Index 
Debates
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Monday, 2 July 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Resumption of the session
 2. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting
 3. Statement by the President
 4. Request for the waiver of parliamentary immunity: see Minutes
 5. Request for the defence of parliamentary immunity: see Minutes
 6. Corrigendum (Rule 216): see Minutes
 7. Interpretation of the Rules of Procedure: see Minutes
 8. Composition of committees and delegations: see Minutes
 9. Signature of acts adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure: see Minutes
 10. Lapsed written declarations: see Minutes
 11. Action taken on Parliament’s positions and resolutions: see Minutes
 12. Oral questions and written declarations (submission): see Minutes
 13. Petitions: see Minutes
 14. Transfers of appropriations: see Minutes
 15. Documents received: see Minutes
 16. Order of business
 17. Single European railway area (debate)
 18. Recording equipment in road transport (debate)
 19. Customs enforcement of intellectual property rights (debate)
 20. Implementation of EU water legislation (debate)
 21. Composition of Parliament: see Minutes
 22. One-minute speeches (Rule 150)
 23. Strategy for the protection and welfare of animals (short presentation)
 24. eCall: a new 112 service for citizens (short presentation)
 25. Attractiveness of investing in Europe (short presentation)
 26. Trade aspects of the Eastern partnership (short presentation)
 27. Evolution of EU macro-regional strategies: present practice and future prospects, especially in the Mediterranean (short presentation)
 28. Agenda of the next sitting: see Minutes
 29. Closure of the sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: MARTIN SCHULZ
President

(The sitting opened at 17.00)

 
1. Resumption of the session
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  President. – I declare resumed the session of the European Parliament adjourned on Thursday, 14 June 2012.

 

2. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting
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  President. – The minutes of the sitting of 14 June 2012 have been distributed.

Are there any comments?

 
  
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  Sonia Alfano (ALDE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I wanted to have the fact that I was absent during the last part-session recorded in the minutes. The United Nations had invited me, in my capacity as Chair of the Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering, to work on the UN report on transnational organised crime cases. I shall forward to you as soon as possible the invitation from the United Nations, the report and the minutes. I would therefore ask for everything to be recorded in the minutes at the earliest opportunity.

 
  
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  President. – Ms Alfano, that will be included in the minutes.

(The minutes of the previous sitting were approved)

 

3. Statement by the President
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  President. – On 22 June 2012, the Senate of the Republic of Paraguay removed the directly elected President, Fernando Lugo, from office.

MERCOSUR and UNASUR, the counterparts of the European Union and the European Parliament, suspended Paraguay’s membership in response and declared that they do not recognise the new government under Federico Franco.

A commission of the Organisation of American States has been in Paraguay since yesterday in order to unearth the causes of the dispute. The European Parliament is concerned about the developments in Paraguay.

Given the doubts surrounding what has taken place, we will also look into sending a delegation in order to be able to assess the course of events in detail and then take the necessary follow-up action where appropriate.

 

4. Request for the waiver of parliamentary immunity: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

5. Request for the defence of parliamentary immunity: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

6. Corrigendum (Rule 216): see Minutes
Video of the speeches

7. Interpretation of the Rules of Procedure: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

8. Composition of committees and delegations: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

9. Signature of acts adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

10. Lapsed written declarations: see Minutes

11. Action taken on Parliament’s positions and resolutions: see Minutes

12. Oral questions and written declarations (submission): see Minutes

13. Petitions: see Minutes

14. Transfers of appropriations: see Minutes

15. Documents received: see Minutes

16. Order of business
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  President. – The final draft agenda, as drawn up by the Conference of Presidents at its meeting of 27 June 2012 pursuant to Rule 137 of the Rules of Procedure, has been distributed. The following changes have been proposed:

Tuesday

The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament have requested that the joint debate on the European Patent be postponed to a later sitting.

 
  
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  Bernhard Rapkay, rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, I would like to just briefly explain the motion to postpone the debate. As you know, we held a number of rounds of negotiations with the Council about the unitary patent quite some time ago, and we reached a joint result at the end of November last year. The package consists of three parts: the patent regulation itself via the codecision procedure, the implementing regulation via the consultation procedure and a third area, consisting of an intergovernmental agreement.

We reached an agreed result and, on 2 December last year, the chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs, Mr Lehne, received a letter from the Presidency of the Council containing the agreed text and a covering letter in which the Council committed to adopt exactly the enclosed text if Parliament adopted exactly what we had negotiated and agreed as well.

For seven months, nothing has happened, as the Council has failed to get its act together on another matter, namely, the issue of where the seat of the central division of the patent court should be. This issue is not within our competence, however, and accordingly we have not got involved. There were three interested parties in this dispute, and in the last week the Council has decided, in its wisdom – something about which we are all aware – that all three interested parties will be getting the nod. That is not the crucial point, however, for which reason there is clearly cause to wonder whether what we have here is something of an oriental bazaar, but that would be an unfair insult to the serious traders of oriental bazaars. The problem is that it was also agreed to interfere in Parliament’s competences and to delete something from the regulation itself, specifically, three key articles. Coreper will be meeting tomorrow morning at 09.00 and formalising what the Heads of State or Government have agreed. It plans to then present us with that new text at 10.30 so that we can hold a debate on the basis of the new text in the afternoon, followed by a vote on Wednesday. This is a blatant violation of our agreement, and I believe that this is the first time this has happened in the history of our negotiations, informal trialogues, with the Council. This is not acceptable, Mr President, and that is why we are requesting that the item be taken off the agenda.

(Applause)

We are moving to have the item taken off the agenda as we cannot allow what I have just outlined to happen. Should Coreper decide tomorrow to adopt what is before me now, we will still have to discuss how we can move forward with this dossier all in all. Mr President, in order to avoid any interested parties getting the wrong impression, however, I want to make it clear that this is not just about this procedural issue, it is about a fundamental content-related issue. In many people’s view – including that of the Council in the negotiations themselves in the course of the last year – the removal of the three articles that has now been decided on is a blatant violation of European law. It is important to be aware of this. They want a regulation and a regulation should regulate something. They want to take out the regulatory content, in other words, exactly the things that are supposed to be regulated. That is remarkable in itself and it is why we have to take this item off the agenda at all events.

 
  
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  Klaus-Heiner Lehne, rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, as rapporteur of one of the three reports about which we are supposedly deciding at this juncture, I would like to give Mr Rapkay’s motion my ex post facto support. In my opinion, this has been a truly unique incident. The European Council is not competent to legislate under the Treaties. I would just like to expand on what Mr Rapkay had to say. If the European Council starts to legislate in its midnight sittings, it clearly results in nonsense.

(Applause)

I say that, because deleting Articles 6-8 robs this proposal of its core subject matter. The fact is that we even got it clearly confirmed during our cooperation with the Legal Service and in consultations with experts in the field that we could only use this legal basis for the intellectual property rights if we also regulated intellectual property rights, in other words, if we also established patent claims. This was, of course, discussed both internally and with the Council over months, and then, at the behest of a single Head of State or Government, these three core fields were deleted at midnight. If we adopted this as the Council wants, the result would be that we would most likely be facing a crash test before the European Court of Justice at the first referral order. That is indefensible.

Parliamentary debates have a point, they are where the proper time is taken to discuss dossiers meticulously, the proper consideration given, and clear results produced. You cannot pick a fight with such a procedure. That is why this item needs to be taken off the agenda today.

 
  
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  President. – I would ask you all to listen to me for a moment, so that we act correctly at this juncture from a procedural point of view. Mr Rapkay, as rapporteur, has moved to have this item removed from the agenda. I will hold a vote on that motion in a moment.

However, Mr Lehne, we do have to consider how to move on in relation to this matter. I will therefore make the following observations: what we were going to vote on tomorrow was an agreement at first reading reached between the rapporteur and the Council. On 2 December 2011, the Council informed Mr Lehne, in a formal letter, that it had unanimously adopted the text in Coreper that we were aiming to decide on tomorrow here in Parliament.

The European Council has now asked Coreper to amend the text in question, and to do so tomorrow. The result is that we find ourselves in the situation that an agreement at first reading has been abrogated by the Council. In other words, there is no agreement at first reading.

I therefore assume, Mr Lehne, that the Council will inform you in an amending letter of how the new version is worded. I would ask you to then put this matter back on the agenda in the committee, as the committee will need to decide how we go forward from here.

In other words, we will take the item off the agenda and, once you have received formal communication from the Council, you should bring the matter back up in the Committee on Legal Affairs.

That is the situation as I understand it at this point, and that is also how it will appear in the minutes.

(Parliament approved the motion)

 
  
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  Vital Moreira (S&D). – Mr President, we have created a free slot in our agenda for tomorrow. My proposal is that we could fill this free slot in anticipation of another debate which is on our agenda for Thursday, the debate on the oral question on the ACAA agreement – the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance between the EU and Israel.

The reason why I am asking is that this is an oral question to the Commission and Commissioner De Gucht will be here tomorrow but will not be here on Thursday. It is crucial that the Commissioner is here to participate in the debate.

I therefore ask that we change our agenda and hold this debate tomorrow. I wonder whether the other author of this oral question, our colleague Elmar Brok, would concur and join me in asking for this change in the agenda?

 
  
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  President. – Mr Moreira, you are quicker than I am. Your group has just informed me that you wanted to move to include a debate on the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance (ACAA) between the EU and Israel on the agenda instead of the debate on the European patent.

(Parliament approved the motion)

The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) has requested that a debate on the Council and Commission statements on the political situation in Romania be added to the agenda.

 
  
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  Manfred Weber (PPE),(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we want to use the time tomorrow to discuss the current political situation in Romania, for three essential reasons. Firstly, we have all read in the newspapers that the matter at issue is a dispute about whether the Prime Minister is responsible for his doctoral thesis. His doctoral thesis is not our affair, however. Our subject instead is what is being done to the ethics commission in Romania responsible for resolving such incidents, which is a source of indignation for us – how people are being appointed ex post facto, how the ethics commission is being padded out, in order to possibly reach different results, and also how these results are being published in the official gazette, amended between Parliament and the government, in order to be able to react as quickly as possible and to be able to water down disagreeable judgments.

The second thing that bothers us is the issue of what happened to the public television service in Romania. The legal basis for public service television in Romania states that the parliamentary groups are to be represented proportionately in the monitoring committees, while the people who have now been appointed all belong to the government’s political group, which is thus a violation of the law.

The third request that we have, the third consideration that bothers us, is probably the most weighty, the most difficult, which is Romania’s representation at the European Council at the end of the week. I say this as there has been a dispute between the President and the Prime Minister as to who will represent Romania at the summit. This question was put to the Romanian constitutional court, which unambiguously decided that the President is responsible for representing the country abroad. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, has rejected this decision by the constitutional court and mobilised his parliamentary group to fight back.

All of these are points where we ask the question of whether a prime minister is in a position to adhere to the democratic ground rules, the ground rules according to the constitution, or whether he wants to lead his country into a constitutional crisis.

(Heckling)

We therefore ask to debate this. Those Members who were heckling should bear in mind that we, as Parliament, need to take a critical view of developments – seriously, Mr Swoboda – and not view them through our party political spectacles. We should at least have the opportunity to discuss this – no more and no less! Anyone with nothing to hide need not be afraid of a debate.

 
  
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  Theodor Dumitru Stolojan (PPE).(RO) Mr President, in support of the proposal made by Mr Weber, I would like to give some details for further clarification of the reasons why we are requesting this debate. The Constitutional Court has ruled that it is the country’s President who should represent Romania in the European Council, and another person can only represent Romania if so empowered by the country’s President. This is exactly what the current Prime Minister has avoided doing: seek such empowerment from the country’s President.

Moreover, the present government agrees with the Constitutional Court and praises it whenever it rules according to its interests, while, should the Constitutional Court’s decisions adversely affect its case, it publicly criticises them, which is practically an attack against the rule of law, committed particularly by the representatives of this government.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Adina-Ioana Vălean (ALDE). – Mr President, with all due respect, I do not believe that Mr Weber and our colleagues in the EPP Group should let themselves be misled by their Romanian contingent on this subject.

This is an issue which is under debate in Romania right now. It is an institutional conflict between the parliament and the President. We have just had elections. The President lost the elections; and now he discovers that there is a problem with the rule of law in Romania just because another party won the elections. I do not believe we should let the European Parliament be dragged into an internal political debate in Romania.

Today, the parliament in Romania held a session in which it was due to nominate the components of public television and debate the composition of the Constitutional Court of Romania. As we speak, all the topics raised by our colleagues in the EPP Group are under debate in the Romanian Parliament. I think we should settle down and await the debate there. If we consider something to be wrong, then we can raise the subject at a later date.

 
  
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  President. – The facts of the situation are clear: the matter at hand is a motion by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) to add the Council and Commission statements on the political situation in Romania to the agenda.

(Parliament rejected the motion)

(The order of business was thus established)(1)

 
  

(1) For additional amendments to the order of business: see Minutes


17. Single European railway area (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the debate on the Recommendation for second reading by the Committee on Transport and Tourism on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a single European railway area (recast) (18581/2/2011 – C7-0073/2012 – 2010/0253(COD)) (rapporteur: Debora Serracchiani (A7-0196/2012)).

 
  
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  Debora Serracchiani, rapporteur. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to thank the shadow rapporteurs who worked with me to draft this important recommendation, the secretariat of the Committee on Transport and Tourism and the secretariat of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. After almost two years of lengthy and difficult negotiations with the shadow rapporteurs, the Council and the Commission, Parliament has managed to make considerable progress, in particular, by guaranteeing greater competition between rail operators, oversight by a strong, independent national regulatory body that ensures fair competition, the requirement, for the first time, to handle complaints within a set time ranging from six to a maximum of 16 weeks, the creation of a European network of national regulatory bodies and a rendezvous clause for the establishment of a European regulatory body.

Moreover, the new rules – which should also lay a solid foundation for the financing of infrastructure thanks to contracts of a minimum of five years – and the agreement that we secured to strengthen the current rules and to create a single European railway area should offer all railway undertakings fair access to a wider range of services, such as maintenance and station services, including ticket sales, in addition to providing equal access to the rail network.

In particular, with regard to the regulatory body, a key element of the railway recast, the new rules lay down more stringent requirements for the appointment of its staff and in order to guarantee its full independence: cooling-on and cooling-off periods and a declaration of interest that the regulatory body’s members must submit. The recast also provides for the regulatory body to make recommendations to licensing and safety authorities to prevent, for example, safety rules being used to limit access to the market.

The recast will extend the regulatory bodies’ powers to ancillary rail services and to overseeing the separation of accounts. It will be made clear that regulatory bodies must review both the draft and final versions of network statements, which are an essential instrument to ensure that all the operators are aware of the market access conditions. Furthermore, in addition to acting in a limited timeframe in the event of a complaint, regulatory bodies will be able to intervene with regard to the introduction of mark-ups on the direct costs of infrastructure managers, control the criteria for the introduction of booking charges and regularly consult railway users.

Thanks to Parliament’s involvement, we have also managed to obtain a network of regulatory bodies: the content of the information will be exchanged in a clear manner and will be guaranteed by the Commission, which will be required to evaluate how efficiently the regulatory bodies are cooperating with the new network and to propose supplementary measures to ensure a more integrated oversight of the European rail market, with the hope that in the future, a European regulatory body can be established.

With regard to financing infrastructure, the multiannual contractual agreement no longer has a minimum duration of three years but five, and there is a provision requiring Member States to make good the deficit in the infrastructure manager’s accounts every five years at the most. A requirement has also been included …

(The speaker interrupted her speech)

In order to have a single rail market, we need to provide non-discriminatory access to the market. Therefore, even if the separation requirements for service facilities have not been imposed on all kinds of infrastructure, the opening up of the services market is far-reaching, with an extensive list of essential services and non-discriminatory access to infrastructure and services. A ‘use it or lease it’ clause has also been included for services that have not been used for at least two years instead of three.

With regard to charges, in particular, noise charges, we have reached a compromise that is optional for Member States – although it will be mandatory to comply with the applicable EU rules – that envisages a bonus system to facilitate the retrofitting of trains. As for the European Train Control System (ETCS), a compulsory system is planned for all Member States that must be implemented on European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) lines: the introduction of a bonus-malus system for trains equipped with ETCS systems in accordance with common criteria set out by the Commission. The differentiation of charges will be completely revenue neutral for the infrastructure manager.

Despite my firm belief that there needs to be separation between infrastructure managers and railway undertakings, we have reached a good compromise on separation that provides for transparency of financial flows between infrastructure managers and railway undertakings in integrated companies, as well as a rendezvous clause for the presentation of a legislative proposal on separation and on the opening of the domestic passenger market by the end of 2012.

I would like to remind Members that tomorrow, during the vote, amendments could be tabled. Should any of these amendments that are not part of this document receive majority support and be accepted by Parliament, the document would end up in conciliation. This would delay further still the opening of the debate on the fourth railway package. I therefore appeal to my fellow Members to understand the importance of adopting the railway recast tomorrow, so that we may then continue to work on the fourth railway package.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: GEORGIOS PAPASTAMKOS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, the recast directive establishing a single European railway area is essential to make the European railway system and the entire European transport system more efficient, more competitive and more financially sound. I would like to thank the Danish Presidency for its skilful negotiations, with a very narrow majority in the Council. I would also like sincerely to thank the rapporteur, Ms Serracchiani, together with the shadow rapporteurs, the Chairman and the members of the Committee on Transport and Tourism. Ms Serracchiani managed to improve the text in the second reading significantly.

Let me just mention what the Commission sees as some of the main results. Firstly, the compromise package significantly strengthens the power of national regulators, with new independence requirements and increased areas of responsibility and means at their disposal. A formal network of regulators will be established to ensure particularly that cross-border traffic is adequately handled. The Commission intends to play a very active role in this network.

Secondly, the new framework for investment in the rail sector will set out clearer obligations for Member States and infrastructure managers. It also envisages charging schemes to stimulate the deployment of greener and interoperable technologies.

Thirdly, this text will facilitate access to the rail market for new entrants.

Lastly, as requested by Parliament, the compromise package provides for more transparency in the financial flows between infrastructure managers and railway undertakings. It also includes a review clause which reflects the Commission’s commitment to issuing new proposals on separation and domestic passenger market opening by the end of the year.

Before concluding, I need to make a formal statement.

‘The Commission underlines that it is contrary to the letter and to the spirit of Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 to invoke Article 5, paragraph 4, subparagraph 2(b) in a systematic manner. Recourse to this provision must respond to a specific need to depart from the rule of principle which is that the Commission may adopt a draft implementing act when no opinion is delivered. Given that it is an exception to the general rule established by Article 5, paragraph 4, recourse to subparagraph 2(b) cannot be simply seen as a ‘discretionary power’ of the legislator, but must be interpreted in a restrictive manner and thus must be justified.

While the Commission supports the agreement reached by the European Parliament and the Council on the recourse to this provision in nine specific cases which they have justified by reason of their potential impact on the functioning of the rail market and public finances, it regrets that such justification is not reflected in a recital’.

In conclusion I would like to stress that the Commission supports this agreement, which improves the text of the Council position. I am convinced that there is no better deal. The adoption of any further amendment, such as the amendment to Article 2(2) – the so-called Polish derogation – would inevitably lead to a conciliation procedure. This would not only put at risk the major improvements that the European Parliament has managed to obtain in this piece of legislation but also the possibility of putting forward new initiatives to promote the completion of the single European railway area.

The recast directive is a precondition for further initiatives to complete the internal market for rail services for which many Members of this Parliament have called. I want to reaffirm today that the Commission is fully committed to delivering a new package of measures by the end of this year.

 
  
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  Werner Kuhn, on behalf of the PPE Group.(DE) Mr President, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Ms Serracchiani, who has really played just as well both in attack and defence as the European champions in the football, who successfully defended their title. Of course, we all noticed that, and it was very important that we were then also able to agree with the Council and the Commission about the entry into force and the individual deadlines, on the 30 months, and that also, in the end, legal action – things have, after all, often got stuck on that issue – was also restricted to a maximum of 16 weeks. These are very important steps forward.

From the point of view of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), our focus was always on having a strong regulator in the individual Member States that works independently, has a sound technical material basis and sensible staffing, and that is also able to take decisions. These regulatory bodies need to cooperate in a network, as our aim is to achieve a common European railway market. For that purpose, we also need a point of contact in the Commission. We do not need some kind of great European regulator, but we do have a European Railway Agency that can take on such tasks.

There is a clear and transparent cost calculation that is understandable for everyone, and that is, how expensive is a kilometre on the line? This is an absolutely crucial point. We were able to agree on this, but also on the fact that the Member States also cofinance the railways, which is crucial, especially when it comes to cross-border projects, so that a stretch of railway has an economic value. It was very important that we were able to agree on the five years, here, and if you want to operate railways within Europe – whether passenger or freight – the provision of mutual services is, of course, necessary.

When it comes to the agreement in connection with the noise requirements, we also need to take the citizens with us when it comes to the major lines. We need certainty in the ETS system too, but also trans-European reciprocity. It is not acceptable for the Russian Federation and Ukraine to be able to operate in the Union while we cannot operate there. These are also the subjects of the amendments, and we have to find a solution there.

 
  
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  Saïd El Khadraoui, on behalf of the S&D Group.(NL) Mr President, of course, I, too, would like to start by thanking the rapporteur, Ms Serracchiani, for the outstanding outcome that we now have before us, which was achieved after a great deal of toiling and toing and froing. Of course, I would also like to add my thanks to all those who played their part and, in particular, to the shadow rapporteurs. This agreement refines and reinforces the ground rules from 2001, which was a necessary move as there was a great deal of vagueness and too much room for manoeuvre on the part of the Member States. That led to confusion and, hence, to a railway market that does not truly function in the optimum way.

At the same time, I have to say that there are a number of particularly important, controversial issues, which we have not tackled this time. Examples of such issues include the liberalisation of national passenger transport, whether or not infrastructure managers and operators are to be separated, and the strengthening of the European Railway Agency. These are very important issues that we have delayed dealing with until next year. I am very much in favour of this, as it makes a good debate a necessity, and I also believe that we need to properly examine all the consequences of a reform of this nature. By this I mean, for instance, the consequences for public service provision, as well as the social aspect of the railway landscape.

That said, this package, in the form that will be tabled for approval tomorrow, will help increase the impact of market forces especially in relation to freight transport, which is to be completely liberalised. There will be greater clarity in relation to the handling of complaints. There will also be more transparency in relation to financial flows and the way in which infrastructure managers are to be funded. Incentives to limit noise pollution and improve interoperability are being provided

I would therefore like to ask you to support this package and not to approve any additional amendments. I will make that my last point. I offer the rapporteur my thanks once more, and I wish her every success.

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

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), Blue-card question.(PT) Mr President, Mr El Khadraoui, you and your group are advocates of this directive. You and your group are advocates of the liberalisation of the sector. You will be responsible for the consequences for the workers and the peoples. You said that liberalisation will cause the market to work better and you gave the example of the freight sector. I should like to ask for your comments on the fact that the German multinational Deutsche Bahn currently dominates more than 60% of the freight market, which is the very market in which liberalisation went ahead first. That is the consequence of liberalisation. What do you have to say to that, Mr El Khadraoui?

 
  
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  Saïd El Khadraoui (S&D), Blue-card answer.(NL) I thank Mr Ferreira for his question. First of all, we need to draw a distinction between freight and passenger transport. For freight transport, liberalisation has delivered inadequate results, precisely because the legislation is insufficiently clear. We are now trying to solve that issue. However, at the same time, we do clearly also have to deal with far more important issues. One such issue is problems with technical interoperability, which are currently preventing truly simple organisation of cross-border freight transport.

When it comes to passenger transport, I will just say that that is absolutely not on the agenda. We as a group also played our part in that. It is a discussion that we will have next year, and you can be sure that my group will be checking that the rights of employees will be safeguarded and that the quality of the service delivered, public service in particular, will be ensured.

 
  
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  Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, the Liberals and Democrats have worked for more than a year on this request to achieve a really effective single European railway area. We have worked in a constructive, positive and pragmatic way, and we will vote in favour of this final compromise.

We have reached an agreement which is not one hundred per cent what we wanted. However, it took a lot of work to achieve this, and for me it is an acceptable package. In the negotiations with the Council, we Liberals and Democrats had to give in on the European regulatory body which should be responsible for breaking up the physical and regulatory barriers that still exist in the European Union. Today, these barriers still remain at national level, preventing and blocking the free movement of trains between some European countries. Instead of this, we have accepted the network of national regulatory bodies chaired by the European Commission. We hope it is a first step to having effective European supervision. We have also achieved in this request more transparency of financial flows in integrated companies, greater independence for national regulators, five years for the multiannual contractual agreement and more opening of the market.

I therefore recommend that you support the agreement reached in the second reading. I also ask you not to support the request for a Polish line exemption, in order not to delay this request. I hope that, after the vote in favour of this request, Commissioner Kallas will present, as promised, the fourth railway package, which should include the requirement for more separation, more opening of the market and, hopefully, the European regulatory body. Mr Kallas, compared with the national status quo, in the Commission we trust.

 
  
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  Michael Cramer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by offering my very sincere thanks to the rapporteur and the shadow rapporteurs. It was a difficult and protracted process but, in the end, a compromise was reached. The single European railway area was adopted back in 2001, yet we are still far away from it becoming a reality. There are countries with a strict separation of network and operator, but no other companies on the railway network, and there are integrated concepts with a great deal of competition. This needs to be cleared up, which is another reason why we favour this recasting. Clearly, this should have been undertaken much earlier, since the Commission sat idly on its hands for nine years. It then launched the court proceedings and we actually need to wait for the court’s decision before we can deal with unbundling and some other issues.

We need a strong regulatory body that takes decisions quickly and is well appointed. I say this because we have a situation where a few Member States have no regulatory body at all, where decisions are taken in a fortnight in some Member States, while in others it takes two months, once all the forms have been filled in – and it can take two years if they have not – and there are Member States where you will not even have received an answer after two years. We have therefore pushed through the regulatory body.

Clearly, we would like to have had the transitional regulation in place more quickly. Given that nothing has happened for nine or 10 years, to have to wait now for another six years – as has been proposed – is slower progress than we would have liked to have seen. We have, however, managed to achieve the following: transparency, information about money flows, a start on tackling the training issue, ERTMS, a European train safety system that makes cross-border rail traffic simpler, and we have eliminated unfair competition, especially in electricity prices. Fair prices are a necessity for everyone. No one should receive preferential treatment.

We have just heard that the separation of networks and operators and the liberalisation of passenger transport will be included in the fourth railway package. The Commission has committed to this, but we also await the decision by the court. We therefore want to see the final realisation of the single European railway area, as it is to the benefit of both the environment and – of course – the European market.

 
  
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  Roberts Zīle, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, I would like to start by congratulating Debora Serracchiani and all my colleagues and the shadow rapporteurs.

We can accept that we have compromised during the negotiations and succeeded in attaining a reasonable compromise on several elements: separate accounting for railway undertakings and rail network managers; non-discriminatory access to rail paths and service facilities; transparent pricing, as well as strengthening the independent national rail regulators.

With this new directive, it is considered that railway operators across Europe will be able to enjoy improvements and benefit from fairer competition. Unfortunately, this will not be the case in some railway markets, particularly those with different gauges in the Baltic States and Finland. This market is dominated by profitable freight transport. In reality, it is not an internal EU market, but a market with third countries. This legislation and the deal we agreed on during the negotiations means that we will open up only the EU part of the market, without getting a reciprocity approach in relation to third-country markets.

To be honest, I would have never imagined that, for instance, the Russian Duma would open their railway market and not ask for reciprocity with the markets in other countries at the same time.

That is why I really regret that the safeguard clause in the initial Commission proposal and Parliament’s first reading was rejected by the Council. At the same time, a deal is a deal and, if tomorrow we vote on some particular amendments for some very special lines for a very special state, I think we will make a wrong choice. If we do this, it means that we can legislate on whether the size of the country matters in this House.

 
  
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  Sabine Wils, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(DE) Mr President, in relation to the recast version of the first railway package, all the groups except my own appear to believe that more competition in the railway sector could be beneficial to citizens. In fact, the very opposite is the case. Or is all this perhaps really about securing profits for those private companies involved in the railway sector and bringing about a quick break-up and privatisation of what have, up to now, been national railways such as SNCF and Deutsche Bahn?

Despite the fact that experience in the United Kingdom, for example, shows that this is the wrong approach, nonetheless, this is the direction that is to be taken throughout the EU. This policy of liberalisation will have a negative impact not only on those working in the railway industry, but also on passenger safety. The railway sector should not lose its economic, social and environmental role for the future, and therefore must not be broken up into individual free-market radical, profit-focused parts. My group is therefore on the side of the trade unions and clearly in favour of the idea of retaining integrated railway companies, which have crucial experience and skills, in public hands. These companies not only provide social security for their employees, but also offer a guarantee of increased volumes of rail traffic in future.

In the negotiations with the Council and the Commission, the majority from the other groups essentially followed the Commission proposal for a further liberalisation and privatisation of the railway sector. It remains unclear what competences the national rail supervisory authorities and the new EU regulatory body would each have in relation to safety matters. In any case, the safety of rail traffic must be prioritised above the supervision of competition rules. In Parliament’s negotiations with the Council and the Commission, the idea was always in the background that the fourth railway package would also herald the separation of networks and operators. This, too, is something that my group will resolutely oppose.

 
  
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  Dimitar Stoyanov (NI).(BG) Mr President, we all know that railways are one of the most efficient, cheap and natural means of transport. I would like to concur with the previous speaker in that I do not feel that there is any benefit to be gained from liberalisation. I greatly regret that the Commission failed to support the attempts of the Bulgarian Government to retain the Bulgarian state railways, as being state-run will enable them to develop more easily. I believe that privatisation is also now being imposed on a large part of the means of transport which are deployed for the trans-European network.

However, given also that I am one of the youngest MEPs in this Parliament, I would also like to share a dream of mine with you. The majority of us Members who are here today from the farthest-flung regions of the EU have travelled 7-8 hours, including by inefficient, polluting air transport, to get here to Strasbourg to attend the sitting. My great dream is for us to look from now on into the future and see the new super-efficient technology which may be powered by renewable energy sources. I am referring to magnetic levitation technology. We should look into a future when European citizens will be able to travel safely in every direction – north, south, east and west – using highly efficient, environmentally friendly rail transport travelling at the speed provided by planes. This is my dream.

 
  
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  Mathieu Grosch (PPE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those who helped to achieve this result.

I never fail to be astonished when we discuss the liberalisation of the railways. We have been fighting for this for 10 years, yet we still do not properly have it – not anywhere! If we talk about the results of liberalisation, at the moment, all I can say is that, thanks to the failure to liberalise, the number of kilometres of railway and the number of jobs have fallen. That is the result. What we want is a railway that is more efficient, a railway that is open, as we know that, in Europe, the railway has a completely different future to what we see at present. We have been attempting to bring this about for 10 years.

What are the Member States doing, however? They are continuing to create more and more of their own new rules, year after year. A train travelling from Brussels to Germany has to change voltage four times. The trains have local and regional rules to follow, which number up to 3 000. No wonder then that the roads seem so efficient. Through an efficient railway, we are aiming not only to retain jobs, but actually to create them. That is what we want, and that message should also reach the citizens and the trade unions. We have concentrated on what is important, namely, a strong regulator. A strong regulator should clear away the distorting factors that still exist. Why should we discuss large structures if we do not yet even have an authority that can say ‘company x must be given proper access to the market’ – something that is still not the case in many Member States.

With regard to the Polish derogation, I would remind the Commissioner that a fourth railway package is on the way, and we need to respect people who come out and say that, in their region, things are a little different, including from a technical point of view at this point in time. Could you not send out a signal that we could attempt to tackle this issue by technological means in the fourth railway package and attempt to find a way to resolve the problem at that point? That would be a very calming influence today, and tomorrow you could say that the single European railway market is on the way, and perhaps somewhat quicker than certain people suspect. That would be a good signal, particularly also the cooperation between Parliament and the Commission, as we need to work together to convince the Council. That will be our most important task.

 
  
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  Ismail Ertug (S&D).(DE) Mr President, rapporteur, ladies and gentlemen, I think it is clear that the European Union’s aim is to ensure a better common railways policy. This legislation helps bring that about. In this respect, it will help, for instance, by opening up basic services for the market, which is a beneficial thing to do. I would also like to offer the rapporteur specific thanks for also having stuck to the multiannual financial plans between infrastructure operators and the Member States, as doing so facilitates long-term planning in respect of funding, which provides a certain degree of planning certainty and, above all, it will have a positive impact on the development of the European railway market.

We have heard a number of times today already that the most important element in this legislation will be organising the national regulatory bodies as they actually should be organised, which is to say, with more powers and such that they are not as weak as they are in many Member States of the Union. The situation today is that we have regulatory authorities that are unable to make it possible for other competitors to enter the market, and this means that market access is made more difficult. Under this legislation, such unfair practice will, first of all, be monitored and then it will also be eliminated and made possible for punishment to be imposed.

My final point concerns what I would definitely consider a step in the right direction, by which, of course, I mean transparency in the financial flows. In this respect, it needs to be very clearly emphasised that this obviously must not pave the way for the pre-emption of the separation of networks and operators, as that would be too serious an intrusion into national subsidiarity rights. We should therefore leave it at that.

I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the rapporteur once again, and especially also to the shadow rapporteurs, for the fact that we have produced such sound legislation.

 
  
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  Gesine Meissner (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, it has already been pointed out that we do not have a single European railway area, although many people assume that we do. In fact, all our citizens probably assume that we do. We have a lack of tracks in some areas, we have different gauges, we have different technologies and we also do not have fair competition. There are some countries where it is very difficult for other competitors to enter the railway market. That is something that we must do something about.

I would like to offer special thanks to Commissioner Kallas. He has grabbed the bull by the horns and set something in motion that has actually been due for 9 years, as we have noticed that the Member States are not implementing what we decided.

I would like to thank Ms Serracchiani, who has really done us all a great service here. We now actually have a process in which we emphasise a strong regulator. We have always said that that is the most important thing. The second most important thing is the separation of networks and operators, which is something that we have to discuss and on which we await the Commission proposal before we can see how far it corresponds with the reality on the ground. It is very important that we should have within the package what has become known as ‘mini-unbundling’, in other words, more transparency with regard to funding streams. Mr Ertug just addressed this issue, which I believe is very important. We must do everything we can to obtain a truly complete single European railway area.

 
  
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  Isabelle Durant (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, since Parliament and the Council agreed quite quickly to postpone any changes regarding vertical separation between infrastructure managers and railway undertakings until the upcoming fourth railway package, and since they also considerably watered down the Commission’s proposals on the separation of stations and maintenance yards, I might have been able to express complete satisfaction on this subject today.

Unfortunately, I have recently found out that the Commission took advantage of this recast, in breach of the applicable rules, to amend paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 7 on the notorious ‘essential functions’, on the sly and with no explanation whatsoever. If this amendment to the existing legislation is adopted, it will make the alternative solution to the complete separation that the Commission has favoured for a long time less cohesive and less effective. What is this other solution? It entails allowing Member States to retain some degree of integration, while still separating the essential functions, so that they can achieve better operational performance for both passengers and goods.

At a time when the United Kingdom is beginning to rethink its decisions, and people are seeing that complete separation is not the best way to go, I do not see why we should rush to adopt this single model for everyone today. I therefore cannot support the proposed directive on the recast of the first railway package, even though I am in favour of strong regulation and transparency of financial flows.

 
  
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  Oldřich Vlasák (ECR). (CS) Mr President, the debate on creating a single European railway area is gradually nearing its conclusion. Despite this, I would like to draw attention to a few problem areas.

I firmly believe that the proposed application of the principle of internalising external costs will lead to an unnecessary increase in the regulatory burden. The same applies to the proposal for noise charging, although it would be voluntary. In the case of the European Train Control System, I am sceptical about the measures to compensate railway undertakings for fitting their railway vehicles with the most advanced and costly equipment, although they are not able – through no fault of their own – to make proper use of it. In my opinion, the enterprises should actually be able to use the benefits only in relation to tracks on which these systems have already been installed, otherwise we are creating a virtual reality.

Last but not least, I have serious doubts as to the compromise regarding the possible creation of a European regulatory body. I am against such a large transfer of powers on the regulation and monitoring of competition in the rail sector to one regulatory body.

 
  
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  Artur Zasada (PPE).(PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to highlight the amendment to Article 2(2) and ask that you support it. It was tabled by four political groups: the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group and the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left, and concerns the right to exclude certain broad-gauge railway lines from the recast requirements of the first railway package. Endorsement of the amendment will show that we in Parliament are both consistent and credible. In November last year, over 430 Members voted in favour of this amendment, which means that over two times more Members voted for than against. Two months ago, at a sitting of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the members of the Committee also endorsed the amendment, by 30 votes to 13. So I do not understand the suggestion made by Commissioner Kallas that this amendment could in some way put at risk the adoption of the general idea underlying the recast of the first railway package. There has been time for this, meetings have been held about it, and it was, in fact, the position of the Commission which put adoption of this amendment at risk, which is why we are having to vote on it in plenary today.

What is affected by the amendment? It applies to a railway undertaking or undertakings operating successfully in the EU which are of regional importance and which use a gauge different from the dominant network in use in a particular Member State or across the European rail network. These are successful undertakings, often operating in places of high unemployment, and they represent added value for particular regions of the European Union. I would therefore like to ask all Members to endorse this amendment at tomorrow’s vote.

 
  
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  Gilles Pargneaux (S&D). (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, a single European railway area is a true policy for European integration. It is a fine policy that makes European integration central to the day-to-day concerns of Europe’s men and women.

Europe is all too often criticised for not working properly but, through this directive, it is at last leading the way towards a major sustainable transport policy and facilitating an important railway investment policy that will boost employment.

I am delighted at the key measures that have been taken to organise the railway networks: the introduction of a national regulatory body in every Member State and the creation of a five-year multiannual investment agreement setting out financing commitments in relation to rail infrastructures. I am also delighted at the introduction of transparency in financial flows between managers and operators for integrated undertakings, the reminder about non-discriminatory access to certain services and the confirmation of certain guarantees that Members of the European Parliament had called for, especially on social aspects such as omitting any reference either to a minimum service or to complete separation between managers and operators.

Allow me, though, to voice a demand: let us stop seeing the liberalisation of the railway industry as the only strategic goal in the development of a single European railway area, as the Commission is doing. Instead, let us adopt an integrated European investment strategy that will boost employment in Europe.

To finish, I would therefore like to ask you a question, Commissioner Kallas. Three days after the European Council meeting of 28 and 29 June and the approval of a growth pact worth EUR 120 billion to stimulate Europe’s economy – largely through investment in infrastructure – can you tell us, Commissioner, what sum the European railway industry is likely to receive under this growth pact?

 
  
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  Philippe De Backer (ALDE).(NL) Mr President, I, too, am very pleased that there are a number of positive changes have been made in this recast and that a real deal has been reached. Above all, I am pleased with greater transparency in the financial flows for holding companies, while the evolution to a more European-focused regulator through the improved coordination of national regulators is also an important step forwards.

The fact remains, however, that the various Member States, in the shape of the Council, will, first and foremost, continue to protect their national monopolies. As long as we are unable to truly talk of a single market, as long as the monopolies continue to be protected, there will never be improved service for businesses, there will never be more reliability for customers that use the railways in Europe and we will never really be able to realise the added economic value of this railway package.

This fourth railway package that the Commission has announced will therefore have to encompass these elements; it will have to offer a more open playing field in the transport sphere; it will have to liberalise passenger transport; and it will also have to realise the total separation between infrastructure and operations in railway transport. I hope that the Commission can also demonstrate that ambition.

 
  
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  Dominique Riquet (PPE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should first like to thank Ms Serracchiani for the difficult job she has accomplished under complex conditions and, like my fellow Members, to welcome this step forward on integration of the railways. I will not repeat the points that have already been raised several times.

Firstly, I wanted to express my disappointment at the fact that the European railways train is turning out to be a slow train that stops at every station, but let us hope that it will still reach its destination in the end. Secondly, I am delighted at this step, albeit incomplete, towards a single railway market and the liberalisation of the rail industry, while we await the fourth railway package. All we want from this package is what we want for all industries: an open, single market and fair competition, liberalisation and separation, so as to create a fair market between infrastructure providers and rail service providers.

Hope is what keeps us alive. We will continue our journey, Mr President, at the pace of the European railways.

 
  
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  Ádám Kósa (PPE).(HU) Mr President, I second the opinions of my fellow Members who spoke before me. I, too, wish to congratulate Ms Serracchiani, as well as the shadow rapporteurs, and, in particular, my colleague from the Group of the European People’s Party, Mr Kuhn. He has done an incredible job.

This process is an excellent illustration of the role of the European Parliament because it gives us a very good opportunity to represent citizens’ interests, along with the interests of the various countries, including Hungary. What is all of this about? What is it that I wish to highlight? With this compromise that we managed to achieve, Hungary is granted exemption in connection with a very important issue, an issue of derogation, no less. The single European Train Control System will not need to be installed on trains that were manufactured prior to 1985. The value of the engines of these trains is almost zero, and installing this system would cost far more than the actual operation of the vehicle. This compromise thus allows us to make good use of rational solutions and to allocate these sums to cover the costs of future purchases of new equipment and environmentally friendly engines instead.

I would like to thank you all for letting reason triumph, and I wish Ms Serracchiani all the best for her future work.

 
  
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  Antonio Cancian (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the text that we shall be voting on tomorrow marks a small, laborious step towards the creation of a true European rail market. Through hard work, we have obtained a noteworthy result with regard to the powers of national regulatory bodies, but unfortunately, we have not managed to move towards establishing a European regulatory body. The liberalisation of domestic and regional passenger markets with reciprocal access has once again been avoided, postponed, viewed as low priority.

For too long, we have been hearing about the potential of the single market, the positive effect that its creation would have on the EU economy, and these sectoral reforms which seek to establish it, and then we all take refuge behind nationally advantageous positions. I think that given the times we are living in, we should not allow delays of this kind. Moreover, remember that there will be another 30 months in which to transpose the directive. I would, in any case, like to thank the rapporteur, and those who worked with her, for this first step.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Herbert Dorfmann (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I would like to draw everyone’s attention to a subject that we have discussed very little up to now, namely, the issue of noise. We have failed to seize the opportunity, with the recasting, to put in place a truly far-reaching regulation of noise emissions. There are at least two reasons why we need to do this.

First of all, in transport, there are clear rules governing noise emissions in all areas – on the roads and in the air – except for on the rails. Why should that be the case? There is no reason.

Secondly, the refurbishment will not cost much – namely EUR 5 000 to 10 000 per car or carriage. I believe that that is an amount that actually could be raised. It is therefore urgently necessary and it is also our responsibility to do something in this area and to cut noise emissions from rail traffic drastically.

 
  
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  Spyros Danellis (S&D).(EL) Mr President, Commissioner, railways are the central reference point for sustainable transport and thus, the vision set out in the White Paper cannot be put into practice without modernising and embellishing the railways.

However, the internal railway market still presents shortcomings in terms of the lack of basic transparency and effective operation of the institutional framework.

The final text of the new directive safeguards the institutional framework by clarifying the need for separation of railway accounts and, of course, thus safeguards transparency by requiring the Member States to prepare a railway development strategy, by promoting essentially independent national regulatory authorities and networks.

Let us hope that during the long period of adjustment, the procedure will find real support at national level, without exemptions and quid pro quos.

My congratulations to Ms Serracchiani and to the shadow rapporteurs, who remained steadfast during the protracted negotiations.

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE).(ES) Mr President, this report represents a step towards more open and competitive rail transport. We have been left with a bitter aftertaste, however, given that we could have gone much further.

Once again, despite the efforts of the rapporteur, Parliament and the Commission, some Member States have delayed the measures that we will have to implement in relation to the fourth railway package. I refer to the establishment of a single European regulatory body and the mandatory separation between infrastructure management and railway operators, as well as the genuine opening up of the rail passenger market and reciprocal access. We have progressed in terms of transparency, but we can continue to improve in terms of competitiveness.

As with the crisis, we are trailing in the wake of events and we do not end up providing definitive solutions to clearly identified problems. What is at stake here is the possibility of offering better safety and comfort to users, real possibilities for intermodality throughout the continent, cheaper prices and new options for many financial sectors and people that need alternatives and versatility.

We hope to achieve this with the fourth package. I welcome the great effort by the rapporteur, the shadow rapporteurs, and also the Commission.

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL).(FR) Mr President, try as we might, the views of Europe’s citizens, especially those who are doing their best to keep public rail services alive against all odds, are clearly not being heard.

We are moving inexorably towards the complete liberalisation of the railways and the dismantling of public rail services throughout Europe, in the name of free competition, in this case disguised under the fine title of ‘non-discriminatory access to infrastructures and services’. What do the users’ interests matter? What does it matter if the cost of rail transport is constantly rising? What does it matter if the number of rail accidents is increasing, or that instead of guaranteeing access for all, train travel is becoming increasingly inaccessible to the most disadvantaged, while those who can afford it have access to ever more extravagant services? What does it matter if these policies are steadily pushing freight transport onto the roads, with the environmental repercussions of which we are all aware.

To top it all, the European Parliament is out of line: it wants to go further than the Council and is sidestepping codecision, while the Commission and unelected regulatory bodies will be given exorbitant powers.

We clearly do not share the same vision of public interest or, at any rate, that of the socialist rapporteur. It will be too late to try to save our public services after they have been completely demolished.

 
  
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  Georgios Koumoutsakos (PPE).(EL) Mr President, this is where the European Union can produce positive news. This is where it can take positive steps to generate much-needed growth, improve competition and serve European citizens.

The recast to be put to the vote tomorrow is, without doubt, one such positive step and I must thank the rapporteur and everyone who worked so hard and so long to achieve this result.

We have been trying to achieve a real single European railway area since 2001. The text on which we shall vote tomorrow is a large and serious step, especially in terms of appropriate financing, transparency in financial flows and terms of competition, and we all expect to see a European regulatory body. We therefore look forward, with hope, to a more ambitious fourth railway package.

As regards the Polish amendment, I recognise the peculiarity and gravity of the problem for our Polish colleagues; at the same time, however, I cannot but express my concern and apprehension, given that we are at second reading and are in danger, if there is any further delay, of going into conciliation, thereby wasting valuable time that we need to gain.

 
  
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  Janusz Władysław Zemke (S&D).(PL) Mr President, I would like to comment on the debate and on what speakers in the Chamber are calling the Polish derogation. Perhaps I can say in more detail what it involves. Of course, we, too, are in favour of creating – as far as is possible – a single market for rail services in Europe, but this must not be done unthinkingly, without taking account of the realities of the situation. We have a lot of railways in Poland – no less than 19 000 km of track. Of this, 18 600 km is being integrated with the European network, and this should be happening faster, there is no doubt about this. We do, however, have 400 km – or not quite 2% of the entire network – of broad-gauge track. We are asking you all to understand that for technical reasons, it is not currently possible to insist that these lines be connected to the rest of the network.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, I would like to thank you for this discussion. I am convinced that the proposed recast directive on a European railway area is a good deal after hard work, and I hope that you will vote in favour of the proposal. With regard to our objective, various mysterious, important and sensitive words have been repeated, but I will simply say that our objective is to create a fast and reliable cross-border railway system which can serve people and businesses.

Many barriers remain. The proposed, or intended, fourth railway package will propose additional steps towards taking down these barriers, including technological barriers which are very substantial. So let us not mystify matters. Liberalisation is not a goal in itself: it is a part of the whole package.

Of course, I am happy to answer the honourable Member – who has left the Chamber – who asked about the money for investment. I hope that the whole House will support the Connecting Europe Facility in the Commission’s proposal for the next multiannual financial framework. It increases resources for railways substantially. So, yes, we have thought this out.

The Commission was also accused of forcing somebody to privatise railways. This has never been the case. The Commission has never forced anybody to privatise anything.

As regards the proposal for Polish derogation, we are trying to create a single European railway area: we are not yet trying to create a single Eurasian rail area. How can we achieve our objective with derogations, exemptions, exceptions, opt-outs and abstentions? These do not make our life any simpler. We have seven gauges in Europe – seven – but we do not have special laws and special regulations for every gauge. This issue has been discussed in Council, and in Council the proposal was not supported. I hope that tomorrow, the honourable Members will not support amendments which perpetuate the fragmentation of European railways. Of all transport modes, this is the most fragmented, and we must overcome the fragmentation.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, 3 July 2012, at 12.30.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Bogdan Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (PPE), in writing.(PL) It is extremely important that revision of the first railway package takes account of Member States where there are railway undertakings that operate rail-freight services using railway infrastructure which is managed by these undertakings and which has a gauge different from the dominant network within the Member State and is connected to a railway infrastructure in a non-EU state. This is due to the particular situation of the region and the specific character of the countries of Eastern Europe, which, at one time, were under the jurisdiction of the Soviet Union. In my opinion, lines of this type cannot be part of the trans-European transport network. It therefore follows that railway lines of this kind should be excluded from the application of this directive.

 
  
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  Vilja Savisaar-Toomast (ALDE), in writing. (ET) The legislative proceedings and implementation of the first railway package have now taken over ten years. The first railway package directive was adopted in 2001 and contained three directives on the development of the EU’s railways, the licensing of railway enterprises and the distribution of railway infrastructure capacity, the implementation of railway infrastructure usage charges and the granting of safety certificates. The objective was to revitalise the rail sector by taking a first step towards the creation of a single trans-European rail network, and by making provision for the reliable financial structure required for that purpose. The directives of the first railway package were to be introduced into the law of the Member States on 15 March 2003, but the Commission postponed initiating infringement proceedings against Member States for the improper or incomplete implementation of the first railway package until 2008. Infringement proceedings were initiated against 22 Member States, which shows that the creation of a single European railway area is still a long way off. One of the most important issues, which will hopefully be resolved in this package, is the issue of access to and usage charges for infrastructure. In this area, what is important to Estonia is Article 32 of the common position of the Council and Parliament, which permits Member States that use infrastructure with different track widths, and in which third country goods are transported, to set higher infrastructure usage charges. This enables Member States to free themselves of the requirement to subsidise third countries’ freight transport. Another significant item is the opening of the market to enable different operator companies to enter the markets of various Member States, and they must be guaranteed equal treatment in the area of both infrastructure usage charges and times, as well as access to desired services.

 

18. Recording equipment in road transport (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the report by Silvia-Adriana Ţicău, on behalf of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, on recording equipment in road transport COM(2011)0451 - C7-0205/2011 - 2011/0196(COD) (A7-0195/2012).

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău, rapporteur.(RO) Mr President, I would like to begin by thanking all my colleagues from every political group for the good cooperation we have had in drafting this report. Tachographs play a crucial role in checking compliance by professional road transport drivers with the rules on driving times and rest periods. Therefore, they contribute to improving road safety, drivers’ working conditions and fair competition between road transport companies.

The new proposal for a regulation provides for a series of technical measures, including improved tachograph functions, wireless communications for reducing roadside checks and the establishment of a harmonised interface with other Intelligent Transport Systems applications, as well as a series of non-technical measures including more trustworthy workshops, making fraud with driver cards more difficult, better training of control officers, a minimum degree of harmonisation of sanctions and modernised rules concerning use.

As regards the connection of the tachograph to a global navigation satellite system, Parliament recommends that only those satellite positioning service connections should be used that exploit a positioning service free of charge, and that only the location data strictly needed to cross-check the information recorded by the tachograph by control authorities shall be automatically and compulsorily recorded.

With respect to merging the functionalities of driver cards with driving licences, Parliament calls on the Commission to carry out an impact assessment on the feasibility and merits of merging all of the cards used by professional drivers, in particular, the driver card with the driver licence, within 24 months of the adoption of the regulation.

We call on the Commission to examine the technical solutions available, card compatibility problems and data protection-related issues prior to recommending merging these cards’ functionalities.

The Committee on Transport and Tourism emphasises that, in the interest of a clear, effective, proportionate and uniform implementation of social security rules in road transport, it is essential that the Member States’ authorities apply the rules in a uniform manner. To ensure compliance with social legislation and the proper use of the tachograph, manual setting by the driver of the activity performed is vital. Via Amendment 21, the TRAN Committee suggests to use for the purposes of this regulation the definition of the ‘daily working period’ provided by the Court of Justice of the European Union in case C-394/92. The TRAN Committee proposes that by 2020, all vehicles which are not exempted from the application of this regulation be fitted with a smart tachograph in order to improve road safety and social conditions for professional drivers. At the same time, Parliament considers it vital for the Member States to equip their control authorities with remote early detection equipment and train their control officers accordingly. Under no circumstances shall remote control communication lead to automatic fines or penalties for the driver or undertaking. As regards workshops, the Member States shall adopt measures to prevent conflicts of interests between fitters or workshops and road transport undertakings.

The TRAN Committee calls for unannounced technical audits to cover at least 20% of the approved workshops per year. At the same time, in order to reduce bureaucracy, the driver card shall be issued at the request of the driver by the competent authority within 15 days of the request being received by the same.

I would like to point out, Commissioner, that this regulation is seen as a unique opportunity to amend Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 on social legislation, which is why we have tabled many amendments in this respect. I personally do not support them because I believe the regulation on digital tachographs is not the right opportunity to amend Regulation (EC) No 561/2006. However, we have also tabled a few amendments regarding certain exceptions that may bring about a certain degree of flexibility. I await fellow Members’ speeches with interest.

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, tachographs play an important dual role for road transport: a social and a safety role. They make sure that the rules on driving time and rest periods are properly enforced. This is vital since the rules address the fatigue of drivers, which is one of the main causes of accidents involving heavy-duty vehicles. Tachographs also help ensure that the rules cannot be abused, resulting in distortion of competition between road transport operators.

Driving-time rules are now observed better since digital tachographs were introduced in 2006. Operators also have less paperwork than they did with the analogue tachograph, but reports indicate that levels of fraud and the administrative costs of using tachographs are still high. Last year, the Commission proposed ways to tackle these two problems. This would be done by introducing a new ‘smart tachograph’ using satellite navigation and radio communication functions, accompanied by better rules on inspections, workshops, training of enforcement officers and sanctions.

I am very glad that the report from the Committee on Transport and Tourism prepared by Ms Ţicău supports and reinforces the Commission proposal. The Commission welcomes more than half of the 120 amendments adopted by the Transport Committee, as they clarify or strengthen its original proposal. They include, for instance, the amendments to strengthen the sanctions regime, to improve training of enforcers and to clarify the rules on the TACHOnet IT system and on the liability of employers.

The Commission can also accept, in principle, another quarter of the amendments. The most important of these are on the merger of driver cards with the driving licence, asking for a more detailed analysis before the implementation of such a merger; and, secondly, on moving definitions from the current annex into the main body of the legislation. I would, however, caution against applying full codecision to non-essential elements which may need regular updates, and requiring Member States to equip all their control authorities with the devices needed to read the information transmitted by the new radio communication function of the smart tachograph. This is good but costly, and I would recommend a step-by-step approach.

There remain 13 amendments that are of concern to the Commission. The most important are the amendments numbered 116 to 120, which would result in changes to the existing social rules and legislation on driving times – Regulation (EC) No 561/2006. These amendments would create a derogation for craftsmen driving within a radius of 150 km of their base. This is a substantial increase from the 100 km set down in the Commission’s proposal and it would negatively affect road safety. In practice, it would encourage many drivers to drive six hours or more on a daily basis without any control on their driving time.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, I want to commend Ms Ţicău. She has worked tirelessly on this report and she has done her utmost to ensure that the shadow rapporteurs were kept abreast of all the latest developments, and to get compromises between the viewpoints from the different groups in this Parliament.

This proposal aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of tachographs and to ensure that professional drivers respect the rules on driving hours and rest periods – something which we clearly need to look at in the EU. The Commission proposed, on 19 July 2011, to revise the tachograph legislation to make fraud more difficult and to reduce the administrative burden. According to the Commission, this is expected to save companies EUR 515 million per annum. Ms Ţicău has taken a basic proposal from the Commission and has improved on it immeasurably.

We badly need technical updating, notably to preserve the security level of the digital tachograph. It will be necessary, therefore, to upgrade the security mechanisms to preserve the current level of security and to avoid fraud and tampering with the data recorded by tachographs. These changes will require a migration strategy in order to ensure compatibility between the existing cards and the vehicle units in operation and those to be introduced.

Nine percent of the control vehicles are found to be breaching the social rules. Roughly one quarter of them are found to be breaching the Tachograph Regulation in particular. On average, at any one time, around 45 000 vehicles are in breach of the EU tachograph rules. Failure to respect the minimum breaks and rest periods, and the maximum driving times, can lead to more fatigued drivers and a potential road safety risk. We need to look at harmonisation of the training of control officers; we need to provide control officers with adequate and type-approved software; and we need a binding categorisation of very serious infringements of the Tachograph Regulation.

 
  
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  Saïd El Khadraoui, on behalf of the S&D Group.(NL) Mr President, every one of us knows that road transport is a very tough and very competitive sector where there are frequent breaches of social regulations. Those social regulations are badly needed precisely in order to ensure that road safety is guaranteed, but also to achieve a level playing field – fair competition between businesses.

In order to achieve that, more monitoring is needed. The technology will help. It is evolving very quickly, and the new digital tachograph that we are currently aiming to define in the legislation will make remote monitoring possible, which, clearly, will mean that it will be possible to carry out much more monitoring than at present. At the moment, a lorry has to pull over before a check can be made. This alone will represent amazing progress.

There are, of course, also other aspects that the rapporteur mentioned in her report that we also need to support. First of all, we need to open the debate on the scope of application. We want to evolve to a situation where all professional drivers are monitored, and the proposal to now move from 3.5 to 2.8 tonnes is a step in the right direction.

On the other side of the coin is the idea that we need to be more flexible when it comes to exceptions. I agree that plumbers and electricians need not be monitored. That should be clearly laid down, and the 100 km limit seems to me to be very sensible. I will make that my last point. I would like to offer the rapporteur my thanks, and I wish her every success.

 
  
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  Gesine Meissner, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(DE) Mr President, with the digital tachograph, the truth is that we actually agreed on many points during the negotiations. I, too, would like to offer my sincere thanks to Ms Ţicău, who was very committed in her negotiations with us shadow rapporteurs. We also really are in agreement about major points – the fact that this is about adapting practically everything, the fact that a technological innovation facilitates an improvement in control checks, which also need to be tightened up, as well as greater requirements for transparency in relation to what can now be installed, what we can check. I am thus in agreement with much of what has been put forward. There is just one area with which I do not agree, and I would like to concentrate on that area now.

I will start off in something of a general way. In the Europe 2020 strategy, we constantly stress the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises. There are many of these companies, and they create the jobs and the training places. In 2009, a proposal for cutting red tape specifically for these small and medium-sized enterprises was awarded a prize here. Under the proposal, there were to be options for derogations in respect of tachographs for the Member States, whereby a tradesperson who, for example, drives a 3.5-tonne vehicle himself/herself, requires no tachograph if he or she is located only 50 kilometres from his/her place of work. That should now be extended to 150 kilometres. This proposal was awarded a prize. There was actually a great deal of agreement here – albeit not with everyone – that it was a good thing to move in this direction, that this really would mean a cut in red tape.

Now, though, the Commission has only proposed 100 kilometres, unfortunately. In committee, we initially amended that to 150 kilometres with a narrow majority. We had a majority for 150 kilometres, for exactly that proposal. That now hangs in the balance. We have now provided on a general basis that the rules should only apply once over the 100 kilometres line – and rightly so – but, at the same time, the weight limit is to be reduced to 2.8 tonnes. The current situation in Germany is that, while the regulations do specify 2.8-tonne vehicles, there are so many derogations provided that the likes of small-scale painters and electricians are not subject to the regulations at all.

That would change under these proposals. Because of that, I believe that we must vote against Amendment 134 and in favour of Amendment 129, which I proposed. In that way, we will be moving in the direction of cutting red tape and really doing something for small and medium-sized enterprises.

 
  
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  Eva Lichtenberger, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Mr President, a report about a traffic accident at the weekend involving a lorry driver who fell asleep at the wheel due to exhaustion and drove into a roadside ditch has reaffirmed my view, once again, that it is absolutely necessary to have a clear and consistent regulation of driving and rest periods and their monitoring by means of a digital tachograph for us, for road safety, but also for those involved themselves. The digital tachograph involves a certain degree of innovation, it brings with it new problems, but also old ones. The new problems come in the shape of new opportunities to manipulate the device, which we need to tackle from a technical point of view. The old problems are the ones that we can already observe in various Member States in connection with inspection or a lack thereof.

The new rules that we are now putting in place must pay considerable attention, in my view, to the following issues. First of all, a rest period must not automatically be commenced every time that no journey is recorded. This is because many drivers have to load and unload, and that is, of course, also to be regarded as working time. The second problem is that the records of speed have been removed from the dossier. I think that is a mistake, as here, too, there are major risks of accidents. We also want weight sensors and we want an anonymous fraud-reporting hotline that can be followed up. I will be tabling a motion for animal transport checks to be incorporated into the regulation. I think this is important, as it also has to be a key part of our legislation.

 
  
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  Philip Bradbourn, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, the subject of tachographs is one that has constantly evolved over many years. Changes in technology have seen us move from analogue to digital, and now we have a report that really asks the question: how far can we take this?

It is often said here in Parliament that because we have technical capability, we need to do something with it. I disagree. Just because we can do something does not mean that we must. There is a suggestion that we merge driving licences with tachograph records. I do not agree. The two are not the same. One is private, one is professional. Like the limiting of a company’s liability, there must be protection for the individual acting in a private capacity.

As for the subject of ‘Big Brother’s eye in the sky’ and satellite tracking of vehicles, this makes me very uncomfortable. If equal enforcement across Europe is our main concern, then that should be the focus, not creating a new way of tracking people.

Finally, I would like to tackle what I regard as the elephant in the room: namely, the question of money. How are we to pay for this? Is it necessary at this time? Do you want to force struggling businesses to pay for it?

No, it is not necessary now. And we should not be adding costs to struggling businesses. In the current climate, they have enough to worry about.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, when drafting this report, absolutely no consideration was given to the directly affected parties: road haulage companies. In Italy, 91% of freight transport takes place by road. Their rights will be ignored if this report is adopted in its current form.

In many of Parliament’s committees, we strive every day to reduce the financial and administrative burden on European companies, but reports such as this one undermine all of our efforts, since they will suffocate the companies with further bureaucratic burdens, and lead to countless financial losses and new forms of unfair competition.

It would not have taken much to obtain a balanced report that did not forget our companies’ right to survive in very hard financial times, but this kind of dialogue was not possible. On the contrary, the report even purposely ignored previous EU legislative acts, such as the 2002 Working Time Directive. It even ignored Commission documents that acknowledged the danger of practices such as retrofitting, which is, however, proposed in this report. The document that we shall be voting on tomorrow will ask us to forget the positive achievements made in recent years and once again, it will be European companies that pay the price.

 
  
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  Mathieu Grosch (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I, too, would like to thank the rapporteur and the shadow rapporteurs for their work. This is a technically difficult dossier. I would have liked a little more time for the debate and for the discussion.

The tachograph simply lacks the driving and rest periods that apply to lorry drivers. For me, therefore, it was a top, significant priority to stipulate to whom this is to apply. It strikes me that leaving it up to the Member States to decide what trades are excluded under what conditions was not the best solution. I come from a border region. This regulation will mean that a roofer driving along will have to have a tachograph in one Member State, will not need one a kilometre or two further down the road, and then will need one again a few kilometres further still. Someone who drives 150 kilometres in order to carry out his or her work, and who has a tachograph, will not be able to drive home in the evening. That is why I take the view that European legislation needs to make allowance for people’s everyday lives. This regulation is intended to apply to professional drivers – everyone who is not a professional driver is to be excluded from its scope.

My second issue relates to deadlines. We currently have two models of tachographs, and are now proposing a third. I have therefore proposed that we should first of all set a deadline by which there will be only one model in use and that the Commission could then, where appropriate, adapt the deadlines for a second model. The past has often shown that we sometimes set deadlines too tight when waiting for technology. It should be possible to solve this a little more simply.

Finally, I turn to the issue of the international dimension. I know that we are dealing with social conditions, working conditions. What do the citizens expect of our legislation, however? They do not expect us to say that now is not the time to change anything. Where – as in the region where I live – people spend nights and weekends in their lorries for weeks at a time and only then go home, and where these people are hired because they only receive around a third of the wages normally received in the region in question, that is not the Single European Transport Area that we want.

What we want is better quality, better pay and better conditions. I believe that now is the time to change this, even if it was not the aim of this directive to address this issue.

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

 
  
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  Gesine Meissner (ALDE), Blue-card question.(DE) Mr Grosch, we agree on a great many issues. You just said that we need common applicability. I absolutely do not agree with that. You also said, however, that it should apply to professional drivers and not to the other groups. It seems to me that that is already not the case at present. Let us take the example of a master roofer, as a non-professional driver, who drives his materials himself and has a 2.8-tonne vehicle. That is a light goods vehicle, and many people have those, and let us then imagine that he drives over 100 kilometres once every three years, namely 103 kilometres one way, and so actually has to fit a digital tachograph. Does that sound proportionate to you? Do you, moreover, believe that safety would be jeopardised if that were not the case?

 
  
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  Mathieu Grosch (PPE), Blue-card answer.(DE) Ms Meissner, the amendments that we have proposed deal with simply taking tradespeople right out of the scope of this regulation and including them in Article 3, and with the 2.8 tonnes provision. We are well aware that some businessmen have organised their fleets in such a way that they are happiest to use those professional drivers for their lorries who do not need a tachograph. If we are talking about the safety of professional drivers, I therefore have no issue with the 2.8 tonnes. If, however, we are talking about avoiding chicanery for tradespeople, then you could also support my amendment, through which we simply completely eliminate this. I would prefer not to have any kilometre limits at all, but that will come in a later phase. We will then have done something for safety, for flexibility, but also for the Single European Transport Area as a whole.

 
  
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  Inés Ayala Sender (S&D).(ES) Mr President, I would also like to congratulate the rapporteur, who has worked long and hard on what appears to be a technical issue, but one with so many implications.

I understand that the majority, if not all of us, have the desire and are doing whatever we can to support our small and medium-sized enterprises. We know, however, that at European level, particularly when it comes to road safety, we do not normally tend to counterbalance the tremendous costs involved with accidents, including those involving carpenters and plumbers who have 2.8-tonne vans. In other words, it is also necessary to counterbalance the costs of these accidents with the need for road safety, for small business owners and the self-employed.

I am therefore happy with the increased scope of vehicle checks, in this case, to those vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, the increase in regular checks — the compliance of which the Commission will have to monitor, given that the request is one thing and how it is implemented is another — and the request to include weight sensors proposed in Amendment 149 and Amendment 151.

My only disappointment has been that we have maintained 50 km as the exception for regular passenger bus services.

 
  
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  Peter van Dalen (ECR).(NL) Mr President, the supplementary requirements for the digital tachograph in goods vehicles have my support, as they are a good thing for road safety in Europe.

However, if we really want to do something for road safety in road freight transport, we need to come up with a harmonised, article-by-article interpretation of the rules on driving times and rest periods. At the moment, many drivers still get behind the wheel in a stressed state due to the fact that they can still be fined for violations up to 28 days previous. That is bad for road safety. The Commissioner therefore needs to tackle that point, above all.

Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism rightly rejected the proposal to merge driver card and driving licence. That is an unnecessary violation of privacy and the withdrawal of the card would mean that the driver would be punished not just professionally, but also privately. We cannot allow that; it is not the aim here.

For the rest, Mr President, I believe that the Ecocombi should also be introduced on a cross-border basis. Commissioner Kallas, you have my support.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Mr President, the aim of the revision of the regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulation (EEC) No 3821/85 on recording equipment in road transport and amending Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 of the European Parliament and the Council on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport is to optimise the rules for drivers carrying out road transport operations and to make more effective the operation of tachographs used for recording and monitoring compliance with the relevant regulations. It is relatively difficult to embody heterogeneous and specific transport activities within one regulatory framework, and it is therefore natural that in some cases, account must be taken of the specific conditions of driving work.

One example of this might be the transportation of fresh cement in the construction industry, which has to be used on the building site within 60 to 90 minutes of being produced in a cement plant. At the same time, the driver transporting the cement spends only a short time behind the wheel of the cement mixer lorry. In my own country, fresh cement is, on average, transported for just 12 to 15 km. Most of the working time of the driver is thus spent either waiting for the cement to be loaded in the plant or unloaded at the building. If a driver had to apply the regulated 45-minute break when concreting, it would definitely result in a deterioration in the quality of the cement mixture.

I would therefore like to request your support for Amendment 120 to the report, which will allow us to create the necessary conditions for the smooth performance of drivers’ work in the specific area of transporting construction materials.

 
  
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  Antonio Cancian (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are dealing with a complicated situation: a significant share of the vehicles checked by national police and enforcement officers are found to be breaching the social rules. Roughly a quarter of these are found to be breaching tachograph rules.

Non-compliance with obligations for minimum rest periods also gives an undue competitive advantage to those breaking the law, with a negative impact on the functioning of the internal market and severe health implications for drivers. With regard to the installation requirements, I am in favour, and I believe that the obligation to adopt the new tachograph in 2020 gives due consideration to the time necessary to market this instrument and the costs of its installation.

I am also well aware of the issues that small and medium-sized enterprises and small handicraft businesses have raised, and I agree with them. I do not, however, agree with the derogations since they create a fragmented system with differences between the Member States.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: LÁSZLÓ SURJÁN
Vice-President

 
  
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  John Bufton (EFD). – Mr President, a number of amendments have raised serious concerns inside the British freight industry. Amendment 136 seeks to broaden the reach of the legislation by altering the weight threshold for vehicles subject to regulation, in some cases, bringing it down to one-and-a-half tonnes. This brings millions of vans into the remit without any recourse to an impact assessment. It would bankrupt small businesses up and down the UK which are reliant upon such vehicles and do not have the resources to accommodate such a regulation.

Similarly, Amendment 134 alters the weight limit down to 2.8 tonnes. Whilst companies in Germany operate under such limits, the UK does not. It broadens the scope of the legislation enormously, again without adequate justification.

Many representatives of the UK freight and haulage industry strongly oppose plans to prevent operators carrying out their own tachograph calibration. It is right that this amendment be lifted, and I hope that it stays out of future proposals.

Today’s proposals establish far-reaching surveillance that goes beyond anything anticipated or justified. I fear that permitting these amendments could pave the way for Brussels to roll out similar levels of monitoring and enforcement for other road users and in other industries.

 
  
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  Georges Bach (PPE).(DE) Mr President, Mr Kallas, first of all, I find it regrettable that we failed to adopt the motion to adjourn the vote for this July plenary sitting. For a dossier as difficult as this one, which is concerned with specific and technical details that have already been mentioned, it is absolutely necessary to allow us more time and vote only once that time has been spent. Our decisions will have very tangible effects on the day-to-day working lives of many lorry drivers. First of all, it is about who needs a tachograph, for which lorries, for what distances, derogations are envisaged, what exactly will be monitored, driving and rest periods, speed, weight and, last but not least, how all these data are to be recorded and monitored. So far, so good, and I can fully support this.

I did notice, however, that there was a failure for us to get involved with the social dimension, in order to prevent social dumping, unfair competition on the roads and, not least, risks to road safety. Already, before any decision is made about digital tachographs, lists of tricks to circumvent and manipulate these devices are circulating. The competition in the road haulage sector is relentless, particularly under heavy pressure from third countries. Unfortunately, we have, in the meantime, reached a point where the winner at the end of the day is not the party that sticks to the rules, but the one that is best at getting around them.

We therefore need to get to work on these fundamental issues, on the actual causes of the problems. Will the tachograph help us to do that? I hope so!

 
  
  

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Ismail Ertug (S&D).(DE) Mr President, first of all, let me add my voice to those thanking the rapporteur for her outstanding work, as well as the shadow rapporteurs, of course. This was a tough job, we are well aware of that. It has always been Parliament’s aim to ensure increased road safety. With various laws, this venerable House has helped to also bring that about. I would remind everyone at this juncture, just by way of example, about the issues of overtiredness behind the wheel and the fight against the exploitation of workers.

Irrespective of this, it is, of course, important to constantly adapt to technical changes, technical developments. On that basis, we must continue to prevent manipulation of the devices in future, too, clearly while adhering to strict data protection provisions.

Another point that is very important to me and which is achieved by means of this document is the harmonisation of the specific measures for the training of control officers and, very interestingly and importantly, the approximation of penalties. When it comes to the derogation, I would insist that this 150 kilometre stipulation for handicraft businesses be maintained, as this is important for the business of these companies.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, social legislation in the field of road transport improves safety and drivers’ working conditions and ensures fair competition among transport companies. The breach of social rules on minimum rest periods can lead to accumulated fatigue for drivers, implicitly impairing road safety. Moreover, transport companies may be tempted to breach legislation in order to gain significant competitive advantages. In these circumstances, the regulation should be revised in order to reduce the possibility of fraud.

Road transport should become safer and more efficient, and this may be achieved by increased reliability of recording equipment and reduced administrative burden. Tachographs should provide reliable data in order to allow for efficient control.

 
  
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  Olga Sehnalová (S&D). (CS) Mr President, the failure of drivers to comply with minimum rest and regular break periods, often due to the pressures of competition between transport operators, has dire consequences that leave passengers powerless, despite all of the rights they have under European regulations.

The tragic events of last weekend unfortunately provide the saddest possible example of this. On a Croatian motorway close to the town of Karlovac, a Czech coach carrying 51 passengers crashed. One version of the investigation mentions a failure to stick to the minimum rest period on the part of the coach driver, who died along with seven passengers, while others were injured.

I therefore consider it essential to establish genuinely strict rules, particularly for passenger-carrying vehicles. Properly functioning recording equipment, giving an early warning of a breach of the rules, is an important element in boosting passenger safety on the roads. In summary, it is passengers who are directly threatened by the risky behaviour of drivers, and it is they who have an absolute right to safety during transportation.

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, I am, of course, in favour of controlling the hours driven by commercial and passenger vehicles in the interests of road safety. However, they should be drafted and enforced with flexibility and common sense and not an exercise in obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The report seems to be keen on supporting a zero-tolerance enforcement policy. I am not. One of my constituents was recently fined GBP 600 for exceeding his allotted time by 15 minutes in an effort to get home that night. There is a need for convergence of these laws only in the case of vehicles that leave the countries from which they operate. It should not apply to those that remain within their own countries. Even then, convergence can just as easily be achieved by multilateral international agreements. There is no need for power-hungry supranational entities to get involved.

 
  
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  Sergio Gaetano Cofferati (S&D).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the rapporteur has done an excellent job. I believe that in this area, there are, however, three things that are more important than anything else: the first is the uniformity of rules. I, like other fellow Members, think that a system of derogations could be dangerous because it would gradually erode the basic rule and would create many different situations that would fuel improper competition.

The second concerns working time and rest time: these are fundamental requirements in a person’s life, giving rise to respect for, and recognition of, important rights. In this case, however, rest time in particular has an additional value: if it is not adequate, if it is not applied correctly, there is a danger that safety will be severely jeopardised, thereby creating a significant problem for users too, or, put more simply, for people on the roads at that time. This is why I believe that we should pay the necessary attention to this and not underestimate any of its aspects.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, thank you very much for your remarks on this important issue.

The tachograph has proven to be a useful instrument to increase road safety, and it has really worked well. Now we need to adapt the rules in line with new technology and obtained experience.

Harmonised enforcement is extremely important; but I think that there is increasing cooperation between Member States. Also we, the Commission, try to follow and push these practices in the right direction to have more harmonised enforcement. This is in the hands of the Member States, but this is an important issue on which I share the concerns expressed about harmonised enforcement.

As regards costs: our impact assessment shows that there will be practically no additional costs, and it is hoped that there will be no additional burden for businesses. It is just a development of new technology which is, in many cases, more convenient and can be better used. I would also like to emphasise that this proposal already extends the exemption for the use of tachographs from 50 km to 100 km. That is quite an extension. It also reduces the costs and the administrative burden for the business as a whole.

If we go further and extend this extension to 150 km, it can pose some serious problems concerning the overall social acquis in road transport and also have other potentially important consequences. Extensions have already increased from 50 km to 100 km. This increase was not emphasised today, but I think it is quite a reasonable proposal.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău, rapporteur.(RO) Mr President, I would like to thank all the speakers and the European Commission for their cooperation. I would like to thank once again the shadow rapporteurs and reassure them of our further cooperation during the following stages as well.

I would like to make a few clarifications: our objective is to increase road safety and we have to mention that the cost of road accidents accounts for at least 1% of EU GDP. I have also introduced into the text of the regulation certain items contained in the annexes, which I have considered important in order for the Commission not to be given carte blanche, and amend by delegated acts only the non-essential and very technical elements of this regulation.

Furthermore, I have reinforced the provisions on data protection and I would like to mention for the benefit of my fellow Members who were afraid of Big Brother that the tachograph will record the start and end position of the driver’s working period and of each transport operation, that is to say, not at any time. I would also like to point out that I support the lowering of the laden mass of vehicles subject to this regulation to 2.8 tonnes and the applicability of this regulation exclusively to professional drivers.

As regards penalties, I agree that it is of the utmost importance for us to be able to include in the legislation of the Member States, in the category of extremely severe penalties and breaches, the provisions and cases that are extremely serious in terms of their consequences on road safety. I do not support exceptions applicable to the whole construction sector and I agree with the example of concrete presented by our fellow Members. However, I believe the construction sector should not benefit, in general, from overly broad exceptions.

Mr President, I would like to conclude by saying that I support the introduction of the weight sensor, which I consider important. Moreover, I should stress that speed will be recorded by the digital tachograph, but will not be transmitted by the remote communication system, because it will be checked manually when the vehicle is stopped in traffic, and control shall be performed manually as well.

I wish to thank once again the shadow rapporteurs and reassure them of our further cooperation during the next stages in the adoption of this legislative dossier. I would like to thank all the speakers and, once again, the Commission.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday, 3 July 2012.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Debora Serracchiani (S&D), in writing.(IT) I congratulate the rapporteur, Ms Ţicău, on her work. Certainly, the installation and use of a tachograph, if used correctly, can be an excellent tool to improve road safety and the working conditions of hauliers, while at the same time satisfying their legitimate needs for privacy. To protect drivers, more stringent rules on driving times and rest times are, of course, necessary. I therefore welcome the new rules that aim to improve tachograph functions, such as the use of wireless communications for roadside checks in order to lower the number of vehicles stopped, as well as the provisions on the training of control officers. With a view to ensuring road safety in the European Union at all possible levels, it is of prime importance to affirm a clear and full principle of co-responsibility, and I therefore consider positive the compromise obtained by the rapporteur whereby the parties concerned must carry out regular checks in accordance with the provisions of Article 10(4) of Regulation (EC) No 561/2006. With regard to the installation of tachographs in all vehicles which are not exempted, I would ask that we bear in mind that the obligations arising from compliance with the procedure must not overwhelm small and medium-sized enterprises with financial burdens and red tape.

 

19. Customs enforcement of intellectual property rights (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the report by Jürgen Creutzmann, on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, on the proposal concerning customs enforcement of intellectual property rights (COM(2011)0285 – C7-0139/2011 – 2011/0137(COD)) (A7-0046/2012).

 
  
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  Jürgen Creutzmann, rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the protection of intellectual property rights is of life and death importance to the European economy. Increasingly frequent infringements of rights and the constantly increasing trade in rights-infringing products threaten the growth of our economy and, with it, also jobs. Counterfeit products damage not only the industry affected, but can also represent a serious threat to the health and safety of consumers. This is often forgotten when this matter is discussed.

The customs authorities at the EU’s external borders are in a comparatively favourable position to retain rights-infringing products before they reach the internal market. That is why it is so important that this regulation should be adapted to meet the new challenges of our times. The Commission has recognised the need for action and produced a sound proposal last year in which it extended the scope of the regulation, increased legal certainty for transiting goods, and put forward a special procedure for small consignments in view of the burgeoning online trade in counterfeit products.

In my view, however, there is still considerable potential to further improve the conditions for the affected actors. I am referring, in this regard in particular, to the customs authorities, rights holders and consumers. With my report, I pursued four goals; namely, increasing protection for consumers, relieving the burden on customs authorities, strengthening the position of rights holders and observing data protection.

With regard to the first objective, in contrast to the oft-cited view, the enforcement of intellectual property rights is in the interests of consumers more than anyone. This is because counterfeit products generally do not meet the statutory requirements and are generally not subject to any quality control. As a result, these products often endanger the health and safety of consumers. During our committee’s consultation, we were shown horrific pictures of consumers seriously disfigured after using counterfeit toiletries. It is not going too far to say that counterfeit products can even put people’s lives at risk. By way of example, one German carmaker brought to my attention the deadly risk that counterfeit braking systems entail.

With regard to the second objective, the customs authorities can only effectively enforce the various intellectual property rights if they can quickly and efficiently instigate proceedings. We therefore put forward a series of proposals in order to ease the work of the customs authorities. In principle, a procedure to destroy the goods and launch proceedings that is as standardised and simplified as possible should be used for all cases of infringed rights. The procedure proposed by our committee makes it possible to destroy products without a court having to determine an infringement of rights, provided that the rights holder confirms the infringement and – a very important detail – that neither the party reporting the infringement nor the holder of the goods objects. This ensures the protection of rights and a procedure in accordance with the rule of law.

Moreover, the special procedure for small consignments makes it easier to destroy goods, as the customs authority no longer needs to contact the rights holder in each individual case. This is of benefit both to the customs authorities and the rights holders. The conditions for information exchange between customs authorities in the Union and the competent authorities in third countries should also be improved. That will make it possible to prevent the production and sale of counterfeit goods closer to the source.

With regard to the third objective, with the new regulation, we are also aiming to strengthen the rights of the holders of intellectual property rights. It is they, after all, who generate significant growth and jobs in Europe through their innovations. If we Europeans want to continue to be competitive, we need to promote innovation by effectively enforcing intellectual property rights. We have a series of proposals to that end:

a) Rights holders are to be given better access to information about goods seized.

b) They may also use this information to determine the identity of the rights holder, both in connection with criminal proceedings and out-of-court settlements.

c) The biggest improvement is to be found in the reversal of the burden of proof in the case of transiting goods. I will go into that again later in my summing up.

 
  
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  Algirdas Šemeta, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I welcome the positive views from the Committee on International Trade, the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection on our proposal. Jürgen Creutzmann deserves special thanks for his hard work on this report.

Protecting intellectual property rights is a must in our knowledge-based economy. We tabled a comprehensive IPR strategy a year ago and put emphasis on enforcement. In view of your debates and reflections on the proposal, I would like to convey three messages.

Firstly, let me stress that there are no rights without enforcement. Legislators who have granted intellectual property rights and customs are well placed to enforce them. The Commission therefore sees no reason to exclude a priori any type of IPR infringement from the scope of the regulation.

Secondly, the reverse should also hold true, namely: no enforcement without rights. How IPR projection relates to the freedom of transit and justified derogations should be addressed in the substantive laws where IPR are established and not when discussing the competence of enforcement authorities. A reverse burden of proof on the final destination of the goods in transit does not feature in current substantive law, so if, following your proposal, customs were to detain goods, they would eventually have to let them go, as there would be no evidence of infringement in the EU.

I am well aware of the constraints expressed on medicines in transit. Plainly speaking, there was a problem, and we have dealt with it by involving stakeholders, engaging constructively with international partners and proposing revised legislation. I would therefore caution against any last minute amendments which disregard the efforts made and might have unexpected consequences.

As regards the destruction of goods in cases of alleged complex infringements such as patents, the Commission maintains that goods should never be destroyed without legal proceedings unless there is the express agreement of the parties concerned.

This leads me to my third message, namely, that we need to follow a practical and reasonable approach. To deal effectively with massive flows of small consignments, we need a definition and procedure that works in practice. The definition is not straightforward and would need to evolve with new trends. The threshold should therefore be better defined in a delegated act. A reasonable approach means that customs should detain goods only where there is adequate evidence. ‘Reasonable’ also means that operators deserve to be heard in advance when customs decide to detain goods.

In conclusion, by equipping customs with tools to ensure the strong, reasonable and practicable enforcement of well-established intellectual property rights, I hope the EU will continue to set the gold standard at international level.

 
  
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  Maria Badia i Cutchet, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on International Trade. (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, on behalf of the Committee on International Trade, I would first like to highlight the importance of this regulation, both for trade and for consumers, given that it concerns the enforcement of intellectual property rights and the fight against counterfeiting, which has shown an alarming increase in recent years.

I would also like to recall that it focuses exclusively on the role of customs authorities in the protection of intellectual property rights, without affecting the substantive law under which they are regulated. A reform of the aforementioned law is still essential, therefore, and I would ask the Commission to present a proposal that addresses the current context of intellectual property rights in the not too distant future.

Lastly, I would like to point out the request for the exclusion of generic medicines in transit from this regulation, in order to avoid their unjustified detention at our borders, thereby allowing them to reach the third countries that need them.

 
  
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  Marielle Gallo , on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, this review of the 2003 regulation comes at a time of increased general awareness of the damage caused by counterfeit goods.

As we have heard, the human side of the issue concerns people’s health and safety. These are at threat, since counterfeiting affects not only luxury goods, but also items such as toys and medicines.

As regards the economic and social aspects, the figures speak loud and clear: because of counterfeit goods, every year, European businesses lose EUR 250 billion and 100 000 jobs are cut. This situation is intolerable, given that we are in the middle of an economic crisis.

I should like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Creutzmann: the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection worked intelligently on this issue and produced a balanced report that offers effective protection for rights holders and fair and equal implementation of procedures.

As regards the scope of the regulation, we have excluded personal luggage and parallel imports. In terms of procedural guarantees, we have introduced a distinction between the economic operators, who are used to customs procedures, and end-consumers, who must be heard and protected.

Lastly, on the subject of generic drugs, we have added some clarifications to the Commission’s proposal, to ensure it is in line with the European Union’s international commitments. Through the amendments they have tabled, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left have called for even stricter control over customs authorities’ operations. The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) will support these amendments (109, 110 and 121).

Finally, a compromise proposal was tabled in the Council by the Presidency and was agreed to by the delegations on 14 June 2012. Tomorrow’s vote will therefore determine Parliament’s position as it begins negotiations with the Council.

 
  
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  Anna Hedh, on behalf of the S&D Group.(SV) Mr President, I welcome the review of the regulation, and I would like to thank Mr Creutzmann for his excellent cooperation with the shadow rapporteurs.

Many of the goods that are covered by this regulation are directly intended for consumers, for example, food, medicines and toys. In certain cases, they can present a direct danger to life and health. Therefore, the starting point for the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament was to ensure a safe internal market for the sake of our consumers. For example, we ensured that goods imported for private use and parallel imports are exempt from the scope of the regulation. In the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, we supported passages concerning the inclusion in the regulation of goods in transit.

Unfortunately, information was received after the vote that made us aware of the fact that this decision could prevent access to legal generic drugs in developing countries. Therefore, my S&D Group colleagues in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on International Trade and I have taken a decision to table a number of amendments in order to ensure that this decision does not prevent access to generic drugs in developing countries.

The key amendment concerns the fact that goods in transit should be excluded from the scope, except when there is clear and convincing evidence that they are intended for the EU market. As a consequence of our position with regard to generics, we will also vote against Mr Creutzmann’s proposal for a simplified procedure for all types of goods that represent infringements, as this simplified procedure should not be applied to goods other than counterfeit and pirated goods, otherwise we once again risk causing problems for generic drugs in transit.

At present, neither the Commission’s proposal nor the report by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection pay sufficient attention to the risk of legal generic drugs being confiscated and/or destroyed at the border. The proposal therefore poses the serious risk that patients in developing countries will not have continued access to good quality, legitimate generic drugs. The S&D Group cannot be involved in impeding access to generic drugs, which, for many patients, constitute a lifeline.

 
  
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  Christian Engström, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, we all agree that counterfeit goods are a bad thing and something that we do not want in the European Union, but I would remind all colleagues that we already have lots of legislation on that and that we already have the Customs Regulation. The new thing in this report is that it extends the responsibility of customs from – as the situation is now – stopping counterfeit goods (that is, goods with a falsified trademark) to handling all sorts of intellectual property including, for instance, patents. That is not something that the customs office is equipped to do. Patent conflicts are incredibly complex; we even have a special court structure to sort out whether a patent is infringing or not. It is not something a customs official can do just like that.

This, of course, leads to problems, in particular, for generic medicines. The organisations that are working on access to medicines are very concerned with this report, and they say that, if it goes through in the way it is drafted now, it will be bad for access to medicines. But I would also raise another issue: the focus on small consignments. I think that has a great chance of really harming confidence in e-trade, which is something we want more of. An ordinary customer who orders a smartphone and has it confiscated and destroyed by the customs office because there is a patent conflict between Samsung and Apple will never understand why that happened and will completely lose confidence in e-trade. I think this report needs to be seriously redrafted if we are to accept it.

 
  
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  Andreas Schwab (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that no more fundamental revision work needs to be done on Mr Creutzmann’s report. The essential elements of this report, which are, after all, intended to form part of a strategy for intellectual property rights across Europe, offer the right way forward, which we only want to amend in one more area, as Ms Gallo has already mentioned.

We need more protection in international trade, as this is of fundamental importance to consumers, but also to European companies. It has just been mentioned that the OECD assumes that we suffer annual losses of around USD 250 billion thanks to the trade in counterfeit products. We have been working hard over recent months on the issue of how we can bring about not only a stronger enforcement of intellectual property rights – which, of course, can only ever be part of the strategy, and I agree with much of what has already been said in this connection – but also a situation whereby young people, in particular, have much more understanding of the fact that intellectual property is not just something that appears from nowhere, but is something with which authors, professional and garage inventors and others have been grappling for years and for which everyone has a social responsibility. I therefore believe, Commissioner, that it was also highly positive for Commissioner Barnier to offer a prize for ideal communication regarding intellectual property rights, which we managed to present for the first time last year.

The upgrading of customs authorities in the enforcement of intellectual property rights that has just been mentioned will facilitate the combating of counterfeiting and piracy tremendously. Nobody is questioning the fact that the customs authorities are not suited to checking patents. However, the bulk of counterfeiting and piracy with which customs occupies itself does not relate to patent disputes but to very fundamental issues. I therefore believe that, with Mr Creutzmann’s report, we have found a fair balance between interests that will be discussed once again at second reading in the negotiations with the Council.

 
  
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  Evelyne Gebhardt (S&D).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Creutzmann, I believe that we are facing a very important issue here, and one that must be solved, regulated. I therefore very much welcomed it when the Commission brought forward this legislative proposal. This is about the safety of our citizens. We have obtained a great deal of information about how problematic counterfeit products are for people’s health and well-being, but also for pricing, and how important it is for businesses to be able to sell products that they have actually produced, in which connection it goes without saying that intellectual property rights must be properly protected.

There are, however, a few issues that are still subject to fierce debate within Parliament. One such issue seems to have been resolved to some extent, and in that regard I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Ms Hedh, who produced great work in connection with generic medicines. The transiting issue is an absolutely essential issue in this context. We cannot accept the introduction of obstacles here that actually have nothing to do with the protection of intellectual property but relate to entirely different issues. We need to very carefully weigh up what we do in this area. Otherwise, Ms Hedh provided a very clear picture of what problems result in this context.

The second point, which we believe to be very important – and, in this regard, I was very pleased by what you had to say earlier in respect of patent infringements, Mr Šemeta – is that the rule of law must be safeguarded in all cases. For that reason, if two of the amendments tabled by our group are not adopted, we as a group will not ultimately be able to vote in favour of the Creutzmann report, as we want there to be legal certainty here, but also that the rule of law and the rights of citizens in this connection should be safeguarded. It is therefore not all the same to us how the final vote goes. Our final vote tomorrow is therefore actually still in the balance.

 
  
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  Regina Bastos (PPE).(PT) Mr President, I should like to begin by congratulating the rapporteur on this report. This is an extremely important issue for Europe. At a time when we are experiencing a serious economic, financial and social crisis, protecting intellectual property rights by combating fake products is essential to the European economy. This protection should increase commitment to research and promote innovation, and should ensure scientific and technological knowledge, thereby contributing to the development of new products and services. All this will generate growth and create quality jobs.

Unfortunately, in recent years, we have witnessed a significant rise in violations of intellectual property rights in Europe, representing annual losses of EUR 250 billion for companies, as has already been said here, and the destruction of 185 000 jobs in Europe.

Beyond these negative effects on the European economy, however, violations of these rights also constitute a serious threat to the health and safety of European consumers, since many fake and counterfeit products, such as foodstuffs, cosmetics, medicines, etc. are produced in unregulated environments. This means that European Union customs officials play a key role in preventing fake products from entering the internal market.

The recasting of this regulation is intended to step up enforcement of application of the legislation in question, to make their involvement more legitimate, and to increase legal clarity by adapting the provisions of the regulation to new realities and new developments, thereby contributing to increased protection of the economy and of European consumers. This makes intellectual property rights a key priority for hitting Europe 2020 strategy targets, so as to achieve smart, inclusive and sustainable growth.

 
  
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  Sylvana Rapti (S&D).(EL) Mr President, the subject of today’s debate has two dimensions: a trade and economic dimension and an ethical dimension.

Imitation products take their toll on the economy, employment and consumer safety and protection. We must not forget this dual dimension of the subject of today’s debate.

We are making customs and customs officers responsible for taking decisions of substance. I think that we need to look at this very carefully because, on the one hand, we need controls in keeping with the letter of the law and, at the same time, we need flexibility.

A typical example of where flexibility is needed is with generic medicines. To put it bluntly, and to call a spade a spade, I really must emphasise that large companies are using imitation products as a pretext and opportunity or loophole to stop generic medicines destined for Africa.

We really must look at this very carefully.

 
  
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  Sergio Gaetano Cofferati (S&D).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, our objective is to protect consumers, so to do this, we must avoid making mistakes due to excessive rigour, or supposed rigour.

For example, I think that it is a mistake to entrust the inspection of patents to customs: they do not have this expertise, they do not have the necessary professionalism, and if this task were assigned to customs, it would end up disrupting the market to the detriment of consumers.

The same goes for generic medicines: these are not counterfeit medicines, but medicines that use only the molecule of the product. Since they do not contain excipients, they cost much less than other medicines. If we do not clarify the difference between a speciality medicine and a generic medicine, we risk creating barriers and obstacles to generic medicines to the detriment and prejudice of consumers. For this reason, I think that the position we have adopted as a group, calling for the relevant legislation to be amended, is absolutely reasonable and defensible.

 
  
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  María Irigoyen Pérez (S&D).(ES) Mr President, I want to state that I agree with my colleague, Mr Cofferati because, in effect, consumer protection involves the enhanced protection of intellectual property rights, particularly trademarks and copyrights at customs, as in some cases, counterfeiting can put consumers’ lives at risk. We should therefore provide the EU and the Member States with the necessary means to prevent the entry and marketing of these goods and promote the necessary international cooperation to prevent the export of illegal goods to the European Union.

It is a priority, nonetheless, to develop a balance between guaranteeing the effective protection of intellectual property rights and an amended regulation. Accordingly, let us not succumb to the temptation of establishing legislation that is not based on contrasted evidence adapted to law. Let us not prevent the transit of legal generic medicines throughout the European Union, which are needed both by African countries and by us.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE).(GA) Mr President, thank you for giving me the opportunity to say a few words on this very important subject. I commend the Commission and the rapporteur for the suggestions they have made.

When we consider that the Union loses EUR 250 billion per year, along with 100 000 jobs, it behoves us to take meaningful action and we are making a start here this afternoon.

Apart from the loss of EUR 250 billion and 100 000 jobs, and the danger to the health and safety of citizens, it is quite obvious that we have a major problem here and I welcome the initiative to try and deal with it, especially in relation to intellectual property rights. When we consider the economic crisis and this huge sum of money that we are losing annually, it is quite obvious that if we can tackle this, we will be making a major contribution not only to the lives of our citizens but also to the economy.

I especially welcome the suggestions to have procedures simplified to allow customs officials to deal with matters effectively, and hopefully we can make progress on this matter.

 
  
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  Phil Prendergast (S&D). – Mr President, the rise in the detention of counterfeit and pirated goods by the EU customs authorities is undeniably worrisome, for counterfeit medicines pose real threats to our citizens’ lives and their well-being, not to mention other serious sources of risk to health and safety which penetrate the internal market every year.

Moreover, European businesses incur substantial losses that can be curbed by effective enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) at the EU borders. We must be mindful, however, that the enforcement of intellectual property rights is not an end in itself. In order for us to effectively protect consumers’ legitimate business interests and stimulate innovation, we need to take a broad approach to IPR.

Intellectual property issues are played out in a wider economic commercial and legal context. Fortunately, we have managed to exclude travellers’ personal luggage from the scope of this proposal and to take account of the specific nature of small consignments in a single package intended for the personal use of consumers.

I have serious concerns with the narrow timeframes foreseen for customs procedures and especially with the approach taken to goods in transit. We must not impinge on the free movement of goods such as generic medicines.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI). (DE) Mr President, an old Latin proverb says that what some people sow, others reap. That is exactly what modern product privateers do when they copy successful products, sell them for a fraction of their value and do a roaring trade. In this trade, many buyers are unaware that the plagiarisers not only bypass costly research and development work, but also cut corners in relation to the quality of materials. That can have disastrous consequences. On top of all that, the counterfeiters are getting increasingly brazen. Not just a single product, but even the company catalogue, or a company’s entire Internet presence are now being imitated. Most recently, Chinese counterfeiters have been copying Western products, changing a single detail, patenting their product in China and then taking the manufacturers of the original European products to court.

Clearly, it is important to overcome trademark and product piracy using simple and unbureaucratic processes and without criminalising consumers. What we need to do is cut off smuggling routes and further strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights, including in respect of China, where, after all, 85% of counterfeits originate.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, intellectual property rights are one of the most important drivers of innovation. Any infringement of these rights, including by means of plagiarism, is intellectual theft and must be sanctioned. The enforcement of IPR is vital for ensuring proper benefits and protecting new ideas and all the more important in the context of increasing piracy and counterfeiting.

Customs practices aim at preventing illegal actions. Therefore, I, too, would like to emphasise the need to consolidate the enforcement of intellectual property rights through the revision of the regulation in force. It is time to adopt new rules that take into account economic trends and the practical issues arising from the implementation of this regulation.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Algirdas Šemeta, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, first of all, I would like to thank you for this very interesting debate. Clearly, the health and safety of consumers as well as the competitiveness of EU businesses are our common priorities.

The Commission proposal aims to strike the right balance between the strengthened enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) and the facilitation of legitimate trade, and I sense from today’s debate that these objectives are shared by Members of this Parliament. In addition, we have to be mindful of wider policy coherence, for instance, vis-à-vis developing countries and international cooperation.

The issue of so-called generic medicines in transit has been a tricky one. However, I believe we have carefully examined it and set out a solid course of action so as to reassure our stakeholders. Many of you raised this issue today, and I would like to draw attention to a recent development in India, where the Minister concerned stressed that issues with the EU around generic medicine no longer cause problems. So I think that we are working in the right direction and the wording of our proposal is very carefully balanced.

I have also taken good note of your remarks on wider policy prospects such as the training of customs officers and information for consumers. Not every aspect has its place in this particular regulation but your views are very timely as they can provide useful input for the ongoing review of the current multiannual IPR action plan.

Some of you asked when the changes in substantive law will come. I can inform you that the trademark review is scheduled for this autumn, and we will come forward then with new ideas. With regard to the breadth of the proposal’s scope and the issue of patents: of course we agree that patents are a complex issue and they have to be addressed very carefully. That is why we have proposed two types of procedure. For patents, we propose legal procedures establishing infringements, and we draw a distinction between this question and that of counterfeited goods. The right place to address this issue is, I think, in a customs context, and the protection of patents is as important as the protection of other intellectual property rights.

We cannot find answers to all the questions today. Let us nevertheless hope that balanced solutions can be found quickly so as to ensure that the proposal is adopted by the end of this year in time for the 20th anniversary of the single market. I can assure you that the Commission will do its best to support the process.

 
  
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  Jürgen Creutzmann, rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, I am still a little shocked by this debate. Mr Engström, it goes without saying that the customs authorities will not become the arbiters of patents, as the Commissioner has stressed once again. Similarly, I do not understand the concerns of social democratic Members. I believe that their worry is completely unfounded as, when it comes to generic products, for the first time, the text states quite specifically that the customs authorities may not obstruct the free trade of medicines and, in particular, generic products. We further reinforced this basic principle in our report. I also thought it important – and there were some points to debate in this regard – to ensure the rule of law. This is, after all, a highly important criterion, in other words, that those whose rights are infringed can also take legal action against customs decisions.

On another note, I have been pleased to see that the Council has adopted many of our amendments in its compromise text, for example, Commissioner, when it comes to the delegated acts for small consignments. We proposed two kilogrammes and three items, from which the Council has made three kilogrammes and five items, so we will certainly reach a positive result in this regard.

I hope that plenary will back this report with a large majority tomorrow so that we can immediately enter into negotiations with the Council, and that, as the Commissioner said in his speech, at the end of the year, a regulation will then enter into force that offers benefits all round, which is to say, to consumers, data protection, businesses – that has been stressed once again in the speeches we have heard – but also the customs authorities. Our contribution was reducing the red tape for the customs authorities in order to help them to be able to resolve cases. I believe that we succeeded in doing so.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday, 3 July 2012.

 

20. Implementation of EU water legislation (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the report by Richard Seeber, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the implementation of EU water legislation (A7-0192/2012).

 
  
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  Richard Seeber, rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, water is one of the key resources that we, the human species, have available to us. We have now prepared a report in Parliament with which we will be providing the Commission with a few ideas for the blueprint for European water legislation that it is due to table in the autumn. Clearly, there are a number of factors that have an influence on water management, to wit, climate change, population growth, urbanisation, land use and so on.

We have achieved something here in Europe, especially in 2000 with the major work that is the Water Framework Directive, which provides a solid framework for tackling the problems with our waters. Interesting in this regard, in particular, is the integrative approach that results from the Water Framework Directive. It works in river basin districts – national borders are irrelevant. It also sets sustainability targets: by 2015, all European waters are to achieve ‘good’ ecological and chemical status.

Despite this, we have a number of gaps in the implementation, as we have unfortunately now observed. Although 24 Member States have submitted 119 river basin management plans, 4 have submitted none at all. Some Member States, unfortunately, have not achieved ‘good’ status, including Sweden, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and the groundwater figures are not good enough for many a Member State, including Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and Slovakia.

Unfortunately, we also observe that not all the data that we need for evaluation are available. The chemical status of 42% of European waters is unknown. We also have little in the way of comparable data, in particular, when it comes to water shortage and drought. You will be aware that climate change has a heavy influence on water management. Despite this, our models, in particular when it comes to water management, are very inadequate.

We would point out that there are major deficiencies in terms of efficiency, especially in the case of the large-scale water consumers, which means industry, agriculture and energy generation. We should set clear goals in this connection.

One approach to tackling these challenges is definitely the regional dimension, which I believe needs to be strengthened. Europe only uses a total of around 13% of its water reserves, but with an extreme geographical distribution. Eight Member States suffer from water stress – that covers a total of 46% of the European population. My Member State, for example, uses only 3% of its water resources, which means that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution, as the problems vary in different places.

We also need to promote mainstreaming, in other words, that the large-scale water consumers and the policy areas that have an influence on water legislation, such as agricultural policy and regional policy, increasingly also begin to think in terms of water-related areas. We have had some success in this regard – by way of example, we have already spent EUR 14 billion on wastewater treatment within regional policy and we have also connected an additional 12% of the population to the public wastewater system. There are still large amounts of money in this field – let us consider Romania and Bulgaria – that have actually not been spent. The Commission needs to intervene to a greater extent in this connection.

In the field of agricultural policy, too, however – which is to be characterised in the forthcoming period by a ‘greening’ – there needs to be a greater influence of this blueing factor, in other words, giving consideration to the water impact of measures. I find it particularly important that the water sector also has a major importance economically, too, and Europe has something to offer in this regard; growth rates of 5%, as compared with 2.5% in the rest of the economy, have already been identified here. Europe has much to offer in this area, and I really hope that the Commission takes account of the water sector in its new research programme, Horizon 2020, as well.

 
  
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  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, on behalf of the Commission, I wish firstly to thank Mr Seeber, as well as all the honourable Members who participated in the development of this comprehensive report. This initiative is very timely as we are currently in the process of assessing possible options for our blueprint to safeguard Europe’s water resources, which we plan to adopt in November.

As the report recognises, water policy is well developed and comprises very good legislation, such as the Water Framework Directive, that can protect our water resources if adequately implemented. Indeed, implementation will be an important focus of the blueprint, as we will try to put in place additional tools to make improvements on the ground. In this respect, I am pleased to see that our ideas converge, as the report focuses on issues such as the importance of water accounts, ecosystem services and minimum water flow for environment, water pricing and cost recovery.

While these aspects are, to various extents, covered by our legislation, the results of our assessment of Member States’ river basin management plans show that they are insufficiently addressed. The blueprint will propose ways of reaching a common understanding with stakeholders and Member States so as to integrate these concepts better in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive. Implementation of the blueprint’s proposals will be supported by the Innovation Partnership on Water, recognised in your report as a tool to help deliver win-win solutions for the environment and the economy: creating green jobs while finding innovative solutions to our water challenges.

In addition to implementation, your report acknowledges integration as another major focus of action to be covered by the blueprint. In this regard, the blueprint’s capacity to deliver on agriculture and cohesion policy depends very much on the agreement that Parliament will reach with the Council on the multiannual financial framework. The Commission proposals have good potential for improving water efficiency and irrigation, increasing water metering, and promoting reliance on green infrastructures, such as flood plains, and wetland restoration or buffer-strip protection along riverbanks.

Our proposal on the common agricultural policy also clearly envisages the addition of the Water Framework Directive to cross-compliance. The blueprint can translate the green potential of the Commission proposals into concrete possibilities, but this will only happen if you and the Council lend your support to the essence of the ideas that we have put forward.

Another major theme of your report that I would like to cover relates to addressing gaps in water policy. Our assessments show that there are limited but important gaps that we need to fill. The two most important concern water re-use for agriculture and industrial uses, and water efficiency in buildings. The blueprint will propose ways forward, such as examining EU standards to facilitate the take-up of water reuse and the efficiency of appliances in buildings. Any future proposal on this will, as usual, have to be subject to a thorough impact assessment.

I am happy to see that you have identified the same gaps, as well as the necessity to improve our water infrastructure and reduce leakage. The blueprint will also address this, for instance, by highlighting ways to remain within sustainable leakage level, and to finance water infrastructure through the cohesion policy.

Finally, with regard to global aspects, the blueprint will focus on ways of delivering on our Rio+20 commitments, in particular, in relation to the water-related Millennium Development Goals and to a human right to drinking water and sanitation. Of course we look forward to engaging with Parliament in the follow-up work to the 2012 water blueprint.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Petitions. (EL) Mr President, I had to include in the opinion which I drafted on behalf of the Committee on Petitions all problems that have arisen in connection with water, which is vital to our existence.

Some of these problems which are highlighted in the opinion, which was approved unanimously, are the uneven application of the framework directive, the adequacy of water resources, sources of water pollution, inconsistencies with other European policies and public participation at all stages of the procedure, as provided for in the framework directive, both to identify problems and to find appropriate solutions.

The opinion focuses, in particular, on the elimination of dangerous toxic and radioactive waste discharged into water and into landfills, which have a major impact on the environment and public health.

However, what I consider the nexus is that water should not be a source of profit; on the contrary, measures must be taken to ensure that it is public property and that water and water infrastructures are managed without any need to market rules.

I want to ring the alarm bell regarding future developments. The troika is putting pressure on Greece and Portugal to privatise their water companies. We know from the past that, wherever this has been done, prices have gone up, the quality of water has not improved, court judgments have been handed down and they have been renationalised.

In Greece, unfortunately, on the eve of elections, the serving government referred the Athens and Thessaloniki water companies to the Privatisation Fund.

Therefore, we need to immediately recognise the right to water as a human right for everyone and the European Parliament needs to oppose market plans to privatise water.

 
  
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  Horst Schnellhardt, on behalf of the PPE Group.(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I think the rapporteur deserves our thanks for his report – he presented it in a comprehensive manner, he highlighted the key points, and I believe that, if the Commission were to take on this document, they would have a sufficient basis for their work.

I recently read that a study had returned the result that there are a few places in Europe where the tap water was of higher quality than bottled still water. I think there is something in that, too. We should also take our share of credit for this, as we have had a considerable influence on this through our legislation, through the Water Framework Directive in 2000 and through numerous subsequent laws covering water. In that way, we have ensured that water does not endanger people’s health, while at the same time making sure that industry can continue to develop, as water is necessary for everything.

The crux of the issue is probably the fact that the Member States have implemented these rules in very different ways. The Commission needs to play a much stronger role here to ensure that certain aspects do get implemented more quickly. I will cite just one example, although there are many that could be mentioned, and that is that the drinking water in Brussels most likely does not meet the fundamental requirements that we have laid down. This is a case, then, where perhaps much stronger intervention is called for.

The next tasks at hand consist of us investing very heavily in research. The next framework programme for research should once again shed light on whether we could not play a part in water extraction, improved efficiency in water production and water use – the last of these being the crucial point in my opinion. I have to tell you though, Commissioner, that you will not achieve that by prescribing shower heads. We should drop that idea again quickly. Only 10% of water is consumed domestically. Let us desist from bossing the citizens around. Let us instead make it clear to them that it is important to save water, to use it efficiently. We will achieve more in that way than by regulating shower heads.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela, on behalf of the S&D Group.(PT) Mr President, I should like to start by thanking Mr Seeber for the good work he has done and for cooperating so well with the shadow rapporteur. The problem of water shortages and droughts is nothing new, but it has got worse. In the last 30 years, the number of areas and people affected has risen by almost 20%. The total cost of droughts over the last 30 years is around EUR 100 billion. In 2003 alone, drought affected more than 10 million people and one third of EU territory, costing the European economy EUR 8.7 million.

Water shortages no longer just affect the countries of southern Europe and the trend is towards the situation being made worse by climate change, threatening important sectors of the economy, such as the energy and farming sectors. It is estimated that climate change will have a negative impact on precipitation levels and water cycles, with very significant effects on the quantity and quality of water. For example, in my country, Portugal, around 70% of the land was suffering severe drought at the end of February. The proposal of creating a European Drought Observatory therefore makes perfect sense.

European policy should thus focus on savings and efficiency. We need to reuse and recycle waste water. Water is a public good that is scarce, not a commodity. We must all contribute to its being a resource that is preserved.

 
  
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  Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(NL) Mr President, I, too, would like to thank Mr Seeber sincerely for his outstanding work.

Mr President, I am not sure whether it is a coincidence, but today my alma mater, Leiden University, released the results of a major study into water quality in the Netherlands that has been going on for years. The conclusions are very clear. The first is that, up to 2001, there were major improvements in the water quality in the Netherlands. One measure alone, namely, the decision to ban the application of pesticides within 1.5 metres of the edges of water bodies, has improved surface water quality by 70%. Let me say that again: a 70% improvement from a single measure!

The other conclusion, however, is that, since 2001, the water quality has ceased to improve, despite the fact that the same study indicates that it would actually still be relatively simple to make improvements. With limited interventions, the water could be made 45% cleaner. That tells us everything about the connecting thread with Mr Seeber’s report, which is implementation. Implementation is the key to better water quality. That is rightly where we are placing the emphasis.

Better integration is also a focus, however. Commissioner Potočnik has put it back on the agenda. Agriculture and industry use 90% of the water. There is still a great deal of scope for improvement there. More efficient use of water, let us not forget, also falls within the Road map to a resource-efficient Europe, which is a not insignificant point. We could use 40% less water than at present quite easily.

Finally, the fourth element that I want to highlight is the importance of ecosystem services. The ecosystems are crucial to European water quality, so let us continue to invest in them.

Mr President, last week, we also stressed the importance of access to water at the big conference in Rio. I hope and believe that Mr Potočnik will carry on in that vein and I look forward to the ‘blueprint’.

 
  
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  Sandrine Bélier, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by joining my fellow Members in thanking the rapporteur, Mr Seeber. This report provides a clear overview of the issues surrounding implementation of water legislation, in particular, and also gives a very good insight into possible solutions, especially in terms of more widely applicable, cohesive policies for this vital resource and its preservation.

Among the report’s positive elements, and one that we must address as a matter of urgency, is its reaffirmation that water is a shared resource of humankind and that an integrated approach is needed. It also emphasises the duty of moderation of all sectors and all users in every EU country in their use of water, and calls once again for an objective assessment and urgent review – and perhaps even the phasing out – of all public subsidies and funding that are harmful to the preservation of water quality.

I regret the fact that the report does not place enough emphasis on the urgency of reducing urban, industrial and agricultural diffuse pollution by all possible means. We still need to make a greater commitment to protecting aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity, through regulatory oversight of our soils, among other things, so that eventually, we will achieve ‘good status’ throughout the European Union, as unfortunately, this will not be achieved by 2015.

We have tools that we must develop and harmonise, but above all, we have objectives that we must meet without delay. All we need to do now is to put them into practice. We are counting on the European Commission to make sure this happens.

 
  
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  Miroslav Ouzký, on behalf of the ECR Group.(CS) Mr President, I think my friend, Richard Seeber, should be pleased by the united response and the united front in this Chamber and indeed, I, too, would like to express my admiration for his report and thank him for it.

I fully back the report as submitted, despite being one of those who often criticise unnecessary regulations in the EU as such, but water really is an environmental issue that must be approached from a European perspective. It is not just a European issue, but a global issue.

I also support most of the motions for amendment as submitted and, of course, I also support the view that soil quality is related to water quality. In this context, I would like to oppose the amendment which proposes ending subsidiarity at European level, and I hope that my entire political group will vote to retain subsidiarity in this area.

 
  
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  João Ferreira, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) Mr President, there is a clear dividing line in this debate. On one side, are the advocates of the water industry; those who ignore or misrepresent the UN General Assembly resolution that acknowledged the right to drinking water and sanitation as a human right. Whilst saying they defend the right of access to water, they are blazing a trail for the interests of the transnational water cartel, whose greed inevitably clashes with genuinely guaranteeing Europeans the right to water and sanitation of which many of them are deprived. They are the ones who insist on seeing water as a marketable good, for which very reason they subject it to the rules of the internal market, thereby even contradicting previous resolutions of this Parliament. They are the ones who have been promoting, in Europe and across the world, the privatisation of water and water services, with disastrous consequences of inequality and exclusion, with brutal price hikes at the same time as the profits of the sector’s companies are increasing, and with drops in service quality even leading to water being cut off.

It is that for which European Union legislation has been paving the way, and this report is part of the process.

The other side of this debate has those who consider water a common good of mankind; a public good, essential to life, that should not, for that very reason, be a source of commercial profit. They are the ones who believe market rules cannot be applied to water or water services and who, for that very reason, advocate excluding water from the internal market. They are the ones who fought for the adoption of the UN resolution and struggle for compliance therewith, so as to ensure drinking water and sanitation for all, without exceptions, as a human right essential to living life to its full potential and to all other human rights. They are the ones struggling for public ownership and management of this precious public resource.

That is the side we are on, along with the alternative resolution we have tabled. As to which side the other groups in this Parliament are on, we will see.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, although 71% of the world’s surface is covered by water, only 0.008% of the total amount can be used as drinking water. The use – at times unnecessary – of this resource has led to a further potential loss of approximately 40% of the amount available. Today, almost 2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water, and a good 20 million children die each year because of this lack of access.

Quality of water is fundamental in places where protecting citizens’ health must be a priority. In Europe, there are still vast areas where this quality is seriously undermined by industrial and agricultural pollution. We can no longer tolerate the fact that many cities discharge wastewater into the environment without purifying it in any way. The 27 Member States need to make a combined effort so that we use water rationally, particularly water intended for humans. It is vital to identify and reclaim areas polluted by industrial sites and by hazardous waste landfills that are illegal or no longer safe.

At a time of economic crisis in which resources are precious, we need to invest to safeguard an asset that is in danger of becoming increasingly precious by developing transparent pricing schemes and applying the ‘polluter pays’ principle. I will end by stressing that drinking water can only be public, and must be protected from speculation of all kinds.

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI).(HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is commendable that the European Union has adopted strict legislation to protect our valuable water resources, but it must be added that virtually no Member State will be able to meet these targets by 2015. The report itself explains that this is a global issue that must be addressed locally, or we might say regionally. I, for one, would like to draw attention to a region that is very important in respect of water management, namely, the Carpathian Basin with its organic water management system that was formed over centuries and would be perfectly capable of meeting current European challenges. This form of water management in the Carpathian Basin was unfortunately ended by the peace dictates of the Treaty of Trianon; now, in the European Union, there would perhaps be a chance to once again rationalise and revive the basin’s water management system. After all, Hungary is an important catchment area to which its rivers transport approximately 114 cubic kilometres of water; however, we are not always able to optimally guarantee the quality of the water that enters the country from Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine or Austria, and this is not due to reasons on Hungary’s part. I therefore ask both the European Commission and the European Parliament to keep a watchful eye on Hungary and aid us in this endeavour.

 
  
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  Salvatore Tatarella (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I warmly congratulate Mr Seeber on his excellent report which was unanimously adopted by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. This resolution is important since it forms part of a legislative process begun in 2000 with the Water Framework Directive.

That directive set the EU Member States the ambitious objective of achieving an optimum ecological and chemical status of the water in all of Europe’s bodies of water by 2015. Today, we know that owing to both longstanding and emerging challenges, not all Member States will achieve the objective set by the EU. The Commission, in the meantime, has rightly launched several assessments to enable it to develop a ‘blueprint to safeguard Europe’s water resources’, to be published by the end of the year. The blueprint is a positive inclusion in the EU’s wider programme to attain the Europe 2020 objectives and the longer-term objectives up to 2050.

The report we are considering today represents Parliament’s informed and important contribution to the blueprint to safeguard Europe’s water resources. The report precisely identifies shortcomings, inadequacies and delays and suggests adopting necessary and urgent measures in order to protect citizens’ universal right to have good, sufficient water.

I would like to draw Parliament’s attention to the need for the EU to take effective action on losses and leaks of drinking water in urban networks, caused by their age. The percentage of leaks and losses naturally varies from one Member State to another, but overall it is very high. Purification of wastewater also requires urgent action since, in many cases, purification is totally lacking and insufficient.

 
  
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  Adam Gierek (S&D).(PL) Mr President, water is a public asset to which everyone should have access, regardless of their income. It must be good-quality water, and this requires investment, mainly from public sources and from joint private and public ventures. Another need is for water resources in the Union and neighbouring countries to be managed sustainably. Firstly, therefore, the Union’s scientific policy should take greater account of the challenges of environmentally friendly and efficient water management in relation to the needs of agriculture, industry and the public.

Secondly, privatisation of the public supply of drinking water must not give rise to a monopoly owner if this would not be in the interests of consumers, and it must not mean the full commercialisation of these services, which, by their very nature – because it is not possible to change supplier – must be treated as public.

Thirdly, in view of the noticeable and growing increase of the risk of flooding in Member States in recent years as a result of climate change, comprehensive analysis is needed of possible ways to prevent flooding and its effects.

Fourthly, the growing demand for water, on the one hand, and the steppification and even desertification of some regions of the Union mean there is an urgent need for hydrotechnical investment, particularly in the Danube and Vistula basins. The Vistula Programme, which was scrapped some years ago, should be reinstated.

Fifthly, the Union’s new financial strategy should include a marked increase in investment in hydrotechnical infrastructure.

 
  
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  Chris Davies (ALDE). – Mr President, twelve years ago, I was a member of Parliament’s negotiating team working on the Water Framework Directive and we persuaded Member States to accept the requirement to achieve good water status by 2015. That was a proud achievement. Now we are just three years off and it is clear that we are going to miss this target.

Building on the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, some good progress has been made over the years. Lots of rivers are cleaner across Europe.

We know that treating sewage and waste is expensive, so perhaps it is not surprising that poorer countries have had trouble meeting the original targets. But what excuse have countries like Belgium got? It treats only 65% of its waste water properly. France only treats 64% of its waste water and Luxembourg only 56%. That is astonishing. I did not realise that Luxembourg was an impoverished country that could not afford to deal with these problems, but apparently so.

Ensuring that we deal with our own human waste and stop polluting our rivers must be a top priority for the environment but, as so often, we come back to the problem that we must not simply pass laws in this Parliament; we must also make sure that they are properly enforced.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR). – Mr President, the Water Framework Directive has set ambitious goals, goals for reducing pollution, goals for improving the water environment and goals for promoting better use of water.

I am pleased the rapporteur has addressed the issue of leaks in his report. 20% of water in the EU is lost due to inefficiency. In my constituency of London, this rises to over 25%. Until recently, in fact, my constituents have been forced to suffer a hosepipe ban during what has been, even for London, a particularly wet summer. These bans are bad for business and are putting local people’s jobs at risk. It is our job as policy makers to ensure our constituents have access to clean, safe water at a fair price.

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL).(FR) Mr President, the report we have been presented with contains some positive points, particularly its assessment of how EU legislation is being implemented, which is thorough to say the least, and the essential areas for action. However, these are the only positive points. If we look at how these issues have developed, it seems to me that we are missing the main point of this issue; in other words, the democratic aspect and the question of public involvement that this issue is raising in many European countries. Take, also, the response of local authorities: under this pressure, many more of them are returning to managing water through public corporations.

The report by my friend and colleague, Mr Chountis, does not seem to have been taken into consideration. What is worse, apart from a brief mention, the report does not really take on board the fact that, in July 2012, access to drinking water and sanitation was recognised by the United Nations as a human right.

If we really want to view water as a shared resource of humankind and of life on earth, we should not see it as a mere commodity that must obey rules of yield and profit.

It is time we condemned the damage that privatisation has done in terms of the quality, healthiness and cost of water, and the monopoly and deviations of a few European multinational companies across the globe.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Mr President, if we consider how much water is used to grow organic tomatoes in a Spanish greenhouse and that, especially in agriculture in the southern Member States of the EU, an awful lot of water leaks away as a result of ageing pipes, it seems a little odd that the Commission should be taking action against Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Sweden for wasting water. According to the Water Framework Directive, after all, industry, hydropower plants and farmers, too, must have their water consumption examined. Given that fruit and vegetables thrive better in the sunny south than in the rainy north, discussing indirectly imported water in conjunction with the proposals makes little sense.

The consequences of legislating into being a rigorous water saving policy also need to be thought through, as such a policy would result not only in drainpipes getting blocked up and decaying, but also in the spread of microbes in the water pipes. Of course it makes sense to start with the major consumers of water – namely, industry and agriculture – as, ultimately, that is where the biggest potential savings are to be found.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ISABELLE DURANT
Vice-President

 
  
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  Christa Klaß (PPE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, with the objectives it set, the Water Framework Directive from 2000 was, and remains, a necessary challenge to protect water as a vital lifeline. Anyone who wants to achieve a target needs to set checkpoints, monitor and change course or press the accelerator where necessary. We have achieved a great deal, but there remains a great deal to do. The Member States are under obligation to transpose the Water Framework Directive and related directives.

As the rapporteur for the Groundwater Directive, I will once again bring longevity into the discussion. A harmful substance needs at least 20 years until it reaches the groundwater. However, it takes at least 30 years to bring about improvements again and, in many cases, damage can no longer be repaired. That is why the precautionary principle is fundamental when dealing with water, and we have enshrined it at the heart of this legislation. The soil is the biggest filter for healthy water. We laid down clear limit values in the Groundwater Directive. The Member States have a duty here. The soil does not emigrate. It remains constantly within one Member State, and that means that subsidiarity is the order of the day.

We have integrated the protection of waters into many different policy areas and, in the new Biocidal Products Regulation and the legislation on pesticides, in particular, we have adopted a regulatory framework that will improve the condition of waters considerably thanks to strict limit values and stipulations governing the proper use of products. The revision of the priority substances in the field of water needs to be compatible and complementary to the other directives and regulations governing healthy water. There can be no contradictions.

Finally, I would like to thank Mr Seeber for his balanced and, indeed, critical and constructive report.

 
  
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  Inés Ayala Sender (S&D).(ES) Madam President, I would also like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Seeber, for his ongoing and tireless work to improve the management and efficiency of water resources in the European Union and beyond, and to thank him for recognising that water remains a public good and that access to water should constitute a fundamental and universal right.

In the same vein, I thank him for encouraging local authorities to devote a proportion of the tariffs collected from the supply of water to water-related decentralised cooperation measures, and for the example of the ‘1% solidarity for water’ principle which has already been adopted by some Member States.

I also welcome his call for the Commission to table a directive on water shortages, droughts and adapting to climate change. I would like the Commissioner, who is with us here today, to respond to the question of when he is going to table that directive on drought, in the same way as the existing directive on floods. I also thank the rapporteur for his insistence on improving efficiency in the use of water resources, given that over 20% continues to be lost, inter alia, in many of the EU’s urban areas.

Furthermore, I would also like to thank him for his insistence on the potential for the creation of ‘green jobs’, and I believe it would be great news if the European Union could quantify how many green jobs could be involved in the management of water resources and improvements in efficiency.

However, I also share my concern, given that paragraph 11 mentions artificially recharging groundwater reservoirs, paragraph 25 points out all water-dependent economic activities, and paragraph 35 refers to hydrotechnical infrastructure.

Do not be swayed by siren songs, Mr Seeber.

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

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), Blue-card question.(PT) Madam President, Ms Ayala Sender, previous European Parliament resolutions clearly advocate excluding water from the internal market. This report, by contrast, advocates including water in the internal market, albeit with some changes, but we do not know what ... it advocates including water in the internal market, contradicting previous resolutions by this Parliament. I would ask you, since you voted for this report, which of the two positions do you advocate and how will you and your group be voting tomorrow?

 
  
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  Inés Ayala Sender (S&D), Blue-card answer.(ES) Madam President, what I said from the outset and what I began with was that Mr Seeber maintains and recognises that water remains a public good. In this sense, I believe that, if it is a public good, and a fundamental and universal right, we should therefore acknowledge that everyone should manage it as efficiently as possible.

There are different methods of management. I know where you are going with this Mr Ferreira, but the reality is that there are already ways and means of managing water both publicly and privately. In some cases, both are good, and in other cases, both are bad. Therefore, I maintain the idea that water is a public good and a fundamental and universal right. In that sense, I support the best management possible with maximum efficiency and at the lowest cost.

 
  
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  Åsa Westlund (S&D).(SV) Madam President, thank you very much for an excellent report on an important subject. I would like to take up the question of chemicals and other contaminants in water. In my home city of Stockholm, warnings were issued a while ago against cleaning floors using water because the cleaning water that people then end up with in their buckets contains so many hazardous chemicals that when the water is poured down the toilet, or wherever people pour it, the treatment plants are quite simply not able to deal with the water in an adequate manner. It becomes too toxic.

This means that, all around us, in the dust and everywhere, there are many dangerous chemicals, and we have to take responsibility for these chemicals, for removing these products so that we will be able to have clean water in the future.

Of course, we can demand better water treatment, and that is something we definitely need to do as well, but the most important thing to do – and this is also stated in this report – is to deal with the pollution at source, i.e. eliminate dangerous chemicals and, for example, silver in clothes, which washes out and ends up in our water instead.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, I want to join my fellow Members in congratulating Mr Richard Seeber on his report. I think he has managed to capture very well the main issues we need to consider when speaking about a European water policy and I believe the recommendations made in this report should be included in the upcoming plan for safeguarding the water resources of the European Union.

The Member States need to focus on the implementation of water legislation as there are still gaps concerning the compliance rates on collecting systems and treatment.

I think we should focus on the need to use structural funds to create a modern infrastructure that ensures compliance with the highest quality standards and minimises water losses. I agree with the rapporteur’s opinion that water-related issues should be mainstreamed into all policy areas, and I believe we must concentrate on the efficient use of resources in order to avoid losses. I think it is extremely important to inform and educate the public in this respect.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE). – Madam President, I, too, would like to thank our rapporteur, Richard Seeber, for what is a very comprehensive report on water. Of course, Richard, this is your area of expertise, so we expected what we got.

In terms of the content of the report, paragraphs 16 and 15 are particularly important: on the need to reduce water consumption by better design and by water-saving devices rather than taking a punitive approach to the public. There are ways, using technology, that we can manage our resources better and this is all part of the Europe 2020 strategy on resource efficiency. As the report points out, 20% of water is lost due to inefficiency.

I am interested, too, in how this report will impact on our discussions on the reform of agricultural policy. The Commissioner has said that he intends to deepen cross-compliance in agriculture through the Water Framework Directive, and I wonder how that will be done in a positive way in terms of agriculture and the environment, because sometimes when we legislate, we create difficulties for farmers. So perhaps you could comment on that point, Commissioner.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D).(HU) Madam President, Mr Seeber’s excellent report proves that the European Union is much farther ahead in terms of energy efficiency than in water saving, and I therefore recommend Commissioner Potočnik to consider the following: if we have energy performance certificates for buildings, why not introduce water management certificates as well? After all, wasteful water use is an extremely widespread issue. This is something that should be given consideration.

We should provide cohesion policy funding to allow for the financing of refurbishments aimed at more efficient water use. It is a good thing that we are financing the establishment of irrigation systems under the common agricultural policy. This possibility should be available not just to the new Member States but to the old ones as well, and I suggest that we encourage water recycling in agriculture through separate subsidies. Israel’s water recycling rate is 75%, whereas in Europe, Cyprus and Spain are only able to recycle 25% of their water.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE).(PL) Madam President, access to water is very different in different parts of the world, which explains why no single approach to its use is suitable for application on a worldwide basis. Fortunately, however, our awareness of the situation is growing, as is the importance of water management in terms of its influence on the development of the economy and other aspects of society. In Europe, we are currently concentrating on ensuring energy security, which is understandable. I am certain that in the coming years, we will give water management the importance it deserves, and this report, too, is sure to help achieve this.

Water is an exceptional asset, and one which should be universally available, although it should be used in accordance with rational principles. This is why I support the application of market criteria intended to restrict its use, but we should also provide funding to improve access to water in places where it is in short supply. We should make it a priority to invest in water infrastructure, systems for the collection of water and its rational use, and methods for ensuring its quality.

Water is of special importance for ensuring food security, developing agriculture and protecting the environment.

 
  
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  Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines (PPE).(ES) Madam President, I would like to thank Mr Seeber. I would like to express a series of basic ideas that I believe are important. Firstly, a market in water cannot exist without greater transparency and a very clear idea of, and an obligation for countries to determine, where the water originates. Transparent management must be in place, along with knowledge of the water in the aquifers and how it is distributed. This process has not been designed; it is not yet a political tool and needs to be developed, as does aquifer control using a digital system.

I also believe it is necessary to control the issue of shale gas and its impact on aquifers. I find it utterly dangerous and perhaps careless, and I am aware of the Commissioner’s interest in monitoring the specific impact of shale gas on aquifers. I also believe that, when it comes to drought, we have too many diagnoses and very few solutions. Any directive should relate to the agricultural production system and include solutions.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Madam President, I am reminded of the famous quotation: ‘Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink’. Thankfully, while that is not the case generally, it is clear, listening to discussions tonight, that water quality is not what it should be in many areas, and that needs to be addressed.

Having said that, in my own country at least, the quality of water in rivers and lakes, and for drinking, has improved dramatically over recent years. Pillar 2 of the common agricultural policy has played a particularly big part in that, because pollution from silage run-off and nitrogen run-off, etc. is a thing of the past. It is important, therefore, that this question should continue to be an aspect of the new CAP negotiations, so that improvement in the environment and particularly in water quality will remain a priority.

I must make the further point, however, that it is unfortunate that 20% of water is lost – particularly through underground leaks – and that, too, needs to be addressed as a priority.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, honourable Members, I think I should start with something which many of you mentioned: water as a public good, water as a human right. I would like to be clear on the Commission’s position about this because we have just finished those discussions also in Rio.

There, we have just agreed to reaffirm our commitments regarding the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, to be progressively carried out for our populations with full respect for national sovereignty. The Commission was one of the most active supporters of this and of the two other related Millennium Development Goals on access to drinking water and sanitation, and this was reaffirmed in Rio. So I would like it to be clear what the Commission’s position is on this.

However, it should not be confused with the question of whether water should be free for all, because if we go that way, I can guarantee that we will not reach exactly the goal which we would all like to reach. So we have pricing of water as one of the tools in our Water Framework Directive, and when we are implementing the Water Framework Directive, we are also looking at that, so I think it is important that this distinction is made.

It is also important because we all understand that water today is one of the fundamental finite resources – and I stress ‘finite’. That is why we have also pushed so much for it to be included on the agenda in Rio as one of the goals and targets which we would like to see in the Rio document. So yes, we should fight for that globally and also at European Union level, and the blueprint should absolutely be one of the important parts of that fight.

If we continue with the use of water resources as we are currently doing, estimates are that we will have an approximate 40% shortage of water globally by 2030. So it is absolutely an issue which we need to address in a proper way.

It is truly a complex issue. As you all know, there is a quantity and quality side to the issue – quality, health, nature protection and so on – but in a way, we should understand that these are two sides of the same coin.

I think many of you also mentioned – and I agree – that implementation is truly the name of the game. Much has been achieved already due to the strict legislation which we have – I may mention, for example, the Bathing Directive, which has enormously improved the quality of bathing waters in Europe – also when it comes to the quality of inland waterways and other waters. I think there are many things which we can be proud of but there are also quite a lot of things where we have not yet achieved a lot, and, as Chris Davies rightly said, it is pretty much unlikely that, by 2015, we will reach good water quality status across the whole of the European Union.

What I can say is that you have my promise that I will look to the implementation: horizontally, but also when it comes to the specific issues connected to water. Now we also have data from river basin management plans which will improve our understanding and also our ability to act on certain aspects.

The second aspect of this complex issue which many of you underlined was integration. Integration is the true point of the prevention concept. If we disregard integration, then we can forget prevention, because prevention is, for me, the important thing, not going too far and then trying to manage the damage, because the damage is already done. So integration – in agriculture, in industry, wherever you like – is the real name of the game if we want to start to deal with those issues.

On water efficiency, many of you mentioned leakages and I again agree with you: on the innovation side, for example, we have just published an FP7 call on water with a budget of EUR 40 million for the 2013 budget. We have just recently launched the Innovation Partnership on Water Efficiency, which will focus precisely on all those issues and, in particular, on questions which are connected to the leakages – I will mention it later on as it is very much connected also to new investments and where these could be found.

There were good points highlighting the possibility of financing in the future. In the new proposals that you will find on the table when you discuss the future MFF, you will, for the first time, find the possibility to finance green infrastructure – be it from the agricultural or the cohesion budget – which is something new and could be used also for good water protection.

Similarly, I was also stressing that water infrastructure, which is really one of the difficult and relatively heavy investments – we have to be honest about that – remains one of the possibilities for the cohesion policy in the future. It should be there, otherwise some countries which have the lowest level of development in the European Union simply have no serious chance to reach where we would all like them to be.

Concerning pollutants in water, we have two tools which we are using. One is REACH, another is priority substances. We have proposed adding 50 new chemicals to the list of priority substances controlled by the Water Framework Directive, including pharmaceuticals for the first time. Of course, this Commission proposal will be discussed on the basis of the opinion which will again be produced by Mr Seeber, the rapporteur, in September in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

These are the issues which are important for us and we will also focus on them in the future. So you have a kind of institutional framework which is regularly looked at, where we have regular updates of those substances.

Cross-compliance has been mentioned. Cross-compliance is fundamentally an issue of prevention instead of cleaning up when the mess has been made. At this stage, we have not yet fully implemented the WFD, so it would be difficult to have all the rules on the table. But we have clearly envisaged, when the proposal for the common agricultural policy is in place, that cross-compliance should be part of the proposal. Of course I would agree with the honourable lady that simplification should be part of our logic and thinking when we design that proposal. I am absolutely in favour of that and you can count on that.

On shale gas – and this is the last comment which I would like to make – we are now in the process of the review of the EIA Directive and this issue will be considered also in that context. Shale gas exploration and exploitation beyond a certain threshold are already covered by Annex I in the EIA Directive and therefore, an EIA is compulsory for smaller activities subject to screening. We do believe in the Commission that the precautionary principle should apply and therefore, the EIA should be carried out also in those cases. We are also finalising some studies on shale gas, and on the basis of these we will decide whether guidance or additional measures are necessary in this context.

I have tried to answer all or the majority of your concerns. I would just like to say that the report is a really good basis for future work. We will be taking it seriously when we shape the final stages of the blueprint and I would like to thank again everyone who was involved in that good work.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber, rapporteur.(DE) Madam President, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the shadow rapporteurs and all my fellow Members for their participation in the debate, along with the Commissioner and his team, including Mr Gammeltoft, who are pursuing a very ambitious water policy, as we have now heard in the debate.

There is a recurring theme in what everyone has had to say, namely, that we need regulation at a European level – in principle, we do have that, in the shape of the Water Framework Directive – but that we also need to very strongly emphasise this regional approach. Unfortunately, as many Members have pointed out, when it comes to implementation, there are gaps and differences between the Member States. I would call on the Commission, in particular, to examine, in this context, which Member States are in default, and unfortunately, it is not always the poor Member States, but also richer ones. Mr Davies listed a couple of them. The Commission needs to grasp the nettle in this regard, as Europeans have a right to clean drinking water – and that is how it should be!

It is also key that we really implement these efficiency improvements that have just been mentioned. My credo is that we cannot just focus on consumption – although it is important to improve efficiency here – but we also need to focus on the supply. The major economic possibilities are to be found, in particular, on the supply side here, in terms of new technology. In this connection, Europe can make a contribution in that we are also very strongly represented on European and global markets.

What I found myself unable to understand – and I say this quite openly – is the criticism coming, in particular from Mr Ferreira and the left, who are now submitting their own resolution. It is spelt out loud and clear in the report, and has also been confirmed by the Commissioner, that access to drinking water, as enshrined in the UN charter, is a human right. I also worded it in that way and it was also capable of obtaining a majority. So, Mr Ferreira, why you should choose to begin an ideological debate about water at this point is completely beyond me. I would, however, also like you to answer me one thing. Do you really believe that everyone in Portugal has the right to fill a swimming pool for free? That is a key question that you have to ask yourself. In this context, the key thing is that every person should have access to the drinking water that he or she needs, but water overall needs to be managed somehow, as clearly there are costs involved. Article 9 of the Water Framework Directive is unambiguous: economic means, too, are to be used in order to promote the most efficient consumption and use of water.

All in all, I would like to thank everyone again for the debate, and I look forward to continuing to work in this area in relation to priority substances.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Erik Bánki (PPE), in writing.(HU) By identifying healthy water supply as one of the main fields of action for sustainable development, the final declaration of the UN Rio+20 conference that ended recently gave particular relevance to the so-called ‘blueprint process’ that is under way in the EU. We have plenty of tasks ahead of us; one need only think of the alarming UN forecast that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will experience continuous problems with water supply. In light of all this, I welcome the Commission’s initiative to assess the water situation of the European Union, as it will provide suitable policy responses to current and future water-related challenges in Europe with a view to preserving our valuable water resources. Due to the extensive length of the Seeber report, I would like to highlight only one aspect. I am greatly pleased to note that the report addresses the matter of land use, because arable land and freshwater cannot be treated as separate subjects. Soil erosion and the degradation of soil quality are progressing very rapidly in Europe, and this also affects the quality of surface and underground water. Since it is widely known that agriculture is among the most water-intensive sectors, there is an urgent need to introduce integrated water management in this field, that is, to coordinate economic, social and environmental policies in respect of water. If we were, for instance, to pursue reckless and wasteful management and did not ensure the natural regeneration of groundwater, some areas of Europe could fall victim to desertification. To see the reality of this issue today, we need only look at Spain, where irreversible ecological processes have already begun in some water habitats.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing.(RO) I believe Member States should give greater consideration than was previously the case to including investments in hydroelectric infrastructure among the priorities of the new EU financial strategy on cohesion funds. Such investments allow for a better management of natural water resources and the achievement of objectives regarding the increase in the share of clean energy in the electricity production of the Member States. In addition, integrated water resource management and land planning at river basin level, closely linked to water-dependent economic activities and water needs of all users, are beneficial. On the other hand, proper water management plays an important role in reaching biodiversity targets, the development of ecosystem services supported by water, and wetland reforestation and restoration.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) Regarding this report, I wish to point out a fact that I believe is wrong. In the text of the report, agriculture is mentioned in at least ten paragraphs as a major water consumer and, at the same time, as a possible part of the solution through the more efficient use of resources. However, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of this Parliament has not had the opportunity to express its point of view by means of an opinion. European farmers are open to discuss the difficulties in this field and implement the solutions needed for improved water management, but their opinions must be heard and taken into account. Agriculture is indeed a major water consumer, but it uses water to provide consumers with sufficient and quality food.

 
  
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  Vladko Todorov Panayotov (ALDE), in writing. – As water is undeniably our most valuable resource, ensuring the protection of water ecosystems is the most important environmental challenge of our time. Water plays a crucial part in regulating the earth’s climate, it ensures food safety and security, and it provides a huge amount of wealth to our economies, societies and cultures. But as the world is slowly becoming aware that our current ways of life are not sustainable, it also realises this resource is critically at risk. Frequently, the threat is pollution for European waters versus scarcity in third countries, which is another reason why the EU should set the example by not taking its water for granted. The 2000 Water Framework Directive sets ambitious goals for 2015 in this sense, but many recent European studies show it is unlikely they will be reached. Economic growth can and needs to be decoupled from any type of environmental harm to water. Let’s not wait until we make a belated observation on our incapacities to protect our most precious good. The upcoming revision of the WFD will be the opportunity to rapidly boost awareness and binding actions in favour of an integrated regional and global water management.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D), in writing. – It is clear that time is running out to achieve the objectives of the Water Framework Directive, namely, to protect and restore clean water, to ensure its sustainable use, and to achieve good ecological and chemical status by 2015. Part of the solution lies in better water management and further improvements in water efficiency, especially in agriculture. Drip irrigation techniques need to be more widely used, and support should be given to developing innovative irrigation techniques and improving recycling and treatment of waste water for use in agriculture. In the medium to long-term, we can only expect pressure on water supplies to further increase, not least because of climate change and the additional demands placed on food producers by a growing world population. Water use in agriculture will be a crucial factor in determining whether we meet our sustainability targets and ensure enough good quality water for everyone into the future.

 

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

22. One-minute speeches (Rule 150)
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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  Anna Záborská (PPE). (SK) Madam President, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that the newly reduced ceilings on mobile operator roaming tariffs came into force only yesterday. Such regulation would not have been possible without the existence of a single European market. It would not have been possible without the close cooperation of European institutions. At the same time, it is a measure that will help all EU citizens financially, especially during holidays.

I understand why, in recent months, steps taken by EU representatives have provoked resentment and often justified criticism among citizens. At the same time, however, I firmly believe that the European project makes sense. It is important that, instead of a pointless discussion on political union, we focus on the practical problems of everyday life.

 
  
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  Antonio Masip Hidalgo (S&D).(ES) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I arrive here moved after having met with the courageous miners who marched to Madrid, and who were disappointed because the Spanish Government does not really listen. Someone once said that the values of Spanish football are those of eternal Spain. However, if it were possible to express it better, Armand Gatti, the great French writer, originally from Italy, recently said that the eternal values of my country are represented by that backbone of miners, by that capacity to fight and resist. These are the same values which, 50 years ago in June, led them to rise up against the fascist dictatorship, alongside the European movement; when liberal colleagues united around Salvador de Madariaga and took a definitive step towards freedom at the Regina Palace Hotel in Munich. We commemorate this by using his name, Madariaga, for an emblematic Parliament building.

The Spanish Government has been clever to make use of support from the loyal socialist opposition, to join with Monti and Hollande ...

(The President interrupted the speaker)

 
  
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  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE).(RO) Madam President, the opening of debates in the European Parliament on the topic of the Transparency Directive gives me the opportunity to make a few remarks regarding the medicines policy at European level and particularly in my country, Romania. An intelligent medicines policy is essential for innovation to translate into new products being placed on the market. Therefore, the transparency of decisions on the pricing, reimbursement and subsidies of medicines may have a significant impact on the access of European citizens to medicines and, of course, health care.

In Romania, the current social-liberal government must remedy certain unfortunate decisions adopted by the governments in office between 2009 and April 2012. The list of subsidised medicines has not been updated for four years, and the criteria underlying decisions to include new molecules are completely arbitrary. An equally unfortunate example is the claw-back tax adopted by the Boc Government in March 2011, which discourages pharmaceutical companies from placing their products on the Romanian market as a result of an unsustainable taxation system. The new government shall adopt the necessary decisions as soon as possible, and the European Commission should be more vigilant.

 
  
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  Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE).(ES) Madam President, we wish to declare our deepest concern regarding, and condemnation of, the coup against the sovereign and democratically elected President in Paraguay.

President Fernando Lugo was ousted by impeachment; driven out by the Paraguayan Congress, controlled by the majority conservative opposition, who did not adhere to the democratic rules and granted him less than 24 hours to prepare himself and only two hours to prepare his defence. It was an illegal impeachment, which did not respect the due process, or guarantee the right of defence, in which the democratic will that decided to change the Paraguayan Government after years of dictatorship and conservative majority has been manipulated.

Let us speak plainly. There has been a parliamentary coup in Paraguay. That is what the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), the Organization of American States (OEA), the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) countries have all called it. Parliament should join this international condemnation of the impeachment against the constitutional President of Paraguay.

We convey our solidarity with the people of Paraguay and I want to say that it is not a coup against Fernando Lugo, as such, but rather a coup against Paraguay and its democracy.

As they say in Guarani …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL).(EL) Madam President, I should like to draw your attention to the readmission agreement between the European Union and Turkey. I am most satisfied that the European Union is taking a unified stand towards Turkey as regards the scope of that agreement.

As stated by the Council in its conclusions dated 21 June on developing cooperation with Turkey in the areas of justice and home affairs, the Commission and the Council expect Turkey to apply the agreement impartially towards all the Member States of the European Union, including the Republic of Cyprus.

By the way, why has Turkey been allowed a three-year period of grace for the readmission of third-country nationals? This policy of double standards undermines the consistency of European policy in this sector and may damage relations between the European Union and third countries with which such agreements have been signed.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (EFD). – Madam President, David Cameron has suggested that there might be a referendum on the European Union, but he does not know when and he does not know what the question should be. He only knows what the question will not be: should Britain leave the European Union? This is because he does not know what the EU will look like in the future. But we all know, do we not?

Those of us here on both sides of the EU argument know exactly that it is intended to be a single European political state, a United States of Europe. The current eurozone crisis is being used to bring about financial and economic government and full political integration. The only person who apparently does not understand this is David Cameron. The UK Independence Party can explain it to him, exactly as we are explaining it to his voters.

The only referendum that the British people want is a straight question on whether we should stay in or get out and we want it sooner rather than later.

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI).(HU) Madam President, I would like to talk about a small Hungarian settlement named Ónod. We Hungarians are very proud of this small village in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, and not just because it was the site of a famous national assembly 300 years ago, but also because it has been home to the famous Ónod fair for 600 years. Over these 600 years, the fair has survived ravaging by the Ottoman Empire, Habsburg oppression, and even decades of communist terror, but now it seems that it will not survive the European Union, as news has come out that the requirements of the fair do not comply with certain European Union laws. Fellow Members, let us not allow this community institution – which provides smallholders, producers, merchants and small-scale craftsmen an opportunity to sell their goods – to be sacrificed at the altar of globalism. Let us protect such communities! The Ónod fair enriches Europe and makes it a better place.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE).(PL) Madam President, yesterday, the final whistle was blown at this year’s European football championship. It marked the end of the biggest mass event in our country’s history. We are proud of the fact that Poland was able to be joint host of this European event. Looking back at the last few weeks, we can see that EURO 2012 has breathed new life into our country, and not just when it comes to sport. The tournament also shows that Poland and Ukraine have done a superb job in matching the high expectations placed in them, and the work put into the preparations was appreciated both by the sportsmen and the fans.

The football teams were very pleased with the efficient organisation and technical preparation of the stadiums, and also appreciated the hospitality, courtesy and professionalism they experienced. We, too, would like to express our thanks for entrusting us with such an important undertaking, and for the faith and trust placed in us and the words of appreciation. We would also like to thank the European Union, because funds granted by the EU contributed to the completion of a great many projects. In particular, improvements were made to the road system and to airports and railway stations. These are developments which are sure to remain in use for many years. EURO 2012 was also an excellent opportunity to promote our country ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Françoise Castex (S&D).(FR) Madam President, we will be holding a debate on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) tomorrow, but I wanted to raise an issue this evening which, although peripheral to the subject, I feel is extremely important. I am referring to what Commissioner De Gucht told the Committee on International Trade at its meeting on Wednesday 20 June. I quote: ‘If you decide on a ‘no’ vote before the European Court of Justice has handed down its ruling, let me tell you that the Commission will nonetheless continue with the proceedings currently before the Court. We have committed to this. A ‘no’ vote will not halt the proceedings before the Court of Justice’.

Not only do his words disregard the treaties, in my view, but, above all, and this is what I want to condemn, they demonstrate an unacceptable disregard for the European Parliament, for democracy in general, and for the voters we represent.

At a time when all European citizens …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE).(GA) Madam President, I would like to use this minute to draw Parliament’s attention to the marvellous work being done by primary school teachers, especially in the eco-schools, regarding the green flag.

Through this scheme, the students learn about climate change, protecting the environment, and respecting their surroundings. In many of these schools, students – even young students – have an amazing knowledge of these matters.

Therefore, recognition should be given to the schools and, especially, to the teachers concerned. I urge Parliament and the Commission to make an award in relation to the green flag, not just to the schools, but to their teachers, who do such a huge amount of work in this important area, much of it voluntarily.

Their heroic work should be recognised.

 
  
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  Emer Costello (S&D). – Madam President, the decision at the European summit last week to unshackle banking debt from sovereign debt is very welcome. Ireland has borne a disproportionate burden arising from our banking system collapse. Indeed, the Irish people were not responsible for the global banking crisis, yet they are being asked to pick up the tab for irresponsible decisions made on their behalf or because of a lack of control or regulation.

The concrete decisions made at last week’s summit will enable Ireland to emerge from the troika programme and hopefully will facilitate a speedy return to the markets. Indeed, this was the hope when the Irish people voted for the Stability Pact on 31 May, yet if we had listened to those who advocated a ‘no’ vote and who wanted to veto the ESM, none of this would have been possible.

But the current focus on banking union and closer fiscal union should not lose sight of the need to provide a social dividend. In that context, the commitment to a EUR 120 billion investment package, additional resources for the European Investment Bank and agreement on project bonds are most welcome, as is the language and the emphasis on growth and public investment. I believe that the next step must be a social investment pact which will help us achieve the goal of a fairer society.

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE).(ES) Madam President, Commissioner, I welcome the agreement reached this weekend at the EU leaders’ summit to save the euro. All the same, I want to draw attention to the problem affecting the European regions that consider themselves fiscally autonomous, having complied with the criteria of the Court of Justice of the European Union. I come from one of these, the Basque Country.

As a result, for 30 years, we have supported the real economy and backed internationalisation, innovation, education and the social economy. Up until three years ago, we were an example of solvency when it came to our public accounts. We form part of a state that criticised us for it and followed another policy. The results are well known and our 30 years of ongoing effort is now suffering an undeserved risk premium. The situation undermines the prestige of our companies and drives up the interest of their funding.

I therefore formally request that you look for solutions and a European reserve for this paradox, which is another good reason for what some call territorial tension.

 
  
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  Nikos Chrysogelos (Verts/ALE).(EL) Madam President, we certainly have interesting debates here in the European Parliament including, for example, on the multiannual programme of EU action in the field of health for the period 2014-2020. One of the core objectives of that policy is universal access to health services.

Unfortunately, however, the health system in Greece is currently in a state of collapse and the authorities in Greece are having enormous difficulty managing even fundamental health services. The crisis has resulted in a massive increase in hospital treatment in the order of 30%, compared with reductions of 20% or more in health spending. There are major shortages of, and major cuts have been made to, medical and nursing staff. Large numbers of citizens, a large portion of society, has been left outside the health system, as a result of unemployment and restrictive policies.

The chair of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance recently wrote to Mr Barroso, asking him to take action and to ensure that everyone in Greece can live in dignity and have access to high-quality health care and medical treatment in these difficult times. We feel that the Commission has an obligation to review certain terms of the Memorandum in order to ensure that they are compatible with European values and European policies.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Madam President, can you imagine a parliamentary committee of the Russian Duma that deals with the status of Russian minorities in neighbouring countries going to Latvia or Georgia, for example, and, without informing the parliamentary institutions of those sovereign states in any way, openly organising official talks – not in Russian territory but in the sovereign territories of those states – on the views of Russian politicians regarding the attention given to the welfare of Russians in Latvia or Georgia? Is it necessary even to consider such nonsense?

Nonetheless, a few days ago, the Hungarian Parliament’s fellowship committee provocatively organised official talks on the sovereign territory of the Slovak Republic without any diplomatic communication whatsoever with Slovak state authorities. Hungarian politicians acted like thieves, secretly hiring rooms at the university in the Slovak town of Komárno, and then coming to debate and decide on university soil what the Slovak Government should do for the welfare of those Hungarians that now live in Slovakia.

Was this really just an oversight of propriety in international relations and the duty to inform, bypassing diplomatic protocol, as some of the Hungarians involved in this event assert, or another manifestation of profound disrespect towards a neighbouring nation?

 
  
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  Corneliu Vadim Tudor (NI).(RO) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I hereby inform you that in the European Union, there are 26 independent countries and one colony: my beloved country, Romania. However, it is not a regular colony, but an American colony, where CIA agents behave as slave masters on a plantation. These primitive feudal lords have three big fat concerns:

1. to plunder the country’s wealth, especially the gold, silver, uranium, and natural gas deposits;

2. to force down the Romanians’ throats, in exchange for tens of billions of dollars, unprofitable agreements and military junk such as 48 F16 planes, some of which were manufactured in 1965 and are genuine flying coffins;

3. to turn this peaceful country into a living missile shield against Russia.

And they have one more concern: to steal the elections. The last CIA-branded theft took place on 10 June, when local elections were rigged by the American masters with the help of an army of 900 officers and agents of Romania’s main secret service, namely, the Romanian Intelligence Service. Yankees, go home!

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). (SK) Madam President, the EU and each of its Member States are facing huge problems in the current situation. These problems are not just economic and financial but, above all, social. At this juncture, it is very important for the individual Member States to cooperate well together, and to have good relations, and for an atmosphere of strong partnership and reciprocal relations to start prevailing again in Europe.

I must therefore join the other Members and state that I feel deeply uneasy about the fact that a committee of the Hungarian Parliament held talks on the territory of an EU Member State, the Slovak Republic, without the Hungarian MPs holding consultations on the talks in advance – as diplomatic protocol ultimately requires – with their partners in the Slovak Republic.

The Slovak Government genuinely wants to have excellent relations with all of its partner countries and with all of its neighbours, and we believe that in future, the Hungarian Government will also want good relations, as long as it is not the Fidesz government.

 
  
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  Kristiina Ojuland (ALDE). (ET) Madam President, the aim of my visit to Washington last week was to meet with representatives of both parties in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in order to discuss matters related to the draft report with a proposal for a European Parliament recommendation to the Council on establishing common visa restrictions for Russian officials involved in the Sergei Magnitsky case. As we know, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Foreign Affairs Committee have both voted to support the draft, and even more importantly, next week, we will begin discussing a similar draft, the so-called Magnitsky draft, in the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. This proposal is very similar to what is currently in progress in the United States – in other words, the imposition of sanctions against high-level Russian officials connected with corruption, human rights violations or organised crime, such as the members of the Kluyev group, who are still moving about freely on European Union territory or elsewhere, and who are using corrupt funds.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D).(RO) Madam President, I find myself bound to protest against the abuses committed in Romania by fundamental state institutions, particularly those belonging to the judiciary and intelligence services, which, in contempt of the Constitution and laws, have been turned by the President and the former right-wing government into society control and coercion tools, subjectively interfering in the political struggle. These institutions betray their mission and purpose and are currently used to hamper democratic alternation of power. The most serious issue is that the Constitutional Court is also among these institutions, which has practically blocked the exercise of governance.

We are witnessing a political vendetta carried out through selective justice, the harassment of physicians and police officers for doing their duty, and serious violations of the fundamental rules of democracy and the rule of law in a Member State of the European Union. It is unfortunate that this entire campaign unleashed by the institutions reporting to the President is supported by the members of the European People’s Party who are ready to tolerate anti-democratic drifts just like they did on other occasions as well.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D).(RO) Madam President, the results of the local elections of 10 June have enshrined an authentic change in Romania, which responds to the desire for change of most Romanian citizens. This change means both finding out the truth about the serious democratic drifts of recent years and building a new model for economic and social development.

We welcome the vote given today by the European Parliament, which rejected the populist and demagogical intention of the representatives of the Liberal Democratic Party in the European Parliament to include on the agenda a discussion on the state of democracy in Romania. In Romania, democracy is starting to be consolidated by the new government through measures adopted with the legitimate vote of the Parliament and supported by the majority of the Romanian citizens.

We also welcome the intention of the Romanian Parliament to discuss the conclusions of the last European Council during its current extraordinary meeting, which marks a first for the Romanian democracy. The presentation by Prime Minister Ponta before the Parliament of the conclusions reached at this summit is a welcome sign of normality, completely opposed to the direction adopted so far by the President. It confirms that Romanian democracy is headed in the right direction.

 
  
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  Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE).(GA) Madam President, I welcome the results of the summit held in Brussels last week.

The agreement by EU leaders to use the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in principle to directly recapitalise eurozone banks is a welcome and overdue development. This is a major step forward for Ireland and may potentially result in the restructuring of debt, which should result in a reduction in the burden on the Irish taxpayer.

(GA) I understand that the Finance Ministers will soon engage in negotiations concerning the debts of banks in Ireland.

Any outcome of negotiations must ensure that Ireland receives equal treatment vis-à-vis Spain and other eurozone states. The outcome of the summit also justifies the decision of the Irish people to ratify the fiscal stability treaty by referendum, which guarantees access to the ESM.

In conclusion, the ESM is an important safety net for Ireland and the eurozone. The decision of EU leaders to break the link between bank debt and sovereign debt must result in tangible benefits to Ireland.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D).(RO) Madam President, during these weeks, we are taking important steps in defining the reform of the common agricultural policy after 2013. The meeting with representatives of Romanian farmers, which we organised last week in Bucharest, and which Mr Paolo de Castro was kind enough to attend, highlighted the farmers’ expectations concerning the improvement of the Commission’s proposal.

I believe, together with my socialist colleagues, that the decisions regarding the future of European agriculture must take into account the need to narrow the disparities between developed and less developed agricultures. I think it is our duty to create a fairer system of granting European funds across and within Member States.

I welcome the report drafted by Mr Capoulas Santos, which calls for a more equitable distribution of direct payments between the Member States and for the possibility of states receiving direct payments below the EU average to be able to balance this disadvantage, at least to some extent.

 
  
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  Francesco De Angelis (S&D).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, after seven years of income support for workers, the Indian owners of the Videocon plant in the city of Anagni have filed for bankruptcy and initiated procedures to dismiss 1 300 employees. A major company, the second largest in the region of Lazio, is closing down, and with it, related firms. This company was acquired with the intention to force it into bankruptcy and to shift production to third countries.

Therefore, the institutions must now work to provide a future for Videocon and its workers who are going through a time of crisis, and who, for seven long years, have been living in a state of total job uncertainty. Italy and Europe must step in and deploy all the instruments necessary to provide work and a productive future for this important plant.

 
  
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  Ricardo Cortés Lastra (S&D).(ES) Madam President, I would like to speak to Parliament and denounce the current Spanish Government’s vision for the future of research and development.

Despite the Commission’s recommendations that the cuts will not affect investment in research and research and development, in Spain, there have been cuts of 22.5%. We do not have a surplus of researchers in Spain, quite the opposite. We need more investment in research, development and innovation, and to stop the flight of scientists and research personnel, from which it will take the country decades to recover. The idea to provide funding to only a few and to reduce the number of grants is unacceptable. Spain spends only 1.2% of its gross domestic product on research, development and innovation. With this investment trend in research, development and innovation, it is impossible to generate sufficient knowledge to change the productive model.

Whilst the current government insists that Spain has to reduce the number of scientists, they are viewed as the main asset towards recovery in the euro area. I insist that the Spanish Government backs growth, even more so in the current economic and social climate, and I insist that the efficiency of the science and technology system has nothing to do with the axe that they are wielding, using the crisis as an excuse.

 
  
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  Inés Ayala Sender (S&D).(ES) Madam President, I want to express my satisfaction at the liberation of the International Criminal Court staff members and specifically, Mr Esteban Peralta Losilla from Aragon, who have been freed after a series of interventions by the President of the Court and other international organisations.

Also, in contrast to this positive and very happy news, as I understand that these staff members acted in a very proper manner, there is some bad news: the death of one of the helicopter pilots who are currently fighting the fires in Valencia. The lack of public investment from the State has meant that this summer’s fires in Spain have broken out much earlier than the summer, precisely because of this lack of investment. We are now lamenting the death of one of these helicopter pilots.

 
  
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  Joseph Cuschieri (S&D). (MT) Madam President, I would like to refer once again to the arrival of a number of illegal immigrants on Malta in the past weeks and months. These people leave their country on the African continent for a variety of reasons in search of a better future in Europe. This problem is leading to a continuous influx of immigrants who are entering the Maltese Islands illegally. I would like to draw the attention of this plenary session to the need for greater solidarity to be shown by the European Union and its Member States towards Malta.

This is a challenge that the whole of Europe needs to face and the responsibility should not be shouldered solely by Malta simply because it happens to be situated on the border between the two continents. This is an impossible task for Malta. The European Pact on Immigration has been a failure. The voluntary burden sharing mechanism, as opposed to an obligatory system, has not worked. There were few countries that willingly offered to partially relieve the Maltese Islands of this heavy burden. Faced with this situation, the Member States are obliged, in the name of solidarity, to do something about this.

Therefore, I would first like to emphasise the need for strict rules that are fair on everyone. Secondly, I appeal to more countries to take on greater responsibility with regard to the immigration challenge, so as to eventually end up with a system whereby everybody is obliged to shoulder his fair share of the burden. Third, an effective and legislative mechanism must be created without delay …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  President. – This item is now closed.

 

23. Strategy for the protection and welfare of animals (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the debate on the report by Marit Paulsen, on behalf of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, on the European Union strategy for the protection and welfare of animals 2012-2015 (2012/2043(INI)) (A7-0216/2012).

 
  
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  Marit Paulsen, rapporteur.(SV) Madam President, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, it has been an intensive, but wonderful job to produce this animal protection strategy, which I have to say is well balanced. The shadow rapporteurs have worked in an excellent way, our staff have done a fantastic job, and we have succeeded in reaching an agreement with everyone from animal protection organisations to farmers, etc.

Some sensitive issues are yet to be resolved in this debate, and one of them is the legal milestones, in which regard we have concluded that the Commission needs an opportunity to monitor the Member States during a transitional period. You will remember what happened with regard to cages for hens. It was a 10-year transitional period and the Commission was not able to do anything before 2 January this year, when the 10 years were already up. We need to have a few points at which we can check and ask what the Member States are doing to implement legislation with transitional periods. It is these milestones that are a little controversial.

The other thing that is very controversial – and we have received a great many questions concerning this – is slaughter without stunning. Many people want us to label meat with whether or not un-stunned slaughter was used. I have to say that I, personally, think that is the wrong way to go. Let us first and foremost ensure that the religious derogation, which is very small and very precise, is not misused. I believe that anyone who misuses this derogation will never write on the carcass that this is an animal that was slaughtered without stunning.

The third thing that is controversial is stray pets, that is to say, stray dogs and cats. This is a problem in many countries, and how it should be tackled is extremely problematic. In our document, we place the responsibility primarily on the Member States and on local and regional authorities. We are also calling for all pets, in other words, dogs and cats, etc. to be labelled and to have a register.

The most important thing in this proposal, however, is a general animal welfare law that is similar to the general food law in structure. This legislation will cover all animals in captivity, in other words, all animals except those roaming free in the wild. It is to contain clear definitions of good animal care and also of who bears the responsibility. We need a sharing of knowledge, and – in order to respond to the counter proposal that has been tabled on cloning – we need to specify in the law that no breeding may be carried out that would mean that the animal cannot live a natural life, and this applies to everything from cows to dogs.

Finally, a general law and general rules will provide free and fair competition for all farmers throughout the Union, and that last point is very important.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, this report is aimed primarily at protecting animals kept for farming purposes and pet animals, but I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to the dolphins in the Black Sea. These animals are endangered at the moment, given that over 300 dolphins were stranded on the Black Sea shores in the last two months alone. They are victims of fishing methods, illegal fishing, but also of pollution. We cannot remain indifferent to the dramatic situation of these intelligent, beautiful and sensitive creatures. For this reason, along with four other fellow Members, we have tabled Written Declaration No 23 concerning the protection of the dolphins in the Black Sea. We call for additional measures to ensure their protection, for instance, by using acoustic devices, but also closer cooperation with non-Member States, including within the Black Sea Synergy.

I hereby appeal to all fellow Members to sign Written Declaration No 23 concerning the protection of the dolphins in the Black Sea.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D).(RO) Madam President, modern consumers expect farm livestock to benefit from the same things that we, as human beings, perceive as necessities: good food, good living conditions and appropriate medical care. Animal health standards are of vital importance for livestock management in Europe, which has an increasing impact on the level of competitiveness of agricultural holdings.

I think all Member States should make effective use of the opportunities for assistance offered by the EU rural development funds, as well as by the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) of DG Research, in order to promote applied research and invest in innovative and modern animal welfare solutions. In this context, it is beneficial that the Member States and the European Commission increase financial investments in research and development of new animal welfare techniques and technologies.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D).(HU) Madam President, Commissioner Dalli, the new rules concerning the keeping of egg-laying hens in cages was met with great bewilderment in Hungary. The general opinion among experts and the media is that it was conceived by Brussels bureaucrats who have perhaps in all their lives never seen chicken outside a restaurant. Once again, legislation very unfavourable for the new Member States was adopted. While the old Member States had 13 years to prepare for it, the new ones only had eight, and they also had to implement several environmental investments in the poultry sector prior to and after their accession. Unfortunately, we are once again seeing the application of double standards, and I therefore do not think that the imposition of this requirement has helped improve the prestige of the European Union. It was met with great bewilderment, even though I, too, find animal welfare extremely important.

 
  
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  Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL).(NL) Madam President, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development’s animal welfare strategy includes a couple of good points, but under the current proposal, a great many animals will be left out. I therefore added two points, in an alternative resolution, which Parliament approved by a large majority previously.

In other respects, the resolution is identical to the Paulsen report. The first addition is a limit of eight hours for animal transport. When animals are being transported to the slaughterhouse, it must not last an unnecessarily long time. More than a million citizens have put their signature to this. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is in favour of shorter transport, and a majority of this House also advocates this. I hope that Members will therefore also vote in favour on Wednesday.

The second addition is a ban on products from cloned animals and their offspring. Cloning shows total disregard for the dignity of animals. Over 90% of all cloned animals are not born alive, or are born critically ill. Not many citizens want that kind of food. Parliament has previously shown its united opposition to cloning, and Wednesday is the last chance to send out a signal. Please vote in favour of the alternative resolution.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR).(PL) Madam President, I would like to congratulate Ms Paulsen on a very good report. Ms Paulsen, you have approached this difficult subject with great sensitivity, but also with a large dose of realism. The measures you have proposed are very practical and to the point. I would like to highlight three issues.

Firstly, you have drawn attention to the problem of funding. We will not achieve higher standards of animal welfare without additional expenditure. It needs to be understood at last that this will not be done without money.

The second matter – you have dealt with this quite extensively – is the problem of trade relations and the need to include the issue of animal welfare in our approach to trade with other countries. We should simply make it a requirement that those who export their products to the European market apply the same standards as we do.

Finally, my third point: you have noted the very complex problem of pets. It is time we established uniform standards for the treatment of these animals in the European Union, because such standards still do not exist.

 
  
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  Giancarlo Scottà (EFD).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank Ms Paulsen for her report. I find it very odd that in such a prestigious House, where important decisions will be taken, there are still those who, in an ambiguous, anachronistic spirit of animal welfare, waste precious time and cost all European citizens and taxpayers money, with no benefit to human welfare or health.

Faced with a text that is potentially of great interest to animal lovers – I am one too – and that will naturally have positive consequences for animals themselves, people are seeking to table amendments that undermine all the premises of the text and the very meaning of our friends’ welfare, with abstract suggestions of no legal or ethical value.

Therefore, I cannot help wondering whether we should be investing – maybe I should say ‘wasting’ – time and resources to deal with proposals devoid of any practical interest for Europeans. Consequently, I shall be voting for Ms Paulsen’s report.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Madam President, tardiness in the implementation of legislation, with long transition periods and a failure to emphasise the enforcement of compliance in application practice, creates opportunities for various kinds of fraudster.

A classic example of this is Council Directive 1999/74/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens. It introduced the abolition of battery farming in the EU 12 years ago, and despite the fact that 1 January 2012 was the date of its general entry into effect, not all countries were ready for this step. Hungary, France, Spain and Poland pushed for postponements up to the last minute, and it is doubtful whether they had actually managed to relocate all laying hens by the date in question.

It is now right to ask what is happening with the eggs from farms that do not comply with the directive. The last food scandal in Slovakia began in mid-July this year with an epidemic of salmonella in three school facilities in Komárno. Fifty-six children displayed clinical signs of the illness. After investigating the source of the infection, veterinarians discovered eggs with false country of origin markings. According to a statement from the Ministry, almost 2 million of these eggs found their way onto the Slovak market.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  John Dalli, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, I am pleased to see that many events and discussions have taken place this year in the European Parliament, in the Council and elsewhere, in the light of the Commission’s communication which introduced the EU Animal Welfare Strategy.

The strategy proposes a new approach to the future of animal welfare in Europe. After nearly 40 years of legislation, there is still room for improvement in this field, across the EU. The strategy is about better enforcement of EU legislation, better information for consumers, a simplified legislative framework and a focus on education and technical assistance to stakeholders at grassroots level. Before addressing specific issues, let me first express my appreciation for the excellent work of the rapporteur, Ms Paulsen, who has produced a balanced report on this complex and highly sensitive area.

I am glad to note that Parliament supports the Commission’s view on the key elements of the strategy: proposing a simplified framework law that, while taking into due account specificities of particular species and sectors, covers all animals kept in the context of an economic activity; considering a European network of reference centres for animal welfare to ensure that competent authorities receive uniform technical information on the way that EU legislation should be implemented and to disseminate expertise, research findings and technical innovation; developing animal welfare indicators in the framework law to optimise animal welfare outcomes – and I am aware that there are remaining issues of practicability to be considered here; and introducing legal milestones to help ensure that Member States implement new legislation properly. In addition, the report emphasises the need to ensure better enforcement of existing legislation – something that is also of central concern to the Commission.

I share the views expressed in Ms Paulsen’s report on the importance of supporting and optimising international cooperation in the multilateral arena, especially the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) – as well as in bilateral negotiations, by including animal welfare in negotiations with third countries – and on promoting EU views and understanding on welfare standards. This is all the more important because food production has, in the meantime, become a global activity with a possible influence, inter alia, on competitiveness.

There are, however, some elements of this report on which the Commission has not formed a definitive position, and on which more reflection is needed before any action is proposed. For example, the report suggests that the Commission should consider developing a coherent EU-wide labelling scheme for producers, which would go beyond the current legislation on labelling. I, too, would like EU producers who wish to improve the welfare of animals beyond minimum standards to receive a better price. However, we need to consider all options carefully, and indeed to ask whether a legislative approach would be the most appropriate.

The report also calls for mandatory animal welfare measures in the framework of rural development programmes. As honourable Members will know, the revision of the regulation on rural development programmes is part of the revision of the CAP. This idea would therefore be best explored within the context of CAP reform discussions. I do, however, share the view expressed in the report about improving coherence in our overall approach. Animal welfare is a cross-cutting issue on which a range of other policies have an impact. I therefore consider this to be a very sound and useful suggestion.

Let me turn to the welfare of pet animals. The Commission has agreed to make a series of studies, including one on this specific issue in the context of the strategy. On the basis of the results of this exercise, we will consider how best to proceed.

Allow me to address one issue relating to animal transport, which ties into the important discussion on animal welfare. Some weeks ago, I had the pleasure and the honour of receiving a delegation that handed me a petition to legislate for an eight-hour transport limit. I explained that, for various reasons, we are not in a position to agree to this request, although we will be tackling the issue in the context of the revision of the Framework Law on Animal Welfare – which is proposed as part of the Animal Welfare Strategy we are discussing today and which could suggest, inter alia, new tools to improve the enforcement of animal welfare legislation, including during transport.

I have been consistent in saying that enforcement is key to the issue of animal transport, and in saying that the Commission is not considering proposing any changes to the Animal Transport Regulation.

In Council on 18 June 2012, I stated that we have proposed a broad array of legislative and non-legislative actions to improve the welfare of animals during transport substantially. I have to admit that I have particular sympathy for the situation of animals travelling excessively long journey times to slaughter. As I announced at that Council meeting, I am ready to examine all data that could shed light on this issue. We must also look into the proposals in the Animal Welfare Strategy which, I believe, contains several actions that have the potential to improve the welfare of animals during transport substantially.

I would like to comment on a couple of other points. First of all, on the incomprehension in Hungary over the issue of cages for laying hens, I must say that the directive in question was enacted 12 years ago. The prescribed transition period ended at the end of last year and, while some countries had a shorter time to prepare and change, one has to consider that all these countries, including my own country, negotiated about this directive during their accession negotiations. Therefore, everyone knew exactly what the timeframe and the commitments were.

On cloning, I have also gone on record many times to say that the Commission is currently undertaking an in-depth impact assessment of the cloning issue, and I will be coming before this Parliament and the Council with a proposal on a stand-alone directive on cloning.

To conclude, may I once again thank Parliament and, in particular, Ms Paulsen and her team, for this valuable report. I look forward to Parliament and the Commission making further progress together as the strategy unfolds.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Wednesday.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (ALDE), in writing.(GA) I agree with the views of the rapporteur about the complexity of European and national rules on animal welfare and violations of those rules and how they distort competitiveness. There are great differences at present between the animal welfare requirements of Member States. The greatest barrier to the improvement of animal welfare standards in Europe arises from difficulties in implementing the rules given the lack of legal milestone schedules. I echo the report’s recommendations on increasing the resources of the Food and Veterinary Office for the purpose of regulating Member State animal welfare inspections and of penalising infringements. The debate included an interesting discussion on transportation of animals and the current campaign to put an eight-hour time limit on that transportation. While another report will deal with that issue in the coming weeks, it must be said here also that effective implementation and enforcement is the best way to ensure that the law is being put into practice in Member States and that animals are transported humanely.

 
  
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  Robert Dušek (S&D), in writing. – (CS) The report on the European Union strategy for the protection and welfare of animals is an attempt to achieve clear and uniformly high levels of animal welfare cross the EU, as there are still enormous differences within the Union and between different species of animal. A high level of animal welfare is a natural component of sustainable development, and is essential for maintaining animal health and human health, as well as the productivity and competitiveness of the livestock sector. Legislation should be clear and unambiguous, so that it can be controlled easily and quickly. The penalties for any failure to comply must be strict, as we encounter the ‘discord’ of deliberate non-application of some regulations ever more often. Situations such as this have occurred in non-compliance with the directive on the laying hens industry. It is important to realise that the essence of the common market is compliance with jointly specified conditions. Entities that follow the rules as a matter of course must not be disadvantaged by others that break them and thereby gain a competitive advantage on the market, for example, through lower production or operating costs. This is completely unacceptable in future. I would like to emphasise that the EU has to demand that third-country imports into the EU meet the same standards and rules as apply in the EU. In that way, we will limit the unlawful disadvantaging of our farmers, and contribute to the better treatment of animals in third countries. I fully support adoption of the European Animal Welfare Framework Law.

 
  
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  Tiziano Motti (PPE), in writing.(IT) I voted for the new European Union strategy for the protection and welfare of animals. Animal welfare should be protected at European level given that often, the protection afforded at national level is insufficient. Modern consumers reasonably expect farm livestock to be entitled to the same necessities as humans are: good food, good living conditions and appropriate medical care. Above all, animal health standards are of vital importance for livestock management in Europe, which has an increasing impact on the level of competitiveness of agricultural holdings. As we all know by now, the Treaty of Lisbon declared that animals are ‘sentient beings’, and we should therefore treat them as such. This goes for pets, farm livestock, animals for slaughter and stray dogs. I hope that measures will soon be adopted that are more precise and respectful of the life of animals, including animals for slaughter: I am thinking of how they are transported, when they are often considered carcasses instead of animals that are still alive.

 

24. eCall: a new 112 service for citizens (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the debate on the report by Dieter-Lebrecht Koch and Olga Sehnalová, on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Transport and Tourism, on eCall: a new 112 service for citizens (2012/2056(INI)) (A7-0205/2012).

 
  
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  Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, rapporteur.(DE) Madam President, many thousands of people could still have been alive today, or could have avoided permanent disabilities, had they received professional medical aid quickly enough after their accidents, specifically, within the first, or ‘golden’ hour. We would be a large step closer to ‘vision zero’.

The eCall system that we are discussing today cannot prevent any accidents, nor does it provide any release from the obligation to provide first aid. It simply serves to automatically notify an emergency call control centre in the event of a serious accident.

The control centre must make voice contact with the vehicle involved in an accident in order to avoid misuse and overloading with trivial incidents. Only when the emergency call is confirmed or if no one answers any more will emergency medics be sent out to the accident site, armed with little, but life-critical, information. The responsibility for the functioning of this chain of emergency service provision lies with the Member States on the basis of subsidiarity.

As long as the sensors built into the vehicle do not detect an accident, the eCall system is on standby, in other words, it does not send any signals or data of any kind and is not locatable. It is therefore far from being a mobile phone from the point of view of data protection. Only if the system is woken up by the automatic sensors or conscious manual activation does it become active.

It then sends an agreed, minimum set of data from the information to an emergency services control centre. Uniform Europe-wide standards and specifications will ensure that these data are recognised, assessed and handled as emergency calls on receipt. The Member States therefore need to develop and equip their chain of emergency service provision accordingly.

We want this eCall emergency calling system to be based on the common EU emergency number (112), to be free for the user, to work everywhere in the EU and to be compatible with emergency call systems in neighbouring third countries. It should be based on an interoperable, technology-neutral, open system architecture. At a later date, this could also enable other intelligent public road-related services to be offered, such as real time traffic information or the availability of parking spaces.

In recognition of the outstanding efforts of the motor industry to provide private emergency call systems, it is intended that these will retain their right to exist in parallel to the public, 112-based eCall system. Users can also opt for such a system based on comprehensive information. This may be accompanied by the potentially also paid-for use of the data by workshops, insurance companies, breakdown services or other service providers.

Where 80% of car drivers want to see this kind of system, which is also welcomed and requested by associations and organisations for the disabled, we must not either delay it or stand in its way. I anticipate approval by the House with a large majority tomorrow.

 
  
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  Olga Sehnalová, rapporteur. (CS) Madam President, the introduction of mandatory safety elements to vehicles always involves a lively discussion. This was the case some time ago when the debates took place on the introduction of mandatory safety belts. In the 1970s, tests and then installation began of an additional element, known today as the airbag. It is now 2012 and we are debating another significant contribution to the improvement of passive safety on European roads, in the form of the eCall system.


eCall is on a par with the airbag, the presence of which in cars we now take for granted, but in the event of an accident, it automatically calls for help by contacting the 112 emergency number. I say that in case you are unaware of it, because eCall automatically informs the emergency services immediately after a collision of the exact location of the accident by sending the GPS coordinates. Neither the language barrier nor ignorance of the local area can now prevent drivers from calling for help.

It is a compelling argument that 2 500 lives could be saved annually, and serious injuries reduced by up to 15% with universal installation of the eCall system into vehicles. Only one question therefore remains. Why is it not up and running yet? The gradual introduction of a pan-European eCall service in all vehicles and in all countries was one of the main road safety priorities identified by experts as long ago as 2002. Unfortunately, however, experience has shown us that the preferred voluntary introduction of the system is not working. We can see proof enough of this in the fact that a mere 0.5% of mainly luxury brand vehicles are fitted with a private in-vehicle emergency call service, which is a kind of substitute for an eCall public service and which, moreover, does not provide cover throughout the EU.

In response to the failing voluntary approach, the Commission last year announced a total of three planning documents on mandatory introduction of the eCall system. So far, however, it has published only one of them – a recommendation from September 2011 addressed to Member States and mobile operators. In the meantime, unfortunately, we have not even seen a draft regulation on the introduction of the in-vehicle aspects of the eCall service, in other words, the second document which, according to Commissioner Kroes, was supposed to have been published in the first quarter of this year. This was to have been the first legislative step towards mandatory introduction of the eCall system.

I therefore hope that tomorrow, we will confirm the common position of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Transport and Tourism, and that Parliament will again express its support for the mandatory introduction of the eCall system. We must make use of the opportunity to send the Commission a clear signal that there can be no further delays in the introduction of the eCall system. The promised legislative proposals must be presented as soon as possible, so that all citizens can make use of emergency calling incorporated into a public 112-based system throughout the EU from 2015. The public eCall system must function free of charge throughout Europe, in all vehicles, regardless of brand, price, country or location at any given moment.

I would like to end my speech by offering my sincere thanks to my co-rapporteur, Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, and all shadow rapporteurs, as well as the secretariat and our assistants, for the cooperation that led to the production of what is, in my opinion, a balanced report and a clear message.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: JACEK PROTASIEWICZ
Vice-President

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE). (CS) Mr President, I know as a doctor that, in extreme situations, a matter of seconds can determine whether or not lives are saved. We have therefore been calling for years for an integrated emergency system to be rolled out across the EU. An integrated system will not only enable faster and more precise intervention, but also better transport management, so that it will be possible to warn other drivers and thus prevent pile-ups or long traffic jams.

Some vehicles, as another Member said earlier, have long enabled the use of this or similar services, for example, in Germany. I welcome the fact that, within two years, these systems will be mandatory for Member State emergency services, vehicle and telecommunications systems, and industry. Finally.

A Europe-wide functioning system that is also provided free of charge on a cross-border basis will be another concrete example of the added value of closer integration for European citizens. I am sure the Commission will come up with everything on time.

 
  
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  Zita Gurmai (S&D). – Mr President, first of all, let me thank the rapporteurs and my colleagues in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Transport and Tourism for their work and their cooperation on this report. Our common goal is to have the life-saving eCall system in all new cars by 2015. It is crucial that Parliament supports the introduction of eCall. My wish is that the report should serve as a model for a legislative proposal by the Commission in 2012.

Currently, fewer than 1% of all passenger vehicles in the EU are equipped with an automatic emergency call system. The eCall device is estimated to cost less than EUR 100 when new, and it could save as many as 2 500 lives a year. As shadow rapporteur on eCall, I strongly believe the system can be reachable all over Europe only with mandatory deployment. The S&D Group’s approach is that the EU-wide eCall service must be based on the 112 emergency number.

We urge the Commission to table legislation to make the eCall system compulsory by 2015. In addition, Member States should actively cooperate on this issue. Having free access to eCall should be a right for every EU citizen, as this public service would benefit all.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE). (SK) Mr President, we know that the report addresses a very important issue. Through the new system, we want to help protect the greatest possible number of EU citizens who find themselves in danger. The added value of the European eCall system will depend, however, on Member States taking a responsible and effective approach.

I would like to describe briefly the actions of the Slovak Republic in preparing this system. We drew up a national training programme for operational emergency workers across all emergency services. We consider training to be key to the functionality of the entire programme. Preparations are under way in the area of information and communications technology and in language studies. These include not just the main EU languages, but also regional languages. The comprehensive preparation is rounded off with psychometric and communication training. I am pleased that the entire project is funded by the EU.

 
  
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  Phil Prendergast (S&D). – Mr President, road accidents take a deadly toll on our societies, and, as my colleagues have said, full implementation of the automated eCall system would allow us to save thousands of lives. Unfortunately, the take-up of this system, which has been an EU priority for 10 years, remains negligible and is confined to very high-end vehicles.

It is obvious that the market-led approach taken so far has failed and will fail to mainstream this lifesaving technology, so I thank Ms Sehnalová and Mr Koch for their work on this report and I endorse their proposals to make the 112-based eCall system mandatory and free of charge for all new vehicles by 2015. The Commission’s impact assessment clearly demonstrates the necessity of legislating along these lines so as to secure universal adoption and economies of scale.

I am particularly eager to see the benefits of eCall materialise in rural areas, where the system has the potential to reduce emergency response times by half. Lives can be lost on rural roads in isolated areas, especially where the precise location of the vehicle cannot be established. I thus look forward to the Commission proposal to make the deployment of eCall mandatory.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Mr President, in 2010, approximately 31 000 people died and another 1.5 million were injured in roughly 1.15 million road accidents in the European Union. Equipping vehicles with the eCall system helps reduce the response time and save lives. When a consumer chooses to subscribe to a private emergency call service or is travelling in a country where that service is not offered, the public 112 eCall service should automatically be available.

I should emphasise how important it is for EU businesses to become involved in the development of the necessary eCall system applications, services and infrastructure, in order to stimulate EU-wide innovation. Let me remind you that the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) and Galileo can contribute significantly to road traffic management and emergency interventions, and this requires an information campaign to promote greater use of the opportunities that this system offers with regard to the eCall application.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, I would like to thank the European Parliament and, in particular, the Committee on Transport and Tourism and the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the rapporteurs, Ms Sehnalová and Mr Koch, for their work on producing this excellent report on eCall. eCall is one of the six priority actions of the ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) Directive and will contribute decisively to improving effectiveness and speed of rescue.

The introduction of a harmonised EU-wide interoperable eCall service based on 112 in Europe is a high priority of the Commission and we have been working for some years to bring it to all vehicles in Europe. I welcome the firm support from Parliament expressed in the report that you are going to vote on tomorrow. Following the adoption of the recommendation to mobile network operators in September 2011, two other legislative measures are in preparation with the aim of having the service operational in 2015.

The proposal for a regulation under the vehicle type-approval legislation – for the in-vehicle part – is currently being drafted and will be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council in the coming months. The specifications for the upgrading of the Emergency Call Response Centres, to be adopted by the Commission in the framework of the ITS Directive, are almost finalised with the help of experts from all around Europe. The Commission is organising the last meeting with experts tomorrow.

The report calls for mandatory implementation and paves the way towards the harmonised deployment of the eCall service based on 112. This is a clear sign to all interested parties. We believe that the mandatory implementation of eCall will make the cost affordable to all parties thanks to economies of scale and make the benefits available not only to all citizens in Europe but also to European industry.

We will make all efforts to ensure that the necessary elements of eCall are operational by the time of implementing the mandatory use of eCall. As suggested by the report, the Commission will also support awareness and education campaigns to ensure that eCall is properly used. We will keep promoting the openness of the eCall platform and make sure that customer choice and fair competition are guaranteed.

I would like to thank again the European Parliament for its continued support for the deployment of eCall in order to make our roads safer. Together, we will bring eCall to our citizens in order to save precious lives.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 3 July 2012).

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Ádám Kósa (PPE), in writing.(HU) I would like to thank Mr Koch and Ms Sehnalová for their work. Road safety and the possibility for the victims of road accidents to be treated as rapidly and effectively as possible is, I think, a priority for all of us. For this reason, I welcome the mandatory introduction of the eCall system and ask the Commission and the Member States to set up the relevant legislative and technical frameworks as soon as possible. I already stressed in my motions for amendments – and thanks to the support at the Committee vote, these motions are now part of the core text – that the eCall service should be accessible to everyone. I therefore ask the manufacturers and Member States to take users and passengers with disabilities and special needs into consideration in the manufacturing and implementation process, and to make their applications accessible to them as well.

 
  
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  Iliana Ivanova (PPE), in writing.(BG) I wish to thank my colleagues from the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Transport and Tourism for initiating the draft report on the regulatory introduction of the in-vehicle emergency call system ‘eCall’. Thanks to the eCall system, emergency teams will be able to reach the scene of the incident as quickly as possible and provide first aid to the casualties. This, in turn, will increase the chance of survival and reduce the number of victims and of people seriously injured in road accidents. This system would be extremely beneficial to travellers. According to forecasts, the technology would help save up to 2 500 lives every year. The cost of installing the required equipment is reckoned to be completely minimal. This technology must be introduced from the perspective of citizens’ security and safety. This is why I welcome the resolution and am pleased with the backing given to it by the majority of my colleagues. I also hope that the Commission and Member States will take the appropriate measures to introduce the eCall system everywhere within the specified timescales, so that we can guarantee better health and safety for European citizens.

 

25. Attractiveness of investing in Europe (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the report by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, on behalf of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, on the attractiveness of investing in Europe (2011/2288(INI)) (A7-0190/2012).

 
  
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  Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou , rapporteur.(EL) Mr President, decisions adopted by recent European Councils have placed particular emphasis on growth as a way out of the fiscal and economic crisis. Growth is the basic remedy. It will create wealth and jobs. It will improve the competitiveness of the Union and boost economic and regional convergence. That growth will be generated primarily by business initiative and investment. That is the subject of this evening’s debate: how the European Union can attract foreign investment, boost entrepreneurship in Europe and encourage Europeans to invest.

I should like to extend my warmest thanks to the members of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs for their valuable input to my report and to colleagues from other committees for their opinions and very pertinent comments and proposals.

Despite the relatively recent reversal, the European Union is still the largest investment destination in the world. However, given the inherent risks, due to the fiscal crisis which is depriving us of investment funds, on the one hand, and new, emerging competitive investment destinations, on the other, we need to take action to protect the position and potential of the Union.

We need to take simultaneous action at European, national and local level, primarily to establish fiscal and monetary stability and restore the confidence of international markets and European investors and consumers. We need to protect our banking system, so that it can inject the liquidity into the market which is vital for investment.

The European Union must invest in its strengths. We need public and private investment in infrastructure and well-targeted social investments in order to develop the human capital that is one of the Union’s basic strengths. We need to strengthen the single market and cross-border cooperation and modernise the public procurement market. We need to develop the trans-European networks and exploit the Structural Funds in order to attract investment to all regions, depending on their comparative strengths.

At international level, the Union must continue to negotiate multilateral and bilateral trade agreements, which benefit trade and investment and the Union’s international position. It must also help at international level, as it is already doing in financial supervision, with the imposition of a financial transaction tax. All this will defend the competitiveness of, and attract investment to, the Union and help to combat taxation and macro-economic imbalances, in order to achieve international economic stability that will generate growth in the Union.

We therefore call for investments to be a horizontal element in all Union policies and within the EU 2020 strategy. We call for an EU investment strategy and for a communication, Commissioner, with indicators and parameters in line with OECD parameters, to highlight strengths and weaknesses and help us decide on the targeted interventions that we need. We must not overlook the fact that the development of the European bond markets is, to a large extent, dependent on the broadening of the investment base.

It is important to emphasise that investment policy must also be a basic instrument in combating fiscal, economic and social disparities between north and south. One innovative proposal is to create an investment observatory within the European Commission to monitor trends and developments in attracting investments and the impact of investments and to propose policies to boost investments in the Member States and promote the Union as an investment destination in the modern world.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE).(PL) Mr President, Europe is still an important destination for foreign direct investment. However, it is noticeable that developing countries are becoming more significant in the fight for investors’ attention. How then should we fight to maintain Europe’s strong position as a good place to invest?

The primary advantage of the European market is its stable and predictable environment, both in business and legal terms. Economic activity is very well regulated in Europe in comparison to some parts of the world, and the settled political situation guarantees that business can be conducted in stable conditions. Another great asset of the Member States is the high quality of their human capital. This being so, where is the problem? In Europe, increasing importance is being placed on matters related to what is called socially responsible business, which, as well as the usual objective of a growth in value for the shareholders, is also interested in environmental protection, care for the surroundings and social issues. These things are very expensive. However, in order to be able to compete for investors’ money, we have to look after our financial system, so that in uncertain times, the banks will still be able to finance investments. Investors are worried about the low level of growth in Europe, its accumulated debt and its high rates of tax.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D). – (RO) Mr President, firstly, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for the approach adopted in this report. Over the last few years, we have witnessed numerous workers’ protests in various regions of the European Union against the announcement of relocation of some companies outside Europe, which automatically leads to increased unemployment in those regions. In order to prevent such events in the future, Europe needs a strategy for attracting new foreign and local investors and encouraging cross-border investment projects, as well as further development of trans-European networks, which will help improve the mobility of workers, students and researchers.

Last but not least, we need to better promote public-private partnerships, support independent professionals, given the number and variety of opportunities, and facilitate the access of SMEs to investments, in particular, to long term and sustainable investments.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Mr President, I agree with the statement in the report that the comparative advantages enjoyed by Europe over other regions include, in particular, an educated and well-informed population, well-developed technical infrastructure, and an extensive and relatively strong, progressive technology base. In my opinion, however, one of the EU’s main problems is energy self-sufficiency, or the ability to provide further energy sources for new investment. Here, I believe, we must develop a network that is transcontinental, and the possibility of linking up with new energy sources outside our continent.

Another issue I would like to raise is the fact that European producers themselves are deserting Europe for Russia, China, Brazil and the like. This clearly means that the conditions we are creating for investors and for domestic investors are worse than in the countries they are heading for.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, first of all, I, too, would like to congratulate Ms Kratsa for the effort she has put into this report.

Although the global economy is headed in the right direction, there are still major obstacles hindering the stability and operation of the free market. In these circumstances, the European Union must tackle the weaknesses in a more efficient manner and continue to make use of its competitive advantages. Specific measures and speedy reforms are needed at both national and European level in order to boost the attractiveness of investments, and these measures must focus on the single market, which offers investors a significant advantage.

In Romania, the Roşia Montană mining project could create jobs in a region severely affected by unemployment. It could also stimulate other industries and make an important contribution to the national economy; unfortunately, the failure to take a decision and give an opinion for or against the launching of the project could drive foreign investors away.

 
  
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  Mojca Kleva (S&D). (SL) Mr President, as shadow rapporteur for the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, I would like to congratulate Ms Kratsa for the work she has done and the report she has prepared.

Increasing investment in the European Union at a time when we are trying to get out of this abysmal crisis is extremely important. We need common guidelines and we need more concrete ideas, beginning with early investment in youth employment, the greening of our economies and the achievement of the objectives of the European regions and local authorities.

In the amendments I have tabled to this report, I speak in favour of the aspect of the strategy which focuses on the creation of new investments, mainly through cohesion policy at local and regional level, because I believe that this is the only way to generate growth and is one of the main sources of financing of the real economy in the European Union.

In addition, the European Union needs a new and better industrial policy that will attract private investors from around the world, not only from within the European Union.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, I must admit that this topic is very close to my heart because in my former political life, when we regained independence in our country, this was a major element in our economic policy – to attract foreign direct investments. And we were quite successful in this.

The Commission welcomes the report on the attractiveness of investing in Europe and thanks Ms Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou for her work.

In the current economic climate, we need to create the necessary conditions to offer our companies and citizens the best possible business environment to produce and to compete in Europe.

It is true that the rise of emerging economies has intensified competition, but it has also created new opportunities for the EU through trade and investment in international value chains. Foreign direct investment is an important part of this.

The EU is the world’s leading host of foreign direct investment, attracting investments worth EUR 225 billion from the rest of the world in 2011 alone. However, the EU’s share of the world’s inward foreign direct investment has declined substantially – from 45% in 2001 to 23% in 2010. A detailed breakdown by country reveals that the decline in foreign direct investment has been highly uneven across Member States.

This means that we cannot relax, but we should rather continue to improve our framework conditions in order to keep our good international position. It also suggests that we can learn from each other in Europe as regards best practice if we wish to attract foreign investments.

And basically, we know what attracts foreign direct investment. The main reasons the EU is still an attractive location for foreign direct investment is our highly-educated workforce, low foreign direct investment regulations, declining regulatory burdens for starting and elaborating a business, extensive investor protection laws, high-quality investment promotion agencies and various support measures often linked to regional policy measures. Other important factors include a high level of productivity and technological infrastructure such as research and development and ICT endowment.

I am pleased to see that these issues are all addressed in Parliament’s report. As a continuation along these lines, the Commission is now preparing a communication on industrial policy. The long-term goals of our flagship product, Europe 2020, remain fully valid.

We have made very good progress in the deployment of industrial policy agreed in 2010. We will continue to push harder to establish the appropriate framework conditions to release the creative capacity of European industry.

The main areas currently considered for further action are: access to finance, improvement of the single market, industrial innovation and globalisation challenges for EU industry and small- and medium-sized enterprises. The Commission’s policy approach takes the same starting point as Parliament’s report and we also identify the same areas where action is needed.

As regards some of the concrete proposals in Parliament’s report, I note, in particular, the call for a European observatory for foreign direct investment and the urge for improved international regulatory cooperation. These are areas where work is already being done.

Over the past years, the European Commission has developed several regulatory dialogues with our major trading partners and we have projects for the exchange of good practice among Member States as concerns foreign direct investment promotion. I cannot go through all the details of this detailed Parliament report here, but I welcome the broad approach of the report and the many areas for constructive cooperation ahead.

We started today’s sitting with a discussion on the development of a single European railway area; this is one thing that shows that when we develop good infrastructure, we attract investments.

You have, on various occasions, discussed the Single Market Act and will continue to discuss the next proposal. One of the most important aspects of this is to attract foreign direct investment. Therefore, everything is in our hands.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 3 July 2012).

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing.(PT) Making investment in Europe more attractive requires the implementation of measures and reforms, at both European and national level. To make investing and working in Europe more attractive, it is crucial to create a level playing field for companies. Developing the internal market has to be one of the EU’s main priorities for developing a favourable climate that encourages companies and consumers. This issue is particularly important in a globalised economy. As such, I would draw attention to the role of the outermost regions in this regard. As the Commission already set out in its 2008 communication, it is important to play to these regions’ strengths, taking advantage of sectors with high added value, such as agri-food, biodiversity, renewable energies, astrophysics, aerospace, oceanography, vulcanology and seismology, as well as of the important role of the outermost regions as outposts of the EU in the world. More recently, the Council has identified the sectors in relation to which the outermost regions’ contribution could be of greater benefit: research and innovation, renewable energies, biodiversity, maritime wealth, health care, information and communication technologies, territorial cooperation, and the European Neighbourhood Policy.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing.(RO) In order to attract investors, both Member States and regions must offer specific local advantages. In my opinion, the EU cohesion policy, along with tax and legislative advantages, has been a genuine driving force for change, making a significant contribution to convergence and growth within the European Union. At the same time, a prerequisite for attracting investors is the existence of competitive infrastructures in the context of the new challenges we are facing. Additionally, the promotion of research, innovation and technological development and the availability of conforming high-quality vocational training programmes for the citizens of European regions are the main conditions for the competitiveness and attractiveness of these regions.

I believe that if we want to consolidate knowledge and innovation as driving forces for future economic growth and economic competitiveness, we need to improve the quality of education, implement research results in the economy and promote innovation and the transfer of knowledge across the entire European Union.

 

26. Trade aspects of the Eastern partnership (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the report by Miloslav Ransdorf, on behalf of the Committee on International Trade, on trade aspects of the Eastern partnership (2011/2306(INI)) (A7-0183/2012).

 
  
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  Miloslav Ransdorf, rapporteur. – Mr President, first of all, I will express my deep gratitude to my dear colleagues and the representatives of the Commission for their participation late into the night.

I will explain the sense and meaning of the report: it is to promote and strengthen the rule of law and civil society in the respective countries of the Eastern partnership.

We worked as a collective in preparing 142 amendments and we were able to accommodate in them some compromise amendments. At practically the very last minute, Mr Cutaş, on behalf of the Group of Socialists and Democrats, prepared two oral amendments which are acceptable to me. I have no problem in accepting these two amendments and I will explain why.

The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) is a very important tool in this trading and economic area, but I can also imagine other trading strategies. Therefore, I am in favour of this proposal, despite the fact that it has been proposed at the last minute.

Georgia also features in the amendments proposed by Mr Cutaş on behalf of the S&D Group. Georgia has been accused of violation of the rights of children, using child labour. Perhaps we do not have any public evidence of this, but the protection of the rights of children is my number one priority. Therefore, I have no problem in accepting this oral amendment presented by Mr Cutaş.

However, I have to remark that Georgia’s President, Mr Saakashvili – a very good friend of the United States of America and a respected democrat – has been accepted here very warmly in Parliament. You will perhaps remember when he made a speech here in Parliament.

That is practically all I have to say about this report. Finally, I would say that a parliamentary speech should be like a woman’s skirt – long enough to cover the subject and short enough to be attractive. I know that I am not able to fulfil this ideal goal.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Marek Henryk Migalski (ECR).(PL) Mr President, I am very pleased that this subject is being raised. The report contains a number of very good things: it reiterates the ‘more for more’ principle, and it makes clear that Russia has been trying to undermine these negotiations – something which is going to have disastrous consequences. This is an important declaration, and it is also a political declaration.

The report also includes information about the way individual countries are coping with the situation. Well, some are doing better, such as Georgia – you referred to Georgia, Mr Ransdorf – and others are doing worse, such as Belarus, and I think I am right in saying that this is a matter of great concern both to you, Mr President, and to all of us here. However, the fact that this cooperation is significant and important – alongside the political and social cooperation – is worth emphasising, and I think this is the most important thing to emerge from this document. Let us get the countries of the Eastern Partnership to work with us, because this is important for them, and it is also important for us.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Mr President, I think the cooperation between the European Union and its Eastern partners needs to be strengthened in a number of sectors, in particular, industry, SMEs, research, development and innovation, information technology, and communications and tourism.

I welcome the accession of Ukraine and Moldova to the Treaty establishing the Energy Community, in view of its potentially vital role in terms of ensuring the achievement of the EU’s energy security objectives and contributing to security for those countries. I call for enhanced cooperation between the European Union and Ukraine in the energy sector, for integration of the Ukrainian energy sector into the European energy sector, and for the initiation of joint modernisation and development projects in the energy infrastructure sphere.

I call on the Commission to further develop the EU Black Sea strategy, as it represents an important component of the EU’s external energy strategy, given its strategic role, which offers a significant potential for energy security and diversification of energy supply routes and sources in the European Union.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE).(PL) Mr President, it is important for the European Union to support the countries of the Eastern Partnership, and also to talk about their European aspirations and ways in which we can facilitate integration. It is essential to create the conditions which are necessary to accelerate the process of political association with these countries and to enhance economic integration between the European Union and interested partner countries in recognition of the economic benefits of expanding trade in goods and services. Strengthening the Eastern Partnership, and this includes increasing its funding, is also necessary now, when the Union is having to face an economic crisis and is involved in building a new strategy for its southern neighbours. We should welcome the initialling of a free trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine, and also the initialling of the EU-Ukraine association agreement. Unfortunately, these agreements have still not been signed due to problems over respect for the principles of law and order in Ukraine.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, the progressive liberalisation of trade exchanges with Eastern Partnership countries should be the natural consequence of political cooperation. It could make an important contribution to economic recovery, encouraging democratic reforms, as well as energy security.

In this context, I call on the Commission once more to table the EU Black Sea strategy as soon as possible. I would also like to point out the importance of connecting the Eastern Partnership countries to the European infrastructure, especially as regards the energy sector. I should mention that Romania is very active in this area. Romania has launched the AGRI Interconnector project for the transportation of natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, through Georgia and the Black Sea. At the same time, Romania is running several projects in cooperation with the Republic of Moldova – the Ungheni-Iaşi gas pipeline and the Fălciu-Goteşti and Suceava-Bălţi electric lines – aimed at interconnecting energy systems, and consolidating or rebuilding bridges over the Prut River.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Mr President, in our debates on the Eastern Partnership, it seems to me that we often place key emphasis on teaching our partners how they should be running their own countries. However, we frequently fail to mobilise the economic potential of cooperation.

Our nearest important eastern neighbour is Ukraine. Greater openness in cooperation with this country would deliver a significant economic boost to Europe. I firmly believe that if we managed to overcome visa restrictions, many Ukrainians would be willing to travel to southern Europe or to Spain, Greece and Italy, and would be delighted to get to know these parts of Europe as tourists. This would mean jobs for people in badly affected regions of the EU. On the other hand, the well-placed Ukrainian middle classes are able to buy large quantities of products from European producers.

Unfortunately, such travel and exchange of goods is limited or restricted by certain political barriers. We should therefore try to overcome these restrictions and encourage cooperation.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, it is a pleasure to discuss with you the EU’s trade policy towards our Eastern neighbours.

I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Ransdorf, for having taken the initiative of this report, as well as all the honourable Members who have participated in the constructive discussions on the text. It covers not only trade in goods but also cooperation in other related fields, for example, investment protection, streamlining customs and border procedures, reducing technical and other non-tariff barriers to trade, strengthening sanitary and phytosanitary rules and other measures.

As you know, the last months have been particularly important for our trade relations with most of our Eastern partners. The negotiations on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (in short, a DCFTA) with Ukraine were completed in December and the two parties intend to proceed to the initialling of the DCFTA text on 16 July, once the current legal review of the text is finalised.

It is now up to Ukraine to create the overall political conditions which will allow its signature and ratification. In any case, I want to stress that there cannot be provisional application of the association agreement and, for that matter, of the DCFTA provisions, before the decision concerning the signature of the association agreement and before Parliament has given its view.

The first part of this year has also seen important progress of our bilateral relations with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia; three partners with whom DCFTA negotiations have been launched. The negotiations advanced well, thanks to the thorough preparatory process carried out over the past years. It is now key that throughout the negotiations, the pace of reform started during the preparation phase is maintained.

Indeed, the negotiations of a DCFTA are still only the beginning of a long process of reform. With Belarus and Azerbaijan, the Commission is committed to pursuing a similar agenda as with the other Eastern partners. However, the Commission considers that WTO membership and basic reforms in the trade and trade-related part of the economies of the partner countries are the prerequisite for an enhanced trade agenda.

The decision to enter into trade negotiations should depend on the real capacity of the trade partner to effectively implement DCFTA conditions. Unfortunately, Azerbaijan and Belarus do not currently comply with these conditions and do not currently dispose of such a capacity.

Let me, however, stress that our bilateral trade relations with the Eastern partners cannot be separated from the broader political context in which they operate. This message applies across the board to all our neighbours. I wish to recall that this is also in line with the basic principles of the Eastern partnership, according to which DCFTAs are an integral part of the broader association agreements and therefore cannot be envisaged in isolation.

Given the human rights situation, Belarus only participates in the multilateral track of the Eastern partnership.

I believe that overall, the report prepared by the rapporteur, Mr Ransdorf, reflects well the fact that Parliament and the Commission share the same views on trade relations with our Eastern partners. I take the numerous amendments proposed, as well as the large support in favour of the report, as proof of Parliament’s commitment to promoting stronger bilateral trade ties with our Eastern neighbours.

I welcome very much the role played by the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, which is very supportive in this respect. I can assure you that the Commission fully agrees on the need to promote an ambitious trade agenda as a vector of reform for our Eastern partners and shares the willingness to drive such an agenda forward. We all know that this will not be an easy task. Therefore, it will be essential that Parliament and the Commission continue working in very close cooperation.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 3 July 2012).

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D), in writing.(RO) The revolutionary movements of 2011 in North Africa have shifted the focus of interest towards the southern dimension of the neighbourhood policy, to the detriment of the Eastern Partnership. I think the European Union’s relationships with its Eastern partners must be strengthened, in particular, by means of association agreements. They can be an efficient tool for persuading participating states to adopt major reforms aimed at making their respective political regimes more democratic. At the same time, the efforts aimed at establishing democracy are directly conditional upon improving the citizens’ living conditions, creating a strong civil society, guaranteeing press freedom and strengthening democratic institutions. In this respect, I welcome the establishment in 2008, within the framework of the Eastern Partnership, of an institution dedicated to the civil society, which encourages dialogue between the governments participating in this programme and civil society. However, a certain lack of conformity as regards the respect of the rights of workers persists in states such as Georgia, where child exploitation through work is still a reality. Ukraine is another example of a partner state with a faulty judicial system, which prevents the conclusion of the association agreement with this state. For this reason, I call on our Eastern partners to support internal reforms that offer them increased external credibility.

 
  
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  Iosif Matula (PPE), in writing.(RO) The European Union’s relationship with its Eastern partners is extremely important, both economically and socially. We need to give the pragmatic aspect of these relationships its proper place, beyond the aspects related to the human rights and the respect for the principles of the rule of law. By creating Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas, we can encourage partner states to pursue the reforms already under way, so as to achieve a stable and predictable economic environment where the democratic principles underpinning the European Union are respected. Moreover, we can facilitate alignment to EU regulations by progressively removing the barriers to trade at a time when Russia and China are gradually increasing their presence in the region. The cooperation between the EU and its Eastern partners needs to be enhanced in fields such as research, development and innovation, ICT and tourism. Therefore, I welcome the Commission’s proposal concerning the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020, which aims at a 40% rise in the funding available for the neighbourhood policy. I also hope that the EU Black Sea strategy will be further developed, as it represents an important component of the EU’s external energy strategy and given its concrete perspectives regarding energy security consolidation and supply diversification.

 

27. Evolution of EU macro-regional strategies: present practice and future prospects, especially in the Mediterranean (short presentation)
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  President. – The next item is the report by François Alfonsi, on behalf of the Committee on Regional Development, on the evolution of EU macro-regional strategies: present practice and future prospects, especially in the Mediterranean (2011/2179(INI)) (A7-0219/2012).

 
  
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  François Alfonsi, rapporteur.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, this report on the evolution of EU macro-regional strategies and their future prospects, especially in the Mediterranean, ties in with two particular issues.

The first is the issue of the upcoming 2014-2020 programming period, with respect to the territorial cooperation strand of cohesion policy in particular. The macro-regional strategy for the Baltic Sea, launched three years ago, is opening up a new domain for development and synergies between EU policies within a single working and services area: a maritime area, mountain range or river basin.

The second issue is that of the difficult times that the Mediterranean is currently experiencing, with the debt crisis on the European shore and the events since the Arab spring on the other, which have affected all these neighbouring countries of the European Union.

A macro-regional strategy enhances the effectiveness of the EU’s regional development policies. It provides an overview and reinforces strategies between regions and States, as well as between various EU instruments for development, such as the European Investment Bank and the European Neighbourhood Policy and pre-accession policy.

This report therefore proposes that we forge ahead in developing macro-regional strategies. It suggests that the Commission coordinate a consultation and dialogue process for future projects. It stresses, in particular, the importance of this type of system for the Mediterranean. This region is vital to Europe’s future; therefore, we must take these steps as soon as possible, in a practical, coordinated way. We should begin by speedily approving the Adriatic-Ionian strategy, which covers the central Mediterranean and Adriatic regions.

This project has undergone broad consultation and is at an advanced stage. It will be a first step and will lead into similar processes for the western and eastern Mediterranean regions. With proper coordination, it will also result in an overall strategy for the entire Mediterranean area.

The problems affecting the European shore of the Mediterranean are considerable. Regional development policy, in particular, the territorial cooperation strand, is a vital key to finding lasting solutions to these problems. A macro-regional strategy uses existing budgets and does not require new financial resources. We need new projects rather than new funding. By their very nature, macro-regional strategies tend to encourage such projects and get local stakeholders actively involved, including central and regional governments and other parties, through multilevel governance.

In its conclusion, the report calls on the Commission to bring its experience and cooperation to this project, and asks the forthcoming Cypriot Presidency to promote the project’s development over the next few months.

While drafting this report, I met with many of the leaders concerned. There is great willingness to cooperate on a macro-regional strategy of this nature throughout the whole of the Mediterranean. We should seize this economic opportunity in order to send a positive, forward-looking signal to the Mediterranean region, every part of which is experiencing the effects of the economic crisis.

To conclude, I should like to thank my fellow Members from the Committee on Regional Development, especially the shadow rapporteurs who took great interest in this report, as their many amendments demonstrate. I should also like to thank the Committee on Culture and Education and its rapporteur, Ms Benarab-Attou, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs and its rapporteur, Mr Salavrakos, for the work they produced, which considerably enriched the report I have presented to you.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Malika Benarab-Attou (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education, I would like to add a few words to what Mr Alfonsi has said, and to applaud his work.

Macro-regional strategies offer very interesting prospects for decentralised collaborative projects in the Mediterranean region. I think they provide an appropriate framework for the problems of this region, where, in the light of last year’s events, we must develop active neighbourhood policies, aimed at young people in particular.

I would like to stress three particular points from my opinion.

The first is cooperation in the field of youth, by promoting the European programmes designed for them, and through synergies with the work of the Mediterranean Office for Youth, which needs to be more publicised.

The second is the creation of networks between Euro-Mediterranean universities and the removal of obstacles to the movement of students, lecturers and researchers, by simplifying visa procedures for these groups in particular. This is essential and urgent.

The third is the quality of teaching and research in these networks, to be achieved by supporting and adequately funding the Tempus and Erasmus Mundus programmes and, I must stress, by automatically granting visas to these groups when they join the European programmes.

Thank you to Mr Alfonsi for his productive collaboration, and thank you to all the Members who contributed to this report.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Mr President, I wish to emphasise the importance of macro-regional strategies, as well as the fact that they should be based on a multilevel governance, ensuring the involvement of local and regional authorities and representatives of civil society, universities and research centres in both the elaboration and the implementation of macro-regional strategies.

For a proper implementation of macro-regional strategies, we call for the operational programmes of the Member States to be closely geared to the corresponding priorities of these strategies. We call on the Commission and the Council to support fully the approach taken with the Danube basin, which should also be evaluated and regularly monitored. Parliament already requested in 2010 the allocation of EUR 1.5 billion for the preparatory action aimed at defining the governance model for implementing the European Union strategy for the Danube region in order to facilitate the implementation of this strategy.

 
  
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  Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (PPE).(EL) Mr President, I should like to start by congratulating Mr Alfonsi on the report he has presented to us and for all the preparations he has carried out and for consulting national and local authorities from the whole of the Mediterranean basin, from both north and south.

This really is a very important debate, because a well-structured macro-regional strategy will provide added value to national and European policies without the need for additional resources.

I would like to comment, in particular, on the initiative for the Adriatic-Ionian macro-region now under way; I believe that the Commission will shortly give the countries in the region the go-ahead, together with a specific strategy that will allow initiatives and cooperation to develop.

What is important is that this strategy incorporates a maritime dimension. I believe that this could provide a best practice for similar initiatives in other areas of the Mediterranean.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, macro-regional strategies are beneficial since they create new opportunities for territorial cooperation projects. At the same time, they can ensure a better cooperation between regional programmes and the objectives of the 2020 Europe strategy. In this context, I wish to emphasise the extremely important role of the Baltic Sea strategy. This strategy has provided a reference framework for the cohesion policy.

I would also like to draw your attention to the opportunities in southern Europe. They should be put to use by means of enhanced cooperation in this region. The development of a macro-regional strategy in the Mediterranean Sea would be a step forward in this respect. This region has a similar culture and history and a significant potential. It offers ideal development conditions in terms of both maritime traffic and renewable energy sources.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, the Commission would like to thank Mr Alfonsi for his report on the evolution of the EU macro-regional strategies and, in particular, his interest in the EU strategy for the Mediterranean.

The Commission is conscious of continued political interest in a strategy for the Mediterranean, also keeping in mind the considerable political and practical difficulties. So the suggestion of the three strategies proposed by Mr Alfonsi – namely, western Mediterranean, eastern Mediterranean, and central Mediterranean, including the Adriatic and the Ionian Seas – is an interesting idea that needs to be further analysed. Nevertheless, progress has already been undertaken as regards the Adriatic and Ionian region, in particular, regarding its maritime issues.

The Commission continues to advise involved parties to draw lessons from the ongoing EU macro-regional strategies for the Baltic and the Danube, as well as a sea basin strategy for the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, the Commission welcomes all initiatives for regions and countries to work together, either in the existing forms of cooperation, or in macro-regional strategies if this is considered to be the most appropriate solution.

The Commission reminds Members of the invitation made to the Member States in the European Council of June 2011 to continue work in cooperation with the Commission on possible future macro-regional strategies. Consequently, without prejudging the position of the Council as regards any possible future macro-regional strategy, the Commission is able to support progress which could be made in the framework of further Mediterranean cooperation.

Regarding money, there are two aspects. Firstly, the interested parties need a mandate adopted by Council to form this region and to form the format and framework for this region. Secondly, you will all be aware that the money is under substantial and intensive consideration and discussion in connection with the multiannual financial framework, where all Members of Parliament definitely play a part. So, all future macro-regional strategies depend very much on the future of the multiannual financial framework.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 3 July 2012).

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Monika Smolková (S&D), in writing. (SK) The EU’s macro-regional strategies represent growth and prosperity for the whole of Europe. The cooperation of Member States at supra-national and macro-regional level is capable of resolving the systemic and factual problems of the Structural Funds, while at the same time eliminating the risk of an individual Member State failing. It was a good idea to create the Baltic Sea strategy and the Danube strategy, but in the interests of securing the overall success of this process, it is also necessary for the management structure to be extended to local and regional bodies and, at the same time, the strategy must be incorporated into the future programming period for 2014-2020. I agree with the draft resolution on introducing the mandatory allocation of resources for operational programmes in respect of macro-regional priorities, on support for growth and employment, and on the application of new innovative cooperation instruments at supra-national and macro-regional levels.

 
  
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  Georgios Stavrakakis (S&D), in writing.(EL) I should like to congratulate the rapporteur on his report. Macro-regional strategies help to promote cooperation, enhance synergies with major Community policies and create real European added value. They must be based on the principle of multilevel governance, in order to safeguard cooperation between local, regional and national authorities. Establishing a macro-regional strategy in the Mediterranean could help the participating states to address specific problems caused by the characteristics of certain areas, such as drought, maritime pollution and the development of tourism. As far as the islands are concerned, the European Commission should apply a strategic plan to address the structural weaknesses of island territories and make island territories equally competitive with mainland territories, so as to reduce the gap between different levels of development among European regions and ensure their effective integration in the single market. This could best be ensured through the allocation of appropriate resources and the adoption of an integrated approach in the fields of transport and energy. It is also to be hoped that the Commission will take a positive stand when considering State aid, which constitutes legal compensation with respect to the handicaps of insularity.

 

28. Agenda of the next sitting: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

29. Closure of the sitting
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(The sitting closed at 23.00)

 
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