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Debates
Monday, 11 June 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

21. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the one-minute speeches on matters of political importance (Rule 150 of the Rules of Procedure).

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE). – Madam President, the 2011 European multiple sclerosis (MS) barometer indicates an alarming lack of understanding or support for the more than 600 000 people who suffer from this disease.

While, in the past, the problems were mainly found in Central and Eastern Europe, we are now observing with great concern a degrading of existing care in Western Europe too.

Raising public awareness of MS is crucial to making positive changes to the lives of people living with this disease. Raising funds for research and care, addressing discrimination at work, and advocating policy change by decision makers all depend on prior awareness and understanding of multiple sclerosis.

Colleagues, you can help to raise awareness of this disease by signing Written Declaration No 20 on multiple sclerosis.

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE).(HU) Madam President, 4 June marked the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, a treaty that figuratively moved millions of European citizens from one country to another without their leaving their homelands, causing an unprecedented increase in the number of EU citizens who live with minority status to this day. Despite its acute sensitivity for respect for human rights worldwide, the EU is unwilling to draft consistent, high-quality framework legislation on European minorities for its approximately 40 million minority citizens. These citizens are, in terms of language, education and culture, at the whim of the nation states they live in, and therefore live under very different conditions, which are often incompatible with European values.

There are countless examples of atrocities suffered by minorities: just last month, young Hungarian nationals were beaten in the Slovakian capital for speaking in their mother tongue. In addition to human rights, Article 2 of the Treaty of Lisbon guarantees the rights of persons belonging to minorities. I find that we are not doing enough, or are barely even doing anything at all, to implement these values in practice.

I would welcome it if the Commission could find the time between its numerous important duties to examine the possibility of ensuring that historic minorities can enjoy equal protection of their collective rights in the various Member States.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE). (SK) Madam President, at this meeting, we will again be talking about budget discipline and reducing the excessive deficits of Member States. At the same time, however, we will be discussing artificial job creation with the use of public funds. In order to put this into practice, the Committee on Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Civil Society has tabled a motion replete with requests that run into the billions. This is not political schizophrenia, however. A majority in this Parliament share a clear aim, which is a federal Europe. A small increase in expenditure – while declaring an effort to make savings – will lead to the necessary new sources. A German cushion in the form of eurobonds does not amount to a rejection, but a condition. If there is a joint debt, then there is also a joint budget. If the euro area then has one budget, it will already comprise a single state. This is a serious decision, and I think we should ask our citizens for their views on the matter.

 
  
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  Arkadiusz Tomasz Bratkowski (PPE).(PL) Madam President, it is vital for Poland and Europe to diversify their energy suppliers. While we are anxious to create an independent energy policy, the actions of some Member States are taking us in the opposite direction. The statistics leave no room for doubt. Russia continues to be the largest supplier of gas and oil, while, according to the International Energy Agency, the Union’s dependence on fuel imports in 2030 could be as high as 67%.

This means that shale gas is a great opportunity for Europe and Poland. Initial estimates indicate the high potential of its deposits. Unfortunately, substantive debate on the subject centres mainly around accusations of environmental degradation. In response, the experts point to data on advanced technologies and tougher environmental protection legislation, but this message is met with criticism. What I would like to ask, therefore, is which interest groups stand to benefit from the propagation of these myths? Parliament should quickly adopt a clear position on shale gas and allow Member States to use the resources they possess.

 
  
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  María Muñiz De Urquiza (S&D).(ES) Madam President, this is about coal, the coal which miners in Spain are not mining because they are on strike, due to the fact that, despite European legislation allowing aid for the viability of mining in Spain and the rest of Europe, the Spanish Government has suspended aid, and has cut aid this year by 63%. In this House, where I, my colleague, Antonio Massip, and other Members from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament have spoken so many times on the importance of coal as a strategic energy resource in Europe, we are confronted with coal being at risk.

We must rescue the Spanish coal mining industry from the brutal cuts that are threatening to wipe it out; we must rescue the 30 000 families who live directly or indirectly on coal; we must rescue the EU investments in CO2 capture technologies, which could make coal into green energy; we must rescue jobs in areas where the alternatives in terms of work and the economy are not at all easy; and, above all, we must rescue coal, which is native to the EU, from the steamroller of a right-wing government that has no social awareness and has no problems with negotiating the rescue of the financial sector while abandoning a productive sector such as coal to its fate.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Madam President, we have another banking bailout and Spain is repeating the Irish mistake. We have to ask the questions why have Spanish bond yields increased today and why is it costing Italy more to borrow money? It is because of the toxic link between insolvent banks and sovereign states that are already under significant pressure.

Spain, like Ireland, has piled its debt onto the shoulders of its citizens. Ireland, despite the fact that its debt-to-GNP ratio will peak at 150% next year, still continues to pay unsecured bondholders. Unfortunately for Spain, it, too, has joined the club. Yes, there are some cosmetic differences and some face-saving for Spain. As a large country, it was able to demand and get those few extra crumbs from the table, but that, in the final analysis, is all it amounts to.

Surely EU leaders can see that we are fast approaching the end of the line. Yes, we have bought some time, but the feel-good factor did not last past lunchtime today. We need emergency scaffolding to prop up the crumbling infrastructure of the euro right now and, in my view, the minimum required is some kind of banking union, a deposit-interest guarantee scheme, EU-wide banking supervision and regulation and, crucially, some kind of bank resolution scheme.

 
  
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  Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE). – Madam President, as a Member of this Parliament, and as a woman, I am personally concerned about the fact that Ms Leyla Zana has been sentenced to ten years in prison in Turkey.

Leyla Zana is a member of the National Assembly of Turkey. She is a non-violent ambassador of the Kurdish people and of women in particular. She has also been nominated for the Nobel peace prize on several occasions and she has been awarded Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.

There are nine charges against her – some of them concerning speeches made in this Parliament. We believe that these accusations are unfounded. For all of these reasons, I myself and other MEPs in this Parliament sent a letter to Ms Ashton, and now also request that this Parliament condemn the verdict and deploy all necessary means to ensure that Turkey re-establishes Ms Leyla Zana’s civil and political rights.

 
  
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  Claudio Morganti (EFD). (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, this week we are in France for the usual scandalous monthly trip, whereas most of our activities take place in Brussels. In the very capital of Belgium, which would also like to tout itself as the capital of Europe, yet another serious episode occurred recently that underlines the dangerous drift that the city has taken. Dozens of young Muslims literally attacked a police officer whose only offence had been to take into custody an Arab woman who had refused to show her face as prescribed by law. There are several neighbourhoods where the police are afraid to intervene, neighbourhoods where not a single person of Belgian origin can be found. The fact that the most common first name for a newborn baby is Mohammed should give us pause for thought.

This Parliament is always ready to have its say on various issues, but perhaps it would also be a good idea to reflect on the situation in Brussels, which runs the risk of being the reflection of a future Europe that we absolutely do not want.

 
  
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  Takis Hadjigeorgiou (GUE/NGL).(EL) Madam President, I wish to speak on a matter raised earlier by Ms Miranda in connection with the ten-year term of imprisonment to which Leyla Zana has been sentenced by a Turkish court. I shall not repeat points already made; however, I do wish to emphasise that Ms Zana defends human rights in Turkey, fights for the rights of Kurds in Turkey and has been awarded the Sakharov prize by this Parliament. We demand that Parliament monitor these proceedings, ask the Turkish Government to take appropriate measures to quash this sentence and monitor any new developments in the course of the appeal which I believe that Leyla Zana will lodge.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI). – Madam President, in recent days, we in the United Kingdom and across the Commonwealth have been celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, marking her 60 years as monarch and her steadfast selfless service.

I believe it fitting that this House join with parliaments and politicians across the world in marking this significant milestone by sending warmest congratulations to Her Majesty and to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh on this Diamond Jubilee.

We can all greatly learn from Her Majesty’s example. Her life and reign epitomise devotion to duty, commitment, sacrifice, courage and impeccable judgment. In return, she has the affection, love and respect of people right across the world.

We in Northern Ireland look forward to a visit from Her Majesty later this month. It will be our opportunity to celebrate, to thank her for her reign over us and to wish her well in the years ahead.

For those of us from the United Kingdom, our hope and prayer remains the same. God Save the Queen!

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE).(RO) Madam President, on the day when it was announced that Spanish banks are going to receive EUR 100 billion as a bailout, in Bucharest, the economic crisis is being accompanied by a political one. There is an economic recession, but the prime minister thinks that the main priority is his clash with the president over Romania’s representation in the Council. The prime minister has actually also involved parliament in this dispute, at the risk of triggering considerable instability. At present, there is the prospect of the regime going through a crisis to accompany the economic crisis. However, I believe that what we need now is consensus and compromise, not confrontation. This is why, on behalf of the citizens whom I represent in Parliament, I call on the prime minister and president to reach a sensible compromise on representing Romania in the Council without making an issue of it and introducing political instability against the backdrop of an economic crisis.

 
  
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  Edit Bauer (PPE).(HU) Madam President, I would like to call attention to two instances of violations of rights. The first is the case of Hedvig Malina, who was beaten six years ago for speaking Hungarian in Nitra, Slovakia. Her case dragged on for a long time, until she eventually appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In the end, the case was withdrawn after a brief apology by the former government. The case was closed and the perpetrators got away with impunity, but the victim did not.

When a socialist government came into power again, the Public Prosecutor’s office resumed proceedings against the victim. She was accused of lying about the beating. After a settlement and apology by the former government, the Public Prosecutor’s office is now harassing the victim again. She has now been summoned for an evaluation of, as utterly absurd as it may seem, her psychological state six years ago.

While the EU is building an area of security and justice, the new Slovak Government is reinforcing legal uncertainty. And those at the receiving end are members of the minorities.

We must not forget about the case of Leyla Zana either, as mentioned by my fellow Members, and I ask the President of Parliament to raise his voice and bring his authority to bear to ensure that such incidents cannot occur.

 
  
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  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D).(RO) Madam President, there is one major cause of the protracted impasse which Europe is going through: the lack of concerted action. Unfortunately, the vacuum created by the great absence of solidarity, a feature of the European project, is being successfully filled by national interests. Germany provides the most telling example of this with its opposition to the issuing of bonds.

To ensure its survival, the European Union needs to adopt urgent, credible measures with the main aim of reducing social inequalities and restoring European citizens’ confidence in the benefits of European integration. The austerity measures promoted by certain national governments have only served to widen social inequalities. On this point, as Stiglitz comments in a recently published article, inequality results in profound neglect of human potential, which hinders consumption and heightens the tensions in society. This is precisely what the Great Depression did last century as a result of the huge cuts in the funding of basic services and the unprecedented rise in unemployment; in other words, it exacerbated the inequalities. It is time for us to learn this lesson from history and adopt bold measures to stimulate the economy, such as the financial transaction tax and the issuing of bonds.

 
  
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  Jelko Kacin (ALDE). – Madam President, Serbian citizens elected a new president on 20 May 2012. Mr Tomislav Nikolić pledged throughout his campaign that he will keep Serbia firmly on the path towards EU membership.

Given Mr Nikolić’s nationalist past, all regional leaders in the EU should closely monitor his first acts as President. Serbia will continue to have a reliable and strong partner in Brussels and in Parliament if its commitment to regional reconciliation and good neighbourly relations develops further.

Mr Nikolić’s visit to Brussels on 14 June 2012 is of great importance for the whole of the Western Balkans as well.

At the same time, the Serbian Parliament parties need to get their act together and form an efficient government soon. I hope that the outcome of the ongoing negotiations will result in a deal that brings a stable and strong pro-European parliamentary majority.

I hope that the new National Assembly will execute its oversight powers more aggressively in the future. Serbia needs an active parliament if it is to meet its challenges in the European integration processes. The new government will need to deal decisively with the debt crisis, unemployment and, above all, with the systemic corruption which is blocking the Serbian economy and Serbia’s society.

I hope that accession negotiations with Serbia will open fairly soon, because Serbian leaders will be in a position to tackle the country’s problems in a more transparent and efficient way.

 
  
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  Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE).(GA) Madam President, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to raise an important matter, namely that of car rental, especially at this time when many families in the Union are going on holiday and are under financial pressure.

Many car rental companies require consumers to pay for a full tank of fuel prior to the rental. This is irrespective of the fact that the consumer may return the car to the rental company with fuel remaining and the consumer will not be – and is not – reimbursed. In many cases, holidaymakers rent a car to travel to their destination, return it at the end of their stay and use very little petrol but must pay for a full tank. This practice is unfair, it is unacceptable and indeed it is extortionist.

I strongly believe that the Commission should investigate this matter to see if this practice is contrary to the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and the Unfair Contract Terms Directive. It is not good enough to leave enforcement to national authorities, as the practice appears to be commonplace across many EU Member States. I would call on the Commission to investigate this.

 
  
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  Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL). (PT) Madam President, this weekend, we received another request to save a private bank. Once again, they argue that this is to prevent contagion of the euro area. I ask if we have learnt nothing. Greece, Portugal, Ireland and now Spain and still the contagion spreads. What is the containment radius of this contagion that will destroy us? It must already be clear that this policy does not work. The same government leaders who say there is no money for culture, education, health and public goods make money appear as if by magic when the banks or markets ask for it. This economic policy is not a cure; it is toxic for growth, for jobs, for the European economy and for social Europe. The markets demand and the governments obey and blackmail the poor, as governments are doing with Greece at the moment, during an election.

I sincerely hope that, for the good of us all, the Greek people do not allow themselves to be blackmailed next Sunday and they teach us a lesson, because this recipe, Madam President, is a recipe for disaster.

 
  
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  Georgios Koumoutsakos (PPE).(EL) Madam President, the European vision is becoming clouded. More and more European citizens are either moving away from or are indifferent to a unified Europe. Extremist, ethnic and anti-European forces are gaining a political foothold in more and more European countries. If this trend continues, we shall have a nightmarishly different European Parliament here in 2014. This trend therefore needs to be stopped and, in order to stop it, we need growth, not just strict budgetary discipline; jobs, not just unemployment.

This is a wager that the whole of Europe needs to win, especially those who clearly play a leading role in Europe. These countries and these forces have assumed a huge historic responsibility. Europe cannot continue on the course which it appears to be on. We cannot allow such forces to win over the hearts and minds of European citizens.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: OTHMAR KARAS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Evelyn Regner (S&D).(DE) Mr President, I would like to draw the House’s attention to serious violations of trade union rights, and specifically the right to strike, in Turkey. In the early hours of 31 May, the governing Islamic conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) passed a law banning strikes and lock-outs in the aviation sector. When this legislative initiative became public knowledge, hundreds of unionised employees of Turkish Airlines went on strike, resulting in around 200 flight cancellations. Turkish Airlines responded by sacking 305 employees. Furthermore, the manner of giving notice was unlawful, according to union sources, as the workers were sacked by text message. A further 150 workers are also due to be given their notice.

In Turkey, the right to strike is massively restricted, and tied to various requirements. There is a general ban on sympathy strikes, general strikes, work-to-rule actions and strikes as a result of failure to adhere to collective agreements. We need to draw attention to the dramatic plight of trade union rights in Turkey, a country that hopes to accede to the European Union, and send that country a strong message that the Copenhagen criteria must be observed.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE).(EL) Mr President, the decisions adopted by the Council of Ministers last Thursday on Schengen have caused a great deal of discussion and reaction. I shall not comment on the change to the legal regime, which will be debated in detail in plenary here tomorrow morning. However, I do wish to comment on the impressions created and the reactions in the Greek press the following day. As you know, these decisions were commented on as the precursor to the resumption of border controls in Greece and as the precursor to Greece’s exit from the Schengen area; not even a suspicion of this is mentioned in the Council text. There is nothing in it that begs such a conclusion. However, this impression was created and, of course, mistaken impressions send out the wrong message and we cannot safely guard the external borders of the Union on the basis of misunderstandings. We trust that this will only be done on the basis of solidarity policies and, with a new government in Greece on 18 June, led by New Democracy, new and more measures will be taken to stem the flow of illegal immigrants. However, we need Europe to take similar measures.

 
  
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  Inés Ayala Sender (S&D).(ES) Mr President, I would like to express my solidarity with the workers in the mining sector in Asturias, Castilla-León and Aragón, in Spain, who are fighting to keep jobs for thousands of workers, their families and entire regions, which owe their very nature, appeal and development to having historically provided coal and energy to the rest of society.

Mr Rajoy and Mr Soria’s government is denying them aid already approved by the European Union and budgeted, when they have surplus funds and other sources that are entirely acceptable. This is being done, moreover, citing the EU’s rejection of and indifference to coal, which we know is not true, because tomorrow we will adopt Ms Herczog’s report, which itself advocates diversification to safeguard the EU’s independence and energy leadership in the global market.

I do not, therefore, see the EU dispensing with coal as a sector within that global dialogue. Also, last week, the 17th European Round Table on Coal put forward the proposals for the Horizon 2020 programme for coal, so we reject the idea that support is not continuing as regards aid for the coal sector in Spain.

 
  
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  Véronique Mathieu (PPE).(FR) Mr President, I would like to speak to you about how the work of our institution is organised.

The Treaties state that Parliament’s plenary votes should be held mainly in Strasbourg. Additional part-sessions should only be held if it is not physically possible to vote on all texts in Strasbourg. Yet, regrettably, we can see that the agendas for our part-sessions in Strasbourg are shrinking from month to month, while, on the other hand, those for the additional part-sessions in Brussels are growing from one additional part-session to another. For example, we saw that the budget discharges were voted on in Brussels in 2011 and 2012. The fact is that this is not what is stated in the Treaties.

Mr President, I would like to say to you that our legislative work is organised around the plenary sittings in Strasbourg and I wish that the political groups and Parliament’s administration – Parliament’s administration is very important as it has the power to make and undo decisions without consulting Members and I would like to point out that it is Members who make decisions and not always officials – would enforce the operating rules, in order to comply with the Treaties and to ensure that proper legislative procedures are followed.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D).(LV) Mr President, what would we do if there were no clowns on Earth? In Latvia, they are even sometimes appointed ministers. One such especially prolific clown became a minister in the Latvian Government, and immediately came up with a new law. He decided to test the loyalty of children of the residents of Latvia.

Tell me, please, is it possible to test the loyalty of children? Is this not a clown’s trick, or perhaps a crime called ‘incitement of international hatred’? If this were to happen in the Republic of Congo, we at the European Parliament would prepare a resolution, but if it happens in the European Union, in Latvia, it is considered normal.

Am I mistaken?

 
  
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  Csaba Sógor (PPE).(HU) Mr President, this year, one of the Europa Nostra Grand Prix awards given out by the European Commission and Europa Nostra went to 80-year-old Paraschiva Kovacs, a member of the Hungarian community of Transylvania, for her successful work in raising awareness of Szekler carved wooden gates and their importance as community symbols, and more specifically for saving such gates with the involvement of young people. The recognition of the work of this retired teacher is a typical example of unity and togetherness between generations, and the preservation of traditions.

The reason why this is important to the preservation of our European system of values is that members of this same community cast their ballots in the local government elections in Romania yesterday. I cannot go into detail on the results here, but I would like to stress the importance to minorities of the full and undivided preservation of our values, and of ensuring that we do not jeopardise them and our own future through uncertainty and discord.

 
  
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  Ricardo Cortés Lastra (S&D).(ES) Mr President, I would also like to use the one minute that Parliament affords us in order to condemn the mining situation in Asturias, Aragón and Castilla-León.

The miners’ situation is genuinely drastic and, moreover, the aid approved by Parliament until 2018 is being drastically cut by the Spanish Government. Thousands of miners’ families are currently on the streets striking against the measures taken by the Spanish Government, which, while indiscriminately cutting aid to miners, is nevertheless giving large amounts of aid to banking in Spain.

 
  
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  Claudiu Ciprian Tănăsescu (S&D).(RO) Mr President, according to the latest data supplied by the World Bank, there is a growing global waste management crisis. Based on the estimates provided, the volume of waste generated by urban populations will rise from the current level of 1.3 billion tonnes per year to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025, which will also be accompanied by an increase in the cost of solid waste management.

The basic measures which we need to take are simple and can be implemented fairly quickly. First of all, particular attention needs to be focused on educating and informing the general public about the options available to them for reducing the volume of refuse they generate, sorting it efficiently, as well as increasing the rate of recycling it. These basic measures also include introducing pricing mechanisms to get consumers to behave responsibly. More support needs to be given to poor countries where national and local authorities will face a growing urban population, which, in turn, will generate a larger volume of solid waste.

 
  
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  President. – That concludes this item.

 
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