to stop. The risks are becoming too great for yet another of the many summits that come and go, and which fail to face reality.

Let me start with Greece. I was amazed that neither the Commission nor the Council mentioned anything about Greece in their opening statements, as if it has suddenly disappeared off the map. Nobody believes that the latest package will save Greece. None of the MPs in Greece who voted for it on Sunday night seem to believe this, none of the international commentators or economists believe it; even the German Finance Minister who insisted on it does not seem to believe that it will save Greece. Because even if all of the measures that were voted for on Sunday night are implemented – and, given Greece’s record, that is probably unlikely – then by 2020, after eight more years of grinding austerity, Greece would still be in a worse position than Italy is today.

Greece is suffering from a 30% loss of competitiveness against Germany. How do you eliminate such a deficit? Economic reform in the long term will clearly be essential, but in the short term, there really is now only one solution: a default, coupled with a devaluation, is the only way now to salvage something from the wreckage of the Greek economy, and to save a generation or more of young Greeks from a miserable economic inheritance.

All of the energy currently being devoted to drafting and ratifying a new Treaty that is completely irrelevant to the ongoing crisis would be better employed drafting and implementing a plan for the orderly withdrawal of Greece from the euro, including carefully prepared support for the banks that will be most affected. That is the sustainable solution and everything else is just a very expensive way of further kicking the can down the road.

 
  
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  Lothar Bisky, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the European Council spring summit is traditionally devoted to discussing the economic and employment policies of the European Union, more recently in connection with the so-called European Semester. This year, however, the debate is likely to be overshadowed by the dramatic situation in Greece. Greece is the ideal example on which to base a discussion about the failure of the economic and financial policies of the European Union. The predominant global policy of deregulation and privatisation has plunged the European Union into the most serious crisis it has ever experienced. As a result of this policy of deregulation, the global financial markets and also the commodity markets have got completely out of control or, more accurately, have fallen victim to speculators. The Greek crisis is also a result of EU policy, because the existing macro-economic imbalances between the Member States will be significantly exacerbated by the Europe 2020 strategy. These imbalances are what the financial speculators are now gambling on.

It is not only Greece which is fighting for survival. A policy which has had such disastrous consequences in Greece and in other countries, such as Portugal, Spain and Italy, needs fundamental changes. In fact, it must be reversed. Austerity measures are making the economic recession worse, as the fall in the gross domestic product figures of these countries has shown so dramatically. My group was strongly opposed to the Europe 2020 strategy and the imposition of one-sided austerity and debt reduction policies right from the outset. Instead, we need programmes to stimulate sustainable growth and to create jobs, together with programmes for investment, for the environment and for education.

A policy which involves axing social services, abolishing social legislation and restricting fundamental democratic and parliamentary rights, while at the same time supporting the banks to the tune of hundreds of billions of euro, can only lead to outrage and social unrest. The Greek Government is losing its political base, the parties which belong to it are losing their members and the structure of society is collapsing. This is the result of Greek and European policy and it requires a fundamental change in the EU’s approach in favour of one which serves the interests of the people rather than those of the banks.

One scenario could begin with the financial markets. Let us imagine that the European Central Bank (ECB) could lend money directly to the Member States via a public bank. This would enable the Member States to circumvent the international financial markets and to obtain the loans they need at favourable interest rates. No one could gamble on Greek, Portuguese or other bonds. All of the hype surrounding the markets would disappear. Does that sound appealing? All we need is the determination to take this step, and this is what my group is calling for.

 
  
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  Nigel Farage, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, the Commissioner picked the right man: puppet Papademos is in place and, as Athens caught fire on Sunday night, he rather took my breath away. He said: ‘violence and destruction have no place in a democratic country’. What democratic country? He is not even a democratically elected Prime Minister. He has been appointed by you guys.

Greece is not run through democracy now, it is run through a Troika: three foreign officials who fly into Athens airport and tell the Greeks what they can and cannot do. The violence and destruction that you saw on Sunday is being caused directly because people are having their democratic rights taken from them; what else can they do? If I were a Greek citizen, I would have been out there joining those protests on Sunday; I would be out there trying to bring down this monstrosity that has been put upon those people. In the puppet’s efforts to get the MPs to vote for the bail-out package, he warned them that if they did not do so, there would be a dramatic decline in living standards.

Has he looked outside the front door? Has he seen the fact that 50% of the young people are unemployed already? Has he seen the fact that the economy, far from stalling, has contracted for five years in a row, and is now accelerating on a downward debt spiral, a contraction of 7% per annum?

Greece is being driven into the ground, and when it comes to chaos, you ain’t seen nothing yet. These policies are driving Greece towards a revolution. They need to be set free. If they do not get the drachma back, you will be responsible for something truly, truly horrible.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Francisco Sosa Wagner (NI).(ES) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are holding yet another debate on a summit. Many summits have taken place, and are all announced to great fanfare, trying to create an expectation that diminishes every day. These summits are starting to lose credibility because they do not contribute to resolving the crisis. The same agreements are reiterated time and time again at summits.

It should be noted that, whilst there is no progress on political union and on strengthening this Parliament and the executive power of the European Commission, summits will keep on taking place, but the economic crisis will get worse.

Two ideas, very briefly: the first, the need to insist on the fact that responsible solidarity and the fulfilling of duties are the building blocks from which Europe is built; the second, that the immediate use of unspent Structural Funds must be authorised. The sums involved can easily allow the unemployment figures among young European citizens to be tackled.

 
  
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  Markus Ferber (PPE).(DE) Mr President, Mr Wammen, Mr Šefčovič, ladies and gentlemen, once again, the Heads of State or Government are meeting to discuss growth, employment and competitiveness and to exchange papers on these subjects without actually taking any action. I can remember papers on the topic of youth unemployment at the end of the 1990s which identified that some Member States had lower levels of youth unemployment and others had higher levels, and which explained that it would be a good idea to look at what those countries with low rates were doing. Fourteen years have now passed and nothing has happened.

When people say that we need to show solidarity, I would like to remind them that in the last 31 years, Greece has received more than EUR 100 billion from the Structural Funds. That is an expression of European solidarity. It has repeatedly been said that the money can be used, for example, to fund education and training, in particular for young people. I can remember initiatives in the region which I come from that involved attempts to introduce the dual educational system in different areas of Greece. However, this did not work. The energy revolution is still in progress in Greece and this and many other things could be financed using money from the Structural Funds. This demonstrates Europe’s solidarity. However, we also need to increase the pressure to ensure that the funds made available by the European Union are used for the purposes which will be discussed during the spring summit. Otherwise, this will once again be a summit with lots of interesting papers but no concrete results.

 
  
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  Maria Eleni Koppa (S&D).(EL) Mr President, last Sunday the Greek Parliament passed measures on the new bailout, a harsh package of measures which will undoubtedly shake social cohesion once again in a country which has suffered a series of extreme and barbaric measures over the past two years. It passed them because it had no other choice; because the majority of Greek people have agreed to suffer numerous sacrifices in order to remain in the euro area, so that the country does not go bankrupt and have to leave the euro; because the majority of parliamentarians put the nation’s duty before their conscience, before their conviction that we are reversing decades of achievements in labour rights. How has Europe responded? That ‘nothing is certain’, that ‘we shall see’ and that ‘there are second thoughts’.

We need to be clear; Greece has made great progress and now it needs a clear, positive message, a hope that will give Greeks the strength to shoulder the burden of the obligations it has undertaken. However, on the contrary, every day we receive contradictory messages which do not assuage the anxieties of the Greek people. The key point of the Spring Council is employment and growth, but what are the specific proposals and the framework for the countries hit by the crisis? So far, we have only heard wish lists, with ever harsher measures being imposed in practice, with wage and pension cuts leading to spiralling unemployment and exacerbating the recession. Today, we expect the Council, albeit belatedly, to present specific, targeted measures for growth and unemployment. Unfortunately, the margins, not only in my country, Greece, but in the euro area as a whole, are very narrow.

(Applause)

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), Blue-card question.(PT) Mr President, Mr Ferber tells us that Greece has been the beneficiary of European solidarity. I would presume that he thinks the same about Portugal or Ireland, for example. I would ask him for his comments on the statement by Klaus Regling, his compatriot and the Chief Executive Officer of the European Financial Stability Facility, who has said that bailing out countries like Portugal and Ireland has been a good deal for the guarantor countries, and that, to date, it is only Germany that has gained, since the country is receiving from Portugal and Ireland interest rates higher than the refinancing that it undertook, with the difference going back into the German budget. I would ask you, Mr Ferber, is this solidarity or extortion?

 
  
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  Markus Ferber (PPE), Blue-card answer. (DE) Mr President, Mr Ferreira, I specifically referred to the European Union Structural Funds. However, I would like to ask for understanding on this point. If this funding had been spent in the same way as the Federal Republic of Germany used the money from the Marshall Plan, you would not need a rescue package today.

 
  
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  Andrew Duff (ALDE). – Mr President, try as one might to respect the European Council, it is fairly clear that there is not one of its members that still believes that system of government works. Should we be respecting the remorseless logic of fiscal union? Why are we not taking decisive steps to bring it on now?

If we agree that we need, for Greece and other countries, fiscal solidarity and a federal economic government, then bring it on today. Can we really wait five years to integrate the Fiscal Compact Treaty inside the Union? More procrastination and false starts by national governments and partial agreements, subject to national parliamentary vetoes, with the odd referendum thrown in, will not save the European Union from self-destruction.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, speaking from this tribune as a member of the only directly elected institution of the European Union, I wish to ask the Council representative and, more importantly, the Commission representative, the following:

Commissioner, do you believe that there is democracy in the European Union and in Greece? Is it a sign of democracy when the meeting of the Eurogroup is postponed because written statements from the parties that support the Papademos government have not yet been received, when those parties no longer represent the Greek people and the leaders of the parties being dissolved no longer represent the Greek people? Is it democracy, Commissioner, when Greek members of parliament are required to study the 750-page long memorandum which you imposed in the space of an afternoon, in a city flooded with thousands of workers and stifled by tear gas, resulting in a disastrous Memorandum for Greece?

Is there democracy in the European Union? Are you complying with EU legislation when you Commissioners, via the Troika, impose and demand the abolition of collective bargaining and the repeal of labour law and when Commissioner Andor, in reply to my question, tells me that Greece is a ‘special case’? Is it democracy when Greece is governed by the Troika and the various gauleiters of the International Monetary Fund and the Commission, with Greek ministers behaving like subordinates? Is it democracy when …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Barry Madlener (NI). (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, EU Commissioner Kroes said last week that it would not be the end of the world if Greece left the euro area. Evidently, the Commission therefore has an exit strategy at the ready, from which it follows that it would actually be better for the Greeks to leave the currency union. I can totally understand why. It is our duty, as democrats, to inform citizens of all possible options. Greece is going to the dogs because of the cuts which are being forced on it by non-elected bureaucrats. The Troika is something akin to a dictatorship.

Mr Barroso, the Commission has blown the whistle on Commissioner Kroes after her statement about Greece, but I would ask the Commission to ensure transparency. Bring that exit strategy out in the open. Meanwhile, billions of taxpayers’ money is again being poured into the bottomless Greek pit when everyone knows, even the IMF, that this round of financial support is not going to help Greece any more than the previous rounds did. Greece will have to leave the currency union if it is to stand any chance at all of economic recovery. Even if we completely wrote off the Greek debt, the Greek economy would not be able to survive in the euro area.

We and the Greeks have a right to such an exit strategy. There can be no talk of democracy if all kinds of secret reports are knocking about inside the Commission. Greece is critically ill and the only remedy for her illness is the reintroduction of the Greek drachma.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE).(IT) Mr President, I have to admit that today’s debate perfectly mirrors our contradictions and our powerlessness. On the one hand, I note that the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament has condemned a pension reform that it has just applauded in a similar manner in Italy. It is not clear how a measure that is commendable for one country can be negative for another.

On the other hand, governments asking Greece to show proof of its virtue and of its cuts in public expenditure are also effectively forcing it to buy military hardware, thus exponentially increasing that same public expenditure. I find this an enormous contradiction. Who is the true victim of such a contradiction? Many say it is the Greek people. However, there is another victim, and that is Europe.

I think you will all have seen the pictures of the Greek Parliament besieged in the midst of burning buildings, among which European flags with a Nazi swastika in the middle could be seen. Be careful, therefore, because the true victim of this crisis of democracy is precisely a democratic process such as our own, which – despite the fact that it acts in the interests of European citizens and guarantees peace and growth – is perceived today as being totally evil.

We must take action. Mr President, I beg you to go to Athens to take the voice of the European Parliament to the Greek Parliament, which is being besieged against any democratic logic. I would like to remind everyone that our true objective is to ensure peace and growth for all.

 
  
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  Catherine Trautmann (S&D). (FR) Mr President, Minister, Commissioner, Greece has been forced into an endless spiral of austerity and today, these modern-day doctors Diafoirus, these advocates of blood-letting, are refusing to deliver the aid promised. How do we explain this to the Greek citizens who are being doubly punished with pressure and injustice?

There are alternative approaches. Let me propose one: the fight against tax avoidance. The tax haven provided by Switzerland costs Greece an estimated EUR 16.4 billion in loss of earnings. Tackling this resolutely would enable Greece to get back on track with the stability pact without sacrificing the future.

Greece has been pushed by circumstances into considering a bilateral agreement with Switzerland, similar to the Rubik agreements signed by the United Kingdom and Germany. Executing this partial levy on fraudulent investments, instead of prosecuting fraudsters, is institutional recognition of tax fraud and a bad deal financially. The Union should follow the example of the United States, which has successfully forced Switzerland to provide the bank details of suspected fraudsters.

What are the Commission’s plans now that its services have concluded the illegality of these agreements in a note that I believe should be made public? What does it suggest for the future now that its proposed Savings Tax Directive has been buried by the Council and, in particular, by Germany?

In short, what does it intend to propose so as to stop constantly penalising the poor? I would like it if the Commissioner could respond because this question is important, but I can see that he has not been listening.

 
  
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  Sylvie Goulard (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, Mr Wammen, Mr Šefčovič, I do not know what we are saying this morning. I find this debate quite astonishing, as if we are discovering each other’s true positions. I merely wish to comment on our approach. Could the European Council simply have the humility to reflect on what has been missing over the last year and why we are in this position? It is not a matter of finding out who is right or wrong, but trying to figure out how the approach can be changed.

I think the most serious problem is that we are trying to impose stability by force. We are trying to impose on a population – which has reforms to make, which has had enormous problems with its economic and perhaps political management – the stability of the euro area by force. This is in total contradiction to everything that has been done since 1950 on this continent, where the participation of each and every one of us should be voluntary and where democracy should prevail over the balance of power and economic considerations.

 
  
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  Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, the situation in Greece does not need recommendations. ‘Memorandum Two’, passed on Sunday, 12 February by the parties of capital and rubberstamped by the EU/ECB/IMF Troika, is a blatantly barbaric attack on the working people. The new borrowing agreement and its flanking measures will make modern-day slaves of the workers, forcing them to work for a loaf of bread. The attack is sweeping. Crushing cuts to wages, pensions, health, welfare and education, mass unemployment, poverty and the impoverishment of the people. Everything is being demolished. This is uncontrolled bankruptcy of the nation.

Greece is a special, exceptional case. Spearheaded by the EU 2020 strategy, the EU and the bourgeois governments are jointly attacking the working classes and grassroots classes in every Member State of the EU with the same savageness. Even this blatantly anti-grassroots policy will not prevent friction in the EU or even the risk of general warfare for the redistribution of the markets. Three days after the new Memorandum was passed, the EU has already started a new round of terrorism and pressure on the Greek people to accept even worse measures. This spells the end of self-delusion about a unified EU, convergence, solidarity and peace. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on the streets of Greece, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, France and elsewhere are shouting as much from the rooftops. It is time now for the organised working/grassroots class movement to speak. As you sow, so shall you …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD) . – (LT) Mr President, I am among those who believe that by building our Member State societies before the fact, so that they lose some sovereignty and independence, we will not create the desired unity and financial control. I am among those who believe that the new Treaty will be a huge minus. By imposing the Treaty, the draft of which has not yet been seen by Member State citizens, we are destroying the idea of a Union of equal states. Mr President, any questions relating to the constitutional structure, independence and statehood of Member States must be addressed not behind closed doors but in national referenda.

 
  
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  Liisa Jaakonsaari (S&D), Blue-card question.(FI) Mr President, I miss Prime Minister George Papandreou, who, I think, proposed the brilliant idea that a referendum should be held in Greece to acquire support for these savings.

You claimed that there was no feeling of solidarity in Europe. I say that there is: German, Finnish, Dutch and Austrian taxpayers have all shown solidarity.

I would also expect a measure of self-criticism from the Greeks, though we heard none at all in your speech. It is as if the guilty parties were anywhere else but in Greece. So can I ask for some self-criticism?

 
  
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  Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL), Blue-card answer.(EL) Mr President, firstly, I should like to express my thanks to the working classes, the grassroots classes and young people in my country, to the German, French, Danish and all workers in the Member States, for the unprecedented solidarity which they have expressed in various ways. Greek workers have taken and have given solidarity.

However, we are not debating today the differences between workers, which the parties of capital are artfully trying to foster, because that is what facilitates the passage of this anti-grassroots policy, both in Greece and in other Member States. What is at risk – and I will finish here, Mr President – is this: huge wealth is being produced and that huge wealth must, for the welfare of the people, pass to all the Member States of the European Union.

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, the Fiscal Compact which Heads of Government will soon be asked to sign is a private agreement open to all EU States, but does not have to be agreed by all States. It is not, therefore, an official EU Treaty. Whilst Member States can, under Article 273 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, bring an alleged breach of a private agreement to the Court of Justice, there is no provision in the Treaties for the Court to enforce agreements on excessive budget deficits, despite claims to the contrary, and it might not even be able to adjudicate on them.

If the parties to this agreement wish it to be enforceable, it will have to become a Treaty agreed by all Member States. Mr Cameron saying that he does not object to the European Court or the European Commission being used is simply not enough for it to become a Treaty.

When the British Prime Minister vetoed the proposed Treaty in December, he did so to protect his friends in the City. I hope that at future European Council meetings, Mr Cameron will veto any attempt to turn this agreement into a Treaty, with the purpose of preventing the creation of an economic straitjacket that might one day be imposed on Britain.

 
  
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  Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (PPE). – Mr President, nobody speaks about the geopolitical consequences of the eventual exit and destabilisation of Greece. Whatever happens – and we know that we do not know – geopolitical consequences should form part of an overall European balance sheet.

Let us imagine the situation for a moment. First: a weakened south-east flank of the Union; second: the Greek Schengen border in danger; third: the impact on the balance of power in the Middle East, in the Mediterranean and in the Western Balkans; fourth: the danger of an authoritarian scenario in Greece. What would be the political weight of those geopolitical consequences of Greece going bankrupt? The answer is: significant and far-reaching.

We need therefore a holistic approach and not one of an accountant. We need a political solution to the crisis and not a bookkeeper’s solution.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Roberto Gualtieri (S&D).(IT) Mr President, by taking part in a critical but constructive capacity in the negotiations for the fiscal compact, this Parliament has reached an important point of unity. Greater budgetary responsibility at national level is necessary but insufficient, and without concrete steps towards growth and solidarity, it could lead to an unsustainable downward spiral towards recession.

There is no evidence of Parliament’s approach, which is well thought-out and balanced, in the preparatory documents of the European Council. For the Council and the Commission, the word ‘growth’ seems to mean fiscal consolidation and salary reductions. It is true that there are positive developments taking place on the internal market, but they are not enough. Growth requires a robust internal driver, which involves a two-pronged objective: to reinforce internal demand in countries with a surplus and to promote an extraordinary investment plan financed by project bonds.

However, the Commission only interprets the macro-economic imbalances in one direction – ignoring the logic of the Ferreira rule – and there is no trace of project bonds and shared investments in the European Council documents, except for a vacuous game in which the card picked is to use the existing resources of the Structural Funds, a bit like the way Mussolini used to move his tanks around in the Second World War to make it seem as if he had a bigger army than he actually had.

It is therefore clear that this ruling class has had its day, and only a major political sea change can save Europe from disaster.

 
  
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  Pablo Zalba Bidegain (PPE).(ES) Mr President, Commissioner, after the Council meetings held recently, Adenauer’s statement that ‘we all live under the same sky, but we do not all have the same horizon’, appears to be losing clout in favour of the construction of this common area, the European Union.

The most important issue remains, however, in that we should actively implement all the measures agreed during recent Council meetings. Up to now, the austerity measures appear to have been applied most speedily.

I will insist as many times as is necessary in this plenary, however, that we are not getting anywhere by only applying austerity; we need growth. These tough but essential adjustment programmes have to go hand in hand with the necessary reforms to generate growth and employment.

Up to now, Spain has been at the forefront of this comprehensive austerity and reform plan. The three major reforms that were approved – ‘budgetary stability’, ‘reform of the financial system’ and ‘labour reform’ – testify to that. These reforms have merited the acknowledgement of different governments and media, despite the obstacles being placed in their way by launching unfounded rumours. The latter began with sport and yesterday threatened to spread into our economy and our politics.

Let us continue to work for the same horizon.

 
  
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  Enrique Guerrero Salom (S&D).(ES) Mr President, the Council and the Commission have given us the agenda for the next meeting: growth, international summits, Serbia, the ‘Arab Spring’, all very important issues.

Nonetheless, I think the moment has arrived for the Council, possibly in a monographic manner, to address the great risk to the European political project when it comes to the way things are heading. Europhobic parties are on the rise in northern and central Europe. There have been temptations to close the area of free movement, and the new Danish Government should be thanked for having avoided exclusion from Schengen. There has been the temptation to exclude EU citizens from the East, as in the case of the Dutch political party website. The values of the Union are at risk in countries such as Hungary or Romania.

The Commission has informed us that we have been fire fighting up to now when it comes to the economy. When it comes to the Union, and from a political standpoint, we should not be putting out fires, but rather trying to avoid them.

 
  
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  Theodor Dumitru Stolojan (PPE). (RO) Mr President, we can all see that an historical economic truth is being confirmed, namely, that emerging and recovering from a crisis that started in the financial sector is much more difficult and takes much more time. Within this framework, we can say that 2012 is an extremely important year for Europe, a year when we can either take the necessary action to return to growth, or enter into what is called a lost decade for development. In order to come out of this stagnation, I believe that both the Commission and the Member States should review the allocation of resources and their priorities, and actually allocate the resources needed for growth and the creation of new jobs.

 
  
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  Robert Goebbels (S&D).(FR) Mr President, I have a very simple question to which I would like a precise answer from the Council and the Commission.

Who authorised the Troika to impose on the Greek Government, Parliament and people a 22% drop in the minimum wage? Was it the European Council and President Van Rompuy? Was it the Commission and President Barroso? Or was it the Eurogroup and President Juncker?

I cannot imagine that these anonymous and politically irresponsible officials decided, completely independently, so undemocratically, these absurd measures such as a reduction in pensions or this drop in the minimum wage from EUR 870 to EUR 586? Who can possibly believe that slashing the buying power of the most humble workers such as cleaners, shopkeepers or night watchmen will restore the Greek economy and Greek exports? This is a concrete question, and I expect a precise answer.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE).(PT) Mr President, I would essentially like to say that we await a major economic decision on the countries that have been bailed out at the upcoming European Council, which is closely linked to the issue of the Structural Funds. The Structural Funds need to be streamlined. A significant proportion of this funding remains unused and much of it has been used purely and simply for major infrastructure projects. It must be geared towards competitiveness for small and medium-sized enterprises, so as to enable economic recovery. The only investment that countries like Greece, Portugal, Ireland and others can receive is that currently coming from the Structural Funds.

I would also raise a political point for all EU politicians; for those involved in the European process in good faith. When talking about systems, there is a need to be very careful to respect national identities and the Member States. Although many of them often have good intentions, not all EU politicians have risen to this challenge of complete respect for the national identity of each Member State.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D).(PT) Mr President, what is the public expecting from another European Council? Deferred decisions defending the single currency and the European project? Brave decisions promoting territorial and social cohesion? Decisions that rein in national self-interest and prevent Europe from becoming disunited? Austerity programmes, which require many sacrifices of the European public, are not the solution and are causing unfair and dangerous anti-German sentiment.

It is obvious that countries as diverse as Greece, Ireland and Portugal cannot be subject to the same treatment, as they are suffering different ailments. We need more Europe. We need to strengthen political unity, pool sovereign debt and promote tax harmonisation. We need economic growth and job creation. Without this, we will become increasingly poorer, less united and less relevant in a globalised world.

I hope that you are aware of the gravity of the situation and have learned a lesson from the Wall Street Crash of 1929. I also hope you recognise that if, as in the past, Europe continues along this path, democracy and peace will be put at risk. Policy makers need to restore public trust and hope as a matter of urgency.

 
  
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  Marietta Giannakou (PPE).(EL) Mr President, the Spring Council, as an institution that addresses competitiveness, growth and employment, is hugely significant. However, if we engage in a little self-criticism, we shall see that its success to date has not been significant. There are 23 million unemployed in Europe and, of course, today it does not appear likely that fifty years of prosperity and growth in Europe will be followed by another fifty. In particular, certain countries, such as my country, are now in a truly tragic situation.

We Greeks thank our partners, because they are helping us at a very difficult time. However, I should like to point out that what the leaders of Europe say must not insult the people; this is directed, in particular, at the German side, which has the history and faculties to understand what I am talking about. We cannot behave differently. We must only behave as partners. We are partners and we must help those suffering in difficult times. Greece will apply the programme, but any such programme also needs growth rates. Any such programme also needs support because, without growth, hope will ultimately die and the Greeks will die with it.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Philippe Lamberts (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Commission yesterday published its first macro-economic surveillance report and it is a good job this mechanism exists.

Evidently, as was to be expected, Germany escapes all surveillance and escapes any criticism from the Commission. It should be noted that the alert thresholds for macro-economic imbalances have been designed to prevent Germany from falling foul of enhanced surveillance. This can only be related to the curious fact that France also, whose deficits are consistently well above 3%, has still not been admonished by the Commission.

Therefore, I can only observe that the Commission is running a two-speed Europe. There is a Franco-German executive, whom it is better to leave alone, and then there is everyone else, who can be scrutinised.

Commissioners, you will only restore trust when you put the same energy into tackling private debt and public debt, struggling banks and struggling Member States, inequality and public deficits, and France and Germany, along with all the Member States in difficulty.

 
  
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  Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (PPE).(HU) Mr President, we should consider it a success that in March this year, the ‘six-pack’ will be supplemented by a new element, namely, the fiscal compact facilitating compliance with common economic governance. Yet I do not consider it such. By now, it has become clear that austerity measures alone are insufficient to guarantee recovery from the crisis. I find it incomprehensible how certain Commissioners can disregard economic analyses based on precise indicators and perhaps base their evaluations on political sentiments, thereby causing disturbances to the markets and, even more importantly, to the Member State concerned. They then envisage a penalty, a withholding of funds, followed by further budgetary austerity, that is, they are letting the Member State concerned bleed out. There is a further problem. How is it that when the IMF or the EU adopt short-term measures to restore the budget, it is acceptable, whereas if a Member State does so on its own, it is not? What is the reason for this? I often have the feeling that Europe wants both everything and nothing, and wants them immediately and simultaneously.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D).(LT) Mr President, many bitter and fair words have been spoken in this Chamber today. Two and a half years ago, we voted in favour of the composition of the European Commission, and many very good and fine plans were presented which we also discussed today. Today, practically none of these plans have been implemented and it is recognised that today, many of the guidelines we adopted are not working. We need to listen very carefully to a phrase used today by the Greek Interior Minister. The European Commission will have to bear the consequences that will now follow in Greece because it refused to give Greece hope that it will also be supported by the European Union. Those of us in the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats have often said that we have to draw attention to the social exclusion that exists in all countries, but we were focused on profit, we were focused on economic indicators, and social exclusion was very complex. Therefore, I would like to call on the Commission to take more individual responsibility and would like us to truly feel that the situation is improving for people on low incomes in all countries.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE).(RO) Mr President, the current European Union figures are alarming: 5 million young unemployed, 7.5 million young people aged between 15 and 24 who lack education or training and have no jobs. The potential of the young generation should not be lost and that is why the European Council debate of March must consider combating youth unemployment as a priority.

Within the context of the Europe 2020 strategy, Member States must tackle youth unemployment issues in their national reform programmes for 2012. Moreover, these programmes need to include a guarantee for young people to ensure that any young person in the European Union has the right to apprenticeship training and a formula that combines work activity and professional training after a period of 4 months of unemployment. Complementary to these measures, Member States should support initiatives that facilitate green jobs, health and social services, known as white coat jobs, and the digital economy.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). (SK) Mr President, I believe that the forthcoming summit will at last bring some results, because the fiscal compact in itself will certainly not lead the European Union out of the crisis. Cuts will take us into recession, and the economic slump will make it even harder to repay debts and their burden will keep growing. The need to kick start employment growth is still underestimated. Whereas austerity measures are slowly becoming law, there are still only general calls for a growth and employment initiative. From a European perspective, such steps are extremely unfortunate. The growth initiative is weak. The fiscal compact is being adopted outside the European Treaties and has exemptions, and the role of Parliament – that is, us – in the negotiations on these matters is reduced to the absolute minimum. Europe must remain united and stick to democratic principles and existing legal frameworks. We must look for resources that can be sensibly invested in economic recovery.

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE).(FR) Mr President, Mr Wammen, Mr Šefčovič, I am having trouble getting used to the fact that, under the Treaty of Lisbon, it is the General Affairs Council that prepares the European Council meetings and it is you, Mr President, who wishes to participate in the European Council. I propose that President Van Rompuy be invited to prepare European Council meetings.

I would like to discuss three ideas, primarily with regard to making savings, but specifically savings in the sense of avoiding public spending. I propose that we consider pooling the resources of the European Union and the Member States, starting, for example, with an audit by the European Court of Auditors, in partnership with our 27 national courts of auditors, on the savings we could make. Twenty-seven armies, more enemies, research programmes financed 15 times over without coordination and hundreds of diplomatic buildings for which we could guarantee management for 10 years.

Finally, for growth, we should return to this idea of a major investment of EUR 1 000 to 1 500 billion in the Europe 2020 strategy. I also think we are not working enough on social convergence, with minimum wages that are not progressing. What hope do our people have if we fail to factor into the price chain a return to social convergence?

 
  
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  Ana Gomes (S&D).(PT) Mr President, many voices, particularly among German liberals and right-wingers, are accusing Greece of not fulfilling its agreement with the Troika. However, what do they have to say about Portugal, which is doing everything completely by the book, to the extent that it seems to be keener on the measures than the Troika itself, and yet, having had a public debt of 92% of gross domestic product (GDP) on signing the agreement with the Troika last May, nine months later, Portugal now has a public debt of 110% of GDP? Does this not mean that the prescription of recessive austerity is mistaken and completely counterproductive?

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, the situation in Greece – a subject which the Commission and the Council have tried to avoid wherever possible – shows us the destructive potential of the EU-IMF pacts of aggression. In Portugal, as in Greece, these pacts of aggression are exacerbating all of the country’s problems. As in Greece, in Portugal they are already preparing to announce the failure of the first pact of aggression, perhaps to pave the way for a second. The sad scenes that we saw at the last Economic and Financial Affairs Council laid to rest the assertions that Greece is a unique case and reflected the private acknowledgement, unexpectedly laid bare in public, of what everyone already knew. Under the conditions imposed by the EU and the IMF, the debt cannot be repaid, but will continue to serve as justification for an ongoing and intolerable process of extorting national resources.

This confirms a basic proposition: namely, that the most pressing task facing the workers and peoples of Europe is to derail these EU-IMF pacts of aggression. This struggle, which may be drawn-out, is a key factor in determining the pace of the collective life of the European peoples over the coming years or even decades.

 
  
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  Sylvana Rapti (S&D).(EL) Mr President, I should like to make a proposal. We constantly talk about Greece here, and rightly so, but we must not forget that, behind Greece, stand Portugal, Spain and France. We all watched as they were downgraded by the credit rating agencies. So we must know that the bankruptcy of Greece spells the bankruptcy of European ideals and the bankruptcy of the European social model.

Hannes Swoboda, Chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, has made a very wise proposal: that we socialists should set up our own Troika, a Troika comprising three former Ministers for Finance, Mr Goebbels, Mr Ferreira and Mr Kalfin. I therefore propose, because I have heard a lot of people speak with solidarity and social cohesion in Europe in mind, that an organisation – a Troika – should be set up from the whole of Parliament and then all of us in all the political groups who believe in Europe, all of us who want the European Union alive, should draft a motion for a resolution that shows that the European Parliament, which represents the citizens of Europe, exists, is taking action and wants the European Union.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Maroš Šefčovič, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, this was a very lively debate and a lot of direct questions were addressed to the Commission. Some of the comments on the issue were not very positive, but please bear with me and I will try to respect the time limit.

First, there was a question asking what the official position of the Commission was on Greece. I want to make it absolutely clear that in the Commission, we want Greece to remain a member of the euro area. We have stated this many times and I am very glad that I can restate it today.

I would go even further. I would say that Greece does not have a closer and better ally than the Commission these days. From day one – in Athens, in Brussels, in all the capitals where the issue of Greece was discussed – we have been present and we have been trying to do our utmost to help and assist Greece. The Commission and all the officials are working flat out to iron out the programme for Greece and to help Greece to prepare a realistic and good programme. We have worked day and night, with no summer breaks, no winter breaks and no weekends, all day long.

I have to say that we have always been looking for ways in which to get the best solution for Greece and how to get it supported by the citizens in Greece. Do not forget, these solutions must be also supported in other Member States, because – and I know that we probably disagree on this with some of you – we are already talking about unprecedented support which has been offered to help Greece. Therefore, I cannot comment on, and I resent, Mr Cohn-Bendit’s comments concerning Marco Buti or other officials of the Commission. They really do not deserve this.

We do not have ultra-liberal Taliban, but hard-working, dedicated officials who are keeping Greece from falling into the abyss of disorderly default. What is the difference between the situation and the plan the Troika offered and disorderly default? I think the best you can do is listen to the very graphic description of this possibility made by the Greek Prime Minister, Mr Papademos, or the Greek Finance Minister, Mr Venizelos.

There was criticism here of the measures on the salaries and pensions, but do we know of an alternative? What would be an alternative to disorderly default? What would be the consequences? I think that the Greek Parliament has realised how dreadful this alternative is and, therefore, supported the proposals made by the Troika by a big majority of two-thirds. They supported the package.

Regarding the concrete question from Mr Goebbels who suggested the minimum wage cut by 22%; this was a request from the Eurogroup. And why? Because this measure is essential to fight unemployment and restore competitiveness to the Greek economy.

It is also important to consider the context. Labour costs in Greece rose by 54% in the years following 2000, compared with 28% in Portugal and 18% in Germany. It is true that they have fallen by an average of 40% over the two years 2010 and 2011, but more clearly needs to be done. The minimum monthly wage in Greece is at present EUR 110 higher than in Spain, and EUR 266 higher than in Portugal. These are the facts.

(Cries of dissent)

What else has the Commission done for Greece? I would just like to list some of the measures. EU cofinancing rates have been boosted by 10% to as high as 95%. EUR 500 million of EU funding is being reprogrammed so it can be used to guarantee financing provided to SMEs. Around 180 major projects are being kick-started, which will result in 100 000 jobs, including in the construction phase. All this whilst the EU is providing continued financial solidarity to Greece.

The two programmes put together amount to EUR 240 billion, and this is equivalent to over 100% of the Greek GDP. I know that some political forces question the adequacy of the amount of financial assistance provided to Greece, but it should also be recalled that the level of support in this unprecedented show of solidarity reflects the mandate given by the Member States under which the Troika and Greece have conducted the negotiations.

You also know very well that the Commission was helping the Greek authorities to negotiate with PSI – private sector investors – on private sector involvement. This may result in an overall figure – including both programmes and the private sector involvement as a result of the negotiations – of well over EUR 300 billion. So I think it is evident that the effort being made is huge.

Concerning the Eurogroup meeting of today, yesterday it became clear that the second programme and arrangements for its funding from both sides – Greece and the Eurogroup – both need to be finalised. Today, there will be a conference call and the Commission will do its utmost to put all the finishing touches to the agreement, because we want this to be a success and we want to do our utmost to help Greece. I hope that we will have a positive result next Monday when the Eurogroup and the Ecofin ministers meet.

If you will allow me, I will also comment on two other questions. Mr Daul asked what the European Spring summit will be about. It will be about economic governance and about growth and jobs. I agree with him 100% that what we need to do is to progress much faster with the Single Market Act, and I would like to thank this Parliament for its support.

I had a very constructive meeting yesterday with the Conference of Committee Chairs, where I think we made quite good progress. I really felt the strong will to go faster with the legislative proposals, so we can remove the remaining barriers to the single market which are preventing the European Union from using it better to create new jobs and economic growth.

The Services Directive is a pain – I agree with you, Mr President – and therefore we took three Member States to the Court because delaying putting this very important growth-enhancing measure into operation is unacceptable.

My last point is to Mr Lamberts. Yesterday, we adopted for the first time the alert mechanism report and we are going to screen and analyse the situation of the 12 Member States. France is among them. In the event that Germany is not within the established indicators, I can assure you that the German situation will be analysed as well. We will do our utmost to be absolutely fair and to use the new economic governance tool we have at our disposal with the utmost efficiency and utmost fairness.

 
  
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  Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council. (DA) Mr President, Commissioner, honourable Members, on behalf of the Council, I would like to thank Parliament for a lively and very committed debate. I would also like to make it absolutely clear that we have listened and that, as far as possible, we will follow the good advice that has been given here today.

It is very important for the Danish Presidency to make it clear that the approach that has been set out concerning a responsible economic policy – where we tighten our belts and where we need to implement the ‘six-pack’ and the other financial initiatives fully and with precision in order for us to ensure that Europe gets back on track – will be a top priority for the Danish Presidency.

However, I would also like to state very clearly that this cannot stand alone. There is also a need for us to set a clear course when it comes to growth and the creation of jobs. From the point of view of the Danish Presidency, these two things should go hand in hand: financial restraint, on the one hand, and growth and jobs, on the other. We must not be satisfied with just the one, but need to have both of these if we are really to get Europe and the EU back on course.

It is therefore very positive that it was made absolutely clear at the informal meeting of the Heads of State or Government on 30 January that precisely these aspects of growth and jobs are now to be placed very high on the European agenda, and that we said that what is needed in particular is to create jobs and opportunities for those young people who, throughout Europe, are looking to the European Parliament, the Commission and the Member States to answer one question; namely, how they can be assured of, and have a real chance of getting, a job in this Europe of ours.

There are millions of young people waiting for the answer, and it is an answer that we must provide jointly. It is therefore absolutely necessary for us to make a start on creating the opportunities for the nearly seven million young people who lack jobs and training. We also clearly need to take a perspective that encompasses all of the 23 million Europeans in the EU who are without a job right now. This is a top priority for the Danish Presidency, and I would like to thank all of the Members of Parliament here today who have raised the important question of how we can ensure that this remains on the agenda. I would like to thank both Mr Daul and Mr Swoboda and all of the other speakers who have made this point very clearly.

With regard to Greece, our position is clear. In Europe, we have a joint responsibility to help Greece out of the crisis. However, Greece obviously has a responsibility to help itself out of the crisis, too. We therefore also believe that it was a very good thing that the Greek Parliament took a firm, difficult, but also necessary, decision a few days ago. This does not mean that all of the problems are solved, but it does mean that we can now make a start on hopefully getting Greece genuinely back on track. We also have to say to our friends in Greece that it was, without doubt, important to take the decisions in Parliament, but it is even more important to actually put these decisions into practice. All of us have a responsibility to help Greece to do that, and all of the political players in Greece also have a responsibility to help this become a reality.

In other words, this meeting that we have ahead of us is a very important one. Even though we have talked a great deal about the economy today, even though we have talked a great deal about Greece, it is also important to remember that the vision and direction of a Presidency encompasses other areas, too, and that is why it is also important to set the international environment/climate change agenda at the G8 and G20 and, of course, at the EU+20 meetings as well.

I would also like to emphasise what Mr Guerrero said regarding the fact that Parliament as well as the Commission and the Member States need to remember to speak out strongly for European values and to come down hard on any attempts at protectionism or attempts by Member States to separate themselves off or to attack the right to be different in Europe. That is an important point of which I hope everyone took note.

My final comment is that, at a time when Europe is experiencing such a deep crisis as it is right now, it is, in the Danish Presidency’s view, absolutely crucial that there is close cooperation between this Parliament, the Commission and the Member States. This is not the time to fight one another; it is the time to stand together shoulder to shoulder for the sake of the seven million young people who deserve a new opportunity and for the 23 million people who need a job, and because we need to get Europe back on track.

 
  
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  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry but there is no provision in our Rules of Procedure for blue-card questions to be addressed to the institutions. I know that you are inwardly seething. I understand how you feel, but I am afraid I cannot help you under the terms of the Rules of Procedure. Mr Goebbels, if you are raising a point of order, please tell me which rule you are referring to.

 
  
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  Robert Goebbels (S&D) . – (DE) Mr President, I would like to address my question to Mr Šefčovič. I am sure you will find a rule in the Rules of Procedure which allows for this. Mr Šefčovič, you have said here today that all the Troika’s initiatives were approved by the Commission. However, this was at the request of the Eurogroup. Is that correct? If so, is this the Commission’s right of initiative?

 
  
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  President. – Mr Goebbels, I will let you know about this because I believe that the question you have asked is a very, very important one.

The debate is closed.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE), in writing. (RO) The EU has sound instruments and policies to boost economic growth and create jobs. However, they need to be used effectively. • At the same time, viable solutions must be found for the youth and SMEs. It is necessary to supplement the Structural Funds and increase the number of jobs. • National employment plans should include measures to divert the tax burden imposed on incomes from salaries. • I welcome the adoption by the Commission of the report on the alert mechanism. • This mechanism aims to identify Member States faced with potentially problematic levels of macro-economic imbalances. • 12 Member States have been identified on the basis of economic and financial indicators. • At the Council meeting in March, it is important to discuss the participation of the EU in the G8, G20 and Rio+20 summits. • Europe must have a strong and coherent common position as regards sustainable development.

 
  
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  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D), in writing. – The outcomes of the last EU summit of 30 January 2012 delivered mixed signals and failed to satisfy critics and speculators who continue to doubt the EU’s ability to handle the current crisis. Thus, the upcoming Council meeting of 1-2 March will be taking place at a rather crucial time, in particular, against the background of a possible Greek default. The European Council and the European Commission have already announced the current crisis cannot be tackled with austerity measures alone and that attention should also be given to stimulating growth and job creation. But the proposals put forward to promote such growth are not sufficient to deliver results. These proposals lack the funds and reforms that Europe desperately needs. I agree with colleagues calling for a new proposal following the same guidelines and the same type of budget as for the Marshall Plan for Europe’s recovery in 1948. We need now significant investment for supporting SMEs, entrepreneurship and self-employment initiatives, which, in return, will encourage economic expansion and job creation and improve the EU’s long-term competitiveness. Bold decisions and strong political will to promote fiscal stability are needed to restore investment and growth to Europe. This is the only way out of the current crisis and the only way of preventing future crises.

 
  
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  Edit Herczog (S&D), in writing.(HU) Growth, fiscal consolidation, job creation. It is these three areas that lay the foundations of a successful future for Europe and its recovery from a protracted economic crisis. Growth can be achieved through research and development and the application of new technologies, fiscal adjustment through the restructuring of state expenditure and major supply systems, and job creation through incentives to employers and the expansion of the competences of young workers. I therefore stand by my position that a pan-European economic policy cannot be based solely on austerity.

Although I believe that the treaties on economic stability, consolidation and governance, and those establishing the European Stability Mechanism, do not offer a definite cure for Europe’s ailments, as a Hungarian politician, I do think that it is an elementary interest for my country to join them. I welcome the fact that the Hungarian Government led by Fidesz changed its initial negative, aloof attitude and committed itself to signing the agreement. It must be noted, however, that although these measures may secure Europe’s future temporarily, they will definitely fail to do so in the long term. New resources must be found to increase consumption, stimulate micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, and thereby generate new jobs. One solution could be the introduction of Eurobonds and a transaction tax, which has been the subject of debates in Brussels for a long time.

The road ahead of us will be far from smooth, and it may even be that the end is not yet in sight, and therefore we must apply precise, predictable solutions.

 
  
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  Liem Hoang Ngoc (S&D), in writing.(FR) The intergovernmental treaty that the European governments are about to sign is unacceptable for two reasons. It is unacceptable in terms of the procedure adopted, which is anti-democratic and rides roughshod over half a century of the Community method. It is also unacceptable in terms of content, in that it is aimed at tightening the already suffocating straitjacket of the Stability Pact and imposing unprecedented austerity policies throughout Europe.

These policies can do nothing but plunge us into a lasting recession, destroy our social model and make the poorest citizens pay the price for a crisis of which they are the first victims. They will not resolve the debt problem as austerity will kill consumption and investment and, with them, any hope of growth or the recovery of public finances.

The fact the ECB has just granted the banks a loan of EUR 489 billion for three years at 1% interest, while Greece has a knife put to its throat, is proof that Europe has currently got things completely the wrong way round. Curiously, these banks are not suspected of ‘moral hazard’, in contrast to the Member States, which the ECB is not allowed to finance directly. They will therefore be able to buy back sovereign bonds at 6 or even 10% and continue their speculative activities with this free money. This is not the Europe we want.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) The forthcoming European Council will be very significant, just as the summits have unfortunately been over the last two years. Often, however, the expectations have not matched the results. This summit will also sign off the details of the fiscal compact. I hope, however, that once the framework of the budgetary and fiscal rules for Member States has been defined, we can begin to talk seriously about growth. Words and statements all over Europe repeating the importance of growth and that new investments are necessary are simply not enough. The whole of Europe, every single Member State, needs an effective, serious and practical growth strategy. This is what we are asking the Heads of State meeting in Brussels. At the same time, I hope that a solution will be found to the problem of Greece, which cannot and must not be left on its own.

 
  
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  Franck Proust (PPE), in writing. (FR) I sincerely hope that we shall have reached an agreement on the bail-out package for Greece at the next meeting of the Council. This is crucial for the whole of Europe. Should we fail to do so, the urgency of this matter will overshadow the ratification of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance. Time in politics can be long – that much I know. However, let us not lose sight of the fact that this agreement is as historic as it is fragile. In France, we shall have to elect a president for the next five years. Moreover, certain candidates have already announced their intention not to ratify the Treaty. Worse still, they claim that they will be able to renegotiate it. The majority in this House clearly agrees on both the content of and the interest in signing this agreement. It is vital for the future of Europe. Let us not allow rhetorical promises to destroy the hope that we have placed in it.

 
  
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  Adrian Severin (NI), in writing. – The current neoliberal policy of the Troika in Greece is disarticulating the society and destroying the state. A new tranche of financial assistance was postponed yesterday giving rise to fears of an upcoming Greek default. What is more worrisome, however, is the apparent willingness of some eurozone Member States to let this scenario unfold, despite real efforts from the Greek Government in complying with their demands and imposing new austerity measures. Solidarity with Greece must not falter. A Greek default could have immeasurable consequences on Greek society and on the economies of the eurozone countries, although it seems a more palatable scenario for some Member States than a few years ago. Nonetheless, it is a path that must be firmly rejected. Instead, the EU Member States should continue assuming responsibility and should aim for further promoting debt restructuring negotiations and federalising credit guarantees. Moreover, measures for bank recapitalisation, as well as measures intended to stimulate investment, employment and economic growth need to be soon and boldly implemented. For all this to be achieved, political will towards speeding up the common economic governance and fiscal solidarity is essential.

 
  
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  Jutta Steinruck (S&D), in writing. (DE) The budget consolidation must be based on the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. Since the beginning of the crisis, it has been clear that, in focusing on economic consolidation, the Commission and the Member States have forgotten that only balanced and socially just reforms will bring about sustainable growth. Unilateral austerity measures and cuts in social security funding will not result in a stable economy and good, secure jobs in the long term. Sensible tax policies must be introduced to increase revenue. The focus of our efforts this year must be on creating more jobs and combating youth unemployment and poverty. It is completely incomprehensible to me that the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) has prevented Member States with a current account surplus from being required to help put an end to the recession and create jobs. This would have been a step towards a single European economic policy. The conservatives should finally understand that national egoism will only intensify the crisis.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) The EU is currently enduring a difficult time in which we all need to be united: the public, the European institutions and the Member States. Confidence in the single market, which is the basis of the European Union, has been affected by the current crisis and must now be restored. I believe the austerity measures implemented in certain euro area Member States are not suitable for achieving this end. Such policies should be accompanied by initiatives that promote economic growth, and do so swiftly, with particular focus on small and medium-sized enterprises. Measures aimed at combating unemployment among young people as a matter of urgency are necessary for the future of the single market and the European economy. I am therefore counting on the upcoming European Council to give voice to these aspirations.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D), in writing. (RO) The Members of the European Council made a commitment in the Council declaration of 31 January to pursue consolidation that facilitates growth and employment. The European Council meeting in March should provide guidance on Member States’ economic and employment policies, with special emphasis on exploiting the full potential of ecological growth and accelerating the structural reforms to increase competitiveness and create new jobs. In doing so, due attention should be given to the increasing differences between the economic situations of Member States and the social consequences of the crisis. The European Council meeting in March should propose measures to stimulate employment, especially among young people, to complete the single market, and to stimulate the financing of the economy, especially of SMEs, including through better targeting of EU funds available for growth and employment, within the agreed limits. We urge the Member States to invest with priority in the transport, energy and communications infrastructure, in research and innovation, education and health, agricultural development and, in particular, in the development of European industry. These investments will ensure increased EU competitiveness, and, in particular, will provide jobs in the EU.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI), in writing. – (DE) This year’s European Council spring summit is taking place against the background of stagnating economic growth and an extremely high unemployment rate. A total of 23 million Europeans currently have to manage without a regular income from employment and 7 million of these are young people between the ages of 15 and 24. This has resulted not only in these people losing their trust in the EU, but also in a fall in purchasing power and, consequently, a recession. Therefore, alongside austerity policies, we also need to focus on measures to promote growth. Our goal must be to implement targeted structural reforms which will create jobs, improve competitiveness and encourage green growth. When they implement their austerity packages, the Member States must be required not to put at risk areas such as education, innovation and sustainable energy projects which are important for the future. The key to combating youth unemployment is to provide targeted support for small and medium-sized businesses and to establish dual vocational education systems based on the Austrian model. Therefore, I believe that sharing best practice in this area represents a sensible approach.

 

5. Employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2012 - Contribution to the Annual Growth Survey 2012 - Guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the joint debate on the three reports on the subject of the Annual Growth Survey and employment:

- the report by Marije Cornelissen, on behalf of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, on employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2012 (COM(2011)0815)-(2011/2320(INI)) (A7-0021/2012),

- the report by Jean-Paul Gauzès, on behalf of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, on the contribution to the Annual Growth Survey 2012 (COM(2011)0815)-(2011/2319(INI)) (A7-0018/2012) and

- the report by Pervenche Berès, on behalf of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, on the proposal for a Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (COM(2011)0813)-(C7-0500/2011)-(2011/0390(CNS)) (A7-0011/2012).

 
  
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  Marije Cornelissen, rapporteur. – Mr President, if there is one lesson that we could learn from the past few years, it is that our economies are totally intertwined. Yes, we do need to coordinate. Yes, we should let the Commission look over our shoulders. This coordination adds necessary powers at the European level but, unfortunately, without adding necessary democracy at the European level too.

We as a Parliament do not accept such a limited role. With my report and the report of Mr Gauzès, we are presenting Parliament’s view on what is currently most needed. Although the Council is not legally obliged to take account of it, I feel that it most certainly is morally and democratically obliged to do so. Parliament’s main message to the Council is this: we need far more coherence between fiscal and budgetary policies, on the one hand, and social and employment policies, on the other hand. It is a tremendous mistake to ignore the social consequences of badly-aimed austerity policies or to forget that a currency is there to serve the people, not the other way round.

I really hope that, at the Spring Council, one government leader will stand up and say:

Dear colleagues, just hold on a minute. Do you remember we had a meeting about two years ago where we set our goals for 2020 and, among other things, planned to increase labour participation, lift millions out of poverty and invest heavily in innovation? I am getting quite worried that, if we go on like this, we will not attain any of these goals.

Correct me if I am wrong, but if we all cut social benefits to get under the deficit ceiling, will that not actually push rather a lot of people into poverty instead of lifting millions out? If we cut down on things like labour activation measures and child care, will that not really mean that labour participation will diminish instead of grow and that rising unemployment will, in turn, increase our budget deficits?

Furthermore, of course my calculator could be at fault, but is it not the case that if countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal are not given any hope for recovery, their debt will rise even as they are paying it off, because it is a percentage of their GDP and not actually a flat figure?

Perhaps what we should be doing is discussing how we can cut wisely in some areas and also invest in others. Perhaps we should look further to the future and prepare ourselves for an ageing society by investing in education, innovation and youth employment. Perhaps we should make our EU 2020 goals binding: as binding as the budgetary ones.

I know that I am probably complicating things quite a bit by pointing this out, but as I was reading the European Parliament’s contribution to our discussion I thought, by golly, they are absolutely right’.

Well, any government leader who is courageous enough to point out the pain is very welcome to borrow that speech, and I am very sure that tomorrow’s vote will show that any such courageous leader would have the full backing of the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Jean-Paul Gauzès, rapporteur.(FR) Mr President, Minister, Commissioner, every year, the Annual Growth Survey allows us to define the European Union’s economic and budgetary priorities and actions.

I should first like to thank the Commission for having published its report before the end of November, thus allowing Parliament to carry out, in good time, some painstaking work. We would like this schedule to become permanent, so that Parliament has time enough to express its views before annual economic guidelines are decided upon by the Spring European Council.

This year, on the occasion of the review of this report, Parliament wishes to strongly urge Member States to implement effectively those measures required by the policies that they themselves have undertaken to pursue. Obviously, the primary aim of these measures should be to find a way out of the sovereign debt crisis. They should go hand in hand with a growth strategy based on improving competitiveness. It is clearly also important to promote a sustainable economy which creates jobs.

Parliament agrees with the Commission’s analysis that efforts at national and EU level should concentrate on the following five priorities: pursuing differentiated growth-friendly fiscal consolidation, while ensuring economic recovery and job creation; ensuring long-term financing of the real economy; promoting sustainable growth through more competitiveness and investments; tackling unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis, and, finally, modernising EU public administration and services of general interest.

As regards fiscal consolidation, Member States should pursue differentiated strategies according to their budgetary situations and keep their public expenditure growth below the rate of medium-term trend GDP growth. Member States must prioritise, on the expenditure and revenue sides of the budget, growth-friendly policies, particularly in the areas of education, research, innovation, infrastructure and energy, and ensure the efficiency of such expenditures and revenues.

As regards ensuring the long-term financing of the real economy, Parliament welcomes the determined efforts by Commissioner Barnier to overhaul the regulation and supervision of the financial sector. If investor confidence is to be restored, the banks’ capital positions must be strengthened and measures must be taken to support their access to funding.

Thirdly, the promotion of sustainable growth presupposes an increase in the competitiveness of investments. In this respect, Parliament is worried by the macro-economic imbalances within the EU and the fact that many Member States are falling behind in terms of productivity. Enhanced coordination of economic policies as well as structural reforms are needed to tackle these problems in both deficit and surplus countries in an adequate way.

Modernising EU public administration and services of general interest is also a determining element of competitiveness and an important productivity factor.

In future, Parliament wishes to be more closely involved in drawing up the main political and economic guidelines. It should be noted that the European Semester is now part of EU secondary legislation. The economic governance legal framework provides the tool of economic dialogue to enhance the dialogue between the EU institutions and to ensure greater transparency. We are anxious for this to be so, and I shall conclude shortly after the various speeches to be made, in the two minutes that remain to me, Mr President.

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès, rapporteur.(FR) Mr President, Ms Vestager, Commissioner, this is the fifth year running that the Spring European Council is to be held in an atmosphere of crisis.

This is the fifth European Council held in an atmosphere of crisis and where, clearly, the logic is that out of austerity will come growth. I think that it is clearly time to take stock and admit that what comes out of austerity is recession and not growth.

However, we have come together today to talk of a document that the Commission is adding to the work of the European Council, which goes by the name of the Annual Growth Survey. You must admit that there is something not quite right here and that it is high time to change our approach.

First of all, in the name of our institution, the European Parliament, let me just say that we in this House are in total denial of democracy, because what is going on? The Spring European Council is adopting guidelines which are then going to be imposed on the Member States to define their economic policy strategy. On what basis is the Spring European Council going to reach its decisions? The Commission is trying to make its contribution in a direction that does not suit us, and yet it is tabling a Community document entitled Annual Growth Survey. Meanwhile, the Council is going to draw up the Euro Plus Pact on the basis of a scribbled note written by Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy, and then endorsed by the other institutions.

In a democracy, the way in which broad economic policy guidelines are drawn up is the foundation of the social pact. That is why we have been fighting for this Parliament to have a say in the matter. We intend to do this on the basis of what the Commission persists in calling an Annual Growth Survey – we are calling for this to become annual guidelines for growth.

We are calling on the Commission to face up to reality. Will this Annual Growth Survey enable the potential contradictions between the Stability Pact and the Europe 2020 strategy to be ironed out?

Both Mr Gauzès’ and Ms Cornelissen’s reports – I should like to thank our two fellow Members for the spirit of cooperation that has marked our work – invite you to walk on two feet and, if you want to walk on two feet, you may at times have to turn your back on austerity and the Stability Pact. Otherwise, we shall never manage to implement the Europe 2020 strategy.

We are also calling for a balanced approach to economic situations. That means that, when there are imbalances within the European Union, you have to look at both deficits and surpluses.

Ms Vestager, as I have already said, for us, the Euro Plus Pact is not a basis for negotiation. Madam, just look at the figures. Today, everybody in Europe is in difficulties. Have you seen the OECD’s figures for Germany’s growth prospects for 2012? 0.4%. That is proof enough that even the most virtuous economy in the European Union cannot withstand the situation of recession into which the policies of this five-year term are leading the euro area and the European Union as a whole.

Furthermore, look at the way that you are managing the EU’s tools. The European Social Fund is being used for anything and everything. On the one hand, you would like it to be a tool to apply macro-economic sanctions and, on the other, when it comes to creating jobs for young people, you want to mobilise the European Social Fund. These contradictions must be resolved and, to do this, I suggest you look at the reports that this Assembly is offering you as the European Parliament’s contribution to the work of the Spring Council.

I hope that, via our President when he comes to talk to you, these guidelines, whether in economic or employment matters, will improve your road map because, if they do not, democracy and the European people will find themselves in a jam.

 
  
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  Margrethe Vestager, President-in-Office of the Council. – Mr President, I am honoured to be allowed to speak here today and have been looking forward very much to a focused debate on growth and employment. I hope you know that one of the main priorities of the Danish Presidency is implementation, to ensure that the good decisions that have been taken are carried into effect. We hope that, in this Presidency, we can both take decisive steps out of the crisis by supporting responsible national economic policy, and prevent new crises.

The European Semester was kicked off by the Annual Growth Survey at the end of last year, leading to the economic policy guidance to Members to be adopted by the European Spring Council meeting. I do not have to explain to this Parliament why this is important: the unemployment figures speak for themselves; the number of young people unable to find a job speaks for itself. Growth is slow, as the rapporteur, Mr Gauzès, has already stated. There is no expectation of growth; half a percentage point is the general expectation that we have in prospect for 2012.

I think it is important to focus on the five priorities set out by the Commission in the Annual Growth Survey. First, pursuing differentiated, growth-friendly fiscal consolidation. Second, restoring normal lending to the economy. Third, promoting growth and competitiveness, for today as well as for tomorrow. Fourth, tackling unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis; and fifth, modernising public administration. In particular, growth-friendly consolidation and reforms that increase labour supply, productivity and competitiveness are of the utmost importance to restore confidence. And if we do not restore confidence, we will never be able to fight and tackle the problem of unemployment, especially youth unemployment, which is at an historic high in many Member States.

I have read your report and draft resolutions with interest and taken good note of the key messages that you wish to send to the Spring European Council. The various concerns expressed have been confirmed here today and will be at the centre of the debate we will have. I will, of course, refer to the work of Parliament when introducing the subject at the coming Ecofin meeting on 21 February, when we will adopt Council conclusions on the Annual Growth Survey as an input to the Spring European Council. I think it is very important to ensure that the debate here in Parliament, and the debate in the Council, together shape the Council’s conclusions.

At national level, we need, as Mr Gauzès’s report stresses, to pursue differentiated growth-friendly fiscal consolidation. With regard to structural reform, it is vital that all Member States pursue reforms that increase the labour supply and employment – such as pension reform and labour market reform – because those reforms strengthen both public finance and growth. But, of course, a number of these reforms will have medium-term and long-term effect, and we have to focus on the short term as well. That might mean focusing on the flexibility of product markets and competition or maybe, most importantly, on the growth drivers which are essential at EU level.

A more efficient EU single market, as per the Services Directive, is a growth driver with great potential. But we also need to combine consolidation and growth measures with green measures: for instance, a tax reform that shifts taxes away from labour towards energy consumption and pollution, thus having the potential to stimulate economic activity while greening the economy.

I shall, if I may, conclude my speech with the issue of unemployment, because that issue must be at the centre of our debate. Unemployment is one of the most devastating consequences of any economic crisis because it has such a direct effect on citizens, and youth in particular. I welcome the emphasis Ms Cornelissen put on tackling youth unemployment in her report. I think it is very much in line with the Commission’s ‘Youth on the Move’ initiative and its proposal to use available EU funds to fund training and work experience, which were mentioned in the conclusions of the European Council meeting in January. It is obvious that we owe it to our young people to ensure they can enter the work force – and the labour market – by getting a job and by getting training.

A key word is implementation. Implementation is what is needed, both to show that Europe works – and is at work – and also to restore confidence in political leadership in the European Union. You are all well aware of the European Semester, the ‘six-pack’ and now the ‘two-pack’ that we have ahead of us. I hope that we can work swiftly, and in a focussed way, on getting these things passed in cooperation. The European Parliament and the Danish Presidency have a number of important things to do not only in terms of implementation, but also in terms of making sure that we get things done.

I have come here to take on board your remarks and the debate ahead of the European Council, and therefore I will rest my case with these few comments. I am very much looking forward to hearing your views and comments, and thank you for your attention.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: GIANNI PITTELLA
Vice-President

 
  
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  László Andor, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I am very pleased to be here today to discuss with the Members of the European Parliament the Commission’s 2012 Annual Growth Survey. I am responding to the three rapporteurs who spoke before me and I will start with the Gauzès report and take the Cornelissen and Berès reports afterwards.

I am very pleased to see from the report by Mr Gauzès that there is considerable convergence of views between what the Commission has proposed in terms of key policy priorities for 2012 and the thinking in this House. Such a broad convergence of views is an important signal, particularly in times of crisis. And, of course, the severe crisis of confidence that we are still facing is the background to the horizontal policy priorities that the Commission has proposed in this Annual Growth Survey.

At the heart of this crisis of confidence lies the potential negative feedback loop between financial sector vulnerabilities, shaky confidence in sovereign debt sustainability, and weak growth prospects. Continued fiscal consolidation will be important. However, without stronger growth prospects, it will be much more difficult to put public debt on a sustainable path. Growth-friendly consolidation and employment-friendly growth are therefore essential elements of our crisis response, which will be important for the guidance of Member States’ economic and employment policies, to be issued on 1 March.

To achieve all this, the Commission and the European Union are pursuing a number of avenues that together form a comprehensive strategy. It includes a solid solution for Greece, strengthening the financial sector, effective financial backstops, and stronger economic governance.

On all these elements, we have made considerable progress in recent months. In the area of economic governance, the role this House has played has been particularly significant. Strengthening growth prospects has become ever more crucial for breaking the vicious circle that threatens macro-financial stability and the recovery at the same time. This is one of the key messages of the 2012 Annual Growth Survey. It has therefore set out the five priorities that you know and which your draft report endorses.

The AGS has set out in concrete terms how the Single Market, the EU budget and specific EU initiatives, including project bonds, can contribute to bolstering our growth potential. Wherever accelerated treatment of legislative proposals is involved, we certainly count on the support of the European Parliament.

Let me just mention the proposed unitary EU patent, agreement on the revision of the Roaming Regulation, the pending revisions of the directives on annual accounts, and increasing cofinancing rates for programme countries. These and other pending initiatives would certainly go a long way in boosting growth. As stated clearly in the AGS, the Commission considers that mobilising employment for growth, employment of young people and protecting the vulnerable are key priorities. Our recent initiatives on youth unemployment and SME financing are fully in line with these priorities.

While structural reforms achieve their ultimate objective only over the medium to long term, a firm and committed implementation certainly sends out a strong signal to the market and contributes to building confidence already today. There is an urgent need for full implementation of the measures already launched during the first European Semester. I am glad that the European Parliament supports this message from the Commission. This is crucial.

Strong implementation of structural reforms is all the more important today as the scope for macro-economic stimulus, in particular fiscal stimulus, is very limited at this point in time. That is the reason why differentiated and growth-friendly fiscal consolidation and employment-friendly growth are at the core of our strategy.

There is no doubt that this is a difficult path. But if we show discipline and resolve and strong reform implementation, we will be able to turn around the potential negative spiral and work to propel ourselves forward and pull ourselves up. This is the path that the Annual Growth Survey has charted for the 2012 European Semester.

Let me thank the European Parliament once more for showing the resolve Europe needs in the role it has played so far in strengthening the Union’s economic governance.

Let me turn to the Cornelissen report – which I warmly welcome – concerning the employment and social aspects of the Annual Growth Survey for 2012. I agree with your analysis and the key message that it contains. Firstly, I strongly support your call to the European Council to integrate, in its policy guidance, messages on the need to increase ambition to achieve the EU 2020 objectives and to support sustainable job creation with investment and tax reform.

You stress that budgetary, growth and employment measures need to be taken together as they are all interdependent; I fully agree with that. The focus needs to be simultaneously on measures having short-term effect and on the ones advancing towards the right growth model in the medium term, which is smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The guidance on Member States’ employment and economic policies should reflect this balanced approach.

Secondly, I am pleased in particular to note your call for the European Council to tackle youth employment as a priority and for the Member States to develop comprehensive strategies for young people who are not in employment, education or training.

In December, as you know, the Commission adopted a youth opportunities initiative to prompt action in fighting youth unemployment. The initiative lays special emphasis on making greater use of the Structural Funds, an approach endorsed by the informal European Council meeting on 30 January.

Action teams will this month visit the eight Member States with the highest youth unemployment rates – namely Spain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and Slovakia – to identify the necessary elements for youth employment plans. In particular, they will look at how to step up the use of the Structural Funds and especially the European Social Fund, but also how to make best use of other EU tools such as EURES. In my view, this working method can also be seen as an embryo of an excessive unemployment procedure that would deploy and coordinate the national- and EU-level instruments in a more effective way.

Thirdly, I fully support your call to tackle poverty and social exclusion by laying the emphasis on groups with no – or limited – links to the labour market.

The Annual Growth Survey also sends strong policy messages to the European Council to make social protection systems more effective and implement active inclusion strategies that entail labour market activation measures.

Lastly, I support your call for greater democratic legitimacy, accountability and ownership.

Ownership of Europe 2020 in the context of the new governance is crucial for consensus, and consensus is critical to the strategy’s success. That is why Parliament needs to make its voice heard in the process. I therefore appreciate the effort the House has made to adopt these reports in time to contribute to the discussion ahead of the Spring European Council.

I would now turn to the Berès report and thank Ms Berès. I welcome your decision to approve the Commission proposal to carry over the guidelines for the Member States’ employment policies – being a core element of the European employment strategy – and leave them unchanged for 2012. The present employment guidelines meet their purpose in today’s very difficult economic environment. They are broad and comprehensive enough to cover the priorities identified in this year’s Annual Growth Survey and, in particular, the need for growth-enhancing reforms and job-rich recovery. They also provide the policy framework needed to address some of the social consequences of the economic crisis.

The Commission believes that the emphasis must now be on implementing the employment guidelines and pushing ahead with the growth-enhancing reforms they advocate. They provide the overall policy framework for any country-specific recommendation from the Council to the Member States under Article 148 of the Treaty.

 
  
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  Jan Kozłowski, on behalf of the PPE Group.(PL) Mr President, Ms Vestager, Mr Andor, I would like to thank the rapporteurs, and I would like, in particular, to thank Ms Cornelissen, with whom it was my pleasure to work in my capacity as shadow rapporteur. I think the comprehensive nature of the reports presented today shows clearly that the European Parliament is an active and very good partner in work related to the European Semester.

Increasing fiscal consolidation is, of course, of fundamental importance. However, in order to lift ourselves out of the crisis, it is also imperative to take coordinated action to increase employment and, in particular, action intended to help young people, whose situation is particularly drastic. In December, the average level of unemployment among young people was over 22%, and in some Member States it was even over 40%, while at the same time – which, on the other hand, seems surprising – since 2009, the number of unfilled jobs has been rising. It is therefore vital to take decisive action at national and European level which will foster the adaptation of systems of education and lifelong learning to the requirements of the labour market and the growth of entrepreneurship.

I think a thorough assessment needs to be made of the work of employment services and of the effectiveness with which European employment instruments are being applied. The main objective of administrative and economic reforms should be the creation of new jobs, support for enterprise and development of the small and medium-sized enterprise sector. These measures should also be reflected in national reform programmes. I hope, too, that implementation of the measures proposed in the initiative to increase young people’s chances, in particular, by making it easier to start and develop businesses and the emphasis on practical training in the workplace, as well as better use of the European Social Fund, will bring about a genuine improvement in the situation of young people.

 
  
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  Elisa Ferreira, on behalf of the S&D Group.(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, I wish to congratulate the rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs, but I would also like to say that there have been enough well-meaning speeches on employment and growth. Today, with the first results on macro-economic imbalances in Europe, the veil is being lifted on why, in the EU and the euro area in particular, some countries are growing while others are withering and dying.

Europe is becoming less competitive in external markets and this agenda needs to be revised because it gives rise to much of the lack of internal growth. However, to focus on the internal market, four countries, including Germany, are accumulating successive surpluses year after year, while 20 countries – I repeat, 20 – are accumulating deficits, also year after year. As deficits build up, the external debt of these countries increases unsustainably.

Obviously, this process must be controlled. Obviously, what is needed is discipline. However, today it is important to ask some questions. In this context, is the solution of crushing the weakest with recessive policies the only possible solution? Will the tax competition within the internal market, from which there are a few winners, continue to be tolerated? Will the EU’s largest economy be able to keep developing common policies that favour it and internal economic policies that, as they are right for its economy, soak up the majority of the profits from the internal market? Will the Commission and the Council be able to keep imposing recessive policies that further squeeze the economies of the weakest countries, openly discussing the possibility of default by sovereign Member States in the euro area, when they know that the ‘firewall’ will never be anything more than an intention?

Are the Commission and the Council fully aware of the massive political and economic risk for Europe caused by discourse like this? Yes, revenue needs to be reviewed in a radical way. However, political will is required for this to happen. Until that will exists, out of respect for the public, let us refrain from saying that we advocate growth and employment, as it is not true. The public cannot go on being deceived.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, in the first debate here this morning on the European Council meeting, a very dark picture was painted of a Europe that is blindly marching to the drumbeat of austerity and more austerity without any real hope or a convincing vision for the future.

As my colleague, Sylvie Goulard, said, we are trying to impose stability by force. Up to now, the buzz-word in the EU has been solidarity. Right now, solidarity means mutual self-interest, because a failure by any one country will have a massive and incalculable impact on all of us. So as we try to grapple with the unthinkable, sometimes it is easy to forget the day-to-day and to overlook the steps that we must take today and tomorrow to ensure that we achieve the targets set in the EU 2020 strategy.

This very good report by Ms Cornelissen provides us with a road map from the perspective of employment and social affairs. Indeed, these are words we do not hear often enough – employment and social affairs – because they are words that directly impact on the lives of citizens.


There are some matters in this report that may cause certain problems for members of this House, such as the financial transaction tax. I support the FTT, but it should be on a Europe-wide basis and, ideally, it should be global. Another issue which may cause concern and has been alluded to by many Members here this morning is the call for Member States with a current account surplus to contribute to a reduction in macro-economic imbalances by increasing internal demand. Part of the problem here is that we tend to be very black and white, and we tend to define deficit as bad and surplus as good. But the reality is they both cause imbalances, and while there is a difference, we cannot concentrate on one aspect only.

In the last debate, the Danish Presidency said that growth and employment were top priority; they also said that austerity is top priority. Again and again, that is the message we are getting, but this report helps to redress the balance.

Finally, this morning we heard many criticisms of the Troika. Paragraph 48 proposes a solution: that the ILO should be involved in the financial assistance programmes. I hope both the Council and the Commission will take that suggestion on board.

 
  
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  Philippe Lamberts, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, firstly, I should like to welcome Ms Vestager. You present a face of Europe that we would like to see more often and I would also like to say a special thank you to Mr Gauzès who, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) (PPE), led the work in the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON). I got the impression from the PPE that there was a will to bring together all those who believe in European integration. We have not been indifferent to that and it is the direction in which we must continue to work.

The 2012 Annual Growth Survey, which I think is very poorly named, is undoubtedly an improvement on the 2011 version. I would like to draw your attention to two items which were particularly welcome in our view. Firstly, on the one hand, the fact that the report draws attention to the negative consequences in terms of social justice of some of the austerity measures that have been taken. This concern is timely in this document.

The second item to be welcomed is the greater emphasis placed this year on fiscal concerns. Here I mean the issue of tax revenue. A very good job has been done here. You get the impression that people have been working more closely together within the Commission.

However, I would like to say that we are well aware that the consequences, the monitoring of the Annual Growth Survey, are in the hands of the Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN) and we all know its pathological obsession with preventing public spending as such and with driving down wages. I will not return to this point; let us simply agree that there is ‘distrust’. We shall clearly continue to keep a close watch on the way in which you use this Annual Growth Survey.

All I would like to say is that this survey must become legislation for us. It is the Commission’s broad economic policy guidelines document. That is all well and good. It must be endorsed by the Council and Parliament in order to give you the democratic legitimacy you need to carry out the measures that you will recommend to the Member States following this Annual Growth Survey. I believe that the Commission will come out of it stronger than before and that, in any case, we shall make proposals of this nature in the future.

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

 
  
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  Alejandro Cercas (S&D), Blue-card question.(ES) Mr President, I would like to ask Mr Lamberts whether his group would be willing to join forces with ours to offer young people assistance in finding a job, but a decent job, because if they go from being young and unemployed to being poor workers, we are still not going to be providing them with hope for future. Such hope would allow them to integrate appropriately into society.

 
  
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  Philippe Lamberts (Verts/ALE), Blue-card answer. (FR) I think that the question is fully justified. I should like to support what Ms Vestager has just said. I think that the best way of guaranteeing sustainable employment in Europe is to go down the route of green transformation as soon as possible – I am sorry to use that adjective, but that is what it is – the ecological transformation of our economy. That is certainly the route to take. If Europe can become the world champion in energy efficiency, in resource efficiency, in terms of raw materials, I think that that is the best way to guarantee sustainable employment both for current and future generations. This, in any case, is what we will work towards.

 
  
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  Milan Cabrnoch, on behalf of the ECR Group.(CS) Mr President, I would like to inform you that the European Conservatives and Reformists Group have decided to support this report, despite having many reservations. We agree with the set objective of increasing participation on the labour market, reducing structural unemployment and increasing the number of qualified workers capable of responding to demand on the labour market.

We firmly believe in particular that the exchange of proven approaches between individual Member States and a certain level of coordination may be beneficial in encouraging flexibility on labour markets, flexibility of employment law relationships and greater economic freedom. We stand together for economic innovation, education and social mobility, and we understand that it is not states but entrepreneurs who create jobs, and that they take on this role with a considerable level of risk and responsibility.

I firmly believe that it is time to stop talking about theoretical aims and to start taking concrete steps today and tomorrow to support the private sector with growth and investment, and on the path to prosperity.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Mr President, this plenary session should have just one item on the agenda – to rethink the way the European project has been managed to date. The reason for this lies in the data published by Eurostat last week – 24 million unemployed people in Europe and 115 million people heading towards poverty, of which one in three is a young person under the age of 18.

No one has a recipe for solving the crisis. The European Commission wants to convince people that it has one, by forcing Member States to introduce austerity measures in order to reduce their public deficit, while continuing to waste millions of euro, for example, by maintaining two bases at Brussels and Strasbourg.

Cuts to the social state and hidden manoeuvres to impose technocrat governments, which nobody wants to discuss openly, totally undermine democratic institutions as they remove any opportunity for citizens to have a dialogue with politics. In order to regain its sense of responsibility, Europe needs to distance itself from financial lobbies with hidden powers. The identity relativity approach and false myth of the free market leading to greater wealth have failed. We need the type of democracy that will give a voice back to local areas, districts and citizens.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Mr President, if the rapporteur, Ms Cornelissen, believes that the countries with surpluses should be called on to increase demand internally in order to compensate for economic imbalances within the Union, I would like to know how she thinks that can be achieved. For example, should we be asking all German citizens to stock up on Greek olive oil?

The consequence of the economic imbalances should, in fact, be the creation of a hard and a soft currency zone. All the citizens of Europe are already being forced to tighten their belts, because the entire euro area has been discredited and the bankrupt states are having to be rescued. The problem that I believe is particularly dramatic and very serious is youth unemployment. The average figure in the EU is 20%, but in some states it is over 40%. The quality of jobs is also a major concern. It is unacceptable that some young academics are in their third unpaid internship and still have no job security. The Commission must submit its promised quality framework for internships as a matter of urgency, otherwise the best people will emigrate to the United States and Asia and the EU will be left with an influx of unqualified migrants.

 
  
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  Csaba Őry (PPE).(HU) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as coordinator for employment of the Group of the European People’s Party, I welcome the report drawn up by Ms Berès on employment guidelines. Of course, one of the reasons I do so is that back in 2010, I was the rapporteur of the initial report myself. At that time, we believed that we were drafting guidelines that would remain unchanged until 2014. We believed that we would follow the usual schedule of reviewing it annually and extending its validity. I was secretly hoping that this would not be so. I was hoping that perhaps in the light of the results, we would have to amend the goals we had set and maybe replace them with more ambitious ones. Unfortunately, this did not come true. The 2010 guidelines still remain relevant.

Our unemployment data are still bad; they are dramatic, and, in a certain sense, they are even showing an upward trend. As we know, the unemployment rate has climbed from 9.5% to 9.9%. There are nearly 24 million unemployed people, as already mentioned by others. What is even more dramatic is that out of this figure, youth unemployment essentially accounts for 5.5 million. This is something that definitely needs to be addressed immediately. I therefore welcome the Council decision of 30 January, which focuses specifically on the issue of youth unemployment. I believe that this is a correct decision, even if there are countries where the situation is somewhat better. I would therefore once again like to highlight and urge Member States to pay increased attention to the flagship initiative ‘Youth on the Move’. It is indeed crucial to ensure in future that young entrants to the labour market are able to find employment within four months. I naturally support keeping the guidelines in effect.

 
  
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  Evelyn Regner (S&D).(DE) Mr President, I was rather slow in raising my blue card. My question would have been aimed at Mr Obermayr, but he chose to leave the Chamber immediately after his speech, so that is the end of the matter.

 
  
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  Sergio Gaetano Cofferati (S&D).(IT) Mr President, we are discussing three fine reports that demonstrate how widespread and complex the conviction is here in Parliament that growth is crucial to the future of the European Union.

However, this is in stark contrast with the deplorable attitude of the Council and the Commission, where the prevalent ideological stance involves taking action only to ensure stability, to the point of obsession, an attitude that has now clearly led to real problems with democracy, as we have seen by what has been happening in Greece over the last few days.

I believe that this division is unsustainable for the future of Europe and that there is a need for profound adjustments by the Commission and the Council. I would add that the insistent reference to the Europe 2020 strategy is little more than a cultural option. After five years of crisis, with a heavy recession that will last for two more years, these objectives no longer exist. We need to recognise this now, in order to present a new overall strategy that is not based on something that does not actually exist.

 
  
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  Sylvie Goulard (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, Ms Vestager, Mr Andor, I should first like to thank those Members who worked on this report, and also the Commission which, I would like to point out, has done its job this year in much greater depth than it did last year and has relied considerably less on pre-conceived ideas about the economy. We are grateful to you for it.

There is also one thing that is important, and that is to be able to make a coherent whole of the different documents, because clearly, for external observers, for the public, it is rather difficult to find your way around. There is the European Semester, the Annual growth strategy, the 2020 agenda, the Euro Plus Pact, the ‘six-pack’, the ‘two-pack’, etc. The more that we can make them into a coherent whole, as indeed you started to do when you referred to the 2020 strategy, the greater coherence there will be between this report and the report on macro-economic imbalances which came out of the ‘six-pack’ and which, as one of the rapporteurs, I strongly supported, and the more we will find ourselves on the right track.

I must stress that, in particular, it is very important that one of the five Europe 2020 strategy targets should not disappear, namely, the fight against poverty and exclusion. Given the situation in numerous Member States, given, first of all, the suffering of individual people, but also in view of what that means for the cohesion of our societies, I should fervently like to call on the Commission not to lose sight of this objective, which the Member States, Ms Vestager, have rather tended to overlook in the documents which have been drawn up since.

I should like to end on the following point: we must be extremely careful that our view of these matters is not limited to questions of procedure. We feel to some extent that there has been a proliferation of documents. I would really prefer it if we could manage to achieve a proliferation of employment and I count on you, Ms Vestager – if you could stop telephoning during the debate – for Denmark to give considerable impetus in this direction, as your country is renowned in this area, and we would be very keen to be able to adapt the solutions that have been found in your country to ours.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: OTHMAR KARAS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Tarja Cronberg (Verts/ALE).(FI) Mr President, one readily agrees with the objectives of the Commission and those laid down in the reports, as well as the remedies proposed. However, the Growth Survey pays far too little attention to growth and employment for small enterprises. Sources of financing are needed, but how are they to be acquired? Financing is not always a solution: we also need to reduce the administrative burden. The proposal lacks concrete initiatives for reaching small and medium-sized enterprises in practice. We should not now fear the risks.

We cannot merely rely on flexibility in the labour market in its reform and in boosting the mobility of labour, as the neoliberals believe. Workers in a dynamic labour market must also have security. My other native country, Denmark, is a good example of flexicurity. Now, during its Presidency, perhaps it should propose that flexibility in the labour market could be increased if employee security were also given a boost at the same time.

In Europe’s ageing society, pension schemes must be made sustainable. Many countries will have to make painful decisions to raise the age of retirement and to make pensions sustainable. The earlier the system is reformed, the easier it will be to make it sustainable.

Finally, I would like to say that we also need to focus attention on well-being at work and burnout.

 
  
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  Anthea McIntyre (ECR). – Mr President, we must support entrepreneurship and SMEs and we must improve the functioning of the single market. Above all, we must cut red tape if we want to create jobs and increase growth.

I would like to speak briefly on Ms Cornelissen’s report which, unfortunately, I and fellow UK Conservatives cannot support in its entirety. This year – 2012 – should be the year we focus on the Member States’ implementation of the EU 2020 strategy, and surely it is counterproductive for us to pre-empt Member States’ progress and to make presumptions of failure. Also, we cannot support calls for a financial transaction tax or for EU funding in areas where Member States have already decided to make cuts, because these go against subsidiarity.

 
  
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  Derek Roland Clark (EFD). – Mr President, with the Greek and Italian debt crises under the burden of the euro, of course unemployment is rising. Spain has over 40% youth unemployment – yet there is a call for more Europe. Employment policy should be to cut regulations by half at least as the target for 2020, instead of which more legislation is being proposed. If you want growth and jobs, stop promoting the failed euro. Look at what it has done to Greece. Set them and others free, free to reorganise their own currency and to set their own interest rates.

Remember the euro forerunner, the ERM? My country was in that project; interest rates rose and so did unemployment. Finally, interest rates went up to 15% – totally unsustainable – but at least the government came to its senses and withdrew from the ERM. That was on Black Wednesday in 1992, but it should be remembered as ‘Freedom Wednesday’, for interest rates fell, employment gradually recovered and we entered a period of economic growth. Now that is the model you want.

 
  
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  Philippe Boulland (PPE).(FR) Mr President, I should first like to thank the rapporteurs for their work.

In its response to the crisis, the European Union has just spent more than a year strengthening its economic governance to prevent excessive macro-economic imbalances and budgetary deficits from threatening the European economy, but that has not prevented social exclusion or an increase in unemployment. It is time, or rather it is now a matter of urgency, for the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy to become an absolute priority for the European Commission and for the Member States with a view to growth.

Each State will have to introduce a national employment plan, and that means that emphasis will have to be placed on a wide range of matters including, in no particular order, training, redeployment, micro-credit, apprenticeships, paid internships, etc. However, as Commissioner Andor has just pointed out, we have 23 million unemployed in Europe, and also 23 million small and medium-sized enterprises and 23 billion in European funds set aside for jobs which has not been used. We could almost make a 2323 strategy out of them. Not to mention the EUR 60 billion in unallocated Cohesion Funds.

In Denmark and in the Netherlands, social initiatives based on flexicurity have been taken and have proved their effectiveness. Let us draw inspiration from them. This also means that our social policy overall must be more suitable, with more attractive social incentives than those linked with unemployment and active support for all socially responsible enterprises.

We have poverty reduction objectives to be reached by 2020 and we already know that we shall miss them, given the absence of strong and well-targeted measures taken by the Member States.

We should fully exercise our role as Members of Parliament and consequently, it is our responsibility to demand that the same energy expended in taking strong economic governance measures should also be applied to ambitious, effective and binding measures for social governance.

 
  
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  Sylvana Rapti (S&D).(EL) Mr President, I wish to touch on three points. The first concerns the Troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The proposals by this Troika are resulting in austerity, recession and unemployment. Facing this Troika, we have seen that there is another Troika here: the Cornelissen/Gauzès/Berès troika. It is a famous European Parliament troika that makes proposals that result in growth, hope and employment. We need to take it seriously, Commissioner.

The second point has to do with employment. I have here before me a letter sent by the President of the General Confederation of Greek Workers to the President of the European Parliament and to every Member of Parliament. Do you know what the President of the General Confederation of Greek Workers says in this letter? He says, quite simply, that the measures being proposed by the Troika are destroying collective and sectoral agreements in Greece. What is to be done about this? What will you say and what response will you make, Commissioner?

I shall close with a comment on the programme for young people. We have the ‘Youth on the Move’ programme. If you do not do something quickly, it will have to be renamed the ‘Youth Standing Still’ programme.

 
  
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  Roberts Zīle (ECR). (LV) Mr President, it seems right to concentrate on three priorities: fiscal consolidation, labour reform and measures to foster growth. However, will the European Union’s citizens believe us concerning the 2020 goals? There are countries like Latvia, which has successfully consolidated its budget, but whose gross domestic product in 2020 will be exactly the same as in 2006. Income distribution within society is becoming increasingly unequal, as the Gini coefficients confirm, and the proportion of people at risk of poverty in every Member State (or nearly every state) is increasing.

Those in the younger generation have no wish to be unemployed or to work in temporary jobs for the best years of their lives in order to pay back the country’s debts to another country’s pension funds, and they are simply leaving.

Finally, I should like to say something about the goals of the next period’s financial framework. The intensity of aid in relation to economic and social cohesion in the new Member States will be only 2.5% of GDP, at most. In the current financial framework, it has been 4%. That means that the gap between Member States will only widen in future.

 
  
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  Veronica Lope Fontagné (PPE).(ES) Mr President, Minister, Commissioner, our objective in the area of employment and social issues should continue to be the Europe 2020 strategy. Unfortunately, however, and partly due to the erroneous policies of previous governments, there are some countries, including my own, where there is no longer any room to manoeuvre and the only option left is to apply very rigorous budgetary adjustment programmes to tackle the sovereign debt crisis.

Unemployment has reached unacceptable levels and continues to rise in some countries, with young people in a particularly serious situation. Poverty and the risk of social exclusion have increased considerably. There is a greater need than ever to redirect spending towards growth and job creation, and to avoid cutbacks in social policies that would further exacerbate the situation faced by the weakest in society.

Fiscal consolidation is a necessary condition, but it is not enough to exit the crisis. Fiscal consolidation, growth and job creation should go hand in hand.

The priority elements of national programmes and European Union social policy should be integrated, active inclusion strategies, measures to support sustainable job creation, particularly for the young, and, ultimately, carrying out the necessary reform of our labour markets, as is currently taking place in Spain.

 
  
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  Olle Ludvigsson (S&D).(SV) Mr President, we need to do something about the inadequate job matching on the European labour market. Since 2010, we have not only had sky-high unemployment, but also a rapidly increasing shortage of workers. Employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find the skills they are looking for. This does not bode well. If we do not take drastic measures, the high rate of unemployment will become permanent and our competitiveness will be eroded.

Most governments are too passive when it comes to improving job matching. We need a more active labour market policy that will give all of those who become unemployed the opportunity to increase their skills immediately to make them appropriate for the jobs that are available, and the concept of lifelong learning also needs to be put into practice. Everyone must be given the opportunity to learn something new at all stages in their lives. Broad investments in education that include schools, universities, vocational training and further education are needed in order for the workforce to constantly match the increasingly skills-intensive jobs that need to be created. We need a new approach in this area.

 
  
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  Regina Bastos (PPE).(PT) Mr President, I shall begin by congratulating the rapporteurs. It is already the norm to say that we are experiencing the worst financial, economic and social crisis since our modern international financial model was devised. When emphasising that unemployment rates in the EU have reached record highs, it would not be going too far to demand that combating unemployment be made the top priority.

Levels of youth unemployment are tragic. In my country, Portugal, more than one in three young people are looking for work and have no prospect of success. The public are sceptical. Their confidence urgently needs to be restored. After years of reckless management of public finances, it is time to adopt budgetary conciliation reforms and to put the accounts in order. However, make no mistake: austerity without economic growth is nothing more than a partial solution. The creation of more and better jobs is a major aim for the European Union. Measures designed to ensure that young people do not go more than four months without receiving an offer of a job or training and those designed to reduce the risk of poverty and social exclusion have to become a reality.

 
  
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  Zita Gurmai (S&D). – Mr President, I welcome the fact that the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs has drawn up this report and I also hope that Parliament’s position will be taken into due account.

Youth unemployment figures in Europe are extremely worrying and they are getting worse – 5.6 million young people are unemployed, which is the equivalent of 22% in the EU. This is twice as high as the adult unemployment rate, which stands at 10%. We risk condemning an entire generation to despair and social exclusion because young people are being forced into inactivity.

Therefore, the Party of European Socialists, under its campaign ‘Your future is my future’, has to put concrete solutions on the agenda. We want a European youth guarantee that will ensure that every young person in Europe is offered a job, further education or work-focused training within four months at the latest of leaving education or becoming unemployed.

Society needs young women and men, and their talents and skills, on the labour market in order to strengthen Europe. Yes, it will cost us EUR 10 billion, but if they remain unemployed, it will cost the European Union EUR 100 billion every year.

 
  
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  Thomas Mann (PPE).(DE) Mr President, the European Semester, in other words, the coordination of the financial and economic policy of the Member States, is beginning to take shape. It is right that, in the light of an average unemployment rate of 10%, the main focus should be on jobs. We must do everything possible to create more high-quality jobs.

Overall, the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) voted in favour of Ms Cornelissen’s report. However, we are strongly opposed to paragraph 6. It is not acceptable for Member States with a current account surplus to be punished. These national economies are successful because of three things: intelligent management of businesses, the high level of potential of employees and a sound political framework. We must encourage the sharing of best practice, but we must never work on the principle that best practice must pay. The only way in which we can generate the long-term growth that we urgently need is on the basis of healthy budgets and substantial reforms. That is the lesson we should be learning from the last three years of ongoing crisis. It is absolutely right for Member States to incorporate debt brakes into their national constitutions. Of course, the austerity policies must be targeted and not stringent, otherwise the situation will go beyond what is reasonable from the perspective of employees, pensioners and unemployed people.

One of our priorities is to combat youth unemployment. The rate in Germany is 8%, but in some Member States, it is as high as 40%. The European Youth Guarantee must be put into practice. I have already called for it in my report on solidarity between the generations. After a period of four months’ unemployment, young people should be offered a job, an apprenticeship or other training opportunities. Small and medium-sized enterprises and public bodies must show their solidarity.

 

6. Composition of Parliament: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

7. Employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2012 - Contribution to the Annual Growth Survey 2012 - Guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (continuation of debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – We now come to the catch-the-eye procedure and I am confronted with 15 speakers who want to take the floor. However, we cannot call them all. I would like to ask for your understanding on this. I will go by the groups and by the time at which the requests were received.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska (PPE).(PL) Mr President, the economic policy of the Member States and the entire European Union, particularly during a crisis, continues to be a key issue and requires our particular attention. At this difficult time, efforts to stabilise the economic markets should be an obvious solution. We can only achieve this through decisive and coordinated action as part of budgetary policy, with a focus on developing innovation. Furthermore, it is important to create new jobs, particularly for young people, to reduce the costs of these jobs, and to review fiscal policy and reduce the burdens associated with ever-increasing bureaucracy.

All this is supposed to be the consequence of realising the priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy, so they have to be addressed consistently and with attention given to the education and labour sectors. This will become the key to overcoming the crisis, and in the long term will have a significant effect on the fight against poverty and social exclusion.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D).(LT) Mr President, it is very important to draw the European Council’s attention to the fact that the social consequences of the crisis, such as unemployment, poverty and social exclusion, have been further exacerbated by austerity measures that certain European countries have begun to apply with too much zeal. In particular, this has affected young people, pensioners, the disabled, the long-term unemployed and low-skilled workers.

Unfortunately, the reality is that poverty among working people in the European Union is on the increase. This means that jobs are increasingly poor quality, unsafe and low paid, and therefore, at the European Council, it must be stressed that measures on budgetary management, economic growth and employment must be assessed together because they are all interdependent and a precondition for economic recovery.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, the policies set out in the European Semester, economic governance and the fiscal compact increase the legitimacy and institutionalisation of the so-called ‘austerity measures’, which we cannot accept. It is impossible to reconcile this approach with the principles of social justice, growth and promoting employment, as they advocate exactly the opposite: namely, cutting wage costs, increasing the exploitation of the workers and shrinking the state, as well as an attack on the social and labour rights that have been acquired.

These so-called ‘budget consolidation’ policies are causing real social tragedy and disaster, such as increased poverty, in addition to merely deepening the economic recession and increasing public debt. What is needed is a complete break with this path. A Europe based on cooperation needs to be built, with the principal objectives of defending the interests of the peoples and of putting a stop to processes of oppression and colonisation by the major powers. Last Saturday, on the streets of Lisbon, Portugal, more than 300 000 people demanded an end to the austerity measures and promised that the struggle will continue.

 
  
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  Csaba Sógor (PPE).(HU) Mr President, in connection with the Annual Growth Survey 2012, I consider it important to stress what the report of my fellow Member has also pointed out; namely, that while managing the European debt crisis, we must not neglect social aspects. The greatest problem of European countries at the moment is the debt crisis, but we must not shift the burdens of the management of this crisis on to the citizens to a disproportionate extent. In the light of the events of the past few years, the widespread notion in the developed world that the gradual, at times more rapid, at other times slower, increase in living standards is irreversible and that future generations will be better off than we are has become questionable. This notion could be reinforced by budgetary consolidation, while we sacrifice economic growth, job creation and social responsibility at the altar of macro-economic stability. I hope that in a few years, we will not look back on the year 2012 as a missed opportunity to prevent social tensions erupting as a result of a social crisis.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). (SK) Mr President, I would first like to give my words of appreciation to Ms Berès for her report, in particular, because it does not just highlight the need for austerity measures, but it also sees the current crisis as a social crisis.

The dominant focus on austerity has led to a fragmented approach. Budgetary and macro-economic stability have been monitored without taking into account the main social or educational aims or the objectives of the 2020 strategy for employment. The priority must be investment in sustainable jobs. We must ensure that the most vulnerable groups and those who are most affected by the crisis are protected against the redistributive effects of the economic crisis and plans for fiscal consolidation. We must also address the lack of quality jobs with decent wages and decent working conditions.

 
  
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  Gay Mitchell (PPE). – Mr President, I feel that it is necessary to apply the austerity programmes in Member States in order to bring the public finances under control.

In my own experience, in the 1980s in Ireland, once we got the public finances under control, we experienced recovery after some time. The problem is that, if the patient (in the form of the Member State) is to survive the austerity programme, some sort of new incentive has to be given. I think it is time we stopped just looking at the stick and started looking at the carrot.

Greece represents about 2% of the GDP of the euro area and much less than that of the EU. Are we going to allow this to bring the whole euro area down? It is time to start thinking of Marshall Aid-type assistance to those countries that are prepared to suffer. No matter what they did in the past, we will all gain from this, and there will be a return and a dividend if we have more of the carrot as well as the stick.

 
  
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  Alejandro Cercas (S&D).(ES) Mr President, Commissioner Andor, Commissioner Rehn yesterday applauded a reform in Spain that established free dismissal without severance pay for the hundreds of thousands of young people to whom it will apply.

Do you not think, Commissioner, that the time has come to state that the European Social Charter protects workers against arbitrary dismissals, and that it is not good that young people go from swelling the army of unemployed people to becoming part of the working poor? Has the time not come to say that we want work, but that we want decent jobs and rights for our young people?

 
  
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  Hubert Pirker (PPE). (DE) Mr President, simply throwing money at the growth and debt problems in individual Member States will definitely not help to resolve them. Merely blocking up holes is not a solution. What we need is investment in sustainable measures to help these countries to help themselves, for example, in the areas of education, research, innovation and assistance for small and medium-sized businesses. That will certainly speed up economic growth and job creation.

However, it is also important for the European Union to monitor whether the funds that are made available are actually being properly used. Only under these circumstances will we gain the acceptance of citizens in particular in those Member States which have plenty of funds available and which have managed their budgets properly over the years. All our previous experiences have shown that while trust is a good thing, a community based on solidarity also requires the necessary monitoring measures.

 
  
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  Victor Boştinaru (S&D).(RO) Mr President, all is well! However, both the reports tabled and the Commission’s speech are contradicted here and there by the dramatic reality within the Member States. Once the unemployed are removed from the payment of benefits, at least in Romania, they disappear both from statistics and as a government concern. They no longer exist in the package of society’s turmoil, concerns and worries. The pension reform and labour market flexibility that has been discussed here are also very nice, very important, but in Romania, under the supervision of the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, this reform was accomplished, which means this: the complete dismantling of the legislative and institutional framework regulating the activity of trade unions, the dismantling of the Labour Code, the actual dissolution of the Economic and Social Council, and the refusal of social partners to continue their participation in mimicking the so-called dialogue.

If we do not seek recovery and a response to this turmoil, Romania remains just a part of European statistics – but it is still a Member State! I would like to think that we will come out of this liberal aberration and will try to find answers. I would not wish anyone to spend a day in the shoes of an unemployed person in Romania, neither here in Strasbourg, nor elsewhere in the Member States.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE).(PT) Mr President, I should like to begin by congratulating the various rapporteurs on the documents that we are debating here today, particularly my colleague, Mr Gauzès, whose report highlights the need to find solutions to the financial and sovereign debt crisis we are currently experiencing. Disciplinary measures are important, but so is stepping up medium- and long-term growth measures. It is time for us to establish our priorities. Doing everything at the same time, and often in a contradictory way, is not the solution.

First of all, there is a need to find short-term solutions so as to provide liquidity for the real economy, to solve the banking crisis situation that we are currently experiencing, and to solve the problem of the Member States. Secondly, we need to move towards a series of structural reforms with a clear focus on economic growth. Finally, we also need a range of institutional changes in how the euro operates and how the European Union operates. What we need, finally, is clear political discourse. We all have to support it and I would congratulate the Council on how it has achieved that here today.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  László Andor, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I am grateful for the opportunity to have heard Members’ views on the Commission’s 2012 Annual Growth Survey. First, I believe there is a broad convergence of views on the key policy priorities for 2012, on the higher priority for growth and the urgency of reform implementation, and on the fact that we should take action on employment and not just talk. I think there is an agreement that we have to work for improved consistency between the long-term objectives for economic and social development, as explained in the Europe 2020 strategy, and short-term measures to create stability in Europe and particularly in the euro area.

This convergence of views is comforting for the Commission. I believe that political support from the elected representatives of European citizens for these policy priorities will enhance the credibility of the relevant reforms and thus have a positive impact on confidence. However, based on different political views and approaches, there are differing approaches and emphasis on particular instruments – how exactly we should approach our goals for economic growth and job creation.

Let me give you the Commission’s view on what exactly we think needs to be done for growth and particularly for more jobs in this period. In the discussion, I think there was sufficient attention and appreciation for the Youth Opportunities initiatives, and I am grateful for the positive remarks on this Commission document, in which we relaunched the campaign for a youth guarantee in Europe. I would like to thank those such as Mr Őry, Ms Bastos and Ms Gurmai who mentioned this youth guarantee in a positive light, because I believe this is a very important measure. The Commission can provide technical support for the Member States which are ready to go down this road.

I also believe it is very important, as many participants in the discussion stressed, to improve education and training according to the needs of the labour market in order to create a better match between the supply of and the demand for labour. These aspects will be covered in the country-specific recommendations at the end of this semester.

However, as we needed to update and upgrade the Youth on the Move flagship initiative in the form of the Youth Opportunities initiative, we are also working on an upgrade and an update of our employment policy in the form of an employment package to be presented in April. This will respond to and connect with many issues which you stressed in the discussion, such as how flexicurity policies are helping to develop the European labour market following Denmark’s inspirational example, but also how we want to work more effectively in order to create green jobs, because this is one of the areas where employment will increase in the coming period. We have to ensure that green jobs also appear in Europe and not only in other continents, where this is also a priority.

In addition to green jobs, we also have to look at white coat jobs in the health and care sector and the ICT sectors, which will be a bigger employer in the future. This employment package will also deliver the quality framework on traineeships which many of you called for. I share the view that we have to do a lot more – and do it more effectively – to ensure quality jobs and opportunities for young people, and this quality framework will be a key instrument in addressing this.

There is a need to do more for enterprise, including for SMEs. I think this is again an important point – but let us see what the real bottleneck is in the context of enterprise and SMEs. Perhaps we can do more for smarter regulation – efforts are also being made to streamline regulation inside the Commission – but I believe the real bottleneck is finance. We have to ensure that the banking sector gives more support to enterprise and SMEs, and we can also promote a micro-finance facility. This has already been introduced in about one third of the Member States, and my services are working with other Member States to introduce the Progress Micro-finance Facility in a more rapid manner and support SMEs across Member States.

Let me also say that in my view, the greatest challenge at this time in terms of economic governance is to deal with the increasing polarisation within the European Union. It is not simply about diversity. We have already learned and applied the principle that there is no one size that fits all: we have to take differences into account. But we are now experiencing something which is more serious than that: an increasing asymmetry – a polarisation – between Member States that are relatively strong financially and economically, in terms of employment performance and social stability, and other Member States – largely those on the periphery – where all this is more difficult and where, instead of recovery, many Member States experienced a recession this year and the risk of losing a generation. For many of these Member States, like Ireland, Portugal and Greece, there is significant out-migration, which also means out-migration from Europe, because young people do not see the opportunities and they do not see them returning in the coming years.

I am also grateful for the comment from Latvia, because this also demonstrates that, although some stability has been restored, this example should not be used as a model for other countries, especially the southern countries looking for an exit from recession and financial instability.

I would like to stress that the European Semester is a learning process for all parties involved. With the help of the European Parliament, important lessons have been drawn from the first European Semester, and presenting the Annual Growth Survey earlier has left much more room for debate this time round. The Commission has done this because it recognises the importance of open debate and democratic accountability for the success of the European Semester.

The Commission is keen to contribute to strengthening the strategy’s governance – notably through improved monitoring of employment and social targets – and to bolster the political ownership that is vital for its success. This is very much about sustaining the Europe 2020 strategy and its content and its objectives – together with numerical targets – instead of abandoning them.

In addition to being involved, we also need you to help us strengthen our links with the national parliaments in order to anchor our 2020 objectives in national political agendas as well.

 
  
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  Margrethe Vestager, President-in-Office of the Council. – Mr President, if I am asked by the press when I leave this Assembly what was the focus of the debates, there will be one answer: youth unemployment. That has been the key word from every speaker in this debate on growth and unemployment that has lasted over an hour.

This is a key issue and we have to find ways to address it. It is important to grasp all the nuances here because there is no necessary contradiction between consolidation and growth. It is all a question of priorities: very hard, very difficult priorities in our budgets. We can no longer just discuss this and ask: ‘who is going to spend the next million or the next billion’? We have to discuss how we are spending in general and make sure that we get our priories right; that is important in any parliament; that is important in the European Parliament.

Do we have our priorities right? I think that is a key question and answering it entails a great deal of conflict, because if we want to change our priorities, we will have to have debates that actually change things and concern the people who are the beneficiaries of the present budget and the present way of spending.

Another issue is the fact that greening our economy is part of the answer. I know that some people think that we will have to wait, but greening our economy is part of the answer: being more efficient in the way that we use our resources and, in so doing, creating more space for the most important resource we have: human beings.

It is very important to take note of the Commission’s five priorities because they are important steps in actually reaching the goals of Europe 2020. We must make sure that we pursue differentiated, growth-friendly fiscal consolidation. Second: we must restore normal lending to the economy because SMEs cannot create jobs if they cannot borrow, if their credit line is cut. So normal lending is very important. Third: we must promote growth and competitiveness for tomorrow. A lot of the proposals already tabled are heading in exactly that direction. Fourth, as we have been discussing today, we must tackle unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis. And fifth – perhaps an undervalued point – public administration must be modernised to make sure that we actually help enterprise to create jobs.

These are the important issues and I think that labour market reforms should also be understood as a way of facilitating young people’s entry to work, making sure that they are actually taken on by enterprises and giving them a chance to show that they can actually participate, and that their work is also beneficial to their enterprise.

Last but not least, this is an important debate because it forms part of a long series of debates that Parliament has held in the past and which we will continue to have in the future. Solving the crisis is a very long and very demanding task for everybody. It takes cooperation and when we discuss solutions – be it some of the things that I have mentioned, some of the things mentioned by the Commissioner, or a number of the things mentioned in the three reports that we have been discussing today – a major challenge is to make sure that we cooperate.

I am very much looking forward to continuing cooperation with Parliament on the proposals already tabled, and making sure that we can make it obvious that there is no necessary contradiction between wise consolidation and growth within the European Union.

 
  
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  Marije Cornelissen, rapporteur. – Mr President, I would like to thank all of you for this debate and to thank the shadows for working closely in a very speedy process. Special thanks go to Mr Gauzès and Ms Berès for the excellent cooperation on our reports. I am very proud to form a troika together with you, to refer to what Ms Rapti said.

We have shown that it is possible to deliver complementary views from the economic and the social side, and I am happy with the broad support expressed in this House for our work.

I agree, Ms Harkin, that both deficit and surplus countries should be addressed. Unfortunately, in yesterday’s alert mechanism report, surplus countries like the Netherlands and Germany were unaffected. I hope Ms Harkin will be able to support the paragraph in my report that counters this asymmetrical approach.

I am happy that the call for a job-rich recovery, expressing worries about rising poverty, is growing louder in all institutions and all political groups. What I am afraid of now is that this call will remain lip service. We need measures to give the employment and social goals the power and standing to rise to the level of the budgetary ones, so perhaps we need an excessive unemployment procedure and an excessive poverty-increase procedure. Why not expand what was once the ‘six-pack’ – and is now going to be the ‘eight-pack’ – immediately to a ‘ten-pack’, in order also to include the social and employment goals. And let us differentiate our approach, to give all Member States a prospect of recovery.

 
  
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  Jean-Paul Gauzès, rapporteur.(FR) Mr President, this is certainly not the best time to speak. However, I, too, would like to commend the excellent cooperation between the rapporteurs, Ms Cornelissen, Ms Berès and myself and the shadow rapporteurs.

On the substance of the debate, I would like to say that what is needed today is for words to be backed up by actions, and that is undoubtedly the hardest thing to achieve. As regards its form, I would like to point out that the 2012 European Semester will be the first to come under the new legal framework of enhanced economic governance. In order to ensure that Parliament is well informed, we urge you, Commissioner, to ensure that the Commission provides a detailed assessment of the implementation, by the Member States, of the recommendations in each country.

The Council, for its part, is required to provide a public explanation of its position within the framework of economic dialogue with Parliament, when its position deviates significantly from the Commission’s recommendations and proposals.

It is quite clear that the States can retain a degree of discretion under the principle of subsidiarity. The new legal framework stipulates that Parliament must be duly involved in the European Semester in order to increase transparency and accountability for decisions, particularly through economic dialogue, as provided for by the relevant secondary legislation.

In this respect, I should like to conclude by reminding you of the requests made by Parliament to the Council and the Commission in its resolution of 1 December 2011. It is important to give this resolution a precise public response. The reality and effectiveness of the democratic control for which this Parliament is responsible depends on it.

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès, rapporteur.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, you said that the European Parliament had agreed not to change the guidelines. So be it. However, we would like to see these guidelines implemented and, in our reports, we make a certain number of proposals to provide you with the means to monitor this implementation.

In particular, I should like to mention one proposal, the proposal to work with the Member States on a budgetary heading which would allow us to ascertain the contribution of the Member States, for example, to realising the objectives of the 2020 strategy rather than towards military expenditure or whatever else.

Ms Vestager, thank you for being here today. You have said that you will report on this debate and the work of this Parliament at the 21 February meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN). This is precisely what we would like to see. It is in that spirit that we would like to advance European democracy and it is also in that spirit that on 27 and 28 February, we shall meet with representatives of all the national parliaments to ensure that, in this European Semester, there is also room for the democratic dimension to thrive.

Finally, Ms Vestager, may I call on you to take into account in the same way, during this ECOFIN Council, the new impact assessment that the Commission is due to publish tomorrow on the assessment of the tax on financial transactions.

 
  
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  President. – The joint debate is closed.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ALEJO VIDAL-QUADRAS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Evelyn Regner (S&D).(DE) Mr President, in the previous debate on the Annual Growth Survey, I attempted to ask Mr Obermayr a blue-card question. However, I was not able to do so because he left the Chamber immediately. I would like to ask that Members remain in the Chamber at least long enough to be asked a blue-card question.

 
  
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  President. – Ms Regner, yes, you are right. Gentlemen should always wait for questions from ladies. Joking apart, you are quite right that Members should wait if there is a blue-card request, so we take good note of your remark and we will act accordingly.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE), in writing. (RO) The European Union is confronted with the vital task of overcoming the effects of the international economic and financial crisis. Measures such as continued medium and long-term investment to meet the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, as well as making investments to stimulate economic growth in the short term, may prove to be the instruments through which the confidence of European citizens and financial markets in the commercial and industrial capacity of the European Union can be restored. It is equally important for the success of the EU’s economic strategies for Member States to implement in their practices a number of elements agreed at European level, as soon as possible. The success of European economic recovery depends essentially on the creation of a fiscal consolidation policy to encourage economic growth, the adoption of measures to prevent the escalation of youth unemployment, and the launch of timely measures to prevent marginalisation and social isolation in accordance with the European strategic documents. I express my support for the adoption of Parliament’s proposals. The use of Structural Funds to redress these temporary economic imbalances, based on close cooperation between the Commission and Member States, along with strengthening the single market, the development of the digital economy and cutting back institutional bureaucracy are solutions to be considered.

 
  
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  Filiz Hakaeva Hyusmenova (ALDE), in writing.(BG) Today, we are witnessing a series of negative consequences related to the economic and social aspects of the financial crisis. The growing unemployment rate, the increased risk of poverty and social exclusion, together with the uncertainty among the employed, are some of the problems that we are confronted with, and which require fast and appropriate measures. Given that resources have been restricted by the crisis, we need to concentrate our efforts on policies that enable growth and sustainable development as much as possible. It is therefore imperative for these to form the broad basis of the Annual Growth Survey 2012. Member States and the Commission must guarantee the implementation of rapid, coordinated measures to improve labour market conditions with particular emphasis given to young people, women and other vulnerable groups. The fight against unemployment, especially among young people, must become a leading priority that is supported by measures for education, professional development, traineeships and for encouraging entrepreneurship. Establishing a closer link between education and business needs is also important as it would guarantee increased potential for professional development among graduates as well. Stimulating youth mobility and providing more flexible working conditions would contribute to increased work productivity and improve the competitiveness of the European economy.

 
  
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  Lívia Járóka (PPE), in writing. – I welcome the fact that tackling the social consequences of the crisis is one of the five priorities listed in the recent Annual Growth Survey. It is very important that the sector of employment and social affairs is not overshadowed by the focus on fiscal consolidation, and that the headline target of increasing employment is kept on the agenda and further promoted by investing in sustainable job creation. It must be ensured that consolidation measures will not have further negative impacts on people at risk of poverty and/or social exclusion. The Commission should therefore put more emphasis on guiding Member States in coordinating their national reform programmes with the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy, in particular increasing employment and introducing effective incentives for work. The successful launch of the national Roma inclusion strategies and its European framework is indispensable in this respect, since Roma constitute a huge reserve of idle workforce and are disproportionately over-represented among those living in poverty. Increasing the employment of Roma – so that this approximates to the regional average – would already trigger substantial economic growth that many countries with a significant Roma population and hit by the sovereign debt crisis are so desperately in need of.

 
  
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  Jaromír Kohlíček (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (CS) Europe and the European Union have been suffering an economic crisis since 2008. In addition to the decline across a wide range of artificial indicators such as GDP, there has been a significant fall in employment and domestic consumption in individual states. We also see a substantial increase in the number of people in EU Member States who have a job and receive pay, but the pay is so low that, even under the ever worsening and ever stricter criteria for providing the various social contributions, these people are entitled to various types of benefit in relation to their low pay. Unfortunately, over the past 20 years, it has typically been the case that employment in the primary and secondary sectors has fallen significantly, and employment in the agricultural and forestry sectors has fallen very significantly. A former key sector for employment in industrially developed states, that is to say industry, has become a marginal factor, particularly in the countries of central and eastern Europe. In the old EU states, the emphasis in former times on the development of industry has shifted to support for the development of services. In the service sector, unfortunately, many areas are really in a crisis situation as regards securing employment, and are very risky in terms of workers’ earnings in these areas. The solution is to support industry and apprenticeships, increase the minimum wage, protect jobs, develop specialist training and to have progressive taxation of both legal and physical entities.

 
  
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  Vladimír Maňka (S&D), in writing. (SK) The austerity measures that many EU countries have introduced in response to the crisis are leading to worsening poverty throughout the EU. The situation on the labour market is very critical, especially for young people, regardless of educational attainment. The crisis has also affected people who are approaching retirement age, the long-term unemployed and unskilled workers. The commitments made in the national reform programmes are not sufficient to achieve the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy in employment, education and poverty reduction.

We must therefore focus on integrated reform measures that promote growth in the short, medium and long terms.

In its policy guidelines, the European Council must ensure that EU funds will be allocated to achieving the Europe 2020 strategy objectives.

The European Council must, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, approve guidelines aimed at increasing revenues through fair, progressive, redistributive, effective and efficient taxation, in order to help combat tax evasion through better tax coordination, ensure the fairness of the system, and maintain social cohesion.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE), in writing. (RO) The motion for a resolution refers to the labour market situation of young people and people approaching the retirement age, as well as of low-skilled workers, those categories considered to be the most severely affected by the crisis. Among the areas of economic activity, these three categories are particularly prevalent in some Member States in agriculture. Therefore, I believe that the measures taken to encourage setting up young farmers by taking over some farms or expanding holdings, as well as the anticipated pension systems for elderly farmers, must also continue in the future common agricultural policy. It should be noted that rural workers, young and old, are in a very special situation that requires particular solutions.

 
  
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  Rovana Plumb (S&D), in writing. (RO) Plenary Speech – Annual Growth Survey 2012. The social consequences of the crisis are very severe, and are further exacerbated by the impact of the austerity measures adopted in some countries in response to the sovereign debt crisis, by the job losses in the private and public sectors, and by the decrease in the provision of social insurance services and public services, leading to the aggravation of poverty cases across the EU. According to Eurostat, since 2010, 41.4% of the population of Romania have faced the risk of poverty or social exclusion, representing 8.89 million people out of a total population of 21.47 million. The Eurostat figure for Bulgaria is 42%, for Latvia 38%, for Lithuania 33%, and for Hungary, 30%. The initiatives that facilitate the development of sectors with the greatest potential for employment should be supported at European level, particularly in the transition to a sustainable economy (‘green jobs’), social and health services (‘white coat jobs’) and digital economy. Emphasis must also be placed on the strategy to combat youth unemployment.

 
  
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  Evelyn Regner (S&D), in writing. (DE) This report has enabled the European Parliament to play an active role in the debate on overcoming the crisis and to put the focus on social factors as well as economic ones during the course of the discussion. This sends out a powerful signal to the spring meeting of the European Council which will help to ensure that those countries hardest hit by the crisis are the ones which receive assistance. Current economic figures show that the stringent austerity measures being taken in some countries will not result in a recovery. We need to invest, particularly in the citizens of Europe, in order to bring about a change of direction. Effective initiatives and concrete resources are required to stimulate growth. Therefore, I am pleased that the report contains a reference to the financial transaction tax. However, what is missing in the Annual Growth Survey is a focus on the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy. To me, there seems to be a lack of coherence in this area, because these goals should be our highest priority. This applies, in particular, to youth unemployment. The previous declarations of intent must be followed by concrete initiatives to create jobs for young people, so that we can give them hope. It is also very important to me that the report refers to macro-economic imbalances. Deleting this reference would be a questionable move, most importantly because these imbalances were the main factors which triggered the crisis.

 
  
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  Joanna Senyszyn (S&D), in writing.(PL) In relation to the report on employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2012, I would like to draw particular attention to the huge number of young people who are unemployed. Currently, over 5 million young people in the European Union are unemployed, which means that one in five young people in the labour market cannot find work. In Poland, at the beginning of 2011, there were almost half a million people under the age of 25 registered with employment offices as unemployed. School leavers and university graduates cannot find work; reasons for this include the fact that they lack experience, and it is currently very difficult to gain that experience.

We should follow the example of Germany and France, where, during the period of an employee’s training, the employer’s social insurance contributions are paid from an unemployment insurance fund. This encourages employers to take on young people. It is essential to have standards governing the quality of traineeships for young people. After a traineeship, young people must have the knowledge and skills necessary in a particular labour market. On 1 February 2012, all the Union’s Member States agreed to develop their own plan on employment for young people and support for small enterprises. Some are even going to create special action groups to prevent youth unemployment. I hope these plans will be made as quickly as possible, because the situation for young people in the labour market is, quite frankly, desperate.

 
  
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  Valdemar Tomaševski (ECR), in writing.(PL) The financial crisis, which was followed by a social crisis, has shown very clearly that the Union needs better economic governance. This is particularly necessary in the employment sector and the labour market. Unemployment in the EU has increased significantly since 2008 and has reached a level of 23 million people, corresponding to 10% of the working age population. This is the average figure for the whole Union and there are, of course, Member States with a much higher unemployment rate, chiefly the EU’s new Member States.

The labour market situation is exceptionally difficult for young people, regardless of their education, and they often end up with precarious employment contracts. If the potential of the younger generation in the economy is not to be lost, the European Council needs to make tackling youth unemployment a priority and to develop an effective strategy for young people in the European Union. This strategy should be developed in close cooperation with the social partners and should include a European Youth Guarantee, on the basis of which the Member States would guarantee every young person in the EU the right to be offered a job, an apprenticeship or additional training after a maximum period of not more than six months’ unemployment.

Similar initiatives are to be found in the Cornelissen report and deserve to be analysed on their merits. This should go together with budgetary incentives from the European Council for investments in sustainable job creation in as many sectors of the economy as possible.

 
  
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  Kathleen Van Brempt (S&D), in writing. (NL) The fact that we, as Parliament, can only share our views on the policy guidelines for the European Semester through own-initiative reports tells you immediately where the problem lies. Neither the European Parliament nor the national parliaments have any say or any right of control over the final policy guidelines. This, in itself, was not a disaster as long as these policy guidelines were being used as they were intended: as directives. However, there is a gradual shift taking place whereby these directives are suddenly taking on a much more coercive character. One such example is the commitment of the Heads of State or Government at last December’s European summit to full adherence to these directives. Depriving parliaments (whether European or national) of the right to codecide in such cases means undermining the democratic process. After all, you can already see the consequences: the social dimension has become the Cinderella of the policy guidelines and is being completely overshadowed by macro-economic and budgetary objectives. However, we cannot have one without the other, and I hope that the European Council will also recognise this and give the social dimension of the guidelines the role it deserves.

 

8. 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)

 

8.1. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and the Schengen acquis (A7-0013/2012 - Timothy Kirkhope) (vote)

8.2. Guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (A7-0011/2012 - Pervenche Berès) (vote)

8.3. Food distribution to the most deprived persons in the Union (A7-0032/2012 - Czesław Adam Siekierski) (vote)
 

Before the vote:

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès (S&D).(FR) Mr President, we are going to vote on Mr Siekierski’s report. On behalf of all our fellow Members and, in particular, the members of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, we would like to say that we are going to accept the two-year extension of the Food Distribution Programme for the Most Deprived Persons, on the basis of the agreement reached at the Council. Simply speaking, bearing in mind the political conditions under which this agreement was reached at the Council, we would like to obtain a statement from the Commission on its vision for the future of this programme.

 
  
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  László Andor, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, Ms Berès, honourable Members, I am sure you know that the multiannual financial framework adopted on 29 June 2011 provides for future food aid for the most deprived people to be funded under Heading 1, where it fits most appropriately with the poverty reduction target of the EU 2020 strategy. The Commission will, in due time, exercise its right of initiative to translate the outcome of the MFF discussions into action, because the right of initiative belongs to the Commission.

 

8.4. Radio spectrum policy (A7-0019/2012 - Gunnar Hökmark) (vote)

8.5. Contractual relations in the milk and milk products sector (A7-0262/2011 - James Nicholson) (vote)

8.6. Amendment of Rule 48(2) on own-initiative reports (A7-0399/2011 - Stanimir Ilchev) (vote)

8.7. Feasibility of introducing stability bonds (B7-0016/2012) (vote)

8.8. Employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2012 (A7-0021/2012 - Marije Cornelissen) (vote)

8.9. Contribution to the Annual Growth Survey 2012 (A7-0018/2012 - Jean-Paul Gauzès) (vote)
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  President. – The vote is closed.

 

9. Explanations of vote
Video of the speeches
  

Oral explanations of vote

 
  
  

Report: Pervenche Berès (A7-0011/2012)

 
  
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  Iva Zanicchi (PPE).(IT) Mr President, every time the situation seems to improve, new downgrades by the rating agencies shake up the international markets. Many European businesses are failing, and in terms of employment, the number of long-term job seekers is rising, especially among the young.

If austerity plans and safeguarding the euro are necessary measures, then drastic changes to the job market are even more important at national level in boosting economic recovery in Europe. Only by making the European Union competitive again will we restore faith to investors and promote the creation of new jobs.

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Mr President, the EU should not have responsibility over setting an EU strategy on jobs or for developing an EU-level strategy for employment. I fundamentally believe that Member States are better placed to make decisions on employment and develop their own employment strategy. A one-size-fits-all model really cannot be applied because the employment situation in each Member State – and indeed within each Member State as in the case of Wales within the UK – is affected by different factors.

A tailored and targeted approach must be adopted to ensure that we tackle priorities locally for employment and find specific measures that improve future employment opportunities, especially for our young people. Care needs to be taken with this EU-wide strategy.

 
  
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  Salvatore Iacolino (PPE).(IT) Mr President, there is no doubt that the latest employment figures, especially among the young, generate particular social alarm. If unemployment is at 10.4% and rising, this clearly can only arouse particular concern.

Therefore, great care and attention needs to be paid to the initiative put in place by the Commission to create a task force, an action team to support individual governments – initially eight – in directing funding, including EU funds, towards the creation of new jobs, especially for the young.

The right to work is sacred and fundamental, and according to the Europe 2020 strategy, activities encouraging employment and growth should be actively promoted, also by linking migration flows to the labour market and, above all, by guaranteeing that preference is shown to EU workers.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE).(IT) Mr President, the adoption of this resolution today has finally refocused attention on a topic that is central for the future of Europe. Work has been the main casualty of the crisis and the inadequate employment policies of recent years. The situation is, unfortunately, getting worse, particularly for young people.

On 1 March, the European Council will launch the new economic and employment policy guidelines. We therefore need to discuss a new employment programme, a market reform that will create new jobs backed by an investment policy targeting the new generations and providing them with practical responses; in other words, a new employment plan that will modernise education and training systems and finally promote the value of individuals.

Work must go back to being regular and stable, which does not necessarily mean working in the same place all one’s working life, but nor does it mean that people should be ‘disposable’ either. The real challenge will be to allow and encourage different professional experiences in one’s lifetime, while at the same time safeguarding and guaranteeing professionalism and pay.

 
  
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  Francesco De Angelis (S&D).(IT) Mr President, these guidelines for employment policies will be a great help in achieving the target of increasing participation in the labour market and reducing youth unemployment. Today, the future of young people is increasingly uncertain and insecure. There is no point in concealing the fact that sustained economic growth is crucial for the future of Europe. The youth unemployment figures are dramatic and unacceptable.

The European Union must be committed to a medium- to long-term strategy for better, full and good-quality employment, especially for young people and their mobility, but also in terms of gender quality. At the same time, there must be parallel efforts to improve education and training systems at all levels.

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (ECR). – Mr President, one in five Greeks is now unemployed, 60 000 small firms have closed in the last year, the economy, which was scheduled to contract by 3% in 2011, has contracted by 6% and there is no end in sight as long as Greece remains in the euro. There is austerity and poverty and deflation without end.

I noticed in the debate this morning that it seems to be dawning on some of our colleagues on the Left that they have picked the wrong side, that they are lining up with the establishment, the bondholders and the banks against ordinary workers in Greece, and that this bailout money is going to rescue some very wealthy individuals from the consequences of their mistakes, but the repayment is going to come from ordinary taxpayers.

That is what happens when you base your whole policy on signalling your disapproval of nationalism. That is what happens when you take a position based on doing the opposite of people that you do not like. But it is never too late to come to your senses, my friends: ‘Joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance’.

 
  
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  Mario Pirillo (S&D).(IT) Mr President, the current economic crisis, together with the austerity measures adopted in some countries, has created new social categories at risk of poverty, including young people and elderly people. Given the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, the Annual Growth Survey must ensure consistency between the various priorities in its political guidelines in order to ensure that budgetary needs are based on social justice.

I agree with the rapporteur on the need to act immediately in order to improve employment conditions for categories at risk of social exclusion and to make tackling youth unemployment a priority. Future national reform plans will need to include training programmes able to develop lifelong learning and to create qualified jobs with dignified pay and conditions.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Mr President, I generally believe that the EU should not uniformly dictate employment laws across its Member States. I also remain sceptical about the need for an EU strategy on jobs or a reinforced coordinated strategy on employment. Forcing our Member States to adopt the same uniform policies across the board when their social structures and the economic problems they face are very different will do little to nothing to aid employment levels in the Union.

What is good for one country will doubtless prove unworkable for another, so I think it is best if Member States are left alone to define their own national reform programmes and to implement their own reforms as they see fit.

 
  
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  Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (PPE).(HU) Mr President, the Annual Growth Survey 2012 is quite correct in stressing that the success of economic governance will greatly depend on the budgetary rigour implemented by the individual Member States, but it is just as important to kick-start economic growth and, at the same time, complete the internal market. Unfortunately, this did not receive sufficient focus either in the ‘six-pack’ or in the current fiscal pact. Yet short- and medium-term cuts made by the Member States in public expenditures are futile if no structural reforms are implemented. The Commission is not sufficiently satisfied with Member State reforms and efforts. It wants quick results, pressing and forcing Member States to deliver them, which leads to unnecessary austerity measures and a continuing rise in unemployment. That is why this is a good report, and that is why it is important that the Commission is finally entertaining the idea of once again giving this matter focus in its country-specific recommendations.

 
  
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  President. – Ms Gáll-Pelcz, next time, remember that you must register for an explanation of vote before the explanations of vote start. You registered when we had already started and, according to the Rules, you must do it before, so remember next time.

 
  
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  Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (PPE).(HU) Mr President, I accept your kindness and next time, I will do as you have said.

 
  
  

Recommendation for second reading: Czesław Adam Siekierski (A7-0032/2012)

 
  
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  Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, the political signal the Parliament has sent with this report on the distribution of food aid to the most deprived persons is very important at this time when an economic crisis is affecting people who did not cause the crisis, but who are suffering from its consequences.

For that reason, I voted for this report, which concerns the most deprived people and also regional and local authorities which, in many cases, are the principal distributors of food aid.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE).(FR) Mr President, today is a great day because the food aid programme for the most deprived has been saved. There had been talk of abolishing it, which would have been sheer madness, sheer political madness. Who would have thought that Europe could lose interest in a matter of such importance?

We won this battle, and should be glad about that. We should congratulate all those who played a part in this victory and particularly the governments who helped us – I should like to thank the French Government in particular – and all the Members of Parliament who supported us. However, this is just a battle, and the war has yet to be won, since we have saved this programme for two years.

I would simply like to say, in the gentlest possible fashion, to our friends – the German, English, Swedish, Danish, Dutch and Czech Republic governments, which opposed the renewal of this programme, that in two years’ time, we are all going to be back together again. I would simply like to say that a certain number of MEPs – particularly the French MEPs from the presidential majority – despite this, and in any event, will formally oppose any undermining of this programme.

Europe cannot lose interest in those who are quite simply hungry. This is clearly a matter of European solidarity.

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Mr President, although this proposal allows for the continuation of a scheme which provides food for deprived individuals in some EU Member States, I do not agree that EUR 500 million should be allocated for this scheme from the common agricultural policy budget. This essentially is a social policy which therefore should not be part of the CAP. Indeed, I question whether it should even be funded by the EU budget at all.

Social policy and its implementation should be a Member State competence and so this initiative should be funded by national, social and welfare programmes. CAP payments should support agriculture and rural development; Structural Funds should improve competitiveness. If this is to be funded from the limited EU budget, then it should only be sourced from within the existing ESF, which is for social purposes. I am pleased to hear today the Commission say they recognise this fact.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE). – Mr President, I certainly welcome this report. I commend the rapporteur for the huge amount of hard work put into it and for the very practical approach which allows this scheme – at long last – to come into operation as soon as possible.

I think it is an excellent scheme. It benefits over 18 million of the most needy people in 19 Member States. The programme is 100% EU-funded and the amount – EUR 500 million – is small in the context of the overall common agricultural policy budget. There is no state financing involved, and I welcome this.

The Council agreement of 15 December 2011 allowed for the implementation of the scheme over the period 2012-2013. The initiative was blocked, as has been said already, for far too long by seven Member States. I welcome the compromise that has been negotiated by the Council, but there is no guarantee that the economic situation will have improved by 2013. I welcome the clarification by the Commission today that it will use its initiative in terms of putting a further scheme in place.

 
  
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  Iva Zanicchi (PPE).(IT) Mr President, after a two-year impasse at the Council and some rather difficult negotiations, we have reached the conclusion that, in the absence of a better alternative, the compromise voted on today is the only way to reach a temporary solution and guarantee that the most deprived people in the EU can benefit from the food distribution programme for the 2012-2013 period.

Unfortunately, given the way in which it has been adopted, I believe that the programme financing, which will come entirely from the EU budget and has an annual ceiling of EUR 500 million for the Union’s financial contribution, will have to be discussed again after 2013.

 
  
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  Vincenzo Iovine (ALDE).(IT) Mr President, I was pleased to play a part in approval of the scheme for distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union. At a time like this, when the number of deprived people in Europe has risen as a result also of the economic crisis, I believe that an important signal like today’s can contribute to greater cohesion in the European Union.

This reminds me of the example of a Neapolitan saint. He was a doctor called Giuseppe Moscati. When he received patients in his surgery, he used to put his hat on the desk with the sides turned up, and a notice placed on it reading ‘Those who have please give, and those who don’t please take’.

 
  
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  Salvatore Caronna (S&D).(IT) Mr President, Parliament’s vote relating to the scheme for distribution of food products to deprived persons for the next two years was, above all, a mandatory step, bearing in mind also the fact that a few weeks ago, we approved a report against food waste that had amongst its targets the fundamental objective of helping the most needy sections of the population.

It is unthinkable that at a time of economic crisis and social suffering like the present, we should not be responding, albeit partially, in such a way. In such a perspective, it is to be hoped that we will find a definitive solution for the entire 2014-2020 period.

As we are seeing at the moment in the squares of Athens, the image of a European Union capable only of imposing cuts and sacrifices is a devastating one. We need to offer an alternative Europe capable of solidarity and of taking care of those in difficulty, and we need to do it soon.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). (SK) Mr President, malnutrition does not affect only developing countries, but also threatens 43 million people right here in Europe. In the context of the economic crisis, the number of people who are no longer able to provide for themselves is, in fact, growing rapidly. The most vulnerable are primarily the homeless, the elderly in poor material circumstances, the unemployed and the disabled, single parents with children, and large families.

I consider the programme for the distribution of food to the most deprived, which has, in its 22 years of existence, helped to provide food to the poorest people in the Union, to be a most commendable initiative. I am concerned that precisely this kind of tangible assistance to the needy has been blocked in the Council for more than two years, and even faces disbanding after 2013. It concerns me that countries such as Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the Czech Republic are against it.

 
  
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  Olga Sehnalová (S&D). - (CS) Mr President, I very much welcome and fully support the compromise that has been reached over the continuation of food aid for the poorest inhabitants over the next two years. I also hope that an optimal way of funding it will also be found in the next financial period.

The fact that food aid to the poorest makes sense was confirmed this winter, for example, in Northern Moravia in the Czech Republic, in relation to delays with the payment of certain social benefits, which thrust many of these most vulnerable people into a real crisis situation. Thanks to the rapid and, in particular, humane response of social workers and non-profit organisations, the situation was kept under control.

These are precisely the situations where food aid helps. I am therefore sorry that the Czech Republic, which has had no problems in making use of European food aid, has failed to back the resulting compromise in the Council, even in this form.

 
  
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  Silvia Costa (S&D).(IT) Mr President, it would be truly strange if, at a time of such difficulties and problems in the lives of millions of people in Europe, the European Union were to impose further restrictions on food distribution. This would have a detrimental effect on basic social citizenship rights, the value of social cohesion and the very perception of the European social model.

The signal that Parliament and the Council are both giving is a positive one, but we need to work on giving a definite structure and future to this necessary initiative. I would like to point out that in my country, Caritas, local bodies and other not-for-profit organisations providing free meals have seen an exponential increase in the number of people joining the ranks of the deprived, who can no longer count on being able to feed themselves, and these include not just immigrants, but many elderly and young people as well.

I believe that, in the context of our ambitious fight against poverty and efforts to reduce poverty, this scheme is a prerequisite, and if we had not approved it, we would have gone against our own policy objectives.

 
  
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  Paolo Bartolozzi (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, at such a difficult time for Europe and after the blocking of the proposal at the Council and the tabling of a new amended Commission proposal, the distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union is undoubtedly a positive act. It is a useful compromise that has resolved many of the issues that caused the impasse, such as the full financing of the scheme by the European Union, with the participation of the Union in the distribution point programme, an annual ceiling of EUR 500 million for the Union’s financial contribution, the notion of the Union origin of the foods that are then distributed and the requirement for the purchase of food products to be made on the basis of competitive procedures.

The scheme will therefore be operational from 2013 and will allow the supply of food products from reserves deriving from intervention in order to benefit the most deprived persons in the Union, thus also achieving one of the most important objectives of the common agricultural policy (CAP). Today’s vote in favour is the culmination of this report’s complex and difficult path, and is an important sign of the Union’s support for its most deprived citizens.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, I voted for this resolution because access to food is a fundamental right. It requires adequate funding in view of the warnings issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations concerning the increasing risk of global famine. In addition, extreme weather conditions this winter will certainly have a negative impact on the development of spring crops. I think we need to send a strong signal to the Commission and Council to release the funds required. In these difficult times, any delay in making a decision may cost European citizens dearly. The positive vote of the Council on 23 January is a step forward in the optimal continuation of the programme. A clear strategy must also be developed in this area for the next financial framework.

 
  
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  Peter Jahr (PPE).(DE) Mr President, it is a disgrace that people in the European Union are continuing to go hungry and we must not ignore this fact. We must help people who cannot feed themselves adequately. Therefore, I support the compromise that has been negotiated on aid for deprived people. However, in future, we also need to find a different basis for our efforts in this area.

It is also important to me to ensure that the Member States fulfil their responsibilities. We need a mechanism which calls for commitment from the Member States and does not simply pass the problems on to Brussels. Aid for people who are suffering should be provided on a regional and local basis because this allows it to be targeted more effectively. Brussels should only step in to help when, for whatever reason, the Member State is not able to do so.

 
  
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  Sari Essayah (PPE).(FI) Mr President, as this resolution was adopted with no proper vote being taken, I would like to say that, first of all, the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union a year ago jeopardised the entire future of food aid. Fortunately, based on the European Parliament’s resolution last June, we have now taken a decision, in conjunction with the Council, to avoid this dramatic cut in food aid, and now its continuation is assured until the end of 2013, with an annual budget of EUR 500 million.

Over this period, we will have to examine how this aid can be continued sensibly, because the number of destitute EU citizens will, if anything, increase in the years to come. We should also appreciate the voluntary work that is done by communities and aid organisations distributing EU food aid. Parliament’s actions and the outcome achieved were absolutely the right response to the plight of Europe’s poorest citizens.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI). – Mr President, while this scheme has merit on a social and compassionate level, I would question whether the EU is the best level at which to define the needs of the most deprived and then address them in an efficient and cost-effective way. As a believer in the primacy of the Member State, I believe that this is where need is best defined and met.

But this is not only about poverty and social exclusion. In this Parliament, we are currently in deep discussion about a reformed common agricultural policy, a CAP which should be about food supply and security. We should ask the Commission to reconsider its proposals and put this at the heart of the policy. But is it not ironic that today in Greece, we see people going short of food, and farmers bringing food supplies into Greek cities to distribute for free, while at the same time we have demands for more austerity that we know Greece cannot meet? And all for that political project which is the euro.

 
  
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  Salvatore Iacolino (PPE).(IT) Mr President, according to latest estimates, around 16% of the population of the European Union lives on or below the poverty threshold. Last Monday, when this part-session began, we talked about homeless, abandoned, marginalised and vulnerable people who are experiencing a particularly difficult time also because of the bad weather conditions. Six hundred people have died.

This is a partial response, and while significant, it is not entirely satisfactory. The Commissioner’s statement today that a plan will be put together, which did not contain details of the content, did not put our minds at rest. However, it is important that it should have been implemented. All in all, EUR 113 million is a limited amount. It is right to continue with competitive measures that put everyone in the same position, and by everyone I mean the third-party competitors.

However, a policy with a more solid approach to this problem is necessary.

 
  
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  Adam Bielan (ECR).(PL) Mr President, I welcome today’s decision, because approval of the Council position at first reading is an extremely important step towards releasing aid for the most deprived citizens of the Union as quickly as possible. The Council position maintains full support for the programme from EU funds. The annual ceiling for the financial contribution will, therefore, be EUR 500 million this year and next year. Key amendments suggested by Parliament have also been accepted, such as specifying the EU origin of the foods, purchasing food products on the basis of competitive procedures and reimbursing charitable organisations for the storage costs of these foods. I am pleased that representatives of the Polish Presidency were among those who helped work out a compromise in the course of extremely difficult negotiations.

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (ECR). – Mr President, once again, this House is in full Cartesian demon mode, imagining that somehow, with this sententious declaration about the needs of the hungry, we wipe out and efface the reality of our policies. The single policy which causes most indigence and hunger in the world is the common agricultural policy, a policy which doubly affects developing countries, both by denying markets to their chief exports and then by dumping surpluses upon them.

But European policies are no longer just exporting hunger: we have now brought it into the European Union too. According to news reports, well-dressed Greeks are rummaging through dustbins and farmers are bringing food supplies into the cities to their relatives – all in order to sustain the euro.

We, comfortable and well fed here, rather than admit our mistake, are prepared to inflict this terrible price on people outside, and then we dare to pass high-minded resolutions like this and pat ourselves on the back and feel good about ourselves. I am sure you are long past trying to convince your constituents but, my friends, I think you are now past trying to fool yourselves about this.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Mr President, I voted for this report but I have been disappointed at how we got to this position and indeed about what the future holds. I think it says a great deal when we see that the Council decision is to phase out the current scheme after 2013. Unfortunately, Parliament itself had no real margin for any substantial renegotiation with the Council, because of the urgency of the situation and because of the fact, of course, that this proposal has been blocked for two years.

I have to say that it is very worrying when we look at social issues, which I believe have a European dimension: issues like the distribution of food products, the continuation of the crisis derogation for the EAGGF, the micro-finance programme, etc. It is very worrying when we see that all three met significant resistance in the Council. We are told that is a matter for the Member States. Well, in Ireland, whenever we are having a debate about social policy, we often use the phrase about the difference between Boston and Berlin. If you ask me, that difference is getting less and less every day.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Mr President, I voted against the report on food distribution to the most deprived persons in the Union. The scheme clearly does provide nutritious benefit to a certain number of deprived people and I do not deny that soup kitchens, many of which receive this money, are a lifeline for the homeless. What I find difficult to reconcile is that EUR 500 million of funding for the scheme comes from the CAP and is not used by many Member States. My country, the UK, does not use the scheme at all.

I firmly believe that a scheme such as this would be better managed by the individual Member States themselves from their social security budgets, as such a policy is clearly a social policy. Funding should not be taken from the CAP and the scheme should not be delivered through the EU but left to individual national governments to decide upon as a matter of subsidiarity. I believe in the principle that the EU should be doing less and should be doing it better.

 
  
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  Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė (PPE) . – (LT) Mr President, today in plenary, I voted in favour of food distribution to the most deprived. As the European Union experiences an economic recession and the level of unemployment increases, unfortunately, so too does the number of deprived Europeans, and it is therefore important to ensure that the food aid scheme continues, alleviating the situation for the most vulnerable. It is also important for this scheme’s principal funding to be met by European Union funds. Why? Because some Member States are going through particularly difficult times and it would be too challenging for them.

In this context, other actions are also important. The European Parliament has expressed its position on the introduction of double date labelling. This could simplify the distribution of food aid, but the main thing should probably be the responsibility of Member States, i.e. ensuring that food aid really reaches those who need it most and there is no room for abuse. The Member States and relevant authorities should guarantee this.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE).(PL) Mr President, I am the rapporteur, but I did not speak earlier, despite asking to be given the floor. I would like to say a few words. Today in the European Parliament, we have completed the decision-making process related to the continuation, in 2012 and 2013, of the programme for the free distribution of food to the most deprived persons in Europe. This was possible thanks to the achievement of an agreement in Council during the Polish Presidency. The European Union provides EUR 500 million annually for the programme, which benefits 18 million needy people in 20 countries that have asked to be included. This means that the Union does remember the poorest and the excluded and that it puts the idea of human solidarity into practice on an everyday basis.

I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the continuation of this programme, which has been in operation for 25 years. We must do everything to carry on with the programme from 2014 to 2020. We have to do this. The Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development is drafting a resolution on the need to continue the programme. I would ask Members who are opposed to or have doubts about the programme to read the report. I think that after familiarising themselves with its contents, they will change their minds. I would also like to explain that the programme has been financed from funds which were not taken up as part of the CAP.

 
  
  

Recommendation for second reading: Gunner Hökmark (A7-0019/2012)

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Mr President, the EU radio spectrum policy makes sensible proposals in line with the digital switchover and will help Member States in driving innovation through the release of funds whilst safeguarding services at local level. Without doubt, the radio spectrum could be used more efficiently as we complete the transition to digital.

We need to ensure that the bandwidth previously required is now released for this spectrum to be allocated for use elsewhere. Measures which facilitate access to broadband in rural areas are to be welcomed. I know that this recommendation and subsequent actions will be particularly beneficial to my constituents in Wales, as there is currently a severe lack of broadband coverage in some of our more remote areas – a situation which needs to be urgently remedied.

 
  
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  Janusz Władysław Zemke (S&D).(PL) Mr President, I would like to offer wholehearted support to the agreement between Parliament and the Council on radio spectrum policy. The agreement will enable the Union to take the global lead on broadband speeds. In practice, on 1 January 2013, the 800 MHz band will be freed up throughout the Union for wireless broadband Internet services. By 2015, at least 1 200 MHz will be allocated for mobile data traffic, which means that in the next few years, a completely new market will emerge in the Union with telecoms services on a new scale. This is very important for the people who live in the Union and for technological advance in all 27 of the Member States which make up the Union today.

 
  
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  Hermann Winkler (PPE).(DE) Mr President, in contrast to many of the other subjects which we debate here in Parliament, developing broadband communications really is a European topic. The overall scope of the services which are dependent on radio frequencies is estimated to be around EUR 200 billion per year in the EU. For many users, ranging from telephone services and radio, traffic applications, the energy and research and development sectors, cultural organisations and the police through to people in rural areas, access to radio frequencies is essential.

The decisive factor here is a coordinated EU-wide approach, because it is clear that frequency usage continues to differ significantly, in particular, in border regions. Some frequencies which could be used for radio communications in Germany are used for television or for military purposes in Poland or the Czech Republic. This means that when the police follow suspects across the German-Polish border, they are no longer able to communicate by radio after travelling for 5 km. A European approach could be helpful in this respect.

 
  
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  Zoltán Bagó (PPE).(HU) Mr President, I voted against the motion for amendment on rejecting the Council’s position. The EU’s frequency policy is a source of its competitiveness, and I therefore agree that the European Union should strive to take the lead in respect of the speed, mobility, coverage and capacity of broadband services. The legislative proposal reflects the emergence of a threefold set of priorities, which are consumers, content and competition. Consumers’ increased demand for services is an indication that additional frequencies are required in terms of both capacity and coverage.

Content, that is, universal access to digital services, facilitates the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy. Under efficient spectrum policy, consumers are free to choose between providers, which results in healthy competition. The method of selling frequencies varies from one country to another, and I believe that a common allocation mechanism is necessary. Finally, we must not forget that a well-elaborated spectrum policy and the broadening of frequencies is also one of the prerequisites for the growth of cultural and creative industries.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Mr President, I voted alongside my group, the ECR, in favour of the report on the first programme of the radio spectrum policy. With the freeing up of a certain amount of the radio spectrum following the digital switchover, the spectrum can now be used more efficiently and we believe the proposals put forward by this report outline an effective way in which this can be achieved.

We back this proposal as we feel that its attempt to coordinate certain spectrum use is useful and it is done in such a way that it leaves enough flexibility to the individual EU Member States. This means that services can still be protected at a local level and also that innovation is not hampered as a result. I particularly welcome the fact that more Wi-Fi coverage for broadband Internet access is a development that may come about as a result of these proposed changes.

 
  
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  Emma McClarkin (ECR). – Mr President, I welcome today’s recommendation on radio spectrum policy harmonising the 800 MHz band across the EU because its value in terms of distance and penetrability enables access to broadband and will allow people in the remotest of areas across Europe to have access to faster Internet speeds.

Indeed, within the UK Conservative Party, we feel very strongly that broadband Internet is vital for growth, which is why we are aiming to vastly increase the number of households with access to super-fast broadband. We are looking to follow world leaders in the field, particularly in Asia, who have taken measures to open up competition in this sector, so that we can become European leaders ourselves.

This is a particular interest of mine as I represent the East Midlands region of England, where 88% of the land is classified as being rural, containing 30% of the East Midlands population. Initiatives such as this go a long way towards assisting individuals in their work and their daily lives and helping business to develop, and this is why I and my political group support this regulation.

 
  
  

Report: James Nicholson (A7-0262/2011)

 
  
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  Antonello Antinoro (PPE).(IT) Mr President, I voted for this report because I am already starting to think about the next period, after 2015, when the milk quotas will come to an end and everything will be diversified. In order to secure a stable future for the sector, the bargaining power of producers needs to be strengthened, which should lead to a more equitable distribution of added value along the supply chain.

As well as formalising the contracts, the proposal is that farmers should collectively negotiate the terms of the contracts, including the price, through producer associations. At the same time, it is important to recognise the interprofessional organisations, which should play an important role in encouraging dialogue within the supply chain.

However, the nature of the contracts remains the most contentious issue between the Council and Parliament, and I hope that in the future, it will be possible for this to be clarified further.

 
  
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  Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE).(PT) Mr President, I come from a milk-producing region: Galicia. Today, Galician agriculture specialises in producing milk which is, for the most part, collected and processed by foreign companies. As has happened in other European countries, the agricultural sector there survives today because of heavy investment in innovation in order to be able to compete in the single market. When Spain entered the EU, 20% of jobs in Galicia were in the primary sector. Today, that percentage has dropped by more than half.

My region is having to make traumatic sacrifices for the benefit of other, more powerful countries, since the allocation of milk quotas has been much lower than its production capacity. I am voting against this report because the awarding of contracts in this report is aimed solely at the industrial dairies, as it does not require that increases in production costs and payments to producers to remunerate them fairly for their work be included in the contracts. Without public control of production to ensure a match between supply and demand, producers will have to face price volatility and the ruin of thousands of farms. It is unacceptable that the Commission does not have an up-to-date study on the impact of the quotas.

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Mr President, the report on contractual relations in milk and the milk products sector addresses the issue of the lack of bargaining power that smaller farmers have when they negotiate the price of their milk with retailers in particular.

Farmers in Wales should have greater bargaining power and control over the price they receive for their milk. This has become ever more important as the number of dairy farmers in Wales has halved over the past decade, from 4 000 to 2 000 farms. It is right that contracts should continue to remain voluntary at national level, and the Welsh Government could intervene in this way should that be deemed necessary. However, I would be opposed to introducing a mandatory EU-wide contract, as this would only increase the bureaucratic burden for Member States and farmers alike.

For those Member States that choose to impose contracts, it is sensible to require certain conditions to be met relating to the price to be paid and the duration of the contract. This would be particularly important for farmers in giving them a better sense of certainty and stability in the current economic climate. An increase of only a few pence per litre in the average price for milk would significantly change the economic position of the dairy sector in Wales and secure its future.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE).(GA) Mr President, I welcome this report and I would like to thank Mr Jim Nicholson for the hard work he has done on it. However, a lot more needs to be done to obtain fair prices for dairy farmers. This report is important because it is the first step towards strengthening farmers’ marketing power and changing the rules to allow farmers to set their own contractual terms with dairies in relation to various matters, especially in relation to prices. Currently, farmers must deal with very powerful companies who want to obtain the very best produce, on the one hand, but also pay a lower price, on the other. Farmers must also give cheap credit while becoming overdrawn on their personal bank accounts. In terms of milk quotas, we must do a lot more to secure a soft landing given the pressure farmers will be under when this new policy is implemented.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE).(SK) Mr President, in recent years, there have, unfortunately, been many events that have had a significant negative impact on the milk and milk products sector and that have also led to price volatility. The European market for milk and its products requires a new, flexible legal framework, the strengthening of contractual relations, the protection of the rights of producers, and a fairer distribution of value-added along the supply chain.

Competition in the market will also contribute to the revitalisation of the sector, which is suffering from certain actors abusing their dominant position. I firmly believe that protecting the legitimate interests of producers is closely linked with promoting prosperity in rural areas, because many European regions, often the most vulnerable, are directly dependent on the production of milk and milk products.

 
  
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  Peter Jahr (PPE).(DE) Mr President, the compromise reached on the milk package creates a satisfactory framework for contractual relationships in the dairy sector. I am pleased that we have succeeded in finding effective solutions for some of the central issues. One matter which was particularly important to me with regard to the milk producers who are affected was that Member States will, in future, be able to decide for themselves whether or not they introduce compulsory contracts.

Overall, these rules will put milk producers in a stronger position and improve the current situation.

However, we now need to prepare dairy farmers for the end of milk quotas. This means that dairy farmers must realise that the milk market is a market and must take a market economy-based approach. We must introduce mechanisms which allow farmers to regulate the amount of milk on offer depending on the price.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI). – Mr President, I voted in favour of this report, as amended, because it encourages farmers to come together and increase their collective power within the supply chain. Large retailers have too much buying power and take a disproportionate amount of profit. This is an imbalance within the supply chain which must be addressed, and which impacts on the small family-owned farms characteristic of Northern Ireland.

The future of the common agricultural policy, and ensuring ‘safety nets’, must also be a priority in order to protect producers when the market fails. The safe landing for the industry which was promised after 2015, when quotas are to end, is another area which the Commission must look at and plan for. If we experience a dramatic increase in milk production which consequently reduces milk prices within the EU, we must have clear guidance as to how the Commission intends to protect producers. Altogether, this is a good start on the issues within the dairy sector. There is much more work to be done.

 
  
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  Giommaria Uggias (ALDE).(IT) Mr President, the milk and milk products sector has been undergoing a terrible crisis for some years now, but there are internal imbalances that this report and its amendment – which I supported from the start – will determine to a lesser extent, by influencing how it works and putting an end to these internal imbalances, or at least remedying them in part together with other instruments.

This measure has been produced by the working group set up by Mr Cioloş, which produced some instruments for restoring balance to the added value for all operators in the supply chain.

In specific terms, the terms and conditions of contracts will have determined characteristics of form, requirements and duration, which will mainly be useful to producers. One important element will concern raw milk processed in less favoured areas (LFAs), mountainous areas, intermediate areas and islands, where any transfer of milk from areas which are not LFAs must be authorised in advance.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Mr President, I supported this report by Jim Nicholson on the milk sector and I agree strongly with the fact that producers need much greater bargaining power. They are the weakest link in the chain: they are price takers, not price makers. Given that in 2015, there will be a major shift with the ending of quotas, we need to ensure a more stable future for the sector and, in this context, the bargaining power of producers is absolutely crucial. I also believe that the introduction of voluntary contracts is certainly preferable to introducing mandatory ones.

Finally, a soft landing for the ending of milk quotas is essential. It is worth noting that overall production in the EU is 6% below the quota but in some countries – like my own – that is not the case. In this context, it makes sense to find an overall EU solution, and that certainly should include some form of soft landing so that dairy farmers in all EU countries can look to a sustainable future.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Mr President, I voted alongside my group, the ECR, in favour of the report on contractual relations in the milk and milk products sector. We believe that the report serves to address some concerns about the lack of bargaining power for farmers – yes, there are even some dairy farmers in the London region, which I represent – when negotiating with processors or retailers, and we back the move to recognise formally any inter-branch organisation at Member State level, provided they meet certain criteria.

EU Member States are left the choice to opt into the contracts, which we as a group also believe is extremely important. We believe that the proposals put forward in this report for those states that choose to comply are satisfactory and that the percentages requested for producer organisations are also realistic. Overall, we believe that the proposals in this report will not serve to lessen competition in the milk sector, which would be our main concern and which we would, of course, oppose as a group.

 
  
  

Motion for a resolution: B7-0016/2012

 
  
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  Peter Jahr (PPE).(DE) Mr President, it is acceptable for 27 borrowers, all of whom are creditworthy, to get together to take out a joint loan and, as a result, to obtain better terms from the bank. Eurobonds could function in a similar way to this and I would like to say once again at this point that for me, Eurobonds are a fair-weather tool.

However, if some of the 27 bank customers are not creditworthy, then mixed financing is needed and the borrowers who are in a better position will simply have to accept less favourable terms. This means that we first of all need to clarify the ground rules in Europe. We must implement the stability criteria and then we can ultimately bring in Eurobonds as the icing on the cake, so to speak. Since we have not yet reached this point in the European Union, I was not able to vote in favour of this motion and this report.

 
  
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  Mario Pirillo (S&D).(IT) Mr President, today’s vote is a first step in the direction of economic governance in Europe, as hoped for by Mr Delors as early as 1993. The introduction of Eurobonds, which I hope will come about within a reasonable timeframe, is part of a wider process that will lead the countries in the euro area to strengthen the coordination and achieve the integration of their economic and fiscal policies.

The three options indicated in the European Commission’s Green Paper propose three different types of Eurobond, with a decreasing degree of solidarity between Member States. The serious economic crisis we are currently experiencing shows that no country is safe from financial speculation. To sceptics, I say that Eurobonds are, to date, the only practical answer to reviving growth and development in Europe. This is why I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Bendt Bendtsen (PPE).(DA) Mr President, I have today voted against the introduction of stability bonds. It is deeply problematic if we believe that stability bonds can resolve the economic crisis in Europe. We need reforms in order to create jobs. We need Member States to stop spending more money than they earn. Overspending over many years is the cause of the sovereign debt crisis and the markets’ lack of confidence in countries’ ability to pursue a responsible policy in order to be able to pay back the money that has been borrowed. This problem will not be solved by stability bonds. Taxpayers’ money must be spent in a smarter way in the Member States on research, innovation and education, and social welfare payments have got to be reduced. Believing that we can resolve the whole situation simply by lending more money without investing in the future will not help at all.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Mr President, I think this resolution on stability bonds is a realistic and pragmatic approach to ensuring that we have a firewall to prevent future crises. I support the call for a European redemption pact. While it has its limitations, at least it is an effort to deal with the serious overhang of debt which is smothering recovery in many countries, including my own.

Yes, in Ireland we must deal with our deficit, but guaranteeing our banks in order to prevent contagion in other EU banks has meant that our debt-to-GNP ratio will increase to at least 147%, so without a redemption pact or some other mechanism, it simply means that Irish citizens will be unable to pay for casino banking in our own and other countries.

It is interesting that this mountain of debt was not just our own choice. Mario Draghi, a man for whom I have a great deal of respect, refuses to publish a letter sent by his predecessor, Jean-Claude Trichet, to our Finance Minister on the bailout, and I am just wondering why. Will this show us the real face of the ECB, and what responsibility might this letter put on the ECB? So I am calling on Mario Draghi and the ECB to reverse this decision so that European citizens can see how Europe really works.

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (ECR). – Mr President, in any crisis, the first instinct of the Eurocrat is to reach for his wallet – or rather to reach for somebody else’s wallet, because of course, as we know in this Chamber (although this is not widely known outside), employees of the European Union are exempt from paying national taxation. So somebody else is picking up the bill in order to cover this error.

It is a policy of excessive monetary integration and a policy of excessive spending that brought us to this pass; we are not going to get out of it by accelerating the very things that led us here. It really does seem extraordinary – even by the standards of this organisation – that the one solution we have to a debt crisis is more debt. We have got like a runaway train into this kind of momentum: bailout and borrow, bailout and borrow. There comes a point when you run out of track, and I think we have reached that point now.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI). – Mr President, when we look at the state of the economies across the EU and even at many households – including in my own country of the United Kingdom – we see the consequence of Member States and their people living beyond their means.

It is therefore unwise, against this backdrop – which has entailed a more accountable lending process being instituted – for us to suggest a break or lessening in the link between the Member State and the investor in bond markets through the pooling of sovereign issuance. Irresponsibility put us into the financial quagmire we now find ourselves in, and my concern with stability bonds would be that irresponsibility would be given greater dispensation and investor confidence would be further diminished.

 
  
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  David Campbell Bannerman (ECR). – Mr President, I voted against EU stability bonds, or Eurobonds, as they fail to address the central problem: the euro itself. It is clear the euro is a dangerous and failed construct, and no political posturing or economic gesturing gets us away from the basic truth that the euro is disastrous for the world economy. The sooner troubled nations like Greece devalue and default, the better.

The cure is now more dangerous and deadly than the malady. Is there no end to these desperate measures to prop up this political currency?

The trampling of democracy in Greece, Italy and elsewhere by the EU’s new inner politburo, the Frankfurt Group, so that Europe erupts in flames. Barroso and Van Rompuy going cap in hand to China for rescue funds – and at what price? Gerrymandering Lagarde into the IMF so the IMF is misused as a new euro bailout fund. Weimar-like plans to print EUR 2 trillion to buy rubbish bonds; new wheelbarrows to carry all the notes. For God’s sake, for all our sakes, let the euro go.

 
  
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  Martin Kastler (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I have voted against the motion for a resolution tabled by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs on the feasibility of introducing stability bonds. The name has been changed, but the content remains the same. These are Eurobonds.

We have now reached a stage in Europe where we need to ask ourselves the fundamental question of how Europe is to go forward. The Italian Prime Minister, Mr Monti, said today in a guest article in Germany that we need to ‘rethink democracy’. To this, I would add that we must ‘rethink Europe’. We must do this if we want to carry the citizens of Europe along with us. I believe that referendums are an important instrument. We need citizens to become increasingly involved in Europe, not only in the Member States, but also at a European level. This will enable us to discuss the major issues currently facing us which have led us into this crisis. It will take us further forward than simply tabling new motions for resolutions to distribute ever larger debts among ourselves. Every country is responsible for its own debts. We should not be transferring debts from one state to another.

 
  
  

Report: Marije Cornelissen (A7-0021/2012)

 
  
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  Horst Schnellhardt (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I was able to vote in favour of this report with a clear conscience because Parliament took a very wise approach and voted against a few points which had seriously bothered me. I am thinking here about the punishments for countries which have a current account surplus to encourage them to take measures to abolish the surplus. Current account surpluses occur not only because one country is very good, but also because the others are very bad. We need a measure which will help the bad countries to make faster progress and to emulate those at the top of the list. That must be our goal.

Secondly, Parliament has recognised that private employment services are also very important and, therefore, has included them in the work which it is doing. I would like to mention one point which did not receive a great deal of attention during the debate. This is paragraph 13, which clearly calls for the European Parliament finally to make use of its right under the Treaty of Lisbon and for the national governments to do the same. The catastrophic situation we are currently in has been caused by the constant intergovernmental cooperation which has never been successful. The solution is here in this Parliament.

 
  
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  Andrea Zanoni (ALDE).(IT) Mr President, one of the most important issues highlighted by the European Union Growth Survey 2012 is the serious need for new and stronger social and employment policies, especially for young people. A country with a high level of youth unemployment is a country destined to perish.

In my country, Italy, the statistics are frightening. According to Eurostat data for November 2011, the youth unemployment rate is 30.1%. Young people who are often highly qualified with plenty of energy and motivation are allowed to wither away by a system where gerontocracy has become the norm.

The Commission’s commitment in allocating EUR 82 billion from unused Structural Funds to stimulate growth and youth unemployment is a good step that needs to be made in the right direction. Investing in young people means investing in the future. Guaranteeing work for young Europeans means guaranteeing a future for us all.

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Mr President, I agree with the premise of this report that all Member States should be seeking to find ways to foster growth in order to get us out of this crisis. Ideally, the Annual Growth Survey would work in parallel with the economic governance package and the EU could add value by coordinating what is being done at the Member State level.

However, in this report, Parliament has decided instead to focus on broad-sweeping EU schemes and taxation, including the ludicrous financial transaction tax. Worse, it tries to come up with an EU approach to things like unemployment, as though it can be solved by some EU silver bullet. The reasons behind unemployment and the measures Member States may use to tackle it are culturally specific and market-specific. Other groups may be happy to agree to an EU policy. I am not.

 
  
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  Joseph Cuschieri (S&D).(MT) Mr President, in the separate vote taken on clause 29 of the Cornelissen report, I have voted against. I do not agree with the European Council establishing a tax on financial transactions. I have opposed this tax on account of the fact that the financial services sector in Malta accounts for around 15% of the country’s GDP and provides some 6 000 jobs in this sector. It is neither in the country’s interest nor in that of Maltese and Gozitan workers to increase taxes in this sensitive sector of the Maltese economy. This measure can lead to the delocalisation of financial activity away from Malta, with the consequence that instead of retaining capital and cash in the Maltese financial sector, these would be moved out into some other country.

I have also voted in favour of the remaining clauses of this report since, at a time of fiscal consolidation, this report addresses the creation of sustainable jobs through investment, an improvement in job quality, investment in education and training and combating poverty and social exclusion, and also the participation of workers in the labour market.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE). (RO) Mr President, I voted for this report because the European Semester should include policies to create jobs. I share the concerns about high youth unemployment. In my country, it affects about 77 000 people aged up to 25 years. I believe that the introduction of a guarantee for young people to avoid prolonged unemployment is a timely measure. I would like to emphasise the usefulness of programmes that ensure transition from education to first employment.

I would like to point out in this context that Romania improved the apprenticeship law last year in order to facilitate labour market entry for young people. Appropriate programmes are required in order to support SMEs, including by reducing bureaucracy. I also welcome the focus on promoting worker mobility, but also on increasing the employment rate among women.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR). – Mr President, I voted against this report because it aims to strengthen employment policy and economic governance at European level. These are clearly Member State competences, and this is the way it must stay. I also took exception to the report’s needless call for a tax on financial transactions to enhance sustainable job creation. This Parliament insists on a tax which will only damage the European economy. This Parliament is hell-bent on destroying the financial service industry in my constituency of London, and again, this Parliament refuses to listen to Member States that do not want to and will not accept this tax.

 
  
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  Adam Bielan (ECR).(PL) Mr President, the Annual Growth Survey presented by the Commission covers priorities in the areas of the budget, economic policy, employment, social rights and reforms. In so doing, it stresses action as part of fiscal policy to mitigate the effects of the crisis and the negligence of public administration. The role of Parliament in the process related to the European Semester is, unfortunately, restricted to giving an opinion on the Commission’s guidelines on employment. The report in question only expresses a desire to increase that role.

I am critical of the proposal to oblige Member States which have a current account surplus to prevent a recessionary spiral by increasing internal demand. Another controversial matter is the call for the Commission to use gender disaggregated data in their reports. The call to set up a tax on financial transactions is worrying, while the implementation and enforcement of anti-discrimination measures will only cause an increase in legal regulation. In view of these matters and a number of other doubts, I voted to reject the report.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE).(SK) Mr President, at a time of weakened economic growth and increased uncertainty among citizens, the European Union must focus its attention on addressing the pressing social consequences of the crisis, which exacerbate poverty and social exclusion. Unemployment has risen sharply since 2008 and has reached the level of 23 million unemployed in the EU, while young people in particular face an employment rate of more than 20%. Some statistics give a higher figure. I am concerned by the fact, for example, that during the 2008-2010 period, the total number of unemployed young people in the EU increased by fully 1 million. In the context of recession, the priority objective of the EU must therefore remain the effort to preserve jobs and create new employment and, at the same time, to bring qualifications and skills into line with the current requirements of the labour market. That is why I have supported this report.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI). – Mr President, the terms ‘growth’ and ‘employment’ roll off the tongue quite easily, but it is the policy pursued by Europe which is denying employment and denying economic growth to many of its citizens.

The euro area crisis is causing unemployment to rise across Europe. In Spain, there is over 40% youth unemployment and in Greece 50%. Within the economic straitjacket of the euro, what hope and what future do these young people have in an economy that simply will not grow while tied to the euro project? This is the scandal of President Barroso, the Commission and the euro establishment. It is a scandal that is manifesting itself in Greece in violence, and in the Greek Parliament where euro bureaucrats are pre-eminent over elected representatives.

I voted against this report also because of its support for a financial transaction tax, supposedly to support employment and growth. In reality, it will be a raid on the United Kingdom tax base to prop up the euro area’s profligate spending. If Europe is serious about employment and growth, it could start with very simple measures like cutting red tape and helping SMEs, but it certainly will not do it with the measures outlined in this report.

 
  
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  Emma McClarkin (ECR). – Mr President, I have opposed this own-initiative report on employment and social aspects of the Annual Growth Survey for the reason – amongst others – that it continues to support a European and not a global financial transaction tax. The report calls on the European Council to set up a tax on financial transactions to enhance sustainable job creation. I am afraid that this cannot even be considered by politicians claiming to represent the interests of the British people.

In fact, it is also ridiculous to talk of job creation as a result of such a tax, which would have a disastrous effect on some of the 1.9 million people employed in our financial sector in the City of London and beyond. I will not vote in favour of a report which proposes a tax that could harm jobs for the people from my constituency in the East Midlands, many of whom commute to London every day. It is time for the rest of Europe to wake up and realise that Britain will defend her interests and will not be bullied into accepting disproportionate responsibility for euro area failure.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Krišjānis Kariņš (PPE). (LV) Mr President, there is a saying in Latvian that you cannot extract money from a beggar, however hard you try. In Europe as a whole, the greatest challenge we have at the moment is to increase economic activity and provide prosperity to our people. It is very important for us to take these austerity measures to put the budgets of our Member States in order, but we also need growth.

There are many people who think that the only path to growth is for Member States to print even more money, in order to stimulate the economy, but this would be at the cost of borrowed money, and is not the right path. The right path to foster growth is two-fold. Firstly, Member States must make the structural reforms required to reduce overall government spending. Secondly, we must continue to improve Europe’s single internal market, removing obstacles to cross-border activity. Ladies and gentlemen, without economic growth, we shall not have prosperity in Europe.

 
  
  

Report: Jean-Paul Gauzès (A7-0018/2012)

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Mr President, in the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, we spent a long time discussing this report, and there is much in there on growth and innovation that I support. However, I cannot accept the central conclusion of this report, namely, that we need to change the EU Treaty in order to give Parliament codecision rights over the Annual Growth Survey.

I am not convinced that this is something we should be legislating for. It is fundamentally a matter for Member States and not a policy area where Parliament would add any value. I find it concerning that, yet again, the European Parliament is navel-gazing over its institutions and the interaction between them instead of seeking proportionate responses to the current crisis.

 
  
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  Janusz Władysław Zemke (S&D).(PL) Mr President, I do think that in the current economic situation in Europe, carrying out analyses of growth planned for 2012 is a good idea. However, an obvious weakness of this analysis is that it concentrates mainly on the financial and debt crisis. Measures to stimulate growth are only to be seen in the background. Also omitted are measures which would support employment by stimulating investment in the Union. I am worried, in particular, by the lack of measures to create Eurobonds for funding key infrastructure projects. For Member States like Poland, and for provinces like mine – the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province – this may mean problems in the future with development and securing growth in employment.

 
  
  

Written explanations of vote

 
  
  

Recommendation: Timothy Kirkhope (A7-0013/2012)

 
  
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  Damien Abad (PPE) , in writing. (FR) The Schengen area, which brings together 22 EU Member States and four non-EU states (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein), offers its inhabitants the opportunity to move freely. The abolition of internal borders between these States in favour of a single external border leads them to harmonise their external border controls and step up their police and judicial cooperation. It is vital to associate these four non-EU States fully if we want to fulfil the objective underpinning the Schengen agreements, namely, the creation of an area of freedom, security and justice. I therefore supported their participation in the work of the committees that assist the European Commission in the implementation of the Schengen acquis.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I am voting for this recommendation, as it is vital to step up EU cooperation with, in this case, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland, particularly with regard to one of the most important legislative achievements of the EU, namely, the Schengen Agreement. At present, it is all the more important that we facilitate dialogue between countries, and between countries and the institutions, so that the EU runs smoothly and so that the objectives of the Treaties can be achieved in full.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. – I voted in favour of this important result of negotiations with the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation on the participation by those States in the work of the committees which assist the Commission in the exercise of its executive powers as regards the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis. I support the final outcome of the agreement by which, among other activities, the associated states will be associated as observers with the work of the current and future Comitology committees assisting the Commission in Schengen matters. I also support a Joint Declaration which stresses that this specific association shall not be regarded as a legal or political precedent for any other field of cooperation between the European Community and those countries.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing.(FR) The Schengen area, which simplifies the everyday lives of our peoples and our companies by opening the internal borders of the European Union to people, capital and services, got bigger today. Indeed, I supported the request by Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway, countries at the heart of Europe but which do not belong to the European Union, to become associated states of the Schengen acquis. This text aims to formalise their participation in the process of drafting texts within the Schengen Comitology committees, made up of representatives of the governments of associated states, of the Council of Ministers and of the European Commission. The latter, in particular, have the opportunity to raise problems that any particular measure suggests to them and to provide answers to problems faced by the other delegations. They also enjoy the right to make suggestions. However, insofar as they only participate in drawing up actions, ‘the associated states do not vote within the Schengen Comitology committees, and withdraw when these committees proceed to the vote’, rapporteur, Timothy Kirkhope, reminds us.

 
  
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  Adam Bielan (ECR), in writing.(PL) The Schengen area is tangible evidence of European cooperation and integration. Enlargement of this arrangement to cover the entire European Economic Area has contributed to a strengthening of mutual relations between different countries of the continent. Unrestricted freedom of movement throughout Europe is the undisputed and greatly valued privilege of every citizen.

For implementation of the Schengen acquis to be effective, it is essential for there to be permanent cooperation with the signatories from outside the Union. The participation of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and the Swiss Confederation in the work of the committees which assist the European Commission in the exercise of its executive powers in this area therefore seems obvious. By signing the agreement, we will enable these countries to take part in policy discussions concerning regulation of the Schengen area and to present their position and report problems. In accepting the resolution, I express consent to conclusion of the recommended arrangement.

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE), in writing. (RO) The association agreement concluded by the Council of the European Union, on the one hand, and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway, on the other, resulted in the establishment of a mixed committee consisting of representatives of the governments of these countries. Consequently, the representatives of the associated states participate in mixed committees that meet as Council working groups, with extensive participation of representatives of the associated states. At Coreper (Committee of Permanent Representatives) or Council level, these are chaired alternately for six-month periods by representatives of the European Union and by the representative of the government of the associated state. Participation in the mixed committee gives the associated states the timely opportunity to express any concerns regarding developments in the Schengen acquis, which must be adopted by all the associated states, and the implementation of this acquis. Following discussions in the mixed committee, the measures taken to develop the Schengen acquis are adopted by the Council and the European Parliament through the appropriate decision-taking procedure laid down in the Treaties.

 
  
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  John Bufton (EFD), in writing. – Although I do not support the extension of the Schengen acquis, I do, however, believe that EFTA Member States, in this case Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, have the right to join any compact they wish to without UK interference. I therefore chose to abstain from this vote.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) I welcome the conclusion of this agreement between the EU and the four Schengen-associated states; namely, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. This will enable these countries to participate in the work of the committees that help the Commission with its executive activities in terms of the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis. In my view, this agreement is important because it seeks to ensure greater consistency, while at the same time guaranteeing that all associated states are treated the same. The participation of the associated states gives them the opportunity to express, in good time, their ideas and concerns about the implementation of the Schengen acquis or potential changes thereto. The enlargement of the Schengen area to countries that are not EU Member States has brought significant economic benefits for European countries, as well as immediate practical results for the daily lives and travel of the European public.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) I welcome the conclusion of this agreement between the EU and the four Schengen-associated states; namely, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. This will enable these countries to participate in the work of the committees that help the Commission with its executive activities in terms of the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis. The conclusion of this agreement is of the utmost importance in ensuring greater consistency, while at the same time guaranteeing that all associated states are treated the same. The participation of the associated states gives them the opportunity to express, in good time, their ideas and concerns about the implementation of the Schengen acquis or potential changes thereto. However, their participation is restricted to contributing to the drafting of decisions; they cannot participate in the decision-making process itself, as they do not have the right to vote. They will be subject to a set of rules and obligations that will allow them real participation as observers, and they may also contribute financially to the administrative costs arising from their participation in the Schengen Comitology committees.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of this agreement, which authorises the participation of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland in the work of the committee on the implementation of the Schengen acquis. This limiting and regulated participation will strengthen the EU area of freedom, security and justice and will make it possible to identify more quickly problems related to police and judicial cooperation as well as to the control of the external borders of Europe.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE), in writing. (FR) Today’s vote aims to endorse the participation of the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation, which assist the Commission in the exercise of its executive powers as regards the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis. Parliament has thus given its consent to the representatives of these associated states being able to comment on any proposed measure constituting a development of the Schengen acquis, or voice any problems encountered in implementing these measures. In addition, each of these associated states will decide on the transposition of all measures adopted by the Schengen Comitology committee procedures concerning the implementation and development of the Schengen acquis, thereby confirming the rules set out in the basic association agreements. This is a good thing.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D), in writing. (RO) I voted for this report because I consider that as Schengen-associated states, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland should be involved in the procedure which assists the Commission in the exercise of its executive powers as regards the application and development of the Schengen acquis. Likewise, these states should also be involved in the reform process of the Schengen governance which is currently being negotiated, but which, unfortunately, faces opposition from several Member States.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for the recommendation on the participation of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and the Schengen acquis, as I consider it positive that there is agreement between the EU and these countries on their participation in the work of the committees that help the Commission with its executive activities, in terms of the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The participation of the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation in the committees that help the Commission with its executive activities, in terms of the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis, is of the utmost importance for the complete transparency of information and, as such, for the security of the citizens of EU Member States and countries subject to the Schengen Agreement.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) This recommendation concerns the draft Council decision on the conclusion of an agreement between the European Union, of the one part, and the Republic of Iceland, the Kingdom of Norway, the Swiss Confederation and the Principality of Liechtenstein, of the other, on these countries’ participation in the work of the committees that help the Commission with its executive activities in terms of the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis. The Schengen Agreement, concluded in 1985 and integrated into EU law by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, establishes a geographical area of free movement of people, abolishing internal borders between signatory countries, and provides for cooperation and coordination between police services and the judicial authorities. The agreement provides for the participation of the associated states, as observers, in the work of current and future committees that assist the Commission through certain rights and obligations, including the payment of a financial contribution. Given that the participation of the aforementioned countries is provided for in the Agreement on the European Economic Area or based on the exchange of letters annexed to the association agreement with Switzerland, I am voting for this recommendation.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 and the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement was adopted in 1990. The agreement’s objectives were to abolish internal border controls between signatory states and create a single external border with common rules on external border controls and a common visa policy, and to establish police and judicial cooperation and to create the Schengen Information System.

We have always criticised this approach of building a ‘Fortress Europe’, which fosters and fuels the growth of racism and xenophobia, of other forms of intolerance, and of authoritarian and anti-democratic practices.

In the same way, we have criticised the security-focused, criminalising, exploitative and selective immigration policy. We advocate an immigration policy that respects immigrants’ rights, in particular, regarding access to work, health care and education. Despite these long-standing stances, we believe that the decision to join the Schengen acquis should arise from a sovereign choice by the countries in question; a view which we have also held for a long time. That is why we abstained.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D), in writing. (SK) The European Parliament, taking into account the draft Council decision and the draft agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation on the participation of these States in the work of committees assisting the Commission in exercising its powers in relation to the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis, and also with regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, has granted approval for the conclusion of the agreement. It also authorises its President to convey this position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation.

 
  
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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’s delegation to Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee. The arrangement provides for the participation by the Schengen-associated states in the work of the committees which assist the Commission in the exercise of its executive powers as regards the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this legislative resolution on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the Union, of the arrangement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation on the participation by those States in the work of the committees which assist the European Commission in the exercise of its executive powers as regards the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis. The arrangement provides that the associated states will be associated as observers with the work of the current and future Comitology committees assisting the Commission in Schengen matters. The list of the Schengen Comitology committees will be regularly updated by the Commission and will be published in the Official Journal. Consequently, the arrangement establishes clear rights and obligations to ensure effective participation by the associated states in the Schengen Comitology committees.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of the Kirkhope report. By adopting this report, Parliament has given its consent to an arrangement made between the European Union, the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation on the participation by these States in the work of the committees which assist the European Commission in the implementation of the Schengen acquis. The arrangement adopted provides for these States to be associated with the work as observers, albeit without voting rights. Furthermore, they will be asked to make a financial contribution to administrative expenses. Finally, this arrangement contains a joint declaration which provides that this association shall not be regarded as a legal or political precedent for any other field of cooperation.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – I voted for this report. This is a consultation procedure to give the consent to the 2012 rollover of the guidelines for the Member States’ employment policies initially adopted in 2010. The aim is that the employment guidelines remain stable until 2014 to ensure a focus on implementation.

 
  
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  Véronique Mathieu (PPE), in writing. (FR) This arrangement, which has been under negotiation since 2006, associates the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation with the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis by the European Commission and the committees which assist it. It is right that these Schengen countries can comment on the application of the Schengen acquis that concerns them. These States will be able to participate in the work of the committees as observers and to voice any problems encountered. To associate all the countries participating in the Schengen area is also to work for greater uniformity in the application of the Schengen acquis.

 
  
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  Iosif Matula (PPE), in writing. (RO) The participation of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland in the committees which assist the Commission in developing and implementing the Schengen acquis provides these associated states with the opportunity to express any objections to the application of the provisions concerned. Thus, these states participate in the development of the relevant legislation, but not in the decision taking. Therefore, it is necessary to formalise their association to the Schengen Comitology, following an appropriate procedure. The proposal for a decision in this regard is welcomed in order to ensure equal treatment of the associated states as observers, through a single agreement and based on clearly defined rights and obligations. The final decision on the implementation of the measures adopted by the committees is taken by each state individually, as stipulated by the original terms of the association agreements. As a Romanian Member of the European Parliament, I hope that the principle of equal treatment will be respected in all aspects of the Schengen process, including in the acceptance of the accession of states that have already fulfilled all formal criteria.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) As they are participating in the Schengen Agreement, these countries also have to contribute to its development by actively participating in the work of the committees that help the Commission with its executive activities in terms of the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis. That is why I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. – The arrangement between the European Community and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and the Swiss Confederation on the participation of those States in the work of the committees which assist the European Commission in the exercise of its executive powers as regards the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis should be concluded. I am in favour.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) For many Norwegians, the main reason for voting against joining the EU in 1994 was that this allowed them to retain their self-determination and democracy. Just as the Swiss did, they preferred to access the EU market only via the European Economic Area (EEA). A report on the 18-year Norwegian membership came to the conclusion that Brussels is exerting pressure on Norway by means of its access to the EEA. Switzerland has also made a similar accusation on the occasion of a variety of amendments. This is unacceptable. Nevertheless, there is nothing in this report which prevents me from voting in favour of it.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D), in writing. (SK) The Schengen system currently comprises 22 EU countries and four non-member States – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The non-member States are integrated into the Schengen system on the basis of association agreements. These agreements set up a mixed committee consisting of representatives of the governments of the associated states, and of the Council of the European Union and the Commission. Consequently, the representatives of the associated states participate in the activities of the mixed committees, which meet in the form of Council working groups enlarged by the representatives of the associated states. In Coreper or the Council, these groups are chaired alternately for six-month periods by a representative of the European Union and by a representative of the government of an associated state. I consider the conclusion of agreements between the European Communities and the four States on cooperation in the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis to be very important, and I therefore fully support the conclusions of the vote of the LIBE Committee.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this resolution. In order to ensure consistency between and equal treatment of all associated states, I believe that it is appropriate for a single arrangement to be concluded which would grant Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland the right to participate as observers in the work of current and future committees assisting the European Commission in Schengen matters. These countries will thus be able to express themselves on any questions concerning the development or implementation of provisions of concern to them, but representatives of these countries will not take part in the voting of these committees. This would thus ensure the application and uniform implementation of the new Schengen acts or measures.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing.(IT) Over the last year, we have often returned to the effective application of the Schengen acquis, and on several occasions, the cornerstones of the regulation on the free circulation of citizens in European Member States have, unfortunately, been questioned or specifically debated, as in the case of Romania and Bulgaria. Parliament’s recommendation, which I fully support, involves the implementation and application of the Schengen acquis through the conclusion of an agreement between the EU countries in Schengen and the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation, non-EU countries considered suitable for compliance with the minimum security standards required for free circulation.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE), in writing. (EL) This particular recommendation concerns an arrangement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation on the participation by those States in the work of the committees which assist in the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis. Extending the Schengen area to countries which are not EU Member States has brought about considerable economic benefits for EU Member States and direct practical results and facilities in the daily lives and movements of European citizens. Certainly, States which are not EU Member States but which participate in the Schengen area must have a voice in debates on the future and the application of the Schengen area, which is why I voted in favour of this particular report, which will be forwarded to the Council for further action.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted for this recommendation of the European Parliament on the draft Council decision concerning the conclusion, on behalf of the EU, of the agreement between the EU and the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation in relation to the participation of these countries in the work of the committees that help the Commission with the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE), in writing. (IT) Following the agreements reached between the European Union, the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation regarding their participation in the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis, I voted in favour of the participation of the Member States belonging to the agreement in mixed committees, in order to be able to examine any issues regarding development of the Schengen acquis promptly.

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE), in writing. (PT) The Council has submitted a draft agreement between the EU and Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation to Parliament on the participation of these countries in the work of the committees that help the Commission with its executive powers in the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis. As the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs has not raised any objections to the conclusion of the agreement, which may help the Schengen area to run more smoothly, I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – In favour. The association agreements with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland set up a mixed committee consisting of representatives of the governments of the associated states as well as of the Council of the European Union and the Commission of the European Communities. Consequently, the representatives of the associated states attend mixed committees, which meet in the form of Council working groups enlarged by the representatives of the associated states. Participation in the mixed committee gives the associated states the opportunity to voice, in good time, any concerns they might have regarding developments of the Schengen acquis, which must be adopted by all the associated states, and the implementation of this acquis. After discussion in the mixed committee, the measures taken to develop the Schengen acquis are adopted by the Council and by the European Parliament through the appropriate decision-taking procedure laid down in the Treaties. Thus, the associated states participate in decision shaping but not in decision taking.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) This recommendation provides for the genuine participation of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland in the work of the committees in which the Commission exercises its executive power in terms of the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis. I support Parliament giving its assent to this recommendation, giving those associated states rights and obligations. The aforementioned countries have observer status in the Schengen committees, so their representatives cannot vote, although they should be informed about the acts and measures to be implemented and contribute financially to administrative costs. Finally, a joint statement has been appended, specifying that this agreement will not have repercussions in other areas. In order for the Schengen area to develop, its component countries need to meet their obligations in full. This will bring about a real European area without borders.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI), in writing. (DE) I welcome the effective involvement of the associated states Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway in the comitology committees in the Schengen area. This gives the associated states the opportunity to take part in formulating decisions without actually becoming involved in the decision-making process.

 
  
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  Iva Zanicchi (PPE), in writing. (IT) I supported Parliament’s resolution on the proposal for a Council decision regarding the conclusion of an agreement between the European Union and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland on their participation in the work of the committees working with the European Commission in the exercising of its executive powers as regards the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (PT) The Schengen Agreement was established in 1985 and the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement was adopted in 1990. The objectives of the Schengen Agreement were to abolish controls at the internal borders of the signatory states, to create a single external border with common rules on external border controls and a common visa policy, and to establish police and judicial cooperation and the Schengen Information System. We have always criticised this approach of building a ‘Fortress Europe’, which fosters and fuels the growth of racism and xenophobia, of other forms of intolerance, and of authoritarian and anti-democratic practices.

‘Fortress Europe’, the Europe of Schengen, is being constructed through a security-focused, criminalising, exploitative and selective immigration policy. We also advocate an immigration policy in which the Member States respect immigrants’ rights, in particular, in relation to access to work, health care and education. Despite our views, we believe that we should not make pronouncements on the choices of the countries in question, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, in relation to agreements signed with the EU.

 
  
  

Report: Pervenche Berès (A7-0011/2012)

 
  
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  Damien Abad (PPE), in writing.(FR) Between now and 2020, there will be 73 million job openings in Europe. Nonetheless, it is essential that we think about how to fill these vacancies as efficiently as possible. I believe that this can be achieved through the provision of a skilled workforce, with training that will offer new opportunities, particularly to young people, who represent 20% of the total EU population. Let us not forget that, today, the crisis affects one in five young people.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I am voting for this report, as the guidelines suggested to support active employment policies should be the EU’s highest priority at this time. Austerity does not guarantee growth or liquidity, which would, in turn, create jobs, particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises, which employ the vast majority of the EU population, and for which specific incentives should be devised. As such, the EU should ensure that all the Member States, especially those subject to Troika intervention, are able to implement these kinds of measures.

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli (PPE), in writing. (IT) The European Union finds itself in a highly critical situation that requires immediate, specific action. Parliament has accepted the proposal for a Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of Member States, adopted in accordance with the provisions of the Treaties and in line with the Council’s conclusions at the end of January. As decided by the Council, employment policies are now, more than ever, a priority of the EU, in order to be able to deal with 23 million unemployed and revive the European economy, as well as meeting the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. I believe that coordination between Member States is fundamental, in order to develop a competent workforce throughout the EU, reduce unemployment, particularly among the young, and promote social inclusion, education, training and lifelong learning in order to reverse these effects of the crisis and combat the risk of poverty.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) I endorsed the guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States for 2012, which provide for the continuation of the efforts embarked on two years ago. I support this policy, which is based on solid annual guidelines: labour market participation, the fight against social exclusion and poverty, as well as the quality and performance of education and training systems. We all agree that we need to step up our efforts to put Europe back on the road to growth and employment. However, that must not be to the detriment of the need to strengthen European economic governance and to reduce public deficits. We, centre-right Members, are convinced that we will only get out of this crisis by restoring our public finances to health in a sustainable way. Any other way of thinking is purely selfish, because it places the burden of our current well-being on the shoulders of our children, who will have to pay off our debts. Yet healthy finances do not mean decline and unemployment. Quite the contrary, they guarantee and are the necessary bases for ensuring a return to growth and full employment. I therefore insist on the need to combine a responsible economic policy and long-term growth objectives for the EU.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE), in writing. (RO) I voted for this report because the employment strategy needs to be modernised. • The EU needs a sustainable economy able to create jobs. • The reforms aimed at improving labour market flexibility and security need to be encouraged. • I would like to point out that the EU’s workforce is shrinking. Only two thirds of the active population currently have a job. • The employment rate is particularly low among women and the elderly. • The high rate of youth unemployment is also disturbing. • In this context, it is necessary to improve the performance of education and professional training systems. • Action must be taken to increase the appeal of education and professional training. • The implementation of the principles of lifelong learning is important.

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Bennahmias (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Today, we are saying that the guidelines for employment laid down in 2010 are indeed still valid, but we are also saying, take heed, that this approval is not the equivalent of giving the Council and the Commission free rein: it is predicated on action. It is more than time we acted, outside austerity and budgetary rigour, to promote employment in our Member States. France, like many other EU countries, has seen a sharp rise in unemployment in recent years. We are then saying we should promote the quality of employment, develop a skilled workforce, promote education and lifelong learning, improve the quality of education and training systems, and promote social inclusion: all these objectives behind the guidelines are, more than ever before, relevant, but we want the means of achieving these objectives to be developed and made a reality. At the end of January, the Commission started something by launching a youth employment initiative. This must continue: the social consequences of the crisis are too serious for us not to devote to it all the energy and resources that we have at our disposal.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto (EFD), in writing. (IT) This report asks for all the essential points of the programme outlined by the Council in 2010 for implementing the Europe 2020 strategy to be confirmed for this year as well. The programme contained elements about which I was sceptical at the time, and the events in Europe over the last two years have only served to reinforce my initial opposition. We now know that the measures against budgetary imbalances we were discussing in 2010 are austerity measures imposed from above that have had catastrophic effects on people, social systems and standards of living, without helping to resolve the problem in the slightest. Furthermore, there was, and continues to be, an emphasis I cannot share on the need to open up the labour market in our countries to immigration. Today, at a time of such a tough crisis, we must think, above all, and first of all, of our own citizens. I therefore voted against the report.

 
  
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  John Bufton (EFD), in writing. – Member States understand the needs and specifics of their own countries and, as such, should not be subject to one-size-fits-all legislation that affects the daily practices of the majority of the population and has a direct impact upon growth and economic stability. Thus far, employment policy emanating from Brussels has posed many difficulties for companies and organisations across the UK struggling to assimilate EU law into quotidian practice. It is also essential at a time of financial hardship that the legislative approach to work and productivity be dynamic in order to permit the flexibility to foster growth and develop the job market to cater for the greatest number of people. Parliament has not been consulted on the issue and has merely approved an EU-level strategy for employment, without full understanding of its potential repercussions. The regulation of employment within the UK and Wales must be fully coherent with the specific needs of the citizens affected in constituent regions and demands a targeted and measured approach that is undermined by the imposition of top-down generalised legislation. Westminster should remain the unique decision-making body on employment law, and the sole author of a development strategy for the UK, without restrictive infringement or interference from the unelected EU Commission.

 
  
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  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE), in writing. (RO) Member States’ employment policies and, especially, the creation of new jobs are among the most important aspects at this time, given that the increase in the unemployment rate has generated numerous protests in several Member States of the European Union last year and this year. I am aware of the labour market problems currently experienced in all EU Member States, which are accelerated by the financial crisis. This is why I believe that the objectives stated in the Europe 2020 strategy are very relevant in this respect. The EU must encourage Member States in their efforts to develop their economy, based on a labour market that is inclusive, highly trained, and, last but not least, meets the demands. However, the role of the Member States in this area should not be ignored either. Member States can find significant support in the European Social Fund programme that provides them with considerable sums to create an increasingly competitive labour market.

I therefore support this report and believe that these guidelines are fully justified and absolutely necessary for the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy and, in particular, of the employment-related objectives.

 
  
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  Antonio Cancian (PPE), in writing.(IT) Today, we debated and voted on the three reports by Ms Cornelissen, Mr Gauzès and Ms Berès drafted in relation to the Annual Growth Survey 2012, proposed by the Commission last November. My vote for the report by Ms Berès reflects Parliament’s decision to adopt the proposal for a Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of Member States as it is consistent with the economic and social growth objectives identified in the Europe 2020 strategy, which must remain in place until they have been met. The strategy, in fact, outlines a programme for intelligent, sustainable and inclusive growth, with high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted for this report because the adoption of this resolution today finally draws attention to a matter that is vital to the future of Europe. Employment has been the biggest victim of the crisis and inadequate employment policy over recent years. The situation is becoming ever worse, particularly among young people. Market reform to stimulate employment, supported by a policy of real investment geared towards the younger generation will give them a concrete response: a new plan to modernise employment, education and training systems and, ultimately, to improve individuals. The real challenge will be enabling and encouraging diverse professional experience in life, preserving and ensuring professionalism and remuneration. There is an even greater need for major changes to national labour markets, with the aim of reviving the European economy. Only making the EU more competitive will give investors greater confidence and promote the growth of new jobs.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union makes provision for the Council to lay down general economic policy guidelines and employment guidelines. These particular guidelines must serve the objectives of the EU 2020 strategy and must be in keeping with general economic policy guidelines. As the EU 2020 strategy moves in a neoliberal direction, it fails to respond to the needs of European citizens, especially European workers, and especially following the outbreak of the crisis. The basic approach is to increase competitiveness at European level by dismantling labour relations. Furthermore, the general EU economic policy approach and answer to the crisis is to impose harsh austerity programmes and to cut back labour and social rights. At the same time, unemployment has broken all records. Therefore, the employment guidelines, within their framework, are not an important tool for containing poverty and unemployment. On the contrary, they serve policies that exacerbate social exclusion and impoverish European citizens. That is why I voted against this particular report.

 
  
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  Andrea Cozzolino (S&D), in writing. (IT) Parliament’s confirmation of the guidelines for the employment policies of Member States adopted by the Council in 2010 is an act that is not completed by a mere formality, even if the committee responsible voted to follow the simplified procedure. We have had the opportunity to hold another debate on the initiatives Member States will have to adopt in order to achieve the Europe 2020 strategy objectives, and to respond, in particular, to the by now unsustainable unemployment situation that young Europeans, more than anyone else, are facing. Opportunities such as this, and the Annual Growth Survey and its transformation into ‘annual guidelines for sustainable growth’, on which we are being asked to vote, allow us to make the future of the young generations of Europeans the focus of our debate and to play an active and immediate role in the interaction between Member States and the European Commission.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D), in writing. (RO) The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union stipulates that the Member States and the EU must develop a coordinated employment strategy and promote a skilled, trained, adaptable and capable workforce, as well as labour markets able to respond rapidly to economic change. The Europe 2020 strategy proposed by the Commission for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth sets out five main objectives guiding the action of Member States, including the European employment strategy. However, in the current economic crisis, there is a risk that all this will be nothing more than words on paper. I agree that the employment guidelines adopted in 2010 should remain in place until 2014, so that efforts are focused on their implementation, and that Member States should consider using the European Social Fund to implement the guidelines on employment. Unfortunately, I cannot share the Commission's optimism in this respect, given that while most of the measures adopted, as well as some of those envisaged, are necessary, they are not sufficient, as shown by the upward tendency of unemployment at European level.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing. (RO) The European Union is, and has always been, a very popular social model. However, there has been a recent decline in the right to work, in social rights, and in the employment policies of Member States. I consider it essential that Member States take action at the time of the current economic crisis in order to put into practice their commitment to increase employment levels, improve individual skills and create employment opportunities with a view to reducing poverty and increasing social inclusion.

I believe that a solidarity and cohesion policy is needed at EU level, with concrete legislative, fiscal and financial measures. It is vital that Member States observe these commitments to achieve more effective exchanges of best practices and experience in the area of combating social exclusion and reducing poverty, closely in line with the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy related to the eradication of poverty.

 
  
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  Mário David (PPE), in writing. (PT) Pursuant to Article 145 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Member States and the EU are working towards developing a coordinated EU strategy for employment and the promotion of a skilled workforce that is qualified, well trained and adaptable. The Europe 2020 strategy puts the EU on the right track with a view to the desired sustainable, inclusive and self-perpetuating economic growth, enabling higher levels, not only of employment, but also of social cohesion, productivity and competitiveness. In the context of the objectives set out in terms of increasing labour market participation and reducing structural unemployment, of developing a skilled workforce and promoting good-quality jobs and lifelong learning, of improving education and training performance at all levels and increasing uptake of higher education, and of promoting social integration and combating poverty, I believe that these guidelines should remain unaltered until 2014, and that any updating thereof should be strictly limited after that date. I voted for this report because I agree with the rapporteur.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D), in writing. – I voted in favour of this report on the employment policies guidelines for the Member States because it represents an important step in maintaining the continuity of the European Union’s strategy for growth and employment, Europe 2020. I am very much looking forward to the Member States following these guidelines while adopting employment policies, in particular, because of the stress on a skilled, trained and adaptable workforce – a real engine for the future growth of Europe. In these days of economic and financial problems for the European Union, employment and growth become probably the most sensitive issues for the whole political debate. I believe that Europe should recognise job creation as a central goal for the revitalisation of our economy.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for this report, which supports the Commission proposal to launch a new employment strategy based on greater coordination of economic policy. It is worth highlighting the importance of this strategy putting sustainable growth and competitiveness at the heart of the European agenda.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) As yet, there are few signs that the economic and financial crisis that began in 2009 is coming to an end. On the contrary, it is affecting countries that initially seemed to be immune. It was against this background of uncertainty over the end of the crisis that the last European Council took place. The report drafted by Ms Berès concerns the draft Council decision on the guidelines that the Member States should follow with regard to their employment policies. I welcome the measures adopted by the Council to channel funds into programmes promoting growth and employment, particularly those targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises and jobs for young people. As it is vital that the EU has a strategy for growth and employment, I voted for this report, which sets out a range of measures for combating unemployment and promoting sustainable economic growth.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This report by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs simply recommends that Parliament accept and retain the 2010 employment policy guidelines and does not propose the necessary changes to the economic and social policy that the Commission has been following. It does so as though everything were going swimmingly; as though unemployment in the EU had not risen to more than 23 million people without work; as though youth unemployment had not reached its current tragic proportions. Such levels have never before been seen in many countries, such as Portugal, which has had its highest rates of unemployment since the revolution of 1974.

In other words, through this report, drafted by a Member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Parliament is endorsing neoliberal doctrine, which it often criticises in an opportunist way. This doctrine includes promoting flexicurity, raising the retirement age and so-called ‘austerity policies’; in short, increasing the exploitation of the workers. For our part, we do not accept the continuation of these policies and demand new guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States that do not attack workers’ rights, but rather increase them and bring them into line with scientific and technical progress. We therefore voted against.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D), in writing. (SK) Article 145 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides that the Member States and the Union shall work towards the development of a coordinated strategy for employment and, in particular, the promotion of a skilled, trained and adaptable workforce. The Europe 2020 strategy, proposed by the European Commission, will enable the Union to steer its economy towards smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, which will be accompanied by a high level of employment, productivity and social cohesion. The European strategy for employment has the leading role in meeting the objectives of the new strategy for employment and the labour market. I am of the opinion that it is necessary that the Member States continue their efforts to address the priority areas of increasing labour market participation and reducing structural unemployment, strive to develop a skilled workforce in line with labour market needs, and strive to promote the quality of employment and lifelong learning. I believe that the employment guidelines adopted in 2010 should remain unchanged until 2014 to ensure their uninterrupted implementation. They should be changed as little as possible, except where absolutely necessary.

 
  
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  Lorenzo Fontana (EFD) , in writing. (IT) Our position with regard to the Europe 2020 strategy has traditionally been a sceptical one, and the need to maintain a critical approach in relation to it seems to require reconfirmation in light of the developments that have affected Member States over the last two years. If, in 2010, the Union was being asked to take corrective action to resolve macro-economic imbalances affecting Europe, particularly in the more vulnerable Member States, in 2012, the dramatic consequences of the austerity measures introduced by this action have confirmed our original scepticism. The amendments to the proposal also introduced the objective of increasing the number of immigrant workers in the Union, an objective I do not share. I therefore voted against the proposal.

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing. (FR) After the adoption of several European measures aimed exclusively at imposing budgetary rigour in Europe, this vote, which confirms the validity of the guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States for 2012, is a timely reminder that Europe needs growth and employment to revitalise its economy.

That is why I voted in favour of the report by Ms Berès. Indeed, it is vitally important that we focus our efforts on combating unemployment and poverty, which are increasingly affecting EU citizens. To this end, the Member States must continue to do everything in their power to increase the participation of women and men in the labour market and to promote quality education and training for young people in accordance with the objectives of the guidelines.

Moreover, I support this report because it proposes a more democratic form of governance for the European Union in terms of economic policy than that which seeks to impose financial sanctions on the Member States, through the institution of a dialogue on economic policies between the Council and the European Parliament, with the participation of national parliaments.

 
  
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  Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE), in writing.(PL) I am pleased that the European Parliament has approved today the guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States. We need enhanced coordination of economic policy which will focus on the key areas where action is needed to use Europe’s potential for sustainable economic growth. This is important so that we can create jobs, particularly for young people.

Let us remember that the Europe 2020 strategy places particular emphasis on action for work and growth. We need the guidelines so that we can increase employment. The labour market should be open and, above all, accessible to young people. However, it is, in fact, young people who have the greatest difficulties in finding work in a labour market which is so unstable. The Member States should continue to concentrate their efforts on priority areas, and this includes efforts to reduce unemployment. A joint action plan of this kind is an effective method to find a remedy for this currently growing problem.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE), in writing. – I welcome this report. What we need to focus on now is implementation of the guidelines. We need to ensure effective governance of the employment and social policies by the Member States. Member States should involve stakeholders, the social partners and parliamentary bodies in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the national reform programmes. Above all, we need to focus on the implementation of the guidelines in order to ensure a coordinated strategy for employment which will promote a skilled, trained and adaptable workforce. I am confident that we will achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth with a high level of employment, productivity and social cohesion throughout the EU. These employment guidelines will remain unchanged until 2014 and their updating should remain strictly limited within the three years. However, we must ensure that the integrated economic policy and employment guidelines are the main focus of the annual review of the Europe 2020 strategy

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of the Berès report on the guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States for 2020. The Europe 2020 strategy makes it possible to gear the economic system of the European Union towards smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, with a high level of social cohesion and productivity.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing.(PL) The proposal put forward by the European Commission sets out ambitious tasks for the whole Union in relation to combating the painful effects of the economic crisis for the European labour market. I would like to express support for the amendments proposed in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, which emphasise the fundamental role of European funds in coping with the crisis and recovering stability in the labour market, and propose simplification of systems for allocating funds so that they will be an attractive form of aid for potential beneficiaries.

However, even the most appropriate strategies and guidelines will not bring the expected result without close cooperation between all the European Union’s Member States. The greatest threat to achieving the aims of this strategy seem to me to be the announcements of reductions in the resources available from the Structural Funds in the next financial framework, for the years 2014-2020, which is a clear symptom of a particularistic mindset at the expense of support for the Union as a whole. Not even the best modified legal, institutional and systemic frameworks, even though they are consistent with the guidelines we have adopted, will bring the expected improvement in the labour market without a guarantee of the funds needed for their implementation.

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the report because I believe that the Member States should take action in line with the economic employment policies. The definition of the framework of actions covering the period from 2010-2014 involves limited intermediate amendments, and moves towards a standard approach that will make employment policies most effective. Control and monitoring of the execution of these policies by Member States is an equally important aspect that needs to be closely borne in mind when preparing the final considerations on the issue. I am convinced that these guidelines are valid indications that help to reconcile economic and employment policies. Indeed, we should not forget the value of employment at a time when every Member State is outlining its economic policies which, as well as necessarily restrictive measures to tackle the current crisis, also need to take into account the growth and development that will take place through a new boost to employment.

 
  
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  Ramona Nicole Mănescu (ALDE) in writing. (RO) I voted for the report on the Guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States, taking into account the following considerations. In view of the economic and social difficulties faced by the Member States, it is absolutely necessary to coordinate economic and employment policies. It is important that, in their national reform programmes, Member States prioritise the development of the labour market, the reduction of unemployment, especially among young people, and the creation of new jobs. Now, more than ever, we need integrated policies addressing both the economic and the social aspects.

We cannot talk of sustainable economic growth without envisaging the creation of sustainable jobs. Member States must implement appropriate fiscal policies to support investments and encourage SMEs to create jobs, as well as make effective use of the Structural Funds. Thus, by supporting SMEs and using Structural Funds, new jobs will be created and youth unemployment can be combated.

 
  
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  Barbara Matera (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted for the report by Ms Berès as, in the light of the severe economic and employment crisis afflicting Europe today, the sustainable growth objectives have become extremely important and crucial. The European Union has set itself the long-term objective of creating seventeen and a half million new jobs through a common economic policy.

In this context, we need to focus our attention on certain groups of European citizens. In particular, those who are looking for their first job, in other words, young people who are really struggling to enter the world of work, those with few qualifications and people approaching pensionable age. In my capacity as Vice-President of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, I have to point out that of these, women are still marginalised and discriminated against in the workplace.

Policies to improve the budget indiscriminately affect women’s social and economic status. The policy for economic recovery proposed by the European Commission must remain a strategy for sustainable and inclusive growth, and not become exclusive as a result of the economic and financial crisis, to the detriment of women.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the report by Ms Berès. I agree with the Commission’s decision to maintain the guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States in 2012, as per the annex to the Council decision of 21 October 2010 on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE), in writing. – I voted in favour of this report, which calls for the development of a coordinated strategy for employment and the promotion of skilled and trained workers across the EU. In the context of the financial crisis, it is important that a harmonised approach is adopted in order to address employment policies in the EU.

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Mélenchon (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FR) The 2011 guidelines for employment were synonymous with raising the retirement age, making the labour market more flexible and lowering wages. The terrible results of such a policy cannot have escaped Ms Berès. However, with the majority of this Parliament, she proposes maintaining them for 2012. I voted against this text, which I condemn.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) Unemployment has been reaching worrying levels since 2008, with 23 million people now unemployed in the EU, which corresponds to 20% of the active population, and the EU will have to create jobs for a further 17.6 million people by 2020 if it is to hit its employment targets. In view of this, it is with concern that I am voting for this resolution. I would like to see more determination to hit the Europe 2020 strategy’s targets and to create sustainable jobs, by improving conditions for increased participation in the labour market, particularly regarding education and training.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer (GUE/NGL), in writing. (ES) I voted against this report, as when it comes to growth and employment, I do not share the spirit of the 2012 Annual Growth Survey presented by the European Commission. The proposed solutions will not help to tackle the crisis, nor will they impede a generalised recession throughout the EU. Rather, they will worsen the effects of the crisis, increasing social inequalities, poverty, unemployment and the impoverishment of EU citizens. Both this survey and the EU initiatives are in line with the neoliberal policies that have led us into crisis. In the name of market confidence recovery, competitiveness and growth, salaries are being cut, the European social model destroyed and the basic rights of citizens infringed.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. – I am sure that continued use of the Guidelines is necessary in 2012, and I agree that EU Member States should use these Guidelines when implementing their own national employment policies. I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Employment policy in the European Union is one of those areas of policy where the EU plays a coordinating role, in particular, by drawing up guidelines. However, the individual Member States are largely responsible for turning these guidelines into concrete measures and legislation. The key objectives of the new guidelines are increasing the employment rate of women to 75%, developing a labour force whose skills meet the requirements of the market, lowering the early school leaving rate to below 10%, increasing the share of people who have completed a university degree to at least 40% and combating social exclusion and poverty. I have abstained because, although the EU’s employment policy guidelines are ambitious, the requirements of the Member States in these areas carry far more weight and, therefore, need more support.

 
  
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  Tiziano Motti (PPE), in writing. (IT) Growth and employment are certainly very sensitive issues, especially for our young people, but the way in which the Commission has presented its proposal is frankly worrying. Our warning refers to the Commission’s plan to channel up to EUR 82 billion in uncommitted EU Structural Funds into schemes to create jobs for young people and to support small firms, which could undermine trust in the EU’s regional policy. In fact, the plan proposes to use funds in specific regional projects, but without the necessary involvement of the local authorities. We have here a proposal which creates the false impression that cohesion policy was performing poorly, while noting, on the other hand, that two thirds of regional policy funding has already been used or legally committed. While supporting initiatives to increase the take-up of funds, help small firms and fight youth unemployment, it is right to wonder how the Commission’s approach could be improved: according to it, up to EUR 22 billion of allocations from the European Social Fund (a third of its budget for the 2007-2013 period) and up to EUR 60 billion in regional and cohesion funds have not yet been committed to specific projects.

 
  
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  Siiri Oviir (ALDE), in writing. (ET) I supported this report, as I consider it crucial that Member States immediately introduce measures to fulfil their obligations with regard to increasing employment, improving skills and reducing poverty. Unemployment remains very high in the Member States of the European Union, especially among young people, with the relevant figure already above 40% in some Member States. Such a situation, in which a large proportion of the working-age population suffers from long-term unemployment and discouragement, paralyses the European economy and saps its vitality. It is therefore essential to launch a so-called guarantee plan in cooperation with social partners, in order to ensure that every young person has the right to obtain work, an internship or training if he or she has been unemployed for four months. Instead of European companies consistently moving their manufacturing to Asia, they should devote more attention to their home region, and the European Union and its Member States should also promote this more actively.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD), in writing. (LT) Employment policy is one of the main factors increasing economic growth and jobs. I believe that every Member State should pay particular attention to extending flexicurity and removing obstacles to growth. Social inclusion and the fight against poverty constantly need to be strengthened and the functioning of the labour market improved. Above all, we need to increase opportunities to participate in the labour market and reduce structural unemployment. Furthermore, training systems should be adapted to the needs of the labour market and skills should be developed. Only by implementing these and other measures provided for in the employment policy guidelines throughout Europe will we create more and better quality jobs and foster employment-enhancing growth.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report because I am concerned about the low level of employment in the EU Member States and agree that EU policy guidelines are needed to address this issue. Youth unemployment in some countries is as high as 49%, and insecure and low paid jobs, the lack of suitably qualified workers, social exclusion and combating poverty are common challenges for EU Member States. Only by acting together and pursuing a coherent policy can we therefore ensure sustainable growth. I agree that the Member States must coordinate their national programmes and the implementation of these, and these programmes’ measures should be directed towards promoting entrepreneurship, and adapting education and training systems to market needs. We need to use money from the European Social Fund more efficiently and improve the system for granting micro-credits to small and medium-sized enterprises.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) The Annual Growth Survey 2012 contains the plans for guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States. The economic crisis and the European common market’s need for measures to make it stronger and more competitive have brought about one of the most serious social problems of the present and the future: unemployment. I voted for the report by Ms Berès because we need special guidelines for employment policies in order to restore momentum to the economy and trust among our citizens. Europe needs guarantees for the future and the guarantee of work, particularly for young people, is the first step towards a better European Union.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) Since the major objectives and priorities set out in the guidelines for employment policy, adopted on 21 October 2010, remain valid, I voted for this European Parliament legislative resolution on the proposal for a Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States. In fact, in this document, Parliament is limiting itself to confirming the employment policies that, in line with the decision to adopt them, should remain stable until 2014, in order to ensure a focus on implementation.

 
  
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  Miguel Portas (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The draft European Parliament legislative resolution on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States, tabled by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, has merely rubber stamped the employment guidelines set out by the Commission in 2010. Despite the exacerbation of the economic situation since then, with unemployment rates that are increasing exponentially in almost all the Member States, the European Parliament has given up its right to demand that the Council and the Commission table new binding measures geared towards increasing investment in job creation. That is why I voted against.

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE), in writing. (PT) Pursuant to the Europe 2020 strategy, provision has been made for a series of central objectives aimed at economic growth and social cohesion, in a policy of linking up the actions of the Member States and the EU institutions. I voted in favour because these guidelines are included in the Commission proposal.

 
  
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  Robert Rochefort (ALDE), in writing.(FR) In a fully integrating single market, in which the Member States are becoming increasingly interdependent, coordinating employment policies is an overarching objective in ensuring that actions are coherent and effective. In voting for the report by Ms Berès, I support this objective by approving the continuity of the guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States adopted by the Council decision of 21 October 2010. These guidelines are essential if we are to achieve this objective: increasing labour market participation, reducing structural unemployment, promoting the quality of employment and social inclusion, promoting education and lifelong learning, improving the performance of education and training systems, and combating poverty. They are necessities that I have defended for a long time. Finally, I welcome the Commission’s desire, endorsed today by the European Parliament, to strive to maintain the stability of these guidelines until 2014 to ensure a focus not on the conclusions of endless negotiations on their minor modification, but on their practical implementation. It is now the duty of the Member States to take them into consideration in their employment policies.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi (EFD), in writing. (IT) We cannot support a text which seeks to resolve problems related to employment, and which deals with the employment policies of the Member States, with proposals which seek to ‘remove the barriers’ that prevent immigrants from accessing the EU’s labour market. We cannot accept these kinds of measures, since due precisely to the regulations helping legal immigrants, it is already more likely that they will be the ones asked to take on a job rather than an EU citizen.

We also realised that when the European Union proposes corrective measures for the Member States, it tends, in fact, to decide for them and, in the wake of the dramatic consequences of the austerity measures introduced by interventions like this, we are sceptical towards EU strategies such as the ones in question.

 
  
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  Tokia Saïfi (PPE), in writing. (FR) As part of the Europe 2020 strategy, the EU has drawn up a list of priorities and joint initiatives aimed at smart, sustainable and job-rich growth. Boosting employment has been identified as the main driver of growth and recognised, quite rightly, as a key factor in greater social cohesion at European level. Thus, since their adoption in October 2010, guidelines have guided national employment policies. The Member States must, in accordance with the provisions of the Europe 2020 strategy, reduce structural unemployment, train a skilled workforce, promote quality jobs and ensure lifelong vocational training. The European Parliament has declared its support for the continuation of these employment guidelines until 2014. This position, which I share, reflects increased awareness on the part of the European institutions: employment is our priority and we need to reflect upon the ways and means to promote it and to make it more sustainable. To this end, the Member States have the possibility of using the European Social Fund.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE), in writing. (IT) In the Annual Growth Survey (AGS), the Commission has identified five priority actions for 2012: fiscal consolidation; restoring normal lending to the economy; growth and competitiveness; tackling unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis; and modernising public administration. Personally, I would like to underline my full support for the five priorities identified, as expressed with my vote in favour this morning. I would also like to draw attention to the fact that it is absolutely necessary to accelerate the initiatives to create the single market and to extend the reach of the AGS. Finally, I would like to underline my appreciation of the integrated structure of the document and the unprecedented attention to social issues.

A final word on young people: the fourth priority addresses youth unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis, which is having serious repercussions on social inclusion and on levels of poverty. Keeping people active – whether through work, training or even in the search for a job – is fundamental, both for the economy and for society. Therefore, the text suggests revising wage-setting mechanisms to better reflect productivity, removing legal obstacles to the recognition of professional qualifications between countries, restricting access to early retirement schemes and promoting entrepreneurship.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) According to Eurostat, the European Union currently has around 23 million unemployed; that is 8 million more than in 2008, with the majority of them young people who cannot find a foothold in the labour market. The EU Member States with the highest unemployment rates are Spain, with 22.9%, followed by Greece, with 19.2% in October; Portugal is in sixth place, with 13.6%. At the other end of the spectrum, those with the lowest rates are countries like Austria, with 4.1%, the Netherlands, with 4.9%, and Luxembourg, with 5.2%. Article 145 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union stipulates that Member States shall work towards developing a coordinated strategy for employment, so they have agreed to the intention expressed by the European Commission and the European Parliament to strengthen guidelines on employment policy, pursuant to the Council decision of 21 October 2010.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D), in writing. (RO) I voted for the resolution on the proposal for a Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States because, due to the financial and economic crisis, unemployment has increased alarmingly in the EU. According to Eurostat, over 23 million people are unemployed in Europe. The guidelines provided in Decision No 2010/707/EU will be applied by the Member States in 2012 as well. Employment policies should be directed towards increasing labour market participation, reducing structural unemployment and promoting quality jobs, developing a skilled workforce to meet labour market needs and promote lifelong learning, improving the quality and performance of education and training systems at all levels and increasing participation in tertiary education or equivalent forms of education, promoting social inclusion, and combating poverty. These guidelines are aimed at the implementation of the main EU objectives for 2020, such as increasing the employment rate to 75%, reducing the school dropout rate to less than 10%, achieving a tertiary graduation rate of at least 40% among young people, and reducing the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion by at least 20 million.

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FR) I voted against the Berès report calling on the European Parliament to approve the proposal for a Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States.

This vote is about ensuring the ‘compatibility’ of the employment guidelines with the economic policies of the EU. It is quite a programme and, every day, we are increasingly seeing what this means through the sad example of what is being imposed on Greece. It is about ‘implementing the Europe 2020 strategy’, ‘boosting Europe’s potential for sustainable growth and competitiveness’, ‘promoting labour markets responsive to economic change’, ‘complying with the Stability and Growth Pact’ and ‘giving precise guidance to the Member States on defining their national reform programmes’.

This says it all. We can talk all we like about reducing structural unemployment, developing a skilled workforce and promoting quality jobs. These are just words, sacrificed at the altar of austerity policies.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI), in writing. (DE) It is essential that the guidelines on employment policy measures in the Member States are retained in order to boost growth and competitiveness in Europe and to guarantee that the Europe 2020 objectives are achieved. We must focus, in particular, on increasing the labour market participation of men and women, eradicating structural unemployment, combating poverty and improving the performance of the European education system.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This report comes direct from the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. It simply recommends that Parliament accept and retain the 2010 employment policy guidelines, and does not propose the necessary changes to the economic and social policy that the Commission has been following. This means that Parliament is accepting the continuation of the neoliberal policies of promoting flexicurity, of increasing the retirement age, of so-called ‘austerity policies’; in short, of increasing the exploitation of the workers. We do not accept the continuation of these policies and demand new guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States that do not attack the sacrosanct rights of the workers, the right to collective bargaining, and the social rights they have won.

 
  
  

Recommendation for second reading: Czesław Adam Siekierski (A7-0032/2012)

 
  
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  Damien Abad (PPE), in writing. (FR) In a spirit of European solidarity, I voted in favour of maintaining the European Programme of food aid for the most deprived (PEAD) for 2012 and 2013. This vote is taking place after agreement in Council. However, this agreement cannot, under any circumstances, be used as a long-term solution. Indeed, we need to consider now the period beyond 2013 and how to reform the food aid programme and to enable the most deprived to benefit from this programme.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I am voting in favour. One of the problems still demonstrated by the EU, despite the level of development we have reached, is that of the malnourishment that has a particular effect on the homeless, on families in difficulties, on the unemployed, whose numbers are increasing substantially at the moment, on single-parent families, on immigrants, on asylum seekers, on socially disadvantaged older people and on disabled children. Seven countries initially rejected the support programme under consideration, on alleged legal grounds. This was a lamentable decision that has, regrettably, only been put on hold until 2013. I would stress that the EU was very quick to help the banks, but is showing itself to be very insensitive when it is a case of solidarity with the most disadvantaged. This reflection serves to demonstrate that we live in a Europe with these contradictions, which urgently need to be abolished.

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli (PPE), in writing. (IT) I was pleased to hear that the blocking of the Commission’s proposal at the Council, lasting some two years, has been overcome. Considering the urgency of providing support to the most deprived persons in the Union and the delay that has been seen, I voted in favour of the report by Mr Siekierski in order to allow a rapid distribution of food products to the most deprived citizens and, at long last, to offer them the Union’s support during this time not just of economic crisis but also difficult weather conditions. I am firmly convinced that the programme should be fully funded by the Union and that the programme should be accompanied by temporary measures to avoid a sharp cutback in food aid and to ensure that people who are dependent on food aid do not suddenly suffer from food poverty once again. I am pleased with the agreement reached for these reasons, but also due to the fact that the food to be distributed will be of Union origin, and will therefore support our production and growth.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing.(FR) This week, the European Parliament has made progress on a critical issue: a compromise has finally been reached with the Member States to maintain funding for the European Programme of food aid for the most deprived (PEAD) for 2012 and 2013. This programme supplies food to more than 13 million beneficiaries across 15 Member States. We must now work to ensure the future of this programme after 2013, and I can assure you that the European Parliament will continue to fight for this. My colleagues and I have demanded that, in the short term, the European Commission and the Member States provide a transition mechanism and that, in the mid term, they change the legislation to enable this programme to continue. I proposed, in this regard, contributions from the European Social Fund (ESF). Finally, I believe that this programme is also an instrument for combating food waste. In any event, while we need to save money at a time of crisis, we should certainly not do so by leaving 13 million vulnerable Europeans by the wayside.

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Bennahmias (ALDE), in writing.(FR) For the time being, the most important thing has been saved. We have managed to secure the continuation of the European food aid programme for 2012 and 2013. The annual budget of EUR 500 million will be kept in its entirety for the next two years. While congratulations are in order, especially for all the organisations working on the ground, vigilance is still called for, because the issue is far from being settled. Europe, they said, is being built in small steps and gathers momentum in crises, when its back is against the wall. This time, it has failed miserably! The programme has only obtained a reprieve, which, during the current period, when austerity policies are taking a heavy toll on the people of Europe, and the European Union is in full existential crisis, amounts to a denial of the future of the EU. There will be no EU in the future without a social Europe, without a rebalancing of the economic dimension to take account of the social dimension. So there is much yet to be done. We must, right now, think of new, effective solidarity mechanisms in collaboration with the European Commission to ensure that we maintain this action in favour of the most deprived people in Europe.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report because I fully support what it has achieved. This European Parliament report confirms the EU institutions’ compromise decision, on the basis of which the European Union will be able to provide the most deprived citizens of the European Union with the same amount of food aid as before for the remaining two years until the new multiannual financial framework. Indeed, the Council’s desire to reduce the amount of food aid at this difficult time, when the number of people requiring aid has grown as a result of the crisis, was particularly difficult to understand. I agree that today, we have to make savings, both at EU level and in the Member States, but we cannot do this by reducing assistance for the poorest people who have increased in number. Savings in this area would not solve the problem of the financial crisis. Instead, we would be turning our backs on our citizens and undermining the goals that we set ourselves a year ago – of lifting as many as 20 million people out of the poverty trap. It really is disappointing that this has dragged on for so long.

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE), in writing. (RO) Although the EU enjoys, on average, one of the highest living standards in the world, some people are unable to provide the necessary food for themselves. It is estimated that within the EU, there are 43 million people at risk of food poverty, meaning people who cannot afford to eat a complete meal every other day. The programme for the most deprived persons supports the provision of food to these highly vulnerable individuals or families who are in a difficult situation. Charities and NGOs are counting on the EU’s contribution to support these people in need. For example, 51% of the products distributed in 2010 by the European Federation of Food Banks came from this programme. Each year, more than 18 million people in 20 EU Member States receive food aid distributed within this programme. In Romania, over 2.8 million people benefited from this programme in 2010, including pensioners, people with no income or very low income, and people with disabilities. Therefore, I think it is essential to find rapidly a solution leading to overcoming the current problems and which can make use of the available funds.

 
  
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  Vito Bonsignore (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of Mr Siekierski’s report which aims to protect and support the most deprived persons in the Union through a funding programme for the purchase of food products.

Due to the two-year deadlock in the Council, it was necessary to pass the proposal quickly without the addition of further amendments. In the Commission’s amended proposal, the programme will remain fully funded by the EU budget but, to secure proper coverage and financial stability, a ceiling of EUR 500 million has been put in place.

The programme will be active during 2012 and 2013, but it is to be hoped that Parliament will have more say on the programme’s future beyond 2013. Due to the economic and financial crisis, which continues to damage Europe’s economy through worrying repercussions on our social fabric, we need a strong voice from Europe to speak out on aiding a more vulnerable civil society.

 
  
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  Arkadiusz Tomasz Bratkowski (PPE), in writing.(PL) I would like to express my satisfaction at the decision taken by the European Parliament, which, on 15 February 2012, adopted the recommendation of the Vice-Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Czesław Siekierski, of the Polish People’s Party, on continuation of the programme for the distribution of food to the most deprived persons. As a result of a long process of negotiations between representatives of Parliament, the Commission and the Council, and also due to the efforts among others of the Polish Presidency, it was possible to work out an agreement on the level of the budget for the programme for 2012-2013.

I am profoundly convinced that the importance of this programme has grown during the current economic crisis, at a time when European society is becoming increasingly impoverished. At present, over 40 million people in the European Union are affected by poverty, while a further 40 million are under threat of poverty. Among those who benefit from this aid are people who are unemployed, homeless people, migrants, elderly people, disabled people and those who are in a difficult material situation, including families with many children and single parents, and in all, there are around 18 million deprived people who have received help from the European Union.

 
  
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  John Bufton (EFD), in writing. – I do not, of course, oppose any measure that aims to combat poverty and hunger in the EU; however, the policy laid before us is both legally unsound and fails to address the real issue of the causes of poverty. The money should not come from the CAP budget as a social policy, which, in the opinion of at least the United Kingdom, should be a Member State domestic competence. What is so mind-boggling about this proposal is that it has failed to acknowledge the leading factor in poverty creation in the EU. Reports from Athens demonstrate that EU policy adherence to the erroneous single currency project is, in fact, one of the key drivers in poverty creation. Greening of CAP will also undermine the potential for self-sufficiency in Europe and exposes Member States to the possibility of food shortages and dependency upon importation. The creation and expansion of PEAD sets a dangerous precedent in permitting such erroneous and damaging legislation to continue to be made by issuing an illegal ‘back-up plan’.

 
  
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  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE) , in writing. (RO) The programme for the distribution of free food to the most deprived citizens of the European Union, started in 1987 as part of the common agricultural policy (CAP), currently grants support to 18 million people living in poverty in 20 European Union Member States. In the EU, 43 million people are at risk of food poverty, and this figure will rise due to the economic and financial crisis and rising food prices. If no action is taken, the funds for this programme will have to be reduced in 2012 to EUR 133 million, compared with EUR 500 million in 2011. The interruption of the aid programme without notice or preparations will have serious repercussions for the most vulnerable EU citizens. It is necessary to find a way to continue the food distribution system for the needy in 2012 and 2013 (the remaining years within the current funding period), and also in the funding period 2014-2020.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) The programme distributing free food to the most deprived EU citizens, set up in 1987 under the common agricultural policy, currently provides food aid for 18 million people suffering from poverty in 20 Member States. The present economic crisis, alongside difficult climate conditions, has been hitting poor people hard. Around 18 million people in Europe currently benefit from the food aid programme for the disadvantaged. I voted for this programme to be continued until the end of 2014, with a maximum annual budget of EUR 500 million, intended to aid 18 million of the most deprived people in 20 EU Member States.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) I am voting for this draft amendment to Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007, intended to improve the general rules on supplying certain organisations with food products from intervention stocks for the benefit of the most deprived persons in the Union. This reform is essential, not just because of higher demand resulting from the recent EU enlargements, but also because of increased problems due to high food prices in Europe and the cost of supplying it. In order to ensure that the supply of foodstuffs will continue to reach at least those already benefiting from this support, the priority has now changed, with greater emphasis given to the long-term sustainability of agriculture at the expense of the primary goal of increasing food production.

The following are the two most important of the amendments tabled. Now more than ever, there needs to be a long-term perspective when national authorities are planning distribution schemes, so distribution programmes lasting around three years will be implemented in order to increase levels of efficiency and flexibility. Secondly, I agree with the need to set out priorities more clearly. The Member States will have to draft their requests for aid on the basis of objective and pre-established national programmes for distributing food to the most disadvantaged.

 
  
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  Emer Costello (S&D), in writing. – I supported the recommendation because it guarantees the continuation of the food aid programme, which currently provides food to more than 18 million people across Europe, for 2012 and 2013. However, I am opposed to the position of the conservative German and French governments to discontinue this programme after 2013. The Commission should come forward with proposals that comply with the Court of Justice’s April 2011 ruling to allow the continuation of the programme from 2014 onwards. I welcome the Irish Government’s support for this stance. The subsidiarity argument should not be used to suggest there is no role for measures such as a food aid programme at European level. In reality, we need a much stronger social dimension to Europe and a greater emphasis on growth and jobs to ensure that citizens do not have to depend on food aid to help them make ends meet. We can only consider ending this type of programme when there is no demand from the public for it.

 
  
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  Andrea Cozzolino (S&D), in writing. (IT) The report follows the controversial confirmation of the European programme for providing aid to the needy. The text is a compromise between those who were in favour of the programme’s continuation and those who wished to see it come to an end. Therefore, the compromise reached avoids the risk of a sudden end to the programme which would have threatened the survival of that sector of the population which is dependent on this food aid. Recent statistics have shown that the crisis is affecting increasingly large and central areas of the continent. This means that increasingly wide sections of the population in rich countries risk finding themselves in poverty. In this context, the attitude of those who, in the name of futile austerity, insist on rejecting such important interventions which have such a limited impact on the EU budget seems increasingly short-sighted and counterproductive. This compromise is very welcome and a new agreement to guarantee the programme’s funding for the future would be especially welcome. In any case, the hope is to investigate the possibility of strengthening the campaign against food wastage, with a programme capable of using recovered food through distribution and rational use, and redistributing it to the weakest and most at-risk sectors.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing. (RO) I think it is vital to continue the provision of this support in the future, and that it is necessary to support the European disadvantaged people at a level comparable to that of this year, knowing that the common agricultural policy has social components, too, and that poor people must continue to be assisted. Based on the principle of European solidarity, Member States that oppose this must show understanding of the situation of poor social categories and accept that it is necessary to continue the programme within the required parameters. This would also demonstrate solidarity within the EU.

 
  
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  Arnaud Danjean (PPE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of maintaining the funds of the European Programme of food aid for the most deprived (PEAD) for two additional years (2012 and 2013). Indeed, it is our responsibility to ensure the survival of such a programme, which has helped more than 18 million deprived people in 19 Member States of the European Union since 1987 (under the CAP). This programme will therefore continue to supply food to numerous charities working to eradicate hunger, with an annual ceiling of EUR 500 million. At present, our new fight, in which I wish to be fully engaged, is to ensure the long-term sustainability of this important solidarity programme by guaranteeing its funding beyond 2013.

 
  
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  Michel Dantin (PPE), in writing.(FR) This is the culmination of intense diplomatic work on the part of Bruno Lemaire, French Minister for Agriculture, at Council level, and of the Members of the European Parliament at the level of our institution. Europe has thus demonstrated that it is capable of being an area of solidarity for the citizens of Europe.

 
  
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  Rachida Dati (PPE), in writing.(FR) I used my vote to approve the Council’s position, which will make it possible to extend the European food aid programme at its current level of funding for an additional two years. It would have been inconceivable to reduce it, now that the crisis has increased the number of people dependent on food handouts. This solution remains a temporary one, however. The validity period of the compromise for which we voted is two years. Two years is what was needed for the more than 13 million Europeans for whom this programme is vital. However, two years is not enough. I will remain fully committed to finding a lasting solution and to ensuring that this programme, which is essential to the maintenance of solidarity, is kept in the European budget.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of this text enabling the European Programme of food aid for the most deprived (PEAD) to be maintained and funded for 2012 and 2013. I will continue to work actively in the European Parliament and call on the European Commission and the European Council to find a solution, so that this programme, which provides food aid to more than 18 million of our fellow citizens, and which we need more than ever in these times of crisis, can continue after 2013.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D), in writing. – I voted in favour of the Council position at first reading because the distribution of food products to the most deprived persons is too urgent an issue to be delayed any further. A second reading procedure would only have meant more suffering for the people in need, a scenario which is simply unacceptable. Therefore, I think that the position voted for, by overcoming the stalled situation in the Council, has to be considered as a valid transitional solution for the remaining years of the current MFF. I would also like to express my desire for such a crucial programme to be maintained, or even enhanced, after 2013. Too many people still depend on food distribution in Europe and we – as representatives of the European people – must undertake this as a personal commitment.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for the report on food distribution to the most deprived persons in the Union, as I believe it was crucial to reach an agreement that broke the two year deadlock in the Council on this issue and to ensure that this programme will continue in the next financial framework. European solidarity for those with the least protection is even more necessary at times of crisis. The right-wing majority in the Council has demonstrated great social insensitivity.

 
  
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  Göran Färm, Anna Hedh, Olle Ludvigsson, Jens Nilsson, Marita Ulvskog and Åsa Westlund (S&D), in writing. (SV) We Social Democrats are opposed to extending the food distribution programme to the most deprived persons in the Union, as we believe that poverty and social exclusion should be tackled in the social sphere and not within the framework of the EU’s agricultural policy.

The programme was introduced during a period when there were large stockpiles of agricultural products and it was considered to be a fair solution to distribute this food to those in need. As the EU’s agricultural policy has been adapted to the market, these stockpiles have dwindled and the option of using EU funds to stockpile commodities has been abolished for several products.

We would have liked to have seen other forms of support for the most deprived persons in society, as the EU and the Member States need to take responsibility during times of economic crisis, not only for the financial institutions, but also for their own people.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) According to data provided by the Commission, 43 million people in the EU are at risk of food poverty, making aid programmes essential for providing them with a minimum level of subsistence. For this very reason, it is neither comprehensible nor defensible that the issue of distributing food to the most deprived people has been deadlocked for more than two years, at a time when the crisis is threatening to increase poverty levels, nor is it comprehensible or defensible that the decision we have adopted today is to retain the food aid programme only until 2013. A programme is needed beyond 2013. Once again, I would reiterate that the need to reduce expenditure cannot justify a lack of social sensitivity, especially when it comes to the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) This recommendation for second reading, drafted by Mr Siekierski, concerns the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1290/2005 as regards distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the European Union. Following a delay in solving this problem, it has, in the end, been possible to reach an agreement on freeing up the EUR 500 million to support deprived people through food banks. I welcome the fact that this aid has been made available and hope this will continue after 2013.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Poverty and social exclusion have been on the increase in the European Union. Their growth goes hand in hand with the massive backwards strides currently being taken by society. The latest Eurostat figures, for 2010, show that we are in a tragic situation: 26.9% of children aged 0-17 and 19.8% of older people are at risk of poverty. In total, 115 million people in the EU are at risk of poverty; that is equivalent to 23.4% of the population. These figures will certainly be worse today, owing to the impact of so-called ‘austerity’ and, particularly, of the sordid IMF-EU pacts of aggression against Portugal, Greece and Ireland. There is more unemployment and wages are lower. Moreover, decreased social rights, and the increased prices and privatisation of public services have further exacerbated this situation.

It is in this context that it becomes even more pressing to continue with and step up the food distribution scheme programme for the most deprived persons, so as to ensure that those dependent on food aid – and the many others currently becoming so – will not suffer food poverty. That is why we voted for this report. That is why the stance of countries like Germany in the Council blocking the continuation of this programme is unacceptable.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D), in writing. (SK) Council Regulation (EEC) No 3730/87 laid down the general rules for the supply of food to the most deprived persons in the EU. This regulation was subsequently repealed and incorporated into the regulation establishing a common organisation of agricultural markets and on specific provisions for certain agricultural products. Rising food prices are currently adversely affecting the food security of the most deprived persons and, moreover, increase the cost of providing food aid. The objectives of the common agricultural policy therefore include market stabilisation and, in particular, ensuring supplies for consumers at reasonable prices. With regard to the distribution of food, however, the EU scheme cannot be the only response to the growing need for food aid in the EU. From the perspective of food security, national policies implemented by public administrations and the mobilisation of civil society are also necessary. The scheme could nevertheless serve as a model for the distribution of food to the most deprived people and could help encourage public and private initiatives aimed at increasing food security for those in need.

 
  
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  Elisabetta Gardini (PPE), in writing. (IT) According to the most recent statistics, around 16.3% of the EU population lives below the poverty line. As the crisis continues, the situation even looks set to deteriorate: indeed, it is estimated that from one day to the next, millions of Europeans could find themselves without even enough money for food. Thanks to today’s vote, the European food aid programme will remain operational until at least 2013, offering concrete and direct support to needy citizens who do not have sufficient means to feed themselves.

I think that now more than ever, and in the light of the worrying economic, financial and social situation, we need to guarantee the right to food for all Europeans and continue to ensure proper funding for this programme, which today supplies food aid to around 18 million people in 20 Member States. I hope therefore that this scheme can be improved with increased efficiency, even beyond 2013.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing.(FR) 25 years ago, Coluche went to see Jacques Delors, then President of the Commission, to request his support for the Restos du Coeur. Mindful of its image, the European Community agreed to make some of its existing agricultural stocks available to charitable organisations to enable them to distribute meals to those who, already victims of policies emanating from Brussels, no longer had any means of feeding themselves. It was buying itself a conscience on the cheap.

Today, this aid represents EUR 500 million. This shows the extent to which poverty has exploded. However, the systematic dismantling of the common agricultural policy (CAP) has hit stocks and, against the backdrop of the current economic crisis, a number of Member States have sought to save money on a budgetary item which, however, only represents a fraction of the EU’s EUR 150 billion budget.

The Court of Justice in Luxembourg, to which the matter was referred, wanted to cut 80% of the aid. This decision created such a public outcry that here we are today voting on extending this programming for two years, with no assurance that it will continue beyond 2013. That does not solve the problem. For those of us who voted in favour of this aid, it is only a stop-gap measure.

 
  
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  Louis Grech (S&D), in writing. – This agreement is to be welcomed as it will ensure that we avoid the abrupt halting of the European food aid scheme, and the suffering that would entail for those dependent on food aid. It is vital to ensure that food aid continues to reach the most vulnerable Europeans, and that they are not subject to crippling food poverty. Making food available to those most in need will help them better their lives and, in turn, better the community around them. After a two-year deadlock, I am glad that the Member States at last came together to continue this worthwhile programme for 2012 and 2013. Nevertheless, we must now find a solution within the forthcoming financial framework to safeguard the long-term future of the European food aid scheme. Such a worthy scheme should not be subject to disruptions due to political disputes within the Council.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), in writing.(FR) This is a major success for the Members of the European Parliament, who, on 15 February, saved the food programme providing food aid to the 18 million most deprived European citizens in 20 Member States. Last April, it was estimated, under the auspices of a number of Member States, that the programme needed to reduce its funding from EUR 500 million in 2011 to EUR 133 million in 2012, which would have been catastrophic in these times of crisis for millions of European citizens, the survival of whom depends on this programme. We therefore opposed this decision and, last July, the European Parliament sought a temporary solution to save the programme and to prevent a reduction in food aid. As a result of the intervention of the European Parliament, the programme will be effective until the end of 2013, and it will benefit from an annual budget of EUR 500 million.

 
  
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  Mathieu Grosch (PPE), in writing. (DE) I strongly support the EU food aid regulation for the most deprived people, because it enables Member States to use products from intervention stocks to provide food aid.

Charitable organisations and, in particular, the deprived people they help are reliant on this ongoing programme. It is of the greatest importance for us to guarantee that this aid will still be available after 2013 and to enable charities to continue their work.

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of this report, through which the European Parliament gives its agreement to the continuation, in 2012 and in 2013, of the European Programme of food aid for the most deprived (PEAD), in view of the extremely urgent situation facing charities and food banks.

However, I find that continuing this programme for just two years is unacceptable, and I very much regret the Franco-German agreement, which, admittedly, has broken the deadlock in the medium term, but which threatens the survival of the programme after 2014. This is simply unacceptable, especially since the economic and social crisis is jeopardising the jobs of more and more Europeans and reducing them to poverty.

My fellow Members in the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and I repeat that we need to build a more social Europe. It is our duty to ensure that our citizens can feed themselves and live in dignity. This means that we need to set to work immediately and to take action to guarantee the continuation of the food aid programme, placing it on an appropriate legal basis in the next financial period 2014-2020. Time is of the essence.

 
  
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  Brice Hortefeux (PPE), in writing.(FR) The European Programme of food aid for the most deprived (PEAD) provoked strong and passionate reactions throughout 2011 following the decision by the European Court of Justice to repeal the provisions authorising the purchase of food products on the market under the common agricultural policy for the benefit of redistribution associations. This scheme had been set up in 1987 because there were surplus stocks of farm produce, which is no longer the case today. Following this decision, which had been introduced by Germany, France and the members of the majority in Parliament took action to preserve this essential programme supplying food to more than 13 million people. In November, a compromise was finally reached between the Member States guaranteeing the existence of this programme for 2012 and 2013. In turn, the European Parliament, fully aware of the urgent need to release funds to relaunch the supply process in a particularly difficult period combining an unprecedented financial and economic crisis with extreme weather conditions, supported this agreement on 15 February.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour because, given the particularly unusual situation created by the blocking of the proposal at the Council for two years, the European Parliament has no real margin for an extensive negotiation in order to amend the Council position. It should also be remembered that Parliament, in its resolution of 7 July 2011, had called on the Commission and the Council to develop a transitional solution for the remaining years of the current multiannual financial framework (MFF) so as to avoid a sharp cutback in food aid as a result of the reduction in funding from EUR 500 million to EUR 113 million and ensure that people dependent on food aid do not suffer from food poverty. At a trialogue organised on 6 December 2011, the European Parliament negotiating team recognised, in its majority, that in view of the explanations given by the Presidency and Commission representatives on the absence of a better solution in this particularly difficult situation, it saw itself obliged to agree to the Council compromise as the only means for achieving a transitional solution for the remaining years of the current MFF. In view of those arguments, also shared by the majority of MEPs at the AGRI special meeting of 12 December 2011, I welcomed the rapporteur’s proposal that the Council position should be accepted without amendments, so that it can finally be adopted in its current form at the European Parliament Plenary (as a so-called early second reading).

 
  
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  Lívia Járóka (PPE), in writing. – The economic crisis and the resulting rise in food prices are having a serious negative impact on the food security of the most deprived EU citizens. I therefore welcome the fact that Parliament opted to accept the Council’s position without amendments since, following a two-year obstruction, any further delay would worsen the situation and undermine the credibility of the programme. Both the Commission and the Council have taken on board most of the EP’s recommendations at first reading, so the scheme will be based solely on food of Community origin, purchased on a competitive basis, with preference given to locally produced fresh products, and with a clear obligation for distribution points to advertise the EU’s involvement. It is also very important that storage costs incurred by charitable organisations will be reimbursed and that, by doubling the sources of supply, distribution will no longer be limited to products to which intervention applies, so Member States, in cooperation with civil society, can make their choices on the basis of nutritional balance. Further issues, such as the review of the 100% ratio of EU funding and the introduction of cofinancing, might be discussed again later, given the possibility of reviewing the plan in exceptional circumstances.

 
  
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  Anne E. Jensen (ALDE), in writing. (DA) The Danish Liberal Party is able to accept the fact that we now have a legal basis for this budget line in 2012 and 2013 but, as a matter of principle, we do not believe that the EU should pursue a social policy of buying up food products on the open market and distributing them to the poor. It is therefore a good thing that the agreement expires at the end of 2013.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE), in writing.(FR) Today’s vote is a success for Europe and will help 18 million deprived European citizens for a further two years. However, we must not drop our guard; we must stand together and continue to support people in need. France also undertakes to continue to provide food aid through charities. Food aid to the most deprived was doomed. It is thanks to France’s action that the European Parliament has recently saved it. With Nicolas Sarkozy, Europe also stands for solidarity.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Köstinger (PPE), in writing. (DE) After lengthy discussions, the supporters and opponents of the programme have finally reached a compromise. Without this, it would not have been possible for the planned programme for deprived people to continue. The resolution is a response to the ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union. We should definitely consider whether the Agricultural Fund is the right area to enable this programme to meet its objectives or whether it would not make more sense to move the programme to the Social Fund.

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE), in writing. (IT) I cast my vote in favour of Mr Siekierski’s report, through which we have made excellent progress on helping the millions of EU citizens who face difficulties in their everyday lives. I am delighted to point out that Parliament played a crucial role in reaching this outcome, in full compliance with the decision of the Court of Justice. We have managed to find a transitional solution capable of unblocking food aid for the poor this year and next, thereby avoiding a dangerous reduction in funds from the current level of EUR 500 million per year, which was to be cut back to roughly EUR 113 million per year. Obviously, we felt duty-bound to take this step to protect the less fortunate among us, particularly in view of the ongoing global crisis. It is absolutely clear, however, that this step does not resolve the issue of funding the programme to help the poor after 2013, when we will also be engaged in negotiations over the new multiannual financial framework for the period 2014-2020.

 
  
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  Agnès Le Brun (PPE), in writing.(FR) I am delighted that the European Parliament has endorsed the agreement reached in the Council last December extending the funding for the European Programme of food aid for the most deprived (PEAD) for 2012 and 2013 with retroactive effect from 1 January 2012. The food aid programme is indispensable in helping charities to fulfil their missions. Consequently, its continuation is a great relief. Nonetheless, we should not make do with this compromise. An emergency solution has been found. Priority should now be given to finding a lasting solution. We cannot be satisfied with this partial solution. It is important for the Council of the European Union to assume its responsibilities and to stop hiding behind legal arguments.

 
  
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  Constance Le Grip (PPE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of the report by Czesław Adam Siekierski approving the decision taken in the EU Council on 23 January 2012, maintaining funding for the European Programme of food aid for the most deprived (PEAD) for an additional two years in 2012 and 2013.

I welcome the fact that a solution could be found to break the deadlock and not to deprive the charities and the most deprived persons of this crucial support. It would have been completely incomprehensible, especially in view of the serious economic crisis we are going through, had we not been able to find a solution to maintain this European programme, which is a symbol of European solidarity towards the most deprived. However, the battle is not yet won, and we must now continue this fund beyond 2013.

 
  
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  Marine Le Pen (NI), in writing.(FR) While the European Union comprises developed countries, almost 20% of its population lives below the poverty line and abolishing food aid to the most deprived from 2014 is not going to improve the situation.

Abandoning this programme, which, however, represents just 1% of the total CAP budget, will simply accelerate the growing impoverishment of populations. This says a lot about the current situation of Europe. When it comes to supporting the banks, agreements are reached, but when it comes to alleviating poverty, European solidarity no longer exists, reducing the contribution to 23 centimes per person.

Yet this comes as no surprise, since the European Union appears to go on as usual, dominated by the desires of Germany, the ultraliberal policies of which leave thousands of people in unbearable misery. As was the case with John I of France, social Europe is stillborn and will simply remain in the imagination of my dyed-in-the-wool Europhile colleagues, who stubbornly believe in this social utopia.

I voted for this recommendation and for extending this aid, but, in the conviction that it will be abolished in 2014, I ask that the appropriations earmarked for France under the European Programme of food aid for the most deprived (PEAD) (EUR 73 million) be deducted from our contribution.

 
  
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  Bogusław Liberadzki (S&D), in writing.(PL) I endorsed this report, among other reasons, in view of the huge contribution made by the rapporteur, Mr Siekierski. Extending the programme by two years is the right decision. In relation to this, I would like the Commission to submit in the near future a proposal for the method of distributing the food and the main objectives in terms of geography and social groups. At least until the end of the crisis, this aid, which is addressed to those who are affected by poverty and social exclusion, is particularly important.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing. (RO) Over time, it has been proved that intervention stocks provided by the Community have been a secure and stable food supply source for the most deprived persons. The need to provide food has increased considerably due to the substantial growth in the number of deprived people and the increase in food prices, affecting the food security of these people.

I think that we need both appropriate national policies and the mobilisation of the civil society to provide food security for all people. In addition, changing the community programme will generate a strong element of cohesion and serve as a model for distributing food to the most deprived persons. This proposal seeks to maintain full funding from the EU for the programme. The maximum level of community funding will continue in the future. However, in order to ensure budgetary stability, an annual cap of EUR 500 million is envisaged for the financial contribution of the EU.

 
  
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  Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska (PPE), in writing.(PL) I endorsed the recommendation on the distribution of free food to the most needy citizens of the EU with full conviction. I have supported the work of food banks, social committees and non-governmental organisations operating in Poland, particularly in the Podkarpacie region, for a long time. The EU programme is an important initiative that should be continued and developed, which is why I think we must conduct further talks with all the EU institutions so that the programme does not end in 2013.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – In July 2011, I supported the Parliament’s Committee on Employment resolution calling on the Commission and the Council for a transitional solution for 2012 and 2013 and a new programme beyond. I do not like the fact that cofinancing has been removed from the proposal, as it would ensure that Member States spend the money efficiently and effectively. We also understand and share concerns of our Scandinavian colleagues. However, at a time of economic crisis, it is important that we have a mechanism at European level to ensure that we are able to get food to those most in need. Furthermore, it is a good thing that money from the agricultural budget is being used to meet the needs of all citizens, not just farmers.

 
  
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  Clemente Mastella (PPE), in writing. (IT) Full Union funding for the programme to distribute food to the most deprived persons must be maintained We think it is worth ensuring that the current rate of 100% EU funding for the programme is retained for the future but, in order to ensure its budgetary stability, an annual ceiling of EUR 500 million for the Union’s financial contribution is foreseen.

We welcome the inclusion of a number of substantial changes suggested by Parliament, namely: the notion of the Union origin of the foods; the obligation for distribution points to clearly display the participation of the Union in the plan; purchase of food products to be made on the basis of competitive procedures; reimbursement of storage costs incurred by charitable organisations.

 
  
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  Barbara Matera (PPE), in writing.(IT) I have voted in favour of a procedure that can take important steps to help the most deprived EU citizens. The European institutions are duty-bound to intervene financially to support the charitable organisations that look after the disadvantaged and the needy among the population. Due to the harsh winter, many people have died as a result of the lethal combination of cold and malnutrition. Confronted with these deaths, we cannot continue to stand by and take no action. That is why I am pleased that the Council has adopted a number of substantial amendments suggested by Parliament, especially the amendment providing for full Union funding for the food distribution programme.

 
  
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  Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The European Union is facing a grave crisis of poverty and social exclusion. With the impact of the economic and social crisis, and of the austerity being implemented, this problem is worsening, resulting in more unemployment, pension cuts, low wages, greater vulnerability and more poverty. In this context, it is crucial to support stepping up the food distribution programme for the most deprived persons. I therefore voted for this report.

 
  
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  Iosif Matula (PPE), in writing. (RO) Food aid distribution in the EU is necessary as a result of the increase in the number of people in precarious situations, as new Member States joined the EU, but also due to the rise in food prices. Every EU citizen has the right to be granted access to food. Thus, funds must be allocated to cover the cost of procurement on the intervention stock market adequately. It is the EU’s responsibility to provide food resources and reduce food insecurity among its citizens. Investment in people’s welfare is an essential component of the healthy development of each individual, contributing to the prosperity of the EU. The cold wave during this period that has hit the centre and south-east of the continent, including my country, Romania, confirms the importance of implementing a rigorous plan for food distribution. Preventive measures, such as the one we are debating today, can reduce the suffering of the poor and, in the long term, can remove some of the barriers to the development of the EU to its full capacity. These are some of the reasons why I support the report on food distribution to the most deprived persons in the Union.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE), in writing. (IT) As many of my fellow Members pointed out during the debate, the future of the programme after 2013 remains unresolved. Accordingly, I think that Parliament, together with the Commission and the Council, should immediately start working on concrete proposals that will allow the programme to be continued and that demonstrate that the EU takes care of its most vulnerable citizens.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE), in writing. – The food distribution programme for the most deprived persons in the Union provides food aid for nearly 18 million Europeans with an aid package of EUR 500 million per year. I voted in favour of this report and welcome this important step towards assisting the 40 million people currently living in poverty in Europe.

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Mélenchon (GUE/NGL), in writing.(FR) The decision taken by the Council under pressure from certain governments is totally unacceptable. At a time when the Council is imposing unprecedented restrictions on the people of Europe, it is destroying one of the rare solidarity mechanisms of the European Union. It is even withdrawing charity from those it is starving. It is shameful. Today, it has left Members with a single choice: let good people starve to death in the days to come or accept aid today and its disappearance tomorrow. This Europe is not worth anything any longer. We are going to rebuild it.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The food distribution scheme for the most deprived individuals, set up in 1987 under the common agricultural policy, currently provides food aid for 13 million people suffering from poverty in 19 Member States and has distribution chains encompassing some 240 food banks and charities. According to the Commission’s own estimates, 43 million people in the European Union are at risk of food poverty, a number set to rise due to the economic and financial crisis and the sharp increase in food prices. We must therefore try to avoid an immediate and drastic reduction in food aid as a result of the reduction in funding for the programme from EUR 500 million to EUR 113 million. Halting an existing and functioning aid scheme abruptly and without prior notice or preparation will have a major impact on the most vulnerable EU citizens. It is therefore necessary to find a way to continue with the food distribution scheme for the most deprived people in 2012 and 2013 – the remainder of the current funding period – and also for the new funding period, 2014-2020. Following a number of deadlocks in the Council that have led to delays with this programme, there is an urgent need to overcome the problems, if those in need of aid are not to continue being harmed.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer (GUE/NGL), in writing. (ES) A positive political signal is being sent through this report to the most deprived people who are personally suffering from the crisis. Given that the crisis in Europe has meant that the number of people who are on the threshold of poverty has increased exponentially, I have voted in favour of this report. I believe it could lead to temporary assistance for these people. Charity is not the solution, however. The solution will involve structural changes and the abandonment of the neoliberal policies that have led these people into poverty, together with a commitment to a social Europe. That means a Europe which places its citizens at the heart of its concerns and which uses European resources to promote the well-being of its citizens, rather than big business and the financial sector.

 
  
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  Louis Michel (ALDE), in writing.(FR) In this period of economic, social and financial crisis, the EU needs to show solidarity towards the more than 18 million most deprived persons in Europe. That is why I voted for extending this aid programme, which has been in existence for more than 25 years. This decision is the right one, because the EU is far more than an economic project. It is a way of living together and sharing values. Without solidarity, Europe loses all legitimacy. A growth strategy only makes sense if it is accompanied by a social strategy. We need to think about what will happen after 2013. We need to establish a European strategy to help the 3 million homeless people in Europe. The European model is a social model. If proof were needed, the Europe 2020 strategy counts combating poverty and social exclusion among its five priorities. We must not forget our commitments during the establishment of the new financial framework, which will be up and running from 2014. A lasting solution will have to be found which leaves no one by the wayside.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. – If there is a possibility of market purchases of food products in the event of unavailability of suitable intervention stocks for food distribution, then it is important to guarantee continuation of the food aid programme, on the most appropriate legal basis, in the next financial period. I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Although the EU is one of the wealthiest regions in the world, around 16% of the people in the EU live on or just above the poverty line. This means that 43 million people in the European Union are affected by food poverty and cannot afford a proper, balanced meal every second day. As many as 18 million people rely on the EU ‘Food for Free’ programme. Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic took a case concerning the legal basis for the programme before the Court of Justice of the European Union and, last April, the court ruled in their favour. The reason for this is that, according to the court ruling, the programme does not fall within the scope of agricultural policy, but should instead be part of social policy. This will be resolved at the level of the individual Member States. In the absence of a new resolution by the Member States, the EU must now bring the food aid programme for the most deprived people to an end. In past years, EUR 480 million has been available on an annual basis for the programme. Now the figure is only EUR 113 million and, from 2013, no more funding will be forthcoming. I have voted in favour of the report because I agree with the rapporteur that any further delays will affect deprived EU citizens and this would definitely not be a responsible way to behave.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Morin-Chartier (PPE), in writing. – (FR) By voting for this text, I supported the need to reassure MDP recipients. The blocking minority gave way to the need not to take away vital support from associations and the most deprived people they help. However, we should not be satisfied with this compromise. It was necessary to find an urgent solution, but the priority now is to identify a long-term solution. We cannot content ourselves with this partial agreement and the Council of the European Union must not hide behind legal arguments. Between the economic crisis across Europe and the particularly harsh winters this year, our fellow citizens must find in Europe the solidarity they expect.

 
  
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  Tiziano Motti (PPE), in writing. (IT) The proposal on distributing food to the poor has remained blocked in the Council for some two years. For people who live in misery, two months, two weeks or two days would have been too long. It is also worth considering that the Commission’s amended proposal of 3 October 2011 and the Council’s position being discussed in this House have incorporated all the substantial amendments adopted by Parliament at first reading, supporting the funding for the programme, which the Union will continue to pay for in its entirety. We have maintained full Union funding for the programme for the future, but in order to ensure its budgetary stability, an annual ceiling of EUR 500 million for the Union’s financial contribution is foreseen. Other substantial changes suggested by EP amendments have been accepted in their essence, namely: the notion of the Union origin of the foods; the obligation for distribution points to clearly display the participation of the Union in the plan; and purchase of food products to be made on the basis of competitive procedures. Furthermore, storage costs incurred by charitable organisations will be reimbursed. Finally, this is a compromise that we think is worthy of support, and we hope it gets the green light in short order.

 
  
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  Mariya Nedelcheva (PPE), in writing.(BG) I voted in favour of the report by Czesław Adam Siekierski on ‘Distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union’ because I am convinced that this is an important step towards improving the conditions of the most vulnerable citizens in the EU. I believe that it is these people who have been affected most directly by the economic crisis, and that now is the time for us to send an important political message by showing that the EU is doing everything in its power to help the most deprived at one of the most difficult times. The programme serves to show that the EU is responsible for its citizens not only in terms of progress and stability, and this is an important message not just for us but for the entire world. It provides concrete support to over 18 million people in 19 Member States in a similar way to the ‘School Fruit Scheme’ and ‘School Milk Scheme’. This is a rather large percentage of the EU population, and I am of the opinion that any further delays will have a negative impact on all the programme’s beneficiaries, which is the last thing we should be doing to them. Finally, I would like to add that we need to be more ambitious in our intentions to find a way for us to guarantee support to the needy after 2013 as well.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE), in writing. (RO) I voted for the report and welcome the fact that it was passed with such an extraordinary majority of votes. This programme is one of the most important social protection programmes undertaken by the European Union, and the majority vote today allows us to hope that Parliament, the Council and the Commission will find solutions in the course of this year to ensure its continuation after 2013. The fact that every thirtieth European citizen is dependent on this programme is enough to give us food for thought in this regard, and Parliament’s efforts in this direction should start straight away.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI), in writing. (DE) Given that an estimated 43 million people in the EU are currently threatened by food poverty and that, as a result of the economic and financial crisis and the dramatic increase in food prices, this figure is continuing to grow, I support this report and all the measures which it proposes. For me, the focus should be on creating jobs and sensible social security systems.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this resolution. The right to food is a fundamental human right, and is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical and economically feasible access to suitable, safe and nutritious food. Food aid measures are one element in a larger integrated policy to combat poverty. Given the current economic, financial and social crisis, the provision of aid at European level to the most vulnerable and poorest members of society is vitally important and cannot suddenly be reduced or cancelled. Only through joint efforts, by implementing coordinated and effective measures, will we be able to ensure that people dependent on our food aid do not suffer from food poverty simply because there was a significant reduction in funding for food aid.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D), in writing. (LT) The food aid programme is used by 18 million EU citizens. It has become even more important during the crisis. In Lithuania alone, more than half a million citizens on low incomes ask for food aid. With increasing energy prices due to high heating costs, an increasing number of working families and families with children are falling into poverty. The unemployed, and some elderly and disabled people and single mothers are living in poverty. The extension of this programme is therefore vitally important. It is to be welcomed that the European Commission and the Council have found a consensus on the extension of the programme during 2012-2013 and have provided EUR 500 million for its implementation. This decision by the EU institutions proves that European solidarity is not a paper principle. I welcome this report, which underlines the importance of food originating in the EU, and the proper and transparent purchase and distribution of foodstuffs. Following this transition period of several years, we also need to ensure the continuation of the programme and the work of non-government organisations like the FoodBank.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the text on the adoption of the regulation on the distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union because it involves the realisation of one of the main objectives of the common agricultural policy (CAP). The text has been drawn up on exactly the same lines as the Council’s position and sets out the Commission’s responsibilities to fund the programme in its entirety. The EU will have a EUR 500 million budget to fund the project from 1 January 2012 until the end of 2013, with a particular view to stepping up future funding in line with the Europe 2020 strategy. Another important goal that has been set is that of ensuring that all the food to be distributed is of Union origin.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE), in writing. (EL) I voted in favour of the recommendation. The agreement achieved between the Member States in the Council to increase financing for the programme to distribute food to deprived persons to EUR 500 million per annum (from EUR 113 million initially proposed by certain Member States) is, of course, most welcome. In these very difficult economic times, with unemployment increasing in numerous Member States, especially those hit by the economic crisis, such as Greece, governments and national bodies must focus their attention on making full use of these funds. In previous years, we have seen inefficient take-up of funds due to a lack of information for the bodies involved, red tape and other such factors. It is unforgivable in terms of the social framework of Europe for money available for such a sensitive issue, for which no national contribution is required, to go to waste as a result of negligence.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted for this report so as to enable 100% EU finding for the programme in 2012 and 2013. I also voted for all the substantive amendments tabled by Parliament and accepted by the Council. I am referring, in particular, to the notion of the EU origin of the foods; to the obligation for distribution points to clearly display EU participation in the plan; to the purchase of food products being made on the basis of competitive procedures; and to the reimbursement of storage costs incurred by charitable organisations. At this point, I am also bound to express my deep concern about the future of this programme, when there is currently an agreement in the Council that it will be gradually abolished following the conclusion of the 2013 annual plan. This programme has been key to mitigating the problems of many of our poor. We cannot accept the ‘death foretold’ of this programme in the current situation of universal economic crisis, which has unfortunately seen a dramatic rise in the number of poor people.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE), in writing.(IT) The Council blocking the proposal on the distribution of food products for two years has created an urgent situation. Moreover, in its resolution of 7 July 2011, Parliament called on the Commission and the Council to develop a transitional solution for the last two years of the funding period (2012-2013) so as to avoid a sharp cutback in food aid, as a result of the reduction in funding from EUR 500 million to EUR 113 million, and to ensure that people dependent on food aid do not suffer from food poverty. In light of this, I am voting in favour of the proposal on Parliament accepting the Council’s position adopted at first reading on 23 January 2012 without making any amendments

 
  
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  Alojz Peterle (PPE), in writing. (SL) I support the regulation because I believe that in the current circumstances, such an expression of solidarity at a European level for people in need is justified, necessary and appreciated. I welcome the decision to include food originating in the European Union in the food distribution scheme.

 
  
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  Franck Proust (PPE), in writing. – (FR) I wanted to clearly position myself in favour of this reform, so as to legally guarantee aid for the most deprived in 2012 and 2013. Previously threatened by Germany and the Nordic countries, a compromise was reached last year. I welcome the decisive action taken by France and other countries. This is an important step. However, we must remain mobilised and commit to aid in the long term. The same countries that once jeopardised this aid want to see it disappear completely from 2014. Solidarity and unity are at the heart of Europe. These countries are sending out a message which completely contradicts the realities of millions of our fellow citizens. In Gard, this aid is valuable, even vital, for the associations which support the most deprived on a daily basis. I will continue to defend these values.

 
  
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  Crescenzio Rivellini (PPE), in writing.(IT) In today’s plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, we voted on the report by Mr Siekierski. The food programme for the EU’s most deprived citizens supports around 18 million EU citizens who are homeless, unemployed, old or disabled, as well as large families and single parents. Thanks to the agreement reached in the Council and the vote held today, the programme will carry on providing food to EU citizens in need for a further two years. This has made it possible to avoid a massive reduction in food aid at a time when the number of people in need is on the increase due to the effects of the global crisis.

 
  
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  Robert Rochefort (ALDE), in writing.(FR) For 25 years now, the European food aid programme for the most deprived persons has provided EUR 18 billion annually to European citizens. Due to the blocking which persisted for two years at the Council, an emergency decision had to be taken to ensure the continuation of funding, and thereby help people in need, by rescuing the associations concerned from a difficult situation. I therefore voted in favour of Czesław Adam Siekierski’s recommendation, which contains the compromise reached with the Council. This text includes essential points, such as the continuation of funding until 2013 inclusive and the retroactivity of the decision from 1 January 2012. Furthermore, the Council’s position is consistent with the principal recommendations made by the European Parliament, which I strongly support: 100% EU funding, the possibility of giving preference to products of EU origin, displaying the participation of the EU – an important provision to increase the visibility of the added value of European action – and the reimbursement of storage costs incurred by associations. I hope that, from now on, the debates will continue in order to ensure a future for this programme after 2013 and that the Commission will play its part by publishing a proposal soon.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – In favour. The current vote offers a solution for the coming two years, so that the 18 million people who are dependent on the programme are not suddenly left without food. The two years are meant to be used as a transition period, in which the foodbanks can prepare themselves for a future without direct food aid from the EU. However, the debate is polarised between those who want to see it continue indefinitely and those who would like it to stop as soon as possible. The danger is that foodbanks will do nothing and we will be faced with the same problem in two years’ time. The Greens advocate a constructive alternative. For the longer term, we want structural solutions to food security and alleviating food poverty. Ultimately, the aim is that foodbanks are redundant, because poverty would have been eradicated.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE), in writing.(IT) I voted in favour of this document because I think that accepting the position adopted by the Council on 23 January 2012 is a matter of priority, since it has incorporated the amendments put forward by Parliament at first reading. Accordingly, I think it should be adopted without any further amendments so that an agreement can be reached quickly at second reading. The ultimate goal must be to provide the fastest possible help to the beneficiaries of this food distribution programme, who are the most deprived persons in the European Union.

 
  
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  Tokia Saïfi (PPE), in writing.(FR) In its early days, Europe was an exciting economic adventure; then it grew strong political ties; finally, it developed its social dimension and became involved in improving the living conditions of its citizens. The European Union, true to its history and founding principles, is therefore oriented towards protecting the most vulnerable, those struggling to survive and the hungry. As some of my colleagues have argued, it is true that food aid is the responsibility of the Member States, which support, as best they can, the needs of the most deprived. Nevertheless, given the enormous social or even humanitarian consequences of situations of extreme poverty, Europe cannot do without a programme for the distribution of food products. However, this has been the case for the last two years (distribution blocked for legal reasons) and thousands of Europeans have most certainly paid the price. Therefore, I welcomed news of a compromise reinstating the programme for 2012-2013, a compromise in favour of which I voted in plenary.

 
  
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  Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid (PPE), in writing.(FR) The mobilisation of civil society by a number of governments (notably the French Government) and the actions of the European Parliament have paid off, and we should congratulate ourselves. The Food distribution programme for the most deprived persons in the Community (MDP) will be extended to at least 2013, allowing charitable organisations throughout Europe to gain some respite during this period of serious economic crisis. It also gives us to time to convince those who once voted against the renewal of the programme after 2013 that Europe only makes sense if it promotes solidarity for its most at-risk citizens. Over 18 million homeless, unemployed, elderly people or people with disabilities, and those from large families and single-parent families, are dependent on this European Union aid. Can we really say to them: ‘make the most of it, as it is not going to last’? The new European Social Fund regulation is looking to fill the hole left by the decline in available agricultural stocks in order to continue to come to the aid of the poorest people. Currently in codecision, this regulation is an occasion for the European Parliament to show that the interests of certain Member States will not prevail against common interests and to demonstrate our vision of a social, united Europe.

 
  
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  Vilja Savisaar-Toomast (ALDE), in writing. (ET) Today, I supported the conclusion of the second reading of the report regarding the distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union. I believe that this report is extremely important, considering the economic conditions of recent years and the increased need for food aid. I concur with the rapporteur that this report must be adopted as quickly as possible and without amendment in order to ensure the rapid, efficient and sustainable continuation of food aid. I am glad that after two years of blocking, the Council has decided to move forward and has also taken into consideration several positions that were previously expressed in Parliament. Among the positive developments, we can emphasise the fact that the Commission and the Council have agreed to a 100% rate of financing, and have also set the total amount of aid at EUR 500 million. One important point that I would like to emphasise is that I wholeheartedly support the distribution of food originating from the EU, which is also supported in the Council’s positions.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE), in writing. (IT) Following the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development’s approval of the Council’s text without any amendments, this House is this morning called to vote on the adoption of the regulation on the distribution of food products for the most deprived persons in the Union. Once approved, the regulation will take retroactive effect, applying from 1 January 2012 until the completion of the 2013 annual plan.

An annual ceiling of EUR 500 million is envisaged for full Union funding for the programme. The proposal incorporates the notion of the Union origin of the foods, the obligation for distribution points to clearly display the participation of the Union in the plan, the purchase of food products to be made on the basis of competitive procedures, and the reimbursement of storage costs incurred by charitable organisations.

On behalf of Parliament, we MEPs now call for unconditional support for continuing the programme beyond 2013, in view of future proposals from the Commission on the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE), in writing.(PL) I endorsed continuation of the EU programme for the distribution of food to the most deprived persons. Aid programmes are very much needed at the moment. During the economic crisis, which is hitting hardest at the poor, the Union should be doing its best to protect the interests of those most affected by poverty. Cofinancing from national budgets is not a good solution, because this could place restrictions on some Member States or even exclude them from participation in the programme, particularly those countries in which per capita income is low. The beneficiaries of the EU food distribution programme are most often homeless, unemployed or elderly people, but the programme is also used by families with many children and single parents. The statistics show that over 18 million poor people in 20 Member States benefit from the programme.

 
  
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  Michèle Striffler (PPE), in writing.(FR) I am very pleased with the European Parliament’s approval of the continued funding for the EU’s Food distribution programme for the most deprived persons in the Community (MDP), which will last for two additional years (2012 and 2013), in an agreement that was reached in October by the Council of the European Union. The few Council members who opposed this measure yielded in view of the pressing need to not deprive associations and the most deprived persons of essential support. Nevertheless, we must not rest on our laurels with this compromise: a stop-gap solution was needed, but now, finding a long-term response should be a priority. We must not be satisfied with this partial agreement and I urge the Council of the European Union to not take refuge in legal arguments but to embrace a sense of responsibility. Now it is the turn of the European Union Member States to show their willingness to act.

 
  
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  Ciprian Claudiu Tănăsescu (S&D), in writing. (RO) I welcome the fact that, following negotiations with the Council, it has been decided to continue the distribution of food to the most deprived people in the 2012-2013 period. I wish, however, to emphasise that this positive vote granted to the compromise text does not represent in any way support for the Member States that envisage the complete elimination of this aid by the end of 2013. On the contrary, I think that now more than ever, the current economic situation shows us how important it is to continue this programme during the next period as well, i.e. 2014-2020.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) In this recommendation, Parliament is proposing to adopt the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1290/2005 and (EC) No 1234/2007 as regards distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union. Since the Council position includes all the substantive amendments tabled by Parliament at first reading, and since I believe, in particular, that full EU funding for the programme should be retained, I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D), in writing. (RO) I voted for the draft recommendation for second reading on the Council’s position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a regulation to continue the distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union. Given the urgency of the situation generated by the Council blocking the proposal for two years, we believe that any delay in adopting this regulation would only result in prolonging the suffering of the most deprived EU citizens who could benefit from the food distribution programme.

In the Commission’s amended proposal of 3 October 2011 and in the Council’s position currently under review, all the substantial amendments made by Parliament on first reading on maintaining full EU funding for the programme have been included. The current level of 100% EU funding is maintained and, in order to ensure budgetary stability, an annual cap of EUR 500 million has been provided. The proposal that the food should come from the EU was also incorporated.

We emphasise the need to continue this programme of food distribution to the most deprived even after 2013, and urge the Commission to present a legislative proposal in this regard as soon as possible. Over 18 million people benefited from this programme in 2010.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE), in writing. (DE) The European Parliament has rescued the food aid programme for the most deprived people and I was pleased to be able to vote in favour of this. Almost 20 million citizens rely at least in part on the EU food aid programme. The programme now has funding of EUR 500 million until the end of 2013, which will enable it to take action. We were able to prevent the funding being reduced to a quarter of its current level, as the Council had proposed.

 
  
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  Viktor Uspaskich (ALDE), in writing. (LT) According to a Eurostat report published last week, 20% of Lithuanians are living on the poverty line. That is one of the highest rates in Europe. In Greece, for instance, the rate is 11.6%, while in the Czech Republic it is 6.2%. In Lithuania, the at-risk-of-poverty rate is much higher than the EU average (8.1%). In single parent families in Lithuania, this rate is 46%. It is therefore obvious that we cannot significantly reduce the distribution of food when the number of poor people is increasing. I agree with the rapporteur that we should seek a compromise with the Council on the scheme for ‘food distribution to the most deprived persons’ because it is shameful that the proposal was blocked for as much as two years at the Council. The compromise is perhaps a temporary measure, but would address a difficult situation for people who are dependent on the scheme and would give sufficient time for further negotiations on the implementation of the scheme post 2014. The report states that 18 million of the most deprived people in the EU are dependent on this food scheme. We cannot allow bureaucratic procedures to prevent us from helping those who urgently require our assistance.

 
  
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  Derek Vaughan (S&D), in writing. – I fully support this resolution to continue the distribution of food to those most in need in our society. The programme supports almost 18 million people, including the unemployed, the homeless, single parents and the disabled. This important resolution will enable these people to continue benefiting from the scheme at least until the end of 2013. In the current economic climate, schemes such as this are vital in helping to guarantee the welfare of EU citizens.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI), in writing. (DE) Given the importance of the food aid programme for the most deprived people, this regulation must be adopted immediately in order to prevent further delays. The European Parliament’s main amendments, including the clear indication of the participation of the EU in the plan, the purchase of food on the basis of competitive procedures and the concept of the EU origins of the food, have been accepted. For this reason, I have voted in favour.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR), in writing. – While I recognise that this scheme has helped many needy people across Europe, I do not believe that the common agricultural policy should be spending money on social actions. We must do more to stop food wastage and we must also ensure that the most deprived members of society receive the help that they need. However, I am not persuaded that this is a job for the European Union and I am certainly not convinced that this is a job for the common agricultural policy.

 
  
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  Roberts Zīle (ECR), in writing. (LV) I call upon you to support the agreement that has been reached concerning the regulation, because it has a comprehensible, clear goal: continuing to offer EU support to the neediest people in the Union. I also think we should endorse the move to adopt the regulation at so-called ‘early second reading’, in order to prevent delays to the food programme, which would exacerbate the situation for those in need. It is also important to continue the programme in view of the fact that the euro area crisis and the unimpressive forecasts for the EU’s economic situation make it impossible for us to hope for an increase in economic activity and people’s prosperity over the next few years. I should like to stress that, given Latvia’s socio-economic situation, it would be a political mistake to eliminate the food programme on the basis of purely theoretical considerations about whether or not it complies with the subsidiarity principle. As a result of the crisis, Latvia’s people are suffering huge losses and a drop in real living standards, and the poorest have become even poorer. In part, this has happened because of the method chosen for resolving the crisis, with Latvia’s taxpayers taking responsibility for covering private debts and, at the same time, a decision not to devalue the national currency. This led to a highly significant reduction in government spending and a dramatic fall in GDP. The people of Latvia, particularly the poorest, in fact saved the Scandinavian and European bank system from considerable shocks. It would therefore be only logical if the EU were to look after the fate of Latvians, at least in the form of packages of the most essential food items.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The latest Eurostat figures, for 2010, show that we are in a tragic situation in terms of poverty and social exclusion: 26.9% of children aged 0-17 and 19.8% of older people are at risk of poverty. In total, 115 million people in the European Union are at risk of poverty; that is equivalent to 23.4% of the population. These figures will certainly be worse today, owing to the impact of the so-called ‘austerity measures’, with more unemployment and lower wages for workers. Moreover, decreased social rights and the increased prices and privatisation of public services have further exacerbated this situation.

In this context, it is even more crucial to continue with and step up the food distribution scheme programme for the most deprived persons, so as to ensure that those dependent on food aid – and the many more currently becoming so – will not suffer food poverty. We therefore voted for the report. However, we consider it essential to decide immediately that this aid will be retained for the next financing period, 2014-2020, at least under the current conditions; that is, the full annual European Union funding of EUR 500 million.

 
  
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  Milan Zver (PPE), in writing. (SL) After two years of deadlock, we have finally made a decision about the food distribution scheme. I am pleased that there are two parliamentary proposals in the final compromise proposal, incorporating 100 per cent financing by the EU and an obligation to indicate at distribution points the Union’s participation in the scheme. Several European countries are facing budgetary problems. By requesting cofinancing from other countries, it is possible that many countries could reduce their use of the scheme or even withdraw from it completely. Since last March, the number of unemployed in the EU has risen by well over a million. The number of people living in poverty has also increased at an alarming rate. The proposal providing for the participation of the Union may seem, at first glance, to be something of a cosmetic measure. In these difficult times, however, when we are faced with economic problems and doubt and mistrust of European integration, it is paramount that the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society know they are not alone. They must know that the EU is not only a synonym for the common internal market, but also represents solidarity and care for individuals, especially those who find themselves in need. It is alarming that the scheme will be gradually phased out after completion of the 2013 annual plan. I very much hope that by then, we have found a satisfactory solution to helping the most vulnerable.

 
  
  

Recommendation for second reading: Gunnar Hökmark (A7-0019/2012)

 
  
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  Damien Abad (PPE), in writing.(FR) During this digital era, the demand for radio waves is growing. Therefore, it is essential that the EU establish a concrete policy on the subject. For this reason, I am in favour of the first European common radio spectrum policy programme. The gradual disappearance of analogue television from now until 2013, as it is replaced by digital, will free up radio frequencies which could help to improve mobile Internet. This programme also advocates access to broadband Internet in remote areas.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) At this time of economic crisis, the importance of the communications sector must be stressed, since it is currently the sector most associated with economic growth. It also contributes to the continuous creation of new services for the European public and it represents value added for the European Union to exploit. The Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament advocates the innovative management of this vast spectrum by the European Union, for the purposes of economic, social and cultural well-being. The adoption of this report will enhance cooperation among the Member States, with the trend being towards harmonisation, with a single EU-level strategic instrument on the radio spectrum. This will make it possible to resolve shortcomings, to reduce the differences between Member States, and to find the best economic, social and cultural solutions.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this legislative resolution on radio spectrum policy. I welcome the resolution’s second reading, consolidating such important achievements as freeing up the 800 MHz frequency band for wireless broadband Internet services in all Member States by 1 January 2013 and speeding up the development of mobile broadband of at least 30 Mbps by 2020 for all EU citizens, etc. I agree with the rapporteur that this political agreement will pave the way for a development that will allow the EU to take the global lead on broadband speeds, mobility, coverage and capacity. This agreement will also be particularly important for creating a flexible and coordinated European spectrum policy.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of this recommendation, which aims to make the 800 MHz frequency band available to telecommunications providers. Currently used for television, it will allow the future broadening and improvement of wireless broadband Internet performance and access from 1 January 2013. This rare resource is a factor of economic progress, which is beneficial for citizens as strategic planning and the harmonisation of spectrum use will be utilised in a number of areas, such as maritime transport, health care, the environment or even defence. Mr Hökmark (Sweden), from the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), stated that this programme ‘affords opportunities for both European industry and for new services and growth’. He also specified that ‘it does not only impact on telecommunications, but also offers a new economic dynamic to the European Union’, in order to regain a competitive edge in a new global economy which now includes large competitors such as China and India.

 
  
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  Sergio Berlato (PPE), in writing. (IT) In 2010, the Commission tabled a proposal establishing the first radio spectrum policy programme and setting out policy orientations and objectives for the strategic planning and harmonisation of the use of the spectrum until 2015. Following five informal trialogues, the EU’s Parliament and Council have reached a policy agreement on the legislative proposal in question. I am pleased with the policy agreement, which lays the foundations for development that will enable the European Union to take a global lead on broadband speeds, mobility, coverage and capacity. In my view, this will be a crucial building block in creating a flexible and coordinated European radio spectrum policy, which will make it possible to meet the exponential growth of mobile data traffic. Furthermore, the endorsement by Member States and by Parliament of the Commission’s proposal to open up the 800 MHz band for electronic communication services by 1 January 2013 will help to create a pan-European telecommunications market where new services could generate jobs and growth for a 500 million strong consumer market.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report because I agree that during the economic downturn, we must improve and develop the telecommunications sector because it is one of the sectors creating the most jobs, thereby making a significant contribution to economic growth. It is also one of those sectors in which innovative technological solutions are most quickly adapted and people are offered the most new services. The objective of this document is to establish a common radio spectrum management framework throughout the EU. Indeed, this is a public resource, not subject to countries’ borders, and its management at European Union level would help balance the interests of both broadcasters and citizens and would ensure European cultural diversity. The practical expression of this coordinated management will allow the radio frequency hitherto used by analogue television to be used for wireless broadband Internet. This will consequently reduce pressure on ‘third generation’ networks currently used, will contribute to bringing fast broadband connections to people in remote areas, and will give a new impetus to wireless Internet services across Europe.

 
  
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  John Bufton (EFD), in writing. – I voted for this report as it intends to reject a new attempt by the EU to introduce new legislation and take over control of part of the telecommunications market. I oppose the new strategic planning and unnecessary harmonisation of spectrum use/radio frequencies. I believe that the development and control of the radio spectrum should remain in the hands of democratically elected Member States, which should solely regulate in this area and decide upon what strategies to pursue to ensure the promotion of the development of broadband connectivity and availability.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted for this text because it will encourage the use of mobile broadband and will stimulate economic growth in the EU. I am pleased to know that a pan-European telecommunications market will create new opportunities, will open up new territory and will stimulate the growth of a market with 500 million consumers. Access to the radio spectrum is essential to a huge range of activities: telecommunications, energy, research and, above all, global development. It will also enable all Europeans, in the city and the country, to enjoy the benefits of digital technology and broadband connections. I voted for this report in plenary for all these reasons.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) We have been working to promote a coordinated EU approach, so as to prevent market distortions, to maximise the benefits of the spectrum, and to ensure its best possible use in social, economic and environmental terms. This initiative relating to the radio spectrum is key to the Digital Agenda and the Europe 2020 strategy, since use of the spectrum is increasingly important to sustainable development, to competitiveness and to productivity in the internal market, at the level of various important EU sectoral policies.

Given that the radio spectrum is a scarce resource, this initiative should make it possible to set out guidelines and political objectives for the strategic planning and harmonisation of use of the spectrum until 2015, thereby contributing to the existence of a flexible and coordinated European policy that ensures that radio frequencies will be allocated and used efficiently and effectively. I would congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Hökmark, on having achieved a political agreement with the Council, paving the way for a development that should allow the EU to take the global lead on broadband speeds, mobility, coverage and capacity.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of this report on the reorganisation and freeing up of radio spectrum frequency bands, which will allow all European citizens, in both urban and rural settings, to reap greater benefits from the advantages of digital technology and high speed broadband connections.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE), in writing.(FR) Since the dawn of the digital era, frequency bands have been freed up and can meet the growing demand for new technology and new services. Due to the scarcity of the spectrum and its economic, social and cultural value, it has been agreed on a European level that priorities for the allocation and use of radio spectrum will be established. This programme makes provisions for general regulatory standards and policy developments as well as joint provisions in order to strengthen efficiency and flexibility, protecting and encouraging competition, and calls for an inventory and the monitoring of the existing uses and emerging needs of the spectrum. The report also pays particular attention to an efficient use of the spectrum, to greater flexibility to encourage innovation and investments and guarantee fair conditions of competition in the European Union and to the need for a consolidation of the proposal for an inventory of the existing uses and emerging needs of the spectrum. The European Parliament has managed to implement a large scale inventory of the existing use of the spectrum from 400 MHz to 6 GHz, in order to create a flexible and coordinated European spectrum policy, allowing it to rectify inefficient use of the spectrum and to cope with the exponential increase of wireless data exchange by future reallocation of frequency bands.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for the report on radio spectrum policy because it includes measures to increase the European legal framework as regards the radio spectrum and, therefore, to make better use of the associated economic, social and cultural benefits.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) Access to the radio spectrum is key to guaranteeing all European citizens, whether in rural or urban areas, access to digital technologies and broadband, and the total turnover of this industry is approximately EUR 200 billion. Therefore, given the value of the radio spectrum, it is imperative to set out the EU’s priorities for its allocation and use. The Digital Agenda, the digital economy and this, the first policy programme for five years, are therefore aimed at stimulating our economy and realising the Internal Market in all its aspects. It is crucial for the European telecommunications industry to regain its global leadership and create an impetus for greater productivity, cohesion, competitiveness and access to a single market.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) In the past, the European Union led the way in technological innovation, particularly as regards mobile communications. As the years have gone by, both the United States and Japan, as well as other countries with emerging economies, have been taking the lead in this area. The time has come for the EU to reclaim the leadership in this regard, by taking advantage of the new opportunities offered by the Internet. This is a new dynamic that could help to relaunch the European economy. The text before us is a recommendation for second reading on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a multiannual radio spectrum policy programme. The data being transmitted online is currently increasing exponentially. However, radio-frequency transfer conditions have not been keeping pace with demand, despite the installation of fibre optic cables. I voted for this recommendation, since I am sure of the benefits of the multiannual plan to increase frequencies, specifically to 800 MHz by 2013 and to 1 200 MHz by 2015. The economy of the future will be a digital economy and, with these measures, the EU is making progress in terms of competitiveness.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This proposal sets out the guidelines and political objectives for strategically planning and harmonising the use of the radio spectrum by 2015. While we agree that there is a need to plan and organise the radio spectrum, we consider it essential that this be done in a context of cooperation among the Member States, retaining it as a public good and keeping it free of guidelines intended to put the radio spectrum at the service of the ‘Europe 2020 strategy’, the ‘Digital Agenda for Europe’ and the ‘Single Market Act’. Policies whose purpose is supposed to be improving the market, competitiveness and competition for the launch of the so-called ‘digital single market’ have, in reality, contributed greatly to exacerbating the crisis of capitalism and its negative consequences for the public. The radio spectrum, from low frequencies to very high ones, has been argued over and used for multiple purposes, so opening the way to the business of future EU-level digital services and fostering genuine competition. However, it is essential to preserve and defend space for public access, and to prevent it all being committed to commercial ends, which is the track down which European Union policy is headed.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D), in writing. (SK) In September 2010, the European Commission presented a proposal for a decision establishing the first radio spectrum policy programme, which was based on Article 114 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 8a(3) of Directive 2002/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002, which provides that the Commission may submit a legislative proposal establishing a multiannual radio spectrum policy programme. The proposal sets out the policy direction and objectives for strategic planning and the harmonisation of spectrum usage for the period until 2015. This proposal will enable the EU to take the lead with regard to broadband speed, mobility and coverage. It is a prerequisite for the creation of a flexible and coordinated European radio spectrum policy. Making the 800 MHz band available for electronic communications services from 1 January 2013 will contribute to the creation of a pan-European telecommunications market, and new services can create opportunities for the consumer market. If we strive to exploit its potential, focusing mainly on the economic, social and cultural well-being of society, telecommunications is one of the sectors that is capable of bringing about growth and activity and the availability of new services for European citizens at a time of economic crisis.

 
  
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  Lorenzo Fontana (EFD), in writing.(IT) The proposal under discussion sets out the policy orientations and objectives for harmonising the use of the radio spectrum, which now affects innumerable public and private services across a vast array of sectors. The regulation that this proposal deals with will pave the way for a development that will allow the Union to take the global lead on broadband speeds, mobility, coverage and capacity, with the notable benefits for areas including the economy, security, health, culture, science, the environment and technology. That is why I will be voting in favour.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of this report, which promotes the use of mobile broadband and stimulates economic growth in European regions.

In May 2011, we approved measures aimed at accelerating the development of mobile broadband for everyone, using the radio spectrum freed up by the transition from analogue to digital television.

The allocation of radio frequency falls within the jurisdiction of national governments and not the European Union, but the rules on the way in which spectrum is shared between Internet providers and users must be decided at a European level. In accordance with the agreement, all European Union Member States must free up the 800 MHz frequency band for wireless broadband services by 1 January 2013.

A pan-European telecommunications market will also be created, where new services can create new opportunities to open up regions and stimulate growth for a 500 million strong consumer market.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD), in writing. (LT) I welcome the provision that this political agreement will pave the way for a development that will allow the EU to take the global lead on broadband speeds, mobility, coverage and capacity. This agreement will be a crucial building block in creating a flexible and coordinated European spectrum policy where the exponential growth of mobile data traffic can be met by future re-allocations and where inefficient use of the spectrum belongs to the past. The endorsement by Member States of the Parliament’s and Commission’s proposal to open up the 800 MHz band for electronic communications services by 1 January 2013 will help to create a pan-European telecommunications market where new services can create opportunities and growth for a 500 million strong consumer market. However, due to the economic crisis and difficult financial situation, not all of the Member States are able to implement the goals set on time, and this may become an additional burden for them, and not just a financial one. I also believe that the Member States should have more leeway when implementing the goals set because the Member States’ technical and financial capacities vary.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE), in writing.(FR) In September 2010, at the request of the European Parliament, the Commission published its multiannual radio spectrum policy programme. This programme sets out policy direction and the means for implementing it in order to achieve a harmonised use of radio spectrum in the European Union for the period 2011-2015. Furthermore, it makes provisions for joint measures to strengthen efficiency and flexibility, foster innovation and encourage competition. Lastly, it calls for the implementation of an inventory of the existing uses and the emerging needs of the spectrum. Access to the radio spectrum is essential for a wide range of activities, from telecommunications and diffusion of broadband to transport, energy, research and development, and space applications. It also enables all European citizens, in both urban and rural settings, to benefit from the advantages provided by digital technology and high speed broadband connections. For these reasons, I voted in favour of this report during the plenary session.

 
  
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  Edvard Kožušník (ECR), in writing.(CS) I support the agreement reached in the trialogues conducted between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. I am pleased that the compromise at least defends the allocation of the 1 200 MHz spectrum for mobile data transmission through to 2015. In my opinion, the accelerated development of mobile broadband connections through speeds of at least 30 Mbps is equally important for EU citizens, and should be available within the next eight years. At the same time, I understand the limits of the radio spectrum and the need to make very effective use of it. I would therefore like to call for radio spectrum policy not to be seen as a purely EU policy, but to proceed on the basis of agreement with the Member States. Failure to comply with this procedure could disrupt or restrict competition in some EU countries.