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News report : 26-02-97

Brussels, 26 February, 1997


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IMMIGRATION:DISPUTE WITH FRANCE PRESIDENTIA MEETING OFF

Immigration: Dispute with France - Presidential meeting cancelled

Jose Maria GIL-ROBLES, President of the European Parliament, has been informed of the appearance this morning, of the French Foreign Minister, Mr Hervé de CHARETTE on the French TV channel France 2, during which he criticised the resolution adopted by MEPs last week on racism, in which new French proposals on immigration were criticised. He said that this showed that Parliament was not 'worthy of its name'.

In the absence of any further explanation from Mr de CHARETTE, Mr GIL-ROBLES has decided to cancel their meeting planned for 26 February at 4.15 p.m.

Further Information: Jaume DUCH, spokesman of the President Tel: 284.30.00


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HELLO, DOLLY!.. MEPS COUNT SHEEP

HELLO, DOLLY!....MEPS COUNT SHEEP

MEPs said hello to the advent of "Dolly", the sheep cloned from a cell taken from a sheep's udder, when the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection met on 25 February. The committee decided to send an urgent letter to the Commission suggesting consideration of the ethical implications.

Noting that President Clinton had referred the matter to his advisers on scientific ethics, committee chairman Ken COLLINS (PES, UK) said:"It would be appropriate if the EU were to consider the possibilities that might arise".

Following the production of the sheep at Scotland's Roslin Institute, which a delegation from the committee visited last June, a major concern is the prospect that it may become possible in due course to clone a human being.

Mr Ian WHITE (PES, UK), who had brought up the question, stressed the need for genetic patenting legislation. In a light-hearted exchange with the chairman, he said that any future clones of the same sheep would be genetically identical and so they would all have to be called Dolly. Mr COLLINS retorted that while such sheep would be genetically identical they would be chronologically distinct. Hence they would have to be called Dolly 1, Dolly 2, Dolly 3 and so on.

Further Information: Patrick REYNOLDS - Tel: 284.47.06

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NO TAKE OFF FOR BRITISH AIRWAYS AMERICAN AIRLINES ALLIANCE


NO TAKE OFF FOR BRITISH AIRWAYS/AMERICAN AIRLINES ALLIANCE

25/02 - Yesterday, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, chaired by Mr Florus WIJSENBEEK (ELDR, NL), vehemently criticized the planned alliance between British Airways and American Airlines. Members expressed their great concern on the consequences of this alliance for consumers and other European air carriers. There was strong support for Commissioner Neil KINNOCK and Karel VAN MIERT, who told the Committee that the Commission may not give the green light for this alliance after all. An investigation, started in July 1996, will be completed in 2 or 3 months. The Commissioners stressed that the Commission has legal competence to investigate the BA/AA alliance, although BA and others have argued that the Commission should keep out and leave examination of the alliance solely to the national authorities in the UK.

British Airways boss Robert Aying has accused the Commission of discriminating against BA by questioning over the deal. Mr VAN MIERT said that the Commission is also investigating all other alliances between European and US airlines, like United Airways/Lufthansa/SAS and KLM/NorthWest. The UK government claims that approval by its own competition authorities is sufficient, but the Commission is convinced that Article 89 of the Treaty provides the necessary legal authority for substantive involvement.

Questions were also raised on what will happen to fares and conditions for the 12,5 million passengers travelling between the UK and the US every year if the alliance acquires 61% of the market and for the 32 million passengers on US/UK flights if the monopoly has 13 of the 23 main trans-Atlantic routes. The Commission and the Committee are strongly against the UK government's proposal that would allow a sale of 168 of the 3352 slots they control at Heathrow as a precondition for the deal. MEPs and both Commissioners argued that under current EU rules it is illegal to sell slots for payment.

Further Information: Ton HUIJSSOON - Tel 284.24.08

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EU-MOROCCO FISHERIES AGREEMENT:CALMING EURO'S

EU-MOROCCO FISHERIES AGREEMENT: CALMING EUROPE'S FEARS

How can the Moroccan Government's wish to invest in the fisheries industry be reconciled with conservation needs, and what does the future hold for the EU-Morocco fisheries

agreement? These were the main issues discussed on 25 February by the Committee on Fisheries (chair: Carmen FRAGA ESTEVEZ, EPP, E) with a delegation from the Moroccan fisheries authorities.

Mr TANGI, from the delegation said that there would not be an increase in the amount of fish caught, but improvements to the processing industry, and the fishing fleet, to enable it to reach new fishing grounds.

He also stressed that the agreement with the EU was unique. Although Morocco does have arrangements with other countries, these did not include fishing rights as such. Only the agreements with Japan and Russia allowed for any fishing. In the case of Japan, 30 tuna vessels were allowed to fish for three months only, while Russia had been granted a quota of 200 000 tonnes for certain species including sardines which was being reduced each year. 'These agreements are really insignificant' said Mr TANGI 'in relation to the agreement with the EU', which covered 600 vessels, all types of fishing and had no ceiling on catches.

Further Information:    Patrick BARAGIOLA - Tel: 284.32.51

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TELECOMMUN AGREEMENT:A BOOST FOR GROWTH JOBS

TELECOMMUNICATIONS AGREEMENT: A BOOST FOR GROWTH AND JOBS

The current situation of the World Trade Organization, links between environmental protection and trade, social legislation, agreements on information technologies and telecommunications and the involvement of the European Parliament in decision-making on international agreements - these were the issues discussed on 24 February by the Committee on External Economic Relations (chair: Fernando MONIZ, PES, P) and Mrs van DOK, President-in-Office of the Council and Netherlands Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.

According to Mrs van DOK, the telecommunications agreement signed in Geneva ten days ago by all the WTO member states would lead to the gradual liberalization of telecommunications throughout the world. It would contribute to economic growth, job-creation and a reduction in the cost of telephone services. The impact on European companies would be beneficial, a view which was shared by all European firms in the industry.

Mrs van DOK deplored the lack of progress on environmental protection. She also believed that consideration should be given to imposing systematic sanctions on countries where child labour was used.


On the possibility of using codecision for all international economic relations, Mrs van DOK said that the Netherlands was in favour of a more active role for Parliament.

On Turkey, Mrs van DOK said that the Presidency was planning, after consulting Parliament and the parties concerned, to hold a meeting of the Association Council with Turkey.
    
Further Information: Yannis DARMIS - Tel: 284.38.16


SPAIN SAYS NO LEAP FORWARD TO FURTHER INTEGRATION AT IGC

The Spanish Prime Minister's representative for the IGC, Javier ELORZA, addressing the Committee on Institutional Affairs (chairman: Biagio DE GIOVANNI (PES, I)), acknowledged that the IGC would not make a qualitative leap on European integration.

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SPAIN SAYS NO LEAP FORWARD TO FURTHER INTEGRATION AT IGC

Spain wants to see a Europe closer to its citizens, a beefed up Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and institutional reforms.

On transparency, he stressed that, while there was no agreement on making Council meetings open to the public, there was on public access to documents. Spain was in favour of incorporating the whole of Schengen into the Treaty. Priority should be given to combating international crime, terrorism and drug trafficking. There could be no talk of a single legal area unless the Member States trusted each other.

Various CFSP issues remained open and there was serious disagreement over whether or not to merge the WEU with the EU.    

On decision-making procedures, Mr ELORZA said that Spain was open to the idea of using codecision for all matters currently coming under the cooperation procedure.

Further information:    Josep Maria RIBOT - tel. 00 352 4300 4829

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EQUAL TREATMENT: PUSH TO SHIFT

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B THE BURDEN OF PROOF RANK

EQUAL TREATMENT: PUSH TO SHIFT THE BURDEN OF PROOF

At a meeting of the Committee on Women's Rights (chairman: Nel van DIJK (Greens, Nl)) on 25 February 1997, two experts discussed with MEPs the issue of the burden of proof in sex-discrimination cases. The discussion was part of the debate on the report by Fiorella GHILARDOTTI (PES, I) (cooperation procedure, first reading).

Dr Marzia BARBERA (I) of Brescia University and Dr Riki HOLTMAAT (Nl) of the Clara-Wichmann Institute argued that the case-law of the EU Court of Justice on equal treatment should be turned into a meaningful directive which not only reflected existing case-law but also authorized Member States who so desired 'to go further'. The speakers agreed that a 'weak' directive might encourage court rulings which actually limited women's rights. As the proposal was being submitted under the Social Protocol, it required only a qualified majority in the Council and not unanimity.

Several points in the proposed directive were closely linked and the two experts believed they should be emphasised:

-    a definition, for the first time in EU law, of 'indirect discrimination',
-    the procedures laid down in Article 5 of the directive concerning claims to be investigated. If in the course of the negociations the Council managed to remove this article, the directive might easily end up diluting the effects of the Court of Justice's case-law.

Further Information:    Maria Grazia CAVENAGHI - Tel: 284.22.39

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USE OF COMPUTERS BY CUSTOMS: COUNCIL IGNORES PARLIAMENT

USE OF COMPUTERS BY CUSTOMS: COUNCIL IGNORES PARLIAMENT


On 24 February the Committee on Civil Liberties (chairman: Hedy d'ANCONA (PES, Nl)) adopted the report by Mr SCHULZ (PES, D) on the Convention on the use of information technology for customs purposes. The Council had already adopted the convention, on 26 July 1995, without asking for Parliament's opinion.

Mr SCHULZ is therefore calling on national parliaments, when ratifying the convention,
-    to ensure that the personal data protection measures laid down in the convention are fully complied with;
-    not to ratify the convention and the agreement if these are not adequate safeguards at a national level:

Further Information:    Antonio SOBRINHO - Tel: 284.35.35

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EU AID POLICIES EXPLAINED .

EU AID POLICIES EXPLAINED

Today, 26 February, Commissioner Emma BONINO, came before the Committee on Development and Cooperation (chairman: Michel ROCARD (PES, F)), to explain the strategy of the EU's emergency aid programme ECHO for 1997. The ultimate aim was to eliminate dependence on humanitarian aid and enable the people concerned to attain self-sufficiency. Emergency aid, rehabilitation and development must therefore go hand-in-hand. A worrying development was that, as one crises succeeded another, humanitarian principles were increasingly being disregarded. It was important to ensure that just delivering humanitarian aid did not serve as an alibi for inaction on the political front.

Mrs BONINO said that ECHO operations in 1997 would continue to be based on the principle of partnership with NGOs, UN agencies and international organisations. To strengthen cooperation with Member States, ECHO would establish links with national humanitarian aid authorities and set up a new system to exchange information on funding decisions. It will also arrange a number of workshops in 1997, including one on skill shortages. Priority will be given to the problem of land mines. In conclusion the Commissioner said that the Commission would be conducting a general assessment of the Union's humanitarian aid.

Further Information: Marie-Christine de SAINT-ARAILLE - Tel: 284.38.13

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CREDIT INSTITUTIONS, SOLVENCY RATION CAPITAL ADEQUACY

CREDIT INSTITUTIONS, SOLVENCY RATIO AND CAPITAL ADEQUACY UPDATE

The Legal Affairs Committee (chair: Willy DE CLERCQ, ELDR, B) has adopted the report by Marlies MOSIEK-URBAHN (EPP, D), thereby endorsing the - essentially technical - amendments proposed by the Commission to three directives: on banking (1977), a solvency ratio (1989) and capital adequacy (1993). The changes are designed to reflect new developments in these areas and to tighten up the directives.

The amendments will:
-    enable Member States to conclude agreements for the exchange of information with supervisory authorities in third countries (1977 directive);
-    allow a lower risk weighting for certain asset items (1989 directive).

Further Information: Etienne BASSOT - Tel. 284.47.41

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SUPPORT FOR REGIONAL INTEGRATI AMONG DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

SUPPORT FOR REGIONAL INTEGRATION AMONG DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

The Committee on Development and Cooperation (chairman: Michel ROCARD (PES, F)), in adopting the report by Clive NEEDLE (PES, UK), saw the main purpose of regional economic integration among developing countries as being to reduce poverty and promote sustainable human, economic and social development.

To encourage regional economic integration, preferential measures should be adopted to support the weaker economies in a given region and ensure that regional integration enabled the countries taking part to make greater progress towards economic and trade integration than the World Trade Organization required. However, these liberalisation agreements must not lead to increased protectionism against outsiders.

Further Information: Marie-Christine de Saint-Araille - Tel: 284.38.13

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YES TO INTERIM AGREEMENT WITH ARMENIA

YES TO INTERIM AGREEMENT WITH ARMENIA

In unanimously adopting the report by Peter KITTELMANN (EPP, D), the Committee on External Economic Relations (chaired by Fernando MONIZ, PES, P) is urging the European Parliament to say yes to the interim agreement between the EU and Armenia on trade and flanking measures (consultation procedure). The agreement would allow early implementation of the trade provisions of the partnership and cooperation agreement between the EU and Armenia, signed on 22 April 1996. The interim agreement needs to be ratified only by the institutions of the Union, whereas the partnership agreement, which provides for broader cooperation on foreign policy and cultural affairs, must be ratified by the Member States as well as the Union.

Further Information: Yannis Darmis - Tel: 284.38.16

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NEW SYSTEM TO REPLACE BORDER CHECKS

NEW SYSTEM TO REPLACE BORDER CHECKS

The Committee on Civil Liberties (chairman: Hedy d'ANCONA (PES, Nl)), approving the report by Anna TERRON I CUSI (PES, E) on the draft convention on the establishment of a European information system (EIS), explained that this was a consequence of the abolition of internal frontiers in the EU.

The committee believes the system should provide customs, police and the courts with data on crimes and threats to public order so that arrests and extraditions could be performed on the basis of the data provided.

It could also play a role in the development of a Community asylum policy, visa policy and tracing missing persons.

The committee voted in favour of adopting a regulation rather than a convention.

Further Information:    Antonio SOBRINHO - Tel: 284.35.35

 
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