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Daily Notebook: 13-11-96(2)


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13/11/96 - Environment dispute clarified

Environment dispute clarified
Prior to the vote on several pieces of environmental legislation, environment committee chairman, Ken Collins (Strathclyde East, PES) raised the question of reports in a Danish newspaper attributing Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard with making remarks in which the word 'untrustworthy' was used to describe the environment committee. Whatever the differences between one of Parliament's committees and the Commission, such comments were not in the spirit of fostering good working relations between both bodies, he said.

In reply, the Commissioner confirmed her respect for the committee but did say she did not consider the action of tabling a large number of amendments to the environmental action programme to be helpful.

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Vote on Bananas .

Bananas
(C4-529/96)
Wednesday, 13 November - The Council's common position concerning the continuation of a special system of assistance to traditional ACP suppliers of bananas was approved unamended.

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Vote on Annual legislative programme

Annual legislative programme
(A4-348/96 - Manzella)

Wednesday, 13 November - Following Monday's debate, amendments to Rule 49 were adopted to enable the Commission to present the annual legislative programme in October with an indication of the legal base chosen and the timetable for adoption.

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Vote on Pictures and Paintings .

Pictures and paintings
Co-decision procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted
(A4-309/96 - Escudero)
Wednesday, 13 November - The common position was approved without amendment.

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Vote on Environmental impact assessment

Environmental impact assessment - Not enough votes for key amendments
Cooperation procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted or text rejected.
(A4-343/96 - Lannoye)
Wednesday, 13 November - MEPs approved the Council's common position on a piece of legislation on the kind of projects requiring an environmental impact assessment study, with a small number of amendments, one of which seeks to ensure that the general public is given the opportunity to express opinions at public inquiries. Other amendments, however, designed to lengthen the list of schemes to be subject to compulsory EU assessment procedures, such as farms with more than 100 animals, failed to secure a sufficient number of votes.

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Vote on control of diseases .

Control of diseases
(A4-287/96 - Cabrol)
Wednesday, 13 November - Christian Cabrol's (F, UFE) report was adopted with amendments.

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Vote on Environment and sustainable development

The environment and sustainable development
Co-decision procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted
(A4-300/96 - Dybkjaer)

Wednesday, 13 November - MEPs approved the Commission's proposal on sustainable development at first reading by 428 votes to 28 with 15 abstentions, together with a number of amendments emphasising that without additional measures the 1992 goals of stabilising waste and noise levels by the year 2000 and removing pesticides and nitrates in groundwater by the year 2005 will not be achieved. Another amendment supporting the notion of shifting taxes on employment to taxes on pollutants was passed by 258 votes to 208 but amendments on a CO2 tax were lost.

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Vote on Aid for environmental pressure groups

Aid for environmental pressure groups
Cooperation procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted
(A4-258/96 - Rübig)

Wednesday, 13 November - The House approved the Commission's proposal designed to channel EU funds to help environmental pressure groups with amendments, one of which excludes financial assistance from 'organisations which have been found guilty of an offence by a court in the European Community within the last two years', which could no doubt threaten Greenpeace.

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Vote on Competition policy .

Competition policy
(A4-324/96 - García Arias)
Wednesday, 13 November - Mrs Ludivina GarcÍa Arías' (E, PES) resolution on the Commission's 25th annual report on competition policy was approved with some changes by 231 votes to 209 with 3 abstentions. The original paragraph relating to liberalising postal and energy services was lost.

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Vote on the Single Market .

The Single Market
(A4-323/96 - Secchi)
Wednesday, 13 November - Carlo Secchi (I, EPP) resolution was approved with amendments seeking to tackle taxation anomalies.

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Vote on the World Trade Organisation

The World Trade Organisation
(A4-320/96 - Kittelmann)

Wednesday, 13 November - Peter Kittelmann's (D, EPP) resolution was approved with amendments.

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Vote on Loans .

Loans
(A4-318/96 - Kuckelkorn
Wednesday, 13 November - The Commission's proposal was approved with amendments.

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Vote on Mergers Green Paper .

Mergers Green Paper
(A4-339/96 - Rapkay)

Wednesday, 13 November - Bernhard Rapkay's (D, PES) resolution was approved unamended.

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Vote on Mergers .

Mergers
Consultation procedure
(A4-332/96 - Rapkay)

Wednesday, 13 November - The two Commission proposals were approved unamended.

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Vote on Relocating industries .

Relocating industries
(A4-335/96 - Hautala)

Wednesday, 13 November - Heidi Hautala's (Fin, Greens) resolution was approved with amendments by 204 votes to 165 with 2 abstentions.

Votes on the other reports were deferred.

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13/11/96 - Middle East peace process .

Push for Middle East peace process
MEPs this afternoon heard Council President-in-Office, Gay Mitchell emphasise the EU's commitment to relaunching the peace process in the Middle East by reporting on a Troika visit to the region. The fact that the EU had appointed a special envoy to the region showed the importance it attached to the issue, he said. But in the debate some MEPs felt the draft resolution due to be voted tomorrow lent too far on the side of the Palestinians.

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13/11/96 - New candidate for President

New candidate for President
José Maria GIL-ROBLES GIL-DELGADO has been nominated as the official candidate of the European People's Party in the elections for the President of the European Parliament which will take place in January 1997.

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UNICEF - 50TH Anniversary .

UNICEF - 50th Anniversary

Wednesday, 13 November - President Hänsch speaking on the commemoration of UNICEF's 50th anniversary asked MEPs to remember all those children who are thirsty, those children who seek shelter and those children who are exploited around the world. He insisted that rights made in the 1990 UN charter must be defended and pledged the European Parliament's continued support for better rights such as education and freedom from oppression. He suggested that UNICEF should undergo internal reform and to use its fund appropriately. He congratulated the progress made by UNICEF regarding child mortality rates and immunisation. He concluded by saying 'It is thanks to you, the children of yesteryear are here today'.

Council President-in-office Gay Mitchell outlined UNICEF's history. UNICEF he said, was set up as a form of emergency assistance to help children in the aftermath of World War II but subsequently extended its mandate to champion the cause of children. He noted that UNICEF had not only become an organisation representing children but also one which represented development. He noted that the real progress was made in 1989 in the UN General Assembly on rights of the child, and the 1990 World Summit of Children where 159 representatives of governments signed a joint plan of action. The Stockholm Congress for the prevention of commercialisation of children affirmed the commitment to protect children from abuse. 'We must strive for implementation of laws' he demanded and called for joint actions and judicial cooperation. He said of Ireland that already legislation was prepared against so-called 'sexual tourism' and said recent events in Belgium would hopefully bring about effective methods of combatting paedophilia.

Commissioner Anita Gradin said, that the child of today was the adult of tomorrow and that UNICEF was important in defending a child's birthright. She said that children had been considered as the property of their parents. The

Convention of the Rights of the Child in 1989 confirmed that children had the right to food, clothing and security.

Lissy Gröner (D, PES) congratulated UNICEF for their work since 1946. She noted that there were still 1.5 million children killed, 4 million crippled or wounded and 5 million refugees as a result of war. Despite progress, she warned there was still shortcoming and urged the European Parliament to be the champion of the child. She called for the improvement in living conditions of women which she said would automatically lead to the improvement of the living conditions.

Nana Mouskouri (Gr, EPP), UNICEF ambassador told MEPs that, despite many decisions taken, the Union must not rest on its laurels. She pointed out the large number of children who don't go to school and therefore don't have the investment for their future. She stressed the importance of improving the environment so children grow up in a balanced and stable way. She said the tragic events in Belgium were a reminder of how much needed to be done and that the elimination of the practice of sexual tourism should now be a priority.

Mrs Mouskouri reminded MEPs that the establishment of Europol provided the arena to tighten and to harness all measures and requested that the IGC establish a chapter on minors. Speaking in English to thank UNICEF she said 'Every child is our child'.

Giancarlo Ligabue (I, UFE) said children were victims of adults in a society that was not at ease with itself. He demanded new ways of educating children and getting to know them.

Anne André-Léonard (B, ELDR) pointed out that exploitation of children had taken on a new form. In war, development of technologies in arms had the effect that children could actually carry weapons and were forced in some areas to shoot members of their family. She reminded MEPs how children were forced to support family or trafficked to be used to provide pornographic material.

Alonso Puerta (E, EUL/NGL) said UNICEF had gained the Nobel Prize in 1975 for its work. Child mortality rate had halved but still 35 million children were not going to school two-thirds of which were girls. He condemned the Vatican for withdrawing its financial support from UNICEF because of the organisation's 'liberal' attitude with regard to contraception and family planning and criticised the UK for withdrawing its proposed ban of exploitation of under 18's in the workplace. He also warned MEPs that there existed five paedophile networks which had extended their branches into the EU.

Catherine Lalumière (F, ERA) quoting the figures of 153 million exploited children in Africa, 80 million in Asia, 17 million in South America, called on greater efforts to broaden the scope of work undertaken.

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Peace in the Middle East .

Peace in the Middle East
(A4-351/96 - Colajanni)

Wednesday, 13 November - Opening the debate Luigi Colajanni (I, PES) referred to a recent opinion poll in which 48% of Israelis were unhappy with the direction of the new government. The only way to end terrorism he emphasised was for Israel to respect agreements and follow the path of negotiation. Now was the time to restore trust in the peace process.

For Council President-in-office Gay Mitchell referred to the visit of the troika to Syria, Jordan, the Gaza Strip and Egypt where a meeting took place with the Israelis. The appointment of a special EU envoy illustrated the importance attached to supporting the peace process, which he admitted would be a 'long haul'. And yet President Assad of Syria had indicated a willingness to enter into negotiations with Israel and supported a role for the EU. In Jordan there was support for a regional effort to resolving the conflict. President Mubarak too had expressed his concern about the deterioration of the peace process and the threat from extremists. He admitted however that it was not possible for the troika to go to Israel itself for negotiations. In conclusion he said there seemed to be widespread support for an enhanced EU role, reminding the House that at the beginning of the Irish Presidency this had been the highest priority and still was. Emphasis would be placed on acting as a peace maker and compliance with law and respect for human rights.

Commissioner Manuel Marin said the Commission was putting the final touches to an association agreement with the Palestinians which would offer similar advantages as other agreements with different countries. The EU, he reminded the House was providing some 53% of the total aid to the region but emphasising his support for the renewal of dialogue he warned of the grave risks ahead if the Oslo agreement was not respected. It was imperative to avoid confrontation at all costs he said. No-one disputed Israel's right to insist

on its own security at the same time there should be economic development of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to create a viable economy. Without reconciliation and dialogue between both sides there was always a danger of extremists he added although he did feel, without going into any detail, that Mr Colajanni's report was not quite as it should be.

In the debate numerous MEPs including Michel Rocard (F, PES) urged the Israelis to respect the Oslo peace negotiations and indeed some speakers such as Mireille Elmalan (F, EUL/NGL) went further and called for a threat to suspend cooperation with Israel until satisfaction was achieved. Other speakers such as Jan Willem Bertens (Nl, ELDR) and Luigi Caligaris (I, UFE) felt that Mr Colajanni's approach lent too far towards the Palestinian point of view. Several Liberal members said they could not support the draft resolution as it stood with Leonie van Bladel (Nl, UFE) pointing out that EU could not act as peace maker if it was not neutral.

Gary Titley (Greater Manchester West, PES) reminded the House that stability in the Region had a direct impact on Europe with the spin-off of negative effects such as terrorism only too keenly felt. He rejected any notion that the EU was not in a position to act in the region and welcomed the attention paid by Dick Spring to the problem. He too emphasised that it was necessary to take an even-handed approach and that Palestinian police should not be attacking Israeli civilians. There was also a danger of fundamentalism from Iran and Syria. The way forward was to promote joint economic cooperation especially in such areas as water provision.

James Provan (South Downs West, EPP) was another speaker to regret the halt in the peace process and the attitude of the new Israeli government but he said this was democracy and the EU must learn to live with it but he emphasised it would require statesmanship of the highest order to achieve peace in the region and this was what was needed now.

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Question Time to the Council .

QUESTION TIME
Questions to the Council
Wednesday, 13 November -

Bid to curb noisy night flights

Gay Mitchell told Felipe Camíson Asensio (E, EPP) that the Commission had submitted a proposal to amend a 1992 directive with a view to cutting down noise levels from older aeroplanes. There was, however, likely to be further discussions to take account of the financial impact on developing countries who were mainly the owners of such aircraft. In response to a supplementary from Michael Elliott (London West, PES) he promised to check to see if the new proposal would apply to private aircraft and accepted there was a case for harmonising rules to reduce night flights.

MEDIA II and aid for TV programmes

Gay Mitchell told Ioannis Theonas (Gr, EUL/NGL) that some ECU 310m had been allocated for the MEDIA II programme over the next five years and this was a clear sign of Council's commitment to the European audio-visual industry. Mr Theonas was worried about Europe being swamped with American productions.

Human rights in Tunisia

Gay Mitchell told David Martin (Lothians, PES) that Council was aware of the cases against Heidi Akouri and Jalel Maalej, both held in a Tunisian jail for belonging to the banned Islamic party al-Nahda and that human rights issues were regularly discussed with the Tunisian authorities as provided for under the EU's agreement with the country.

Tackling the problem of BSE


Mr Gay Mitchell, replying to Anne McIntosh (Essex North and Suffolk South, EPP) on the need for a more comprehensive system of cattle labelling and traceability throughout the European Union, said a package of ECU 5m designed to deal with short term consequences of which 13% had been allocated to the UK. Mr Mitchell responding to Ms McIntosh's demand for a higher percentage considering the greater impact the crisis had on consumers and farmers in the UK, said that the proposal was fair considering countries like Ireland exported 85% of beef production. Ms McIntosh called for an electronic tagging scheme, or in areas where this was not possible, a paperbase or passport scheme for cattle. Mr Mitchell said this would be considered. In replying to an intervention from David Thomas (Suffolk and Norfolk South West, PES) on financial support for a database, Gay Mitchell said the Council was considering the proposal.

Extradition

In response to Glyn Ford's (Greater Manchester East, PES) question on extradition Gay Mitchell referred to the 1957 Convention of extradition which had been ratified by 14 states and applies to offences with sentences of more than one year. He also referred to the EU Extradition Convention which all in all gave a solid framework. Mr Ford said a murderer from Sheffield had escaped from prison in 1982 and had spent 12 years wandering France defying extradition rules and 'getting away with murder'. Mr Mitchell said he could not comment on individual cases but that he personally felt the Irish Presidency had made progress in justice and home affairs areas.

Dounreay cover-up

Gay Mitchell, replying to Alex Smith's (South of Scotland, PES) allegations of a cover-up in the nuclear power station, said the Council attaches great importance to health and safety risks associated with nuclear power stations but that it was a Commission competence. Mr Smith reminded MEPs that the EU health inspectors in 1993 gave the power station a clean bill of health which led him to believe that either the inspectors were not given information or did not act on it.

Forced labour in Burma

Gay Mitchell, replying to Clive Needles (Norfolk, PES) assertion that forced labour was still continuing in Burma, said that an investigation was still being carried out and would continue for one year. Mr Needle was not satisfied with Mr Mitchell's reply, as he said, going under cover as a tourist to Burma he had seen forced labour in action.

He took the view that the oil company 'Total' by continuing to maintain links with Burma was in this way condoning forced labour practices. Mr Mitchell

gave his assurance that the Council would continue to monitor this area.

 
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