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Monday, 12 March 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

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

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


  Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska (PPE). - (PL) Mr President, equal pay for men and women for the same work is one of the most important areas in the fight against discrimination. This is a requirement for bringing about equality as regards the position of men and women in employment. Even though the principle of equal treatment as regards pay was already written into the Treaty of Rome and even though a series of measures has been implemented to combat this problem, today differences in pay are still at a relatively high level. The European average is currently 16.5%.

Reality has demonstrated that there is no single magic bullet. Every country has declared that it wants to combat unequal treatment in employment but there is still much to be done. For this reason, in my opinion, greater pressure has to be applied on Member States to make their policies more effective. We should gather good practice and implement it on a European level. It is my hope that by 2013 the European Commission will provide an explanation for the poor results of the implementation of the provisions of the Directive on the principle of equal pay for men and women and will put forward specific proposals for action. Thank you.


  Teresa Riera Madurell (S&D).(ES) Mr President, in this first part-session following International Women’s Day, I also wish to highlight the inclusion for the first time of a specific article on gender equality in the proposed Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. It is an achievement on which we should congratulate ourselves.

It gives us strength to promote a whole series of measures in the Horizon 2020 programme that will help to put an end to the fact that even though they obtain 45% of doctorates, women represent only 30% of our research workforce and occupy only 18% of university chairs.

It is not just a question of justice: in our own interest as Europeans we need all our human capital. Further, it is proven that equality in a team contributes to quality and stimulates innovation and productivity.

Gender-sensitive research leads to greater effectiveness, to increased impact, to a more innovative, inclusive and secure society and to socially-responsible science. In short, the full participation of women in science and technology will contribute greatly to achieving the main objective of the Horizon 2020 programme: improving the excellence and efficiency of our research and innovation.


  Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE).(PT) Mr President, the Galician shipbuilding sector is in its death throes, waiting for the European Commission to present alternative tax subsidies for shipbuilding, following the suspension of the system known as tax lease.

The productive activity of shipyards accounts for 5% of Galicia’s gross value added and creates around 10 000 jobs. As a result, Galician shipbuilding companies have gone nine months without concluding any new contracts to construct boats; 3 500 jobs in auxiliary companies have been lost and 1 000 direct jobs are at risk.

Galicia’s shipbuilding industry is literally on the brink, and any further delays will have catastrophic consequences for the economy and for jobs in our region. For all these reasons, I call on the European Parliament to urge the European Commission to respond immediately and urgently, so as to communicate to the sector a new proposal for tax lease that is fair and satisfactory.


  Paul Nuttall (EFD). - Mr President, the Commission intends to impose a new interpretation of the weight and dimensions of HGVs to allow for cross-border traffic of mega trucks. This measure would allow mega trucks into the UK through the back door because in the end the government will surrender to a ruling on competition grounds.

In making this decision, no research to assess the safety, congestion and pollution impact has been taken. In 2009 the Commission stated that mega trucks are more dangerous than standard HGVs. The Commission is not even waiting to analyse the public consultation, which only closed in February. Of course the Commission interpretation will become a minimum standard and so lorries could get bigger, even beyond the 25 metres. This will surely have a massive impact on safety and cost to the British taxpayer. For example, how many bridges up and down the country in the UK will have to be reinforced to accommodate these heavier loads?

This just shows you the power that these unelected EU Commissioners have. No one voted for them, and yet they can make unilateral decisions, off the cuff, which will affect local areas and businesses right across the UK.


  Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, the capitalist growth promised by the European Union and bourgeois governments is serving the profitability of capital, not grassroots needs. We have galloping unemployment, with 25 million unemployed, and it is spreading in leaps and bounds to all the Member States of the European Union.

Unemployment is taking on nightmare proportions for women and young people. One in two are unemployed in Greece and Spain. Unemployment in Greece has escalated to 23% and the number of unemployed has topped 1 million. However, in reality, the situation is even worse.

At the same time, the Greek Government and the Troika are abolishing collective agreements and slashing wages and pensions. Wages for young people have been cut by 32% and miserly unemployment benefits have been cut by 22%. The working classes, the grassroots classes and young people are in a living hell.

Thousands of young people are going down the route of forced emigration, wandering around Europe and other continents looking for ways to survive. There too they are faced with slave offices and flexible forms of work and are being offered starvation wages that do not meet basic requirements. Young people, regardless of whether they are living in their own country or have been uprooted from it, should not accept the unemployment, poverty and impoverishment to which capitalist barbarity is condemning them.

In such circumstances, the workers need to join forces in the fight for protection and relief.


  Corneliu Vadim Tudor (NI).(RO) Mr President, in a meeting of the political bureau of the Bolshevik Party in 1923, Stalin said: ‘It does not matter who and how they vote, what matters is who counts the votes.’ Evil and cynical, but so current. Just as there is a drug mafia, a weapons mafia, a bank mafia, there is also a public opinion polls mafia. As a sociologist by profession, I can testify that in my country, Romania, this situation has reached proportions that are downright monstrous, especially because, year after year, the market of public opinion polls has an extremely high turnover, running to tens of millions of euros. False opinion polls are the overture to electoral fraud.

I call on the European Parliament to get involved in establishing a strict control of the public opinion polls market at continental level, with exemplary punishments for offenders. We cannot talk about democracy and free elections if they are tainted by shameless fraud.


  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE).(RO) Mr President, for various reasons, especially in this period of economic difficulties, the problems that couples or families face have increased and this often leads to domestic violence. Furthermore, recent events have shown how innocent persons can be affected when violence transcends family borders. We need much clearer measures and effective programmes to prevent these situations. Families, most often the victims of this type of violence, must be protected. Children and young people must be protected.

I am convinced that both the operational programmes of Member States that will be supported from European funds and the programmes implemented at European Union level, such as the Daphne programme, will continue to encourage and provide financial support to projects aimed at combating domestic violence. I regret that at a time when the challenges are major, there are people who cannot manage certain difficulties. To reduce this phenomenon, we need consolidated actions at European and national levels.


  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D).(RO) Mr President, Romania, like other Member States, was confronted with an extremely difficult winter in February, involving massive snow falls accompanied by freezing temperatures. Consequently, many vegetable producers from several Romanian counties are in a very difficult situation at the moment. In Vrancea alone, one of the most affected counties, over 44 000 m2 of foil tunnels of the total surface of 67 000 m2 were damaged in a proportion ranging from 60% to 100%. Unfortunately, there are no stipulations in the current legislation regarding possible compensations for vegetable producers. In addition, greenhouses and foil tunnels cannot be insured because they are not considered profitable investments by the insurance companies.

I believe that the European Executive must take into account these events and look for solutions to assist the affected producers in order to mitigate the effects of the losses incurred, but also to relaunch the activity in this sector with major implications for both vegetable growers and consumers, who will be confronted with the lack of vegetables and with the increase of their prices on the market.


  Nikos Chrysogelos (Verts/ALE).(EL) Mr President, a short while ago we debated the report on gender equality. However, I wish to emphasise that, although we talked about improving the position of women, in Greece things are in reverse. The ‘equal pay for equal work’ slogan seems a far cry from reality and unemployment is now at unprecedented levels among both sexes, although the impact of the crisis is worse for women. Social infrastructures, which are already weak in Greece, are constantly being eroded, but this mainly affects women, because the two sexes have different starting points. In the past, unemployment was higher among women than among men, but now it has doubled.

Women were working under deregulated working conditions well before they were officially adopted. Pay cuts have hit women harder, given that they are already on low wages, and the differential has now reached 20%.

In order to address the problems of the Greek crisis, we need to at least offset losses of income with targeted measures to improve social infrastructures and social cohesion, if we want to carry on talking about gender equality.

This is something that needs to be taken into account in all measures and policies.


  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, every day, the agreement concluded between the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, the European Union and the Portuguese troika is exposed for what it is: a pact of aggression against the Portuguese people and workers. We in Portugal are experiencing a situation of continuous economic recession that led, in the second quarter of 2011 alone, to more than 157 000 jobs being lost and 40 000 companies going out of business. Unemployment in its broad sense has hit 20.3%, a quarter of the Portuguese population is living on the breadline and the imbalances in income distribution are deepening.

Under the pretext of the crisis, the government is attempting to withdraw rights from workers, casting them into instability and unemployment. Under the pretext of the crisis and at the order of the European institutions, it is renouncing the country’s collective property and wealth by privatising sectors like electricity, and cutting funding for the Portuguese health service and increasing charges for users, a measure which could be shamefully tied in with the spike in the death rate in Portugal. Moreover, faced with all this social disaster, the European institutions, the government and the Portuguese Socialist Party (PS) carry on shouting out the same measures.

Portugal needs a new course that includes renegotiation of debt, state support for productive activities, the return of strategic sectors of the economy to public ownership and genuinely redistributive tax reform.


  Nuno Melo (PPE).(PT) Mr President, I should like to say that Portugal is living through a period of terrible drought. Currently, 30% of Portuguese territory is suffering extreme drought and 70% is suffering severe drought. The consequences for my country’s farmers are enormous: shortage of animal feed, increased price of hay and straw, increased water and electricity costs, and declining production of cereals, vegetables and many other products.

Mr President, Europe is about cohesion and solidarity, and it would be hard to understand if, in the face of such a crisis, Europe did not help my country’s farmers. The appeal that I am making is for that to happen; for the European institutions to be aware of this inescapable consequence of the effects of global warming that affect the countries of southern Europe first and foremost, Portugal included; and for specific financial mechanisms to be set out within the framework of the common agricultural policy.


  Luis Yáñez-Barnuevo García (S&D).(ES) Mr President, yesterday was the eighth anniversary of the largest terrorist attack in the history of Europe. It took place in Madrid, claimed around 200 lives, left 1 800 injured, thousands of families destroyed and a nation in turmoil. Eight years later, that event is still remembered as if it took place yesterday even though those responsible have been tried and imprisoned, or are dead, and even following an exemplary trial, which has not occurred in the United States with 9/11 or in London with the significant attack that took place there.

However, I asked for the floor, above all, in order to describe how one person symbolises the dignity, the fortitude, and the determination to overcome adversity on the part of victims and that person is Pilar Manjón. This lady lost a 20-year old son and maintains the leadership of the Asociación 11-M de Afectados por el Terrorismo with dignity, which is something that deserves mention here and for which the European Parliament should pay tribute to her.


  Georgios Koumoutsakos (PPE).(EL) Mr President, restructuring of the Greek debt, with the biggest exchange of government bonds in history, is now a done deed. This will provide much needed respite in a painful marathon that does not end here, with the Greek people as the runner, making drastic sacrifices and a tremendous effort. The Greek economy is crossing the desert of recession and Greek society is crossing the desert of unemployment, while all that shoppers are finding are empty shelves and locks on the door.

Greece urgently needs to find an oasis of growth. What has been applied in my country so far has been the standard of and an experiment in harsh fiscal austerity. However, the time has now come to apply the standard of growth.

In order to do so, we need new, practical ideas. Setting up a Greco-European development bank is a serious and realistic idea proposed recently by the leader of my party to the German Chancellor.

I believe that the European Parliament should support and promote that idea.


  Joseph Cuschieri (S&D). - (MT) Mr President, I refer to notice 2012/C 50/04 published in the Official Journal, in which the European Commission analysed the State Aid granted to Air Malta, the national airline. Air Malta will stop servicing profitable routes, will be giving up slots in foreign airports and will be reducing its capacity by 20%. This may lead to a reduction in the flow of activity in the tourism sector, and will possibly have a negative impact on the tourism and travel industries in Malta. Employees and their families are worried about the future. The tourism and travel industries make up around 25% of Malta’s GDP, and provide employment for around 40.000 people. The European Commission is envisaging a reduction in the 1.300-strong workforce of Air Malta, while the employees themselves are not to blame for the current situation. In light of these facts, and with a sense of solidarity, we feel duty bound to voice the concerns of these workers. The solution to this crisis is not, and should not be to the detriment of the workers’ well-being. The consistent and reliable connection of the Maltese Islands to European and other international destinations is crucial for the strengthening of tourism and of the economy, and is vital for safeguarding existing jobs and creating new employment opportunities in Malta.


  Andrzej Grzyb (PPE). - (PL) Mr President, information has recently been circulating in Europe about the activities of the Freedom Party in the Netherlands and its leader Geert Wilders, who has created a special website encouraging citizens to submit reports or rather complaints about workers in the Netherlands who have come from outside the country. The main subjects of these complaints, due to the number of such employees in the Netherlands, are Poles, who are, I would emphasise, working there legally in many Dutch companies. They are being accused of taking jobs and benefits while, according to Dutch banks, it is Poles working in the Netherlands that account for 0.3% of Dutch GDP, which translates into almost EUR 2 billion.

Wilders’ response to the reactions from ambassadors of many countries to these upsetting events has been ‘mind your own business’. I am disappointed by the failure of the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to comment on this development, despite the fact that half of the Dutch people are waiting for the Dutch Prime Minister to distance himself from such a xenophobic initiative.


  Andrés Perelló Rodríguez (S&D).(ES) Mr President, I want to alert this Parliament and the European Commission to the perverse effects that the doctrine of budgetary cuts is having on the public health system in some Member States, in particular in Spain, where health falls within the competence of the Autonomous Communities.

We now have to add cuts made to heel-prick tests by the Government of Castilla-La Mancha, of which Ms de Cospedal is the President, to the scandalous delays in payments to suppliers, problems in the field of health research and professionals’ salaries. These are the heel-prick tests that are carried out on children within the first five days of life and that enable rare diseases to be detected that would otherwise make their life impossible, turning it into a veritable hell.

Cutting healthcare to meet our creditors is simply inhuman. The EU should consider giving some sort of instruction or recommendation, without prejudice to the competences of the Member States, so as to ensure certain minimum levels of care and to ensure that as Europeans we do not take such a big step backwards in terms of health rights. It would suffice if the same level of effort were put into this as has been put into saving the banks and paying our creditors without failing to obey their orders so as to achieve this and ensure that some do not have to die so that others can realise their debts.


  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D). (SK) Mr President, I am very glad to be able to welcome Commissioner Vassiliou, who is currently responsible for education and youth, because I wish to talk about youth unemployment. Unemployment among young people and their employability in the European Union is indeed a problem today; even President Barroso has begun to talk about this, and he has allocated special funds to help in the battle against youth unemployment. I personally believe, however, that we must go much further and reform the educational system throughout the European Union and provide more support to professional training; this is an approach that the Commission itself is finally adopting. It is also one of the views that prevails in the new opinions and new programmes which the Commission is submitting for the next programming period.

However, one thing that is still slightly lacking is a plan which we have not yet formulated in the European Union; we should carefully consider what we, as the European Union, will require. We should not only talk about which skills and what sort of jobs, but we should in fact hold an objective debate about the direction in which the EU wishes to turn and create true cooperation between those responsible for the field of employment, education and the economy in the European Union and discover which kinds of education and young people we will need for the future, so that we may really combat unemployment for the future too, and not only address the impact of problems that we failed to address in the past.


  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D).(RO) Mr President, I believe in the need to protect the intellectual property rights but I consider that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is not the right tool to achieve this goal. According to experts, the permissive language of the text is interpretable and can lead to the violation of the fundamental rights of citizens. I welcome sending the treaty to the Court of Justice of the European Union considering also that there are other grounds for concern, which should convince us to vote against it.

The efficiency of ACTA will be reduced if the countries where the practice of counterfeiting is at its highest are not among the signatories. In addition, the developing countries that are currently excluded from the treaty could be pressed in the long term to ratify a text to which they have not contributed. The rules on intellectual property must be established both at European level and globally through organisations such as the World Trade Organisation or the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Not being part of them, ACTA could harm these governance structures.


  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D).(HU) Mr President, thank you, this is the first time that it is you in the chair to give me the floor. Whether or not we should be allowed to punish countries that are already in a difficult budgetary and financial situation by depriving them of Cohesion Funds support is an important Europe-wide issue. Financial discipline must obviously be observed by all governments. However, even if a government does deserve the sanctions imposed, the suspension of cohesion policy funding punishes municipalities, regions, enterprises and the population, and is therefore unjust. I find it unacceptable and unfair for the Commission to have proposed the suspension of almost EUR 500 million of support to Hungary.

One has to wonder whether the Commission will apply a punishment similar to Hungary’s in the excessive deficit procedure against Spain. The European Commission must not judge by double standards. This is not to say that I want Spain to be punished. Quite on the contrary. I fear that tomorrow’s meeting of the Council of Ministers for Finance will be pervaded by no more economic rationality and political wisdom than the previous decisions of the European Commission.


  María Irigoyen Pérez (S&D).(ES) Mr President, just one minute to draw attention to Equatorial Guinea. This country, which has had a dictatorship since 1979, has been persecuting the leaders of the only democratic party, the Convergence Party for Social Democracy, for more than 20 years. On 9 March, it marked the end of one month since the detention of Dr Wenceslao Mansogo, imprisoned for a crime that has not been proved conclusively.

The latest news about this African country has set off all possible alarm bells. The international community, and in this case Unesco, cannot accept USD 3 million from the dictator for an award that bears his name or provides him with something to hide behind. This trap, contrary to the opinion of the international organisation’s legal experts, is an attempt to clean up the dictator’s image.

This country, which is experiencing 14% growth, has the highest infant mortality rate: 20% of children die before reaching the age of five. Ladies and gentlemen, as we have learned, dictators are no guarantee of stability. Let us call for the freedom of Wenceslao Mansogo, the International Relations Secretary of the Convergence Party for Social Democracy.


  Emer Costello (S&D). - Mr President, I am calling on the Commission to investigate whether EU action can be taken to tackle the growing problem of street sales of imported prescription drugs in Dublin and in other Irish cities and towns. These are drugs which require a prescription in Ireland but are being bought over the counter in other EU countries, mostly in Eastern Europe, have been brought into Ireland by criminal gangs and are being sold to drug users on the streets of Dublin and other Irish cities and towns.

It is a very worrying development. There is evidence that there are vast quantities of Z-drugs such as Zopiclone, which is used to treat insomnia. These are being sold on the streets of Dublin to drug users. They are dangerous substances, particularly if taken in conjunction with alcohol or other substances.

There is no doubt that the availability of these drugs is fuelling Dublin’s drug crisis. Because the drugs have been purchased legally in other EU countries, prosecutions in Ireland can be lengthy and complex. I believe that the Commission should now examine whether EU-level action can be taken to tackle the problem of street sales of prescription drugs in Member States and Ireland where a prescription is required. The EU should consider minimum EU-wide rules on prescribing drugs and ending the bulk buying of over-the-counter drugs, as Spain has done in the past.


  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D).(RO) Mr President, almost half of Romania’s population lives in poverty and yet, the government tells people that they must choose between increasing salaries and supporting the economy by reducing the employers’ social security contributions. These measures can be achieved at the same time if the government seriously considers the objective of reducing fiscal evasion and corruption in the administration. People could be given back quickly the salaries that were cut without mercy and companies could reduce their tax burden immediately, but only if the budget is freed from under the huge pressure of the clientele and mafias supported by the ruling party and if the misappropriation of public funds stops.

The economic crisis will be overcome only if we part with the logic of austerity measures that have plunged Romania into poverty, if people are helped to survive by having their salaries restored to previous levels, and, at the same time, if the economy is stimulated to operate in order to create jobs and generate growth.


  President. − The item is closed.

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