Banner page The European Parliament The European Parliament
Banner page

Index 
 
 

The Week : 08-02-99(s)

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Tom Spencer's apology to the House


Tom Spencer's apology to the House

Monday 8 February - Tom Spencer (Surrey, EPP) stated that he was going to disregard half of Benjamin Disraeli's advice to politicians to "never apologise and never explain". He did wish to apologise to anyone in the House whom he might have offended by an act of "extraordinary foolishness" that he had committed by which he had broken the law of England. Mr Spencer wished to express his commitment to Europe and to the European Parliament - "the spirit of Europe lives here", he stressed. President Gil Robles thanked Mr Spencer for his statement and said that he had paid a "heavy price for what was a personal matter".

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Combating air pollution


Combating air pollution
Cooperation procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0052/99 - Fitzsimons)

Monday 8 February - Speaking on behalf of James Fitzsimons (Leinster, UFE), Liam Hyland (Leinster, UFE) noted that Council had taken on board many of Parliament's amendments in its common position on a Commission proposal to reduce pollution from greenhouse gases by introducing strict monitoring measures as part of the overall strategy to stabilise CO2 emissions by the year 2000 to 1990 levels. Mr Hyland stressed the importance of having an effective mechanism to monitor and measure emissions. He commended the common position as a "workmanlike job" and stated that he was mainly satisfied with it, although a number of compromise amendments were being tabled that sought to strengthen the proposal.

There was broad support from the political groups for Mr Fitzsimons's position and the need for an effective monitoring mechanism. Bernd Lange (D, PES) stressed however that there was a need for a framework in which the democratic rights of Parliament could be safeguarded and he wanted to ensure that it was informed about the decisions reached in the committee that was being proposed to give its opinion on the measures being taken. Ursula Schleicher (D, EPP) and Johannes Blokland (NL, I-EN also stressed their support for a proper monitoring mechanism.

Replying for the Commission Ritt Bjerregaard welcomed MEPs' support for an effective monitoring mechanism and stated that the Commission was able to support all of the proposed amendments. She noted that the Commission would be issuing a new communication in the Spring on the issue. Finally she noted that contacts with Parliament were very important and she would "do her bit" to ensure that it was involved in the whole process.

The common position was approved with a number of amendments.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Sulphur content of heavy fuels


Sulphur content of heavy fuels
Cooperation procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0002/99 - Hautala)

Monday 8 February - Welcoming a Council common position on a proposal to reduce the sulphur content of heavy fuels used in refineries by 1%, Heidi Hautala (Fin, Greens) explained that the concern of the Environment Committee now was to bring forward the date for compliance with the new legislation from 2008 as proposed by the Council to 2004. The committee also wants to advance the date of the implementation of the overall programme from 2003 as agreed by Council to 2001 and amendments reflecting these points have been tabled. Mrs Hautala also pointed out that Austria will be able to retain stricter legislation in this area.

In the debate, there was support for the common position which was seen as a major step forward to reduce acidification, with Bernd Lange (D, PES) welcoming a commitment to deal with the question of bunker oil, which he felt was important for pollution at sea. Françoise Grossetête (F, EPP) on the other hand, urged a flexible approach to take account of the different situations in the member states, in particular southern Mediterranean countries which use different types of fuel. She could not therefore go along with the Environment Committee's amendments, neither was she in favour of a specific proposal to control pollution from bunker oil. This is to be taken up at a later date.

Replying for the Commission, Ritt Bjerregaard explained that the legislation would mean a reduction of 1 million tons from the 3 million tons of sulphur dioxide that is emitted throughout the EU, albeit a cost of .700 per ton. Nevertheless, in view of the environmental gains, the price was well worth paying, she said. The common position, she felt, reflected the right balance to take up environmental concerns and at the same time took a realistic approach to what industry could achieve. While she could go along with the amendments, she did not feel that they would prove acceptable to Council which has agreed its common position unanimously.

The common position was approved unamended.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Landfill sites - legislation approved with amendments


Landfill sites - legislation approved with amendments
Cooperation procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0028/99 - Jackson)

Monday 8 February - Reporting on a Council common position, Caroline Jackson (Wiltshire North and Bath, EPP) on behalf of the Environment Committee, questioned the ability of several member states including the United Kingdom to achieve the target laid down in the legislation to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill sites to just 35% of the 1995 figure over the next 15 to 20 years. This is a particular problem for those countries which in addition to the UK, include Greece, Italy, Ireland and Spain, where most waste, amounting to more than 80% of the total is sent to landfill at present. Although Mrs Jackson welcomed the new approach and its emphasis on recycling and recovering and indeed changing consumers' attitudes towards disposing of rubbish, she emphasised the importance of close monitoring of developments over the next 20 years and indeed said that her discussions with local councils had led to her fears about compliance with the deadlines. Nevertheless, the Environment Committee is tabling a number of amendments, one of which is designed to reduce the 35% figure going to landfill over the next 15 years to 25% and another which is designed to reduce the exemption which allow countries such as the UK and Ireland an extra period of 4 years to comply. The Environment Committee would like to see this period reduced to 2 years. Without proper monitoring, Mrs Jackson said there was the danger that this "legislative Titanic" would become "an iceberg of non-compliance". The committee, she added, is also putting forward guidelines with regard to the citing of landfill tips in residential areas, although she emphasised that this was an area where the final decision belonged to the member states. The legislation is also intended to avoid waste disposal companies exporting rubbish to cheaper destinations.

While welcoming the work of Mrs Jackson, Bernie Malone (Dublin, PES) was disappointed at the attitude of Council which was, she felt, paying more attention to cost concerns and those of industry rather than those of the public. The common position was very watered down, she believed. She was unhappy in particular that it did not set minimum distances between landfill sites and residential areas. She did however welcome Commission support for the "polluter pays" principle. She also noted that only Greece was more reliant than Ireland in the use of landfill in waste disposal.

Gerard Collins (Munster, UFE) welcomed the thrust of Mrs Jackson's report and stressed that prevention of waste was the most desirable option. He was unhappy that only 8% of municipal waste in Ireland was recycled, and he welcomed the Irish government's attempts to deal with the problem. In conclusion he called for widespread public consultation. Patricia McKenna (Dublin, Greens) was unhappy that a committee amendment was only proposing distances from residential areas of 0.5km in the case of municipal landfills and 2km in the case of hazardous waste landfills as "suggested guidelines". They should, she argued, be mandatory. She warned of a "huge time bomb waiting to go off" and called for the "precautionary principle" to be adopted. It was not acceptable to put public health at risk, she concluded.

Graham Watson (Somerset and North Devon, ELDR) also broadly welcomed the legislation and stated that he was in favour of reducing the compliance timetable from 8 years to 5 years. Brian Crowley (Munster, UFE) noted that the problem was becoming worse with greater wealth across the EU. He called for a balanced approach and welcomed the Irish government's initiative to look at extra options for waste disposal.

Commissioner Bjerregaard was able to accept 12 of the Committee's 19 amendments, including the amendment that would reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfills within 15 years from 35% to 25% of the total amount of biodegradable municipal waste. Among other amendments she was also able to accept the proposal to have a recommended guideline of a minimum distance between residential areas and waste landfills, and the amendment calling for the closure of illegal landfill sites. Although she was broadly favourable to the use of "economic instruments such as a tax on waste going to landfill" she felt this should only come at member state level.

MEPs approved Council's common position with a number of amendments including one stipulating a 25% figure for the amount going to landfill instead of the 35% figure agreed by Council and another designed to reduce the extra time given to countries such as the UK and Ireland where 80% of waste ends up in landfill, an extra 2 years to comply rather than 4 years agreed by Council.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

An energy tax - Yes but easy to implement and refunds for the big payers


An energy tax - Yes but easy to implement and refunds for the big payers
Consultation procedure
(A4-0015/99 - Cox)

Tuesday 9 February - Pat Cox (Munster, ELDR) underlined his support for an energy tax in principle. The problem was the Commission proposal before the House, was "riddled with exemptions as there seemed to be more exemptions than basic rules." Such a tax, he said should be "Simple to understand, easy to collect, predictable and difficult to evade." This was not the case with this latest attempt from the Commission, which he felt, seemed to reflect too much the priority of lobbyists designed to ensure exemptions for each category that was likely to be adversely affected. It was, as he explained, not a tax on emissions as such, a separate proposal on this is stuck in committee, but a wide-ranging tax on fuel, coal, natural gas and electricity. The Committee, he emphasised, did not support extra taxation as such, but rather "fiscal neutrality", with the extra money raised being used to reduce taxes on labour. The Committee was therefore putting forward amendments designed to reduce the number of exemptions in the interest of clarity, but at the same time taking account of the interests of large energy users who are likely to be adversely affected. At the same time, the Committee was proposing a gradual increase in fuel taxes up and above the rate of inflation over a five-year period.

In the debate however, it became clear that although the principle was acceptable to most MEPs, the detail and its likely repercussions on different areas was proving more problematical. María Estevan Bolea (E, EPP) for example, expressing the views of the Energy Committee, pointed out the need not to overburden high energy users from industry facing competition from the USA where energy was cheap and taxes low, with extra costs. Furthermore, with industry having to cope with new regulations on water, gas and electricity, she felt that this was not the right time to impose extra burdens and could not go along with all the amendments proposed by Mr Cox.

Tom Spencer (Surrey, EPP) on the other hand, expressing the views of the Environment Committee, while also welcoming the principle of an energy tax urged the House to maintain support for the separate proposal for a tax on CO2 emissions, which is still on the table and held up in Committee in view of the problems in reaching agreement. Furthermore, he emphasised that what was important was deciding how the revenue from such taxes was used. A CO2 tax, as such, he felt, would contribute more to the environment and reducing pollution.

For the Party of the European Socialists, however, Christa Randzio-Plath (D) endorsed the proposal as a first step in harmonising tax rates on energy consumption. It would, she felt, contribute to reducing pollution. This approach, she felt, was important in bringing on board those member states which did not have an energy tax as such. For the European People's Party, Javier Areitio Toledo (E), however, was another speaker who, while endorsing the principle of an energy tax, felt that this proposal was extremely complex, especially as it attempted to deal with both taxation and environmental questions at the same time. He could not therefore go along with all the amendments. For the Liberals, Carles-Alfred Gasòliba i Böhm (E) endorsed Mr Cox's approach, emphasising the need to relieve the taxation burden on labour from the extra money raised, and also to remove distortions. Heidi Hautala (Fin, Greens), too, saw the Economic Committee's approach as an improvement on the original Commission proposal, in particular the proposed amendments to increase the rate on fuels, even though the Greens would have preferred the figure to be higher than the 2% above inflation proposed by the Economic Committee.

Replying for the Commission, Mr Monti welcomed the discussion and emphasised that this latest approach was not only on environmental grounds but was also designed to eliminate what he termed, "harmful" tax distortion affecting the single market. He acknowledged that, in an area where decision making was through unanimity in Council, it would not be easy to reach agreement, and indeed, told MEPs that there was not support in Council for a minimum level of excise duties, so he was not therefore, prepared to accept the Economic Committee's amendments on these points, although he could go along with a number of other amendments.

Although several amendments were approved, the final amended proposal was rejected by 239 votes to 215 with 20 abstentions and then referred back to committee.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Savings tax - MEPs vote for 20% and no exemption for eurobonds


Savings tax - MEPs vote for 20% and no exemption for eurobonds
Consultation procedure
(A4-0040/99 - Pérez Royo)

Tuesday 9 February - Giving a broad welcome to the Commission proposal that is aimed at introducing a minimum effective taxation on savings income, Fernando Pérez Royo (E, PES) stated that it was a clear improvement on the current situation. He noted that it would plug a loophole whereby individuals have been able to escape taxation by placing their savings in another member state such as Luxembourg, as few states tax savings for non-residents. Under the terms of the proposal, member states would be obliged to either impose a withholding tax of at least 20% or provide information on income to the tax authorities in the individual's country of residence - the so called "co-existence model". Mr Perez Royo noted that in committee an amendment had been passed that would lower the minimum tax rate from 20% to 15% as this was the rate that is most commonly used in international agreements. He agreed with the extension of the proposed system to third countries, although he did not consider that the entry into force of the directive should be postponed until such agreements have been concluded.

He noted that the proposal would cover the Eurobond market which is largely based in the City of London and represents a substantial amount of the UK securities market. However an amendment that had sought to exclude this market from the directive had not been carried in committee. Mr Perez Royo considered that Eurobonds should be included in the Directive, arguing that their exclusion would represent a very serious reduction in its scope and effect and would virtually amount to excluding the UK from the application of the Directive.

Christa Randzio-Plath (D, PES) welcome the proposal as a matter of tax justice in the EU and argued that no special status should be granted to any member state. She stressed the need for the withholding tax to be applied to all member states and wanted it to stand at 20%. Marianne Thyssen (B, EPP) warned that there were increased dangers of tax evasion with the advent of the euro. Her group supported all the amendments that had been adopted in committee, including that calling for the rate of the withholding tax to be brought down to 15%. She also welcomed the fact that the committee had rejected amendments designed to enlarge the scope of the directive so as to include interest payments to companies and legal entities.

Robert Goedbloed (Nl, ELDR) believed that the co-existence model offered a step forward to tackle the problem and was glad that the proposal would only involve taxing the investment income of private individuals. Pat the Cope Gallagher (Connacht/Ulster, UFE) also favoured the co-existence model as it would allow member states to preserve the different options. He too stressed the importance of negotiating with third countries. Friedrich Wolf (D, Greens) spoke of the harm that was caused by tax competition and wanted the EU to intervene in the area. Bernard Castagnède (F, ERA) stated that he spoke for the majority of his group and favoured the Commission proposal for a 20% tax level to restore the equilibrium of the tax burden and he did not agree with the proposal to extend the draft directive to companies. Lis Jensen (Dk, I-EN) did not think enough was being done, as it was, she said, a global problem that must be tackled at the global level.

Pervenche Berès (F, PES) and Alman Metten (Nl, PES) were two speakers who argued that the draft directive should include Eurobonds which Mr Metten described as a form of tax evasion. Bryan Cassidy (Dorset and East Devon, EPP)on the other hand could see no need for the directive as he considered the concept of harmful tax competition to be "absolute nonsense". There was nothing wrong with competition in tax, he argued. He was at least glad that the scope of the directive had not been extended to companies.

Replying for the Commission Mr Monti reminded the House that both the Luxembourg and British Presidencies had supported the thrust of tax reform, despite their reservations in this area. He stressed that the Commission's aim was not to increase the tax burden across Europe but to gradually reduce it, especially on labour. On Eurobonds he underlined the Commission's opposition to across the board exemptions to the proposal. However he promised to examine solutions to reduce red tape and to tackle the issue of bonds that were already in circulation. He could not accept a reduction in the rate to 15% as he believed that 20% was a reasonable compromise. In conclusion he stressed that the proposal did not represent a new tax but was a way of ensuring that tax evasion did not become a "5th freedom". The Commission only opposed unfair competition, he ended.

In endorsing Commission proposals for a minimum taxation rate on savings, MEPs supported the 20% figure proposed, rejecting an amendment to reduce it to 15% by 252 votes to 244 with 23 abstentions. The House also rejected other amendments designed to exempt eurobonds from the legislation, it did however approve one amendment tabled by the Party of the European Socialists which sees the measure as a first step towards a minimum taxation of savings on income, and supports further measures to harmonise capital gains tax across the EU.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

EC/Slovak Republic Europe Agreement / EEE Agreement (Transport) / Telecoms


EC/Slovak Republic Europe Agreement / EEE Agreement (Transport) / Telecommunications / Animal nutrition / Own resources
(C4-0633/98 / C4-0713/98 / C4-0714/98 / C4-0076/96)

Tuesday 9 February - The proposals were approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Euro coins - redesign approved but no hundred gold coin


Euro coins - redesign approved but no hundred gold coin
Cooperation procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0044/99 - Soltwedel-Schäfer)

Tuesday 9 February - The common position was approved after Parliament rejected an amendment designed to see a symbolic 100 euro gold coin minted.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

European Environment Agency


European Environment Agency
Cooperation procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0019/99 - Collins)

Tuesday 9 February - The common position was approved together with amendments designed to improve the quality of information provided by the agency and to clarify procedures affecting the agency's work.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Motor vehicle standards - Accent on safety


Motor vehicle standards - Accent on safety
Co-decision procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0448/98 - Wibe)

Tuesday 9 February - The proposal to amend a 1974 directive with a view to updating legislation to take account of new technical developments and particularly to set safety standards that would, for example, ensure that electronic windows are childproof, was approved unamended.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Rest of EU follows UK on vehicle spot checks


Rest of EU follows UK on vehicle spot checks
Cooperation procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0025/99 - Castricum)

Tuesday 9 February - The proposal was approved with a number of technical amendments, including one to extend the legislation to vehicles used in the transport of anmials.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Competition laws and Canada


Competition laws and Canada
Consultation procedure
(A4-0007/99 - Mann)

Tuesday 9 February - The proposal was approved with 2 procedural amendments.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Telecoms and cable TV - Monopoly concerns


Telecoms and cable TV - Monopoly concerns
(Commission communication and amending directive)
(A4-0487/98 - Watson)

Tuesday 9 February - Mr Watson's resolution approving a Commission communication and amending directive to a piece of legislation dating back to 1990 designed to promote competition in the cable TV area, was approved. Amendments to the legislation designed to tackle the dominance of companies with a share of both telecommunications networks and related services were approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Worries over delay in Channel Tunnel rail link


Worries over delays in Channel Tunnel rail link
Commission communication
(A4-0010/99 - Camisón Asensio)

Tuesday 9 February - Mr Camisón Asensio's resolution calling for speeding up progress on the 14 trans-European network projects including the Channel Tunnel rail link was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Promoting freight transport in the single market


Promoting freight transport in the single market
Commission communication
(A4-0011/99 - Stockman)

Tuesday 9 February - Mr Stockman's resolution calling on the Council and the Commission to take legislative action to liberalise rail transport was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

China - political progress is as important as economic development


China - political progress is as important as economic development
Commission Communication
(A4-0479/98 - Bernard-Reymond)

Tuesday 9 February - Mr Bernard-Reymond's resolution underlining the importance that Parliament attaches to relations with China was approved with a number of amendments. Emphasis is placed on human rights and democracy concerns and MEPs want to see a human rights clause included in a new trade and cooperation agreement.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Competition and regional aid - striking a balance


Competition and regional aid - striking a balance
(A4-0412/98 - Azzolini)

Tuesday 9 February - The resolution, which stresses the importance of striking a balance between regional policy and competition policy was adopted. It calls for effective competition rules to ensure the proper operation of the single market. Among the amendments that were adopted was one stating that member states can pursue diverse goals and objectives under national state aid policies. A further amendment stresses the need for flexibility in determining both eligible areas and state aid areas.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Competition policy - state subsidies still a concern


Competition policy - state subsidies still a concern
(A4-0421/98 - Riis-Jorgensen)

Tuesday 9 February - The resolution on the 27th report of the Commission on competition policy was adopted with amendment.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Praise for achievements of Buenos Aires climate change conference


Praise for achievements of Buenos Aires climate change conference

Tuesday 9 February - The House voted without amendment to endorse the resolution which welcomes the adoption of a Single Plan of Action at the November 1998 Buenos Aires conference on climate change. It also congratulates the EU on the position it took which was consistent with that taken by Parliament prior to the conference.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Mutual recognition of telecommunications equipment


Mutual recognition of telecommunications equipment
Co-decision procedure - third reading after conciliation. Simple majority required for joint text to be approved.
(A4-0386/98 - Read)

Tuesday 9 February - MEPs voted to adopt this resolution which stresses the importance of ensuring a universal service in the telecommunications sector. A number of amendments were passed including one calling on member states to introduce tariff arrangements specifically adapted to less affluent users and preferential tariffs for such bodies as schools and libraries. There is also a call for making the provision of universal service a priority.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

New rules for public contracts


New rules for public contracts
(A4-0394/98 - Tappin)

Tuesday 9 February - Mr Tappin's resolution calling for the rules governing the awarding of public contracts to be made simpler and easier to enforce, was adopted with a number of amendments including one calling on the Commission to consider blacklisting companies not respecting social and environmental standards as well as being guilty of fraud or corruption.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Jobs of the future


Jobs of the future
(A4-0475/98 - Mann)

Tuesday 9 February - MEPs voted with amendment to adopt the own initiative report of Thomas Mann (D, EPP) on jobs of the future. The report stresses that technological change will lead to accelerating changes in career patterns. This resolution states that a large number of jobs could be created by fundamentally charging the organisation and the legal framework of the current labour market by introducing a wide-scale reduction of working time with more support to part-time workers.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Controlling waste exports


Controlling waste exports
Cooperation procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0001/99 - Virgin)

Tuesday 9 February - The common position on a Commission proposal to control the export of waste to third countries was approved with amendment.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Copyright and the Internet - Support for artists and musicians


Copyright and the Internet - Support for artists and musicians and crackdown on hi-tec copying
Co-decision procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0026/99 - Barzanti)

Tuesday 9 February - Roberto Barzanti (I, PES) broadly endorsed a Commission proposal to extend copyright protection to new forms of technology in the digital area such as CD-Roms and the Internet. However he wanted to strengthen provisions relating to the rights of entertainers and film distributors. The Legal Affairs Committee was proposing to amend the Commission's proposed exemptions that would allow member states to permit private copying for personal use of CDs, tapes and videos. The amendment would add the proviso "on condition that the right holders receive fair compensation". Although this is already achieved in some countries by a levy on blank tapes and videos, the amendment raises the possibility of such an arrangement being extended to other countries such as the UK and Ireland. Under the amended proposal the proviso would also cover clauses covering copying for scientific or teaching purposes and to archive material reformatted in new ways such as CD-Roms.

Mr Barzanti stressed that the directive was essential to harmonise existing national legislation. If it were not implemented, he argued, Europe would be marginalised. The proposal would help to guarantee creativity and would help to combat piracy.

Bryan Cassidy (Dorset and East Devon, EPP) speaking for the Economic Committee, expressed sympathy for Mr Barzanti's views and indeed recognised the deserving case of artists. Nevertheless, he pointed out that there was not only these interests to take into account and that behind the singers there was a powerful breed of record companies, mostly American, with their own vested interests. Balanced against this, he said, were others also with legitimate concerns about the proposal such as manufacturers of consumer electronic equipment, Internet service providers, the telecommunications industry and those concerned about the impact of the proposal on vulnerable groups such as the blind. The amendments, he felt, tabled by the Legal Committee, erred too much on the side of the producers and authors and needed to be balanced to take in the other legitimate concerns of consumers. This theme was taken up by Phillip Whitehead (Staffordshire East and Derby, PES) speaking on behalf of the Consumer Committee. In fact, he questioned whether there was a need to introduce new binding legislation in this area to take account of technical changes such as digital technology. While he recognised the need to combat music piracy, he felt this should not be at the expense of others with a legitimate cultural interest. His particular concern was to see the rights of free speech maintained, as under the way the proposal was phrased at present, he felt it could limit writers and political commentators using quotations from Parliament and other literary work. For the Cultural Committee, Maren Günther (D, EPP) was looking for a fair share of the revenue for artists, writers and musicians and supported a flat rate of compensation in the case of digital copying. She recognised the need for exemption when material was only used for private use.

Speaking for the Party of European Socialists, Willi Rothley (D) felt Mr Barzanti's approach had managed to strike the right balance and improve for example the Commission's wording of the text on exemptions for private use which he felt, would in effect leave artists in the lurch and vulnerable to piracy. (To deal with exemptions from the copyright provision, the committee has added the phrase "such uses must be authorised by the rightholders or permitted by law and must have no economic significance for the rightholders".)

Ana Palacio Vallelersundi (E) was happy to endorse the committee's approach on behalf of the European People's Party and indeed emphasised the need to update EU legislation in the area to take into account new technological developments. Astrid Thors (Fin, ELDR) on the other hand, felt that the Commission's proposal was not consistent and extremely complex. In fact, she questioned whether there was a need for such a radical approach and how it met with the EU's international obligations.

Brian Crowley (Munster, UFE) however, was another speaker to endorse Mr Barzanti's approach, although he too was concerned to see the right balance and the cultural interests, the needs of the disabled and libraries taken into account. This theme was taken up by Ulla Sandbæk (Dk, I-EN) who emphasised the importance of freedom rights, education and training and the need to ensure there was no threat in this area, while Gerhard Hager (A, Ind) was concerned to see regulations governing access to archive material.

Roy Perry (Wight and Hampshire South, EPP) too recognised the importance of the legislation before the House and referred to new multi-purpose CD machines which could make pristine copies for resale without any problem. His concern however, was that the legislation would lead to endless disputes and a goldmine for lawyers. He therefore made a special plea for a mediator who could handle disagreements without imposing excessive charges for the parties concerned. This point was later accepted by Commissioner Monti.

Another speaker to support Mr Barzanti's approach was Willy De Clercq (B, ELDR) who pointed to the one million CDs which he said were in effect "stolen" from the Internet every year. He felt it was vital to protect the cultural interests of performers. Christine Oddy (Coventry and North Warwickshire, PES) too, called for a balanced approach and while recognising the need for fair compensation for artists, took up the issue of a number of anomalies and in particular this concept as it applied in the UK. There was, she said, at present, no obligation for UK viewers to pay a levy on videos and it was common practice to video a TV programme for viewing at a later time. She wanted to ensure that this right would be maintained in future and would therefore be tabling appropriate amendments. Marjo Matikainen-Kallström (Fin, EPP) on the other hand, was concerned that the copyright legislation as amended by the Legal Committee would, in effect, act as a barrier to a free supply of services and surfing the Internet. Furthermore, most of the revenue raised would go to 80% of the music business which was not in European hands. Carole Tongue (London East, PES) emphasised the vital importance of creating authors for the future economy of Europe, so, as she put it, blank screens would not create any revenue for anyone. She therefore supported strict copyright provisions. There was a need to ensure a fair living through a fair revenue for such artists by applying appropriate levies and she could not go along with exemptions, although she did point out that the member states would be left with the option of choosing whether or not to impose the legislation.

Replying for the Commission, Mr Monti said the legislation was designed to enable the EU to build on the 1996 World Intellectual Copyright Organisation (WICO) agreement signed in 1996 and take account of the latest technical developments. He was prepared to go along with quite a number of the Legal Committee's amendments including those relating to "Fair compensation" which he considered a step forward from the Commission's position.

MEPs endorsed Mr Barzanti's approach and approved amendments from the Legal Committee designed to strengthen the position of rights holders, especially artists and musicians. As far as private use of material whether in printed, visual or audio form is concerned, Parliament voted for "fair compensation" for the rights holder. It did however approve an amendment to provide an exemption for printed sheet music. On the other controversial issue of how to control pirating of recordings and written material on the Internet, Parliament also approved an amendment from the Legal Affairs Committee stipulating that private copying should be authorised by the writers "or permitted by law and must have no economic significance for the right holders". This amendment is also designed to address the concerns of the telecoms industry and enable the legislation to be aligned with the new proposed directive on electronic commerce. Another amendment stipulates that "fair compensation" be provided for all digital private copying and is designed to compensate musicians and artists who lose out to those with access to sophisticated technical equipment able to circumvent existing controls. Several other amendments designed to outlaw hacking devices used to circumvent copyright rules were also adopted.

As far as exemptions of the copyright provisions for libraries and other educational institutions are concerned, Parliament approved an amendment designed to allow the member states flexibility on this point where copying is not for "indirect, economic or commercial advantage". MEPs also introduced a new element designed to authorise broadcasting organisations to use their own archive material for new productions.

An amendment designed to allow the member states to provide exemptions for non-commercial services for disabled people was also adopted, as was another seeking to introduce a low cost form of mediation in the event of any disputes.

The amended first reading proposal now goes to Council.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Refugee status and admission of third country nationals



Refugee status and admission of third country nationals
Consultation procedure
(A4-0450/98 - Lindeperg / A4-0045 / A4-0043/99 - Lehne)

Tuesday 9 February - Complementary protection over and above refugee status, says Michèle Lindeperg (F, PES) in her report, should be granted within the EU to persons who cannot claim refugee status under the Geneva Convention but whose lives, safety or freedom are nevertheless threatened in their country of origin.

Mrs Lindeperg remarked that leaders in many Member States now acknowledge that asylum policy can no longer be conducted on a national level. She stressed that people who are refused a refugee status under the Geneva Convention but who justifiably fear persecution in their own country, will in practice remain on EU territory, often under extremely difficult circumstances. Sometimes they are sent back under dangerous conditions. As a result, many people do not even apply for asylum. Mrs Lindeperg is opposed to the amendments tabled on her report, even though in some cases she shares the ideas behind them. Most of them are however aimed at changing the underlying philosophy of her report and endanger the compromise reached with other political groups.

Although the number of asylum applications within the EU has dropped over recent years, Mrs Lindeperg considers this is not because the human rights situation in the world has improved, but rather because "there has been a deterioration in asylum policy in Europe".

Reporting on the draft Convention on the admission of third country nationals to EU member states, Klaus-Heiner Lehne (D, EPP) advocated granting non-EU nationals free access to the labour market and the right to practice an independent economic activity, provided they have pursued such an activity for at least five years.

As regards admission for the purposes of study or vocational training, Mr Lehne believed that Member States should be allowed to require non-EU nationals to prove that they have the financial means to pay for their studies and living expenses, so that during their stay they do not need to claim social assistance in the host Member State and the earning of an income is not their principal aim. In addition, Member States should be allowed to require evidence of health cover for all risks in the host Member State if required by national legislation.

Mr Lehne also reported on the proposal for a Council regulation determining the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of a visa when crossing the EU's external borders. The aim of the regulation is to help bring about freedom of movement for people within the single market, something which will require harmonisation of the Member States' visa policies.

Mr Lehne believes that Member States should not be allowed to impose visa requirements on those countries which are not on the regulation's "negative list" which covers those countries whose nationals are obliged to obtain visas. Moreover, no third country whose nationals do not at present require a visa for entry to a Member State should be on the negative list. Nor does he want Bulgaria and Romania to be on the "negative" list.

Furthermore, Mr Lehne argues that the proposed regulation does not fully meet the need for a greater degree of harmonisation of visa policy. He therefore believes that a new regulation will have to be introduced after the Treaty of Amsterdam comes into force. He wants a uniform visa to be issued by the diplomatic and consular authorities of the Member States on the basis of a series of common conditions and criteria, covering such aspects as proper checks on travel documents and mutual recognition of travel documents.

Mr Lehne recalled that his first report as adopted by the Civil Liberties Committee was referred back by the plenary because it contained several highly controversial amendments, such as providing for the possibility of family reunification for homosexual partners and great-grandparents, while no provisions were made for extradition measures. The present report, by contrast, is a genuine compromise. Mr Lehne flatly rejected the amendments tabled by the ERA, GEUL/NGL and ELDR groups, since they hark back to the initial discussion and undermine the ideas underlying his report.

On the visa regulation Mr Lehne reminded the House that some years ago the Council overruled both the Parliament's and Commission's views and made the “negative list” non exclusive. This meant that Member States could add any country to the list. Parliament went to the European Court over this and won. Mr Lehne explained that Parliament wants Bulgaria and Rumania struck out from the list, firstly because both countries have fulfilled a large part of the requirements for doing so and secondly because it is time the EP gave a positive signal to countries which try to fulfill the conditions for accession to the EU.

Joint debate

Hedy D'Ancona (Nl, PES) regretfully noted that asylum and immigration are politically sensitive subjects, which sometimes are abused for electoral gain. In order to avoid this kind of abuse on a national level and given the transnational nature of the problems, these subjects should be dealt with on a European level. But when it comes to constructive measures, to harmonisation, and to establish a proper immigration and asylum policy, this seems to be impossible. For Mrs d'Ancona, the proposals in the Lindeperg report are necessary to protect people who find themselves between hammer and anvil.

The amendments tabled by the left all share certain aspects, says Hubert Pirker (A, EPP). They would facilitate immigration, especially for family reunification and they would facilitate access to the labour market, by granting admission even on a job offer. Mr Pirker is all in favour of finding solutions for the existing immigration problems, but he doubts that these can be found by the vague evocation of threats to fundamental rights resulting from public order disturbances or the degrading treatment of homosexuals. The EPP is in favour of an overall solution, dealing with asylum seekers and refugees, but also with burden sharing and measures against abuses. The EU must help refugees but it must also limit immigration and punish attempts at illegal immigration.

Charles Goerens (L, ELDR) felt that the Amsterdam Treaty would have offered a better framework for important and controversial subjects such as these. Although it was good that the Commission used its right of initiative. The Lindeperg report contains some important ideas.

Abdelkader Mohamed Ali (S, EUL/NGL) points to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the right for anyone to be protected from persecution. The Geneva Convention should be the frame of reference for any measures by Member States regarding the granting of refugee status. This matter should not be reduced to one of internal security in individual states.

Human rights principles cannot be variable, says Anne-Marie Schaffner (F, UFE), but should be stable and consistent in all Member States. Therefore the European Union must harmonize the protection rules for people who cannot benefit from the Geneva Convention but fear for their lives and safety. Mrs Schaffner stressed, however, that harmonisation should not be an end in itself.

According to Ozan Ceyhun (D, Greens), many refugees are not recognized as proper refugees. He is concerned at the trends in some Member States to withhold refugee status under the Geneva Convention and merely to provide for temporary protection. What is needed is a more liberal interpretation of the Geneva Convention, contrary to what was said in the Austrian Strategy Paper. There is a need for action and for the approximation of reception conditions in the Member States. The Lindeperg report is a good contribution to that.

Harmonisation is a good thing, said Nelly Maes (B, ERA), who fears, however, that it may be used to bolster the Fortress Europe, in applying legislation ever more strictly.

The debate was on three very different reports, felt Georges Berthu (F, I-EN). The two Lehne reports deal with intergovernmental issues, while the Lindeperg report is an initiative report by Parliament, proposing to extend the Geneva Convention. This report is of a much broader scope and Mr Berthu found it difficult to see how its content would be shared by a majority of citizens.

Going into the Lehne report on the admission of third-country nationals, Commissioner Anita Gradin underlined the fact that the reuniting of families is a fundamental principle of international law. Although the concept of what constitutes a family varies from country to country, it should be possible to get the Member States closer together on this issue. Integration into the society of the host country requires stability and looking to long-term perspectives. Therefore immigrant families should live under similar conditions to those of EU citizens. Third country nationals who have lived legally in an EU Member State for years should have access to the labour market, have the freedom to practice a profession, to meet and to access social rights and education. Mrs Gradin had hoped to get Parliament's clear support on this issue and is upset to see she will not get it. The Commission will nevertheless stick to its guns.

Mrs Gradin welcomed rapporteur Lindeperg's proposal for the harmonisation of the conditions granting extra protection. The Commission is at present drafting a directive on asylum procedures and a working document will be tabled shortly, in order to kick off the debate. The Commission also intends to come out with a proposal on the conditions for third-country nationals. But Mrs Gradin pointed out that these things take time and that one must have a longer-term objective, such as is mentioned in the Action plan for an area of freedom, security and justice. Nevertheless, Mrs Lindeperg's proposals are very constructive and will be useful for a future asylum policy.

Commissioner Mario Monti recalled that the regulation on visas quashed by the European Court was based on the Maastricht Treaty and that the new regulation will have to be adopted before the Amsterdam Treaty comes into force. The situation is very delicate, with a legal context which is still evolving. A number of amendments find their raison d'etre in this evolving legal framework. Therefore, these amendments are not within the Community sphere of action and are thus legally impossible for the Commission to accept. Other amendments do fall within the confines of the relevant articles, but are equally unacceptable, paradoxically because they do not take account of the imminent entering into force of the Amsterdam Treaty which the Community gives the powers to draw up a list of countries whose nationals need to apply for visas. This will profoundly change visa policy. Yet the work Parliament has done will not be in vain. Certain amendments will be taken into account in the new draft regulation.

The fact that Bulgaria and Rumania figure on the list is due to priority criteria based on security risks and the risks of illegal immigration. But situations change. Rumania and Bulgaria have been dealing with these problems, and with the assistance from the EU have made substantial progress in a number of fields, such as external border controls, travel documents, and procedures for providing visas. Progress is being closely monitored by the Commission and will be a decisive factor when the Amsterdam Treaty comes into force.

MEPs voted by 297 to 157 with 53 abstentions in favour of Michèle Lindeperg's (F, PES) resolution on the harmonisation of member state policy towards refugee status. The resolution calls for member states to respect fundamental humanitarian values in their policy towards refugees and to move towards harmonisation of national asylum policies. The majority of amendments were rejected.

MEPs voted to approve the proposed rules for the admission of third country nationals, subject to a series of amendments. These covered such areas as access for non-EU nationals to the labour market. However, one committee amendment giving them the right of free access to the labour market and the right to practice an independent economic activity, provided they had pursued the activity for at least five years, was defeated.

MEPs voted to approve the proposal for a Council regulation determining the third countries whose nationals who must be in possession of a visa when crossing the EU's external frontiers. The regulation aims to help to bring about freedom of movement of people within the single market. Among the amendments that were passed was one stating that member states should not be allowed to impose visa requirements on those countries which are not on the regulation's "negative list". Another amendment states that no third country whose nationals do not at present require a visa for entry to a member state should be on the negative list. A further amendment deletes Bulgaria and Romania from the negative list.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Council faces paralysis, say MEPs


Council faces paralysis, say MEPs
(A4-0049/99 - Bourlanges)

Wednesday 10 February - In presenting his report Jean-Louis Bourlanges (F, EPP) stressed that he believed that it was the role of Parliament to speak on the issue of the reform of Council a subject which was, he said, becoming vitally important in the light of enlargement and the euro. He was unhappy with the drift towards paralysis in Council caused by the lack of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) and the tendency to bypass the proper Treaty provisions by means of informal networks and meetings and specialist committees. He spoke particularly of the crisis in the General Affairs Council and called for a clear differentiation between foreign affairs and general affairs. He stressed that QMV should be established as a general principle as "unanimity is fundamentally inappropriate to effective decision making".

Richard Corbett (Merseyside West, PES) argued that in the light of enlargement there was no issue of greater importance to the future of the EU than reform of its decision making procedures. Any area requiring unanimity with over 20 countries involved would mean that the EU could be paralysed and held to ransom by a single government, as the British government had done over the BSE crisis. At present unanimity was necessary over a wide range of issues and an extension of QMV was vital.

Iñigo Mendez de Vigo (E, EPP) also supported Mr Bourlanges's report, stressing the major challenge of an extension of QMV and he warned of the dangers of things grinding to a halt. Laurens Brinkhorst (Nl, ELDR) too welcomed a "coherent and consistent" report arguing that Council was the most "incoherent organ" of the EU. He too stressed the problems of inadequate QMV and the large number of specialised committees. Inger Schörling (S, Greens) stressed the importance of more clear cut institutions and of boosting the democratic accessibility of the EU. She also wanted greater powers to be given to the regions and for the EU to show a proper respect for democracy.

Dominique Saint-Pierre (F, ERA) considered that Mr Bourlanges's report offered a good starting point for the debate on the reform of Council. There was, he said, a lack of transparency and there were problems over the executive and legislative nature of the institution. These difficulties could be exacerbated with enlargement, he warned, and he wanted Council to become a second legislative house. He too wanted more QMV, as he considered that the EU at present was tying its hands. A discordant note was struck by Jens-Peter Bonde (DK, I-EN) who was unhappy that a move to QMV could mean that nations could be voted down more often. His group did not want a European superstate, he said, and would be voting against the report.

Replying for the Commission Mr Oreja welcomed the fact that Mr Bourlanges's report was addressing the decision taking process which was a key factor in its development. He wanted to see continuity within the EU's institutional system as it had been very successful to date, while it also needed to adapt to the changing world. He recognised that there was some confusion within the Council and concerns that there was too much bureaucracy in the decision making process. He pointed to the double function of Council as both a legislative and executive body. He favoured an extension of QMV with some exceptions for "constitutional decisions". He wanted the Common Foreign and Security Policy to be made as effective as possible and for there to be more transparency in an enlarged Europe. "We must think for the future with bold conclusions", he concluded.

MEPs voted by 306 votes to 97 with 60 abstentions in favour of the resolution which calls in particular for an extension of qualified majority voting for the majority of Council procedures. It also calls for more clarity and transparency in Council's workings. A number of amendments were passed including one that condemned the Council's tendency to circumvent the majority rules laid down by the Treaty.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Building democracy and liberty in the EU


Building democracy and liberty in the EU
(A4-0034/99 - Gutiérrez Diaz)

Wednesday 10 February - Opening the debate Antoni Gutiérrez Díaz (E, EUL/NGL) stated that citizens should not just be the beneficiaries of the EU integration plan, but also should make an active contribution to create a European area of freedom and democracy. He called for freedom of movement, security and justice, accompanied by democratic safeguards, solidarity among member states and for a specific chapter covering all citizens' rights. This would, he said, create an area of "democracy and liberty".

Andrea Manzella (I, PES) applauded an "excellent report" which he felt tackled the issue of citizens' rights and duties. Charlotte Cederschiöld (S, EPP) however noted that the report said much about social, but not about legal rights, and she wanted to see mutual recognition of decisions such as pension rights.

Laurens Brinkhorst (Nl, ELDR) was concerned to find ways of bringing countries such as the UK, Denmark and Ireland into new foreign policy arrangements, especially those applying to asylum where these countries are opting out of an EU policy area. At the same time, he urged Schengen arrangements to come under the EU umbrella. In essence, these present ad hoc arrangements just showed the weaknesses of having to take all decisions by unanimity, he felt.

Jim Nicholson (Northern Ireland, I-EN) on the other hand, took the view that with 15 member states and various regional and local governments governed by their own internal democratic procedures, there was no need, as he put it "to push the boat out too far" or introduce a new element of democratic control at an EU level. There was a clear need for the European tax payer to ensure that he was getting value for money and this was where the European Parliament came in. He then made a special plea for Parliamentary offices to be opened in all countries in the EU where the Commission has an office. This, he felt, would break down the isolation of citizens from Brussels as he considered that Parliament's offices offered a more friendly face. Nikitas Kaklamanis (Gr, UFE) had just one point. "There are 2 institutions in the world that at present meet behind closed doors. One is the National Assembly of China, the other is the Council of Ministers." Gerard Collins (Munster, UFE) underlined the importance of national democratic institutions. At a European level, Council and Parliament represented the ways in which final decisions were taken, while the Commission's role was to implement policy in an efficient, fair minded and even-handed way, he said. Furthermore, as all the EU institutions contain representatives from the national member states, he felt that this contributed considerably to their legitimacy.

Welcoming the debate, Commissioner Oreja called for a return to the "50s", an era characterised by support for the European idea, he said. The need was to replace hostility and rejection of foreigners with a new found solidarity based on integration. He took the view that the development of European democracy was very much a twin-track approach geared to similar developments in establishing the idea of European citizenship. While the Amsterdam Treaty had a number of limitations, he looked forward to further developments in the institutional area at the special Council Summit to be held under the Finnish Presidency. He also felt there was room to develop the role of the Court of Justice which also played an important role in ensuring respect for democracy in the EU.

The House voted to adopt the resolution which calls for a strengthening of the EU's institutions with a view to establishing an area of democracy and liberty. Among the amendments adopted was one calling for an interinstitutional agreement to ensure that Parliament is fully involved in the legislative process.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Dangerous substances and preparations


Dangerous substances and preparations
Co-decision procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(C4-0015/99 - 98/0005(COD))

Wednesday 10 February - The common position was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Noisy aeroplanes


Noisy aeroplanes
Cooperation procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(C4-0653/98 - 98/0070(SYN))

Wednesday 10 February - The common position was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Zoos


Zoos
Cooperation procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(C4-0582/98 - 95/0333(SYN))

Wednesday 10 February - The common position was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Social security and fisheries


Social security and Fisheries
Consultation procedure
(COM(98)0547 - C4-0607/98 / COM(98)0690 - C4-0702/98)

Wednesday 10 February - Two pieces of consolidating legislation were approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Transit traffic through Slovenia


Transit traffic through Slovenia
Consultation procedure
(A4-0039/99 - Simpson)

Wednesday 10 February - The proposal for a Council decision was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

European Civilian Peace Corps


European Civilian Peace Corps
(A4-0047/99 - Gahrton)

Wednesday 10 February - The recommendation was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Packaging and labelling dangerous substances


Packaging and labelling dangerous substances
Co-decision procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0020/99 - Baldi)

Wednesday 10 February - Parliament voted to approve the common position relating to the rules for labelling dangerous substances with 3 amendments, one of which relates to 'commitology' or implementing procedures.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Motor vehicles - New rules to stamp out fire risk from petrol tanks


Motor vehicles - New rules to stamp out fire risk from petrol tanks
Co-decision procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0495/98 - Camisón Asensio)

Wednesday 10 February - The House voted to endorse Commission proposals to update a 1970 directive affecting safety features on fuel tanks in motor vehicles as part of the 'type-approval' procedure designed to ensure that the same rules apply across the single market. A number of amendments seeking to change the Commission's proposed commitology arrangements were passed and also two technical amendments.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

A more open Parliament?


A more open Parliament?

Wednesday 10 February - Glyn Ford (Greater Manchester East, PES) was unhappy that the declaration of members' interests was only available in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg, and not in the member states. He asked President Gil Robles why it could not be available in Parliament's offices in the member states. This point was subsequently taken up by Pauline Green (London North, PES) who proposed that the declaration should be attached to the entry for each member on the Parliament's website. President Gil Robles stated that such a step had not been sanctioned up to now by the Rules Committee and that it would require the declaration to be translated into each member state language. However he agreed that the matter could be referred to the Rules Committee to determine whether the steps being proposed were acceptable.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Agenda 2000, CAP reforms and the British rebate - Council optimistic of agreement


Agenda 2000, CAP reforms and the British rebate - Council optimistic of agreement

Wednesday 10 February - Council President-in-office Günther Verheugen remained optimistic about putting together a package to be endorsed by all the national governments on the Agenda 2000 reforms at the Berlin March Summit in the face of a barrage of questions from MEPs anxious about particular concerns. Mr Verheugen underlined the importance of reaching an agreement on time in order to send the right signals to the applicant member states on the reform of the regional fund, a particular concern of Arlene McCarthy (Peak District, PES). Mr Verheugen said that Council was coming round to accepting the Commission's proposal to reduce from 7 to 3 categories of region entitled to assistance and discussions were also at a critical phase on the 75% of GDP criteria for priority Objective 1 funding to include compensation measures for those regions likely to lose out in the short term. Mrs McCarthy however, was anxious to see the Urban Community Initiative maintained and agreement reached on the basis of "partnership" with those affected by the decisions.

Other speakers such as Jan Mulder (Nl, ELDR) and Lutz Goepel (D, EPP) were concerned about the financial aspect of the reforms and the need to ensure a fair division of contributions, in particular to take into account net contributors such as The Netherlands and Germany. Mr Goepel in fact, feared that the arrangements being discussed for the CAP could in fact result in an increase in funding which would be borne by Germany.

In fact it was the agriculture question that proved to be the most controversial in the debate, with Jean-Claude Pasty (F, UFE) drawing attention to recent demonstrations including one today by French farmers, who, he said would surely suffer from any further drop in prices and cuts in compensation under the proposals now on the table. Jim Nicholson (Northern Ireland, I-EN) too, was concerned that finance ministers would lead the way in squeezing the farm budget. As he put it, it was impossible for him to explain to farmers in Northern Ireland that they would now face cuts of up to 30% in beef and 15% in milk, following on from a year which had seen a 57% drop in farm incomes. His other point was to ensure fair treatment for Northern Ireland compared with the rest of Ireland, when it came to allocating new priority Objective 1 regional areas. Amedeo Amadeo (I, Ind) and Miguel Arias Cañete (E, EPP) too were concerned about pressures being brought to bear on the farm budget, while Joan Colom i Naval (E, PES) underlined the need for Council to take Parliament's view on board as well as those of the member states before reaching an overall agreement on a financial package, which should be subject to approval by the three institutions under an institutional agreement.

While not wanting to enter into any points of detail on the CAP budget, Mr Verheugen did say that it should be considered as just one aspect of the overall Agenda 2000 programme and that any reforms should ensure that the EU was compatible with WTO rules. The agreement "cannot be jeopardised by farmers" . His task, he explained, to come up with an overall package acceptable all round. As to charges that the EU was not responding to "European public opinion" he said this was an impossible task since opinion in Spain where the country looked to EU financial support through the CAP, was entirely opposite to Germany, where public opinion sought a reduction in payments to the EU budget.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Kosovo crisis


Kosovo crisis

Wednesday 10 February - Speaking for the Council, President-in-Office Güenter Verheugen updated MEPs on the negotiations taking place at Rambouillet. He noted that both sides were standing firm and the talks would be very difficult. He welcomed the involvement of the EU, USA and Russia in the process and stressed that the EU saw the best solution as being autonomy for Kosovo, while also ensuring that the territorial integrity of Serbia was retained. A political solution was essential, he stressed, as violence only made matters worse. He wanted Belgrade and the Kosovo Albanians to comply with the commitments that they had made, and he called for those responsible for the Racak massacre to be punished. He believed that the OSCE mission was a great factor for stability in the region and welcomed the fact that the United Nations would help implement the results of the negotiations. He also informed MEPs that the former Spanish premier Felipe Gonzalez would be continuing in his capacity as special emissary. There was no realistic alternative to the attempts at a settlement in Rambouillet, he concluded.

For the Commission Hans van den Broek highlighted the reconstruction tasks that the Commission would help to launch if a settlement were reached. He noted that 30,000 dwellings had been damaged and that the costs of repairs was estimated at .330m. He argued that an international donor conference had to become a reality when a settlement was reached and that peaceful cohabitation must also be a result. Reconstruction would benefit thousands of displaced persons but any aid must be fully transparent, he concluded.

Johannes Swoboda (A, PES) stressed that Russia must be part of the solution and wanted borders to be changed on the basis of consensus and not on the force of arms. He warned about neighbouring areas being sucked in and underlined the need to involve Albania in any settlement. Doris Pack (D, EPP) argued that the EU should have become involved earlier and that President Milosevic would do everything possible to avoid a solution being forced on him by the West. She believed that the threat of action by NATO was essential and that this should not involve just air strikes but also ground forces. Her point about Mr Milosevic was taken up by Olivier Dupuis (I, ERA) who proclaimed that the Serb President was a champion at evading his commitments.

Carlos Carnero González (E, EUL/NGL) said that this was a time for hope and that Kosovo should enjoy broad autonomy within internationally recognised frontiers. Otherwise the problem would spill over into other areas. Magda Aelvoet (B, Greens) lamented the divisions in Council which had meant that the EU had not been effective enough. She was one of a number of speakers to call for a joint approach for the whole Balkans region.

Gary Titley (Greater Manchester West, PES) applauded the "tremendous progress" that had been made to get as far at the current negotiations. This, he said, was thanks to the EU, and the French and British governments in particular. He was glad that the Contact Group had held together and that Russia and the US were involved. He underlined the importance of maintaining the NATO threat and stressed that it must be ready at 24 hours notice to bomb Yugoslavia if no political settlement was reached. He did however argue that the EU needed to be even handed and that pressure should also be brought to bear on the Kosovo Liberation Army as well as the Serbian side.

In response Mr Verheugen stressed that the EU could not solve the situation on its own and that it needed to involve the OSCE, the Contact Group, the UN and NATO. Russia and the USA were also key players. When a settlement had been agreed, he said, it should be afforded military protection. However there should be no question of imposing a peace settlement by military means. He stressed the importance of holding a Balkans conference to discuss the overall situation in the region as well as the individual issues. The Contact Group would be evaluating the results achieved to date, he said, and he concluded by stressing the need for making the negotiations time bound. This, he said, would concentrate the minds of all concerned.

In this resolution the House"strongly condemned the policy of brutal aggression and ethnic cleansing by Serbian security forces against the civilian population of Kosovo", in particular the massacre at Racak last month, and calls for those responsible to be brought to trial. The resolution also expresses support for the peace talks taking place in Rambouillet and proposes a period of transition to achieve substantial autonomy for the region of Kosovo.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Water - a vote at last


Water - a vote at last
Cooperation procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0261/98 - White)

Wednesday 10 February - Ian White (Bristol, PES) reported on a Commission proposal for the Union's first ever framework directive on water policy. The report has been prepared under the cooperation procedure but will become subject to co-decision (strengthening Parliament's hand) when the Amsterdam Treaty comes into force later this year. A total of 201 amendments had been tabled.

Mr White said that the proposal provided an historic opportunity to secure the Union's most basic need for adequate supplies of good quality water for today's and tomorrow's generations. Its outcome would determine the future of the Union's water resources well beyond the millennium.

Reform of the Union's water policy was long overdue. Piecemeal evolution had resulted in an incoherent body of legislation with differing and sometimes conflicting methods, definitions and aims. The perilous state of much of the Union's water resources was plain to see. Moreover, despite numerous international agreements and many statements of good intent, the implementation of Union water legislation remained poor. However, the Commission had responded to concerns he had voiced and he was also heartened by the constructive attitude of the present German presidency.

His suggestions for reforming the Commission proposal were designed to address the considerable problems which continued to undermine the implementation of Union water policy. Urging a tougher regime of pollution control, Mr White said the longer term goal was the eventual phasing out of toxic substances. What could be more important to the future of the Union than secure and abundant supplies of healthy water? he asked. The proposal based water management on the principle of sustainable development.

For the Committee on Fisheries, Mr Gérard d'Aboville (F, UFE) noted that water quality, especially in coastal waters, was particularly important for fishing. Pollution ended up on the coast. Management by hydrographic basin was the key to the Commission proposal.

For the Agriculture Committee, Mr Arlindo Cunha (P, EPP) pointed out that farmers needed water for quality production. In addition to preserving the quality of water and maintaining resources, the effects of floods and drought must be reduced. Southern Europe, in particular, needed specific solutions for its long-term survival. Associations should take part in the management of water resouces. More stringent rules were needed for the management of water basins across frontiers.

For the PES, Riita Myller (Fin) said that that every nation had the right to good quality water. The "polluter pays" principle and good monitoring of water quality were very important. Charges should be dealt with at municipal not European level.

For the EPP, Karl-Heinz Florenz (D) said that a short time ago the Commission wanted to have only a communication. Today the framework proposal was a success from the EP's point of view. They were not deciding on the ownership of water but on the protection of its quality. Implementation was being left to the Member States. There was a need for harmonized but not uniform standards.

For the ELDR, Doeke Eisma (NL) said that it was now Parliament's job to give a clear message to Council. When the second reading took place under codecision pursuant to the Amsterdam Treaty, Council would realize that it had egg on its face as a result of reaching its own "political agreement" before Parliament had had a chance to give the proposal a first reading.

For the EUL/NGL, Laura González Álvarez (E) commended more transparency and participation. One third of Europe's rivers were polluted.

For the UFE, Brian Crowley (Munster) said the proposal was a very welcome attempt at an integrated approach to water management. However, account must be taken of the social consequences, the provision of water for domestic life, farming and free water must be ensured for those who needed it.

For the Greens, Hiltrud Breyer (D) said there were too many exemptions and not enough standards or limit values. The transition periods extended to 34 years. Water protection had been adjourned ad infinitum.

For the ERA, Manuel Escolá Hernando (Es) said that in Aragon, Spain, water was considered the key to the future. However, they not only lacked water but also the infrastructure to exploit it.

Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard welcomed the contructive discussions which had taken place between Commission and Council. As a result, the text as a whole had been improved and both legislative bodies had come closer together. The treatment of dangerous substances was a major problem, on which the report rightly concentrated. While the Commission could accept many of the amendments tabled, further discussion was needed on a number of topics.

MEPs voted to endorse the heavily amended Commission proposals for an EU framework directive on water which aim to protect surface water, coastal and territorial water. Significant areas of disagreement with Council remain however, such as the issue of public consultation, the regularity of progress reports, radioactive substances and endocrine disrupters.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

GM foods - safety a priority as MEPs vote for liability for the manufacturers


GM foods - safety a priority as MEPs vote for liability for the manufacturers
Co-decision procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0024/99 - Bowe)

Wednesday 10 February - The House debated a report, drafted by David Bowe (Cleveland and Richmond, PES), on a Commission proposal for a new directive to amend existing directive 90/220/EEC on the deliberate (ie non-accidental) release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment, whether for research purposes or in order to place them on the market. In all, 101 amendments have been tabled.

Mr Bowe said he had tried to strike the right balance between the need to protect human health and the environment and the needs of a developing industry which had much to offer if treated in the right way.

The key points he had proposed were: the introduction of an additional obligation on Member States and the Commission to adopt the precautionary principle (ie "safety first"); the need to identify GMOs so that they could be tracked if necessary; no export of GMOs from the EU without the consent of the exporting and importing countries; the right of Parliament to consult Commission committees on ethical questions; strict civil liability for those legally responsible for releasing GMOs; and consideration of the socio-economic effects.

However, he wondered why the Commission had suggested a seven-year time-limit for the duration of a GMO approval. He himself was not sure which it should be, although perhaps he would suggest twelve.

For the Research Committee, Marjo Matikainen-Kallström (Fin, EPP) acknowledged that scientific knowlege was uncertain in this sensitive field, but it was up to consumers to choose. Hence, labels had to be clear. Risk assessment must be comprehensive and must cover delayed effects as well. Producers must bear full liability.

For the PES, Kirsten Jensen (Dk) said there seemed to be a great deal of uncertainty in this area. Antibiotic resistant genes must not be allowed. The new simplified procedure might lead to easier marketing of GMOs. Too little experience was available, she thought. This technology was too new for it to be approved at the present stage.

For the EPP, Peter Liese (D) said he hoped the Bowe report would attract a broad consensus. The aim was safety for people and the environment, not more red tape. He welcomed the simplified procedure, but did not like the seven-year limit for consents. If there was a danger, the product in question should be withdrawn at once. If there was no risk, then there should be no deadline. He also thought it was wrong to bring in social and economic criteria.

For the ELDR, Lone Dybkjaer (Dk) noted the conflict between European and American industry here, with Europe attempting to catch up. The precautionary principle should be implemented on a practical basis. They should not just give a resounding "no" to GMOs.

For the UFE, Christian Cabrol (F) said that GMOs had given rise to a new food scare. Yet genetically improved organisms were being created to improve quality. Marketing took place after strict controls and tests. To act otherwise would be like wanting to stop all scientific progress. They should not give an advantage to the American crops that were increasingly invading Europe's supermarkets.

For the Greens, Paul Lannoye (B) said that recent years had seen more scientific evidence of the serious risks involved, yet the Commission proposal had not taken this into account. Nothing justified the simplified procedure. The mutual recognition of standards allowed the import of products authorized in the US.

For the I-EN, Mr Johannes Blokland (Nl) feared that the companies involved would make developing countries dependent on their products. Ethical problems arose, he felt, when plants and animals were genetically manipulated.

Environment Commissioner Mrs Ritt Bjerregarrd said the aim of the draft directive was to make the decision-making processes more efficient and transparent, while providing a high degree of environmental and health protection. The Commission wanted to strengthen risk assessment before release was authorized. Identification should also be improved. While acknowledging that arguments might differ, she did not think that the seven-year limit for consents should be extended. The Commission could accept, in full or in part, 44 of the 101 amendments tabled.

In approving the Commission proposal designed to update legislation on the latest scientific and technical developments in the biotechnology area involving the use of genetically modified products, MEPs voted a number of amendments, including one designed to hold those legally responsible for the production of genetically modified organisms responsible for any damage to human health or the environment. MEPs also voted for compulsory labelling of all GMOs authorised for release to the competent authorities and a description of the content of the new product. Another amendment takes up health concerns and stipulates that GMOs must not contain any antibiotic resistant genes or traces of toxic substances. Other amendments are designed to enforce strict monitoring of GMOs when they are placed on the market.

MEPs also voted to limit the consent for the authorisation of new GMOs to 12 years as against 7 years proposed by the Commission.

The compulsory labelling of foods on the supermarket shelves is taken up in another piece of legislation dated last year.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Participation of Bulgaria in EU training programmes


Participation of Bulgaria in EU Training programmes
Consultation procedure
(A4-0056/99 - Pex)

Thursday 11 February - The proposal was approved together with amendments designed to involve Parliament and the Bulgarian authorities in the implementation of the programme.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Wine reforms - Back to committee


Wine reforms - Back to Committee
Consultation procedure
(A4-0046/99 - Martin)

Thursday 11 February - After voting a whole series of non-binding amendments to the Commission's proposal to reform wine policy, MEPs then voted to refer the report back to Committee for further discussions. This follows on from similar votes on the Agenda 2000 and CAP farm reform proposals where Parliament wants to exert as much influence as possible over the final decision. This can only be done in these areas through further discussions before Parliament passes its final opinion.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

EMU enlargement - MEPs say yes to majority voting and taxation


EMU enlargement - MEPs say yes to majority voting and taxation
(A4-0030/99 - Barros Moura)

Thursday 11 February - In approving José Barros Moura's (P, PES) resolution setting out ways of making decision making more democratic and transparent, in an enlarged EU with a single currency, MEPs took the view that "it would be desirable for the member states in the Euro area to bring their tax systems into closer alignment, particularly with regard to the tax treatment of savings and corporation tax, which it ought to be possible to decide by qualified majority".

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Coffee and chicory - All clear for the single market


Coffee and chicory - All clear for the single market
Co-decision procedure - third reading after conciliation. Simple majority required for joint text to be approved.
(A4-0054/99 - Lannoye)

Thursday 11 February - The joint text was adopted.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Concern over Kazakhstan elections


Concern over Kazakhstan elections

Thursday 11 February - In adopting this resolution MEPs unanimously expressed their discontent at the many irregularities that had taken place during the Presidential elections in Kazakhstan last month and urged the Kazakh government to call free and fair parliamentary elections and to reinforce the process of democratisation in the country.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict deplored


Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict deplored

Thursday 11 February - The House voted to condemn the resumption of violence between Ethiopia and Eritrea and urged both belligerents to declare an immediate cease-fire and to reach a peaceful and equitable settlement of their frontier dispute by subscribing fully to the OAU and UN peace plans.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Human rights: Texas death sentence condemned


Human rights

Texas death sentence condemned

Thursday 11 February - In this vote Parliament called on the US administration to consider favourably the appeal for the review of the trial of Greg Summers and to commute the death sentence that has been passed on him in Texas. The resolution also calls for all other pending death sentences to be commuted . The passage calling on the US to abolish the death penalty forthwith and to join in a world-wide moratorium on the death penalty was passed by 163 votes to 2 with 13 abstentions. The House also voted in amendments to call for the commuting of the death sentence passed in Arizona against two German citizens, and expressed its dismay at the fact that they had been denied their right to receive legal assistance from the embassy of their country.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Call for clemency for prisoner in US


Call for clemency for prisoner in US

Thursday 11 February - MEPs voted to call for the grating of presidential clemency to Leonard Peltier who was extradited to Canada from the United States and has served 23 years in federal penitentiaries on charges that he had killed US agents. There is also a call for Mr Peltier to receive appropriate medical treatment.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Worries over attacks on religious freedom


Worries over attacks on religious freedom

Thursday 11 February - The House expressed its deep concern about the increase in persecution of religious minorities and called on the governments of those countries where persecution is taking place to ensure that there is proper respect for human rights. The resolution refers specifically to the situation in India and calls on the Indian authorities to ensure that every effort is made to bring the murderers of the Australian missionary Graham Staines to justice.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Guinea-Bissau violence denounced


Guinea-Bissau violence denounced

Thursday 11 February - MEPs voted to condemn the recent violence in Guinea Bissau and called on the warring factions to implement fully the cease-fire of 3 February.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Disasters: Storms in the Canary Islands


Disasters

Storms in the Canary Islands

Thursday 11 February - The resolution draws the attention of the Commission to the damage caused by last month's storms in the Canary Islands and calls for the Canaries to be included in the EU's structural programmes and urges the Commission to provide the necessary aid to alleviate the damage suffered by farmers.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Concern over Colombian earthquake


Concern over Colombian earthquake

Thursday 11 February - MEPs expressed their concern over the devastation wrought by the earthquake in Colombia last month which caused over 1000 deaths. Their resolution extends condolences to those affected and calls on the Commission and member state governments to provide help to tackle the crisis.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Scrapping old bangers - the environmental way


Scrapping old bangers - the environmental way
Cooperation procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0051/99 - Florenz)

Thursday 11 February - MEPS voted to endorse the resolution on Commission proposals to ensure that car manufacturers use recyclable material. Among the amendments to the proposal is one designed to bring forward from 2015 to 2005 the date by which manufacturers will be required to increase the reusable proportion of a vehicle to 95% of the weight. A further amendment would bring forward the rules banning the disposal of dangerous substances in landfill sites from 2003 to 2001. Another amendment that was passed secures an exemption for vintage cars.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

EU-Israel agreement for scientific cooperation approved


EU-Israel agreement for scientific cooperation approved
Consultation procedure
(A4-0035/99 - Quisthoudt-Rowohl)

Thursday 11 February - MEPs voted to endorse the agreement for scientific and technical cooperation between the EU and Israel without amendment.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Controlling marine discharge of waste


Controlling marine discharge of waste
Cooperation procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0023/99 - Langendijk)

Thursday 11 February - In endorsing Mr Langendijk's resolution MEPs welcomed Commission proposals to improve the availability and use of port reception facilities for ship generated waste and cargo residues. All the committee amendments which seek to clarify the text and improve the system for enforcement were passed.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Promoting the far-flung parts of the EU


Promoting the far-flung parts of the EU
(A4-0036/99 - Aldo)

Thursday 11 February - The House voted to endorse the resolution of Mr Aldo which stresses the importance of the EU's ultra peripheral regions, in particular in the context of EU-ACP relations.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Threat of retaliation against US over bananas


Threat of retaliation against US over bananas

Thursday 11 February - The joint resolution strongly rejects the unilateral measures taken by the USA over the dispute within the World Trade Organisation over bananas. It supports the Commission in its approach to the dispute and stresses the need to defend the rights of the EU's ACP partners. One amendment was passed which states that the EU must be prepared to envisage retaliation against US actions.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Interpreters - no proper pay since October


Interpreters - no proper pay since October

Friday 12 February - Hugh McMahon (Strathclyde West, PES) raised the issue of 300 freelance interpreters working for the Parliament who, he said, had not been properly paid by the Commission which had responsibility for their remuneration, since last October. The situation had caused financial difficulties for some of them he stated and he asked for the matter to be pursued by the Commission.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Reluctant agreement to proposal on suspension of cooperation agreement


Reluctant agreement to proposal on suspension of cooperation agreements
Assent procedure
(A4-0013/99 - Aelvoet)

Friday 12 February - MEPs voted to adopt without amendment the proposed procedure for for implementing Article 366a of the Fourth Lomé Convention which provides for the suspension of cooperation in cases of serious abuse of human rights.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

No to 44 ton lorries


No to 44 ton lorries
Cooperation procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0031/99 - Van Dam)

Friday 12 February - The House voted to approve proposals to amend the current directive on the establishment of common rules for certain types of mixed transport - such as road and waterway transport. A number of amendments that seek to encourage the use of environmentally friendly methods of transport were passed. However an amenndment from the Liberal Group that would have placed restrictions on the transport of goods at weekends, holidays, night time and periods of high pollution, was defeated

However a further Commission proposal that would have increased to 44 tonnes the weight of road vehicles engaged in combined transport operations was rejected by 67 votes to 77 with 3 abstentions and was referred back to Committee.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Assistance to Albania


Assistance to Albania
Consultation procedure
(A4-0041/99 - van Bladel)

Friday 12 February - Parliament voted to approve a proposal for a Council Decision provideing macro-financial assistance to Albania in the form of a long term loan of a maximum of .20m with a maximum term of 15 years.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Tackling fraud and tax havens


Tackling fraud and tax havens
Co-decision procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0009/99 - Bardong)

Friday 12 February - MEPs voted to adopt a proposal from the Commission that would strengthen cooperation between member states designed to combat tax evasion and VAT fraud. It would extend arrangements for recovery to include direct taxation

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Improving EU standards


Improving EU standards
(A4-0501/98 - Kestelijn-Sierens)

Friday 12 February - MEPs voted to endorse Mrs Kestelijn-Sieren's resolution which welcomes Commission proposals for improving efficiency and transparency in the standardisation process and is aimed at abolishing non-tariff barriers to trade.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Transport links with the Mediterranean


Transport links with the Mediterranean
(Commission Communication) (A4-0438/98 - Kaklamanis)

Friday 12 February - MEPs voted to endorse the resolution on the Commission communication concerning the Euro-Mediterranean partnership in the transport sector with one amendment.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Concerns over diseased salmon


Concerns over diseased salmon
Commission statement

Friday 12 February - There was support from MEPs for the Commission statement on the problems of the salmon industry caused by disease. Hugh McMahon (Strathclyde West, PES) noted that the disease had spread at a time of salmon dumping by the Norwegian government within the EU at prices which threatened the livelihood of those working in salmon industries. 6000 people were employed in aqua-culture, he said. Mr McMahon welcomed the commitment by the British government of £9 m over 3 years to assist the salmon farmers, and noted that it was calling for matching funds. EU competition policy needed to allow salmon farmers to benefit from this assistance, he stressed. These points were taken up by Ian Hudghton (North East Scotland, ERA), who also spoke of the dangers of infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) which had lead to millions of healthy fish being destroyed. He cautioned that small salmon farms might not be able to benefit from the £9m as they could have problems in meeting the matched funding. He urged the EU to examine alternative methods, rather than slaughter, to combat the disease. Replying for the Commission, Mr Bangemann stated that he was awaiting the British government proposals and no concrete plans had not yet been provided. He also stated that there may be funds available for research into the problem. He stressed that the Commission was closely following the evolution of the disease and the measures taken by the British government. These measures included compulsory slaughter at infected sites and movement restrictions on suspected farms. Any request to the Commission from the UK to establish a compensation scheme would be rapidly examined and approved if it met the required criteria.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Brussels March session brought forward


NOTE TO READERS

Brussels March session brought forward

The European Parliament will hold a Parliamentary session on Monday and Tuesday, 22nd and 23rd March next to debate the report prepared by the Committee of Independent Experts.

The Conference of Presidents has proposed bringing forward the date of the session originally fixed for the 24th and 25th March, when the European Council will be meeting in Berlin. This would have prevented Commission President Santer from being present in Brussels. The new arrangements will therefore allow Parliament to react quickly to the report of the committee after its publication.

In the January session, Parliament adopted a resolution requesting that "under the auspices of Parliament and the Commission, a committee of independent experts be set up and charged with the task of examining the way in which the Commission handles cases of fraud, mismanagement and nepotism and in particular to examine Commission procedures for awarding financial contracts and to produce its first evaluation of the College of Commissioners before 15th March."

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Press and Information Reforms


Press and Information Reforms

Parliament's Press Service is looking at ways of improving its services in the most efficient way possible to correspond to users' needs. The aim is to improve publications following the analysis of the questionnaire sent to journalists and others in the media in the weeks ahead.

Nevertheless, in view of the need to take account of the coming into force of the Amsterdam Treaty which provides for an increase in Parliament's powers, especially in the legislative area, the Bureau considers it necessary to provide more detailed information to the press and at the same time ensure that this is widely available. It has therefore decided to put into practice the principle of selectivity as part of Parliament's information policy.

Until now, Parliament's Press Service has regularly provided both before and after each plenary session, summaries of debates, reports and votes on almost all subjects on the agenda.

In future the publications in the eleven languages such as The Briefing and The Daily Notebook in both Strasbourg and in Brussels and The Week will reflect this new approach of selectivity and concentrate on the most important legislative dossiers and on subjects of major political interest.

An informal press briefing will be provided by those who have followed dossiers from the committee to plenary stage. In addition the complete text of speeches by Parliamentarians delivered in their own language in plenary debates will be available on request in the Press Room.

The Press Service will ensure that all decisions taken by Parliament during the plenary session will be covered in the daily publications.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Questions to the Commission: Protest at high bank charges


QUESTION TIME
Questions to the Commission

Protest at high bank charges as the Euro comes on stream

Tuesday 9 February - Commissioners Van Miert and de Silguy were met with a barrage of protests from MEPs who complained about excessive charges imposed by the banks in the New Year to coincide with the introduction of the Euro. Anna Terrón i Cusi (E, PES) complained about the high charges made by Spanish banks for exchanges between the eleven Euro currencies, with rates as high as 10%, when in fact there was now a fixed rate against the Euro.

Richard Howitt (Essex South, PES) took up the case of a constituent who complained that his British bank was charging £20 for transfers to other EU states, whereas the same transaction carried out by the Dutch bank ABN-AMRO amounted to just £6.50.

As far as the British case was concerned, Mr Van Miert said a new directive on cross-border transfers would come into force on the 14th August 1999 and, coupled with pressure to be applied by the Commission, this should bring down costs. As far as the Euro was concerned, Mr de Silguy acknowledged that now the banks could not profit from the spread "between buying and selling" this had resulted in other ways of imposing charges. Nevertheless, this was totally against the aims of a single currency and the Commission was determined to react, he added. The different central banks were monitoring the situation and would be coming up with a report by the 31st March, he said, before praising Ireland for its exemplary action in promoting transparency. Furthermore, a new "Euro signal" hotline would be set up to enable citizens to complain directly to the Commission when there were abuses. The introduction of the single currency, he said, should bring about an overall 20% savings in the cost of transactions, and he trusted that by the Summer holidays EU citizens would be able to travel and exchange money in Euroland more cheaply than had been the case in the past.

 
  Legal notice