Index 
Debates
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Tuesday, 13 March 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the session
 2. Opening of the sitting: see Minutes
 3. Documents received: see Minutes
 4. Texts of agreements forwarded by the Council: see Minutes
 5. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (announcement of motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes
 6. Conclusions of the European Council meeting (1-2 March 2012) (debate)
 7. European Globalisation Adjustment Fund crisis derogation (debate)
 8. Voting time
  8.1. EU, Iceland and Norway agreement on the application of certain provisions of the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (A7-0020/2012 - Claude Moraes) (vote)
  8.2. Request for waiver of the immunity of Krisztina Morvai (A7-0050/2012 - Eva Lichtenberger) (vote)
  8.3. Succession and the European Certificate of Succession (A7-0045/2012 - Kurt Lechner) (vote)
  8.4. Equality between women and men in the European Union - 2011 (A7-0041/2012 - Sophia in ’t Veld) (vote)
  8.5. Women in political decision making (A7-0029/2012 - Sirpa Pietikäinen) (vote)
  8.6. Statute for a European cooperative society with regard to the involvement of employees (A7-0432/2011 - Sven Giegold) (debate)
  8.7. Bologna process (A7-0035/2012 - Luigi Berlinguer) (vote)
  8.8. European statistics (A7-0037/2012 - Edward Scicluna) (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. Discriminatory Internet sites and government reactions (debate)
 13. Question Time (Commission)
 14. General guidelines for the 2013 budget: Section III - Commission (debate)
 15. International Cocoa Agreement 2010 - Child labour in cocoa sector (debate)
 16. Addressing the EU diabetes epidemic (debate)
 17. Composition of Parliament: see Minutes
 18. European Fisheries Fund (debate)
 19. Autonomous tariff quota for imports of high-quality beef (debate)
 20. Common commercial policy (debate)
 21. Agenda of the next sitting: see Minutes
 22. Closure of the sitting


IN THE CHAIR: MARTIN SCHULZ
President

1. Opening of the session
Video of the speeches
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  President. – I declare open the 2012-2013 session of the European Parliament.

 

2. Opening of the sitting: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

3. Documents received: see Minutes

4. Texts of agreements forwarded by the Council: see Minutes

5. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (announcement of motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes

6. Conclusions of 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 conclusions of the European Council meeting (1 and 2 March 2012).

 
  
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  Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council. – Mr President, honourable Members, the meeting of the European Council on 1 and 2 March was positive and not overshadowed by an immediate crisis. But, there can be no complacency in facing the enormous economic challenges that still remain before us. Sustained effort on several fronts remains necessary. One front is fiscal consolidation. Another is the growth and employment agenda. Some claim that these two are contradictory. It is our job to make sure that they are not.

Since the 1930s, the main response to an economic downturn has been a fiscal stimulus: deliberate deficit spending by governments to boost demand. Indeed, in 2008, a coordinated fiscal stimulus was agreed, which undoubtedly helped in the short term. However, the ability to use this instrument is limited in most Member States, because of their already excessive debt levels. What had been a solution became a problem.

The reasons behind the debt problem are diverse. In most cases, it is not because of gross profligacy in public spending. In some, it is because of large banking sectors, insufficiently supervised, which collapsed and had to be rescued by the taxpayer. In some others, economic growth, fuelled by asset bubbles, artificially boosted budget revenues which quickly collapsed, with the crisis increasing budget deficits and debt.

But for several, it is because debt levels have accumulated gradually over time, leaving most Member States with debts well over the agreed maximum of 60% of GDP. They applied Keynesianism asymmetrically: deficits during a slowdown were rarely eliminated during peaks – let alone replaced by surpluses. They were left with no safety margin when the crisis hit.

That is why the rules agreed in the new Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance, which was signed on the occasion of this European Council, are so important. They do not prevent countercyclical deficits as long as the structural deficit over the economic cycle is balanced, or at least remains very small, nor do they limit public expenditure: they simply provide that this must not be financed by excessive borrowing.

The European Council stated that all Member States should continue to respect their commitments under the Stability and Growth Pact, which has been strongly reinforced by the ‘six-pack’. But at the same time, the focus on consolidation, especially in the short term, must go hand in hand with further efforts to secure economic growth and improve employment prospects.

How to do this was the focus of both the European Council, in the context of the European Semester, and, as I reported to you already, the one in January. We approached the question from many angles. Making sure that, at the same time as we bring budgets under control, we keep investing in our future, in education, in research and development, in innovation. Stimulating investment. Looking closely at expenditure. Making assistance to the unemployed more pro-active. Looking at revenues, for instance, by tackling tax evasion and tax fraud. Exploiting to the full the single market, especially the services and digital markets, as emphasised again in a letter by 12 colleagues. Reducing the tax burden on labour, especially on low-income earners. Increasing trade. Opening sheltered sectors, such as professional services and retail. Improving the business environment, cutting red tape and paperwork thanks to digital public administration. In short, making the right choices for jobs and growth in the midst of fiscal consolidation.

All this will be monitored by the institutions. As you know, the Semester is our annual policy coordination tool, running from the release of the Commission’s annual growth survey to the June European Council, which will adopt country-specific recommendations, a key moment in the Semester.

Of course, some of the supply-side measures take time to have an effect, whereas fiscal consolidation has a more immediate dampening effect on demand. But we may be able to avoid an overall contraction in credit and I hope the banks will take advantage of the ample liquidity support provided by the European Central Bank to pass on some of these resources to businesses and households. The action taken by governments and the ECB is also helping to stabilise sovereign debt markets in the countries under pressure. It is crucial for countries also not to relent in their efforts and to stick to their commitments under the Stability and Growth Pact and the new Fiscal Stability Treaty.

Alongside this monetary policy, the overall policy of restoring confidence in the euro area at different levels will contribute to restored confidence by consumers and investors and will, in that way, contribute to growth and jobs.

Our strategy is starting to work. We have reached a turning point in the crisis while being fully aware of the remaining vulnerabilities. We need a short- and a longer-term strategy for growth. The latter is embodied in the Europe 2020 strategy, now also closely monitored in the Semester, but we also need a specific employment policy, especially for young people. Even if the main responsibility lies with the Member States, the Union can give guidance, as we have done in the European Council conclusions. We look forward to the Commission’s forthcoming ‘employment package’ to take this work further.

We also talked about the situation in Greece and we welcomed the progress made on the new Greek programme. The aim is to put the Greek economy back on a sustainable footing, both in terms of debt sustainability and competitiveness. Euro area leaders support the efforts undertaken by Greece. And may I just underline, for those who claim that the European Union is ‘imposing’ austerity on Greece, that, in fact, euro area countries and the IMF are providing another EUR 130 billion, on top of the first package of EUR 110 billion, of long-term low-interest loans to Greece, and helped it to secure a write-down of 70% of the net present value of its debts to private banks. Overall support to Greece represents more than 100% of its GDP. Without all this, Greece’s situation, difficult as it is, would be far, far worse.

But we also need a strong growth agenda for Greece mobilising European funds, foreign investments and maximising the growth potential of the Greek economy. The Commission was asked to step up its technical assistance to Greece to achieve this.

Euro area leaders also confirmed their commitment to reassess the adequacy of the overall ceiling of the EFSF/ESM firewall by the end of the month, via the Euro Group. In addition, they agreed to accelerate the payments of the paid-in capital for the ESM.

During this European Council, we had a wide range of other issues to discuss also. On Serbia: we agreed to grant it the status of EU candidate. This is a remarkable achievement – a result of the efforts demonstrated by both sides in the dialogue between Belgrade and Priština. I hope it will encourage Serbia to undertake further efforts in order to meet the political and economic criteria for EU membership and to continue to support regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations in the Western Balkans. We expect further normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Priština.

On the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen Area: we have asked the JHA Council to adopt its decision in September and, in the meantime, to identify and implement safeguarding measures aimed at contributing to the success of the process.

On Syria: facing an appalling situation, we focused on three key aspects of this crisis. On the humanitarian side, we called for an immediate end to the violence against civilians and human rights abuses, making it clear that those responsible for atrocities will be held accountable. We also called for humanitarian agencies to have unhindered access – the EU has already mobilised humanitarian funding.

On the political side, we confirmed the EU’s commitment to further increase the pressure on the Syrian regime, and invited the Council to prepare further targeted restrictive measures. We called on President Assad to step aside. As soon as a democratic transition begins, we are ready to develop a new partnership and provide assistance.

On the diplomatic front, we supported the efforts by the Arab League, the mission undertaken by Kofi Annan and the launching of the Group of the Friends of the Syrian People. We also called on all members of the UN Security Council, particularly Russia and China, to work together in an effort to stop the violence. Let us not forget that we cannot act decisively without a UN mandate.

This view was unanimously supported. Evidence, I remind you, that there is more common foreign policy than some think. We have a common position on Iran, on Syria, on Libya, on the Southern Neighbourhood and so on. In other words, in the world’s most dangerous region, the 27 are working hand in hand. This is a fact often overlooked.

Finally, I was honoured that all 27 Heads of State or Government of the European Council decided to ask me to continue as their President for another two-and-a-half years. Furthermore, 17 of them, from the euro area countries, also asked me to chair the euro summit meetings.

Looking forward, it will not come as a surprise that my first priority will remain the economy. It is our lifeline. We need a strong economic base to preserve our social models, to achieve high levels of employment, including for the younger generation, and it is the only way to play a role on the world stage equal to our potential. It is a privilege to continue the work in this decisive moment for Europe.

 
  
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  José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. – Mr President, President of the European Council, distinguished Members of Parliament. First, while I have already congratulated President Van Rompuy on his reappointment, I would like in this Chamber to reiterate my thanks and appreciation for the work that he has carried out over the last two-and-a-half years. I look forward to continuing to work with him to build a stronger European Union – stronger in defence of the interests of our citizens and also stronger in the world.

The President of the European Council has already outlined the main outcomes of this summit, including the important discussions we had on external relations issues – namely, the situation in Syria and relations with Iran and, of course, the very important decision to grant candidate status to Serbia.

On my side, I would like to highlight a few elements that demonstrate that the European Union may be turning the corner towards renewed stability and growth. Let us be clear; there is now less tension regarding the euro area, but we are not yet out of the crisis. The situation remains fragile and we have to complete our work, including the reinforcement of the firewalls. These are an indispensable counterpart of our reinforced economic governance.

As I have said before in this Parliament, I expect Heads of State or Government to focus not just on short-term crisis management, but also on growth: smart, sustainable, inclusive growth, which is the key to job creation and the future prosperity of Europe. This was, and remains, the first objective of the Europe 2020 strategy and is at the centre of the comprehensive approach behind the Road map to Stability and Growth which I presented in this Parliament last October. This approach is now gaining support and this European Council was a step in the right direction, although a lot remains to be done.

At this summit, progress was achieved concerning key elements of this comprehensive approach: first, an agreement for a response to the problems in Greece; secondly, financial stability; and thirdly, job-creating growth through our Europe 2020 agenda, namely, through concrete initiatives frontloading targeted investment.

Let me start with Greece. Some people continue to say that Greece will not make it. I ask why? Why should Greece not be able to carry out the necessary reforms for its competitiveness? I believe it is possible. The Greek Government and the Greek Parliament believe it is possible. The decision on PSI shows that it can be possible.

The priority now is to make the second programme work. This is our collective task, supporting the Greek authorities and the Greek people. To that end, the Commission is already taking concrete steps. Together with those Commissioners most closely involved, I have had very concrete talks with Prime Minister Papademos and his team about getting key growth-enhancing decisions taken immediately.

As you will have seen from my letter, we have agreed to concentrate on a number of key priorities: improving youth employment, promoting a more business-friendly environment, providing liquidity to SMEs and sweeping away barriers to the absorption of structural funds. These are all areas where we can make real progress in weeks, not months or years.

The Commission Task Force under Horst Reichenbach is currently on the ground discussing how to put these measures into practice with the Greek Government. Finally, just yesterday, I held a meeting with President Hoyer of the European Investment Bank to examine how our support for Greece can be made more effective.

To cement this approach, I intend, in the coming weeks, to present, together with Vice-President Rehn, a communication on growth and jobs for Greece, taking stock of the progress that has been made and setting out the top priorities for the future.

As I set out in the Road map to Stability and Growth, finding a lasting solution to the problems in Greece is an essential prerequisite for stability. Without stability, there is no confidence, and without confidence, we will not get growth and jobs.

The signature of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Growth was a further sign of the commitment to discipline and convergence. This, as you know, was not the Commission’s preferred mechanism due to its intergovernmental nature. However, its signature – not only by euro area countries, but by 25 out of the current 27 Member States – is a political statement that the euro is not just the currency of some countries but of the European Union. It is a strong political message about the irreversibility of the euro, and it was very well received by investors in Europe and outside Europe.

It is the very culture of financial stability that is a condition for a true economic union. Together with the ‘six-pack’ and the European Stability Mechanism, it is an important step in this process. It is therefore vital that all its appropriate provisions can be brought into line with European Union law as soon as possible. The contracting Member States have agreed to integrate the provisions of the Treaty into European Union law within five years. Already, the Commission has proposed further amendments to the ‘two-pack’ to make sure that important provisions of the fiscal compact are implemented under Community law: that means also with the active participation of this Parliament.

Naturally, this agreement could not – and perhaps it should not – cover all the elements of an economic union and its most pressing objectives like the internal market or economic, social and territorial cohesion. These objectives are indeed better pursued, from a Community perspective, in the framework of the existing treaties, and through the European institutions and the Community method.

Implementing the Europe 2020 agenda for growth and jobs dominated our agenda at the European Council. Financial stability is indispensable but it is not sufficient. As we said several times, we need financial stability and economic growth: the one and the other.

As the road map made clear, there are a number of elements towards growth that must be implemented at the same time. These include, among others, structural reforms, deepening of the single market, targeted investment – yes, we need investment – and boosting trade with foreign markets.

On these points, I made clear to the European Council that Member States must do more to close the implementation gap between political will and decisions taken on the ground. I made it clear that it was not sufficient to talk about Europe 2020 only in Brussels in the Justus Lipsius Building, but that we need to own this strategy at all levels, including the social partners, the regions, and our societies. I also made clear that we need a perspective of social inclusion because there are some situations of social emergency, and indeed rising poverty, in many of our Member States.

I made a point that structural reform must be politically, but also socially acceptable to our citizens. Social dialogue is vital in this respect; that is why I place such importance on the tripartite social summit at European level, and social dialogue between employers and unions at national level. This is one element in demonstrating that the path we are taking is a fair one, where the burden and the benefits are both shared.

Fairness was a key motivation behind the Commission’s proposal for a financial transaction tax last year. More broadly, the last three European Councils have highlighted taxation as a fundamental component in our recovery efforts. This should not be a surprise. Recent figures indicate that as much as EUR 1 trillion is lost every year in the European Union through tax evasion and avoidance. Compare this EUR 1 trillion to what is needed to consolidate national budgets, and you can imagine that many problems could be solved.

A strong, unified stance is the only way forward to tackle the issue. The Commission is working on concrete measures to toughen our stance against tax evasion and fraud but Member States have an important duty to fulfil at European level too. There is no reason for any further delay on adopting the revised Savings Directive and the negotiating mandates for tax agreements with third countries. This is blocked, as you know, at Council level. This is another negative example of the implementation gap I mentioned earlier: positions that are taken at the European Council but are not afterwards followed up by the Council or by the Member States.

I have said that the programme for achieving growth is Europe 2020 and the instrument to achieve it is the multiannual financial framework. The European budget is a budget for investment; I hope that it will be in this perspective that we will have constructive discussions with the Member States about it, and I am pleased to see that the European Parliament has taken that position. I am also pleased that Commission proposals on project bonds for infrastructure development and the roll-out of broadband were accepted at this European Council. Together with other priority actions, such as accelerating some initiatives under the Annual Growth Survey and completing the single market, these measures will create jobs in the short term and make the European economy more competitive in the longer term.

Our citizens want to see real action that will make a difference to their daily lives. Since the informal European Council at the end of January, the Commission has been taking this action with regard to slashing youth unemployment and providing support to SMEs. SMEs are the answer to the need to create more jobs in Europe. Commission teams have visited eight Member States since then. In almost every case, in close cooperation with the national administrations, they found ways of helping to get more young people into work.

Let me close by reiterating that we have now come a long way in creating more stable conditions which will enable us to do the bulk of the work still before us. What we need is not constant drama about the euro, but hard work and determination in our action to sustain the European social market economy. No, the European social model is not dead. But in a more challenging environment, we need a more competitive Europe that delivers stability and growth through responsibility and solidarity.

 
  
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  Joseph Daul, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, Mr Van Rompuy, first of all, I would like to congratulate you, Mr Van Rompuy, on your appointment, and I wish you a great deal of courage for the next two and a half years, since we all need good proposals to create jobs in Europe.

I think there are two lessons to be learnt from the crisis. The first is putting national and regional finances back on track, and it can wait no longer. The signing of the fiscal treaty, with 25 members, two days ago, shows that this lesson has been learnt by the most far-sighted countries of the EU. The treaty imposes an obligation on its signatories to show good faith, honesty and discipline. However, everyone knows that actually applying a provision is more important than signing it. This is where we are waiting for the Member States, and for the Commission, as Guardian of the Treaties. Everyone remembers how the Stability Pact was infringed by the largest Member States. Everyone remembers that a certain President of the Commission even called it ‘stupid’. I therefore welcome the fiscal treaty which is, with the ‘six-pack’ and, soon, the ‘two-pack’ as well, a useful instrument. However, I would like to call for vigilance regarding how they are actually applied.

The second lesson to learn from the crisis is the emphasis to be placed on a return to sustainable growth and growth that creates jobs. I must say that, in this area, there has been no real progress since the start of the crisis. The Council meeting in January merely contented itself with making recommendations to the Member States, without any coordination or overall plan. As for the Commission, it is working extremely hard, but the many initiatives it is undertaking would be better understood and more effective if they formed part of an overall project, particularly a project for growth and employment. Above all, I am struck by the difficulty and also the slowness with which too many Member States are applying the rules to which they have, nonetheless, made a commitment. On this point, I also expect the Commission to be more vigilant in its efforts to put Member States back on the right path. The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) is proposing two courses of action, which it will place on an official basis in a public letter to the Council and the Commission.

The first area concerns the internal market. At the end of this year, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the single market. However, 20 years on, there are still more than 150 bottlenecks hampering the operation of that market. It is for this reason that I am calling not only for us to ensure that the rules that have been adopted are actually applied, but also for a legislative package to be put forward, together with a precise timetable to enable us to complete the internal market. This is an urgent matter and within in it we can find, as I say every day, at least a small percentage of growth for all the countries, which is very important at this difficult time. The services sector, which is vital for Europe’s economy, constitutes in itself one of the largest blockages. Prices vary within the European Union; they can be up to twice as high for medicines, three times as high for medical treatments, four times as high for certain kinds of insurance and 100 times as high for the same university qualifications. When we know this, it is clear that action can wait no longer. Of course, we cannot do everything at once. It is for this reason that I call upon the Commission to start with a new legislative initiative in 10 sectors of the internal market.

The second course of action recommended by the PPE Group concerns the investments needed for growth. I am also proposing, on this point, that in the European budgets for the next few years, a share allocated to investments generating growth and jobs should be protected. Let me be clear: it is not a question of new expenditure or additional budgets, but of channelling funds that are already available towards sustainable investment. Finally, we must provide ourselves with our own resources. It is not widely enough known that one euro invested by the EU can produce, through its multiplier effect, up to EUR 5 in investment. To take the example of energy, in 2010, the EUR 4 billion injected into the sector ended up generating EUR 22 billion in investment.

I will finish with this: our fellow citizens, particularly young people, need jobs now. Our economy needs small growth to begin with and guaranteed growth for the future. The budget pact will ensure healthy and honest finances. Mr Barroso, I believe that on this point, you are right. We must combat tax evasion more rigorously. You have quoted the figures, and it is an enormous problem. We must act to create jobs, while the completion of the single market and the protection of the investment budget ought to generate sustainable growth and jobs.

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the S&D Group.(DE) Mr President, firstly, I would like to congratulate Mr Van Rompuy on his re-election. There are a lot of discussions ahead of us and some controversial issues to be dealt with. We still have a great deal to do. Secondly, I would like to congratulate the Council on its decision regarding Serbia. I believe that it is the right option for Serbia, for the region and also for Kosovo. Unfortunately, no positive decisions were made about Schengen, in particular, with regard to Bulgaria and Romania. The people of these countries deserve to have the Schengen Area enlarged. I hope that this will happen soon.

However, what shocked me was the statement by Mr Sarkozy after the Council meeting in which he said that Schengen should possibly be suspended. Will we have to bring our passports again when we come to Strasbourg? Are the many absent members of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) already looking for their passports ready for their next trip to Strasbourg? This surely cannot be meant seriously.

(Applause)

Now, Mr Sarkozy’s spokesperson is saying that the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament is preventing the reform of Schengen. This is not true. We are not preventing reform; we simply do not want to take a step backwards. We need to move forwards in Europe and not back. Therefore, I am calling on Mr Sarkozy, in the light of his possible election defeat, not to dig out all the old nationalist and anti-European relics. Let us remain realistic and continue focusing on the future. Let us commit to Europe. That would be a good thing for Mr Sarkozy to do.

(Applause)

I would now like to turn to economic issues. I read the following sentences in an interview in a German magazine. ‘How do you intend to maintain your system of supply and demand if you do not care about the people who are supposed to be buying the products? We need a system which gives those on low incomes a share in the profits of global financial speculation. A system is only ever as strong as the poor people who form part of it’.

This was said not by an economist or a politician, but by the human rights campaigner and singer, Harry Belafonte. Unfortunately, there are many politicians in Europe who do not have Mr Belafonte’s economic common sense. I think this is very sad and I believe that it is something which we need to change in Europe.

(Applause)

The system will not work without support for demand and support for the weaker members of society. However, in some cases, we are doing the opposite; for example, in Greece and also in Spain. We are achieving the opposite of what we want to achieve. We are creating less growth and employment rather than more. We are also reducing taxes and public revenues rather than increasing them. However, the fact that we have responded so late to the problem of youth unemployment is a particularly serious matter. Mr Van Rompuy, you are right that the Council has reacted, but we have seen huge increases in youth unemployment since 2008.

What are we to say to the young people who cannot find work? It is appalling that young people from Europe are being forced to emigrate to Argentina, Angola and Brazil in order to get a job. It is appalling that many young people have to work for what almost amounts to starvation wages. What are we to say to this generazione mille euro as they are called in Italy? In fact, they are the generazione con meno di mille euro because many of them earn less than EUR 1 000 per month. What are we to say to these young people? How can we win them over to the cause of Europe? Therefore, on behalf of my group, I am calling for a job and training guarantee. Mr Van Rompuy, you were right when you said to me that this is the responsibility of the Member States. However, the budgets are also the responsibility of the Member States and that does not stop Europe getting involved in them. My group and I would like to see Europe getting involved with young people and giving them the possibility of a job or of training.

(Applause)

That is part of the European social model. I would like to make one thing quite clear and my remarks are also aimed at Mr Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank, although what he said may simply have been misunderstood: the European social model is not dead. The European social model must not be allowed to die. We Social Democrats are in favour of its continued survival. We need to reform it, but the European social model is part of our identity and we will defend this identity to the hilt.

Finally, many people believe that the people of Europe are opposed to reform. There is only opposition to reform because the people can see that the policies which are being pursued are not fair. Mr Barroso rightly quoted from our study, for example, concerning the question of tax evasion. It is clear that our tax system is often unfair and that it is the rich people who pay no taxes. These are things which we need to change. I am very pleased about what Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy said. We have made some progress, but not enough. I am sure that if the people of Europe understood that we will be pursuing more socially just policies in future, they would be prepared to support the necessary reforms. However, what they do not want is for us to give up the European social model which we are so proud of. We Social Democrats support this model and we will defend it with all our strength.

(Applause)

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

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE), Blue-card question.(FR) Mr Swoboda, you brandished your passport and talked of Nicolas Sarkozy. Do you know that Nicolas Sarkozy has always argued in favour of the Schengen agreements? Do you know that Nicolas Sarkozy does not want to get rid of Schengen, but, instead, to strengthen it? Do you know how the border between Greece and Turkey operates? Do you know that in truth, freedom cannot be exercised without security? Mr Swoboda, I have a question to put to you: do you believe that the Schengen provisions are properly managed – yes or no?

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (S&D), Blue-card answer.(DE) Mr President, firstly, Mr Audy, I always think of Mr Sarkozy when I pull out my passport. I will think of him particularly when he has retired and can no longer pursue the policy that he is currently pursuing.

Secondly, Mr Audy, it is true that security and Schengen go hand in hand. However, I would like to ask you why the Council – and the French Government is not entirely innocent in this respect – is continuing to prevent Bulgaria and Romania from joining the Schengen Area, despite the fact that they have fulfilled all the conditions? I would very much like to ask you this, because now there is security in these countries as a result of the measures that have been taken. Our failure to enlarge the Schengen Area is actually against the law. I am very much in favour of it, but calling it into question in an election campaign, as Mr Sarkozy has done, is reprehensible in my view. Schengen is one of Europe’s major achievements. An achievement of this kind should not be called into question. Instead, it should be supported because it means that we Europeans are able to cross national borders freely without passports. That is what I am standing up for in Europe. If Mr Sarkozy does not do this, then that is his problem, but I and, above all, François Hollande and the French Socialists are standing up for this. For security and freedom!

 
  
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  Guy Verhofstadt, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(FR) Mr President, I did not intend to get involved in this debate but, Mr Audy, we need to take a serious approach. When I hear it said that half of immigrants should leave France, as President Sarkozy has said, and when I see him attacking halal meat and, at the same time, attacking other partners in relation to Schengen, I wonder who is really the extreme right candidate. Is it Ms Le Pen or Mr Sarkozy?

(Protests)

I really do wonder. When I see the way this election campaign is going, I tell myself that we have never seen this sort of thing in any other country.

The problem at the moment is that there is a French President in office using this sort of language.

So let me return to the debate we were having before Mr Audy intervened. First of all, I would like to congratulate President Van Rompuy. European Councils come and go and I feel that I note a terrible complacency. Do we really believe, as was said, that we have reached a turning point in the crisis? Do we really believe that the efforts of Mr Monti and Mr Rajoy will suffice to put an end to the crisis, that the fiscal compact will put an end to the mess, and that it is sufficient to merge the two rescue funds with EUR 750 billion? Do you really think that will end the crisis?

I think that what is happening for the moment is completely different. What is happening for the moment is that we are seeing a calming down of the bond markets because Mr Draghi has bought us time. He has printed EUR 1 trillion worth of new money. That is what Mr Draghi has done and that is what we are feeling today: the effect of printing new money – EUR 1 trillion.

I do not think that that is a real structural solution to this crisis. It could work for a few months or a few weeks, but it will not be a structural solution to this crisis. In fact, we all know what the structural solution for this crisis is. We all know that we need a partial mutualisation of the debt. I was at the US Treasury in Washington and they said that we should do this – create our redemption fund, a structural solution for it. The same thing at the International Monetary Fund. I think that everywhere, they can see the light. It is only in Europe that we do not see the light. We know what it is. It is to mutualise debt above 60% so that everybody pays lower interest rates, including Germany. This is in compliance with the constitutional law in Germany, it is compliant with the international and European treaties, and it is a fund of EUR 2.3 trillion. That is the real firewall.

You talk all the time about a firewall, but there is no firewall even if you merge the two rescue funds. That is a fire extinguisher, not a firewall. It is there if you need it when there is a problem – a crisis in Greece, in Portugal, in Ireland – but not a real firewall around the big economies like Spain and Italy. For that, you need a real redemption fund. And I can assure Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso that I think there is a clear majority on this in this Parliament: we shall not adopt any new legislation related to the euro crisis unless it contains such a proposal.

Finally, a few words on Syria. Yesterday, 47 bodies were found in Homs – the bodies of women and children, stabbed, burned, tortured – and Kofi Annan reports that they do not seem to really understand the reality in Damascus. I think the time is now right to do something. Let us stop all flights to Syria. Let us send back all Syrian ambassadors. Let us prevent all Assad’s friends from travelling and let us do what President Obama is doing, namely, looking into all options – humanitarian corridors, safe havens, assistance to the Free Syrian Army, be it technical or otherwise. But we have to do something and not what we are doing for the moment, which is nothing at all in this case. Otherwise, there is only one outcome – that is that Syria will become a new Srebrenica, a new Sudan, a new Rwanda – and we shall be complicit in that.

(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 President, I would simply like to know what the reaction of my friend Guy Verhofstadt is, since Mr Sarkozy does not have a representative of the Front national in his government. We have a problem regarding the Netherlands, where the government has never condemned anything. That is much more dangerous and much more insidious.

The second thing I would like to ask him is this: when Neelie Kroes says that Greece must leave the euro, I have never heard Mr Verhofstadt criticise the suggestion. Please answer these questions.

 
  
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  Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE), Blue-card answer. (FR) Mr President, I think I was the first person to denounce the Dutch Government’s silence on the issue of the website. I must remind my dear friend, Mr Daul, however, that it is a government of Christian Democrats together with Liberals. Perhaps he has forgotten that fact. In any case, I have telephoned Mr Rutte; I do not know whether Mr Daul has telephoned Mr Verhagen.

I must say that this afternoon, I am going to be very clear. I am going to support a joint resolution on the website because the Dutch Government’s silence is totally unacceptable. However, I prefer this silence on the part of the Dutch Government to the noise currently being made by Mr Sarkozy about the xenophobic, racist affair.

 
  
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  Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, Mr Van Rompuy, ladies and gentlemen, I do not know whether I should congratulate you, Mr Van Rompuy, or whether we should congratulate ourselves: we shall see. I hope that your second term of office will not be like the first.

I would like to say various things.

Firstly, to come back to Schengen, I should like a very simple thing to be said. Germany and France are isolated in the Council. At the Council, all the countries have refused to renationalise the management of Schengen. That is what this is about: saying that reform is necessary. Mr Audy, if you wish, for Greece, if one were to stop provoking the Turks with totally idiotic resolutions in the national parliaments, it might be possible to conclude an agreement with them for them to secure the borders. We hit out at them, and then we say to them: ‘be nice to us’. They are just as clever or stupid as we are! Let us put our own house in order, and perhaps we will be able to secure the border with Greece by having better relations with Turkey.

This is not nonsense, it is the truth, my dear friend, and you are going to hear some more of it.

I would like to turn now to the crisis. I believe that this approach to the golden rule, where we adopt a triple financial, social and environmental golden rule, makes sense. I am not opposed to a financial golden rule, but if we do not adopt a social and an environmental golden rule alongside it, we will not be doing right by future generations. That is what I wanted to say about the golden rule.

Starting from there, what we need to do now is to produce a recovery plan, but not on a shoestring. As you know, we have staked EUR 4 600 billion in order to save the banks. This was made up of guarantees, investments and various ways of saving the financial system. The Marshall Plan was 5% of US GDP; 5% of European GDP is EUR 800 billion, not EUR 4 000 billion. This is a recovery plan for the European economy, including the economies of Greece, Portugal, Spain, etc. Let us be equal to the challenge. We will not overcome the crisis merely through austerity policies that strangle the people; we will only do so if we give the people prospects for the future. We have had to pull out all the stops to save the financial system. Are we not capable of pulling out all the stops to save European citizens? Anyway, that seems to me to go without saying. What I am calling for is that we should make use of a significant European budget – Mr Daul is right – using own resources and the European Investment Bank, in order to implement a lasting and sustainable economic recovery with the green economy.

With regard to tax evasion, I should like to say that we must be honest. As long as we continue to have fiscal competition in Europe, we will not succeed. Allow me to cite an example: Facebook and Apple are in Ireland, and Google and Amazon are in Luxembourg, while they make their money in France, Germany, etc. These companies pay taxes in Luxembourg or in Ireland because there is unfair competition on company taxation. As long as we are unable to regulate this, let us not say that we are combating tax evasion. If you want to combat tax evasion, it is very simple. All you have to say is: ‘all banks who do business in Europe, whether they be European, Swiss or foreign, must declare what European residents deposit in their banks, all the banks, otherwise they will be prohibited from working in the European market’. That is what the Americans did with UBS in the case of US money in Switzerland and you have seen how the Swiss banks reacted, saying: ‘here are the declarations’. Do the same thing! Compel the banks to make declarations. Of course, that constitutes a temporary removal of banking secrecy. If you tackle this, then you can tackle tax evasion, because you know where it is and where it comes from. For as long as we fail to do this, we will not be equal to the challenge.

I should now like to finish with two issues. Regarding Bosnia and Belgrade, I am not in agreement. As long as we fail to give Bosnia a chance, those who were responsible for the war will be the major beneficiaries, and those who were the victims of the war – Bosnia – will not even have a makeshift role within Europe. I find this morally unjustifiable. I am not opposed to the agreement with Serbia but I would say we are not doing enough for Bosnia. While we fail to tackle Dayton, we will not make progress.

Finally, on the subject of Syria, Mr Verhofstadt is right. Today, we are imposing a humanitarian corridor, but we are not saying that we are doing anything. I agree that Syria is isolated, and there are all the options: arming the army, seeing if we should act to impose humanitarian corridors, etc. Mr Van Rompuy, you speak of a humanitarian corridor, but if Mr Assad does not want one, what will you do? Will you impose it or not? This is something we must consider. The Syrian people are being massacred every day, and our discussions are not keeping pace with the massacre. That is our problem. I am not saying that I have the solution, but at the moment, we are not able to be equal to the task.

 
  
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  Martin Callanan, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, I am becoming increasingly concerned that a sort of corrupting complacency is starting to take hold in EU corridors of power. Many seem to now believe that the worst of the crisis is over. After all, we have signed the new treaty to solve it all, and some are implying that Europe is really OK; the only problem is that a few Mediterranean countries have a problem with their public finances and it is nothing that the new treaty cannot put right. Well, Europe is not OK. The underlying economic weakness is a problem shared by the whole of our continent and the new treaty is simply an irrelevance to most of it.

I am pleased to say that two Member States, both from parties led by my group, have been honest enough to say that there is no point in signing this treaty. Others have signed it and have indicated that they do not really believe that it applies to them. Before the ink was even dry on the treaty, Spain and the Netherlands said that they were not going to comply with its provisions.

The European Council has wasted considerable energy on a treaty that will make no practical difference to the fundamentals, whilst taking decisions at the same time that will condemn the Greek people to a generation of poverty. Greece now faces the prospect of one of the longest recessions in recorded history, a collapse in living standards and levels of unemployment unseen in Europe since the 1930s. The solution, of course, is not easy and it is not without cost, but a new course must surely now be followed. Measures are required so that Greece can organise an orderly default, but a default that needs to be complemented by leaving the euro so that devaluation can save its economy in the short term, while structural reforms are taken to rebuild it in the medium term.

But the complacency shown when it comes to the fundamental state of the EU economy is equally profoundly shocking. There was a letter, signed by 12 Heads of Government, from three political families in this House, which was presented to the Council. It was an opportunity to relaunch a constructive growth agenda in Europe, but the initial reaction was very cool, as you know, Mr Van Rompuy. Surely, the time has now come for you to stop behaving as if Council communiqués have been delegated to the foreign ministries of France and Germany. Why did you not immediately face the opportunity to focus on a positive forward-looking agenda for real economic growth? Perhaps, when you asked the Council to put jobs on the agenda, you were, in fact, only referring to yours – congratulations on your reappointment, by the way.

Mr Barroso, should this not be the kind of growth agenda that is the centre piece of the work of your Commission and should define its purpose? Is that not what we were promised? The global competitive challenge requires a determined policy response from the whole Commission, not just from one or two Commissioners who understand what is at stake. Perhaps the Commission should spend a little more time on pursing real reform and a little less time on producing silly, racist, martial arts videos.

I hope that you will also take this opportunity to condemn Sunday’s remarks from the President of France calling for restriction, calling for more protectionism on trade. We should be abolishing trade barriers, not erecting more of them. Apparently, last week, President Sarkozy also said that there are too many foreigners in France. Well, I am a foreigner in France and I say to him that I would be very happy not to have to come back to this Parliament in France every month – and it is his government that actually makes us come here in the first place. There are several hundred foreigners who would be very happy not to come back to France every month if that is really what President Sarkozy wants.

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

 
  
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  Paul Nuttall (EFD), Blue-card question. – Mr President, I must congratulate our colleague on coming round to the UKIP position. We have been saying for many years now that Greece would be better off leaving the euro and going back to the drachma. But this is not the position of his government and it is certainly not the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. Does my colleague agree or disagree with the position of the British Government? Does he agree with the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that more fiscal union is needed and that Greece would be better off in the euro, or is his position completely different from that of his own government?

 
  
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  Martin Callanan (ECR), Blue-card answer. – Firstly, of course, I am happy to say that I am not a spokesman for the British Government, but I think that George Osborne has made the position very clear. The matter of whether Greece stays within the euro is a matter for Greece itself to decide and I actually agree with that position.

I can have an opinion on whether it is wise for them to stay in the euro or not and I have expressed that opinion, but the actual fundamentals of it are for them themselves to decide, for elected politicians in Greece to make that decision. I believe in national democracy in these respects.

 
  
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  Paul Murphy, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – Mr President, I have to say I marvel every time that Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy can keep a straight face when they say that our strategy is starting to work and when they talk about job-creating growth. The strategy that they are pursuing, which is an onslaught on people’s living standards and an onslaught on society in Greece, has resulted in the highest level of unemployment across the EU since the introduction of the euro – 25 million people. It has resulted in a contraction of the eurozone at the end of 2011. They want to institutionalise synchronised austerity right across Europe with their fiscal treaty but, at the same time, they like to talk about growth.

It was Winston in George Orwell’s 1984 who said that freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. So let me say clearly that trying to meet the structural deficit targets under Article 3 and the debt reduction targets under Article 4 of this treaty equals savage austerity across Europe. It means 5.7 billion euros’ worth of extra cuts and taxes in Ireland; tens of billions of euros across the eurozone. It means, without economic growth, repayment to the bondholders of four and a half billion euros in principal repayments on top of the interest in Ireland; over a hundred billion across the eurozone. It does not mean growth; it means more unemployment; it means a worsening crisis; it means worsening public services and worsening working conditions. Because of this, in Ireland, the government’s only argument in this debate is based on fear. The centrepiece of their scaremongering is the clause which is inserted into the new ESM Treaty which says that only countries that sign up to this permanent austerity can access the ESM funds.

So, Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy, can I ask you a direct question, for which I would like an answer? How did this blackmail clause come to be inserted into the new ESM Treaty? Who proposed this blackmail clause? Did the Irish Government raise any objection to the creation of a stick that is simply there to beat the Irish people with, to try and get us to vote for permanent austerity? Finally, is it not the case that the amendment to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to allow the ESM to come into being has still not been ratified by the Member States and therefore, if the Irish Government is serious about a fair and free debate without this threat hanging over our heads, it has the power to refuse to ratify and allow this ESM Treaty to come into being – unless the clause is removed?

 
  
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  Nigel Farage, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, I see that Mr Van Rompuy is back for another two-and-a-half years, no doubt a reward for his great success. Indeed, Mr Van Rompuy, listening to you, I thought perhaps I had got it all wrong. You talked about how positive the last Council meeting had been, that we have reached the turning point, that everything is going swimmingly, and I was beginning to believe it.

And then I realised that you did not mention the D word: Default. No, that cannot be talked about. We pretend there has not been a default when we know, in fact, that in Greece last week, there was a very major credit event. Indeed, listening to all of you this morning reminds me of the great British comedy classic Carry On Up the Khyber, where the colonial English go on having dinner, ignoring the fact that impending disaster is all around them.

You are determined but delusional in this attempt to keep the euro propped up. And whilst you are enjoying your dinner, incoming shells are landing all around you: youth unemployment in Greece went through 50% last week. That is fine, carry on, serve the main course. And you will have seen yesterday that 110 German bondholders of Greek bonds are now going to take legal action against the banks and against the Greek Government. But do not worry chaps; carry on; everything is going to be fine. But perhaps the biggest bombshell is the German Finance Minister saying just yesterday that nobody can exclude a third bail-out. Pass the port. Do enjoy the party.

It is a farcical situation, and why is it happening? That is what people in Europe want to know. Why is this happening? Is this being done to help Greece? No. It is going to crucify Greece. It is being done to prop up a failing project because you know that once Greece goes, others will go as well. And some of the language is telling. Mr Barroso, when leaders stand up and say that political moves are irreversible, history has one lesson: you are always, always, going to be proved to be wrong.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI). (FR) Mr President, first, I would like to give Mr Swoboda some information about one thing. Since the Schengen agreements have been in existence, I have to present my passport, or at least one form of identification, not only at the borders but also during journeys within a country. When I return from Strasbourg to Lyon, I have to present my identification at check-in, and again on boarding. That is very strange: since the disappearance of checks at the external borders, there have been checks everywhere. That is the first point.

My second point, if I may say so, is for Mr Verhofstadt, that great democrat and former prime minister of a country which banned its main opposition force – the Vlaams Blok – and which now wants to block websites. He finds it very racist to refer to the fact that people in France are obliged to eat halal meat when they are not Muslims. However, that is not all, Mr Verhofstadt. I heard on the television this morning, for instance, that mosques were burning in Brussels, but we must certainly not talk about that either. Soon, you will ban the websites that report this. I salute your deep liberalism.

The European Council that we are considering today is not a last-chance one, which is a highly exceptional fact. We have sacrificed Greece, and for the moment, the markets have been appeased. We are told that it is a council of stability, coordination and governance. The stability in question is stability in the denial of democracy, since the people will not be asked to make a decision. The coordination in question is that of austerity plans and insecurity, while the governance is that strange mix of bureaucracy and plutocracy that orders people around and which, for some time now, has been claiming an increasing right to do so, with apparently increasing authoritarianism and ferocity.

 
  
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  Herbert Reul (PPE).(DE) Mr President, Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, the statement that we have not yet emerged from the crisis and still have a number of tasks to complete was correct. However, it is also true and is also worth mentioning that some of the work has been done and that we are on the right track. Part of the process of solving major problems is to keep your spirits up and to ask yourself, when you have made some progress, whether this is the right way forward or the wrong one. I believe that debates of the kind we had initially, which were like election campaign events, do not help at all in encouraging young people to commit to the future and to Europe. They are not of any benefit and simply cause harm.

To go back to the subject of organising growth and stability, if we want to promote positive economic growth in Europe and to ensure that people in Europe and, in particular, young people have a future, then we need to use the funds available to us wisely and finally come to grips with the things that have often happened in the past. Spending our money with care is not about imposing extreme austerity measures, but about using money honestly and sensibly. That is where we have made all our mistakes. More in some areas and fewer in others. We have not done a good enough job of ensuring that things did not get out of hand. If we want to make progress and stimulate growth, that does not mean throwing more money around, organising a few more programmes and writing a few more road maps, which no one understands anyway, but it means putting structures in place and creating incentives. Some Member States and some national economies are flourishing. Why is this? Because they have implemented structural reforms, invested in industry and had the courage not to regulate everything down to the smallest detail. If we were all to get together and think about whether the agreements or new regulations that we are introducing were absolutely necessary, and if we were to consider more carefully where innovations and research could be promoted, we would probably do more for growth in Europe than we do with the many speeches that we make here. We need courage, commitment and trust in people, and in young people in particular. This is why I think we need fewer regulations and more innovation and research. We also need fewer words and more real policies when we make decisions here every day. That is what I would like to see happening.

 
  
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  Robert Goebbels (S&D). (FR) Mr President, the most important reform to implement is to reduce the number of summits of Heads of State or Government. They are practically useless. If the euro is doing better, it is because of the action taken by the European Central Bank and Mario Draghi. In fact, the announcement of summits gives rise to futile hopes. That was the case of the most recent summit, which produced a few empty words on stronger growth but nothing tangible, for instance, on combating youth unemployment.

What is more, back at home, the leaders’ fine European professions of faith evaporate. President Sarkozy claims to be leading Europe and boasted of having created the Treaty of Lisbon. Now, as an electoral candidate, Mr Sarkozy is threatening to leave Schengen. Has he not yet noticed that the Schengen agreements are an integral part of the Treaty, Article 67 of which makes the ‘absence of internal border controls for persons mandatory? In order to leave Schengen, France would therefore have to leave the European Union.

In any case, I wonder what Mr Sarkozy wants to check. Is it the 1.4 billion annual movements at internal borders? Is it the millions of tourists that flock to France every summer? Is it the half a million French people who are frontier workers in neighbouring countries? All these populist initiatives merely serve to conceal the inability of the leaders to commit to a real growth policy. This was apparent in the case of Greece, where Europe imposed measures that have led to a contraction in domestic demand, the bankruptcy of 200 000 small and medium-sized enterprises and the erosion of the purchasing power of the Greeks. Now, Greece’s growth is at a standstill.

 
  
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  Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, we all agree that we want a stability culture in Europe. That is at least what we are constantly hearing. We also need to assess what has been achieved with the fiscal compact, which represents an important step towards the stability culture. It is not a turning point and it is not the solution. It is also not a universal remedy. We can all agree on that. However, I believe that it is an important step forward, and this needs to be said for the sake of truth.

We want balanced budgets with very low primary deficits, if these cannot be avoided. We want a debt brake in the euro area countries. We want automatic sanctions for offenders before things go wrong. We want old debts to be reduced and the results to be reported to Brussels before new debts are incurred. We want the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to come into effect earlier. We must also make sure that only those countries which join the fiscal compact have access to the ESM.

These are all important elements of a stability culture in Europe and, with the ‘two-pack’, we are attempting to implement this under European law, including a debt redemption pact, which is something my group is specifically calling for. We want to stimulate growth in Greece and the money to do this is available. Between EUR 16 billion and EUR 18 billion – the numbers vary – can be provided from the Structural Funds. I believe that we finally need to get started with this. Everything that Mr Reichenbach and the Troika have so far achieved in Greece is not enough to give a real boost to growth. Then, today, there was a debate in the German Parliament which surprised me, because the Social Democrats are threatening to vote against the fiscal compact unless it includes a particular tax, which would justifiably be controversial. I believe this would be a huge mistake. I also think it is important for the Social Democrats to become aware of their responsibilities in terms of stability policy and to vote in favour of the compact without playing party political games.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that the central issue for us is to make progress on the road towards a stability culture. I would like to finish by congratulating you, Mr Van Rompuy, on your reappointment. Everyone agrees that you are doing an excellent job. However, I am still of the opinion that your position, as it is enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon, is a mistake. I would prefer to have a President of Europe who, if possible, was also directly elected.

 
  
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  Pascal Canfin (Verts/ALE). (FR) Mr President, Mr Barroso, you have rightly spoken about tax evasion. You know that this struggle is extremely important for us, because it is a struggle that revolves around economic efficiency and social justice. Talking about these matters is all very well, but we would like to see action.

Where are the Commission’s statements? Where is the pressure from the Commission to help Greece to try to recover the EUR 100 to 200 billion that are in Switzerland, according to the Greek Government’s estimates? I know that this is not necessarily Greece’s priority. Greece holds the primary responsibility for this inability to genuinely levy tax. All the same, where is the action by the Commission to exert pressure on Switzerland, so that the money can be taxed and then return to Greece?

Just now, Daniel Cohn-Bendit was talking about what President Obama did in relation to the Swiss banks and banking secrecy. Where is the initiative by the European Commission to do exactly what Mr Obama did, namely, to impose an extra-territorial law that is binding and eliminates banking secrecy? Where is the Commission’s initiative to have a European list of tax havens? On the OECD’s blacklist, there is one state, or two states, or, from time to time, three states; they sign mutual conventions, and then there is no one left on the list. All of a sudden, the struggle is empty, because the blacklist is empty. Where is the Commission’s initiative? I want to see concrete answers, because it is all very well to make these grand declarations before Parliament, but it is actually much better to take tangible political action to put pressure on these states. I am fully aware that these states constitute the main obstacle to progress. We need you, however, to put pressure on the states.

Mr Barroso, I would like to put a final question to you, not about tax havens, but about austerity. When we have informal discussions with your departments and those of the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs, this is what your officials tell us. When you put all the austerity policies and the requirements that have now been imposed by the Commission to reduce budget deficits into the same economic model, it is not possible to show that there is truly a path that will enable us to reduce the deficits. In fact, growth is being damaged to such a degree, and tax revenue is being decreased to such an extent, that the end result is a greater deficit, not a lower one. That is the case, for example, in Spain. The debate is also a live issue in the Netherlands, and perhaps soon will be in France too.

Mr Barroso, the reality is that when you use these figures, it does not work. When are you going to admit this? When are you going to change direction?

 
  
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  Jan Zahradil (ECR). - (CS) Mr President, a cartoon came out some time ago – in the Greek newspapers, I think – of Chancellor Merkel with a swastika on her sleeve, while the German newspapers were again writing about what a lazy lot the Greeks were. Is this normal? For me, it is unacceptable. I also wonder whether it was European integration that brought us to this pass, where European nations stick two fingers up and spit at each other. I have to say, unfortunately, that this is the case. This is indeed the result of a concept of European integration that is yours, yours and yours. The fiscal compact is just one further step on this path, which has nothing to do with fiscal discipline – itself a healthy and necessary thing – but only with creating a pretext for the further politicisation of the EU, and a further step towards political union, which, as is abundantly obvious, does not eliminate tension between nations, but increases it and revives old animosities. My own government did not sign the fiscal compact, and we have to decide whether to join the euro area at all, which must be the subject of a referendum, because the terms of accession to the euro area have changed dramatically from the situation when we signed the accession treaty, and it is therefore necessary for the citizens of the country to decide the matter in a popular vote.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, all of you standing before me: two years ago, the leaders of the European Union and the Greek Prime Minister subjected the people of my country to a massive experiment. Greece was turned into a vehicle of the International Monetary Fund in the euro area. Today, the International Monetary Fund forms part of the institutional framework of the European Union.

The Greek experiment involves wage cuts, pension cuts, bonus cuts, cuts in spending on schools and hospitals, cuts to benefits and the abolition of collective agreements. What is the result of this experiment? Production declined by 7% last year, there are 1 million unemployed according to official figures, and 1.5 million according to unofficial figures, shops are closing down, workers are not being paid and the nation is feeling insulted and unhappy. Greece has gone bankrupt and the cost is being paid by its citizens, its young people and its families. The benefits are being reaped by the banks.

What have you decided now in the Council, Mr Barroso, Mr Van Rompuy? What are you discussing today? You have decided to let the idea of Europe go bankrupt. You have decided to let the idea of solidarity go bankrupt. You have decided on a Europe of strict fiscal prudence, a German Europe. You have decided on a Europe in which one person snitches on another, a Europe which is fearful of its people, a Europe which is fearful of referenda and the voice of the people.

However, Mr Barroso, Mr Van Rompuy, you should know that the people have not gone bankrupt and that they will shortly give their response and will trash such memoranda, contracts and treaties.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio (EFD).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have this morning heard many criticisms of the French President’s electoral posturing on immigration and on Schengen. This criticism has been developed from the point of view and through the lens of populism. Fair enough.

I would like to apply the same analysis to the news in all the major European dailies yesterday and today. I am referring to the important stance taken by the greatest progressive European philosopher, the elderly but very clear-sighted Mr Habermas, who has looked at the reform, the fiscal compact, from a very specific point of view. He says that this reform, this pact, should not be approved because it is like wanting to increase, or rather, fooling ourselves that we want to increase, integration among Member States without civic integration among citizens. He says that it highlights the fact that only a democratic Europe, only popular will – even expressed through a referendum I would say, but that is my opinion – could produce politically credible decisions. He calls the European Union arrogant in its dealings with citizens and dominated by speculators.

I had grown used to quoting Junger, but from now on, I will quote Habermas when criticising, from a populist and democratic point of view, your bad decisions which impact on the people. Maybe they are taken by the inner circle – the inner circle of the Bilderberg or Trilateral meetings – but they are obviously not taken here. Such decisions are then imposed on the people, without caring one jot about the real economy of those who work and sweat, workers and entrepreneurs.

 
  
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  Trevor Colman (NI). – Mr President, last week, the British Government’s Joint Committee on National Security strategy warned that ministers should draw up plans to deal with the break up of the eurozone. This important committee warned of economic instability, political unrest on the continent and a rise in the number of economic migrants fleeing the chaos of the eurozone and arriving at our borders.

In the current crisis, illegal immigration has become such a problem that – as we have heard many times this morning – this week, President Sarkozy has threatened to withdraw France from the Schengen Agreement. In the long term, the committee has stated that eurozone countries may be unable to maintain their national defences, jeopardising the security of Europe and the integrity of NATO. This is how the EU’s damaging fiscal policy is viewed by the real world.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I felt obliged to begin with Mr Swoboda’s proud defence of the welfare system, as I do not believe that the claims made by the President of the European Central Bank should be read ideologically, rather, they look to me like a statement of fact: there are 500 million people in the EU, of which 75 million are under 25; if we think of Egypt, it is a country of 80 million people, and 60 million are under 25. This raises real questions about the size and structure of our welfare system, and we have to give real answers.

The truth is, when it comes to huge and genuine problems, European leaders go back and forth between populist outbursts, which get them into trouble and force them to pander to public opinion, and pragmatic solutions, which must be the main way to work out the timeframe for the recovery and the means by which it can be achieved.

In order to have a truly pragmatic approach, we have to focus everything on the instrument that we designed, as an institution, for this purpose. That means we have got to look to the Commission to impose itself on governments and, at the same time, nurture public debate among our citizens so as to create a practical consensus to Europe as a project.

We have got to strengthen the Commission right this instant. We have to strengthen the Commission, and Parliament must play a strategic role in this process. Otherwise, in quarrelling with governments which are increasingly dragged into things in the name of increasingly populist public opinion, we will be forced into an unprecedented capitulation.

 
  
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  Elisa Ferreira (S&D).(PT) Mr President, I would ask the President of the Commission why it is that the second Greek package will not work. It is for the same reason that the first did not work: because what is important is not the size of the countries’ debt, but rather their ability to manage the resources for paying this debt.

The Troika’s obsession with fiscal rigour is imposing payments, apparently unchecked, on the Greek economy that are pushing it year after year into a never-ending recession; it is not very clear to whom they answer. In a recession, there is no way of paying. In an economy in which exports account for no more than 20% of production, reducing wages and increasing taxes will not increase competitiveness, but will simply crush domestic demand.

Next year, Greece will have been in recession for five consecutive years; that is unique in European history. In 2011, production declined by 7%, 200 000 companies went out of business and unemployment hit 23% of the active population. Since the Troika came to Greece, 32 new types of tax have been introduced and there has been a 50% drop in disposable income.

In this context, the question is, what will be the source of the dynamic enabling Greece to pay that which it has borrowed and owes? Meanwhile, the second package provides for a primary surplus of 4.5%, in order for its targets to be hit. What is the source of Greece’s growth?

Meanwhile, the Troika recommendations accompanying the second package prescribe wage cuts of 22%, and of 32% for young people. The question is, are we at a turning point with the contamination existing in Europe? The situation we are in is certainly an emergency. Either sovereign debt is mutualised quickly and a veritable Marshall Plan for growth in Europe is launched, particularly for the countries that are currently in difficulties, or our turning point will, unfortunately, lead us off a cliff edge.

Saying this is regrettable, but I think the warning must be set out in a very clear way.

 
  
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  Jelko Kacin (ALDE). – Mr President, I warmly welcome the Council decision to grant Serbia candidate status. It is a hugely positive step forward and recognition of Serbia’s reform effort. It is also an important step forward for all the neighbours and the region as a whole. This is also a last and dramatic wake-up call to Macedonia, which has been waiting in vain for the opening of accession negotiations for the past seven years.

Despite certain setbacks and delays, Belgrade has acted responsibly and engaged seriously in a dialogue with Priština. Implementation of all agreements reached to date has begun. I hope the authorities will keep up this positive momentum and continue with implementation in good faith, including integrated border management.

The outstanding issue in Serbia today is systemic corruption and the political influence of the judiciary. Serbian leaders need to do more in the fight against corruption, while at the same time ensuring a genuine rule of law in the country. This is needed to make possible the early opening of Chapters 23 and 24 of the accession negotiations. I hope Serbia will remain ambitious in striving for the quick opening of accession negotiations. It is essential that Belgrade keeps its constructive approach towards Kosovo during and after the election campaign. The so-called parallel structures in north Kosovo must begin to be carefully removed so that EULEX and KFOR can fully execute their mandate.

 
  
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  Jill Evans (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, the series of European summits we have seen since May 2010 has taken place against the backdrop of massive protests against cuts in public spending and job losses, and yet the result of this March Council has shown once again that government leaders are focused on spending cuts as the way forward.

We all know the magnitude of this crisis, but I believe that crisis demands radical rethinking; it is a time to seize new opportunities, to learn from past mistakes and make sure that we do not repeat them. The European economy has to be put on a path that will equip it for future challenges, for example, investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that we know will create thousands of sustainable jobs as well as protecting the environment.

We need a long-term plan for financial, social and environmental recovery. But the response that we have now is one in which the costs are borne by the most vulnerable in society, those least responsible for causing such havoc in the economy. It is unacceptable that young people in particular feel more excluded and rejected instead of being encouraged to play a full part in building the kind of Europe that we want to see. We have to show solidarity with all the people of Europe.

I know from my constituency in Wales that we also have an awful lot to do to restore trust and confidence in the EU. To do this, we need a real programme investing in people, jobs and infrastructure to kick-start economic recovery.

 
  
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  Derk Jan Eppink (ECR). – Mr President, people lose confidence in Europe because its leaders are misdiagnosing the euro crisis. In 2010, Mr Barroso said the euro is a protection shield against the crisis, but the euro fuelled the crisis – cheap money generated debt and bubbles. Last year, Mr Van Rompuy said the fundamentals of the euro are sound, yet the euro caused a huge competitiveness gap in its own zone. Last year, he said that stress tests show that European banks were doing well; recently, the ECB injected EUR 1 trillion to prevent their collapse. Last weekend, he said the worst of the crisis is behind us; on the same day, German Minister of Finance Mr Schäuble, said Greece may need a third bail-out. The day before, the President of the ECB, Mr Draghi, predicted that there was more economic contraction to come, and Spain announced it would break the fiscal compact shortly after signing it. Even the Dutch Government, the headmaster of fiscal discipline, is struggling. Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso, are you amazed that ordinary citizens do not believe you any more?

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: GIANNI PITTELLA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, all the conclusions of the European Council represent is the institutionalisation of the same policies that led to the present tragic social situation, which are deepening it by increasing unemployment, by reducing wages, by scaling back the welfare state and by abolishing public services. Behind the technocratic language and words about budgetary consolidation is hidden this single reality: families being condemned to poverty and despair.

Reaffirming the targets of the Europe 2020 strategy, of the Stability and Growth Pact, of economic governance and of the Euro Plus Pact translates to attacks on wages, to an assault on labour and social rights, to the facilitation of redundancies, and to the privatisation of public services; in other words, to the peoples giving up their collective wealth. At the same time as this is being imposed on the workers, the European Central Bank is injecting EUR 500 billion of liquidity into private banks, at 1% interest rates.

The signing of the so-called fiscal compact and the European Stability Mechanism treaty, in breach of the European Union’s own rules, constitutes an unacceptable assault on the sovereignty of the Member States, which are losing the capacity for sovereign decisions on budgetary matters, so paving the way for the establishment of colonial-type relationships in the European Union, in which big capital rules, alongside the major powers, such as Germany.

In case you had not noticed, ladies and gentlemen, the peoples and workers of Europe are fighting this course of action. The Portuguese workers, too, will participate en masse in the next great day of struggle against these austerity measures: the general strike in Portugal on 22 March.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD) . – (LT) Mr President, it seems that the European Council’s decisions on Greece at the beginning of March have been beneficial. At least it appears that way. However, when considering the future, we should remember the words spoken right here by the Italian Prime Minister Professor Monti – that democracy and globalisation can and must live alongside one another. Indeed, if we want to preserve Europe as a Union of sovereign states, we must, in principle, change our attitude to responsibility. Member State governments must follow responsible policies and if such policies actually become every country’s alpha and omega, then there will be no need for any fiscal discipline treaties. We will only be able to save the European Union if Member States follow such a principle and handle their finances responsibly, and pay due attention to promoting the single market, innovations and research.

 
  
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  Philip Claeys (NI). (NL) Mr President, in the conclusions of the European Council of 1-2 March, towards the end, in the section ‘Any other business’, in paragraph 45, to be exact, a grand total of two whole lines were devoted to the fact that Herman Van Rompuy had been reappointed President of the European Council. My sincere congratulations, Mr Van Rompuy, but this may well be an indication that there is something wrong with the democratic legitimacy of the whole way that the European Union functions.

You talked about a turning point and said you had found the banks willing to write off a large proportion of the Greek debt. I fear that you are continuing to give a somewhat rosy picture of the situation, because, fundamentally, nothing has changed. Soon, Greece will again be receiving a new multi-billion euro handout and then, as usual, it will only be a matter of time before it needs more money. This is why we are all going to continue muddling on, with no prospect of anything improving.

It is not only in the interests of the euro area, but also in the interests of the Greeks themselves, that Greece exits the euro area in a supported way. That is the only way in which Greece can be helped out of bankruptcy in the long term, because the country is now trapped in a monetary union for which it is simply not competitive enough. Yet another bailout will not do anything to change that situation.

Instead of carrying on holding the Greek people hostage over this whole sorry story, the European establishment would do better to admit that it was a mistake to allow Greece into the monetary union in the first place and that that mistake must now be rectified.

 
  
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  Jean-Paul Gauzès (PPE).(FR) Mr President, President Van Rompuy, first of all, let me congratulate you on your reappointment, Mr Van Rompuy. I am among those who, since you were first appointed, have been trying to explain to citizens that your task is a difficult one. I hope that you will continue to execute it with just as much persistence. I know that it is difficult.

Mr Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to talk about citizens. I am sorry to have to say today that Europe is losing its credibility. I will not get involved in the national electoral battle: this is neither the time nor the place for that. One may, however, ask why such statements may be publicly accepted. Due to the fact that they are not rejected by public opinion, they are adopted by a very large majority simply because our fellow citizens no longer have any faith in Europe. It may be possible to exercise faith in certain areas. However, I believe that for Europe, what we need is reality.

Today, I admire all those who, every month, or every week, make their speeches once again to say the same thing, and I pity those who write them, because what our citizens are looking for is action, and not words. We should spend less time speaking and more time taking action.

Today, there are various causes behind the weakening of Europe. The first is, clearly, the way that the crisis has led to nations turning in on themselves. Each country is seeing things only from its point of view, looking at what is going on nationally without taking into account the European dimension, which is the only one that might save us. The second cause is the weakening of the Commission. The Commission appears silent. I am not saying that the Commission is not doing anything: it is working, but no one notices what it is actually doing because there is no clear plan. What is missing is a small package of specific actions that would allow citizens to compare what has been announced with what has been done.

Let us take the case of Greece. It is very clear that Greece’s situation is tragic. Why are we giving the impression that it has now been resolved? It has not. One problem has been resolved to allow the plan to work, but in another year or two, problems will arise once again, because strong measures need to be taken. In addition, in the ‘two-pack’ that has been mentioned, I am proposing a safeguard measure for countries in difficulty. However, I was told by the Commission that it was an attack on the market. In fact, when you talk to the markets, what they want is to know where we are going and how we are getting there. They want to stick with the measures that have been taken, and not to change them every fortnight.

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

 
  
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  Liem Hoang Ngoc (S&D), Blue-card question. (FR) Mr President, Mr Gauzès, you speak of the sovereignty of the people, but you have also spoken of the ‘two-pack’ for which you are the rapporteur. You want to transpose – and I am talking to you about a European text – you want to transpose a treaty into secondary European legislation. You want to transpose the treaty of austerity together with its symbol, the leaden rule. It is a leaden rule that will plunge Europe into recession, as my fellow Member, Mr Canfin, said. You want to transpose this leaden rule into secondary legislation even before the peoples of Europe have been able to take a decision and ratify the treaty. Mr Gauzès, my question is a simple one: you speak of the sovereignty of the people, so are you going to withdraw your Amendment 9 from this ‘two-pack’, which shows true contempt for democracy?

 
  
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  Jean-Paul Gauzès (PPE), Blue-card answer. (FR) Mr President, first of all, I would like to say here that I think what is in the treaty could very well appear in European law, and on this point I believe I am in agreement with the Commission. This was said just now by President Barroso, when he stated that the Commission is making proposals to include a number of parties. Therefore, I do not intend to withdraw anything at all. I believe that we need rigour. Only a fool builds his house on the sand. If we now want to get the situation back on track, we must simultaneously balance rigour and growth. Growth, however, is not to be sought in newspaper articles or theories. Growth must be found in innovation, in entrepreneurship, in the mobilisation of entrepreneurs and in confidence. That is what we should work on together.

 
  
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  Enrique Guerrero Salom (S&D).(ES) Mr President, congratulations. The conclusions of the meeting of the European Council take up 12 pages, something more than 300 lines, but not a single line on the possibly irreparable damage that is being done to the European political project.

Europe is a project of competitive economy, citizenship and social model. The competitive economy cannot move forward without policies for growth. Citizenship takes a step back with proposals such as those put forward by Mr Sarkozy in relation to Schengen and the social model suffers when the trade unions are attacked, when social dialogue is weakened, and that is happening in many countries, including Spain.

The people who are destroying the European political project today are the leaders who park their Europeanism when they are facing difficult elections; elections that are difficult for them, not for their countries.

The people who are attacking the European model today are those who confront Europe with their fearful, national public opinions. That is not leadership; it is opportunism, populism, and I think it is time that the debate on these matters also finds its place in the European Council.

 
  
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  Olle Schmidt (ALDE).(SV) Mr President, keeping the EU together despite the tensions that exist between regions and countries is now the most important task for the leaders of the Union. President Sarkozy ought to stop and think and not incite nationalist sentiments. History ought to have taught him that lesson.

In the European Parliament’s annual tax report, for which I was responsible, we state that extensive and sustainable budgetary consolidation is necessary, but we must also focus on growth. It is a question of how, at national and EU level, we can create more growth in Europe and therefore a higher level of employment. What is particularly important is that we consider how we can improve the internal market and create a more competitive Europe.

Combating youth unemployment, promoting growth and conditions for small enterprises and removing tax obstacles are crucial. We risk leaving a whole generation in Europe without the hope of a better future.

Let me end by saying that when listening to Mr Farage, Mr Eppink, Mr Gollnisch and the others, I think that sometimes they ought to remember what European history is all about. I think that we in this Chamber ought to remember this. Previously in history, Mr Gollnisch, we solved the problem on the battlefield. We do not do that now. I listen to you, you listen to me, and I think that is the way we should all prefer the history of Europe. Mr Gollnisch, I think you are damaging the European idea of working together, and it is not our fault; I think you should also consider your own responsibility.

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Mr President, at a future time of financial stability, it will be appropriate that all measures as defined in the original Stability and Growth Pact are adhered to by all governments. However, when Parliament discussed the economic governance package of legislation, this House also acknowledged that sanctions and fines only work once countries have returned to a path of stability, already in conformity with the Stability and Growth Pact, and, above all, have returned to economic growth.

It is therefore disingenuous of the Commission to overrule the new government of Spain when it comes to the implementation of the agreed structural reforms and their corresponding deficit reduction. If the Spanish Government’s statement about the 2011 deviation of two and a half percent of the public deficit, together with drastically changed economic growth forecasts, will make the previously set target unachievable, then why will the Commission not revisit the targets? At a time of crisis, targets should be fluid and amended as appropriate, given changing economics.

We need to give Member States that are truly committed to the reform programme the time and leeway to meet the longer-term competitiveness goals in the best way for them. Each Member State will need to take specific measures to return to economic health and should not be sacrificed – in the words of the Euro Group President, Mr Juncker – to maintaining the credibility of new EU rules.

 
  
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  Jürgen Klute (GUE/NGL).(DE) Mr President, Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, what will the citizens of Europe think of the way in which we are handling the crisis after the last summit? They will realise that the banks are receiving around EUR 1 trillion from the European Central Bank (ECB) without any conditions being imposed on them. No strings are attached to this money and the banks can use it for whatever purpose they want.

In contrast, the countries that are in crisis are being gagged and forced to introduce disastrous austerity measures. The citizens of the crisis countries are having to put up with cuts in their pay, pensions and social security benefits.

However, unlike Germany, the economies of these crisis countries are not dependent on exports, but on their own internal markets. It is precisely these markets which are being destroyed by the austerity policies that have been imposed. This is not the right way to get out of the crisis, Mr Barroso, Mr Van Rompuy. In political terms, the EU is being driven into a brick wall.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Salavrakos (EFD).(EL) Mr President, I fear that we talk about growth in theory, but, in fact, all we are interested in is fiscal prudence. However, fiscal prudence alone causes more problems than it solves. We must not forget that taxes kill taxes.

Apparently, tax evasion at European level is spiralling out of control. The insurance problem is the next time bomb in the foundations of the system. Unemployment is snowballing. Unemployment in Greece topped 21% in December. One in two young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed. Small and medium-sized enterprises, which form the backbone of society, are closing down one after another. These problems are emerging in almost every Member State of the European Union. The social fabric of Europe is at risk.

Mr Van Rompuy, my congratulations on your reappointment, but I should like to remind both you and Mr Barroso that you should not rest on your laurels, because sometimes congratulations are more painful than condolences. It is time to move onwards and upwards.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, significant progress was made in the last Council meeting towards putting Europe on track for more growth and sustainable development. An example of this is the ‘two-pack’. However, one thing is clear. The Europe 2020 strategy calls for us to move forward as quickly as possible. The internal market must be completed and we need to promote innovation and research in order to create jobs. However, I am extremely concerned about youth unemployment. We must do everything we can to reduce the current figures and give young people a fair chance. I believe that increased investment in education and training represents the best way of ensuring that young people have the right opportunities. Let us give our young people this chance, because it is their right.

 
  
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  Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (PPE). – Mr President, I think time flies quicker than the Councils are able to meet. On the economic crisis, nearly everything has been said but actions – as we witness here – are not considered to be sufficient. We obviously need both consolidation and growth, but we should practise growth and not preach. You can decree austerity and sanctions but you cannot decree growth.

This debate reminds me of the Realsozialismus debates and decreeing growth in the so-called Socialist countries. First, we have to mutualise debt and then to create growth bonds – not stability, not project, but growth bonds – using the EIB EIF facility. But we tend to forget the context of the crisis which is, first, collective fatigue, the fading away of political will and a rise in national egoism. Secondly, nationalistic sentiments, such as the Wilders Internet site, appear, along with the risk of spreading this nationalism all over Europe in this time of crisis, violating the fundamental values and freedom of movement in the European Union. Third comes the collateral damage this crisis is doing to foreign policy, which is getting weaker and weaker, and to the risk of Schengen being dismantled. The fourth risk, in this context, is double standards being applied. Greece: an admirable saving operation to be applauded, not only for economic reasons but on the grounds of solidarity, and also for geopolitical reasons, because Greece is the eastern flank of the Union – but the worst economic performer in the Union today.

At the same time, we have a different standard being applied to Hungary, which, having being left by the Socialist government of Gyurcsány with an economy in a catastrophic state, has made courageous efforts to reduce debt and has been blindly punished by President Barroso’s Commission. Today, Spain is getting concessions to lower its deficit target: 0.25 for Hungary is punished while a +1.4 deficit target for Spain is rewarded. What signal does this send to the sinners and the reformers? Is it the difference between being in the euro area and outside? This is not a coherent policy.

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès (S&D).(FR) Mr President, Mr Vice-President, may I ask you to deliver a message to our President, to thank him and congratulate him on his action at the European Council? I believe that he had a significant impact on the debates by posing the question that is key for European identity: both that of the European social model and that of the democratic legitimacy of the processes embarked upon. This European Council has seen the signing of a treaty when even a government that is one of the most fervent advocates of a ‘Merkozy’ strategy now finds itself in difficulty. In my view, neither Spain nor the Netherlands could reasonably apply this treaty.

I have understood, though, that in parallel, suddenly, our leaders have apparently discovered that they must also talk of growth, but not in the same way, not with the same golden rules, but with soft rules. I must say to you that there will be no more growth if you only apply the rule of the internal market, which is just a rule of negative integration, whereas your conclusions turn their back on the balance that had been enshrined in the Europe 2020 strategy. You are unravelling this strategy and rewriting it after less than two years. The destruction of the European social model will not bring about more growth. There will not be more growth while those who claim they want to protect it are undermining the foundations of European identity. There will be more growth if you think, first and foremost, about jobs, joint industrial strategies, a European energy community and specific combating of tax evasion, instead of waiting countless months before negotiating and denouncing the unilateral strategies of some Member States. There will be no growth without consistent commitments by the Member States when we negotiate the financial framework and the introduction of an own resource on the basis of Eurobonds and a tax on financial transactions.

 
  
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  José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission.(FR) Mr President, I will respond specifically to the questions that have been raised. First of all, there was a question on the letter from the 12 governments. I said at the European Council meeting that I could endorse practically every word of that letter. They were all elements that were very important for growth, particularly the development of the internal market and structural reforms. However, I also pointed out to the Member States two aspects which seemed important to me. First of all, there is no reference in the letter to the social dimension or the need to combat poverty. I believe that we need to combine a number of structural reform measures with measures that are proactive in social terms. Secondly, I made clear to the European Council how shocked I was that there is not a single reference to the Europe 2020 strategy. That means that a strategy which was adopted unanimously by the European Council has not even been mentioned by the Heads of State or Government.

(Applause)

I am appealing to Parliament on this, because we now have a strategy and we must apply it, determinedly, to all these areas. That is what I was referring to when I talked of ownership of the strategy at all levels. However, in the reply I sent to the 12 Heads of State or Government, I also enclosed an annex outlining everything that is already being done by the European institutions; that is to say, not only by the European Council, but also by the Commission and the Council. It is clear from this document that some of the issues are being blocked by the very same governments that signed the letter.

One example is the European patent. We have been discussing the possibility of having a European patent for 30 years. Nonetheless, we now have governments which are calling for more to be done for growth, but are still blocking the European patent.

(Applause)

That is why we need to be in agreement. Let us look at what people talk about when they speak of Europe. When it is said that Europe has some problems at the moment, which is true, we must look at which parties are doing their best to move European projects forward and which are sometimes blocking decisions at European level. I believe that this is a vital precondition for a debate that is not only politically but also intellectually honest.

The issue of Greece is one that demands such honesty. Greece is not in this situation because of the euro, because in truth, there are other countries outside the euro area which have also had need of assistance programmes. There are other countries even outside the European Union – the first that comes to mind is Iceland – which have had problems closely approaching a general crisis for the Member States.

The problem that we are experiencing today is chiefly due to two things: firstly, the unsustainable nature of many of our countries’ public debts and, secondly, and not necessarily in that order, irresponsible financial conduct in many spheres, particularly outside Europe.

We now have a response, therefore, which is undoubtedly more difficult in terms of structure because of the euro, since we are a monetary union which has not yet fully established all the instruments of economic union and we are in the midst of giving an urgent response to the challenge. It is, however, intellectually and politically mistaken to say that the current crisis is a result of the euro. Quite the reverse: the euro may be the solution to the current crisis.

(Applause)

That is why, to be honest, I cannot accept the words of some people who say here that they truly share Greece’s suffering, and that they regret all the difficulties that it is going through. Their government has not, however, spent a single euro, or a single pound to help Greece.

(Applause)

That is not the kind of solidarity we need. Look at what they are proposing as a solution for Greece: default. Default is apparently the solution. I would really like someone to explain to me why the default of a European Union Member State could be the solution. What kind of confidence could there be in that country in terms of investment? How could deadlock throughout that country, the paralysis of its public services, the inability to pay public officials and the closure of hospitals and schools be a solution for the country? Come on, we have to be serious here. Suggesting default as a solution for Greece is truly an instance of political and intellectual dishonesty such as I have rarely seen before.

(Applause)

There are also some people who say that this programme for Greece is not going to work, that it is an invention of the Troika. Well, let us be clear on this subject as well. The programme for Greece is the programme that was unanimously adopted by the Member States of the euro area. The so-called Troika, namely, the Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, has acted within the framework of the mandate it received, in line with the aid that was available. That is the question.

So now, all those who wish to help Greece – which approved the programme, not just through its government, but also through its parliament, with the two main parties – instead of starting to say that it will never work, I really think they would do better to help us to help Greece. Granted, it is extremely difficult; granted, there are enormous costs; granted, we will have to see how we can help Greece to bear certain social costs which, in the short term, are immense. The truth is, though, that there is no other real solution than to promote structural reform so that Greece can regain the competitiveness it really needs.

Another question was on equity and standards, and was raised just now by my friend, Mr Saryusz-Wolski. Here, the response must be absolutely clear. The Commission will do all it can to apply all the treaties in an absolutely equitable way, without any discrimination. The example you mentioned of Hungary and Spain, frankly, does not make sense, because there is a vital difference: Hungary was due to achieve its aim of reducing the deficit in 2011; Spain must do so by 2013. We have proposed certain measures to Hungary, but they are not the only ones. There were five countries to which we made proposals: Poland, Cyprus, Malta, Belgium and Hungary. All but Hungary accepted them. It was not a case of special treatment for Hungary; it was Hungary that did not wish to adopt the proposals made by the Commission, in contrast to Poland, Cyprus, Malta and Belgium, namely, both countries which are in the euro area and countries which are not.

I tell you this quite openly because it would be a mistake now to create artificial divides between the countries in the euro area and those outside it. The Commission has always supported the integrity of the European Union and we are not going to have two different standards depending on the position of each of our countries.

Finally, as well as very interesting and very useful aspects to the debate, I have nonetheless noted several points on which there was consensus, at least among the largest political groupings. Firstly, we need to do more to combat youth unemployment, using the action teams that we have created. We must combat tax evasion. I would like to remind the Members of this Parliament that the Commission has not just made statements, but it has already made some proposals. Our initiative is called the ‘Savings Directive’, and we have also put forward a mandate for negotiation with third countries. The proposal has been before the Council for many months, but is blocked by two Member States. As you know, unanimity is required. Therefore, if you want to criticise someone, do not criticise the Commission; instead, help us to remove the obstacles posed by two of our Member States.

With regard to Greece, I can tell you that it was one of the subjects of my conversation with Prime Minister Papademos and six other members of my Commission. I called upon them to ensure – even before a comprehensive agreement by the European Union with Switzerland, and with other countries – that Greece enters into a bilateral agreement with Switzerland, which complies, of course, with EU law. Not only did I mention this to the Greek prime minister, but I had already mentioned it to the previous President of the Swiss Confederation, on the last occasion.

Another aspect of the consensus I have seen here relates to the need to bring the single internal market to completion. I have already announced that some time in the autumn, the Commission will put forward the Single Market Act, and you can count on us to do that. There is also agreement on the need to match our action with investment. That is why we have tabled this before the European Council. It was favourably received, but now we must actually find the legislative text, the project bonds, to make some investment by anticipating now what we hope to have in due course in the financial framework, and because we are in agreement on this point.

The question is whether we have the resources for this investment. The truth is that in most of our Member States, we do not have any budgetary margin for much public investment. That is why we need – and I think that on this point the major political groupings are in agreement – to work together to obtain certain resources for a European investment, either through performance bonds, or project bonds, or the future financial framework.

I hope that Parliament will work with the Commission to ensure that our results match our ambitions. It will be necessary, too, to use all the growth levers, such as innovation and research, and also our European instruments, but that will demand a lot of work and a lot of determination. I truly believe that in order to achieve growth in Europe, we do not need more announcements of growth. What we need is not more announcements but commitment in implementation and execution and determination. This is how we will be able to fulfil the commitments and promises that we have made, and by ‘we’ I mean all the institutions and also each of our Member States.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MARTIN SCHULZ
President

 
  
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  Herman Van Rompuy, European Council.(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I wish first to thank all those who have congratulated me on my re-election. I saw that enthusiasm varied across the House, but, as I always say: ‘no one is obliged to be enthusiastic’.

There have been many criticisms of the overall approach, but our general strategy, which we have adopted both at EU and Member State level, is a strategy that has been supported by all the Member States, by all the Prime Ministers and Heads of State since the start of the crisis, two and a half years ago. That includes those who have since left the Council, because of those who elected me two and a half years ago, only 12 remain.

The current composition of the European Council supports this strategy. At the last Council meeting too, all 27 countries signed the treaty on what is called the fiscal compact. One may criticise the overall approach, but I would simply say that, over the last two and a half years, this strategy has been the European Council’s unanimous strategy. Of course, everyone is aware that this is a difficult and unpopular road and that it will only produce results in the medium term or even, in some cases, in the long term. That is, however, the road that we have chosen and we will keep to it.

During my introductory speech, I said, extremely prudently:

Our strategy is going to work. We have reached a turning point’.

(FR) Normally, I am very prudent. In this case too, I have also been very prudent. I was translated as having said that it was the end of the crisis, etc. That was not the case at all. Fear not, I said that it was the turning point in a very serious crisis. In the press, which is totally opposed to the European project and the euro project, there is no more talk of the end of the euro area. The fact that there is no more talk of this nature is quite significant. Of course, not all the problems have been resolved. When I see that the interbank market is recovering after months of inertia, that there is a significant drop in interest rates in several countries that had been under pressure, we can say, in fact, that we have reached the bottom of the trough. However, there is still a long way to go.

The most guaranteed way to have positive economic growth like that of 2010 and 2011, and which we do not have in 2012, is, of course, to re-establish confidence in the future of the euro area. This is the top precondition for growth. What is missing in several countries now is this confidence on the part of consumers and investors in the future of the euro area. With the signs that growth in the euro is returning, consumers and investors may follow.

We are told that structural reform is needed. I was under the impression that this was a reference to structural reform in the Member States. In fact, it is a reference to firewalls and other initiatives in the financial sphere. However, what is being forgotten is that outside the firewalls, on which, I believe, decisions will be taken in the coming weeks, what really lasts – and, of course, there has been too little discussion of this – is structural reforms in the employment market and the goods market. What we need is to restore competitiveness simultaneously to the Member States and the EU in general. Otherwise, this crisis will return at some stage.

What has truly astonished me here is that the term ‘European Semester’ has not been said once. Some have made a very slight allusion to it. The European Council’s aim was, in fact, to evaluate the European Semester, to see what progress we have made on it, in budgetary, macro-economic and employment terms. The Member States are being asked to introduce their reform plans and stability plans during the next few weeks. In May, recommendations will be given, through the Commission. At the Council meeting in June, the matter will be discussed again. If the European Semester is not taken seriously, the crisis will happen again at some stage. I am disappointed to have heard no mention, or very little, of this essential project, which was approved by the European Parliament and adopted very enthusiastically at the time. The major challenge during a period of inevitable fiscal consolidation, in almost all the countries, is to maintain long-term policies. The President of the Commission rightly pointed to the Europe 2020 strategy, and the whole art of fiscal consolidation is to establish priorities, to consolidate and, in general, to reduce deficits and debt levels while protecting the future, while preserving a certain type of spending within research and development, education, youth training, and investment, particularly on climate change. Establishing the priorities within fiscal consolidation work: that is the great challenge.

Of course, in addition to that, there is equity. That is why the banks have been asked for a huge contribution. They are losing 70% of the current value of the Greek debt in contributions to the Greek recovery. I agree with all those who have argued for even stronger measures against fraud and tax evasion. The Commission has just set out the measures it has taken. Of course, there is the unanimity rule with regard to taxation, but many things can be achieved at national level. We do not always need a European framework. The problem in Greece is that of collecting taxes. That is the greatest injustice and the very source of its huge public deficit. In the midst of the fiscal consolidation policy, solidarity must, of course, be maintained. That is why, at European Union level, we have granted aid to Greece which is equivalent to 100% of Greek GDP. If even more solid proof is required of the European Union’s solidarity towards countries in difficulty, the figure speaks volumes.

We must, in the midst of the fiscal consolidation policy, keep our sights on climate objectives. Two are on track. We need to work more on another, relating to energy efficiency. We are calling once again on the Member States, in addition to fiscal consolidation, to implement a specific employment policy. That is why we are looking forward to their plans for employment, due in April. We will evaluate them and that will be included within the recommendations we make in relation to the Member States in June.

We need a special policy for Greece, and we are working on it. The Greek Prime Minister is fully committed to this path. Going further with the single market does not cost anything in budget terms. Another issue is the letter from the 12 governments. I do not agree with those who have said that the letter has not been taken into account. Quite the reverse: in fact, after a careful reading of the final draft conclusion, dealing with issues including the single market, which I submitted to the European Council, there was scarcely any debate. This was because the elements in the letter which enjoyed a consensus had already been taken into account to a great extent.

Do we need to go further still with a recovery policy? I have heard words to that effect. However, the days when we used to create a recovery policy through public expenditure, as in the past, are now over. A much more subtle and sophisticated approach is needed.

We cannot avoid a budgetary consolidation policy, but within this policy we must, as I have said, keep our sights set on some expenditure that generates growth and jobs.

(NL) A final word about Syria and Bosnia. As far as Syria is concerned, we can go much further, under one condition: that we get a mandate from the Security Council of the United Nations. It is not Europe, not European countries, that are standing in the way, but two countries that have also been specifically named in the decisions of the European Council that are preventing us from taking much more decisive action in relation to Syria. It is not our call.

And if we want to go further on the humanitarian front, as well, and if we want to protect people who are providing on-the-spot humanitarian aid, we need to get a mandate from the United Nations. We had that mandate for Libya and we made full use of it – albeit in different circumstances and for different purposes – but we have no mandate for Syria.

As for Bosnia, I have had a very interesting meeting with the new Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina who showed that the new BiH Government has a new, fundamentally European, orientation. The European institutions, the European Union, are prepared to respond to that as soon as possible, in such a way that this country, too, will be able to maintain its European prospects. This is the first evidence of a genuine European will in that country, which played such a tragic role in a civil war on the very borders of the European Union.

(FR) Those were a few comments I had following the debate. I would like to thank all those who spoke.

 
  
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  President. – Thank you very much, Mr Van Rompuy. You said that the enthusiasm about your re-election was expressed in different forms on the various sides of the House. I believe that it is quite normal for the level of enthusiasm in a parliament made up of different political complexions to be limited. However, I can assure you of one thing. The entire European Parliament congratulates you on your re-election. You should also be aware that we understand how difficult your job is.

I would also like to say at this point that your personal attitude and your absolute integrity have impressed the whole of this House. Congratulations!

 
  
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  Carl Haglund (ALDE). – Mr President, let me just briefly say that I am glad that the Council again underlined the fact that sustainable growth and jobs cannot be built on deficit and excessive debt levels. That was a good statement; something that we have been working on through the ‘six-pack’ and I was also glad to hear that Mr van Rompuy referred to the ‘six-pack’ because it has actually worked. Four countries have actually taken some very important corrective action thanks to the ‘six-pack’, though it is unfortunate that Hungary has not been able to do so.

Considering the ‘two-pack’ negotiations which are ongoing, I guess it would be really good if the Council would this time endorse the fact that we need more automaticity in order to have a credible ‘two-pack’ result. In the ‘six-pack’ negotiations, the Council was against this approach; we were persistent and the outcome was very good.

Mr Verhofstadt has already spoken about the Redemption Fund. I only want to say that I am sure that if we do not do this, we are going to keep beefing up the so-called rescue mechanisms to the bitter end, due to market pressure.

Concerning the 2020 strategy, I tend to share the slightly cynical approach taken by Mr Barroso earlier. We have to remember that despite all these good promises and decisions – for instance in the latest Council meeting – the same Council wanted to cut EUR 560 million from research and innovation in the budget of 2012. Luckily, the Parliament was able to stop this, but this just proves again that the Council does not live up to its own goals and decisions and you have much work to do in the Council.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ALEXANDER ALVARO
Vice-President

 
  
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  Pablo Zalba Bidegain (PPE). (ES) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this is my third speech in the House so far this year on this issue and I am sorry to stick to the same refrain but, as my fellow countryman, Miguel de Unamuno, used to say: ‘to strike the nail once, you must strike the horseshoe a hundred times’. Furthermore, I want to repeat the call to actively implement the measures that have been agreed in the last few Councils.

As the President of the Commission has said, we need to finish the job. We need growth, ladies and gentlemen. With austerity, we will manage to create stability and confidence, but we also have to emerge from the crisis and create work and well-being once more.

We need to commit to urgent implementation of the measures that were agreed upon in the last few Councils to incentivise growth. These measures must be accompanied by reforms. Spain is clearly committed to this spirit of reform. In less than 100 days, we have passed three key reforms: budgetary stability, financial reform and labour reform and this spirit of reform does not end here.

As Mariano Rajoy says, the Spanish Government not only announces reforms, it carries them out, which is a different thing altogether. Let us follow its example. Let us not announce plans for growth, let us implement them. Furthermore, we need a degree of adaptability to circumstances given that we live in a world of constant change and evolution.

As the President of the government of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, said recently before the House and as the Economy Minister, Luis de Guindos confirmed today, Spain is fulfilling its duties and will continue to do so. Spain is more committed than ever to Europe. It has demonstrated this right from the start, putting its cards on the table and standing by its desire to comply with what has been agreed.

 
  
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  Udo Bullmann (S&D).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this is the reality of economic development. The Italian economy began to grow at the beginning of the year and in Spain, the signs of growth are even clearer. The situation in Portugal is no better. There are even problems in the Netherlands and industrial order books are shrinking in Germany.

Mr Barroso said before he left that we had had a useful discussion this morning. I am currently trying to work out what he meant by that. Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy said ‘growth and employment’ around 10 to 15 times this morning, it is true. Has that changed anything or will it change anything? No!

Repeating empty phrases will not result in any changes taking place. Therefore, I would like to know what is new about the way in which the European Council, the Member States and the Commission are dealing with the problem. Mr Barroso gave us one hint when he said that structural reforms must also involve social cohesion. It would be good if you could explain what you mean by that, because we have been arguing about it for quite some time. What do you mean by this? Do you agree with the idea proposed by Mr Swoboda and the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament that all young people must have prospects for the future, but it is just a question of how we ensure this is the case? Do you want minimum wages in all European Member States which adapt dynamically to productivity and growth? Is that what you want?

Then you say that growth is essential. Until now, your services have always denied that this had anything to do with investment, because you said that this only concerned structural reforms. This is why the memorandum of understanding in each individual case relating to this issue is so modest. Where is the investment channel that we argued about during the discussions on the ‘six-pack’? If you have nothing to say about investments, then you also have nothing to say about growth. The time for empty phrases has passed. We are waiting for an answer.

(Applause)

 
  
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  György Schöpflin (PPE). – Mr President, the decision of the European Council to endorse Serbia’s candidacy has a two-fold significance. With respect to Serbia, it marks the definitive end to the aftermath of the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession, and the lingering assumption widely held at the time that the Serbs were somehow the hereditary villains of the Balkans. With the acceptance of Serbia’s candidacy, that particular canard has been laid to rest. Serbia can now be regarded as having returned to the European family and this has its long-term significance. After all, stability in south-eastern Europe is inconceivable without Serbia – and stability here has to extend to all policy areas, notably crime.

Without Serbia’s full commitment in the fight against organised crime, the Balkans would continue to constitute an easy prey for transnational mafias. But the step has a second, possibly greater significance. It makes it clear that EU enlargement, though moving forward only slowly, has not stalled. This obviously has implications for the rest of south-eastern Europe.

What is equally noteworthy is that, despite the economic crisis, the EU continues its commitment to enhancing the stability of its neighbourhood, relying on soft power to achieve this. The encouragement of the countries of the Eastern Partnership and the planned elaboration of a road map are evidently steps in the direction of ensuring that objective.

All these strategies and policy objectives, however, depend on overcoming the long drawn-out economic crisis, the central concern of the summit. Here, the decisions point in the right direction and it is absolutely crucial that fiscal discipline goes hand in hand with the recognition of the importance of economic growth. In the absence of this, the EU will find itself much less attractive and with much reduced soft power.

 
  
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  Ivailo Kalfin (S&D). – Mr President, President Barroso has just said that there is no growth without stability and confidence, but that is a truism. He should also know that there is no stability and confidence without growth and a dynamic economy.

The problem which we can now identify in the actions of the Commission and the Council is that the measures taken for tackling the economic problems are of a different order. They are biased. On one side, we have fiscal measures that are entering into the legislation and that bring severe penalties as a consequence. On the other side – on the side of growth – we have words and nice declarations without budgetary support. The result is very clear. I had the chance to see it with my two socialist colleagues, Robert Goebbels and Elisa Ferreira in Greece: a freefall of the Greek economy and the inability to service the debt. These are the consequences of the European policy that Mr Barroso asks us to support. What is the solution? The solution is a structural change, a partial mutualisation of debt among powerful European budgets, based on own resources and project bonds.

 
  
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  Theodor Dumitru Stolojan (PPE) . – (RO) Mr President, I would like to say in this House how pleased I am with the contribution that the European Council and European Commission have made to the calmer situation that prevails today concerning the issue of Member States with excessive debts. However, I must also state how disappointed I am because, even after this European Council meeting, Romania and Bulgaria are still outside the Schengen area, even though they have fulfilled all the conditions required by this agreement to be admitted into the Schengen area.

It is no coincidence that there is one Member State which opposes the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen area. I use the phrase ‘no coincidence’ because in this Member State, the Netherlands, a small party which is in government has come up with the initiative to launch a website which is insulting to European values and insulting to the free movement of persons in the European Union. Unfortunately, the response from the European Commission and the European Council has been very ineffectual so far. I do not believe that we can tolerate such initiatives in any Member State, targeted against European values, and I hope that this afternoon, the European Parliament will adopt a firm stance by condemning such initiatives.

 
  
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  Anni Podimata (S&D).(EL) Mr President, firstly, allow me to say that I consider it encouraging that we now all acknowledge that focusing solely on fiscal restructuring measures will not get Greece out of the crisis or Europe out of stagnation. It is encouraging, but it is not enough.

We need binding decisions and projects, because words and wishes do not suffice. If we want to be specific and convincing towards the citizens of Europe, then we can and must link specific development measures, such as a financial transaction tax and Eurobonds, with the new fiscal compact.

Allow me, however, to address the various ‘Pythias’ inside and outside this Chamber talking about Greece leaving the euro for the sake of democracy and the prosperity of the Greek people. Clearly, everyone may have their own opinion, but democracy in this Parliament is non-negotiable.

For heaven’s sake, do not cite the interest of the Greek people. The overwhelming majority of 70% of the Greek people are in favour of Greece remaining in the euro and will not allow anyone to exploit the difficulties they are experiencing in order to support interests in favour of breaking up the euro area, as some people are systematically trying to do.

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE).(PT) Mr President, I should like to ask for your attention, basically so as to welcome the results of the Council. This is not because the measures are ideal, but because they are possible. There is no doubt that we have now gone much further and we can be more optimistic than we were three months ago or six months ago. Many Member States have been making enormous efforts to stabilise and consolidate their public finances, and these efforts have only been made in some of them at the European Union’s behest. These efforts are crucial if they are to be able to recover their credibility on the international markets and crucial if they are, in time, to be able to return to growth.

With these guarantees that the Member States – in particular, Portugal – have been giving on fiscal consolidation, or budgetary consolidation, I am convinced that, with the new treaty signed between the 25, we will be in a position to relaunch growth in earnest with the European Council’s next steps. It is only with this trust that is being built up, little by little, that this growth can be created.

That is why I would say this: it is important for those who are richer to feel solidarity for those who are poorer, but the poor must also understand the other point of view, by giving these guarantees.

 
  
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  Libor Rouček (S&D). - (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as you know, the Czech Republic, under the leadership of a eurosceptic conservative government and a europhobic President, did not sign the fiscal compact. As a Czech, I have to say that this is an error. The Czech Republic is located at the heart of Europe, not only geographically but also politically, and it is therefore in its vital, security, political and economic interests to take an active and full part in European integration, including, of course, monetary and fiscal integration. This is an opinion, it is the position of Czech social democrats, and it is also the opinion of the majority of Czech society, which, as you know, came out clearly in favour of European integration in a referendum. The fiscal compact is no panacea, of course. As my fellow Members have said, we want to see more jobs, more investment and more social policy here, but fiscal responsibility is the foundation.

 
  
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  Marietta Giannakou (PPE).(EL) Mr President, the Council decisions illustrate that progress has been made and that we are already part of the way there. Of course there are often disagreements. We all want less tension, but there are no easy, magic formulae. Decisions need to be taken both at European level and within the Member States.

Structural changes will help, especially in countries such as mine. It is the only way to address its current crisis and generate hope for growth. The fiscal compact, the European Semester and decisions on increasing employment can, and must, guide us forward.

Europe has an historic awareness of the interests of its citizens and will not allow the economic crisis to overpower it in the long term. The ideological content of our common struggle and the efforts to generate growth may give hope to the young people of Europe. What is important is that sacrifices must bear fruit.

I would like to point out that the Greek people are willing to make such huge sacrifices because they are not prepared to jeopardise their membership of the European Union and the euro area, whatever various ‘Cassandras’ may claim.

 
  
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  Ana Gomes (S&D).(PT) Mr President, the fiscal compact signed a few days ago illustrates that growth and jobs continue to be glaringly ignored by Europe’s leaders. If small and medium-sized enterprises are key for growth and employment, and youth employment in particular, as President Barroso has stressed, is it not scandalous that – particularly in countries suffering bailout and recessive austerity, like mine – they are being choked by a lack of credit from banks that are going to the European Central Bank for liquidity at 1% but which, immorally, continue to refuse them finance or to grant it only in exchange for exorbitant interest rates?

How too, despite President Barroso having acknowledged here that more than EUR 1 trillion in investment is lost to the European economy from tax evasion, can the passiveness of our governments and the Commission in response to it be explained?

The fiscal compact does not include a single line on tax harmonisation, on controlling off-shore accounts, on combating fiscal dumping between the Member States or even on the financial transaction tax, which, as well as representing additional resources for investment, would be a start on controlling financial transactions in the European Union. Are we surprised that young Europeans are being obliged to leave the European Union? In Portugal, where the unemployment rate exceeds 35%, the government is accepting collective incapability and incompetence, and is encouraging them to emigrate. Are they not dying of shame?

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Corien Wortmann-Kool (PPE). (NL) Mr President, it seems we have reached a turning point. The markets are calming down and confidence in the euro area appears to be being restored, as President Van Rompuy rightly said here. We are, thereby, fulfilling an important prerequisite for returning to the road of national economic growth and, also, for creating anew an investment climate that inspires confidence. Let us face it, companies are keeping a lot of their money in the bank. Private investors are currently afraid to invest but, as confidence is restored, that money will then be able to be invested to boost further economic growth. However, everything will depend on the question of whether or not we actually deliver cash on the nail.

President Van Rompuy spoke about our needing a growth strategy. However, we already have a Europe 2020 strategy. We must also start implementing it. And that will only work if we first search our own hearts. It does not help things much when the Commission points the finger at the Council, the Council at Parliament, and Parliament at the Member States. One excellent example of this which I have found is the excellent letter from the twelve Heads of Government, which points the finger at the European Commission and waxes lyrical about what the European Commission ought to start doing.

However, if those Heads of Government themselves put some effort into preventing tax evasion for once, then it would be possible for the Europe 2020 strategy to be implemented with its own budget. That would mean sparing education from cuts, for example, while still promoting efficiency in the public sector. If we do what we have promised, then we will be able to extricate ourselves from the crisis.

 
  
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  Sergio Gaetano Cofferati (S&D).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the words of the President of the Commission and of the President of the Council this morning are even more worrying than the conclusions of the Commission. Only one issue is being pushed, a single objective, which is financial stability and the actions necessary to guarantee it.

I am certainly not going to undervalue the importance of this directive. However, it is now completely obvious that without growth, the conditions of millions of people in Europe are set to get worse. Furthermore, the undervaluation of the social effects of the recession in all of our economies is, as I was saying, really surprising and worrying. Without investments and without this trend being reversed, we risk huge social problems over the coming months. Therefore, the Eurobonds and the tax on financial transactions are not just any old instruments: they are the only path we can take to achieve a speedy change of fortunes and give hope to millions of people.

 
  
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  Gunnar Hökmark (PPE). – Mr President, if the problem of the European economy were that our public spending is too low and our deficits too small, we would have no problems at all. I want to say this in response to the debate here, as it sounds as if we could solve our problems by increasing public spending and increasing the deficits, thereby achieving social cohesion and economic growth.

We have seen the contrary: that uncontrolled public spending and big deficits are undermining social security and hindering growth, and creating the austerity of increasing interest rates. That is the reality, and those who believe that increased public spending is the solution to our problems should just look around and take a look at our problems.

On the other hand, what we need to do is to create a new way of stimulating the economy. I think it is important for the Commission to understand that the way to social cohesion and social security does not run parallel to the policy for economic growth. Economic growth and new jobs are the key issue in order to achieve social development in Europe that we can all be satisfied with. That is why I would like to urge the Commission to proceed with the reforms for the internal market, for competitiveness in the Member States, and for making the European Union the biggest market in the world.

 
  
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  Rovana Plumb (S&D).(RO) Mr President, I have participated with eager interest in this morning’s debate on the conclusions of the Council meeting, and I would like to tell you that it is certainly obvious that we not only need fiscal stability but also growth. However, in order to achieve growth, we need a definite investment plan, we need to find the sources and identify them, along with the sectors offering the potential for growth and employment. Given that a huge number of citizens, especially young people and women, need jobs, we also need to create these jobs. There is just one problem I have with this: if there are sources available through the Savings Directive mentioned by Mr Barroso, why is this directive still being blocked inside the Council, and, if we are talking about growth, employment and social policies, why is the Maternity Leave Directive still being blocked by the Council?

I would also like to stress again that I hope that Romania and Bulgaria will join Schengen in September.

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE). – Mr President, the message of today’s meeting could well be ‘now it is implementation time’. It is time for the Member States to effectively implement the commitments made to the European Council.

The biggest problem still seems to be the aftermath of the Council meetings. While following strict financial discipline, it is crucial that new investments should be made to build an efficient knowledge-based economy, to reduce administrative burdens for SMEs, and to boost youth employment. The key issue is to make decisive use of the basic instrument on which the European Community is based: the single market.

Today, President Barroso used the well-known politically correct term: deepening of the single market. I support Joseph Daul, who today called for the 20th anniversary of the single market to be marked by completing it on the basis of a precise timetable proposed by the Commission.

Now is the time finally to overcome hesitation and caution about fully implementing the single market. It is time to end the unofficial protectionism which is, in fact, a hard reality. This attitude has been undermining the EU’s innate potential for growth and for political and economic credibility.

 
  
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  Roberto Gualtieri (S&D).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the satisfaction of having escaped danger is understandable, but it should not make us forget the mistakes and the delays of recent years, not to mention the decisive role played by the European Central Bank (ECB) and by the new Italian Government. Most importantly, our satisfaction should not stop us facing up to the enormous structural problem that the policies of recent months have not resolved.

The strategy of salary deflation brought in by austerity policies as an alternative to devaluation is not economically or socially sustainable, nor is it universally accepted in political terms. We should leave the caricatures behind. Nobody here is proposing deficit spending. We do think, however, that it is possible to combine national fiscal responsibility with a revitalisation of investment and demand; it is possible with a more even distribution of wealth; it is possible if we confront macro-economic imbalances; it is possible through large-scale EU investment; it is possible if we set up shared management of debts through a debt redemption fund.

The Community method offers the instruments for realising these objectives, but we need a change in political direction which, between the elections in France and the European elections of 2014, will start a new cycle and see the consolidation of a different strategy and of truly European economic governance.

 
  
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  Othmar Karas (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the summit was not dramatic. It was strikingly calm. It has been described as being better than previous meetings. Perhaps a more serious approach and less stage management would do us good. We also need fewer accusations and criticisms and more actions and positive results. It was also beneficial that no advance meeting was held between Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy. Instead, everyone focused on the summit, rather than imposing requirements on the other participants.

We should spend less time criticising one another and more time taking action. We now have the Single Market Act and we must implement it in the Member States. We have the Small Business Act which must also be implemented. We have the Europe 2020 strategy which must be put into practice. We have the SME test which must be carried out so that we can draw the necessary conclusions. The Commission is proposing the use of own resources. I am calling on the Member States to accept this offer, so that the Commission and the European institutions are not in the position of being dependent, but instead have more freedom to act in the political arena and more credibility. We know that more funding will be available for the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). We must not postpone our decisions. We must make them now. Kosovo is not just a problem for Serbia. The five Member States of the EU which are refusing to recognise Kosovo must finally do so. We need more action and less criticism.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Zofija Mazej Kukovič (PPE).(SL) Mr President, the Council’s conclusions are aimed at both making savings and growth. However, with five and a half million young people unemployed, it is essential to encourage, educate and train young people to take risks, risks which are also related to entrepreneurship.

Everything may start with an idea, but the same idea without implementation, or without the courage to implement it, does not mean much. Centres of learning therefore need to put more emphasis on this, on a culture of entrepreneurship, education, training for young people, so they dare to be self-employed, so they dare to take risks.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D).(HU) Mr President, this has been the first time for two years that the European Council was not occupied with putting out fires; however, the flames have not yet died down. Europe is not out of harm’s way just yet, because without economic growth, we will be unable to break free from our debt spiral. A wide range of topics were discussed, including the development of the internal market and the urgent introduction of Eurobonds; however, I am convinced that, in addition, we also need a comprehensive EU growth programme and an EU development package to promote job creation. On the other hand, we are faced with a fundamental structural problem as regards the functioning of the euro. It has become apparent that, as a common currency, the euro is incapable of handling the economies of countries at different levels of competitiveness. The economic difficulties of Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, and their being on the verge of state bankruptcy, are not just the fault of their respective governments but also an indication of the common failure of the euro. The euro must therefore undergo fundamental reform.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE).(RO) Mr President, on the subject of the Schengen issue, I think that the continued opposition shown by the Netherlands to the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area is an abuse which runs counter to the European Union’s long-term principles and objectives. The stance adopted by the Netherlands has led to the postponement of the decision on the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area. It has highlighted once again that, although all Member States have equal responsibilities, they do not all enjoy the same benefits.

Colleagues, the populist ambitions of some leaders and parties on the European political scene only serve to weaken the EU’s power and reduce the credibility of politicians at European level. Given that all the conditions for accession have been met, I take this opportunity to call for all responsible institutions to identify and implement all the necessary measures contributing to the enlargement of the Schengen area.

 
  
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  Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D).(ES) Mr President, on several occasions, I have taken part in the debate on the European Council conclusions in order to address aspects that have nothing to do with the governance of the euro area but rather with the fundamental truths and raison d’être of the EU, which is a community in law.

I say this once again, in relation precisely to the conclusions relating to the area of freedom, security and justice, to free movement of persons and the enlargement of the Schengen area. In June, this Parliament approved the extension of the Schengen area to include Romania and Bulgaria which, in accordance with their accession treaties of 2005, had to fulfil certain requirements. The Council considered that Romania and Bulgaria fulfil those requirements but, yet again, has postponed its decision and referred it to a decision of the Justice and Home Affairs Council at a meeting that will take place in September 2012.

Parliament can only hope that that meeting actually gives rise to the fulfilment of an undertaking with Romania and Bulgaria, which have met their criteria for gaining access to the Schengen area, and that the EU works to strengthen the Schengen area. Naturally, the statements that we have heard in the French election campaign do not contribute in that direction, statements which threaten the re-establishment of internal borders within the EU and contribute to mistrust and ill feeling among Europeans, the opposite way from the way we should be going.

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, the Treaty on Fiscal Discipline is not concerned with the well-being of its signatories, but with the well-being of the euro and, of course, the project. This so-called ‘treaty’ seeks to impose a fiscal and monetary straitjacket that takes away the sovereignty of voters in Member States and the eurozone. It addresses the problem of sovereign debt, but with inflexible diktats, rather than with practical solutions. Its cure for economic undernourishment is to put the countries of the south on a starvation diet of economic austerity that is reducing incomes and raising unemployment and will make balancing the budget even more difficult. With an overvalued currency, employment is the only thing they can export.

The ailing economies of the south need to leave the eurozone, revert to their own currencies and devalue. That will enable them to enjoy export-led expansion. They also need to reflate their economies by government-directed investment financed by quantitative easing and not borrowing. This would not, of course, be possible within the eurozone.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, I know that many of the questions have already been answered by our President so, if you will allow me, I will just focus on the issues which have been most frequently mentioned by the honourable Members, particularly jobs, growth and where to find investment in order to support policies in both these areas.

But first, I would like to assure the honourable Members of this House that unemployment, and especially youth unemployment, is one of the five key priorities on which we would like the whole European Union to focus this year. This was the conclusion of the Annual Growth Survey. This is one of the priorities for the European Semester where we, of course, would expect this priority to feature very highly in the national reform programmes of each and every Member State because we are fully aware of how painful this is for our citizens and how difficult it is for our economies not to have enough high-quality jobs.

What the Commission will do further is that already in April, we will be putting forward an employment policy package. We are doing our best to help the EU as such and our Member States to improve the functioning of the labour market and to create better conditions for the creation of jobs. We would like to focus on the possibilities across the whole economy, but we would also like to be even more concentrated in the areas and sectors where we see a big potential for the new jobs, such as health care, white sector, information, communications technologies and the ICT sector as such.

We are also going to tackle the problems and the obstacles which still hamper the free movement of labour and labour mobility within the European Union. In particular, we would like to assist the young people who are witnessing unprecedented pressure on the labour market. We are absolutely convinced that we cannot afford to have 7.5 million young people who are not employed and not in education or in training. We therefore deployed eight action teams from the Commission which have already come back from the Member States with concrete ideas. We are going to implement them together with the Member States and the social partners in these countries.

Of course we support youth job guarantees. We would like every young European to have a chance to get – within a very short period of time after completing his or her studies – either a job or to have the possibility of continuing their education or, if there is not a particular job available, to work towards requalification or get into retraining so we can use the potential of our young generation in the European Union. To do that, we are also going to improve the tools which would help young people to seek jobs. We are going to improve and introduce the new scheme, ‘Your first EURES job’, which should help young people in finding opportunities on the labour market.

Then, of course, the question is where to find the investment and where to find the money to be invested in the economy, especially in this time of austerity where budget consolidation is a very clear priority. We would not like to repeat the dramatic events we have gone through in the last two years. With regard to the creation of new jobs and employment, we believe that we still can do much better with the money which is available from EU funds. To date, we have EUR 22 billion in the European Social Fund and EUR 62 billion in the Structural and Cohesion Funds which have not yet been spent. We want to help the Member States to have another look at spending priorities – how they can reprogramme them and use them for the active labour policy so we can create new jobs, for young people in particular, but, of course, for every European.

Several ideas have been mentioned as to where we can generate more income and more investments. I think that we have complete agreement on them because the Commission is very much in favour of the introduction of a financial transaction tax. It was a proposal which we made and we are working very hard with the Member States to convince them because, as you know, we need unanimity on this issue.

We are advancing our work on project bonds because our simulations show very promising results. We can actually use EUR 230 million from the EU budget and leverage it, together with the EIB, to EUR 700 million. This would end up, raising the money on the private market, with the sum of EUR 3.5 billion. This is money we can spend on infrastructure, on ICT and on projects which generate a lot of employment and which improve the overall competitiveness of the European Union.

You know that we support own resources and we make this point at every single negotiation meeting which takes place with Member States. You know – because you are getting the information from your negotiators – that this discussion is difficult but we are truly convinced that, if we want to have a more transparent budget and less drama when we are negotiating multiannual financial frameworks (MFF), we need solid own resources for the EU budget.

I would say one more thing even. I think that, if we look at investment policy, one of the best investment tools we have in the EU is the EU budget. Where in the world would you find a budget where 94% of the budget goes back to the Member States with the high value-added proposals supporting the programmes and the policies which are actually increasing competitiveness and cohesion among the Member States? This is how we have to look at the EU budget and this is what I am sometimes missing when we are discussing the EU budget and the MFF with Member States.

Thank you very much for your support for the Single Market Act and for your willingness to consider the possibility of fast-tracking some of our proposals, because we believe that by unlocking the single market potential, we can create a lot of new jobs and, indeed, new growth.

Finally, regarding Romania and Bulgaria and Schengen, you know very well that the Commission’s position is very clear. We are convinced that Bulgaria and Romania have fulfilled all the conditions necessary to join Schengen and we believe that both countries should already be members of Schengen.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing.(LT) I agree with my colleagues who said previously that, at the European Council meeting, we missed an opportunity for a detailed discussion and specific agreements on increasing the social aspect in all areas of EU policy, particularly growth of the Member States’ economies. I believe that fiscal consolidation, greater coordination of the Member States’ economies and tighter financial discipline are essential measures for ensuring that we can properly rebalance our economies and steer them in the right direction. However, looking at the current state of the EU, it is becoming quite clear that budgetary discipline and severe austerity measures on their own will not enable us to achieve the economic growth expected. Today in Europe, unemployment among people of working age is increasing massively, the situation with regard to youth unemployment is particularly bad, business enterprises, especially small and medium-sized, are facing difficult times and all of this only delays the economic recovery of individual Member States and the EU as a whole. In 2012, the European Council endorsed the five important priorities for growth in employment and much greater efforts will be required to achieve these. I believe that it is very important for the Member States to establish specific and measurable commitments in their national reform programmes and the Commission should monitor the implementation of these commitments more closely.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (PT) The last European Council was marked by the signing of the so-called ‘fiscal compact’, now renamed the ‘International Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union’, despite its being in breach of the European Union’s own rules. The rules provided for in this ‘treaty’ represent the institutionalisation of the same policies that led to the tragic social situation that we are currently experiencing, with a dizzying increase in unemployment, reduced wages – and, therefore, increased exploitation – and the dismantling of the social functions of the state. In truth, these are not new political and ideological guidelines. What we do have before us is the implementation of the old guidelines, which have been behind Europe’s entire process of capitalist integration, with toughened-up content and better means for making them work. Behind the technocratic language and words about ‘budgetary consolidation’ is hidden the reality of condemning thousands of families to poverty and despair. The only result of the path that this Council meeting has set out again is the deepening of the economic crisis in the EU Member States – which is clearly the situation, as established by the European Commission’s own figures, which confirm the economic recession in the euro area – and further deterioration of the social crisis that the unemployment figures published yesterday eloquently illustrate.

 
  
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  Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (PPE), in writing.(HU) At the last summit, the majority of Member States signed the budgetary pact intended to ensure the stability and an even closer coordination of the economic and monetary union. This not only marks the conclusion of another intergovernmental agreement but also the end of an immensely long process to which the European Parliament contributed with exceptional support and expertise. However, it is essential that besides common economic policy regulation, which definitely provides a clear background for Member State budgetary policies, the European Union should, in future, evaluate Member State efforts towards common economic governance in a transparent manner, using quantitative criteria laid down in the Stability and Growth Pact. The Council conclusions, too, state that budgetary consolidation must be implemented in light of the Member States’ specific circumstances, but in a differentiated manner. It is therefore unacceptable for the performance of certain Member States to be unjustly evaluated on the basis of subjective criteria, while failing to recognise that in the medium and long term, the focus of economic policy trends in the Member State in question has always been to avoid austerity measures and to pursue commonly established goals, that is, reduce the budget deficit and gradually curb sovereign debt. If we operate the economic policy system that we have successfully established in an irresponsible manner by unduly discriminating between Member States and continuously inciting tensions, we jeopardise the credibility of the entire European institutional system and the sustainability of common economic governance.

 
  
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  Zita Gurmai (S&D), in writing. – I am particularly worried after the signature of the fiscal compact during the last European Council. We, Socialists and Democrats, have been defending from the start balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility, but this cannot be the only reaction to the dreadful crisis Europe is facing. While we witness every day the dramatic social consequences of measures focused exclusively on austerity, we urgently need concrete measures to restore growth and tackle unemployment. I would like to emphasise the issue of youth unemployment, which is now reaching an average rate of more than 22% in Europe. This is unacceptable. That is why the Party of European Socialists, with the support of the S&D Group, has launched a campaign to tackle youth unemployment, calling for binding measures and sufficient financial support to ensure the access of young people to quality jobs. Therefore, I strongly hope that the Commission and the Member States will take into consideration our demand to introduce a Youth Guarantee that would prevent any young European from being without a job or training for more than four months. How can we prepare the future of Europe if we do not do everything we can to ensure a decent future for our children?

 
  
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  Danuta Jazłowiecka (PPE) , in writing. (PL) The last European Council meeting apparently ended in success. Despite the opposition of two Member States, the Council succeeded in signing the fiscal compact, which is to be an important element of the economic stability of European countries. The fiscal compact is very often criticised as a solution which is not only overdue, but also insufficient. Even though the provisions of the agreement are not perfect, it has allowed continued stabilisation of markets and calmed the mood among investors. The principal task facing us today is the implementation of the compact’s provisions and compliance with the principle of community which we defend so vigorously. In addition, it is important how the provisions of Article 12 are implemented or, in other words, whether the voice of signatory countries outside the euro area will, in fact, be heard during Euro Group summits. I would also give a cautious welcome to the decision by members of the euro area to mobilise part of the funding from the second Greek aid package for ongoing expenditure and to launch a process to reduce the Greek debt. Unfortunately, it is a big problem that many measures taken to salvage the Greek economy do not have the support of most of society. We must not forget that prudential measures alone are insufficient and, sooner or later, Greece will have to focus on investments to stimulate growth and employment.

 
  
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  Sandra Kalniete (PPE) , in writing. (LV) I welcome the intergovernmental agreement on fiscal discipline concluded by 25 of the European Union’s Member States. In the long term, this agreement can stabilise European monetary union and strengthen economic governance. I hope that the Member States participating in the agreement will, as soon as possible, ratify it and implement it in formulating their budgets. Only in this way will we be able to restore the confidence of the international financial markets in the European Union and secure the preconditions for economic growth and new jobs. The agreement complements the Stability and Growth Pact, the ‘six-pack’ of EU economic governance adopted last year, which includes five regulations and one directive, and the recently concluded agreement on the establishment of a European Stability Mechanism. Together with the upcoming ‘two-pack’, namely, the regulations which will lay down monitoring of the formulation of the euro area Member States’ budgets, this will really strengthen economic governance in Europe.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) I am pleased that the conclusions of the Council mentioned the request for the decision to be taken in the JHA Council in September on the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area. It is better than nothing. A decision would normally have been requested in the following JHA Council to stop any unjustified delay that lacks legal arguments.

I believe that the subject of Schengen has become a matter of concern for the EU in general, and not just for Romania and Bulgaria. The introduction of temporary border controls by Denmark and France, the intention of the Netherlands to install cameras at its borders, the discussions on the legal basis for the regulation on the Schengen evaluation and the recent statements made by France are exerting unjustified pressure on one of the EU’s most positive achievements: the free movement of persons. This is why I call on the Council to focus a huge amount of attention while dealing with this topic in the very near future.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing.(DE) With regard to the strategy for the southern neighbourhood, it is naïve to believe that democracies based on the European model will emerge in North Africa. The overwhelming victory of Islamist parties in the elections in Egypt and Tunisia shows that these countries, and probably Libya too, see their future not in the European Convention on Human Rights, but in Sharia law. Instead of considering putting additional burdens on the EU Member States in the form of North African debt relief, we must link EU subsidies to increased protection for religious minorities and mandatory repatriation of illegal immigrants. The EU itself does not always take democracy entirely seriously. For example, in democratic terms, it is right that the Irish people will have the opportunity to vote on the EU fiscal compact, but Brussels will not accept a ‘no’ vote. The signing of the so-called fiscal compact is another step towards a centralist federal European state. In the current crisis, Europe does not need a financial governing council in Brussels to supervise the euro countries. A total reform of the poorly designed monetary union would be much more useful. If restoring normal lending conditions is the objective, then the Basel III requirements must definitely be considered. Most importantly, we also need to put in place a framework for organised state bankruptcy in Greece, instead of wasting billions on useless rescue packages and risking years of stagnation in the euro area as a result.

 
  
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  Ioan Mircea Paşcu (S&D), in writing. – It seems that both the Council and the Commission are taking the fact that, for the first time, this Council was not held in response to a crisis as a sign that the crisis had started to be tamed; we only need more time ... . That time, however, might instead bring more xenophobia and more protectionism, as the electoral campaign in France is clearly demonstrating. My colleague, Hannes Swoboda, has asked a rhetorical question: what if we all had to show our passport once again to enter France? Well, as a Romanian MEP, I have to do this every time I come to Strasbourg, and not just to board a plane, as my colleague Mr Gollnisch pointed out, but to be allowed to enter the country which is making me attend the part-sessions here, in Strasbourg, instead of Brussels. And, on top of that, sometimes I have to subject myself to a search without a warrant instead of a normal airport check, and this only because my country is kept out of Schengen arbitrarily. Yes, we need tough measures to get out of the crisis, but not at the expense of what we have achieved with such effort until now.

 
  
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  Adrian Severin (NI), in writing.(RO) The European Council has again blocked Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area. It has apparently been blocked due to the veto from the Netherlands. The reality is that other Member States are also behind this opposition, with their leaders caught up in nationalist, populist rhetoric. Against the background of the global economic crisis, the threat of Europe’s renationalisation is looming. Sacrificing the free movement of persons on the pretext that this would safeguard the security and cultural purity of Europe’s nations reflects the eurosceptic trend currently doing the rounds in the electoral campaign in France. While the French rejected the Constitutional Treaty by means of a referendum focused on debating national issues, the current presidential elections are raising controversy over European issues. This would be welcome if the tone adopted were not anti-European. Mr Hollande is speaking out against European economic governance initiated through the fiscal pact. Mr Sarkozy is calling for ‘political governance’ of the Schengen area. A ‘powerful France’ ought to define the principles of this governance, allowing ‘legitimate’ governments, unlike the European Commission, to impose sanctions on states which are not robust enough in tackling illegal immigration. The real problem is not how to defend the EU’s external borders, but the inconsistency of the EU’s migration policy. There is also the need to come up with an EU solution for guaranteeing the application of the principle of solidarity and frank cooperation between EU Member States, which is enshrined in the treaties but which has become a dead letter.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE), in writing. (PL) What basic conclusion can be drawn from the long struggle with the crisis and the attempts to achieve economic growth and increase employment? The measures which are taken, although relevant and moving in the right direction, are always overdue and lack sufficient depth. Overcoming the crisis will be possible only through structural reforms implemented comprehensively and quickly, with, of course, adequate preparation. It is, however, difficult to combat a crisis and introduce serious reforms when the politicians in power are guided principally by the interests of their own parties in the upcoming election campaigns.

We devote too much time to the issues of division of authority and separation of powers in the euro area when, in reality, the real issue at stake is maintaining the dominance of some EU Member States and protecting the interests of those countries and their banks. Economic policy coordination was possible under the previous legislation, for example, as per the provisions of the Stability and Growth Pact, but there was a lack of political will and the corresponding determination. The ‘six-pack’ that has been adopted must, in order to be fully effective, be strengthened by means of the ‘two-pack’. What steps need to be taken next? Is the fiscal compact sufficient?

There are still no procedures for a country to exit the euro area or for it to be excluded from the euro area by the other countries in the euro area if this country fails to act in accordance with the agreements or to implement certain reforms. It is good that the European Central Bank, as the primary financial institution of the euro area, has taken action, and Commissioner Barnier does an exceptionally good job of strengthening the single market.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing.(PT) Promoting growth and jobs are currently two key objectives for the European Union. To this end, we are counting on increased stability in the euro area and on serious efforts and determination on the part of the various Member States and institutions. The recently signed fiscal compact will have to provide proofs of discipline and the European Parliament is now counting on the Commission, as Guardian of the Treaties. The various instruments should be implemented and new measures, provided for in a new legislative package on the single market, will naturally contribute to its growth and, consequently, to the promotion of employment.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D), in writing.(RO) The main highlight of the European Council held on 1-2 March 2012 was the signing of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance within the Economic and Monetary Union. However, the implementation of the EU’s economic strategy requires decisive measures to be taken to stimulate growth and create jobs.

The European Council approved the five priorities for 2012, identified in the Annual Growth Survey conducted by the Commission: pursuing differentiated and growth-friendly fiscal consolidation, restoring normal lending to the economy, promoting growth and competitiveness, tackling unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis, and modernising public administration. However, I think that additional efforts are required at EU level to achieve the single market and, in particular, to complete the digital single market by 2015. I should stress the important contribution made by industry to economic growth, competitiveness, exports and job creation in Europe, boosting productivity and innovation.

I welcome the European Council’s decision to grant Serbia candidate country status. Given that the European Commission has acknowledged on several occasions that Romania and Bulgaria have fulfilled the technical criteria for joining the Schengen area, I call on the Council to adopt a decision to this effect as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Kristian Vigenin (S&D), in writing.(BG) The decision made by the European Council to grant Serbia the status of an EU candidate country is deserved recognition for the reforms which have been carried out in that country. The Serbian authorities staunchly support its European path and are fulfilling their commitments and promises, in spite of the difficult political and economic situation.

This decision confirms the attention which the EU is focusing on continuing the enlargement process, in spite of the economic problems, debt crisis and pressure on the single currency. Set in the context of the progress being made by the majority of countries in the region along the path towards EU integration, this gesture towards Serbia proves the EU’s lasting commitment to the Western Balkans, assumed in 2003.

Granting candidate country status is also a timely and clear sign of support for the pro-European political forces in Serbia, especially in view of the forthcoming parliamentary elections in early May and the real danger of an upsurge from nationalist and populist parties which could again cast doubt over the country’s European perspective.

The next and perhaps most important test for Serbia will be the start of membership negotiations, which will virtually make its integration into the EU irreversible. The path is clear, but there is still a great deal of work ahead in terms of fulfilling the agreements that have been reached, continuing the reforms and increasing regional cooperation. The Serbian people can count on the support of the European Parliament.

 

7. European Globalisation Adjustment Fund crisis derogation (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the oral question to the Council on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund crisis derogation by Ms Berès and Ms Harkin, on behalf of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (O-000014/2012 - B7-0102/2012).

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès, author. (FR) Mr President, Mr Wammen, I address this question to you because Parliament does not understand what is happening at the Council.

In December, we adopted by a very large majority the Commission’s proposal to extend European Globalisation Adjustment Fund crisis measures. Now we see it has been completely blocked at the Council in an inconsistent move that we do not understand – for can we declare the crisis over? Can we really say that this fund has not been a useful reflection of the effects of this crisis on workers?

Today, growth forecasts for European GDP are between 0.5% and 3%. Or is Mr Draghi mistaken when he cites these figures for future European growth? The Commission itself predicted an economic downturn of 0.3% across the European Union in its latest projections published in February, despite the fact that in November 2011, it was still expecting 0.5% growth in 2012. Where will the crisis end?

The crisis facing those employed in industry threatens the very existence of European sentiment. It encourages scepticism towards the European Union. It causes us to turn our backs on the very essence of our peaceful coexistence and ignores the elements of social justice we could provide. Applications submitted under crisis-related criteria have only increased since this crisis has not gone away.

I must tell you Mr President that within the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, we have had the opportunity to hear from Spanish and Lithuanian experts who told us how valuable this crisis mechanism was. Furthermore, I wish to bear witness here to the response of the German public authorities. The director of the European Social Fund group has testified to the exemplary nature of this mechanism in bringing about social innovation and enabling workers affected by this crisis to find a European answer to their problems. However, today, his government constitutes a majority in favour of blocking the extension of this mechanism. We do not understand this and ask you, on behalf of the Presidency of the European Union, to use all your power to break this deadlock.

I believe those who consistently argue for more flexicurity. Flexibility certainly exists, with widespread redundancies – day after day, we see jobs disappearing. Provide a little bit of security, allow these workers to be given training, a transitional period as they adapt to the new situation they find themselves in. I am worried that if this is the position of the Council today on the extension of the crisis mechanism, what will happen tomorrow when, as part of the financial perspectives, we are to negotiate the extension of mechanisms to all farmers affected by free trade agreements? There comes a time when the Council must choose between real solidarity and fake solidarity.

Today, we prefer evidence and we do not believe the time has come for happy announcements of growth that might one day lead to job creation, or for the abolition of one of the few tools at the European Union’s disposal to provide concrete help, support and solidarity to workers affected not only by globalisation but, above all, by the financial crisis.

We are counting on you, Mr President. You must change the majority in the Council, including among those Member States that are today refusing this extension of the derogation, despite being exemplary users of these funds.

 
  
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  Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council. – Mr President, I am grateful to the Chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, Ms Berès, and the rapporteur, Ms Harkin, for giving the Presidency this opportunity to present the state of the proposal to extend the crisis derogation under the current European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, the EGF.

I would like to begin by recalling one important fact. The current EGF has not been repealed. It continues to function as decided by our two institutions back in 2006, and the authors of the questions suggest that the Council has come to the conclusion that the current crisis is over. I can assure you that is by no means the case. At the most recent meeting the other week, Heads of State or Government concluded that tackling unemployment and the social consequences of the current crisis was one of the main priorities for 2012. It is, of course, primarily up to each Member State to take the necessary measures and follow the policy it considers to be the most appropriate to combat unemployment. Even though this now happens within a strong European policy framework, the crisis derogation to the EGF was introduced for a limited time as a supplementary instrument for helping combat some of the consequences of the crisis.

When the Commission put forward its proposal to extend the mechanism, there was insufficient support within the Council. There were a number of reasons expressed by Member States as to why they were not ready to endorse the Commission’s proposal. In general, doubts over its added value persisted. Some Member States underlined that the labour market policies lie firmly within national competence. Others already have access to well-developed aid mechanisms at national level and consider the EGF contribution to be a useful but not essential complement to these mechanisms. Some felt it was inappropriate, at a time of national austerity, to introduce new unforeseen expenditure in the EU budget. These are just a few examples. Of course, there were also a significant number of Member States who supported the proposal.

Since the Commission presented its proposal in the middle of last year, the Polish Presidency made a tremendous effort to find a solution which would meet the concerns of all Member States. However, the EPSCO Council in December failed to reach agreement on any of the compromise proposals tabled. Since then, the Danish Presidency has made further attempts and tabled a new compromise, but even recent efforts to try to break the deadlock through direct contacts with Ministers failed to achieve an outcome.

As President, I regret that it was not possible to reach an acceptable compromise. However, we cannot, of course, oblige other Member States to change their positions. Under these conditions, we came to the conclusion that further negotiations on crisis derogation could hinder progress on the future EGF. There were good reasons for this. Already, early on in the discussions on the extension of the crisis derogation for the current EGF, it was underlined that the extensions would not pre-empt the negotiations on the future EGF.

As you know, these negotiations take place within the context of the wider negotiations on the new multiannual financial framework. We had a first round of discussions on the future EGF on 27 February and I can assure the European Parliament that the Council will debate this proposal on its own merits. Here in Parliament, you have had preliminary discussions in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, and discussions so far both within the Council and here in Parliament showed that there are serious doubts about several important aspects of the new EGF regulation, notably, the inclusion of the agricultural sector.

I would like to assure you of the commitment of the Danish Presidency to taking forward the discussions on the future EGF. I look forward both to hearing your views on this issue this morning as well as to the further work which will be needed between our two institutions as we seek to make progress in the negotiations.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, Mr Wammen, I have listened to you very carefully, but you see before you someone who actively promotes the Globalisation Adjustment Fund on behalf of workers affected by the crisis as thousands of jobs are disappearing.

Go and say what you just said to the 1 600 Irish Dell employees who lost their jobs! Go and tell that to the Portuguese, who have seen huge job losses in the textile industry or the Spanish, who have suffered job losses in the wood and ceramic industries and to the many others. The competitiveness of companies is at stake here, because the Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which must allow us to reintegrate people affected by unemployment back into the labour market, also serves to make companies more competitive and you are therefore threatening the economic health of Europe.

Indeed, we are going through a time of crisis – we are still in crisis and certainly will be for some years. Fighting the crisis forms part of the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. Indeed, it is essential that, at the Council, you exercise true leadership to ensure that countries agree to this commitment to integrate the most vulnerable workers into economic life. It is all our futures, it is the credibility of Europe and it is the credibility of the Council, Mr President, that are at stake.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Frédéric Daerden, on behalf of the S&D Group.(FR) Mr President, this debate on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) and the extension of crisis-related criteria concerns me in many respects, as it seems to me that, beyond the refusal to extend crisis-related criteria, it is the fund itself which is being targeted, particularly on the part of some Member States who no longer wish to hear mention of EU social action.

However, the EGF is an essential part of EU action on restructuring. This importance has been intensified by the crisis and the current situation, whereby the European citizen is losing confidence in the EU. The increase, every year, in the number and volume of applications since 2006 goes to demonstrate this. Furthermore, this fund is seen to be an imperfect but effective tool, highly individualised and adapted to the needs of workers made redundant, for each specific case, whether in terms of training tailored to the needs of the region or support for job hunting. In addition, this opposition to EU employment and social action completely contradicts the conclusions of the Council on growth and employment. To make progress in this area, we must invest in instruments like the EGF and not rely solely on completing the internal market.

When the White Paper on pensions was published, keeping senior citizens in employment and increasing the effective retirement age were quite generally considered to be necessities. This fund, particularly in the context of the crisis, can and must contribute to this. Finally, in my view, the Commission’s proposal to include farmers is another indication of this desire for a ‘dismantling’. The EU has too few social tools to create inconsistent, hybrid tools from them, as this proposal suggests.

Mr President, it is essential that we ensure the future of a fund that responds to real needs, and thus to the crisis. Is the issue really that of crisis or non crisis-related criteria, or is it the desire of some to deny the social role of the EU?

 
  
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  Marian Harkin, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, as Ms Berès has already said, in December of last year, Parliament overwhelmingly supported the continuation of the crisis derogation. If we look at the applications that came into the EGF in December 2011, 13 applications under the crisis derogation came in December alone. What is astonishing is that three of those applications came in from one Member State that is objecting to the extension of the crisis derogation. I cannot make any sense of that and I really would like to hear an explanation from the relevant Member State.

We have already heard the arguments here today about the crisis. We know the crisis is not over but what I again find astonishing is just one figure, that of youth unemployment. The average in the EU 27 is 21.6% but there are 11 Member States – not just two or three – there are 11 where the youth unemployment rate is over 25%. So we cannot, under any circumstances, say that the crisis has passed.

So my question to the President-in-Office is: does the blocking minority support the EGF as an instrument in the first place? Are there some aspects or provisions in the fund which they object to? Do they believe that the fund does not deliver added value? If you look at the mid-term evaluation of the EGF, you will see that it delivers significant added value. Of course there are improvements which could be made, but the reintegration rate into employment is 41.8% and that is increasing in the medium term, so even from that perspective, the fund is delivering. I suppose my other question to you is: is this just an objection to social action in the first place?

My final question is about the new EGF proposal. You talked about some problems with the proposal and you mentioned farmers. Are there any other issues that are causing problems within the Council with regard to the new EGF application?

 
  
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  Marije Cornelissen, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (NL) Mr President, the Netherlands – EUR 30 million, Sweden – EUR 14 million, Denmark – EUR 50 million, Germany – EUR 37 million. Those are the amounts that these countries have received from the Globalisation Adjustment Fund in recent years. How ironic then that these very countries, countries where the situation is relatively good, are now limiting access to the Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

When the first signs of crisis appeared, the Globalisation Adjustment Fund was extended to large businesses and industry sectors which were going bankrupt because of the crisis, with the threat of thousands of redundancies as a result. If only it were true that that extension was no longer needed, that the crisis was already behind us, and that crisis-triggered bankruptcies no longer caused mass redundancies. The opposite is true, however.

In these times of cuts, the crisis is becoming increasingly tangible in all countries. The crisis is being used as the reason for mass redundancies. I find it cruel and morally unacceptable that countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden are blocking the crisis derogation. In fact, I find it incomprehensible. These countries are against the derogation because they are opposed to the fund in general. The EGF should not exist in the first place, the reasoning seems to go, so we can, therefore, give ourselves carte blanche to oppose absolutely everything to do with it, while, in the meantime, obviously making good use of it ourselves, since the Netherlands, as Ms Harkin said, raked in another EUR 8 million at the very end of 2011. The adult reasoning on this matter should, of course, be that, while this fund continues to exist, it should be used as effectively as possible. The crisis is being used as a very handy excuse.

 
  
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  Ashley Fox, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, the Globalisation Adjustment Fund has been a complete failure. Every year, the Commission takes EUR 500 million of taxpayers’ money and sprinkles it about in the vain hope of being seen to do something about job losses.

The functioning of this fund has been appalling. It is bureaucratic and inefficient with the Commission making up the rules as they go along. In 2009, we had the ridiculous situation of the Commission paying money to Ireland because Dell had relocated to Poland. That is not globalisation. That is the single market working. I wholeheartedly support the British, Czech and other governments who are blocking the extension of this absurd fund. Rather than pouring this money down the drain, we should return it to the taxpayers, who will spend it far more wisely than the European Union ever could.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the salvation of millions of unemployed Europeans does not depend on the unreliable aid offered by the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF). Statistics highlight the fact that the majority of the beneficiaries of the fund cannot find a new job, while the luckier ones are absorbed back into the job market with fixed-term contracts which can last as few as six months. In many cases, those who are unemployed opt out of the fund because they question its usefulness.

The EGF is not a solution and it does not prevent the disastrous consequences of a European commercial policy, which is managed dangerously and with too much flippancy by the Commission. To fight the plague of unemployment, which is now structural, Europe must rein in its excessive openness towards the markets of developing countries, whose unfair competition is the root cause of the failure of our businesses.

Until Europe stops giving succour to economic self-destruction by defending a position that is blind to global trade flows, our businesses will continue to fail. The fund can only provide temporary support, but training courses are not the way to give our unemployed comfort and security.

 
  
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  Edit Bauer (PPE).(HU) Mr President, in its 2008 Economic Recovery Plan, the Commission deemed it important to amend and render more flexible the rules governing the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund as part of our efforts to overcome the crisis. Accordingly, in 2009, the Council eased access to the assets of the fund in order to address the first wave of the crisis. The guiding principles behind the Council’s introduction of derogation in 2009 were solidarity and social justice. Considering these principles, it is incomprehensible why the Council would show reluctance to extend the effect of derogation while the crisis continues to mount.

Even in my immediate surroundings, I see the bankruptcies of venerable companies like MALÉV Hungarian Airlines and the Komárom shipyards, as well as closures such as that of the Komárom plant of Nokia, which employed over 1 200 people from both sides of the country border. In light of these circumstances, we do not really see any justification for the dismissive attitude of the Council and the obstructive minority. Globalisation and crisis go hand in hand. We can see how the crisis has accelerated globalisation. As regards their consequences, these two processes are virtually identical in some regions. It is unacceptable for anyone to attempt extortion by claiming that the extension of derogation would jeopardise the future of the EGF. What I ask of the representatives of the Council is to not consider either their response or their efforts as definite.

 
  
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  Emer Costello (S&D). – Mr President, I wish to express my opposition to the removal of the crisis derogation from the Globalisation Fund and I would urge the Council to work with the minority of blocking Member States and ask them to reconsider their position and arrive at a conclusion.

In Ireland, between 2009 and 2011, 70% of the applications for the EGF Fund were crisis-related. Companies such as SR Technics, Dell, Waterford Crystal and companies from the construction industry applied and availed of this fund to upskill thousands of workers and help them find alternative employment. Just last week, we had the announcement in Ireland that 2 500 bank officials are to be made redundant in the second largest bank in Ireland, AIB. This would be the equivalent to 45 000 job losses in Germany.

We spent the morning discussing that fiscal consolidation must be accompanied by a jobs and growth strategy. If we are to do more than pay lip-service to this, we need to ensure that the crisis derogation is retained for the EGF funding. I urge the Council to ensure that this derogation is retained and that the EGF Fund can ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska (PPE). (PL) Mr President, it is worth saying quite clearly that it is thanks to the derogation we are discussing today that the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund has become one of the European Union’s most widely used tools to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis. In my opinion, this fund is an expression of Community-wide budgetary solidarity with workers who are made redundant. The reluctance on the part of some Member States to extend this crisis derogation surprises me very much. It amazes me even more that the citizens of those states which are currently blocking the extension of the derogation have benefited from assistance from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. I would also like to ask the Minister how he imagines a conversation or a debate on the new regulation after 2013 in the light of this blocking minority.

Naturally, I hope that the Danish Presidency will finally be able to work out a compromise on issues relating to the fund and to persuade the Council to reconsider this issue in a positive light. Meanwhile, we would be glad to hear the specific concerns, fears and reasons why these blocking Member States do not want to extend the crisis derogation, because this is not clear, at least not to me. Perhaps there are such reasons, even compelling ones, which we are not aware of – the Minister mentioned one such reason, namely, that in some Member States, and by implication the blocking ones, there are other mechanisms to support workers made redundant. This is possible, but the question is this: why do these states nevertheless try to obtain – and succeed in doing so – funding from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. These issues were not addressed in your introductory speech and I hope that we, as Members of the European Parliament, will be informed of these shortly. Thank you very much.

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

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (S&D), Blue-card question.(DE) Mr President, Ms Jędrzejewska, I listened to what you said with great interest and I would like to ask you something. Which countries are blocking the extension? How many countries are doing this and what is prompting them? I have not been able to understand fully what the reason is for blocking further funding.

 
  
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  Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska (PPE), Blue-card answer. – Your question is fully justified. This is exactly the question I am asking the Danish Presidency because the Danish Presidency is leading these talks and it must know for what reasons those countries are objecting. The list also is not a mystery; some of the countries were mentioned, but in two minutes I do not think it is my task to repeat the minutes of the Council’s meetings.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D) . – (LT) Mr President, I am very sorry that the Danish Presidency has lost heart ... (microphone not working). It is naïve to think that the crisis in the European Union ended last year and that people are consequently no longer being made redundant. Sadly, I doubt whether the crisis in the European Union will end in the next couple of years. Real life indicates otherwise. Much more time may be required for the European Union’s economic recovery. The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund support mechanism has been improved with temporary measures and many more unemployed European Union citizens have been able to get support and find new jobs as a result. My country, Lithuania, has utilised EGF assistance very effectively. The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is a European Union solidarity fund, solidarity-based assistance for people who have been made redundant, and therefore, while appreciating the position of the blocking Member States, it is natural to ask whether this means that the principle of solidarity will cease to exist in the European Union?

 
  
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  Sergio Gutiérrez Prieto (S&D).(ES) Mr President, apologies, but there are things I do not understand. I do not understand this double game between the Council and the Commission when it comes to this fund. Some are blocking its continued use for the crisis, but at the same time, the same countries doing the blocking are those that continue to use it the most. Meanwhile others, namely the Commission, which seem to be defending it before the Council, are, at the same time, presenting a proposal that completely removes its reason for being.

We all know there are two ways to destroy a programme. The first is to do away with the funding completely, and the second and subtler way is to distort it little by little until the reason for its existence has gone. This is precisely what we are risking at this point in the debate.

Do our farmers need compensation for the trade agreements we have signed with third countries? Yes. However, using this fund to do so without increasing the items, without clarifying the requirements, is an attempt to deceive everyone – companies, workers and farmers. This is because, ladies and gentlemen, EUR 500 million may be insufficient to help companies that are in difficulties, but the same money for the same companies and for hundreds of thousands of farmers is simply ridiculous.

This Parliament has a clear message in that it is our desire to preserve this element of solidarity at a time when it is more important than ever.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Barbara Matera (PPE). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the economic crisis is not yet behind Europe; European enterprises are in serious difficulty and our workers are continuing to pay the highest price by losing their jobs. Since its creation in 2006, this fund has offered an exemplary response, helping to support the reintegration of workers into new jobs.

The Member States have said that the majority of the requests could not have been made without the economic crisis derogation, meaning that 45 000 workers would have been left out of work. The political message sent by the Council’s rejection of this decision is a strike at the very heart of the credibility and responsibility of the European institutions. I therefore appeal strongly to the Council to make unblocking the derogation one of its priorities and I would ask my fellow Members to respect those who are speaking.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D).(PT) Mr President, the European Commission impact study, of December 2011, on the possible trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur, shows us drops of 1.6% in European farmers’ incomes and of 0.4% in those incomes of persons employed in European farming.

We can also see from the report that, in addition to these average figures for the meat market, the impact will be greater in a number of Member States, with 2-3% for beef in countries like Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Luxembourg. In French regions like Limousin or Auvergne, its negative impact will be as high as 3-7.5%.

Can Mr Wammen confirm the figure of EUR 7 billion for this agreement’s negative impact on European agriculture by 2020? If the figure for negative impact is EUR 7 billion, how can the Commission’s proposed response to this problem be to spend EUR 2.5 billion from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund for the period 2014-2020? What do you think of all this, Mr Wammen?

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Mr President, since 2009, the fund has been used to help not only people who have lost their jobs as a result of globalisation, but also those who have been made unemployed as a consequence of the crisis. Measures of this kind are very useful as a short-term response. Targeted economic measures can help to prevent social injustice and emergency situations and also to support companies. However, it does not make sense to change the function of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) permanently. The derogation only provides for an increase in the EU’s contribution to around 65%. In the long term, that will be counterproductive. Appropriate cofinancing from the Member States will also guarantee that the money is used for the intended purposes. In addition, a permanently low level of involvement would reduce the responsibility taken by the Member States and the regions. However, their responsibility must be increased, in order to enable us to avoid future crises by making efficient use of funding.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council. – Mr President, let me start by saying that I have been impressed by the commitment of Members to debate this issue. As I started out by saying, the Danish Presidency would certainly have liked it if a solution on the EGF could have been found in the Council. That was not possible, and now we will be working on the future of the EGF. I will be looking forward to constructive cooperation with this House.

I would also like to make it very clear that the Danish Presidency, and the Council, are firmly committed to combating the crisis as we know it because, as many Members in this Chamber have made clear, the crisis is not over yet. Therefore, it is important that we continue to reform the single market and that we use the euros in the MFF as wisely as possible to make sure that growth and job creation will be on the agenda, especially for young people.

That will be the aim of the Danish Presidency and of the Commission. I will also be looking forward to working closely with Parliament on achieving this.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) I think that the derogation in relation to the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) needs to be extended in the current climate. This instrument has proved to be useful so far in mitigating the impact of the economic crisis and preventing other social disasters. I think that it is important to adapt the fund in order to continue in this vein and guide the economy towards sustainable growth. This mechanism is needed, in particular, for workers, the victims of the crisis, who need to find a solution to their problems. We must support workers who have been made redundant in their efforts to find a new job, and the assistance provided by the EU on this score must be more dynamic so as to meet their needs.

In December, Romania applied to the European Commission for financial assistance through the EGF for employees from Nokia, which decided to move its business activities to Asia. I should mention that last September, Nokia announced the closure of its factory in Jucu and the moving of its business activities to China, even though the factory, which is near Cluj, posted a turnover in 2010 that was up more than 55% on the previous year. My country’s position is in favour of retaining this instrument with a European cofinancing rate of 65%.

 
  
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  Iosif Matula (PPE), in writing. – (RO) The economic crisis has resulted in the decline of economic activity and entailed a rise in unemployment against the background of a productivity slump and deterioration in the public finance system. The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) had to be adapted in order to mitigate the impact of the current crisis. Recent forecasts indicate that there will continue to be structural changes in economic sectors which will give rise to job losses due to some companies closing down or others relocating. I would like to emphasise that many Member States have not enjoyed the benefits of the EGF so far because they have not been faced with huge closures or relocations. Due to the recent restructuring among businesses, there is the risk of redundancies becoming a frequent occurrence in the period immediately ahead. This is why I think that extending the derogation against the backdrop of the crisis is an absolute must. The importance of providing funding with the support of the EGF lies in its flexibility. By providing aid promptly to the affected workers for a limited period of time, the EGF helps reduce unemployment and enables Member States to emerge from the economic crisis en route towards smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE), in writing. – (RO) The extension of the crisis derogation must be maintained, at least temporarily. Relocation is undoubtedly, at least for the time being, crucial for European capital in search of areas where wages are lower. The European Union created this fund to tackle the impact of globalisation. It is a completely different discussion as to how effective it is. At the moment, however, we do not have any instrument to allow us to mitigate the impact of bankruptcy or the decline in activity due not to globalisation, but simply to the economic crisis. Initiatives relating to research and innovation and increasing competitiveness are economically correct, but their impact is only felt in the long term. Until then, Europe needs to overcome the crisis. Either a new instrument with a specific purpose or the extension of the derogation is necessary from this perspective.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ROBERTA ANGELILLI
Vice-President

 

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)

***

 
  
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  Sajjad Karim (ECR). – Madam President, yesterday, only a matter of hours after we marked our remembrance of victims of terrorism, an extremist fuelled with religious hatred and intolerance carried out a terrorist attack, destroying by fire a religious place of worship in Brussels, killing the religious leader of a whole community. The religious leader leaves behind a young family, and our thoughts are with them.

Rising intolerance from a whole spectrum of thought in Europe should concern us all. Today, we send a clear message that we reject such intolerance. When criminal extremists carry out such terrorist attacks, it is our values they seek to destroy, and we will stand united to face them, whoever they are and whatever the cancerous hate and division that they may preach.

(Loud applause)

 
  
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  Krisztina Morvai (NI).(HU) Madam President, I would like to deliver my speech in Hungarian. Back in 2005, as a lawyer fighting for women and their children who had suffered abuse, and for the protection of their lives and physical integrity, I launched, among other things, a campaign for the protection of several such abused women and children. One of the husbands involved took offence and filed a police report against me for defamation. Until my election as a Member of the European Parliament, the case had been at a standstill. Then, in 2010, the proceedings suddenly got under way. One and a half years ago, the waiver of my immunity was requested. The case had been lying dormant before the European Parliament ever since. What is the reason for its suddenly becoming so important that a vote had to be called overnight? Why am I not allowed to state my position on the case? Do you not find it in bad taste to call a vote on an attempt to frame a women’s rights advocate and lawyer fighting for abused women when two very important issues pertaining to women … 

(The President cut off the speaker)

Now pardon me, but for salaries such as yours you might as well listen to a two-minute speech until the end, can you not? Do you not find it in bad taste to come in here only to vote and to even then not be willing to listen to a two-minute speech? You should be ashamed!

*

***

 

8.1. EU, Iceland and Norway agreement on the application of certain provisions of the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (A7-0020/2012 - Claude Moraes) (vote)

8.2. Request for waiver of the immunity of Krisztina Morvai (A7-0050/2012 - Eva Lichtenberger) (vote)
 

Before the vote:

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Madam President, the European Convention on Human Rights says that in determination of criminal charges, everyone is entitled to a fair and impartial hearing. This is a pre-judicial hearing and the accused is not being heard. That is neither fair nor impartial.

 

8.3. Succession and the European Certificate of Succession (A7-0045/2012 - Kurt Lechner) (vote)
 

Before the vote:

 
  
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  Kurt Lechner, rapporteur.(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, we are voting on a regulation which will bring major benefits for all European citizens who have assets in another country or who do not live in their native country, for example, people who are not Belgian and live in Brussels. In future, they will be able to plan their succession sensibly and with legal certainty, which will significantly simplify matters for their heirs. I would like to thank everyone involved, the Council and the Commission for working together so effectively. Finally, I would like to make the following very serious remark. I hope that we all have many years or even decades before we are affected by the improvements in this regulation. Let us hope that we all stay healthy.

(Applause)

 

8.4. Equality between women and men in the European Union - 2011 (A7-0041/2012 - Sophia in ’t Veld) (vote)
 

Before the vote:

 
  
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  Sari Essayah (PPE). – Madam President, in the Finnish version of this report, the numbering of articles is wrong from Article 33 onwards. So, in the Finnish version of this report, the numbering is wrong.

 
  
 

After the vote on paragraph 58, part 1:

 
  
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  Sophia in 't Veld, rapporteur. – Madam President, can you please check the vote on the first part before we move to the second part. Let us take a check on the first part and then vote on the second part.

 
  
 

After the vote on paragraph 58, part 2:

 
  
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  Sophia in 't Veld, rapporteur. – Madam President, sorry, maybe I am confused but, now we have taken a check on the first part, can we vote on the second part because I made an intervention during the vote?

 
  
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  President. – We have already voted on it by roll call.

 
  
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  Sophia in 't Veld, rapporteur. – Madam President, I called for a check during the vote on the second part; I think many people were not aware that we were voting. Can we please first take the vote on the second part, and then move to 26?

 
  
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  President. – That is not possible.

After the vote on Amendment 26:

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – Madam President, in the last roll-call vote before this one, it said Amendment 26 on the screen so that was what I thought I voted on in the vote before this one.

 
  
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  President. – Mr Schlyter, I am being told that the vote, or the paragraph, or the amendment appeared correctly on the screen. I did not see, given my position. Yes, that is what I am told, so let us move on.

 
  
 

Before the final vote:

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I just want to remind the House that we are voting on a resolution on equality between men and women and therefore on the need to give women the tools to reach important positions and to find a work-life balance. It is a pity that the amendments on maternity leave and quotas for women have been rejected. As a result, I urge everyone to reject this directive.

 
  
 

After the final vote:

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE).(DE) Madam President, the system did not work along our entire row. I would like to ask you to repeat the vote. The lights throughout the entire row did not work at all.

 
  
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  President. – I am sorry, but that is not possible.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to correct what Mr Posselt said. The problem is that you did not say ‘The vote is open’, but immediately said ‘The vote is closed’. You first gave the floor to Ms Ronzulli and then said ‘The vote’. Since you did not announce the start of the vote, many of us did not press the button. This is an oversight that can be verified by the recording so, even though I voted, I am asking you to repeat the vote for the benefit of my fellow Members who did not, because the translation was delayed.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Joseph Daul (PPE).(FR) Madam President, if 100 people were unable to vote, there must be a technical problem. Therefore, I call upon you to hold the vote again and the problem will be resolved in one minute.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. – Right, the administrative services are telling me that there have actually been some technical problems, so the vote will be put to the House once again. The vote is re-opened.

Have you all voted? Have you all checked that your machines work? Good. The vote is closed. Adopted.

 

8.5. Women in political decision making (A7-0029/2012 - Sirpa Pietikäinen) (vote)
 

Before the vote on indent 8:

 
  
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  Sirpa Pietikäinen, rapporteur. – Madam President, this is a totally technical oral amendment to have the right reference for the United Nations resolution. It is General Assembly resolution on women and political participation: Resolution A/C.3/66/L.20/Rev.1 approved on 18 November 2011. This is the correct formulation for that UN resolution, for your information.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was accepted)

 

8.6. Statute for a European cooperative society with regard to the involvement of employees (A7-0432/2011 - Sven Giegold) (debate)

8.7. Bologna process (A7-0035/2012 - Luigi Berlinguer) (vote)
 

Before the vote:

 
  
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  Luigi Berlinguer, rapporteur. – Madam President, let me thank all the colleagues of the Committee on Culture and Education for their collaboration in preparing this report on the Bologna process on the consolidation and development of a European university system.

I have a dream that every student applying to a university in any Member State should be enabled to get a degree, a qualification valid in all the territories of Europe, within the whole European labour market. This is definitely one of the ways to build up European unity and European citizenship. This is the deep meaning of this report.

(Loud applause)

 

8.8. European statistics (A7-0037/2012 - Edward Scicluna) (vote)
 

Before the vote:

 
  
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  Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE). – Madam President, I propose adding at the end of this paragraph a sentence relating to the independence or strengthening the independence of Eurostat. I propose we add: ‘Calls, therefore, on the Commission and the Member States to take the necessary steps for strengthening the independence of Eurostat, including by changes to its institutional status’.

 
  
 

(The oral amendment was not accepted)

 

9. Explanations of vote
Video of the speeches
  

Oral explanations of vote

 
  
  

Report: Kurt Lechner (A7-0045/2012)

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Madam President, this report on the authentic instruments in matters of succession and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession seeks to give legal clarification that the law of one EU Member State can apply in the case of when a deceased person owns property in more than one Member State.

I am, however, unable fully to support it. I am particularly concerned with the issue of clawback, which raises uncertainty in a person’s estate, suggesting that their decisions pre-death may not be final. In England and Wales, we operate a system where the individual has the right to decide the apportionment of their estate. Importantly, this gives individuals the right to freely choose whether they would like to give a portion of this to a charity, for example, after their death. No EU legislation should interfere with this personal decision.

 
  
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  Peter Jahr (PPE).(DE) Madam President, I would also like to give my sincere congratulations to the rapporteur, Mr Lechner. If our job is to create a little more legal certainty for the citizens of Europe and a little more trust in the European Union, then Mr Lechner has, in my opinion, submitted a very good report today. It deserves our admiration. We have introduced a proposal which, firstly, guarantees legal certainty in issues of international succession and, secondly, gives European citizens the option of choosing between the inheritance law of the country where they live or of their home country. In my view, this is a significant move towards self-determination for the citizens of the EU. We believe that this will simplify considerably the administration of estates in Europe. In addition, this is a successful step towards implementing a European internal market and a European legal culture.

 
  
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  Gay Mitchell (PPE). – Madam President, I wish to explain on behalf of the Irish EPP delegation that we abstained from the vote on the Lechner report because the Irish Government expressed reservations about this report in regard to the use of habitual residence as the connecting factor in the absence of a choice of law, the effect of the regulation on the system of administration which exists in Ireland and the issue of lifetime gifts or clawback.

While some progress was made on the issue of habitual residence, the issue of administration of estates and the restoration of lifetime gifts or clawback were not resolved to Ireland’s satisfaction.

As a result, Ireland has not opted into this proposed regulation in the Council and therefore, the EPP Fine Gael members have abstained on this vote because we have similar reservations.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Madam President, along with my group, the ECR, I abstained on the Lechner report on jurisdiction and matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession. We agree with the report for the most part but found it difficult to agree on the clawback mechanism as this mechanism is alien to the legal system and traditions in England and Wales, which I represent.

We would be concerned, were it introduced, that it would adversely affect charities in the UK as it would affect the certainty with which they can view donations. The clawback mechanism applies retrospectively. There is potential for gifts or donations given to charities during the lifetime of a benefactor then being annulled by their legal heirs upon the benefactor’s death. Given the Council’s refusal to allow an exception on this point for the UK, we felt in the ECR that we could not opt into this regulation.

 
  
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  Iva Zanicchi (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I voted in favour of the report by Mr Lechner, which aims to simplify and streamline successions, especially cross-border successions. Obviously, the regulation cannot resolve all the problems and regulate every detail, but I think it would considerably improve the present legal position and thereby give EU citizens a clear and secure basis for arranging their succession.

The new choice-of-law right will make citizens more autonomous and, lastly, the Commission proposal will be improved as a result of the creation of an European Certificate of Succession, which can be issued by notaries and bodies competent in matters of succession.

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (ECR). – Madam President, we are again reminded of the difference between the common law system that prevails in England and Ireland, and the Roman or Bonapartist model which prevails across most of the rest of the continent. Our system tends to exalt individual freedom and property rights over whatever notion of collective good, and this difference in succession laws is a neat illustration. To simplify, our system allows you far more leeway over bequeathing your property to whomever you like without the state coming in and declaring your will illegal.

Naturally enough, this report follows the prevalent model on the continent. We are reminded yet again that harmonisation more often than not puts us in the minority through no fault of the system; it is just that we are the odd ones out. We are reminded again of that little miracle that happened when the common law system was invented. This extraordinary, sublime idea that law does not emanate from the state, but rather that there was a folk right of existing law that even the king and his ministers were subject to. How it happened I do not know, but it served to make us a free people and that we have accepted this alien system as superior over it leaves us dwindled as a nation, diminished as a people.

 
  
  

Report: Sophia in ’t Veld (A7-0041/2012)

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Madam President, one of the cross-cutting themes in this report is the call for wider representation of women on boards of companies, an aspiration that I entirely agree with. More diversity on boards, when twinned with effective selection procedures that put the correct focus on expertise and experience, has been proven to be good for corporate governance.

However, I cannot support the concept of mandatory quotas. Not only is it patronising to women, it is completely against the concept of shareholder engagement that we are all so keen to foster in European companies.

The best way to achieve meaningful, non-tokenistic representation of women on boards is by industry initiatives, such as the 30% club in the United Kingdom, which encourages business leaders to take affirmative action in moving voluntarily towards a better gender balance at all levels of their organisation.

This approach has the added benefit of encouraging institutional shareholders to take a positive role in promoting women to positions of leadership, but the real problem of gender equality exists one step down, at the management level. Correcting this will involve long-term planning.

 
  
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  Morten Messerschmidt (EFD).(DA) Madam President, I voted against this report. I actually feel the need to thank the rapporteur for providing proof of the runaway integration frenzy that is permeating this whole institution. Reading through this report, there is hardly a detail out there in the Member States that I feel there is a need for the EU to interfere in. There was a time when we had something we called the principle of subsidiarity – that is to say, the condition that the EU would not interfere unless it was absolutely necessary. If the Member States could deal with a matter themselves, then they should do so. Reading through this report, I see no trace of this principle of subsidiarity: matrimonial law, day nurseries, registered partnerships, nursery school opening times, the definition of the concept of family, maternity leave and wage formation – all of this is included in this report as something that the EU should interfere in. If it was not actually laughable, it would be enough to make you cry. We already have regulations covering the likes of whether we can blow up balloons and whether we have to give the name of a fish in our mother tongue or in Latin. When will this integration frenzy stop?

 
  
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  Frank Vanhecke (EFD). (NL) Madam President, this report on equality between women and men in the European Union, which – if I am not mistaken – was voted through in the Committee by one man and 27 women, is full of politically correct platitudes and proposes an enormous amount of meddling by Europe in almost everything. That is why I did not support it, even though I, personally, of course, – like most people, fortunately – am fully convinced of the need for equal rights for men and women.

What strikes me about this report is that it takes pot shots at almost everything except today’s overriding taboo, and that is the growing wave of extremism in Europe and, by definition, especially discriminatory Islam. There is a brief passing reference to the so-called Arab Spring, but otherwise, there is a great silence on the issues thrown up by Islam in our own European countries, from headscarves, the symbol of subjugation, to the horror of genital mutilation.

My conclusion on this is: shame on us all.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, with today’s vote, Parliament is sending out its message once again: we are still very far from achieving equal opportunities at work. For consistency’s sake, I obviously voted against the final text of this report because a number of amendments on maternity leave and quotas for women were rejected.

A few days ahead of International Women’s Day, fine words remain just that; there is no use talking about equal opportunities if women are not then given the tools to achieve it. What sort of policy on work-life balance can achieve positive results if many businesses confine employees returning from maternity leave to increasingly marginal roles in order to encourage them to resign?

Advancing the cause of women means supporting change; enhancing their status is not only important in economic terms but is, above all, socially valuable. Today, this House calls on all women: we must fearlessly report all infringements and re-double our efforts in our everyday lives. That is the only way to successfully eradicate a backward mentality which, unfortunately, still holds sway in many places and is shared, regrettably, by many of my fellow Members, as I have seen today.

 
  
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  Salvatore Iacolino (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, this is an important requirement and one that must be supported, just as we must support the advancement of the status of women, not only in the workplace. Important progress has been made in recent decades, including through absolutely cutting-edge EU legislation.

Sixty per cent of our graduates are women but there is no doubt that accessing the world of work is tricky when women choose family life as well as work. The family needs to be safeguarded and protected, while the gender gap definitely has to be significantly reduced through well-defined social policies, greater working flexibility and, of course, by protecting vulnerable women. Let us remember that when it comes to trafficking in human beings, it is often women who are the victims, which is also an important subject to which yet further attention must be paid.

 
  
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  Emma McClarkin (ECR). – Madam President, the report by the Committee on Women’s Rights on equality between men and women in the EU highlights a number of ongoing concerns. I am pleased that the report addresses a number of these.

Firstly, I agree it is frustrating that progress on gender equality is slowing, if not at a standstill. We must address – especially in times of economic crisis where belts are tightening – the problem that women earn, on average, 17.5% less than men across the EU. Gender stereotypes, often leading to discrimination in the workplace, must also be addressed.

The call for the European observatory on gender-based violence to be made operational as soon as possible is fully supported, while I agree that the EU Victims’ Package must include provisions to support women who have been forced to marry or who have been the victims of genital mutilation as a result of religious practices.

However, the report goes on to call for EU influence over maternity leave, quotas for female representation in elected positions, the combating of gender-based violence through EU-wide legal instruments and pension rights, all of which I believe are better addressed at a national level rather than at a European level. On issues such as quotas, I firmly believe it is up to the nation state and national parties to decide how they will address the gender imbalance. There are many points of agreement within this report, but often it goes too far and I cannot support this.

 
  
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  Dimitar Stoyanov (NI).(BG) Madam President, I have a male friend in Bulgaria who says that his biggest dream is to be born a woman in his next life. This same friend of mine is making a very important statement: ‘The strength of women lies in their weakness’. I firmly believe in the truth of what my friend is saying. I also strongly believe that the suffragette movement nearly two centuries ago achieved much less than the wives of the lords achieved, who remained at home with their meek attitude to their lords.

This is why I cannot accept the aggressive approach and tone of the report from Ms in’ t Veld which, in my view, does a disservice to women. Even Ms in ’t Veld’s own group had tabled amendments to this report to tone it down.

As a further point, I would like to add that we have witnessed exceptional hypocrisy on this matter because, by waiving Ms Morvai’s immunity, this Parliament has punished her for defending women against domestic violence. The next moment, we will be adopting a resolution against domestic violence. I find this hypocrisy outrageous and oppose it.

 
  
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  Gay Mitchell (PPE). – Madam President, I wish to explain some of my votes on this report. I abstained on paragraphs 1, 3, 5, 47 and Recital T. According to the principle of subsidiarity, these are issues within the competence of Member States and I do not see why these issues are included in this report.

But I did want to make one other point. Since the report has gone into all sorts of issues which are not the competence of the Parliament, why has it not gone into the issue of gendercide? There are 100 million women missing in the world because of gender-based abortion. If this report can go into all sorts of issues in relation to abortion and war and everything else, why is it that we can never hear from this author or this committee any concern about the destruction of women because they are women on such an extraordinary scale?

It is wholly unacceptable and I am flabbergasted that it has not been mentioned in this report.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR). – Madam President, this report contains some positive statements regarding domestic violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriages, all of which made it difficult to vote against the report.

I acknowledge the gender pay gap is still very real and it is an unjust fact of today’s employment market. I do not underestimate the need to encourage more women into politics. However, it is difficult to support a report that calls for an EU-dictated maternity and paternity leave proposal, which is both damaging to women and small businesses and is socially regressive. It supports targets and quotas at EU level and it meddles in pensions and social security measures, a red line in my view.

Unfortunately, there are too many areas I cannot support and these drown out all the good the report can do. I was therefore forced to vote against this report.

 
  
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  Ioannis Kasoulides (PPE). – Madam President, my voting record always shows that I am in favour of the termination of pregnancy under certain strict medical and legal conditions. I am in favour of gay rights and so on, but I am afraid that this report has missed the opportunity for the whole House to be in agreement on the equality of men and women because it touched upon issues of strict subsidiarity, which is not acceptable because it provokes this Parliament to be divided where this Parliament should have been united.

That is why I have voted against this report and I hope that next time the opportunity is offered to deal with matters of gender equality, the subsidiary issues will be left for each society to decide the ethical and social issues that are its concern.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI). – Madam President, I very much regret that this report, which should have been about reducing inequality and highlighting a very important issue in this respect, has not only strayed into areas which are solely within the remit of the Member State, but has also been used once again to press the case for the pro-abortion lobby across the EU.

As someone who believes firmly in the right to life of the unborn child, I cannot support the distortion of reports in this way. There are already great concerns at how abortion clinics carry out their work. Indeed, only two weeks ago in the UK, the Daily Telegraph revealed the availability of gender-based abortions in a private clinic in England. That is a practice that must end and reports would be more profitable if they were to uphold the right to life of young girls such as those highlighted in the Daily Telegraph report. Despite the merits of some aspects of the report, I cannot support it and regret the continued pursuance of reports in such a one-sided way.

 
  
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  Krisztina Morvai (NI).(HU) Madam President, I voted against Ms in ’t Veld’s report on equality between women and men because it uses the suffering of masses of disenfranchised women as an alibi to achieve two contemptible goals. One of the goals of the report is to put additional enormous sums of money in the pockets of those close to the fire and their friends as EU financing for utterly redundant projects. Meanwhile, abused women and their children are like fugitives, without any option for legal protection, as seen for example in Hungary. Disenfranchised employees, female employees, at various multinational companies are not afforded any legal protection whatsoever. This whole affair is therefore one big sham.

The other major lie here is that in using disenfranchised women as an alibi, the report attempts to bring across its own agenda to legalise prostitution, extend abortion and force same-sex marriage on Member States. Nothing illustrates the extent of this lie better than how eagerly the drafters of this report raised their hands in support when it came to commencing a witch-hunt against a women’s rights advocate, that is, myself.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Madam President, I voted against the in ’t Veld report on equality between men and women in the EU. The report, of course, has many positive elements on gender equality which I support, such as work in the field of preventing domestic violence, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, discrimination in the workplace and unequal pay for the same work.

However, the references, for example, to maternity leave, forced paternity leave at EU level, quotas for women on the board of directors, pension rights, and a kind of EU-level criminal-law sanctions approach to combating gender-based violence are a step too far in my view and they caused me to vote against it.

Lastly, matters to do with abortion are a personal conscience matter and, in my view, should be dealt with under subsidiarity by national parliaments and national governments and individual MPs, not MEPs.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). (SK) Madam President, gender equality is enshrined in the Treaty on European Union and is one of the fundamental principles of the European Union. One of the worst stereotypes, and a demoralising example of discrimination, is the persistence of unjustified differences in pay between men and women for equal work and equal qualifications. In some cases, these differences even exceed 25%.

In the interest of the proper protection of children, whether before or after birth, I state my complete disagreement with the misleading use of the phrase ‘sexual and reproductive rights’, which includes some kind of pseudo-entitlement to abortion or the termination of pregnancy. I would, first and foremost, like to mention that the only fundamental human right that is expressly recognised, whether in European or in international documents, is the right to life. The declarations of the European Parliament should be consistent with this human rights approach.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE). – Madam President, this report is supposed to be about equality between men and women in the European Union. I regret that once again, the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality has strayed completely from the topic. This report is a missed opportunity to discuss gender equality and the persistent and gaping gender pay gap, still 17.5% according to paragraph 17, and yet there is only one small paragraph consisting of four-and-a-half lines dealing with this. Instead, the focus of this report was diverted to abortion, reproductive rights and the definition of the family, all of which are subsidiarity matters.

I voted against paragraph 47, reproductive rights and access to abortion; paragraph 58, reproductive and health services; paragraph 61, access to abortion for victims of rape in armed conflict. Mr Messerschmidt, Mr Kasoulides, Mr Tannock have all emphasised that the vast majority of the matters being dealt with are matters of subsidiarity. I voted against the report in total.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). (FI) Madam President, regarding the report by my colleague, Ms in ’t Veld, I would first like to say that, in my view, reports of this type do not really fall within the remit of the European Parliament, as most of the issues dealt with therein are for the Member States themselves to decide upon, under the principle of subsidiarity.

There again, this report was also very inconsistent as regards its content. Furthermore, from point 33 onwards, the numbering was wrong, and that consequently caused a good deal of confusion.

I can only say that I voted against this report, on account of its content, and because it does not fall within the remit of this European Parliament. In my opinion, we should always be in favour of life. I am a ‘pro-life’ person in every respect, and, unfortunately, this was not a report in defence of life. In that respect, at least, it could not meet with my approval.

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (ECR). – Madam President, we will have to wait and see where the European Parliament stands on apple pie, but we now know its position on motherhood, and for many of the supporters of this report on equality between the sexes, it really is in that category.

Of course, if we were simply proposing equality of all citizens before the law, it would be very difficult for anyone to disagree. But what has happened is that this report has become a kind of general holdall receptacle for every current nostrum – quotas on company boards, quotas in political parties, abortion law, reproductive rights. I am not saying that there is not a case to be made for and against all of those issues, but surely they ought to be determined through our national democratic mechanisms and procedures?

If national parliaments cannot even decide sensitive and ethical questions [microphone momentarily switched off] accountable to their own electorates, what are they doing there? If, as independent countries, we cannot settle these matters for ourselves, let us quit all and give our vineyards to a barbarous people.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE). (SK) Madam President, genuine equality between women and men cannot be brought about by giving preference to women through quotas or other positive discrimination measures. Motherhood, raising children, as well as caring for family and close relatives contribute to the overall well-being of society at least as much as values created through working in a job or engaging in business. Equality does not mean a denial of the exceptionality of women, mothers, but the valuing of motherhood and allowing women freedom in their self-realisation. In this, however, the report failed.

Instead of supporting motherhood, the report underlines the value of abortion. Instead of supporting the family as the natural environment for birth and raising children, the report underlines bonds with persons other than heterosexuals. It is an outdated view of women’s rights, and I was therefore unable to support the report.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE).(GA) Madam President, like my colleagues Mr Higgins and Mr Mitchell, I also had difficulties with these proposals, in particular, that which relates to abortion and Member States’ powers. There was far too much in the report, as Mr Hannan said, and a lot of Members had to vote against it, despite being in favour of creating a balance between men and women. When you look at the world as it is at present and at the economic recession, one of the reasons we have an economic recession is that there are too many men in politics and too many men in companies, in particular, on company boards, and that should be corrected in future. Therefore, we have a lot of work to do and we must bring that forward as soon as we can. The proposals are here but they were intertwined with everything and a lot of people had to vote against it as a result of that.

 
  
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  Philip Claeys (NI). (NL) Madam President, I voted against the report on equality between women and men in the European Union because some legitimate areas of concern, such as equal pay for equal work, are in danger of becoming lost in the mire of Utopian political correctness.

For example, it speaks of multiple discrimination, the victims of which are immigrant women. Why is it so difficult to tell the whole truth? Why is it so difficult to say openly that what this really refers to is the subordinate position of women in Islam? It is a pretty easy thing to do, to pretend that all cultures are equal and equivalent, only then to come crying that women in Islam have to put up with a subordinate position.

Things become totally surreal when the report states that there should be perfect parity between the Vice-Presidents of Parliament. Let us just hold free elections, where everyone can participate and where people are judged according to their capabilities and their ideas, rather than according to their gender.

 
  
  

Report: Sirpa Pietikäinen (A7-0029/2012)

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Madam President, this report is a classic example of do as I say, not as I do. One would expect the EU institutions themselves with many politically appointed executives to be leading the way. I cannot understand why one of the most influential institutions in the EU, namely, the European Central Bank, does not get included in the scope of this report.

We sit and lecture and mandate gender equality for any number of private institutions and already have legislative proposals on the table covering diversity on the boards of financial institutions, yet the ECB itself does not currently have a single woman on its executive board. Many Member States still think it is acceptable to consider an all-male shortlist every time a position on the ECB comes up. I refuse to accept that there are no competent women out there able to take part in economic decisions that affect the lives of over 500 million EU citizens, or that the Bank’s dealings with Greece and other troubled economies over the coming years would not benefit from a female perspective. Let the EU institutions fix their own gender deficit before turning to others.

 
  
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  Emma McClarkin (ECR). – Madam President, as a young elected female representative, I feel it important to outline my opposition towards the report on women in political decision making.

It is regrettable that women are so badly under-represented in politics. We must encourage improvement on the 24% EU national average of women in political decision-making roles. The situation is even worse in Westminster in the UK where 22% of Members of Parliament are women. Considering that 51% of the UK population is female, this imbalance becomes stark. I therefore support ideas such as mentoring programmes, whereby training and exchange programmes could be used to better promote young women’s political participation and I commend the work of the Conservative Women’s Organisation in the UK in encouraging young women. I even recognise that my own Conservative Party has tried to promote women by supporting all-women shortlists, as David Cameron did in 2009, and so it should be that nation states and parties within nation states should have the freedom to address the gender imbalance as they see fit.

However, what I do oppose is the EU creating a top-down approach, whereby they impose quotas and other measures to address the gender imbalance.

 
  
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  Morten Messerschmidt (EFD).(DA) Madam President, I think we would all agree that women are a tremendous asset to the whole of our society. For example, for nearly 20 years, my party has had remarkable success with a female chair.

However, the big question is this: is this really the only human characteristic that is important? If we have quotas for women because they are women, then why not have quotas for many other things? What about geographical quotas? I am sure that no one would claim that a candidate from the regions would be less qualified than a candidate from a city. Or what about age quotas? I am certain that on very many of the lists and the boards of directors around Europe, there is a clear excess of older people. Is that not an unreasonable case of discrimination? Or what about sexual quotas? A homosexual is obviously just as good a person as a heterosexual. Around one in twenty of Europe’s citizens are homosexual, so how about creating homosexual quotas? This would result in us operating in a state of chaos.

I would therefore like to make it clear that the reason I have voted against this report today is not that I am against women, elderly people or homosexuals; it is because I am against quotas and the idea that people can be tallied up in quotas. Quotas are for fish, CO2 and things like that, not for people of flesh and blood.

 
  
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  Frank Vanhecke (EFD). (NL) Madam President, equality between men and women, and a derivative thereof, equal rights for men and women, are achievements, or rather, a principle which no sensible person, in my opinion, can continue to question. That, indeed, includes me, as well, and it is one of the major reasons why I consider Islam, for example, completely incompatible with the principles of constitutional democracy with which we, in Europe, are fortunately familiar.

However, that said, I remain immovably opposed to a quota system whereby the representation of women in political decision making is boosted artificially. It is the responsibility of the voters, 50% of whom are women anyway, to elect their own representatives.

It is most probable that more men than women take an active interest in politics nowadays. That is not merely a consequence of discrimination. If, for once, we could agree on that amongst ourselves, as adults, then that in itself would be a step forward. But no, that does not seem to be possible and so, with this report, we remain in the realm of victim rhetoric and that is a pity.

 
  
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  Mario Pirillo (S&D).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, despite the progress that has been made, we do have to admit, unfortunately, that women are still subject to many instances of inequality in all areas, including active participation in decision making and the political process. This is a feature of all Member States and even of this House, since women occupy just 34% of the seats here.

In order to achieve equality between men and women, we must first of all remove the cultural obstacles and start to talk about gender policy. The parties themselves have got to initiate this first step towards change. Various positive measures are put forward in Ms Pietikäinen’s report, which I wholeheartedly support. These include the measures on quotas for women which, while not the ideal solution, are the only feasible approach until we see a change of culture and outlook, as I said.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR). – Madam President, it is a given that we need more women in politics, in fact in all spheres of life. What we do not need is to put them there through non-flexible EU legislation which establishes targets and quotas for women.

Member States need to look at their own political systems and decide how best to support women in these fields. Member States must have the right to decide what is best for their government and how to format their government. Who is in the government is up to the electorate. Candidates must always be selected on merit and the ability to do the job.

This report is patronising to women and it is venturing outside the EU’s jurisdiction.

 
  
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  Dimitar Stoyanov (NI).(BG) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I personally benefited from a quota system as my faculty of law, the most prestigious faculty of law in Bulgaria, admitted an equal number of boys and girls and, if this had not been the case, it is most likely that I might not have got in and completed my legal education. However, was it fair that I and a few other boys took places from girls who were better prepared than us and fared better in the exams?

You know fine well that the answer to this question is ‘no’. This is why I am against setting quotas. My first child was born recently – a beautiful little girl. Like any parent, I want her to do better than me and, when she has grown up, I want her to successfully make her way in her professional life and career thanks to her abilities and not to charity in the form of quotas as, unfortunately, her father has done.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI). – Madam President, whilst I agree that there are disproportionately low numbers of women in political roles, and indeed high in business, and we want to see those barriers which remain broken down, I do not believe that this report from the European Parliament will be the instrument to do so.

I am sure that I speak for the vast majority of women in saying that we want career advancement on the basis of merit, on our ability to actually do the job, rather than on our gender. I want people to vote for me on my record of representation, not because I am a woman. I certainly do not want someone else to suffer discrimination in order to advance my career. Capable, ambitious women want to reach the pinnacle of their careers on what they have achieved and what they can offer. To progress because you are a woman in order to meet an EU statistic would be a hollow achievement indeed.

I want to state that I firmly support mentoring programmes and I want to commend the work of organisations such as the Ballybeen Women’s Centre in my own constituency – an example of real working women who are tackling the issue head-on, with greater access to education, training and support.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Madam President, I voted alongside my group against the Pietikäinen report on women in political decision making. While I accept strongly that there is a numerical imbalance between men and women in terms of numbers involved in political decision making at the highest levels, and that this is not an ideal state of affairs, I strongly reject EU-wide quotas and targets being put in place and enforced.

I believe that this is a matter for national governments and political parties and their electorates. Although I do not oppose the notion of introducing targets at national level, I again feel strongly that this is a matter to be organised by the Member States as they see fit within their own political systems. Lastly, I would like to make the comment that, within my own political party, Margaret Thatcher never felt remotely held back in her rise to power in the United Kingdom by being a woman.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). (SK) Madam President, this report is entitled ‘Women in the political decision-making process – quality and equality’. I strongly believe – as do some of my female colleagues who have already spoken – and I am glad that it is women who are talking about this, that they are offended that we are supposed to lay down, in some artificial way, whether they are to be allowed to speak, or whether they are to occupy some very important position.

Yes, the joint declaration adopted at the 66th UN General Assembly in New York recommends ever greater political participation by women, because this has a positive meaning for democracy, etc. Of course, there are many documents that encourage Member States to work towards eliminating discrimination. I can agree with that. However, I strongly believe that the introduction of quotas for women is not the right approach, and rather demeans women. Reserving places through quotas so that women can have more of a say, when, in the normal competition of people and ideas, they can honestly argue their position, is misguided.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE). – Madam President, I am very happy to support this own-initiative report – and that is what it is, an own-initiative report. I would like to congratulate the rapporteur on an excellent report which sets out some very practical and realistic measures, unlike the last report which we debated here.

Gender quotas, in my opinion, are the only real means of change. I look at the Irish Parliament. It has a record high of 26 females since we got our independence in 1922 – that is what we have now. In percentage terms, it only represents 16% of the composition of Parliament, a far cry from the 30% target set by the UN.

We need to reinvent our political system so that it is gender-balanced. I look at Spain, for example, and Belgium, where they introduced gender quotas. The proportions of women in Parliament have rocketed since the introduction of legally-binding quotas. Belgium, for example: 12.7% in 2007, 35% now; Spain: 26% in 2008, 36.3% now; but I want to emphasise that it is only a very temporary measure until we get gender balance – because that is what it is all about.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE).(SK) Madam President, advocates of quotas do not want women to have the freedom to choose. They want to decide for them. According to them, the ambitions of women are the same as the ambitions of men. To manage a company, political party or government. Children and family are an obstacle. To overcome it, the right to abortion and employment quotas must be introduced. However, quotas do not solve discrimination, they deepen it. The majority of women also have the ambition of becoming mothers. They are discriminated against because they do a lot of work that nobody wants to see. From the employers’ perspective, the readiness of women to care for their nearest and dearest is a risk that they deal with through not hiring women, lower pay or career stagnation. Lower pay is then reflected negatively in the retirement pensions of each and every mother. From the viewpoint of women, then, this is a threefold injustice. This is the real problem facing women of today. I was unable to vote for the report.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). (FI) Madam President, first of all, I would like to say that this report by Ms Pietikäinen is excellent and well worth supporting. I voted in favour of it, and if we compare this to the report by Ms in ’t Veld, which we were just dealing with, there is a huge difference. These issues have been put in the right context and are based on the very notion that competence is the decisive factor. In Europe, however, we still have some way to go until such decisions would be based on competence alone.

We need employment, we need education and training as well as an attitude that supports the idea that men and women should be treated equally in the labour market and in different roles. That is why I believe that quotas will be a temporary solution in political decision making.

We need action, because talking is not enough. There are good examples of this: in the European Central Bank, for example, where there is not a single woman, as has been made apparent here too. I do, of course, know that in some countries, there are offices of the ombudsman for equality where there is not a single man, and so on. The basic assumption must be that men and women should be involved in decision making, and I believe that this is a way to strengthen this trend in different countries, so that equality can become a reality.

 
  
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  Philip Claeys (NI). (NL) Madam President, we have just voted on the report on equality between women and men in the European Union. The Pietikäinen report actually, though, advocates the exact opposite, since it openly calls for preferential treatment for women. This means turning the clock back 50 years and simply replacing sexism against women with a politically correct kind of sexism, sexism against men.

This report wants to impose all kinds of requirements on Member States, even on political parties in individual Member States. They would also be required to ensure a gender balance in their governing bodies. Now, these kinds of things are an insult, an affront to all competent working women. So let us stop this nonsense and assess people on the basis of their abilities rather than their gender.

 
  
  

Report: Sven Giegold (A7-0432/2011)

 
  
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  Patrizia Toia (S&D).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I want, first and foremost, to express my very sincere appreciation for Mr Giegold’s work on this own-initiative report. I also recall that we share with him and with others an active presence in Parliament’s Social Economy Intergroup.

My political group, as you know, believes that the social model is one of the fundamental characteristics of the European integration project. Therefore, this is not just a simple policy, or one of many; it is a policy that characterises our entire project. In this day and age, with the attacks relating to the need for public spending cuts as well, we still firmly support this priority. We know that it may be as a revised or modified social model, but we believe that it should be retained, defended and reaffirmed as a priority.

Therefore, I believe that, in this same vision, we must also promote business entities, such as cooperatives, which produce goods and services and have a very special role in the so-called European social economy. These businesses reassert the fact that it is possible to be productive, to do good things, to be efficient even if the goal is not profit but rather, for example, employment, welfare, labour development and contributing to the life of the local community.

This is why it is important – I am finishing here, Madam President – for Europe to make the appropriate instruments available for an active policy and make a good statute – not the one that exists now, which is unusable, but a good statute for cooperatives which can be a way to help this very important sector.

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Madam President, cooperatives have a hugely important role in local economies, particularly in this time of economic hardship when necessary cuts are being made to public services. Setting up local cooperatives to meet local needs should be the obvious solution.

However, I think the concept of European cooperative societies misses the point. Setting EU directives to harmonise the concept of a cooperative is not what is necessary to make setting them up easier.

The real problem is the huge amount of red tape and bureaucracy that any number of other EU directives and regulations create and thus stifle small businesses, no matter whether they are organised as cooperatives, social enterprises or for-profit businesses.

I can only hope that the Commission’s commitment to a social business initiative and all businesses across the EU will turn words into action and actually deal head on with the issue of red tape and bureaucracy which affects all of my Welsh businesses, however they may be structured.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, I voted for Mr Giegold’s report because European cooperative societies contribute to economic growth, the strengthening of the internal market and job creation. They are also involved in the implementation of the cohesion policy through their activities at global and regional level. At the moment, this important sector is not managed consistently.

I welcome the initiative to revise the directive on European cooperative societies as specified in Article 17, so as to factor in the specific needs of workers. Their involvement in cooperatives is vital and it needs to take place under the most favourable conditions possible. At the same time, the Statute for a European cooperative society should be amended in order to provide simpler access for users. This will help establish a consistent legal framework allowing cooperative societies in Member States to plan and carry out their activities on an EU scale.

 
  
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  Salvatore Caronna (S&D).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the role of the cooperative movement has always been important for creating a more balanced and just economy. Currently, while we are going through one of the most serious economic and social crises since the war, the function of cooperative societies has become crucial. It is quite clear that where there has been substantial development of the cooperative dimension in the economy, the result has been an increase in employment, more skilled labour and more equitable redistribution of the wealth generated.

Therefore, it is good that the European Union has adopted a statute for cooperative societies, but now more than ever, there needs to be a real simplification of the rules. We need to give new incentives for the creation of a common European framework on cooperatives and this must occur by giving assistance and not creating bureaucratic obstacles. This is why I voted in favour of this resolution and I hope that the Commission and the Council will take action to resolve the problems mentioned.

 
  
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  Vincenzo Iovine (ALDE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I congratulate those who actively contributed to the adoption of the report on the Statute for a European cooperative society. I would like to emphasise the important role of the cooperative experience in Italy and Europe and of its impact on the territory, in particular, during the period of crisis we are currently going through.

However, I must regretfully note that the European cooperative society (SCE) is not yet a success, given its scarce use: in 2010, only 17 SCEs were registered. This should make us question the applicability of the legal framework. I believe that today, more than ever, simplification is needed to enable small organisations to access information on national provisions for implementing regulations and directives.

Furthermore, I think we need to remember the commitments undertaken by the Commission, in particular, to include cooperatives among the financial instruments of the European Investment Fund and to make explicit reference to more favourable conditions for cooperatives, such as easier access to loans and tax concessions. The Italian experience has shown that if cooperatives are supported by adequate instruments and concessions, they produce excellent results in terms of employment and society.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Madam President, I am abstaining on the Giegold report on the Statute for a European cooperative society with regard to the involvement of employees. While I do not oppose the idea of an SCE per se – and personally I strongly support the cooperative movement as a great business and social model – I note that the uptake has been relatively slow at EU level with only 17 such establishments set up since 2010.

Given this slow uptake, I do not back the calls for the creation of a dedicated European year of the social economy, and neither do I support the initiative put forward in the report for urgent improvements within the Commission with regard to the organisation and financial resources dedicated to the social economy. Instead, I much prefer the big society idea promoted by my very own Prime Minister, David Cameron. Maybe other EU Member States should look at the UK and copy this example.

 
  
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  Jacky Hénin (GUE/NGL).(FR) Madam President, I would like to express my pleasure at seeing the European Parliament reaffirm its support for cooperatives, which are a very distinctive type of company. These companies have considerable power: 160 000 cooperatives with 5 400 000 employees. Of course, let us not be naive. We know perfectly well that some cooperatives practise truly predatory behaviour, like the Finnish cooperative which just wiped M-real Alizay off the map, leaving more than 400 employees by the wayside. This is true and it is shameful, but, as a general rule, cooperatives behave completely differently and, above all, in many situations, this type of company enables employees to save and develop businesses that we simply wanted to eliminate.

That is why we must support this very distinctive type of company, where everyone has a voice.

 
  
  

Report: Luigi Berlinguer (A7-0035/2012)

 
  
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  Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE).(PT) Madam President, the Bologna process has two key objectives that we support unreservedly. It enables compatibility between Europe’s higher education systems and it removes obstacles to studying and working in any other European country.

We view positively the report’s enhancement of the social aspect of Bologna, so as to ensure that no student will fail to take up higher education or to go on a university exchange for financial reasons. I myself did Erasmus in Germany and I know what it means to work so as to pay for your studies.

The key to the success of the Bologna process lies in funding for universities, which should have greater financial resources that are sufficient and stable, so as to guarantee excellent higher education. The report itself acknowledges that there are governments that are not offering sufficient financial support to universities. In my country, for example, education cuts are financially choking the universities of Galicia, which have ever fewer resources and opportunities for innovation and research.

Public universities should not be continuously questioned, or treated as careless and inefficient bodies. We must send a clear message to governments that they should make a firm commitment to public universities.

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Madam President, whilst I support the Bologna process which, although not an EU initiative, has 47 countries agreeing to facilitate movement for study or employment between countries within the European Higher Education Area, I was not able to support this report, as I firmly believe that education is, and should remain, a competence reserved for Member States. So I do not agree with a number of the recommendations that have been made in this report.

Although I would not be opposed to additional cooperation between universities, or other education institutions in third countries and the EU, I am opposed to any harmonisation of academic standards at the EU level and beyond.

Similarly I cannot support the recommendation for an agreement for financial support on a common core curriculum. Even within the United Kingdom, Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have differences in their curricula and, although they have some harmonisation of academic standards, they are not always the same and do not need to be. If we can work on a diverse platform for education within my Member State, why not amongst the EU and, as described here, within the 47 countries?

 
  
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  Emma McClarkin (ECR). – Madam President, the Bologna process is part of an ongoing task to create a European Higher Education Area which will help to facilitate the mobility of students and professionals. I believe that education is a key factor in boosting economic growth and, as such, I was able to support some of the aspects of the report. I was also the rapporteur of the opinion of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, in which I highlighted the important role of research, employability, mobility and the importance of university-business dialogue in essential links of the Bologna process, with the connections in the mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

It seems, however, that some have been carried away in the drafting of this report and it includes elements which are very difficult for me to support. As a British Conservative, I cannot support the repeated calls for more funding and increased public investment in higher education at a time of difficult cuts for many Member States, my own included. In addition to this, the report calls for harmonisation of academic standards and for strong financial support where there are agreements on common core curricula. Education is the competence of the Member States and it should remain that way. On this basis, I have had to vote against this report.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR). – Madam President, mobility is an important principle of the single market. Also, many students find studying abroad to be a rewarding experience. However, I do not believe this means we need to accept the rigid recommendations of the Bologna process, not least because education is a Member State competence.

Three of the top universities in the world are in the UK, with one of them, Imperial College, in my home constituency of London. There is a danger that the Bologna process, with its emphasis on an academic credit system, will lead to a mechanical approach to learning or, worse still, the dumbing down of British universities. Student success should be based on their achievements, not the number of hours they spend in the lecture hall. I will be saying ‘no’ to this report and I voted against it.

 
  
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  Raffaele Baldassarre (PPE). (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I voted in favour of the report by Mr Berlinguer, whom I congratulate on the work and the excellent analysis he carried out. The report fully highlights the problems and shortcomings that are obstructing the effective development of the European Higher Education Area.

In particular, I am referring to the inadequate relationship between universities and the world of work, to the still unfinished revision of the national systems of quality assurance and to unfair access to university educational systems. Therefore, I share my fellow Member’s calls for the adoption of a common system of quality assurance in order to establish mutual recognition of university qualifications.

At the same time, I hope that the next ministerial conference, scheduled to take place in April, will address the sore point of the issue: the need and urgency to move quickly in the process of revising the directives on professional qualifications and their recognition.

 
  
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  Alfredo Antoniozzi (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, in 1999, with the signing of the Bologna Declaration, the European signatory countries committed to working together to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010. This target would have guaranteed academic quality, economic development and social cohesion, and employment and lifelong learning for graduates. I support Mr Berlinguer’s report because it calls for decisive and coordinated action at European level.

The recognition of degrees based on an efficient system of quality assurance constitutes a good point of departure for encouraging Member States to adopt the national framework of qualifications for lifelong learning. It is essential to implement and develop a European system of higher education that allows and encourages the free movement of knowledge. I think the measures contained in the report represent the right path to follow to make Europe more productive and competitive.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, I voted for this report because the European Union needs good-quality education which will foster research and innovation. Young people must be able to develop a wide range of skills so that they can become integrated into and adapt quickly to the labour market. Given the difficulties encountered in finding the first job, I should stress the importance of internships and professional integration programmes. The recognition of diplomas and professional qualifications is not only vital for encouraging student mobility, but also for the single market and the free movement of workers.

I hope that the ministerial meeting in Bucharest in April will yield positive results, contributing to the development of the European Higher Education Area. I should mention that Romania has launched a comprehensive education reform programme as part of its government reforms. Providing a good-quality education remains one of the priorities of the Romanian Government.

 
  
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  Marco Scurria (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I voted in favour of Mr Berlinguer’s report on the Bologna process. The creation of an open European Higher Education Area has been a major achievement for all of us.

Even more important is the need to harmonise the recognition of degrees and the qualification framework, as well as the complete revision of the national systems of quality assurance in university teaching. We still have students today who gain degrees through Erasmus that are subsequently not recognised by their own universities or only allow enrolment in universities that are too different and sometimes even of questionable standing.

This is why we need to reinforce the process, in order to achieve the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy in terms of increased employment and economic recovery, based also on improved cooperation between universities and the world of business and work.

 
  
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  Salvatore Caronna (S&D).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the creation of a European Higher Education Area is a major goal that the European Union has set for itself. However, despite the progress made with the Bologna Declaration – which, as noted, dates back to 1999 – we have got to recognise the fact that in terms of student mobility and the harmonisation of degrees across the various countries, the results have been far from satisfactory.

That is why I voted in favour of this report. We need to move forward with greater speed on this issue and reverse the trend – especially in some countries – of cutting investment in education. Accordingly, the harmonisation put forward under the Bologna Declaration is still essential in order to improve the entire European education system and make the labour market more dynamic. I, too, would like to applaud Mr Berlinguer for his excellent work.

 
  
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  Mitro Repo (S&D). (FI) Madam President, I voted in favour of this important report. The Bologna process, the creation of the European Higher Education Area, has been a success story. The number of countries participating in the process, which began in 1998, has risen to almost 50, and even countries outside Europe have shown great interest in it.

The main aims of the Bologna process have been successfully realised. European cooperation in the area of higher education has increased substantially.

The Bologna process still has scope for improvement. There are still major challenges, such as increased mobility and diversification, the recognition and harmonisation of qualifications, and youth employment after graduation.

Although it is primarily the task of the Member States to modernise and support their universities, as some of my fellow Members have said, the EU institutions and other stakeholders also have to be involved. The European Union must contribute to the success of the Bologna process.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Madam President, I voted against the Berlinguer report on the contribution of the European institutions to the consolidation and progress of the Bologna process, which is not a bad thing per se, but it should stick to the mutual recognition of degrees and diplomas. I feel strongly that educational policy should be primarily the preserve of the governments of the EU Member States.

A particular concern to the British Conservative Delegation are the repeated calls for more places and funding for higher education. Given that the British Government has recently made efficiency savings in the areas of higher education and increased tuition fees, we find it difficult to agree with a report that states that such cuts have a negative effect on attempts to strengthen the EU’s social dimension.

Personally, I would like to see, in my country, more support for teaching technical skills and crafts, equipping young people for jobs, which are needed in the economy rather than unlimited expansion of higher education.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). (FI) Madam President, I voted in favour of this report by Mr Berlinguer because it will be very good and important for the European Higher Education Area and its development. The Bologna process has been a success story. The objective therein proposed by Mr Berlinguer himself – and, of course, he was one of the ministers who set this process in motion at the Sorbonne back in 1998-1999 – that all EU nationals could be on the same starting line in terms of qualifications and thus be placed in employment in different areas of the internal market and beyond, and that there should be equivalence between qualifications, is an excellent one, and we should work towards it.

A total of 47 countries are party to the process. We all know that the European Union’s power is based on open coordination, and that is what is being employed here. We also need to remember that it is the Member States that have the ultimate power.

The British university and higher education system has benefited from this. The British have been very keen on this, and so it now seems a bit odd that the British Tories are opposed to it. Is it not now the case, my Tory friends, that you are opposed to everything connected with the EU? This is a success story, it is good for a united Europe, and it is not beyond anyone’s reach – quite the contrary.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE). (SK) Madam President, the development of a common European area of education is very important for building a knowledge-based economy in the European Union. However, it is necessary first to establish the quality. Therefore, it is good that the Commission is preparing a ranking system that will give us detailed information about the levels of universities and their departments. In Slovakia, we have good experiences from comparisons of the quality of education and research in universities. The creation of an academic ranking agency has given not only the government, but most importantly students, a reliable tool when deciding on their future studies. It would be good if more attention were paid to this issue at EU level in the future.

 
  
  

Written explanations of vote

 
  
  

Recommendation: Claude Moraes (A7-0020/2012)

 
  
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  Damien Abad (PPE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of the agreement between the EU, Iceland and Norway on the application of the Convention of 29 May 2000. The provisions contained in this agreement aim to strengthen judicial cooperation in criminal matters between the EU Member States and Norway and Iceland. These include both the hearing of witnesses and the sharing of information. This agreement, reached between the Member States, must be approved by the European Parliament under the Treaty of Lisbon.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I am voting for this proposal to amend the protocol in question because there is a need for enhanced cross-border cooperation on combating crime. By signing this protocol, the European Union is increasing its area of cooperation on criminal matters. This will enable these countries and the EU Member States to benefit from information on bank transfers and combating organised crime, which can only be of benefit to the general security of the European public.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. – I voted in favour of this resolution concerning the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement with Norway and Iceland, which will improve judicial cooperation in criminal matters between the Member States of the EU and Iceland and Norway by applying certain provisions of the Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between Member States of the European Union and the 2001 Protocol to Iceland and Norway. Cooperation will involve the hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams and requests for information on banking transactions, bank accounts and their monitoring to combat crime in general and organised crime in particular. I believe this will help to combat trans-border crime and enhance cooperation with the two countries and will serve to make the EU safer and more secure.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) In 2002, negotiations were started on agreements of mutual legal assistance between the European Union and our neighbours, Norway and Iceland. At the last plenary session, I voted in favour of an agreement aimed at improving this judicial cooperation. As the rapporteur, Claude Moraes, states, this includes, inter alia, provisions on hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams and requests for information on banking transactions, bank accounts and their monitoring to combat crime in general and organised crime in particular. Strengthening cooperation with our neighbours also includes sharing information to enhance our security. I fully support the improvements set out in this report.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this recommendation. The goal of the Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union is to encourage and modernise cooperation between judicial, police and customs authorities and better combat cross-border crime. The agreement with Iceland and Norway is aimed at improving judicial cooperation between the EU Member States and Iceland and Norway in criminal matters. An agreement with these countries was signed six years ago, and therefore, given its importance, I welcome the European Parliament’s recommendation to immediately conclude the aforementioned agreement.

 
  
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  Adam Bielan (ECR), in writing. (PL) I agree with the conclusion of an agreement on mutual assistance in criminal matters with Norway and Iceland. Uniform proceedings in criminal matters, including in relation to European countries outside the Community, is in the interests of public safety. The example of Anders Breivik shows that even in neighbouring countries with a stable political situation and a stable economy, domestic terrorism is a potential threat. The investigation in this particular case required extensive cooperation between Norway and other European countries, including Poland. This agreement makes it possible, inter alia, to hear witnesses, experts and defendants via video conferencing, which will mean significant improvements to criminal proceedings conducted by the police in different countries. I therefore look forward to closer cooperation on fighting crime with countries that are, after all, also part of the Schengen area.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this European Parliament recommendation because the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union is aimed at improving judicial cooperation between the EU Member States, Norway and Iceland by applying almost all the provisions contained in the 2000 Convention on mutual legal assistance between the Member States and its Protocol adopted in 2001. This agreement includes provisions on hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams and requests for information on banking transactions, bank accounts and their monitoring to combat organised crime. The European Parliament supports this agreement because this document extends to Norway and Iceland rules on mutual legal assistance that are already in force and mostly applied in the Member States. This will, undoubtedly, help combat cross-border crime. It will also enhance cooperation with these two countries that are already in the Schengen area and, in the case of Iceland, currently in negotiations for accession to the European Union.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec (PPE), in writing.(FR) I have always been in favour of greater cooperation at European level. Therefore, I naturally approved this agreement, which enables us to improve judicial cooperation on criminal matters between the Member States and extends this to the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway. Due to the trans-border nature of crime today, it seems to me imperative that we ensure that the different competent national authorities for legal and criminal matters can actively work hand in hand. The same is true of the effectiveness of our justice system. I am also pleased to see that this agreement strengthens Eurojust, the European Union’s judicial cooperation unit, created in 2002.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) I am voting for the adoption of this agreement, signed on 19 December 2003, which will enable the extension to Norway and Iceland of the provisions on mutual assistance in criminal matters that are in force and have already been implemented in the vast majority of Member States. The fact that these two countries are members of the Schengen area makes it even clearer that there is a need to modernise and enhance judicial cooperation on criminal matters between them and the EU Member States, so as to make combating cross-border crime more effective. This agreement includes provisions on hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, as well as controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams, and requests for information on banking transactions and bank accounts, and for their monitoring to combat crime and organised crime in particular. I also consider it positive that there is the possibility of Eurojust involvement where a request is refused or where problems are encountered in the implementation of a request.

 
  
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  Lara Comi (PPE) , in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the report on the agreement between the European Union, Iceland and Norway. Ensuring security within the European Union requires that the abolition of borders and the resulting freedom of movement of EU citizens is twinned with greater cooperation and better coordination between the judicial authorities of the various countries. In particular, the agreement in question makes it possible to improve cooperation between the judicial authorities of two countries that are not currently members of the EU but are part of the Schengen area, namely, the Kingdom of Norway and the Republic of Iceland. As a result of the changes brought in by the Treaty of Lisbon, Parliament’s consent is needed for this agreement to be concluded. Lastly, I join with the rapporteur, Mr Moraes, in emphasising the importance of involving Eurojust in the project and I applaud him for his excellent work.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing. (RO) I welcome the objective of the agreement to improve judicial cooperation between the European Union Member States and Norway and Iceland by applying all the provisions contained in the 2000 Convention on mutual legal assistance between Member States.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE), in writing.(FR) I voted for this text, which strengthens judicial cooperation on criminal matters between EU Member States, on the one hand, and Schengen members, Iceland and Norway, on the other. It is important that common rules are adopted in Europe to facilitate judicial proceedings, combat organised crime, enable our fellow citizens to benefit from a consistent standard of justice and guarantee them the same degree of protection wherever they are in Europe.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE), in writing.(FR) This agreement extends to Norway and Iceland rules on mutual legal assistance that are already in force and mostly applied in the Member States. It will, undoubtedly, help combat trans-border crime and enhance cooperation with two countries that are already in the Schengen area and, for the case of Iceland, currently in negotiations for accession to the European Union. I particularly welcome the possibility, expressly provided by Article 3 of the agreement, to involve Eurojust in any instances where a request is refused by a Member State or where there are problems encountered in the execution of a request.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D), in writing. – I voted in favour of the European Parliament’s consent to the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on the application of certain provisions of the Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters because it is an important step forward in the direction of a stronger mechanism for combating trans-border crime. Both Iceland and Norway are already part of the Schengen area: this agreement, by strengthening mutual legal assistance and by including provisions on hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams and requests for information on banking transactions, bank accounts and their monitoring to combat crime in general and organised crime in particular, makes the partnership on criminal issues with the two northern European countries stronger and more effective. The European Parliament, by giving its consent to this agreement, is providing democratic validation for its implementation within the EU as prescribed by the Lisbon Treaty.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The globalisation we are currently experiencing has made it even more evident that countries need to work together on areas that were previously considered exclusive national competences. Crime has become increasingly cross-border in nature, as well as more sophisticated and interlinked. This necessitates understanding from governments and a reaction that cannot fail to include working with other subjects of international law or the articulation of joint responses. It is therefore natural that the European Union should seek to reach this type of understanding with neighbouring countries with similar histories, cultures and standards of democracy, with the rule of law, and with respect for human rights, such as Iceland and Norway. I welcome this agreement and hope that European integration in relation to these areas, which are so important for public safety and well-being, will not fail to involve Iceland and Norway increasingly, and that this involvement will produce good results in terms of both preventing and curbing crime.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) This report, drafted, by Mr Moraes, concerns the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on the application of certain provisions of the Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union and the 2001 Protocol thereto. The purpose of this agreement on combating all types of criminality is to improve legal cooperation between the Member States and Norway and Iceland, specifically as regards the hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, as well as controlled deliveries, covert investigations, joint investigation teams, investigation processes and information on bank accounts. I voted for this report, since extending to Norway and Iceland the provisions on mutual assistance on criminal matters already in force in many Member States will, in addition to enhancing cooperation with two countries in the Schengen area, improve the combating of cross-border crime, which has been boosted by the present economic and financial crisis, and by increased mobility throughout the Schengen area.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This report approves the conclusion of an agreement between the European Union and Iceland and Norway, its stated purpose being to improve legal cooperation between the Member States and these two countries. Almost all the legal provisions of the Convention of 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States are being applied. The protocol to this convention includes provisions on hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams and requests for information on banking transactions, bank accounts and their monitoring to combat crime in general and organised crime in particular.

This is, therefore, a case of extending this protocol to these two countries. As this procedure respects the sovereignty of the Member States in this area and their right to establish cooperative relationships with whomsoever they freely choose, we are not opposed to it.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D), in writing. (SK) In December 2002, the Council authorised the Council Presidency, assisted by the European Commission, to start negotiating an agreement on mutual legal assistance with Norway and Iceland. Now, under the new legal framework resulting from the Treaty of Lisbon, the approval of Parliament is required. This agreement is aimed at improving judicial cooperation between the Member States of the EU and Norway and Iceland by the application of almost all the provisions under the Convention of 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States and its protocol adopted in 2001. It includes, inter alia, provisions on the hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, on controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams, and on requests for information on banking transactions and bank accounts and their monitoring to combat crime in general and organised crime in particular. Under it, Norway and Iceland are extending the rules on mutual legal assistance that are currently in force and that are usually applied in the Member States.

I firmly believe that the agreement will help in the fight against cross-border crime and enhance cooperation with the two countries, which are now in the Schengen area, while one of them, Iceland, is currently in negotiations on accession to the EU. I therefore agree with Parliament’s approval of the agreement.

 
  
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  Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE), in writing. (GA) As Chair of the European Parliament delegation for Switzerland, Iceland and Norway and for the Joint Parliamentary Committee of the European Economic Area, I welcome the fact that this report was adopted.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD), in writing. (LT) I welcomed this document because this agreement is aimed at improving judicial cooperation between the EU Member States and Norway and Iceland by applying almost all the provisions contained in the 2000 Convention on mutual legal assistance between the Member States and its Protocol adopted in 2001. This includes, inter alia, provisions on hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams and requests for information on banking transactions, bank accounts and their monitoring to combat crime in general and organised crime in particular. This agreement extends to Norway and Iceland rules on mutual legal assistance that are already in force and mostly applied in the Member States. This will, undoubtedly, help combat cross-border crime and enhance cooperation with these two countries that are already in the Schengen area and, in the case of Iceland, currently in negotiations for accession to the European Union.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE), in writing.(FR) I supported this agreement, which extends to Norway and Iceland rules on mutual legal assistance that are already in force and mostly applied in the Member States. This agreement will help strengthen the fight against trans-border crime.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing.(PL) The basic idea behind the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of 2000 and the Protocol thereto is to enable, on the one hand, Member States to take measures within the framework of criminal proceedings in relation to persons residing in other Members States, and, on the other hand, to enable these persons to participate actively in proceedings in order to protect their interests or exercise their rights. These acts are therefore an important element in shaping the area of freedom, security and justice. The Convention and the Protocol set out the legal framework within which the relevant authorities of Member States conducting proceedings may operate, and stipulate procedural conditions and prerequisites for their adoption. These tools increase the effectiveness of procedures for holding people responsible for breaking the law and, as a consequence, provide a better guarantee of the rule of law and protect the interests of people in the area covered by the regulations. At the same time, they facilitate the realisation of the right to a trial. Extending their effectiveness to all Member States and to countries which have close ties with the EU, as well as to candidate countries, is a natural consequence of accepting the common ideas of freedom, security and justice. The agreement is another formal step toward the realisation of such ideas. Its validity is not in question.

 
  
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  Michał Tomasz Kamiński (ECR), in writing. – I am in favour of the consent procedure to conclude the Agreement between the EU and Iceland and Norway on the application of certain provisions of the Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union and the 2001 Protocol. This is an important agreement since it is aimed at improving judicial cooperation between the EU Member States and Norway and Iceland. I am confident that many of its provisions – such as those on hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams and requests for information on banking transactions, bank accounts and their monitoring to combat transnational and organised crime – will increase our security and have a positive impact on our efforts to fight crime.

 
  
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  Agnès Le Brun (PPE), in writing. (FR) The Convention of 29 May 2000 on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters between the Member States of the European Union has made cooperation between judicial, police and customs authorities easier. The aim of the text, for which I voted, is to extend most of this international agreement to include relations with Iceland and Norway. It includes provisions on hearing of witnesses, joint investigation teams and requests for information on banking transactions and bank accounts. I am convinced that this agreement will help combat trans-border crime more effectively and enhance cooperation between these two countries and the European Union.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – I voted for this agreement, which is aimed at improving judicial cooperation between the EU Member States and Norway and Iceland by applying almost all the provisions contained in the 2000 Convention on mutual legal assistance between the Member States and its Protocol adopted in 2001. This includes, inter alia, provisions on hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams and requests for information on banking transactions, bank accounts and their monitoring to combat crime in general and organised crime in particular.

 
  
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  Clemente Mastella (PPE), in writing. (IT) I am in favour of the conclusion of this agreement because it aims at improving judicial cooperation between the EU Member States and Norway and Iceland by applying almost all the provisions contained in the 2000 Convention on mutual legal assistance between the Member States and its Protocol adopted in 2001. Indeed, this agreement does nothing more than extend to Norway and Iceland rules on mutual legal assistance that are already in force and mostly applied in the other Member States. We have no doubt that this will help combat trans-border crime and enhance cooperation with two countries that are already in the Schengen area and, in the case of Iceland, will also have positive repercussions on the current negotiations for its future accession to the European Union.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the report by Mr Moraes. I am convinced that we need to speed up the ratification of this agreement, which – as Mr Moraes rightly points out – has the important objective of improving the EU Member States’ judicial cooperation with Iceland and Norway. The highest possible number of regulations on this subject need to be applied in the highest possible number of States.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) Combating crime involves enhanced dialogue between the judicial authorities of the Member States and the increased joint action thereof. Judicial cooperation on criminal matters is based on the principle of mutual recognition of sentences and court judgments by the Member States, and involves national legislation on the application of common minimum rules. As such, since they apply almost all the provisions of the 2000 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union and the 2001 Protocol thereto, legal cooperation between the Member States of the EU and Norway and Iceland is becoming a reality. The agreement in question includes provisions of great importance, such as those on hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams, and requests for information on banking transactions and bank accounts and for their monitoring to combat crime in general and organised crime in particular. The adoption of this agreement represents a considerable step towards creating a genuine area of cooperation with countries outside the EU, which will have a positive impact on the Union itself, by enabling the creation of an increasingly large area of freedom, security and justice.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. – It is clear that this draft Council Decision aims to conclude, on behalf of the Union, the Agreement between the EU and Iceland and Norway on the application of certain provisions of the Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union and the 2001 Protocol thereto. The agreement was signed on 19 December 2003, but it has not yet been formally concluded. The agreement should be concluded and ratified as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD), in writing. (LT) I welcome this resolution, which is aimed at improving judicial cooperation between the EU Member States and Iceland and Norway in criminal matters. As Norway and Iceland are in the Schengen area, judicial cooperation is an essential tool for stopping cross-border crime, especially organised crime. It should be noted that the principle of mutual recognition is a cornerstone of judicial cooperation in criminal matters. Cooperation with these two countries will therefore be improved.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE), in writing. (EL) The present report ratifies on the part of the European Parliament – as stipulated in the Treaty of Lisbon – an agreement designed to improve mutual judicial assistance between the Member States of the EU, on the one hand, and Norway and Iceland, on the other, by applying almost all the provisions contained in the 2000 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States and the 2001 Protocol thereto. The delay in the application of this agreement is due to internal national procedures which had not been completed when the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force. Consequently, under the new legal framework set out in the Treaty of Lisbon, especially in Article 218 TFEU, the European Parliament is now also required to give its approval. The application of the agreement, which I voted in favour of, extends the rules on mutual judicial assistance that already apply in the Member States to Norway and Iceland, thereby helping to combat cross-border crime and promoting cooperation with these two countries, which are already in the Schengen area.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) I voted for this report because I agree with the extension to Norway and Iceland of the provisions on mutual assistance in criminal matters already in force and implemented in the majority of Member States. This agreement will undoubtedly help with the struggle against cross-border crime and will enhance cooperation with two countries that already belong to the Schengen area and, in the case of Iceland, currently in negotiations for accession to the European Union.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE), in writing. (IT) This agreement is aimed at improving judicial cooperation between the EU Member States and Norway and Iceland by applying almost all the provisions contained in the 2000 Convention on mutual legal assistance between the Member States and its Protocol adopted in 2001. It extends to Norway and Iceland rules on mutual legal assistance that are already in force and mostly applied in the other Member States. I am therefore voting in favour in order to help combat trans-border crime and enhance cooperation with two countries that are already in the Schengen area and, in the case of Iceland, currently in negotiations for accession to the European Union.

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE), in writing. (PT) The purpose of this report is to improve legal cooperation between the Member States of the EU and Norway and Iceland, so it applies many of the provisions of the Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States. This is an important mechanism for combating cross-border crime which will, in turn, enhance cooperation with two countries that are already members of the Schengen area. I therefore voted in favour.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – In December 2002, the Council authorised the Council Presidency, assisted by the European Commission, to start negotiating a Mutual Legal Assistance agreement with Norway and Iceland. On 17 December 2003, the Council adopted the Decision concerning the signing of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on the application of certain provisions of the Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between Member States of the European Union and the 2001 Protocol thereto. The agreement was based on Articles 24 and 38 of the Treaty on European Union. Internal national procedures for this agreement had not been formally concluded at the time of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. As a consequence, according to the new legal framework provided for by the Lisbon Treaty and, notably, by Article 218 TFEU, the consent of the European Parliament is now required. In view of this, with the proposal for a Council Decision of 17th December.2009, the European Commission has recommended to the Council to obtain the consent of the European Parliament and adopt a decision concluding the agreement without further delay.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of this project because I think reaching a mutual legal assistance agreement with Norway and Iceland is fundamentally important. The aim is to improve judicial cooperation between the EU Member States and these two countries, thereby extending to Norway and Iceland rules on mutual legal assistance that are already in force and mostly applied within the European Union. The adoption of the agreement should, undoubtedly, help combat trans-border crime and enhance cooperation with two countries that are already in the Schengen area and, in the case of Iceland, currently in negotiations for accession to the European Union.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Salavrakos (EFD), in writing. (EL) I voted in favour of the recommendation on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway because I consider that extending the rules on mutual judicial assistance that already apply in the other Member States to Norway and Iceland will help considerably in combating cross-border crime.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) The purpose of this agreement is to improve the existing judicial cooperation between the European Union and Iceland and Norway by implementing a range of rules laid down in the Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. I am voting for this report, since it sets out new rules on cooperation between the EU and the other countries, especially with regard to judicial and political matters and to public authorities. I also consider positive the laying down of rules concerning the hearing of accused persons, witnesses and experts by video conference or telephone, the promotion of facilitated access to banking transactions and the creation of joint investigation teams, which will facilitate the rapid resolution of cases before the courts. I also believe Eurojust should be involved in this agreement process, since it will be able to act if any Member State refuses to cooperate, or if there are any problems implementing a request formulated by the judicial authorities.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI), in writing. – The Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on the application of certain provisions of the Convention of 29 May 2000 would strengthen cooperation between states in combating crimes and illegality. As the rapporteur has already underlined, the agreement enables States to involve Eurojust in case of refusal of a Member State in the execution of a request and enhances cooperation in the fight against trans-border crime. Therefore, I voted in favour of this report.

 
  
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  Iva Zanicchi (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the text presented by Mr Moraes, which aims to improve judicial cooperation between the Member States and Norway and Iceland by applying almost all the provisions contained in the 2000 Convention on mutual legal assistance between the Member States and its Protocol adopted in 2001.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This report approves an agreement between the European Union and Iceland and Norway that includes provisions on hearing of witnesses, experts and accused persons by telephone or video conference, controlled deliveries, covert investigations and joint investigation teams, and requests for information on banking transactions and bank accounts and for their monitoring to combat crime in general and organised crime in particular.

Since this is simply the formalisation of an inter-state agreement, we are not opposed to this procedure.

 
  
  

Report: Eva Lichtenberger (A7-0050/2012)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I am voting for this request for immunity. A court has requested it in connection with outstanding proceedings in relation to alleged defamation of a private individual. Although Members of the European Parliament may not be subject to any form of inquiry, detention or legal proceedings in respect of opinions expressed or votes cast by them in the performance of their duties, the facts of the case indicate that the statements were made at a time when Ms Morvai was not a Member of the European Parliament.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) This report concerns the request for waiver of the immunity of our fellow Member, Ms Morvai, lodged by the Pest Central District Court, pursuant to Articles 8 and 9 of the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union. In accordance with Rule 6(2) of the Rules of Procedure, the request has been analysed by the Committee on Legal Affairs. Ms Morvai was heard by the committee, which requested further information and explanations from the Pest Central District Court before issuing its opinion. Ms Morvai is accused of public defamation because she made televised statements considered offensive to the good name of a member of the public, János Zombori. The Member acknowledges having made the statements ‘in her capacity as a women’s right activist’. Since the statements were made in 2005, long before she was elected to Parliament, which only happened in 2009, they cannot have taken place ‘in the performance of her duties as Member of the European Parliament’, so they are not covered by the Statute for Members. In view of this, and taking into account the committee’s recommendation to waive Ms Morvai’s parliamentary immunity, I voted for this report.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. (FR) You have adopted a resolution condemning the Hungarian Government, questioning its democratic character and suggesting a lack of independence on the part of judges faced with an executive considered virtually fascist. Today, thanks to a last-minute amendment to the agenda, you are wasting no time in voting to waive the immunity of Ms Krisztina Morvaï, an opponent of this very government, to enable the very same Hungarian justice system, suspected of being at its beck and call, to judge statements made by her in her capacity as a women’s rights activist! Statements she was not alone in making, but for which she remains one of the only people pursued.

What a happy coincidence! What two-faced condemnation! You are nothing but a bunch of sycophantic ideologues, bowing obediently to the powerful, willing participants in a feeding frenzy in which you have nothing to lose.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – On the basis of the information supplied by the Committee on Legal Affairs, I followed the recommendation that the European Parliament should waive the parliamentary immunity of Krisztina Morvai.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) Defending the independence of the mandate of Members of this House is the responsibility of Parliament, and that independence cannot be jeopardised. According to Article 8 of the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union, Members of the European Parliament shall not be subject to any form of inquiry, detention or legal proceedings in respect of opinions expressed or votes cast by them in the performance of their duties. However, given that the facts of the case, as manifested in the submissions from the court to the Committee on Legal Affairs, indicate that the statements were made at a time when Ms Morvai was not a Member of the European Parliament, I support the waiver of her immunity.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. – I have always voted against waivers of the immunity of Members of the European Parliament, since I consider them to be disruptive of the work of the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) Parliament has been asked to waive the parliamentary immunity of our fellow Member, Ms Morvai, as a result of criminal proceedings in which she is accused of defamation under the Hungarian Criminal Code. Ms Morvai was elected to the European Parliament in 2009 but, since the statements in question were made in 2005 before Ms Morvai became a Member of this House, the Committee on Legal Affairs, having considered the reasons in fact and in law for and against waiving the Member’s immunity, recommends that Parliament waive Ms Morvai’s parliamentary immunity. Indeed, the Committee on Legal Affairs does not consider Ms Morvai to have been performing her duties as a Member of the European Parliament when she made the statements in question. For these reasons, I voted in favour of this report.

 
  
  

Report: Kurt Lechner (A7-0045/2012)

 
  
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  Damien Abad (PPE), in writing. (FR) The current system of cross-border succession in Europe faces numerous challenges. The differences between Member States in dealing with matters of succession rights create legal uncertainty for European citizens. Which law should be applied when the will of the deceased person relates to heirs of different nationalities? In a Europe where the free movement of people is a founding principle, such an issue cannot remain unresolved. This is why I voted for a clarification of legal rules on the matter and the introduction of a European Certificate of Succession.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) The harmonisation of legislation on succession rights is crucial if the European public is to cease to be an abstract concept in this regard. This will prevent confused interpretations on the part of courts and consultants and create a clearer system: it will become known what laws are applicable and where. For its part, the creation of a European Certificate of Succession would provide family members with a mechanism for validating their ownership of property with cross-border implications.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. – I voted in favour of this regulation which aims to remove the obstacles to the free movement of persons who currently face difficulties in asserting their rights in the context of a succession with cross-border implications. At present, citizens have difficulties in foreseeing which country and authority (court, notary, administrator, etc.) have competence in handling the succession and this situation obviously creates legal uncertainty because citizens must be able to organise their succession in advance. This regulation will enable citizens to organise their succession in advance by choosing the law applicable to their wills. This regulation introduces a European Certificate of Succession, which will enable the succession to be settled in a shorter period of time.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) This new regulation on cross-border successions will prevent future legal battles and lengthy proceedings to settle successions when the laws of several European Union countries apply. Today, we travel, study and live in several European Union countries and mixed marriages are, as a result, continually on the increase. Therefore, the aim is to facilitate the free movement of citizens and to strengthen the internal market. I therefore voted in favour of the creation of a European Certificate of Succession, which will allow heirs to demonstrate their status as heir or the attribution of a specific asset. I welcome the adoption of this text, which makes life easier for Europeans and shows that the European Union is also concerned about the everyday lives of its citizens.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report. The mobility of citizens in the EU is increasing and, in civil and commercial legal relations involving interests in several Member States, this often leads to various questions, such as establishing which Member State court is competent to address an issue that has arisen, which legal system will be applied, and the procedures for the recognition and enforcement of judgments, etc. The Treaty establishing the European Community sets out the objective of progressively establishing a common area of freedom, security and justice, in particular, by adopting measures in the field of judicial cooperation in civil matters. This proposed regulation is aimed at addressing legal issues regarding cross-border succession in order to ensure greater legal clarity for EU citizens and simplicity when exercising their rights in cross-border succession cases. This regulation also introduces an important innovation – the European Certificate of Succession, which will enable heirs, administrators of the estate or executors of the will to demonstrate their status without any other formalities. This will represent great progress compared to the current situation and matters of succession will be dealt with more swiftly and cheaply.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report because I welcome the creation of a single framework throughout the European Union to address succession issues. I also welcome the creation of a European Certificate of Succession because I believe that this document will enable heirs, executors of the will and administrators of the estate to avoid many unnecessary administrative procedures. This piece of EU legislation will, in future, be of particular benefit to our citizens, an increasing number of whom are leaving to live and work abroad, or who simply acquire property in other countries. It is nevertheless regrettable that for now, the UK and Ireland have announced that they will not opt in to this regulation due to the specific regulation of certain aspects of succession in their countries. Understandably, it is very important for the citizens of our country that these countries should opt in to the regulation, and the European Parliament has therefore called on the Council to continue to seek means of reaching a compromise with these countries on the succession issue.

 
  
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  Vito Bonsignore (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the report by Mr Lechner, which has the merit of clarifying the situation on succession law and thereby ensuring legal certainty. Indeed, European law is characterised by the combination of the laws of individual States, which creates inconsistent and difficult situations when it comes to recognising citizens’ rights. The creation of a European Certificate of Succession will act, on a cross-border basis, as proof of entries in registers and as a safeguard for persons acquiring succession property in good faith.

For citizens habitually resident in their home country, if all their assets are there, nothing will change. Instead, the change affects those citizens who intend to reside, or are already resident, outside their home country: in this case, they will have the right to choose to adopt the law of their home country. Handling cross-border successions will therefore be made considerably easier and advisers on succession will also be given a secure basis on which to operate.

 
  
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  Philippe Boulland (PPE), in writing. (FR) By adopting this report, we have just taken another step forwards in making our fellow citizens’ lives easier. In the framework of successions within the EU, we know there are judicial systems to settle successions, where it is compulsory to appear before a judge, and non-judicial systems, where the succession is settled by a notary. It was therefore important to achieve the principle of the movement of authentic instruments and thus for them to be recognised in another Member State, which has not been the case up to now. The adopted regulation also introduces a European Certificate of Succession (ECS) for use by heirs and legatees having direct rights in the succession, in order to demonstrate specific elements such as the status as heir or the attribution of a specific asset. Finally, we have managed to ensure that heirs who are citizens of a Member State that applies the reserved share mechanism, intended to protect a portion of the succession for the children of the deceased, can assert this in the case of international succession.

 
  
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  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE), in writing. (RO) I supported this agreement at first reading because I think that EU citizens who choose to settle in another Member State greatly needed clearer rules on court competence, conflicts of law and implementation with regard to cross-border successions. The single market relates not only to companies which do business outside their national borders, but also to people who settle in other Member States and need to feel just as much protection as in their country of origin. At the moment, if someone is living in a Member State other than their country of origin and owns a property in that Member State which they want to leave as an inheritance, there is the danger of a conflict arising between the courts in the relevant Member States demanding jurisdiction. This situation may lead to cumbersome red tape for heirs or even to litigation.

I think that the European Certificate of Succession and the clarification that the competent court and applicable law are those in the last Member State where the person resided, except where it is specified in a will that the law of the Member State of origin should apply, will simplify the process considerably, while also maintaining the flexibility required.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec (PPE), in writing. (FR) I agree with the position of the rapporteur, Kurt Lechner, who stresses the need to simplify and harmonise the succession rules of the Member States. The aim of this regulation is to simplify the administrative steps for European citizens in matters of succession and to guarantee the rights of heirs and legatees. Within the European Union, there are judicial and non-judicial systems for settling successions. I welcome the retention of notaries’ competences. One paragraph lays down a universal competence for notaries, which will ensure that, when all the heirs agree to settle the succession amicably, the adjudicating judge will have to close proceedings so that the notary can settle the succession.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) There are still many barriers which, directly or indirectly, continue to restrict the free movement of persons within the EU, as well as the public’s ability to fully enjoy the benefits of the single market. Cross-border obstacles to successions at European level affect around 50 million people – for example, citizens who live in a Member State other than their country of origin, who own property in a Member State other than that in which they reside, mixed couples, etc. – and also have a direct impact on their heirs.

This is the first time that an EU instrument is being adopted on succession rights, which is, by its very nature, a highly delicate area, intrinsically linked to the national arena. This is a very important and complex initiative that is of clear benefit to the public, and not just in terms of legal certainty, since it seeks to prevent fragmentation in terms of succession and contributes significantly to reducing bureaucracy and costs. It will enable free movement and recognition of succession rights, as well as the creation of a European Certificate of Succession; this will allow the public to check the status of their rights and exercise them throughout the EU.

 
  
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  Lara Comi (PPE), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the regulation on the recognition of decisions in matters of succession and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession. This contributes towards the recognition of documents on matters of succession and resolves a legal uncertainty by deciding the jurisdiction according to the principle of the ‘habitual residence’ of the deceased. Furthermore, I completely support the decision to allow the testator to choose otherwise by opting for the governing law of a State whose nationality he possesses instead of the one in which he is habitually resident. I would also like to emphasise that the introduction of the European Certificate of Succession helps simplify procedures in this area, since it offers sufficient proof of status as heir. Lastly, I think that this regulation fits, together with the Professional Qualifications Directive, into the wider context of reducing the barriers to free movement of persons within the European Union, and therefore helps to make the free movement of EU citizens a reality.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of this text on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession because it will allow the harmonisation of succession rules in Europe and will avoid disputes and lengthy proceedings when settling successions where the legislation of several EU countries may apply. It is not normal that, in the era of the single market and European mobility, the rights of heirs and legatees are not better managed and that our fellow citizens, faced with the difficult question of succession, cannot benefit from legal certainty and legal predictability, thereby allowing them to be in the best position for the transfer of their assets.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE), in writing. (FR) The European Parliament has voted in favour of a regulation that legally clarifies cross-border successions in Europe. Numbering 450 000 per year, cross-border successions represent 10% of all successions in the European Union, totalling EUR 123 billion. The resolution that we have adopted today by a large majority stipulates that the applicable law shall be, by default, that of the country where the deceased was last habitually resident. However, it allows testators to choose between the law of the country of which they have nationality or that of the country where they reside for the settlement of their succession. In addition, the creation of a European Certificate of Succession will allow the quick and easy settlement of cross-border successions by making it possible for heirs to demonstrate their status and their rights in another Member State. With this new regulation, we will avoid future legal battles and lengthy proceedings when settling successions where the laws of several EU countries apply. The Council and the Commission have already given their informal agreement, meaning that the text should be readily adopted by the Council on examination.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D), in writing. – I voted in favour of the report on the proposal for the regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and authentic instruments in matters of succession and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession because it makes clearer the EU rules as regards succession. A European Certificate of Succession represents a step forward in the direction of a more homogeneous legal framework in the Member States, simplifying the adoption of the internal market rules in matters of succession. Whereas cross-borders relations are growing within the EU, transnational and more harmonised tools are necessary to properly tackle the challenges and to take advantage of the benefits which come along with the single market. With this regulation, handling cross-border successions would be considerably easier. Besides, the proposal stresses the ‘right to choose the law applicable’, a principle able to introduce a positive significant innovation for many citizens and for the Member States as well: a significant European added value.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for the report on ‘succession and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession’ because it introduces measures to simplify and clarify succession and inheritance processes in the European Union, specifically, the European Certificate of Succession.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The purpose of this proposal is not to harmonise the substantive law applicable to the succession, but rather to establish harmonised rules for resolving international jurisdictional conflicts. What this means is that we need to work within the framework of international private law and not within the substantive framework of family law, wherein each Member State will continue to have its own laws. With the increasing globalisation of personal and family relationships, it is important to ensure legal certainty for the parties when a number of jurisdictions are involved. The purpose of this proposal is to create common rules regarding applicable law and succession to the estates of deceased persons. I am bound to consider this an important step towards the creation of an area of freedom and justice in which there is genuine free movement of persons and greater legal certainty surrounding the resolution of conflicts of international jurisdiction in the context of succession rights, particularly through the creation of a European Certificate of Succession.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) The achievement of the objectives underlying the creation of the European Union – specifically, the single market and the free movement of people and goods – has fostered the mobility of Europeans, who are increasingly emigrating to other Member States, where they establish residence, work, marry, divorce, acquire property and die. This report, drafted by Mr Lechner, concerns the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and authentic instruments in matters of succession and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession. This is a cross-border system that constitutes an important step forward in this regard and that will enable the more effective application of the law, in line with the concerns of families. Indeed, once a decision has been made, there are no limits to the application of a judgment due to the European Certificate of Succession. I welcome the adoption of this report, which constitutes good news for thousands of European citizens: they will benefit from this initiative, which will put a stop to many conflicts. However, I regret that it has not been possible to reach an agreement with the United Kingdom or Ireland.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) It is regrettable that this report, like others, was not made available in a timely manner in all language versions. Specifically, a digital copy of the Portuguese version was not available at the time of voting. Unfortunately, it is not the first time this has happened. These are situations that jeopardise respect for the principle of multilingualism in the European Parliament and equality between Members, irrespective of their country of origin and native language.

The report proposes unified rules on jurisdiction, applicable law and recognition of courts in situations in which the citizens of a Member State reside in another Member State, so as to clarify situations about which there are currently frequent doubts in relation to succession rights. The European Commission proposal, with which the report agrees, suggests the creation of a European Certificate of Succession.

It seems clear to us that there is a need to protect the public from the existing shortcomings in the present legal provisions regarding the free movement of persons between Member States. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that succession rights and all relevant provisions in this regard should result from an expression of national sovereignty, which must be respected. The solutions found to solve specific problems existing today should therefore follow this pattern.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D), in writing. (SK) The EU has set itself the objective of developing and maintaining an area of freedom, security and justice. With the aim of progressively establishing this area, it must adopt measures in the area of judicial cooperation in civil matters having a cross-border reach, to the extent necessary for the market to be able to function properly. In the European area of justice, citizens must be able to organise their succession in advance. The rights of heirs and legatees, other persons having a relationship with the deceased, and the creditors of the estate must be effectively guaranteed. The accelerated, accessible and effective organisation of successions with an international element in the European Union means that heirs, legatees, executor or administrator must be able to easily, out of court, prove their status in the Member States in which the inherited property is located. In order to facilitate the free movement of such proof in the EU, an appropriate regulation should introduce a single European certificate of inheritance and specify the issuing authority. I am of the opinion that, in order to comply with the principle of subsidiarity, however, this certificate should not replace the national procedures of Member States, but should, conversely, clarify the connection with these procedures.

 
  
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  Lorenzo Fontana (EFD), in writing. (IT) This proposal aims to allow European citizens to organise their succession in advance and to effectively ensure the rights of heirs and legatees in an international succession. In this regard, while it is true that such a proposal seems helpful and justifiable, it must be acknowledged that, when it comes to the means by which these ends will be pursued, some unresolved issues remain that not only fail to simplify the existing rules, but, in some cases, even end up complicating them. Consider, for example, the enduringly controversial issue of the movement of authentic instruments and use of clawback. For these reasons, I decided to abstain.

 
  
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  Elisabetta Gardini (PPE), in writing. (IT) In general terms, conflicts of competence between the various national legislations is one of the classic hurdles to be cleared in creating an increasingly cohesive European Union. This is an issue that has affected – or does affect – various areas of European law, including the area of succession rights. Yet it is not merely a legal problem: it is an issue that, unfortunately, has a major bearing on painful individual and family affairs of many European citizens who, when a relative passes away in a Member State other than their home country, must, on top of everything else, deal with complex legal problems that are too often afflicted with differences between the two countries’ legal systems. Lastly, the European Certificate of Succession also helps to cover over a legislative gap that, over the years, has inevitably caused problems in all Member States and major inconvenience to many citizens at a particularly difficult time in their lives.

 
  
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  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D), in writing. (PL) The increasing mobility of EU citizens means that they face great difficulties in asserting their succession rights abroad. The inheritance law of Members States is very diverse and related to local tradition, which means that cross-border proceedings are extremely complicated and confusing for the participants. The EU has 27 different legal succession systems and every year, around 450 000 international succession proceedings are opened. It is important to create a single transparent procedural system that helps Europeans to pursue their succession rights.

The report on a regulation creating common rules regarding matters of succession in the EU and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession is a very complex and ambitious project. This will not affect national rules, but will make it easier for people who own property in more than one Member State. Statistics show that around 1.5% of residents in EU Member States are citizens of other countries in the Community; they will be able to decide, based on the new provisions, in which country the future administration of their estate should take place. Furthermore, the introduction of a European Certificate of Succession, which will constitute evidence of the status of heir, recognised in the territory of all the Member States, will make it easier for holders of such a certificate to exercise their rights, resulting in shorter and less costly proceedings.

I congratulate the rapporteur, and I hope that these new legal mechanisms will facilitate a practice often fraught with many problems involving different procedures and formalities, and which create more stress for citizens at such difficult times.

 
  
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  Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE), in writing.(PL) Cross-border succession issues have not hitherto been regulated at EU level, which has entailed many difficulties for successors. Both substantive law and rules on international jurisdiction as well as applicable law differ considerably across Member States, and I therefore welcome the European Commission’s proposal. Issues such as adopting a broad definition of inheritance, a broad concept of the court, regulation of the court’s jurisdiction and the introduction of a uniform statute of succession are important solutions facilitating succession with cross-border implications.

The recognition of documents with significance for succession matters and a European Certificate of Succession also constitutes progress, aiming to speed up matters of succession with cross-border implications. I welcome the report, and I am pleased that the Commission has approved most of the solutions proposed by Parliament back in 2006 in its resolution with recommendations for the Commission on succession and wills.

Thanks to this proposal, citizens in the European Union are guaranteed legal clarity and certainty as well as a clear basis for the formation of their estate. Thanks to these provisions, Europeans will be able to exercise their rights in the internal market more effectively. Legal clarity and legal certainty are the most important elements which should be guaranteed in the area of succession law. The regulation strengthens these aspects, benefits the public and guarantees added value for the European Union.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE), in writing. – I am abstaining on this proposal, which provides for the introduction of a European Certificate of Succession which would serve as proof of heirship or power of administration in all Member States. Ireland, like the UK and Denmark, has not opted into this proposed regulation. The principal reasons for the decision taken by the Irish Government not to opt in to the regulation relate to the use of ‘habitual residence’ as the connecting factor in the absence of a choice of law. While progress was made in relation to the issue of habitual residence, the issues of administration of estates and the restoration of lifetime gifts (clawback) were not resolved and, as a consequence, Ireland will not be reviewing its position on application of the regulation.

 
  
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  Brice Hortefeux (PPE), in writing. (FR) During the plenary session of March 2012, the European Parliament adopted the compromise text negotiated with the Council of the European Union on successions, which brings three years of work and discussions to a close. This text recognises the principle of the movement of authentic instruments, which means that an instrument will have the same probative effects (content, date) in one Member State as in the issuing Member State. Above all, it recognises the universal competence of notaries in spite of the different succession settlement systems within the European Union, which should guarantee more efficiency between the systems. Among the other noteworthy advances, the text introduces the European Certificate of Succession (ECS) in order to facilitate the quick settlement of an international succession. With this certificate, heirs and legatees will be able to assert their direct rights in the succession. Finally, the reserved share principle, which is not recognised in all Member States, is preserved.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD), in writing. (LT) I abstained from voting on the European Parliament legislative resolution on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and authentic instruments in matters of succession and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession because, due to the specific regulation of certain aspects of succession in their countries, the UK and Ireland have announced that they will not contribute to this regulation. It is very important that these countries should opt in to the regulation, particularly for the citizens of our country who often go to work and live in these countries, and we therefore need to find additional means of reaching a compromise with these countries on the succession issue, so that these countries opt in to this regulation. I agree with the creation of a single framework throughout the European Union to address succession issues. I also welcome the creation of a European Certificate of Succession because I believe that this document will help heirs, executors and administrators to avoid many unnecessary administrative procedures, but both the UK and Ireland must participate in the framework to guarantee a single framework without exceptions.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE), in writing. (FR) I supported the Lechner report, which is a real step forward for the European Union with regard to succession. Having been the subject of a compromise, the Lechner report advocates the principles of the circulation of authentic instruments and the protection of the reserved share. Moreover, it allows for the creation of a European Certificate of Succession for use by heirs and legatees having direct rights in the succession. Finally, in order to safeguard notaries’ competences, the report expressly provides for their universal competence.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing.(PL) The underlying principle of the proposal for a regulation is to eliminate all obstacles to the free movement of persons and their rights deriving from the particular variations in succession regimes in Member States. The proposed regulations aim to increase legal certainty for both testators and beneficiaries. The essence of the regulation is to implement the model of a uniform status for an estate where, in relation to one estate, regardless of the nature of its contents or the location thereof, the provisions of one legal regime apply, this having been selected by the testator as the applicable law. This avoids fragmentation of the estate and reduces problems in exercising successor rights under different legal regulations.

At the same time, we must consider whether the proposal fully realises the intended possibility of protecting the estate upon death. There is no doubt that the possibility of selecting the applicable law to resolve matters of succession in conjunction with the European Certificate of Succession allows for such protection. However, this is a formal aspect of this regulation, consisting of its introduction into the legal system. It has great potential. However, it depends on the material aspect of the actual opportunity for entitled persons to benefit from these institutions. We need to consider how to encourage the behaviour described by us in these provisions. This is the whole problem with the draft regulation. In addition to creating legal tools, we need to persuade entitled persons to use them.

 
  
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  Michał Tomasz Kamiński (ECR), in writing. – Although I am aware of the obvious difficulties and legal uncertainties that this proposal aims to resolve (in terms of simplifying the legal position for citizens in Europe by allowing the management of estates of deceased persons where these cover more than one Member State to be based upon the law of only one jurisdiction), my abstention in the vote concerned is due to the fact that this regulation presents a certain difficulty which is, mainly, that due to the haste in which negotiations have been concluded in Council and with Parliament, concerns still exist with the solution found for the varying practices across the Member States dealing with administration of the deceased’s estate.

 
  
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  Agnès Le Brun (PPE), in writing. (FR) The free movement of people within the European Union ranks among the greatest successes of the European project. However, the great diversity of rules among the various Member States with regard to succession is a constraint on this freedom of movement and causes legal uncertainty. I voted in favour of this text, which aims to prevent legal battles in the case of successions where the laws of several countries could apply. Thanks to this regulation, citizens will be able to decide, in accordance with specific criteria, which EU Member State’s law they wish to apply to their succession. In addition, the text provides for the creation of a standard Certificate of Succession common to Member States, which will help heirs, in particular, to demonstrate their rights in any Member State.

 
  
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  Constance Le Grip (PPE) , in writing. (FR) I wanted to support the report of our colleague, Mr Lechner, on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and authentic instruments in matters of succession and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession. It had become necessary to adapt to the changes in society, in this instance, the constant rise in mixed marriages within the European Union and the legal problems that this can cause. This report therefore advocates the creation of a European Certificate of Succession in order to simplify notarial procedures with regard to cross-border successions. In this way, it will be easier for heirs to assert their status as heir in a cross-border context. It is another step forward for the people’s Europe, which proves that Europe offers concrete solutions in order to strengthen mobility within the European internal market.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – I believe the adoption of this proposal will make handling cross-border successions considerably easier. However, I abstained because the UK Government opted out of this proposal.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE), in writing. (IT) The right of testators to be able to choose their home country’s law as the law governing their succession must not be put up for discussion. The European Certificate of Succession is the best way to regulate this option. Accordingly, I agree with the rapporteur and my vote is in favour.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE), in writing. (PT) The Union has set itself the objective of maintaining and developing an area of freedom, security and justice in which the free movement of persons is ensured. For the gradual establishment of such an area, the Union is to adopt measures relating to judicial cooperation in civil matters having cross-border implications, particularly when necessary for the proper functioning of the internal market. The proper functioning of the internal market should be facilitated by removing the obstacles to the free movement of persons who currently face difficulties asserting their rights in the context of a succession having cross-border implications. In the European area of justice, citizens must be able to organise their succession in advance. The rights of heirs and legatees, of other persons close to the deceased, and of creditors of the succession, must be effectively guaranteed. In order to achieve those objectives, this regulation should bring together provisions on jurisdiction, on applicable law, on recognition or, as the case may be, acceptance, enforceability and enforcement of decisions, authentic instruments and court settlements and on the European Certificate of Succession. That is why I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. – The report’s idea of enabling citizens who own property in several Member States, or who live in a Member State other than their own, to plan their successions adequately and at lesser cost is very timely. If the report is adopted, it is obvious that, by making clearer which laws apply and when, the number of cross-border inheritance disputes will be reduced. The creation of a European Certificate of Succession should lead to greater legal certainty for people when writing their wills. It is a pity that Ireland and the UK will not be opting in at this stage. It is important to avoid creating a system where people can ‘forum-shop’ and move to countries which have opted out in order to avoid commitments in their home Member States. In general, I consider the work of the rapporteur positively.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Considering how long there have been fundamental freedoms in the EU, it is astonishing that the EU has only in the last few years started to pay greater attention to the legal problems for citizens arising from freedom of movement. It makes sense to establish rules that it is possible for the average citizen to understand. In view of the change in circumstances for families in Europe in particular, citizens must be able to be sure which law is applicable in their particular case. This proposal represents a step in this direction and that is why I have voted for it.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Morin-Chartier (PPE), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of this report, which puts the need to protect the reserved share of the estate at the centre of the debate. In order to allow cases of international succession to be settled quickly, the regulation introduces a European certificate. This certificate is for use by heirs and legatees having direct rights in the succession in order to demonstrate specific elements, such as their status as heirs or the attribution of a specific asset. Uniform connecting factors for determining court competence and applicable law are the nub of a European solution. Deceased persons who had been habitually resident outside their home country and who had not made a choice of law would be subject to the law on succession of the country of residence. That would be new for all Member States. The European Certificate of Succession should be restricted to cross-border matters. Any entity dealing with an estate – courts, authorities, notaries, etc. – should be competent to issue it.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D), in writing. – I welcome this proposal, as it represents an important step in order to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market, which is still limited by a number of EU Member States’ rules governing cross-border successions. The aim of this regulation must be to make life easier for people, including heirs, to reduce costs and to ensure rules are clear and applicable throughout the Union. Therefore, it is extremely important that the European Parliament and the Council are working towards finding a fair agreement that can be inclusive of all the different sensibilities and legal traditions in the Union. Regarding this point, I would like also to express the hope that Member States with doubts will continue to be part of a dialogue based on the general principle of testamentary freedom and the willingness to reduce administrative burdens for families in Europe, which will lead to greater legal certainty for people when writing their wills.

 
  
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  Siiri Oviir (ALDE), in writing. (ET) I supported the adoption of this report, as I have supported all other legal frameworks that simplify cross-border formalities, safeguard Europeans’ freedom of movement and make Europe more integrated. The new regulation is very important in order to reduce the legal contradictions in inheritance-related matters and avoid disputes between various parties in the case of wills involving the legal systems of several EU Member States. This corresponding regulation, however, now makes it possible to choose between the laws of the home country and the country of permanent residence in cross-border inheritance matters, and that will make trans-European criteria clearer as regards the decision of which Member State’s laws will be implemented if the estate is subject to the laws of more than one Member State. As a Liberal, I am glad that European citizens will have the right to choose the most convenient way to conduct their official business in matters of inheritance, and the new legislation will make people’s lives much simpler in this area.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD), in writing. (LT) The initiative to establish a European Certificate of Succession and lay down a new choice-of-law right, which would make citizens more autonomous, should be welcomed. However, given the importance of this issue, we must not make hasty decisions. Detailed discussions should take place so that when applying this regulation, we prevent any abuse or opportunity to circumvent the law’s provisions. Any person habitually resident outside their home country, or intending to be so, must be guaranteed that when choosing the applicable law, they do not face an additional burden and succession issues are resolved appropriately and effectively.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE), in writing. (EL) The proposal for a regulation establishing common rules on succession and creating a European Certificate of Succession, which I voted in favour of, is in keeping with the conclusions of the Tampere Summit and subsequent efforts and initiatives to harmonise rules of law between the Member States. This initiative is a useful follow-up and supplement to a series of regulations such as the Rome I and II Regulations and the Brussels I Regulation. This harmonisation exercise will help considerably in establishing security of law in the common market and in the single European area and highlights the consistent efforts by Member States to achieve a high degree of mutual judicial assistance. Extending this commitment to areas of law, the regulation of which has hitherto been left solely to the legislative initiative of the Member States, such as succession law, illustrates that the Member States are dedicated to their common path and is highly encouraging.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) There are 450 000 cross-border successions open in the European Union every year, representing inheritances totalling over EUR 120 billion and around 10% of all successions. The purpose of this proposal for a regulation is to prevent legal conflicts and long court cases for heirs, where the legal systems of more than one Member State are applicable. One of the new measures is the creation of a European Certificate of Succession, designed to clarify the legal position of the testator, and to safeguard the rights of heirs and other parties, including creditors. I voted for this report because I believe these measures could contribute to making these processes more efficient and faster.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE), in writing. (IT) The result of this report is that deceased persons who had been habitually resident outside their home country and who had not made a choice of law will, in future, be subject to the law on succession of the country of residence. This is a new concept for all Member States. The Commission proposal is rounded off by the establishment of a European Certificate of Succession. It would not constitute a final, unappealable ruling on a particular succession; rather, it would be a certificate relating to that succession. It would be used on a cross-border basis as proof of entries in registers and, as a safeguard for persons acquiring succession property, would enjoy a presumption of accuracy.

 
  
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  Crescenzio Rivellini (PPE), in writing. (IT) Today’s plenary session saw the vote on the report by Mr Lechner. The new regulation aims to facilitate the execution of wills and avoid long and costly procedures if a European citizen dies in a Member State other than his home country and his will involves more than one national legal system. According to Mr Lechner, cross-border successions account for 10% of successions in the EU, at almost 450 000 per year with a value in the region of EUR 123 billion. The new European rules would also introduce a European Certificate of Succession. This could ease legal procedures and ensure that the rights of heirs are respected alongside those of the other parties involved, such as creditors. Overall, this would making the procedure quicker and clearer, while use of the certificate would be voluntary. The new regulation will not apply in cases of succession for people who stay in their home country and does not alter national legislation on succession, property or tax, nor would it entail any harmonisation of national procedures.

 
  
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  Robert Rochefort (ALDE), in writing. (FR) It has taken three years of work in order to arrive at a compromise text between our institutions. This text, which I endorsed, should facilitate successions and avoid conflicts where a person dies leaving a will involving the legal systems of more than one Member State. It should be remembered that cross-border successions account for 10% of all successions in the EU. The new arrangements, which will enter into force in 2015, will expedite procedures and reduce administrative formalities for heirs by introducing harmonised criteria concerning the national law applicable to the will where the estate concerns more than one Member State (the default rule will be that of the last place of residence of the testator). It will also make it possible for people living abroad to choose their country of origin as the reference for the applicable law when drafting their will. Finally, it is worth highlighting the creation of a European Certificate of Succession, devised in order to clarify the legal situation of persons making a will and to assist heirs and creditors in proving their status and safeguarding their rights throughout the Union. I only regret that the UK and Ireland have opted out, and that it will not apply in Denmark, which will reduce the impact of the text on the ground.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – Our group is in favour of the report as adopted in the Committee on Legal Affairs. It calls though for a second reading in order to give the UK the possibility of opting in.

 
  
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  Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid (PPE), in writing. (FR) Even at the height of the crisis, the EU continues to work to make life easier for its 500 million citizens. Today, Parliament has adopted an important text that seeks to facilitate the settlement of cross-border successions and to avoid conflicts where a person dies leaving a will involving the legal systems of more than one Member State. According to some studies, successions of this kind account for 10% of all successions within the Union and involve EUR 123 billion.

It has taken more than three years of discussions in order to arrive at an agreement on this extremely sensitive matter for the Member States. Thanks to this new regulation, a Spaniard living in France will now be able to decide whether his heirs will inherit under French or Spanish law and thus avoid costly proceedings leading to the legal uncertainty of the past. In the absence of any intent expressly declared by the deceased, it will be the law of the country of residence that applies. This simplification applies to all of us and reflects a Europe of free movement, which is proactive, coordinated and provides protection.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE), in writing. (IT) Thanks to this vote, European citizens can plan their will properly and personally. It will provide legal certainty on a complex issue. European citizens will, at long last, be able to choose between the legislation of their own country or that of the country to which they have moved. The regulation will smooth, simplify and streamline cross-border succession. Perhaps it will not be possible to solve all the problems, but there will definitely be improvements. A European Certificate of Succession issued by a notary will improve citizens’ autonomy.

 
  
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  Catherine Stihler (S&D), in writing. – I abstained on the Lechner report on succession and wills because of the failure of the UK Government to influence the content of this new law by opting out.

 
  
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  József Szájer (PPE), in writing. (HU) I would first of all like to thank Mr Lechner because we can all be proud of the enormous work he has done, even more so since this is Mr Lechner’s last report, as, after 14 years of service, he will be leaving the ranks of the European Parliament in March this year. I am pleased that we had the opportunity today to vote on a topic that had been anticipated by citizens for a very long time. Living in the border town of Sopron, I am acutely aware of the administrative difficulties and barriers to the assertion of rights that citizens have to face more often than not in cross-border affairs. This, unfortunately, leads to diminished legal certainty, which is, however, an exceptionally important factor in respect of succession. I supported this report because with its adoption, the administration of cross-border succession cases will be significantly simplified, giving citizens a secure, predictable basis for disposing of their inheritance, thereby allowing them to save considerable amounts of time, energy and money. Although the report has not been in the spotlight of the international media, I do believe that it is votes such as this that truly show the worth of our work. The very reason for our being here as Members of the European Parliament is to discuss matters such as this and to represent the true interests of European citizens. Let us represent them instead of debating baseless, fervent accusations instigated by certain political interest groups against specific Member States.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) In October 2009, the European Commission submitted a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council intended to lay down the proper conditions for European Union residents possessing goods in various Member States to be able ‘to organise their succession in advance and effectively to guarantee the rights of heirs and/or legatees and of other persons linked to the deceased, as well as creditors of the succession’. In order to achieve a cross-cutting solution for all the Member States, it is crucial to lay down a single set of reference criteria for succession rights, specifically regarding the handover, administration and liquidation of the legitimate owner’s goods. I am voting for the submitted proposal, which guarantees increased legal certainty for citizens resident in the European Union, since the criterion of habitual residence will now be in force for the competent court to apply its own legal system. Finally, it is important to stress that no changes will be made to the normal succession process for citizens habitually resident in their country of origin who own property in that country. Property that citizens own outside their country of origin will also be covered by the legal system of their country of residence.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D), in writing. (RO) I voted for the legislative resolution on the proposal for a regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and authentic instruments in matters of succession and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession. An ever-increasing number of European citizens are moving during their life from one country to another within the EU to live, study, work or retire. The number of EU-27 citizens who are resident in a different Member State to their Member State of origin reached approximately 12.3 million in 2010, marking a rise of 3 million compared with 2005. In order to settle successions in the EU involving any cross-border aspect in a quick, easy and effective manner, heirs, legatees, executors of a will or administrators of an estate should be able to demonstrate easily their status and/or rights and powers in another Member State, for instance, in a Member State where the succession property is located. Therefore, the regulation envisages the creation of a standard certificate, the European Certificate of Succession, which will be issued for use in another Member State. In order to comply with the principle of subsidiarity, the certificate should not substitute internal documents which may exist for similar purposes in Member States.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE), in writing. (DE) I have voted in favour of the report because it simplifies and improves the right of self-determination for the citizens of the EU with regard to their personal succession. In future, everyone will be able to choose between the inheritance law of their native country and of the country where they live. The possibility of establishing foundations remains unaffected by this.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI), in writing. – This proposal seeks to make cross-border successions easier and to prevent conflicts by the determination of the applicable law, in order to facilitate everything it proposes. On the one hand, it creates a European Certificate of Succession aimed at protecting beneficiaries’ rights and, on the other hand, it establishes the law that will be applicable. Therefore, this report has to be supported. In the case of inter-state succession, the applicable law will be that of the country of habitual residence. A citizen drawing up a will could decide about the applicable law in his/her will, choosing between that of the country where he/she had their last habitual residence and that of their country of origin.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The report proposes unifying rules on jurisdiction, applicable law and recognition of courts, in situations in which the citizens of a Member State reside in another Member State, so as to clarify situations about which there are currently doubts in relation to succession rights. As such, the European Commission is proposing the creation of a European Certificate of Succession. There is a need to protect the public from the existing shortcomings in the present legal provisions regarding the free movement of persons between Member States. However, there is a need to ensure that succession rights and all relevant provisions in this regard result from an expression of national sovereignty, which should be respected.

We would also like to mention that it is regrettable that this report, like others, was not made available in a timely manner in all language versions; specifically, the Portuguese version. Such situations jeopardise respect for the principle of multilingualism in the European Parliament and equality between Members, irrespective of their country of origin and native language.

 
  
  

Report: Sophia in ’t Veld (A7-0041/2012)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) All European citizens should have full citizen’s rights. I am voting for this report, since it stresses that, despite our being one of the most prosperous and developed continents in the world, there is some way to go as regards gender equality, particularly in relation to seeking wage equality between men and women in the same posts.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. – I voted in favour of this report on the progress on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2011. Sensitive issues of today’s society are reflected and incorporated in the report: implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, abortion, the gender pay gap, the role of women in decision making and the use of quotas in company boards or in politics, and maternity leave. These are still under-solved and unequally treated problems in Europe and I believe, with improved support and further actions identified, Europe will improve the living environment for its citizens.

 
  
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  Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE), in writing. (RO) It is not possible to fulfil the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy on creating an open, inclusive society, capable of providing considerable resources supporting the European Union’s sustainable development in the medium and long term, without adopting a resolute approach to tackling a number of problems which Member States’ societies are facing in terms of gender equality. In these circumstances, it is important for Member States to adopt legislative measures aimed at providing equal, effective economic independence for men and women in Europe’s societies. One issue directly linked to this objective is that of equal pay for men and women. In the absence of sustained efforts, the 17.5% gap between the incomes earned by men and women cannot be reduced.

Resolving the issue of gender disparity in decision making is just as important to the successful achievement of the European Union’s medium- and long-term objectives. At a time when 60% of higher education graduates are women, the fact that just 12% of members of the executive boards of the large listed corporations and only 3% of managing directors of large European companies are women provides further evidence of the systemic problems we are facing. I voted in favour of this report.

 
  
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  Pino Arlacchi (S&D), in writing. – I voted for this resolution because, although equality between men and women is a fundamental principle of the European Union, there is still huge gender discrimination in the labour sector. This situation, in 2012, is unacceptable. Women across the EU earn 17.5% less on average than men. I would like to underline that women represent 60% of new university graduates but continue to be under-represented in economic decision-making posts. Indeed, within the EU, on average, only 12% of the executives of the major listed companies are women, with only 3% female chairs. In times of economic crisis, strengthening women’s position in the job market is not only a moral imperative but also an economic necessity. For this reason, Member States must invest in affordable, high-quality facilities for the care of children, the elderly and other dependent persons, making sure that as many people as possible can combine professional and private life. I also would like to express my great concern about the legislation in some Member States which does not expressly forbid the handing of pre-signed resignation letters to employers when women are recruited, which has the effect of enabling maternity laws to be circumvented. Any further delay in that prohibition is intolerable.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) Ms in ’t Veld’s report advocated the introduction of target quotas to increase the number of women on executive boards and to reduce the pay gap between women and men. In principle, all of this is in line with my commitments. However, I abstained on this report in order to express my disagreement with one of its proposals, which called on ‘the Commission and the Member States to elaborate proposals for the mutual recognition of civil unions and of same-sex families across Europe’. It should be pointed out that the European Union does not have the power to amend the family law of the Member States. I believe that the European Union should fully exercise those powers it does have, but it should not give the false impression that every subject falls under the EU’s jurisdiction.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report. The EU is making considerable efforts to promote greater equality between women and men in all EU policies. I agree that many issues still need to be addressed, particularly the proper evaluation of social employment, and the question of social security and pensions for people caring for children or elderly persons at home. I agree that it is essential to increase investment in affordable, high-quality facilities for the care of children, and in care homes for the sick, the disabled, the elderly and other persons requiring care, and to ensure recognition of length of service and social security for carers.

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Bennahmias (ALDE), in writing. (FR) In the yearly speeches on 8 March, everybody speaks in favour of equality between men and women, yet, in actual fact, this is a more delicate matter and attitudes are only slowly evolving. Discrimination against women persists, whether in terms of pay, the participation of women in decision making or their representation in politics. While supporting the action by Commissioner Reding, who has recently launched a consultation regarding the measures to be adopted in order to reinforce gender equality, the in ’t Veld report, which I fully endorse, seeks to go further and calls on the European Commission to propose legislation on the introduction of quotas for the executive bodies of companies in order to improve women’s representation. Quotas are never a panacea. Nevertheless, if used on a provisional basis, they can be precious tools for doing away with relics from a bygone era. Today, only 13.7% of women sit on the executive boards of listed companies in the EU. That is clearly not enough. Despite European conservative opposition, Parliament has demonstrated that it is, and will remain, fundamentally progressive on this issue.

 
  
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  Phil Bennion (ALDE), in writing. – I voted in favour of the report as a whole as it sends a strong message of our shared commitment to reduce inequality as a result of discrimination.

It is crucial, however, to stay firmly realistic in our objectives, and to work with Member States in order to achieve workable common goals.

For this reason, I had to abstain on paragraph 9 relating to the Pregnant Workers Directive – negotiations on which are ongoing. The wording implies that the Council should adopt the Parliament position on this. Whilst not all bad, the Parliament position contains some unrealistic demands for a ‘one size fits all’ maternity leave arrangement, which, if adopted, could perversely discourage employers from hiring women in the first place in some Member States, as compliance could prove too burdensome.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto (EFD), in writing. (IT) I could not vote in favour of this report because its content goes well beyond defending equal rights between men and women. Instead, it tries to promote outright positive discrimination at the expense of a meritocracy, which should be the only criterion taken into consideration, particularly with regard to jobs. As a result, I voted against the report.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this European Parliament report because equality between men and women is a fundamental principle of the European Union, enshrined in the Treaty on European Union. Despite the gradual progress in the area of gender equality, many inequalities between women and men still remain. Despite countless campaigns, targets and measures in recent years for equal pay, for equal work and work of equal value, the gender pay gap remains stubbornly wide. On average, women across the EU earn 17.5% less than men and there has only been a marginal reduction of the gender pay gap in the last few years. The Member States must therefore redouble their efforts to implement existing EU provisions with the aim of closing this gap. Violence against women still remains one of society’s most sensitive and severe problems. Therefore, the European Parliament calls on the Commission to present as a matter of urgency an EU-wide strategy to end violence against women, including a legislative criminal law instrument to combat gender-based violence as requested by Parliament in several resolutions. The European Parliament also calls on the Commission to establish 2015 as the EU Year to End Violence against Women.

 
  
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  Arkadiusz Tomasz Bratkowski (PPE), in writing.(PL) Equality between women and men is a fundamental principle of the European Union. It is guaranteed by a range of legal regulations aimed at ensuring equal levels of employment, wages and working hours, which, unfortunately, are not always observed in practice. Traditional social divisions between women and men which are deeply rooted in societies contribute to this, and they can be changed gradually – through media campaigns focusing on gender equality, for example. Discrimination against women in terms of payment for the same work is particularly striking, and it should be noted that it is harder for women to achieve a balance between work and family life. A fair policy of equality between women and men should be of fundamental importance not only socially, but also in terms of the economy, since it leads to the expanded production capacity of the relevant sector of the economy, and thus to an increase in the level of employment and greater competition in the labour market.

 
  
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  Zuzana Brzobohatá (S&D), in writing. – (CS) Although gender equality is one of the fundamental principles of the EU, fundamental differences remain between the sexes in many areas, whether differences of pay, employment opportunities, social security or representation in higher managerial or public positions. The report on gender equality in the EU, drawn up by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, strongly advocates a continuation of the intensive fight to eliminate these inequalities and supports a strengthening of the position of women in European society. In addition to this, it also calls for protection of the rights of people living in same-sex relationships, and for the promotion of equality and protection of the rights and dignity of women living beyond the borders of the EU, particularly in Muslim countries. I consider all of these elements to be very positive and desirable, and I have therefore decided to vote in favour of adopting the report.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec (PPE), in writing. (FR) This report, which is drafted each year, addresses three sensitive issues. It goes well beyond the issue of equality between men and women in the European Union. I believe that this report is too general and does not take sufficient account of specific national circumstances. I regret that the amendment tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), which pointed out that the definition of ‘family’ falls under the subsidiarity principle, was not adopted. A majority of my colleagues have stated their approval of a uniform understanding of the concept of family by voting to uphold the original version of paragraph 7.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) The report presents a weak analysis of the causes of the economic and social crisis and its impact on women and any objective in terms of changing the policies applied is therefore missing. Nonetheless, I voted in favour of the report because numerous measures are proposed to address gender-based inequalities. It calls for equal representation of women in social, economic and political life and proposes important improvements. Specific binding measures are proposed in order to protect and promote women’s rights, such as pension rights, maternity and paternity leave, access to health based on the gender aspect, protection from all forms of violence and equality in pay, political representation and promotion to positions of political and economic responsibility. One basic point in the report is the reference to women’s rights regardless of their social status, age, sexual orientation or ethnicity. The Commission is also called on to implement its commitment to mainstream gender equality into the Common European Asylum System. Finally, it quite rightly notes that families are diverse and comprise married, unmarried and partnered parents, different-sex and same-sex parents, single parents and foster parents, who deserve protection.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) Despite gender equality being one of the fundamental principles of the EU, the problem of inequality still persists. The Commission has made countless proposals for combating this inequality – in particular, the Europe 2020 strategy – but progress has been too slow, unfortunately. It is even clearer at a time of economic crisis that improving the position of women in the labour market and making them more economically independent is an economic necessity, apart from being a moral imperative. Currently, 60% of new graduates are women. However, it is very difficult for them to enter professional life at their level of training and there is a wage gap that must be reduced: on average, women earn 17.5% less than men. It is also crucial to step up measures enabling the reconciliation of professional and family lives. Particular attention should be paid to the most vulnerable groups of women, who are at greater risk of social exclusion, poverty and extreme human rights violations. I call on the Member States and all stakeholders not to limit themselves to advocating the use of words to achieve gender equality, but to make all necessary efforts and take all necessary action to prioritise it in both their social and their economic strategies.

 
  
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  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (PPE), in writing.(SV) It is important to initiate debate about, and draw attention to, the fact that we still have a long way to go on the road to equality. It is also good that the report emphasises the importance of taking a strong line against domestic violence. I voted against the report, however, as I regret the fact that it has, to a certain extent, been hijacked by family policy, which does not belong at EU level. We must show respect for different cultures, traditions and religions. Issues such as parental leave, budgetary measures and political priorities in respect of equality issues should be left to the Member States to decide at national level. What we can and should do instead is increase our commitment to enabling the increased participation of women, but creating legislation on quotas at EU level is not the way forward. We want to encourage women into leadership positions in all areas, but the way to get there is via jobs and by eliminating the exclusion of many immigrant women by increasing access to jobs.

 
  
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  Emer Costello (S&D), in writing. – I very much welcome the emphasis placed in the EP’s resolution on taking much greater account – through gender impact assessments – of the effect on women of the economic crisis and the responses to it. The impact of the necessary fiscal consolidation must not fall disproportionately on the shoulders of women. There have to be clear gender dimensions to our growth and jobs strategies. I endorse the call for a European equal pay target of reducing the gender pay gap by 10% in each Member State. Gender pay differentials for work of equal value are transmitted into later generations in the form of lower pensions for women and higher poverty rates amongst older women. They need to be tackled now. I welcome the call for EU legislation, including quotas, to increase female representation on company boards to 30% by 2015 and 40% by 2020 and for legislative measures at national level to ensure balanced representation of women and men in politics. In this context, I believe we can learn from the very active participation of women at Community level, work which should be more highly valued at both national level and EU level.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D), in writing.(RO) Although an extensive theoretical framework has been established providing guidelines for eliminating all forms of discrimination against women, inequalities remain in every area of activity. In the current financial and economic climate, strengthening the position of women in the labour market is not only an ongoing moral argument but also an economic necessity. There is the ever-growing risk of poverty and social exclusion, while the austerity measures adopted by some Member States in recent years have been imposed on top of the harsh reality of a lack of support mechanisms for women, in a climate of discrimination on the labour market and in society. Measures for supporting families and children have been abolished or reduced at a time when the health care and pre-school education systems are experiencing difficulties and there is a lack of utilities and medical care in rural areas, which has resulted in a sharp decline in the living standards of families with children.

Furthermore, salaries have been cut in budget sectors in which women predominantly work, such as education and health, which has led to a substantial drop in incomes. Against this background, we call on Member States to implement urgent support measures by creating effective mechanisms for tackling poverty and supporting families, with the aim of achieving gender equality.

 
  
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  Joseph Cuschieri (S&D), in writing. – Reference is herewith being made to the in ’t Veld report (A7-0041/2012) on ‘Equality between women and men in the European Union – 2011’. The abovementioned report contains certain clauses related to abortion (paragraphs 47, 57 (2/RCV-EFD), 58 (2/RCV-EFD, 59, 61 (2/RCV-EFD) and Recital R) which, in my opinion, fail to recognise that this is an issue of national competence, and which I did not vote for. Nonetheless, the gender equality report also contains other definitely positive clauses, which focus on barriers that prevent gender equality and which aim to end gender-based violence. There are also essential clauses which focus on gender dignity, integrity and the protection of women and their economic and political rights. Hence, I voted in favour of the final text of this resolution.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing. (RO) Since violence against women, including psychological violence, is a major obstacle to equality between women and men and a violation of their fundamental rights, remaining one of the most widespread human rights violations in the EU, I think that Member States and the European Commission must move towards individualised social security systems in order to improve women’s autonomy and position in society.

 
  
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  Rachida Dati (PPE), in writing. (FR) I am pleased that the European Parliament draws up an annual report on equality between women and men. Despite the ambitious and exhaustive nature of the 2011 report, which I welcome, I chose to abstain. This report covers the many aspects of the issue of equality between women and men. It accordingly proposes a range of measures relating to economic independence, equality in pay and decision making, the place of women in managerial positions and female entrepreneurship, as well as the combating of violence against women. However, some of the issues covered – I am thinking of issues relating to family policy – should not, in my view, be addressed at EU level and that is why I decided to abstain.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE), in writing. (FR) By adopting the report by Ms in ’t Veld, we have opened the way for quotas of women in positions of major responsibility in companies. The report clearly calls on the Commission to draft legislation to increase the number of women on the executive boards of companies to 30% by 2015, and to 40% by 2020. If Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner responsible for fundamental rights, decides to introduce these quotas following the outcome of the consultation, she now knows that she will have Parliament’s support, and it is therefore a done deal. We should not forget that Belgium has been one of the trailblazing Member States on this issue. I welcome that!

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D), in writing. – I voted in favour of this motion for a European Parliament resolution on equality between women and men in the European Union because it represents a key priority of the EU for the coming years. The motion explains the crucial importance of overcoming gender disparities and any form of gender and sexual discrimination, also by explaining in clear and unequivocal terms the economic importance of gender equality for growth and in the fight against poverty. Europe 2020 contains in its priorities the goal of a 75% employment rate for women by 2020. Improvements have been achieved; however, because of the economic crisis, it is important to accelerate in this direction. This document tackles the problem through a pragmatic approach, underlines the current situation and calls on the European Union and its Member States to enhance their efforts, not only by providing sufficient funds to build a due balance between men and women in our societies, but also by being the promoters of a change in people’s mindset and traditions.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for this report, which once again shows that promoting gender equality is a process made up of steps forwards and backwards. The difficulty of balancing family and professional lives, wage differences and the many other discriminations to which women are subjected constitute obstacles to women’s increased participation in the labour market and to their professional achievement. As rapporteur for the draft revision of the Maternity Leave Directive, I consider it crucial that the European Council take a position on the proposals adopted by the European Parliament; all the more so, since this legislation could make a significant contribution to promoting equality between men and women, and respond to the needs of European families and the economy itself.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) The principle of equality is, along with freedom, one of the pillars of the democratic rule of law. It is because I believe in the importance of the principle of equality that I believe men and women deserve the same opportunities, and should both be in a position to achieve management and leadership roles in the world of business. However, this should be achieved by removing the barriers that still remain for women – such as, for example, the negative impact of motherhood on career progression – and not imposed through regulation and quotas. As I have had occasion to say numerous times, unless they are temporary, quotas only diminish women rather than guaranteeing them equal access to a profession, to public office, or to management and leadership roles in business. Moreover, in the field of private enterprise, the imposition of quotas could constitute an intervention limiting shareholder freedom and could, as such, be in breach of Article 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which sets out the principle of freedom to conduct a business. I therefore advocate adaptation to fit these two fundamental principles.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) This report, drafted by Ms in ’t Veld, analyses the report on equality between women and men in the European Union – 2011. The role of women in so-called modern societies has, in recent decades, been increasingly valued owing, in large measure, to the greater open-mindedness of communities in the countries of northern Europe. On their own merit, women have gone from a position of subservience to and dependence on men, due to their dual position of mother and housewife, to a position of equality cemented by their emancipation, education and professional training. The principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ is not respected in all fields of work. Moreover, motherhood means that women are overlooked by many companies and are only able to achieve management or leadership positions at great cost, despite accounting for 60% of new graduates.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The report highlights some of the main reasons for discrimination between men and women, which are directly related to their economic and work situation. Choosing to do this denotes the correct approach, which we view positively. The report proposes positive measures that promote economic equality and equality in working conditions between men and women. However, the European Union’s present political and social situation is an unavoidable aspect of this debate. If the so-called austerity measures advocated by the European institutions – the majority in this Parliament, in particular – are continued and enshrined in the treaties, as intended, they will lead to enormous steps backwards in terms of equality between men and women: the even further weakening of labour relations, with the watering down of the principle of collective bargaining; higher rates of unemployment; increasingly precarious jobs, which particularly affects women already; and a reduction in the public child care network, which is essential to alleviating the excessive burden that falls on women. Firmly rejecting this route, and defending and improving the rights of women workers, constitute a precondition for defending equality between men and women.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D), in writing. (SK) The EU is an important player in the fight for gender equality and against discrimination. Despite making every effort, gender equality has not yet been achieved in the EU. Legislation may have changed, but the traditional gender roles and gender stereotypes remain a significant obstacle to fundamental change. Economic independence for women and men is key to achieving gender equality. There is a risk that the current economic crisis will set us back a few years, since it ultimately affects women more than men.

I therefore consider that efforts to improve labour market participation and access to leading positions in, say, company boardrooms must remain a high priority on the political agenda. The difference in the status of men and women in some countries outside Europe is often dramatic. Women have fewer rights, or even no rights whatsoever. The EU and Member States must do much more to bring about an improvement and to rectify this situation. What is needed is not only sufficient financial resources, but also, I firmly believe, a radical change in mentality and traditions in particular.

 
  
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  Louis Grech (S&D), in writing. – I voted against a number of clauses of the in ’t Veld report on ‘Equality between women and men in the European Union – 2011’, especially those relating to abortion, which, in my opinion, fail to recognise that this is an issue of national competence. I also abstained on a number of paragraphs which, in my opinion, were ambiguous. Having said that, however, the report highlights a number of issues and concerns, especially those relating to barriers that prevent gender equality. One example is the employment rate of women, which remains far lower than that of men; another is unequal pay for equal work. The report also contains essential clauses which focus on dignity and integrity, as well as an end to gender-based violence. In this respect therefore, and considering the abovementioned reasons, I decided to vote in favour of the final text of the resolution.

 
  
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  Estelle Grelier (S&D), in writing. (FR) Every year, the European Commission publishes a report on the state of gender equality in Europe. Unfortunately, the same findings recur every year: gender stereotyping, ancestral taboos and an outdated view of the division of roles between women and men persist, preventing any improvement in the circumstances of women in the European Union. In 2011, the crisis helped make the situation worse, since, in affecting women more severely than men, it undermined their economic independence. Employment, access to positions of political and economic responsibility, freedom and sexual health: all issues that still require a continuous struggle in order to achieve genuine gender equality. This also has to be a daily struggle, in everyday life as well as in the European Parliament, where, at every opportunity, almost one third of Members regrettably call into question the issue of access to contraception and abortion.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Every year on 8 March, politicians on all sides rush to point out that equality between men and women is absolutely vital. Yet here, once again, as is unfortunately often the case where equality is concerned, there is a significant difference between what is said and what actually happens. Inequalities persist, as well as discrimination. I also voted in favour of this report, which calls for the introduction of quotas in the decision-making bodies of companies in order to improve women’s representation. I repeat that quotas should not be the only response and systematic tool for fighting against discrimination. However, at the present time, this is the most efficient way of rebalancing the situation, as there are still too many anachronisms and barriers in our society.

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing. (FR) If we look at the state of equality between women and men in 2011, we see that the economic crisis has affected women more than men, further undermining their economic independence, which is often precarious. I therefore voted in favour of this report because it highlights the problem of the pay gap between men and women doing the same work and with the same skills, and suggests setting a European target to reduce the pay gap in each Member State by 10%.

Moreover, since voluntary measures do not lead to convincing results, the use of quotas is required in order to see more women access positions of major responsibility within companies. I also support the proposals that would enable increased representation of women on the executive boards of companies, so that this representation reaches 30% by 2015 and 40% by 2020.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE), in writing. – There are many positive aspects to this report, in particular, the call to Member States to invest in affordable high-quality facilities for those who need care, as well as the proposal to ensure that men and women who are caring receive recognition by giving them individual social security and pension rights. Also, recognition and validation of skills acquired during care-related leave should be considered by Member States.

The report speaks of economic independence for women and this is linked to employment opportunities and equal pay for equal work of equal value. The fight against sexual violence is crucially important and needs to remain as one of the top priorities of the EU, and I believe the definition of family needs to be broad enough to include different types of households.

I cannot, however, support the rapporteur’s views on access to abortion as in conscience, I do not support abortion.

 
  
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  Gunnar Hökmark and Anna Ibrisagic (PPE), in writing. (SV) We believe that the principle of subsidiarity must be respected. Matters such as possible legislation on quotas, parental leave, budgetary measures relating to equality issues and national policy priorities should therefore be decided at national level.

 
  
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  Mary Honeyball (S&D), in writing. – Labour MEPs voted for this report as we believe it outlines the many proactive measures that could be taken in bridging the gap between the position and status of women and men. Great strides have been made in creating gender equality in the EU; however, we still have lots to achieve. In order to create parity and fairness in the single market, we believe that these measures should be taken at EU level. We are disappointed that the British Conservative party sought to water down many parts of the report by putting the needs of small business ahead of the well-being of workers who are pregnant, have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. The EPLP will not vote to prioritise the needs of business over the safety of workers and will continue to work towards better safety standards across the board.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD), in writing. (LT) The European Union plays an important role in ensuring gender equality and combating discrimination. The aspiration to improve female labour market participation and access to positions of power, such as company boards, needs to stay high on the agenda. Nevertheless, despite this document’s positive aspects, I abstained from voting because I believe that the compulsory measures introduced, which should be taken by the business sector to increase female representation in all types of EU companies, are inadequate and would perhaps restrict freedom to carry on a business. We need to start with the public sector and share good practices with the business world. The business sector itself has to decide what is best for it, and it is not for us to set compulsory measures. Discussions about the economic crisis and its consequences continue, and we are seeking compulsory measures to constrain the business sector as much as possible. Instead, we should boost economic growth and entrepreneurship.

 
  
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  Kent Johansson, Marit Paulsen, Olle Schmidt and Cecilia Wikström (ALDE), in writing.(SV) There is still a great deal to do in order for the EU to achieve an equal society in which men and women are given the same opportunities. We therefore welcome the fact that these two reports indicate successful measures and illustrate the many obstacles that still remain. However, even though we voted in favour of the reports as a whole, we would like to emphasise that we do not believe that the focus should be on the EU forcing companies and organisations, by means of legislation, to take on a certain quota of women. Instead, we believe that there are other ways to break with the ingrained attitudes that prevent the participation of women, for example, by increasing skill levels, the use of mentoring and better support for women who want to focus on a career.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE), in writing. (FR) This report on equality between men and women in the European Union contains many positive points, in particular, the parts on pay equality and combating stereotypes. I endorsed the articles on safe and legal abortion and on reproductive and sexual health. However, this report also addresses issues falling under the subsidiarity principle and contains several inconsistencies. I therefore chose to abstain in the final vote on the resolution.

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE), in writing. (FI) I voted in favour of the report by Ms in ’t Veld. Although the European Union leads the world in the area of gender equality, we have to bear in mind that there is still room for improvement. It is indisputable that women are under-represented in leading positions throughout Europe. It is essential to put this right.

As to the options available to us, we must be able to practise open assessment. There are huge differences between the Member States with regard to the position of women, so we firstly need to ensure that measures found to be positive and workable in the more advanced Member States are implemented across the Union. The impact of gender-linked factors in particular on a person’s career opportunities, such as starting a family or doing military service, must be taken into consideration.

It is nevertheless worrying that, even in countries which are very equal statistically or with respect to their legislation, there are obvious gender disparities in the number of those selected for positions, and particularly for managerial posts. The reasons for this need to be assessed. Without underrating the effect of the distortion caused by the ‘old boy’ networks, it is clear that an examination of the figures shows that we cannot just take into account those selected as managers compared to the entire population base: we also have to be able to see any gender disparities that might exist between those selected and numbers of applicants, and between numbers of applicants and the population base, and then arrive at the relevant conclusions. No quotas can provide any real solution, which is to say that selection of the most suitable candidates regardless of gender is the correct approach, as long as there continues to be a considerable difference between the sexes in their appetite for risk. That is why it is essential that both sexes, while still young, are also shown the importance of taking the initiative if they are to succeed in modern society. In the end, if you want something, you have to go out and get it.

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE), in writing. (IT) The issue of equality between men and women is very sensitive and has to be tackled with the necessary precautions. Employment is more important than ever at times of crisis, given the concerning statistics we have seen on youth unemployment. One of the goals of our political activities, as part of the EU 2020 strategy, is to increase the employment rate among men and women aged 20-64 to 75%. We know that it is an ambitious target, but we have to do everything we can to reach it. Much remains to be done in terms of gender equality, especially in terms of employment, by trying to reduce the difficulties that women have in finding work and career opportunities. In future, we will also have to take action on compensation, where the gender gap remains very wide since, when men and women have the same job in the European Union, the men earn an average of 17% more than the women.

 
  
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  Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska (PPE), in writing.(PL) Even though the issue of gender equality is discussed in ever more depth and ever more frequently each year and efforts are made and action is taken to change the situation of women in the European Union, traditional gender roles, taboos and stereotypes still ensure, to a great extent, that visible and far-reaching changes are impossible. In areas such as the economy and politics, men still hold the highest positions. It should therefore be stressed that equality between women and men is very important in order to achieve sustainable economic growth, employment, competitiveness and social cohesion. I would like to express my support for the reduction of gender-based wage differences, for an increase in the role of women in decision-making processes at all levels, and for the fight against gender-based discrimination and violence. I also believe that we should pay more attention to countries outside the European Union, where women have fewer or no rights. In connection with the above, I support the European Parliament’s resolution on equality between women and men in the European Union and voted for it.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE), in writing. – The European Union has an impressive record in fighting for gender equality anti-discrimination. Although I fully support the majority content of this report, I did not support paragraphs 47 and 58 and recital R, which refer to matters that are the competence of Member State governments.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D), in writing. – Current economic and financial crises affect women more than men. Recovery projects that are under way focus on male-dominated jobs. The current gender pay gap is 17.5% even if women make up 60% of the new university graduates. Electoral quotas have been successfully introduced in France, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, Portugal and Poland says the voted report and therefore, it should be considered an option also for other Member States. I believe that it is necessary for the Commission to present an EU-wide strategy to end violence against women, including a legislative criminal law instrument.

 
  
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  Claudio Morganti (EFD), in writing. (IT) I wanted to voice my strong opposition to this report, given that it contains numerous parts that are frankly unacceptable. It moves from recognising same-sex unions and families to assurances on protection for same-sex parents. I will never grow tired of repeating that there is only one kind of family: a father, a mother and any children they may have. I am not suggesting a ban on two people of the same sex living freely together, but the family is something else altogether and it must therefore have different guarantees and protective measures. The meaning of the terms ‘family’ and ‘parenthood’ derive from the very concept of humanity: indeed, only a union between a man and a women can lead to the conception of a new life and the continuance of the human race. We do not want to give in to these new ideas, which have sprung from nothing in recent years: human history and human nature cannot and must not be altered. Lastly, I would like to emphasise that the title of the report talked about equality between men and women, while all these references added to the text seem to be entirely different in content and significance.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Morin-Chartier (PPE), in writing. (FR) I chose to abstain on the report ‘Equality between women and men in the European Union – 2011,’ because, while I note many positive steps, there are aspects that made it impossible for me to support the text in full. One issue in particular influenced my decision, which was that regarding the definition of ‘family’. This is covered by the subsidiarity principle and, in my view, it falls under the competence of the Member States and not the EU.

 
  
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  Tiziano Motti (PPE), in writing. (IT) I did not vote on the report on equality between women and men in the European Union – 2011 and I am sorry that I had to forego this right and duty. Many of its statements are principles that I have always supported and promoted: salary inequality is still unacceptable, with a 17.5% gender pay gap; the difficulty of staying in work after one’s first child is born; a more acute risk of poverty for women; the objective of the EU 2020 strategy to achieve a 75% employment rate for women; the need for a gender budget that takes account, in all public dimensions, of the different needs for equal rights between men and women. However, an opportunity has once again been missed. The true meaning of this resolution has instead been twisted into a demagogic wasteland in an attempt to make everyone happy, while actually not pleasing anyone, and going so far as to even deal with the adoption of children by same-sex couples, while lamenting the definition of the family and parenthood as ‘too restrictive’ in some Member States. I think these issues are worthy of extensive debate, as are the reflections on liberalisations regarding de facto couples, including same-sex couples. However, purely for reasons of political strategy, the text voted on today should not have been the place for it.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D), in writing. (SK) I am very happy with the results of today’s vote on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2011. We have managed to achieve a more progressive equality agenda than ever before, which also addresses the sexual and reproductive health of women and women’s rights and access to affordable, high-quality contraception and safe and legal abortion. Just as great a success is the establishment of quotas for management and decision-making positions in business and politics, and the reduction of wage differentials for the same work.

I am pleased that we have a common goal, so that women will enjoy the same status, rights and opportunities as men in today’s society. While this is a relatively long process, we can help it along together.

 
  
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  Siiri Oviir (ALDE), in writing. (ET) I concur with the views expressed in this report and believe that it accurately reveals the circumstances that prevent the safeguarding of gender equality in the European Union. Today, it is clear that while the work that has been done to ensure gender equality is yielding results, it is doing so slowly. In order to ensure women’s active participation and full involvement in social life, politics and the labour market, bolder and more binding methods must be implemented than those that have been implemented hitherto. Before the implementation of such methods (for instance, election quotas, quotas regarding the representation of women on the boards of large publicly traded companies, etc.), however, a better overview must be obtained of the degree to which women are represented in different types of companies and of the voluntary or compulsory measures that have already been implemented. In addition to the gathering and presentation of such data, I consider that we should demand an analysis in all Member States of wages earned for equal or equivalent work (in addition to a comparison of average wages), for which purpose guidelines for the evaluation of equal or equivalent work must also be prepared.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD), in writing. – (LT) It should be noted that the guarantee of equal opportunities for men and women is a fundamental EU value. It is therefore very important for appropriate conditions to be created for both men and women to achieve a good work-life balance. The state should create opportunities and the law, but people have to make decisions themselves. The Member States should, as a matter of urgency, draw up legislative plans for the regulation of maternity and paternity leave in order to respond to the needs of European families and the European economy. Given the ever-increasing world population, family planning should be a priority on the political agenda. It is also very important for greater progress to be made to reduce the maternal mortality rate and to increase access to high-quality reproductive health services. Furthermore, the Member States should pay greater attention to social employment and ensure that it is recognised and rewarded appropriately.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D), in writing. (LT) I supported this report because equality between men and women is a fundamental principle of the European Union, but many women still face discrimination, poverty and stereotypes in everyday situations. As the rapporteur pointed out, in the EU Member States, on average, only 12% of the executives of major listed companies are women, with only 3% female chairs. Furthermore, women earn 17%, and in Lithuania 19%, less than men for the same work. As mentioned in the debates, more progress has been made where the Member States have set quotas and other legally binding measures, and there is a much greater guarantee of gender equality. It is therefore essential to take action at both national and European level so that women have greater opportunities to participate in decision making in the public and private sectors and we need to improve the position of women in the labour market and increase their economic independence to reach a 75% employment rate for men and women in the EU by 2020. I also agree with combating violence against women and those calls to seek gender equality outside the EU.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE), in writing. (PT) As a staunch advocate of equality between all human beings, irrespective of sex, ethnicity, age, religion, etc., I cannot support proposals fighting for positive discrimination in favour of women that is ever broader and more profound. I believe women’s sexual and reproductive health should be enhanced. However, I do not support the expression ‘reproductive rights’, which has been extended to the so-called ‘right to abortion’, when it should be restricted to desired family planning. I do not support this, since it ignores the rights of the unborn child. Having voted against the aforementioned items, I nevertheless voted for this report.

 
  
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  Rovana Plumb (S&D), in writing. (RO) Equality between women and men is a fundamental principle of the European Union and, in spite of the progress that has been made, many inequalities still remain between women and men. I call on European institutions and Member States to devise a clear strategy aimed at rectifying the gender pay gap, including a European target to reduce the pay gap by 10% in each Member State, thereby ensuring equal pay for women and men for the same work and the same qualifications. Member States must include female workers in particular in training and vocational training programmes for ‘green jobs’, which are regarded by the Commission as a ‘key growth segment’ of the European labour market.

The representation of women in the political decision-making process has not shown any improvement. The gender balance in terms of representation in national parliaments has remained unchanged at 24% for women and 76% for men, while the percentage of female members of parliament in certain Member States does not exceed 15%, with women accounting for 23% of ministers overall. The Commission must propose legislation, including quotas, in 2012 to increase female representation in corporate management bodies to 30% by 2015 and to 40% by 2020, while taking account of specific economic, legal and regional features.

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE), in writing. (PT) Given that the present economic crisis could affect more women than men, the Union needs to adopt a more proactive attitude, so as to reduce gender inequality within the EU. As such, the intention is to implement the practice known as ‘affirmative action’, so as to increase women’s participation in the labour market and their access to the positions of power traditionally occupied by men. I believe this report constitutes a crucial step towards greater equality between men and women, so I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Teresa Riera Madurell (S&D), in writing. (ES) In recent years, the situation of women in the Union has either stagnated in some aspects, or worsened in others. The economic crisis has had a negative impact on the position of women in the socio-economic domain, given that the cutbacks in social services, salaries and employment have hit women harder than men. It is paramount that gender equality continues to be promoted in the EU and that Member States are requested to make this a priority issue within their economic strategies. I therefore voted in favour of this report. The report is quite correct when it comes to female representation in all types of companies. It is vital to collect comprehensive data on female representation in the Union in order to be able to assess the measures taken by the business sector of the Member States with the aim of increasing this representation. The use of quotas is an effective tool and is still a necessity to increase female representation, given that it leads to advancements towards gender equality and somewhat alleviates the consequences of the economic crisis for women.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing. (FR) One hundred and one years after International Women’s Day was first celebrated, there is one clear conclusion: inequality remains, and that includes the European Union. For this reason, this afternoon’s vote on the report by Sophia in ’t Veld on equality between men and women in the European Union in 2011 is important. Whilst there is no shortage of goodwill, mentalities have changed little and the ‘glass ceiling’ is as tough as ever.

I strongly support two of the published priorities. The first aims at ending violence against women. Its everyday occurrence in all forms (physical, sexual, mental or economic) is worrying. In Belgium, domestic violence is the number one cause of death amongst women aged 15 to 44. The other priority concerns the objective of equal pay for women and men for the same work and the same qualifications. There is no justification for women earning 17.5% less, on average, than their male counterparts.

I would also like to mention the policy on quotas advanced in the report. Even applied in small doses to corporate management bodies, I do not think that offsetting de facto inequality with legal inequality would be the right solution and one that would lead to a real change in mentalities. After all, this is the objective that we are striving to achieve.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), in writing. – The European Union has been an important player in fighting for gender equality anti-discrimination. However, in spite of the best efforts, gender equality in the EU is far from being achieved. Legislation may have changed, but traditional gender roles, gender stereotyping and taboos remain an important obstacle to fundamental change. The economic independence of men and women is key to gender equality. The current economic crisis risks putting us back years, as it may ultimately hit women harder than men. So, efforts to improve labour market participation, and access to positions of power such as company boards, need to stay high on the agenda. The gap between the position and status of women and men in some countries outside Europe is often dramatic. Women have fewer rights or no rights at all. The EU and its Member States need to do much more to improve the situation of these women, starting with their health. It is not only sufficient funds that are needed, but also a radical change in mentality and tradition.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi (EFD), in writing. (IT) I am strongly opposed to the report. Instead of putting forward initiatives so that effective equality between men and women can be achieved democratically at work, in politics, in decision making and in terms of salaries, it sets out to bring in recognition of same-sex families and delves once again into the issue of the ‘necessity’ of abortion.

Another thing that confirms still further my choice to vote against the report is that it aims to guarantee the reproductive rights of women, regardless of their sexual orientation. This would mean that men who feel like women would be given the chance to have children or even adopt them. The report also contemplates the idea that families do not only include married parents, but also same-sex parents, thereby allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. A report that could have garnered comprehensive support for the rightful recognition of women’s rights has been transformed into a nonsensical series of statements about the presumed rights of so-called same-sex families who want the option to adopt children. I think that the family – in the strict sense of the word – can only be considered as such when it comprises a man and a women and any children they may have.

 
  
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  Tokia Saïfi (PPE), in writing. (FR) Equality between women and men is a fundamental principle of the European Union, enshrined in its founding treaties, recognised by the case-law of the Court and regularly evoked by all the EU institutions. Yet, in practice, it is far from recognition: the pay gap remains, with women earning just under 20% less than men on average, they are under-represented in economic and political decision making, and still vulnerable to physical violence and verbal abuse. I voted in favour of this report as it highlights the areas in which the Member States still have to make progress, puts forwards tangible proposals and also considers the position of women outside of the European Union by advocating greater international cooperation. Gender equality should no longer be considered as a stand-alone policy, but should be fully integrated across all policy areas in order to produce tangible effects.

 
  
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  Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid (PPE), in writing. (FR) The facts are now clear: throughout their working lives, women still find it difficult to reach the top of professional hierarchies. On average, women in Europe still earn 17.5% less than men, only 12% of executives are women, and only 3% of executive board chairpersons are women.

Equality between men and women is not only a democratic imperative and a boost for the necessary fight against all forms of discrimination, but also an economic necessity and a social requirement. Thus, I support the measures contained in this resolution, notably relating to the adoption of new laws, if the Member States do not honour their commitments in terms of imposing quotas to consolidate female representation in corporate management bodies, with the aim of increasing this representation to 30% by 2015 and to 40% by 2020.

Nevertheless, I had to abstain from the vote on this resolution, even though I share many of its conclusions, due to the doggedness of a number of my colleagues. They wish to forcibly impose opinions relating to the subsidiarity and culture of each Member State, whether on the sensitive issues of abortion or the definition of family.

 
  
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  Edward Scicluna (S&D), in writing. – I am happy to support the report by Ms in ’t Veld on gender equality. Even now, the gap between the position and status of women and men is wide in a number of European countries. We still have a gender pay gap, with women earning an average of 17.5% less than men, and a lack of representation of women in politics and on company boards. Only 12% of executives of major listed companies are women. These are problems which, if necessary, must be addressed through legislation and quotas. Targets and quotas should, however, respect the specificities of each country accordingly. The report contains several recommendations on abortion which I do not support, as can be seen from my vote on each of the respective amendments. However, I feel the report is an important and valuable contribution to advancing women’s rights and gender equality in society.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE), in writing. (IT) Even though the European Union has been working for years to combat discrimination between men and women, and regardless of the cultural progress that has been made, gender equality is far from being achieved for various reasons, one of which is economic. We therefore need to drive improvements in the working status of women. Efforts to improve labour market participation, and access to positions of power such as company boards, need to stay high on the agenda. The gap between the position and status of women and men in some countries outside Europe is often dramatic. Women have fewer rights or no rights at all. Through this vote, the EU commits to doing much more to improve the situation of these women, starting with their health. Not only sufficient funds are needed, but a radical change in mentality and tradition.

 
  
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  Nicole Sinclaire (NI), in writing. – I have consistently spoken out against quotas and positive discrimination. All discrimination creates victims. I cannot possibly support this report.

 
  
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  Catherine Stihler (S&D), in writing. – I voted in favour and support the need for a maternity leave directive.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (ECR), in writing.(PL) This report is feminist bigotry. The European treaties never granted the European Union a right to interfere with the family law, labour law, or social security law of the Member States, particularly in the context of mutual recognition of homosexual unions. The pressure for European legalisation of abortion is contrary to the law of the treaties. The report adopted today undermines confidence in the process of European integration. Such an interpretation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights clearly shows that our concerns about the role that the Charter would play were entirely justified. The Left still fails to understand that the Member States never granted the European Union the authority to deal with abortion. The height of this feminist bigotry is to call on religious leaders to change their views on the protection of human life from conception or on contraception. This reeks of totalitarian restrictions on freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D), in writing. (RO) I voted for the resolution on equality between women and men in the European Union because gender equality is a fundamental principle of the EU and, in spite of the progress that has been made in this area, many inequalities still remain between women and men. I voted for Amendment 28 because I think that the definition of ‘family’ is a matter of subsidiarity. I voted for the call to Member States to use Structural Funds for the period 2007-2013 to develop child care services to enable both women and men to combine their professional and private lives. Given that women across the EU earn, on average, 17.5% less than men, we have called on Member States to redouble their efforts to implement the European measures with the aim of closing this gap. I voted for the call made to European institutions, Member States and social partners to devise a strategy for tackling the persistent gender pay gap. I voted in favour of introducing legislated parity systems and gender quotas both for parliamentary assemblies and for management positions in companies, public administration and political bodies, taking into account the good practices operating in states like France and Spain.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE), in writing. (PT) The European Union has been playing an important role in the struggle for equality between men and women. However, and despite the great efforts that have been made, there is still much to do in this area. As such, there is a need to ensure equality in terms of economic independence and decision making, and of promoting equality between men and women outside the EU. In view of the amendments proposed by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), I voted for this report.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE), in writing. (DE) I have voted against the report. As with many proposals, it represents a permanent breach of subsidiarity and takes the EU’s general over-emphasis on integration to new extremes. Combining a large number of paragraphs, only some of which are similar and have suitable content, gives the impression that everything falls under the heading of women’s rights. For example, there is specific mention of the fact that it is regrettable that many Member States provide support for families. In my opinion, supporting families is a fundamental political issue which I do not want to disappear. Incorporating political mistakes into the fabric of society, as the rapporteur suggests, will not make these mistakes any better.

 
  
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  Viktor Uspaskich (ALDE), in writing. (LT) Gender equality is far from being achieved in either Lithuania or the EU. The report states that although legislation has been changed, traditional gender stereotypes remain a serious barrier to fundamental change. The gender pay gap can be seen very clearly in Lithuania. The gender pay gap in Lithuania is over 21% – one of the highest rates in the EU, which has increased by 5% over the last six years. Consequently, the gender pay gap may reach 25% in a few years, unless appropriate measures are taken. The gender pay gap is more visible in the private sector where women are paid less than men for doing the same job. A report published by the Institute for the Study of Labour states that in the EU, the gender pay gap problem is not just a glass ceiling issue but also a sticky floor problem. For example, the gender pay gap is greater both among the highest earners and the lowest paid in Lithuania. In order to improve the situation, there should be more transparent pay scales in companies and more severe measures against companies that fail to comply with the principle of gender equality. Faced with the crisis, there should be an even greater focus on economic equality. Lower wages for women inevitably mean not just lower incomes, but lower pensions.

 
  
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  Derek Vaughan (S&D), in writing. – Equality between men and women is a fundamental principle of the EU. Therefore, it is vital that the Commission take tough initiatives to tackle inequality. I voted in favour of the report, which highlights that when national measures to ensure equality are inadequate, the Commission should propose legislation to reduce the gender pay gap and quotas to boost female representation on corporate boards and in political bodies. An EU equal pay target to reduce the gender pay gap by 10% in each EU country is a great initiative and places emphasis on the European Parliament’s commitment to the important issue of equality.

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of this report, which gives a fairly comprehensive overview of the position of women.

In short, despite the unquestionable advancements made to everyday life, in particular, by our mothers and our grandmothers, equality between women and men is far from being reached. It seems to actually be losing ground in view of the policies pursued by certain Member States in relation to social rights or the fight against discrimination based on sex, notably within the context of the budget cuts imposed by the economic crisis, of which women are often the first victims, both in terms of work and health.

I am pleased that the Members of the European Parliament are reaffirming their commitment to the right to abortion, to contraception and to longer maternity leave and calling for a debate on the means to fight against gender stereotypes, notably through a non gender-specific education and the promotion of equality between women and men from the youngest possible age.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI), in writing. – The key to gender equality is the economic independence of men and women. The current economic crisis mainly hits male employment, but cuts in public spending are expected to have a disproportionate impact on female employment. The rapporteur suggests that efforts to improve labour-market participation and access to positions of power need to stay high on the agenda, with which I fully agree. Its adoption will improve equality between women and men in the European Union.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR), in writing. – The ECR Group was unable to support this report due to the nature of its content. We feel that the bulk of this report would erode the individual Member States’ right to subsidiarity. We do not believe that the EU should be interfering in issues such as maternity leave, targets and quotas for women in business, pension and social security matters, redefining the family unit and other such references to social policy. Whilst the aims and objectives of this report are commendable, we do not believe this report addresses equality between men and women in a meaningful way, and have therefore voted against it.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The report highlights some of the main reasons for discrimination between men and women, which are directly related to their economic and work situation. We do not agree with some of the measures advocated, such as the introduction of quota mechanisms for electoral, appointment and administrative bodies; the solutions that these provide for the problem of inequality between men and women can only be artificial. The report does, however, propose positive measures that promote economic equality and equality in working conditions between men and women.

Unfortunately, if the so-called ‘austerity’ measures advocated by the European institutions – the majority in this Parliament, in particular – are continued, they will lead to enormous steps backwards in terms of equality between men and women: the even further weakening of labour relations, with the watering down of the principle of collective bargaining; higher rates of unemployment; increasingly precarious jobs, which particularly affects women already; and a reduction in the public child care network, which is essential to alleviating the excessive burden that falls on women.

Firmly rejecting so-called ‘austerity’ measures is a precondition for defending equality between men and women and defending workers’ rights.

 
  
  

Report: Sirpa Pietikäinen (A7-0029/2012)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing. (PT) I agree with the main conclusions of this report, despite its claim that there has been a significant change in women’s representation levels, including in the most senior positions. It is entirely justified and an important requirement for the balanced operation of a democratic society that principles of equality be adopted in this area.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), in writing. – I voted in favour of this important resolution on the imbalance in participation by women and men in political and public decision making, political parties and social partners. I support the invitation to the Council, the Commission and the Member States to design effective gender equality policies for achieving parity in participation in political decision making and leadership at all levels. I believe that Member States should introduce in their legislation gender quotas for elections. As an instrument to improve gender balance, I support the initiative for the Member States to set targets based on parity between sexes for the political parties as a prerequisite for funding. I also support the suggested measures for the European institutions and their political or administrative bodies to follow the same pattern.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE), in writing. (FR) This week, the European Parliament fought for a cause that is dear to me, through two reports on equality between men and women. In the first proposal, my fellow Member, Sirpa Pietikäinen proposed the consolidation of the participation of women in political decision making through the introduction of quotas and targets. Indeed, I think that quotas are henceforth a necessary evil in order to remedy inequality that has no place in the 21st century. Therefore, it was without hesitation that I supported my colleague’s proposals.

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Bennahmias (ALDE), in writing. (FR) In spite of current legislation and International Women’s Day, the participation of women and men in political and public decision making remains completely uneven. Women are under-represented both in posts that are filled through election and those that are filled through nomination. The European Parliament itself must also be reformed since, given that only 35% of its Members are female, it still has a long way to go before equality is achieved. The Pietikäinen report, which I voted in favour of, calls for the introduction of a quota system for candidate lists for party bodies and elections. It is time for the political parties to accept their responsibilities and to recognise the extent of their role as key actors in the promotion of parity. Nevertheless, regardless of what national situations may be, the Member States should consider introducing legislative measures, such as positive action measures, as well as also implementing effective sanctions. At the same time, the media and education also have an important role to play as it falls to them to make a change by promoting efforts to eliminate stereotypes and encourage the portrayal of positive images of women in managerial positions and by running awareness-raising campaigns.

 
  
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  Sergio Berlato (PPE), in writing. (IT) Women are still under-represented in political decision-making assemblies across the European Member States. Women account for 24% of the members in national parliaments, while in the European regions, the gender balance in regional assemblies has hardly changed since 2004. I would like to take this opportunity to urge the Commission to look into the fact that these percentages appear to be static and that no improvements are being seen. This phenomenon could be explained by the traditional barriers that women face, such as the lack of financial resources, stereotypes, and difficulties in managing family and political life. I therefore support one of the measures put forward by the rapporteur, which involves designing and implementing effective strategies at EU and national level for increasing women’s engagement and participation in decision making and leadership, through quantified targets, regular monitoring mechanisms and clear action plans. I also think that active and tangible measures should be promoted in order to ensure gender balance in all governing bodies and public appointments. In my opinion, in order to enhance women’s political participation, there is a need to address structural barriers that prevent women from participating actively in politics.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto (EFD), in writing. (IT) This report on the representation of women in political decision making is not worthy of support. In fact, we need to carefully consider the call made in the report on adopting special measures to boost the political representation of women from ethnic minorities. Secondly, I cannot support the idea of imposing a pre-determined quota for women in national and EU government roles, since this rule would violate all meritocratic ideals.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this European Parliament report because there is an imbalance in participation by women and men in political and public decision making and clear under-representation of women in elected and nominated political positions at European Union and Member State level. The persistent under-representation of women is a democratic deficit that undermines the legitimacy of decision making at both EU and national level. The European Parliament therefore invites the Council, the Commission and the Member States to draw up and implement effective gender equality policies and multifaceted strategies for achieving parity in participation in political decision making and leadership at all levels. Moreover, the Council, the Commission and the Member States should enforce parity at all levels by sending clear anti-discrimination messages, by providing appropriate resources, by using specific tools, and by promoting necessary training for civil servants responsible for preparing budgets in gender budgeting. In its report, the European Parliament also calls on the Council, Commission and Member States to enable women and men to take an active part in political decision making by promoting reconciliation and a balance between family life and working life by means of measures such as sharing the costs of parenthood equally between both parents’ employers and ensuring accessible and adequate care services for children and the elderly, for instance.

 
  
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  Jan Březina (PPE), in writing. – (CS) Political parties play a vital role in encouraging the participation of women in politics. Political parties have the right to recruit, select and appoint candidates, irrespective of the electoral system. We must therefore address the issue of women’s under-representation in politics and guide political parties and their positions and strategies so that they apply principles enabling greater participation of women when setting up decision-making bodies. I appreciate that this report calls on political parties in the Member States to adopt measures for the greater participation of women in politics, but I do not agree with the call to establish quotas. On the contrary, I am a supporter of looser forms of regulation in the form of targets and more general rules for determining the ordering of candidate lists for national elections and elections at EU level. One possible incentive might be an obligation for parties to fulfil certain targets in the area of equal representation as a precondition for the granting of funds to the party. In these circumstances, I consider it important to note that the European Parliament, comprising 35% women and 65% men, has the most balanced gender representation.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec (PPE), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of this own-initiative report on women in political decision making. The report highlights the large disparity with regard to the position of women throughout the Member States. I think that the EU institutions should set an example on the subject of parity and I hope that this report will allow a process promoting the participation of women in politics to be set in place in the other Member States. It is through concrete measures that we will succeed in changing mentalities.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE), in writing. (PT) The active participation of women in political decision making, on an equal footing with men, is essential if sustained equality, development and democracy are to be achieved. Gender balance is a question of equality, but also a guarantee of a better quality of democracy, since it contributes to decisions in which there is greater diversity and participation. The European Union’s commitment to this cause has been well known, particularly through measures like the ‘Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015’. This report emphasises traditional obstacles to women accessing public posts, such as financial difficulties, a predominantly male culture, reconciling family and political life, and the stereotypes that still predominate in the media. As such, there is a need for concrete and structural measures to make the political participation of women a clear reality, particularly through a commitment to training, guaranteed equality of opportunity in accessing campaigns and presenting a positive image of women as leaders. The political parties also have a crucial role to play in combating the under-representation of women in political decision-making assemblies across the EU Member States. I am therefore voting for this report.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE), in writing. (PT) In the great majority of Member States, women are still under-represented in the public and political decision-making processes, especially in the most senior positions. This is all the more significant when we consider that women account for almost 50% of the workforce and that more than 50% of recent graduates are women. This inequality casts a shadow over the majority of Member States, as well as at European level. In this Parliament, 35% of Members are women, whilst one third of the Commissioners are female. These are positive signs that need urgent encouragement to become more widespread. The persistent under-representation of women constitutes a democratic deficit, with the end result being that the legitimacy of decision making at national and EU level is weakened. I am therefore voting for this report, which seeks to encourage the setting out of strategies and the adoption of concrete measures to promote the balanced representation of women at all levels of political and public decision making. I have serious doubts that the quota system is the best solution, so I am abstaining on the related items.

 
  
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  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (PPE), in writing. (SV) I voted against the report because I do not believe that quota systems are the solution to the equality problem. It is important that we commit ourselves to strengthening the position of women, but women must progress on the basis of their competence and skills and by means of a change in social attitudes. It is by educating our children and young people that we can change the view of the role of women in the long term and overcome stereotypes. Men and women must have the same opportunities when it comes to political decision making, and appointments must be made on the basis of merit, not gender. Quota systems and dictating from above will not resolve the imbalance. The way to make progress must instead be based on freedom of choice. Financial independence is the way to equality. For example, we must make it easier for women to become entrepreneurs and create the conditions for women to have the courage to start their own business.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D), in writing. (RO) A set of data published by Eurostat in connection with International Women’s Day highlights the fact that in the European Union, women are much more vulnerable to the risk of poverty and social exclusion than men, and the most severe cases of this are encountered in Romania and Bulgaria. Mothers, especially single mothers, elderly women and women in rural areas are the main victims of the effects of the economic and financial crisis.

The representation of women in the political decision-making process has not shown any linear improvement in recent years and in certain Member States, the number of women in national parliaments does not exceed 15%. Women are noticeably under-represented in political positions across the whole European Union, and the lack of parity is prevalent in every sector of activity. The active involvement of women is an economic necessity in the current climate. This is why it is vital to create mechanisms for implementing gender policies aimed at achieving parity with regard to involvement in the political decision-making process, thereby ensuring that these measures are effective.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing. (RO) Since women’s participation and representation in senior positions in the political decision-making process are still affected by various obstacles such as the absence of a supportive environment in political institutions and in society’s welfare structures, the persistence of gender-based stereotypes and the consequences of the recent economic crisis and its negative repercussions on gender equality issues, I think that Member States and the Commission must encourage women’s networks and promote mentoring, adequate training and exchanges of good practices, and relevant programmes, with a particular focus on women policy makers embarking on their career.

 
  
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  Rachida Dati (PPE), in writing. (FR) In order to encourage the still too slow progress of parity in politics, this report sets out a number of concrete proposals which I support unreservedly. Notably, it stresses the key role played by political parties on this issue and, to this end, it proposes the use of quotas during elections, as is already the case in a number of European countries. The report also rightly addresses the required parity in nominated positions, especially at European level.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE), in writing. (FR) In adopting the report by Ms Pietikäinen today (by 508 votes to 124, with 49 abstentions), we have called on the Member States and the Commission to take legislative measures to establish parity between men and women, and we have asked the European institutions to extend it to all levels. The proportion of women involved in political decisions has not changed in recent years and, in some decision-making bodies, has even gone down. The report therefore calls on national governments, after the 2014 European elections, to simultaneously put forward a man and a woman as their candidates for the office of European Commissioner. We also believe that the role of the European Institute for Gender Equality should be strengthened. The result of the vote shows that Parliament has the political will to take active measures to increase parity, and that is something I am very happy about.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D), in writing. – I voted in favour of the motion for a European Parliament resolution on women in political decision making – quality and equality – because it addresses a clear and fundamental problem in our political practices. Women, despite the broad and shared acknowledgement of the need for equality in gender balance – especially in power and decision making – still face strong differences and barriers in their access to politics and public administration positions.

It is worrying that during recent years, no real and consistent improvements have been achieved as regards this crucial issue. The motion calls on the Commission and the Member States to elaborate clear measures to be implemented, such as a system of quotas to be applied by the Member States at all levels of policy making, including the areas of macro-economic policy, trade, labour, budgets, defence and foreign affairs.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D), in writing. (PT) I voted for this report because it advocates the introduction of gender quotas to European legislation and the political systems of the EU Member States. In order to guarantee parity between men and women in the political decision-making process, including on electoral lists and in the EU’s top jobs, there is a need for binding measures and penalties at national and European level. I would also argue that, following the 2014 European elections, the national governments should put forward a man and a woman to occupy the post of European Commissioner.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE), in writing. (PT) While I am a firm advocate of the principle of equality, I do not think greater representation of women in politics should be achieved by means of strict quotas. Without this solution, and on the basis of their own merit, there have been extraordinary women who have left their mark on the histories of their countries and the world; with no pretence of an exhaustive list, I recall Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir and Indira Ghandi. I also recall Simone Veil, the first woman President of this House. In view of this, I do not believe that strict quotas guarantee women equal access to a profession, to political office, or to management and leadership roles in business. It is more important to guarantee women equal resources and opportunities. In conclusion, I would re-emphasise that initiatives in this area should be a Member State competence and that the principle of subsidiarity should be respected.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE), in writing. (PT) Women’s present lack of involvement in political life stems from ethno-cultural issues. The less developed a society is, the worse the situation of women regarding respect for their rights. Even in societies where their emancipation has earned them citizenship rights, gender equality continues to be an illusion. While there are areas, such as education, health care and social work, in which women are, little by little, rivalling or exceeding the number of men, there are others, like politics, where their involvement is increasing only timidly and through imposing legislation. While use of a quota system could jeopardise selection based on the principle of merit, it has nevertheless contributed to this increase. Despite the progress that has been made in recent times and the support policies implemented in the EU, much remains to be done. Across the EU countries, only 5% of the members of the various parliaments and 10% of ministers are women.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This report starts by noting a fact: women are under-represented in elected and appointed posts in bodies under national sovereignty and in the European Parliament itself, as well as in what it calls the ‘top jobs’ in general. In order to solve this problem, it advocates using legal means to impose quota systems promoting parity in these areas. The approach followed by the rapporteur is reductionist and shorn of aspects critical, firstly, to a proper understanding of the problem and, secondly, to its fair solution. The civic and political participation of women in various areas – associations, trades unions, culture, inter alia – is made more difficult by limitations in terms of accessing education, culture and public services that result from economic difficulties caused, to begin with, by the wage inequalities of which they are victims and by the precariousness of their jobs. These are the issues underlying gender discrimination, which cannot be ignored and which limit the social, political and cultural involvement of women. It is these structural problems, which are expressions of class inequalities, that need to be combated. The solution cannot simply involve establishing artificial, formal and administrative equality, whilst forgetting the real problems of the overwhelming majority of women and keeping them off limits. We also reject any interference in the internal affairs of parties.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D), in writing. (SK) At the level of the European Union and its Member States, there is an imbalance in the participation of women and men in political and public decision making, and women are clearly under-represented in elected and appointed political positions. Equal representation of women and men in the political decision-making process is a question of human rights and social justice, and a vital requirement for the functioning of a democratic society. The persistent under-representation of women is a democratic deficit that undermines the legitimacy of decision making at EU and national level.

I consider it important and justified to establish a favourable environment for women to participate in political life at all levels. At EU level, the harmonisation of professional, private and family life is recognised as an important priority in order to achieve gender equality, and women should be given the opportunity to participate in political life.

It is important to bring about the participation of women from different backgrounds in decision-making positions. Promoting gender-balanced representation in policy making in external relations, the fight against the marginalisation of women in political life – I firmly believe that these should be the aspects that must be taken into account in EU external relations, and that the appropriate financial and technical assistance should be provided.

 
  
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  Elisabetta Gardini (PPE), in writing. (IT) Gender equality is, unfortunately, still a target for Europe and not a well-established practice. Simply by way of example, women are still under-represented in political decision-making assemblies across the European Member States, accounting for just 24% of members in national parliaments with varying – but all equally disheartening – percentages in the Member States. Even though theoretical equality has already been achieved in our legal systems, there are still many insidious cultural and practical barriers that too often prevent women from realistically aspiring to the positions of responsibility held by men. What goes in politics applies equally to the public administration, private business, teaching and the armed forces, and in all walks of society that involve a measure of responsibility and prestige. In a highly competitive global context like today’s, it is no longer acceptable that gender discrimination can have such a profound effect not only on professional prospects but also on the dignity of all women.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. (FR) Ms Pietikäinen’s report is really edifying. It is primarily based around the imposition of quotas of women, at all levels of decision making, and measures to compel positive discrimination. It is as if women can only see their merits recognised through sexist measures of this kind.

I will watch the votes of my French socialist fellow Members with amusement. A few years ago, their party was not gentle with their official (female) candidate for the presidential election. To move from there to believing that the designation of Mr Hollande rather than Ms Aubry is part of a chauvinist plot, is a step that I hesitate to take … I will also look at the votes of my fellow Members in the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) to see if they match their attitudes and reactions to the fate of certain female elected representatives in Paris, for instance, who have been asked rather discourteously to give way in favour of male colleagues who have been parachuted in.

In my area, in the Rhône, out of 14 constituencies, 12 are held by men. I remember the way in which Mrs Thatcher was treated here when she was prime minister of her country. Granted, she had attributes that many current politicians do not possess, and which must make them jealous of her. In short, I voted against this report.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), in writing. (FR) Women must be better represented in political decision making. For years, this statement has been repeated, but the situation does not change. While the European Parliament shows its modernity in terms of equality between men and women, many political institutions, such as those in France, are lagging too far behind. Thus, I have supported this text, which calls for quotas to be established to strengthen participation by women in decision making. While I am not in favour of quotas, for the moment, this is the only way of ensuring that women are better represented.

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), <