Texts adopted
Thursday, 21 January 2010 - Strasbourg
Recent attacks on Christian communities
 Human Rights violations in China, notably the case of Liu Xiaobo
 European Strategy for the Danube Region

Recent attacks on Christian communities
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European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2010 on recent attacks on Christian communities

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions, and in particular that of 15 November 2007 on serious events which compromise Christian communities' existence and those of other religious communities,

–   having regard to Article 18 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

–   having regard to the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion and Belief,

–   having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas the promotion of democracy and respect for human rights and civil liberties are fundamental principles and aims of the European Union and constitute common ground for its relations with third countries,

B.   whereas, according to international human rights law and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in particular, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; whereas this right includes freedom to change one's religion or belief, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest one's religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching,

C.   whereas Europe, like other parts of the world, is not exempt from cases of violation of that freedom, and experiences individual crimes committed against members of minorities on the basis of their beliefs,

D.   whereas the European Union has repeatedly expressed its commitment to freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion and has stressed that government has a duty to guarantee these freedoms all over the world,

E.   whereas on 6 January 2010 a drive-by shooting killed seven individuals – six Coptic Christians and a policeman – and injured others when worshipers were leaving a church after midnight mass on Coptic Christmas Eve in the city of Nagaa Hammadi in Upper Egypt; whereas, in recent weeks, further clashes involving Coptic Christians and Muslims have broken out and have been qualified by the Egyptian Government as individual incidents,

F.   whereas on 8 January 2010 the Egyptian authorities announced that they had arrested and were holding three people in connection with the attack in Nagaa Hammadi on 6 January; whereas the Egyptian Public Prosecutor decided that the three accused should be tried before the Emergency State Security Court for premeditated murder,

G.   whereas Coptic Christians represent around 10% of the Egyptian population; whereas there have been recurrent acts of violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt over recent years,

H.   whereas the Egyptian Constitution guarantees freedom of belief and freedom to practise religious rites,

I.   whereas it attaches great importance to relations with Egypt and underlines the importance of Egypt and EU-Egypt relations for the stability and development of the EU-Mediterranean area,

J.   whereas the Malaysian Catholic Church had filed a lawsuit against the Malaysian Government in 2007 after the Government threatened to prohibit publication of the Herald newspaper on grounds of national security if it did not stop using the word "Allah", commonly used by the Bahasa-Malaysia-speaking community, of Christian faith, as a translation of "God",

K.   whereas, on 31 December 2009, the Malaysian High Court ruled that Christians in Malaysia have the constitutional right to use the word "Allah" to refer to God and that the word is not exclusive to Islam,

L.   whereas, following the ruling, there were at least nine attacks on Christian churches in Malaysia,

M.   whereas in 2009 the Government had confiscated more than 15 000 copies of the Bible in the Malay language, in which the word "Allah" was used to refer to God, and it has not, to date, returned them,

N.   whereas the Malaysian Government accepts the use of the word "Allah" by the Christian communities in Sahah and Sarawak states, while questioning it in other regions of the country, thus generating additional discrimination among the whole Christian community in Malaysia,

O.   whereas inter-community dialogue is crucial to promoting peace and mutual understanding between peoples,

1.  Stresses that the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is a fundamental human right guaranteed by international legal instruments, and strongly condemns all kinds of violence, discrimination and intolerance, based on religion and belief, against religious people, apostates and non-believers;

2.  Expresses its concern about the recent attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt and its solidarity with the families of the victims; calls on the Egyptian Government to ensure the personal safety and physical integrity of Coptic Christians and of members of other religious minorities in the country;

3.  Welcomes the efforts made by the Egyptian authorities to identify the authors and perpetrators of the 6 January 2010 attack; calls on the Egyptian Government to ensure that all persons responsible for that attack, as well as for other violent acts against Coptic Christians or other religious or other minorities, are brought to justice and tried by due process;

4.  Calls on the Egyptian Government to guarantee that Coptic Christians and members of other religious communities and of minorities enjoy the full range of human rights and fundamental freedoms – including the right to choose and change their religion freely – and to prevent any discrimination against them;

5.  Deplores incidents of religiously motivated violence on European soil, including the murder of Marwa al-Sherbini, and expresses its solidarity with the families of the victims;

6.  Expresses its concern about the recent attacks against churches and places of worship in Malaysia and its solidarity with the victims; calls on the Malaysian authorities to ensure the personal safety and physical integrity of people practising their religion and to take appropriate steps to protect churches and other houses of worship;

7.  Calls on the Malaysian authorities to carry out thorough and rapid investigations into reported attacks against places of worship and to bring those responsible to justice;

8.  Considers that the action of the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs constitutes violation of the freedom of religion; is especially worried that the Malaysian Government has acted outside the law and that its interference has contributed to mounting tensions among religious groups in the country;

9.  Welcomes the ruling by Malaysia's High Court and calls on the Malaysian authorities to respect its decision; calls on the Malaysian Government not to seek to reinstate the ban on use of the word "Allah" but to try to defuse the resulting tensions and to refrain from further actions that might upset the peaceful coexistence between the dominant and minority religions, as stipulated in the Constitution of Malaysia;

10.  Calls on the Council, the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in the framework of EU relations and cooperation with the countries concerned, to pay particular attention to the situation of religious minorities, including Christian communities;

11.  Supports all initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue and mutual respect between communities; calls on all religious authorities to promote tolerance and to take initiatives against hatred and violent and extremist radicalisation;

12.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Government and Parliament of Egypt and the Government and Parliament of Malaysia.

Human Rights violations in China, notably the case of Liu Xiaobo
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European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2010 on human rights violations in China, notably the case of Liu Xiaobo

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on China, in particular its resolutions of, respectively, 13 December 2007 on the EU-China Summit and the EU/China human rights dialogue, and 26 November 2009 on "China: minority rights and the application of the death penalty",

–   having regard to its resolution of 6 September 2007 on the functioning of the human rights dialogues and consultations on human rights with third countries,

–   having regard to the declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union of 19 December 2008 concerning Charter 2008 and the arrest of human rights campaigners,

–   having regard to the EU-China Summit held in Prague in May 2009,

–   having regard to the declarations by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union of 26 June 2009 and 14 December 2009 on prosecution of Liu Xiaobo,

–   having regard to the EU-China seminar of 18-19 November 2009 and the EU-China human rights dialogue of 20 November 2009,

–   having regard to the declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union of 29 December 2009 on the execution of Akmal Shaikh,

–   having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas on 8 December 2008 Liu Xiaobo, a prominent human rights activist and scholar and co-author of Charter 2008, was placed under "residential surveillance", a form of pre-trial detention that can be used for up to six months without any charges being laid, at an undisclosed location in Beijing,

B.   whereas Liu Xiaobo was arrested on 23 June 2009 and charged the following day with "inciting subversion of state power", pursuant to Article 105 of the Criminal Code,

C.   whereas Liu Xiaobo is one of the 303 signatories of Charter 2008, a petition calling for constitutional reform, democratisation and protection of human rights, which was subsequently signed by more than 10 000 Chinese citizens,

D.   whereas on 25 December 2009 the Beijing Municipal No 1 Intermediate People's Court found Liu Xiaobo guilty of "inciting subversion of state power" and sentenced him to 11 years in prison, and whereas the government based this conviction on Mr Liu's role in drafting and organising the signing of Charter 2008 and on six essays criticising the Chinese Government, published between 2005 and 2007,

E.   whereas Liu Xiaobo's wife and staff from about a dozen foreign embassies in Beijing requested permission to observe the trial but were denied access to the courtroom,

F.   whereas this ruling has generated widespread criticism from domestic internet bloggers, international civil society groups and foreign governments, and whereas Liu Xiaobo has appealed against the ruling of the court,

G.   whereas former Czech president Vaclav Havel, who wanted to deliver an appeal for Liu Xiaobo's release, was denied access to the embassy of the People's Republic of China in Prague,

H.   whereas the Chinese authorities did not listen to the repeated calls by the EU and one of its Member States for the death sentence passed against Akmal Shaikh to be commuted,

I.   whereas, a few days ago, a Chinese official acknowledged for the first time that Gao Zhisheng, a Christian human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, has disappeared,

J.   whereas other human rights violations took place in China in December 2009, including harassment of members of the Guizhou Human Rights Forum in order to prevent them from carrying out planned activities to celebrate Human Rights Day, and the beating and ill-treatment while in detention of Qi Choghuai, a reporter and former Shandong Bureau Chief for the Fazhi Morning Post,

K.   whereas, ahead of the country's 60th anniversary on 1 October, the Chinese authorities increased their surveillance, harassment and imprisonment of activists in order to prevent them from raising human rights concerns, and whereas, according to Amnesty International, several hundred activists and dissidents were placed under various kinds of surveillance or house arrest on that occasion,

L.   whereas in April 2009 the People's Republic of China submitted a document to the United Nations in support of its candidacy for membership of the Human Rights Council, in which it affirmed that the People's Republic of China was "committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Chinese people",

M.   whereas on 13 January 2010 Google announced its intention to stop cooperating with Chinese internet censorship, linking this to sophisticated cyber-attacks on its computer systems (which it suspected originated in China), aimed in part at the Gmail user accounts of human rights activists,

N.   whereas the EU is China's biggest trading partner and investor, while China is the EU's second biggest trading partner, and whereas trade and economic relations have overshadowed the questions of democratic reforms, respect for human rights and the rule of law,

O.   whereas the EU-China human rights dialogue established in 2000 has achieved negligible results so far, and whereas this lack of results is also the consequence of an uncoordinated and ineffective EU common foreign policy on China,

1.  Calls for Liu Xiaobo's immediate and unconditional release and expresses its solidarity with his peaceful actions and initiatives in favour of democratic reforms and the protection of human rights; strongly condemns the judicial harassment of which he was a victim;

2.  Expresses at the same time its sympathy with those Chinese who have openly voiced their dissatisfaction with the sentencing of Liu Xiaobo;

3.  Calls on the authorities of the People's Republic of China to honour the commitments they made before the Human Rights Council and comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1998;

4.  Urges the People's Republic of China to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and calls for ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

5.  Deplores the fact that China, in the context of its Universal Periodic Review process of 2009, has rejected all the recommendations made by UN Member States in relation to freedom of expression, freedom of association, the independence of the judiciary, guarantees for the legal profession, protection of human rights defenders, the rights of ethnic minorities, abolition of the death penalty, abolition of re-education through labour, prohibition of torture, media freedom and effective remedies for discrimination;

6.  Condemns in the strongest terms the execution of Akmal Shaikh and reaffirms its absolute and longstanding opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances; is convinced that abolition of the death penalty is an integral part of respect for human rights and protection of human dignity, in all countries;

7.  Welcomes Google's intention to stop cooperating with the Chinese authorities in relation to internet filtering and censorship, and urges all other companies to do the same; calls on the People's Republic of China fully to respect freedom of speech on the internet; expresses solidarity with China's internet users, who will be those most affected by Google's proposed departure;

8.  Stresses that the Chinese Government published its first National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) in April 2009, which is designed to improve the protection of citizens" rights, guard against arbitrary detention, prohibit extracting confessions by torture and ensure fair and open trials;

9.  Stresses that China's human rights record remains a matter of serious concern and calls on the Council and the Commission to raise Liu Xiaobo's case at the next EU-China Summit; takes note of the previous human rights dialogues with China and the EU-China human rights dialogue of 20 November 2009; insists on the need for strict follow-up between all such dialogues in order to ensure that the recommendations are implemented;

10.  Emphasises the need to initiate comprehensive assessment and strengthening of the EU-China human rights dialogues; calls for cases involving human rights defenders to be systematically raised during these dialogues and highlights the imprisonment of the 2008 Sakharov Prize winner Hu Jia and the harassment of his wife Zeng Jinyan;

11.  Takes the view that the development of economic relations with China must be accompanied by effective political dialogue and demands that respect for human rights be an integral part of the new framework agreement currently being negotiated with China;

12.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy, the President of the Council of the European Union, the Commission and the President, Prime Minister and People's National Assembly of the People's Republic of China.

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European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2010 on the Philippines

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Declaration of 25 November 2009 by the EU Presidency on the killings in Maguindanao province, Philippines, and to the statement of 2 December 2009 by Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings,

–   having regard to the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Additional Protocol thereto, to which the Philippines are a signatory,

–   having regard to the Commission's Country Strategy Paper 2007-2013 for the Philippines,

–   having regard to the Financing Agreement for the EU-Philippines Justice Support Programme, which was signed in October 2009 and which is intended to speed up judicial proceedings against the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings,

–   having regard to the presidential, parliamentary and local elections to be held in the Philippines on Monday, 10 May 2010,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on the Philippines,

–   having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas political killings and disappearances, especially of members of opposition organisations, journalists, human rights activists and religious leaders, continue to be widespread in the Philippines, and whereas human rights organisations speak of more than 1000 politically motivated murders and disappearances in the past decade,

B.   whereas the virtual impunity of the perpetrators and the government's inability effectively to tackle politically motivated violence in the country makes it very difficult to bring those responsible to justice, despite the undertakings given by the government as part of its Universal Periodic Review in 2008,

C.   whereas hundreds of thousands of people remain internally displaced by the conflict opposing the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the New People's Army, which remains active throughout the country, and by military operations against criminal groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group in the island provinces of Sulu and Basilan in Western Mindanao,

D.   whereas on 23 November 2009 100 armed men from a local militia led by the Ampatuan family, including officials of the local police force, tortured and brutally murdered 57 members of a convoy, including female relatives of Esmail Mangudadatu, some of whom were raped, lawyers and 30 journalists, who were on their way to file Mangudadatu's candidacy for the governorship of Maguindanao province in Mindanao,

E.   whereas this massacre, which produced the biggest ever death toll among journalists in one incident anywhere in the world, revealed in a shocking way the extent to which local warlords, the corruption of the security forces and impunity for the most ruthless crimes have taken hold of the Philippines,

F.   whereas on 24 November 2009 the Philippines Government declared a state of emergency in the two provinces concerned, thus putting the military in charge of law and order, invited international forensic experts to support the inquiry, and, on 4 December 2009, declared martial law in Maguindanao for one week, the first such decision since 1972,

G.   whereas this move led to the arrest of the leading members of the Ampatuan family and their being charged with multiple murder and the discovery of a staggering arsenal of weapons and thousands of hidden voter-identification cards, hinting at massive vote-rigging in favour of President Arroyo's political party Lakas-Kampi-CMD,

H.   whereas elections in the Philippines have in the past been marred by frequent extrajudicial killings of political opponents committed by private armies and militias, many of them armed with government-issued weapons, employed by politically influential families,

I.   whereas the fact that in the 2007 election campaign some 60 candidates and in the 2004 campaign 41 candidates were murdered is giving rise to fears that killings of political activists will increase in the run-up to the May 2010 elections,

J.   whereas the brutal killings in Maguindanao represent a major setback for peace and democracy in the Philippines and will complicate the peace talks between the Philippines Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which resumed on 8 December 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, facilitated by the Malaysian Government,

1.  Strongly condemns the Maguindanao massacre of 23 November 2009 and expresses its solidarity with the families of the deceased;

2.  Welcomes the response of the Philippines Government to the massacre, whilst deploring the initial delays, and stresses that the police investigation must be comprehensive and independent and that it must be followed by effective prosecutions, including of the members of the security forces suspected of involvement;

3.  Is deeply concerned that the personal links which members of the administration maintain with the Ampatuan family could hinder rather than help an impartial investigation into the killings and calls for the Ampatuan family to be questioned by the National Bureau of Investigation;

4.  Calls for urgent measures to protect all witnesses, judges, lawyers and prosecutors involved in the investigation and trials;

5.  Calls on donor countries to offer forensic, investigative and legal assistance and support to the Justice Department of the Philippines;

6.  Calls on the Philippines Government to take decisive steps in order to end extrajudicial killings and disappearances, and to shed light on all other unresolved cases, including that of Jonas Burgos, who was disappeared in April 2007; urges the Philippines Government to ratify the UN Convention on Forced Disappearances;

7.  Calls on the Philippines Government to take decisive action in order immediately to stop all private and local funding of police and military auxiliary groups and to disband paramilitary forces and local militias; welcomes President Arroyo's declaration on 9 December 2009 concerning this matter and calls on Ms Arroyo to revoke Executive Order 546;

8.  Welcomes, in this connection, the gun ban recently issued by the Commission on Elections in preparation for the 10 May 2010 polls;

9.  Welcomes the signing in October 2009 of the Financing Agreement for the EU-Philippines Justice Support Programme (EPJUST), which allocates €3.9m in support, assistance and training to strengthen the criminal justice system and support the work of the Commission on Human Rights and of civil society groups; looks forward to the reports on the work of the monitoring system, to be established under EPJUST, that will be responsible for tracking the nation's progress in combating extrajudicial killings and related abuses;

10.  Expresses its concern that the declaration of a state of emergency by the President, combined with the conferral of greater powers on the armed forces, which in the past have been implicated in numerous extrajudicial killings, will not prevent or curb election-related violence in Mindanao province;

11.  Calls on the Philippines Government to step up efforts to eliminate instances of political violence in order to safeguard the future of democracy in the Philippines; calls in particular on the authorities to establish a high-level task force with broad political support in order urgently to implement measures to prevent election-related violence in the months ahead of the May elections and to take steps designed to protect the media and freedom of expression in general;

12.  Welcomes the decision by the Supreme Court to allow the participation of Ang Ladlad in the May elections a decision which overturns the initial refusal on 'moral grounds' by the Commission on Elections (COMLEC);

13.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the President and Government of the Philippines, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the governments of the ASEAN Member States.

European Strategy for the Danube Region
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European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2010 on a European Strategy for the Danube Region

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Article 192 and Article 265(5) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–   having regard to the question of 3 December 2009 to the Commission on a European Strategy for the Danube Region (O-0150/2009 – B7-0240/2009),

–   having regard to the conclusions of the European Council of 18 and 19 June 2009, which called on the Commission to draw up a European strategy for the Danube region before the end of 2010,

–   having regard to the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region,

–   having regard to the programme of the Council, prepared by the Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies,

–   having regard to the Danube Forum set up within the European Parliament and the Forum's work,

–   having regard to its resolution of 24 March 2009 on the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion and the state of the debate on the future reform of cohesion policy,

–   having regard to the Opinion of the Committee of the Regions, entitled 'An EU strategy for the Danube area', of October 2009,

–   having regard to the Espoo, Aarhus and Berne Conventions on environmental protection,

–   having regard to the Water Framework Directive and the Helsinki Convention,

–   having regard to the Belgrade Convention regulating navigation on the Danube,

–   having regard to the joint statement on 'Development of Inland Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Danube River Basin' adopted by the Danube Commission, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) and the International Sava River Basin Commission (ISRBC),

–   having regard to the Stockholm Conference on macro-regional strategy held by the Swedish Presidency,

–   having regard to Rule 115(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas the Treaty of Lisbon acknowledges territorial cohesion as an objective of the European Union (Article 3 TEU),

B.   whereas macro-regional strategies are aimed at making better use of the existing resources to tackle issues of territorial development and identify joint responses to common challenges,

C.   whereas the Baltic Sea Strategy already provides a model for coordinating EU policies and funding in geopolitical territorial units – macro-regions – defined on the basis of specific criteria and whereas an EU Danube Strategy, following the model of the Baltic Sea Strategy, has the potential to promote regional and cross-border cooperation for further economic growth and to identify joint responses to common challenges,

D.   whereas the Danube links ten European countries – Germany, Austria, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine – six of which are EU Member States, and in a broader territorial context the region also comprises the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Montenegro,

E.   whereas the Danube region is an important crossover point between the EU's Cohesion Policy programmes, programmes for countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy and potential candidates for accession, and therefore represents an area where enhanced synergies between different EU policies can be developed: cohesion, transport, tourism, agriculture, fisheries, economic and social development, energy, environment, enlargement and neighbourhood policy,

F.   whereas an EU Strategy for the Danube Region is to be developed in the following cooperation areas: social development and protection, sustainable economic development, transport and energy infrastructure, environmental protection, culture and education,

G.   whereas the EU Strategy for the Danube Region could make an important contribution to the achievement of better coordination between regional and local authorities and organisations operating in the Danube region and would make for prosperity, sustainable development, job creation and security in the area,

H.   whereas there is a long history of cooperation in the Danube region: the European Commission for the Danube, founded on 30 March 1856 and originally based in Galaţi (Romania), was one of the very first European institutions, and is today based in Budapest,

I.   whereas the Danube has almost become an internal waterway of the European Union following the 2007 enlargement, and whereas the Danube Region may make a substantial contribution to fostering the developments which have taken place since that enlargement,

J.   whereas the Danube is an effective waterway even beyond the Member States and, together with the Main Canal and River Rhine, connects the North Sea with the Black Sea and has the potential to enhance the geostrategic position of the Black Sea region,

K.   whereas the Danube region represents an interconnected area with heterogeneous economic capacities and whereas considering the Danube area as a single macro-region would help to overcome the regional differences in economic performance and sustain integrated development,

L.   whereas the Danube Delta has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991 and the Danube region includes several Special Protection Areas and Special Areas for Conservation within the framework of Natura 2000; whereas the Danube and the Danube Delta have a unique and fragile ecosystem, which is home to rare plant species that are under threat due to pollution,

1.  Calls on the Commission to launch, as soon as possible, broad consultations with all countries along the Danube in order to cover various aspects of regional cooperation and to present the EU Strategy for the Danube Region no later than the end of 2010;

2.  Considers that a European Strategy for the Danube Region represents an appropriate instrument for enhancing territorial development through intensified cooperation in clearly defined policy fields in which genuine European added value has been identified by all governmental partners, and calls for that strategy to be developed as part of the European Territorial Cooperation objective;

3.  Stresses the imperative that any macro-regional strategy should be incorporated in the EU's regional policy, as a coordinated policy for the whole territory of the EU; furthermore, highlights the need to analyse the added value of this strategy for the implementation of the objective of territorial cohesion within the territory of the Union;

4.  Stresses the need to involve the relevant regional and local stakeholders in the Danube region in the preparatory process, in order to clearly identify the needs, in terms both of balanced, sustainable development of territories and of capacity building, in order to find solutions to common challenges, to implement efficiently the concrete projects and to provide a good governance mechanism, and urges the governments to support and facilitate measures to inform and consult NGOs, trade associations and civil society in both the establishment of the strategy and its future implementation;

5.  Calls on the Commission to clearly identify the 'governance structure' of a future Danube region policy; takes the view that implementation of this strategy must not impinge on the responsibilities of regional and local government;

6.  Supports the economic and social development of the Danube region as an EU priority area and the promotion of deeper regional integration in the Danube region as a dynamic component of a wider European economic and political area;

7.  Calls for improvements to the ecological status of the Danube, which is currently a polluted river, and for measures to reduce pollution and prevent further releases of oil and other toxic and harmful substances;

8.  Notes that responsibility for the pollution of the Danube region lies with both the Member States and the other riparian countries through which the Danube flows; stresses that protecting the environment in the Danube basin is an important aspect which will have a bearing on the agricultural and rural development of the region and urges riparian states to give top priority to the establishment of shared hydrological and water quality testing facilities;

9.  Encourages the Commission and the Member States, in the framework of the fight against climate change, to pay special attention to, and cooperate in protecting, local ecosystems and urges the Commission to support research and development focusing on new technologies geared to enhancing forecasting and response capabilities in connection with flooding, extreme drought and accidental pollution;

10.  Underlines the need to protect and enhance fish stocks in the Danube; calls on the Commission to prepare a comprehensive plan for conserving and restoring the natural sturgeon stocks in the Danube;

11.  Calls on the Commission to draw on the operational experience gained with the Baltic Sea Strategy; calls, accordingly, for an action plan to complement the document; is of the opinion that the Action Plan should include the following elements: environmentally friendly use of the Danube by inland navigation, intermodality with other transport modes along the Danube through the improvement of all infrastructures (with priority for the better use of existing infrastructure) and by creating a multi-modal transport system all along the river, environmentally-friendly use of water power along the Danube, preservation and improvement of Danube water quality in accordance with the Water Framework Directive, stringent vessel safety requirements, development of environmentally friendly tourism and improvements in the fields of education, research and social cohesion;

12.  Stresses the need to diversify energy sources and calls on the Commission and all riparian states to increase cooperation in the field of energy, to promote and implement joint projects on energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, in the light of the region's potential as a source of bioenergy, and to encourage the use of biomass, solar, wind and hydro energy;

13.  Underlines that proper strategic and environmental impact assessments, including assessments of effects on the entire ecosystems of the river, should be a prerequisite for all transport- and energy-related infrastructure projects, in order to guarantee that international standards of environmental protection are met, after consulting those partners which might be affected by those decisions;

14.  Points out the exceptional economic interdependence of the states in the Danube region and supports the establishment of business development networks and non-governmental trade promotion bodies which can coordinate and promote future development opportunities, especially for SMEs, in order to ensure sustainable and efficient growth and to stimulate the growth of the green economy in the whole Danube macro-region;

15.  Proposes the integration of the EU transport system with those of the EU's neighbouring countries in the Danube region and stresses the importance of making provision for co-modality projects;

16.  Regards the inland waterway navigation system as an important aspect of the development of transport in the region, whilst recognising the decrease in inland navigation, which is mainly due to the strong economic downturn, and emphasises the importance of eliminating the bottlenecks on the Rhine/Meuse-Main-Danube waterway axis and improving the entire intermodal transport system along the Danube, while focusing on the combination between improved inland ports and logistics, inland navigation and rail transport and taking into account the additional possibilities of short sea shipping;

17.  Proposes that the Trans-European Network be upgraded in order to improve intermodality in the whole region and increase connectivity with the Black Sea through road and railway routes (freight corridors and high-speed railway lines);

18.  Calls on the Commission to foster more widespread use of modern communication and information technologies and to take all necessary measures to achieve as swiftly as possible an efficient unified system of navigation rules on the Danube;

19.  Considers sustainable tourism an important instrument for promoting the economic growth of the region, noting for example the opportunities offered by ecotourism and the economic potential of the cycle routes along almost the entire Danube;

20.  Supports programmes aimed at improving the multicultural environment of the Danube by fostering multinational mobility, promoting cultural dialogue, generating forms of art and communication and of training and business incubator establishments in these sectors, and protecting the cultural and historical heritage as well as stimulating new cultural industries;

21.  Supports university exchange programmes within the region and suggests that the universities in the region could form networks in order to foster centres of excellence capable of competing at international level;

22.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to improve administrative arrangements in order to lessen the administrative burden inherent in developing more effectively and implementing the EU Strategy for the Danube Region;

23.  Calls on the Commission to work closely with it in defining the priorities for the development of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, and calls on the Commission to regularly inform and consult the European Parliament on the status of the implementation of this strategy;

24.  Underlines the need for a coordinated approach aimed at more efficient and higher absorption of all available EU funds in the States along the Danube, in order to be able to fulfil the objectives of the Strategy;

25.  Encourages the use of the existing Operational Programmes to finance projects under the strategy; urges all parties concerned also to explore other, non-financial instruments that would facilitate the implementation of the strategy and have an immediate positive effect on the ground;

26.  Proposes that, following consultation with local and regional stakeholders, an EU Danube Summit be held every two years and its conclusions be presented to the European Council and Parliament;

27.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Committee of the Regions and the other relevant institutions.

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