Banner page The European Parliament The European Parliament
Banner page

Index 
 
 

The Week : 22-03-99(b)

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

MEPs want to see new Commission in place as soon as possible


MEPs want to see new Commission in place as soon as possible

Monday 22 March - Addressing the House, Mr Santer told MEPs that the decision taken by the Commission to resign was a "painful" one but necessary to preserve the institution and the European Union in general. He hoped it would lead to a Europe that was "more transparent, more responsible and more democratic" and that would be more responsive to citizens' demands for high standards of ethics in the European public service.

As to the practicalities of the decision, Mr Santer emphasised that the Commission would not take any new political initiative but only deal with "current and urgent issues". And, he added, "we will respect our institutional and legal obligations". At the same time, the Commission would do what it could to ensure that inter-institutional relations would not be disturbed. As to the report of the independent experts, Mr Santer explained that he and his colleagues were somewhat taken aback by the report's conclusions based on the cases described. He reminded MEPs that over the past four years, he had attached considerable importance to improving management in the Commission and that numerous reforms had been put in place. Nevertheless, in commenting on the use of the word "responsibility" by the Committee of Experts, he recognised that this was vital for a modern public service and that change was taking place. The future Commission, he added, should go further and this principle should be applied in the same way to all the institutions. Furthermore, it was important that any new tasks trusted to the Commission should be accompanied by a commensurate increase in resources and staff to enable them to be undertaken properly. The new Commission should not carry out such tasks if it was not capable of doing them properly, he concluded, before wishing his successor the best for the future, to applause from the House.

President Josè Maria Gil Robles recognised the dignity with which Mr Santer had spoken, adding that this was appreciated from the floor.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Resignation - Democracy strengthened says Council President


Resignation - Democracy strengthened says Council President

It was then the turn of Council President Joschka Fischer to take stock of the situation following the Commission's resignation which, he said, showed a decisive response to public opinion and indeed should be seen as a strengthening of the democratic process. He looked at the positive side in which democracy had stood firm, even though the EU was now faced with a number of crises. Europe's citizens expected the institutions to spend money wisely, he said, and there now must be a fundamental reform from top to bottom so that a strong and responsible Commission could be reinstated, he added. At the same time, he paid tribute to the Commission's political work in overseeing the introduction of the euro and launching the enlargement process. The events of the past week should not be used to weaken the institution, he said. In fact, on the contrary, the Commission was a key institution which had been the "engine" for European integration and this must be upheld. The Commission's right of initiative must be preserved and the European Parliament, together with the Council of Ministers, acting to take the final legislative decisions jointly. The Council President also supported the establishment of the reformed anti-fraud body UCLAF as an independent unit. As to the present timescale, he was optimistic that the member states could agree on a nomination for President quickly to enable Parliament to take a view in April. This could be followed up with further nominations for Commissioners to enable Parliament's views on these to be expressed in May. The lessons to be learnt, he felt, was that it was essential to strengthen democratic control in the EU and reforms should be geared towards bringing this about. He also recognised that the Commission should not be overloaded with work it could not undertake efficiently and must be given the proper resources to manage its responsibilities. He recognised the contradiction of this with those who wanted to see limits or curbs on the EU budget. Nevertheless, looking to the future, he felt the present crisis could be used as a means of strengthening the EU and pursuing reforms that would lead to a deeper union.

Pauline Green (London North, PES) stressed that the members of the Commission had not resigned because of personal fraud and that the report detailed only one case of favouritism and two cases of poor judgement. Accusations against other Commissioners had been largely dismissed. Nevertheless the report clearly pointed to a loss of management control within the institution and it was therefore right for the College to resign. She underlined the importance of the independent experts carrying out the second stage of their work - they should not stand down as other voices have been saying. The experts' work would not conflict with the powers of Parliament. Mrs Green then looked to the future and called on the Heads of State to designate a Commission President at their summit in Berlin. She wanted Council to insist on the use of the Amsterdam Treaty - whether or not it was formally in being - to ratify the appointment of the Commission President; and for a strong candidate with a clear programme of reform to be appointed.

Wilfried Martens (B, EPP) then gave an account of the events that had led up to the Commission's resignation from March 1998 when the Budgetary Control Committee postponed the discharge of the 1996 accounts. At the end of last year, he noted, the Socialist group had tabled a motion of censure that was in effect a motion of confidence in the Commission. His group would be prepared to support the continuation of the work of the Independent Experts until April. Mr Martens then stressed the importance of having a new Commission in place before the European elections, one that would serve until January 2000 when a further decision needed to be taken. In conclusion he called for the implementation of the reforms that his Group had been demanding since March 1998 - i.e. a strong, responsible, accountable and transparent Commission. The present crisis, he argued, must lead to a renewal of the EU.

Pat Cox (Munster, ELDR) spoke of a "week without precedent" following the publication of the damning report which detailed a Commission that was, he said, too often out of control. He believed that President Santer was a decent man with a number of significant achievements to his credit, but that ultimately he was the author of his own demise as he had acted "too little and too late" and had paid the political price. It was, said Mr Cox, "a good week for European democracy as there had been a coming of age of the European Parliament". There was a need for more democratic control and public accountability with Parliament no longer the junior partner but an "equal among equals". It needed to fight against "Berthelotisation" or favouritism, while also cleaning up its own act. He castigated the Council as well for its failure to pay sufficient attention to reports on fraud and he noted the relative ease with which it had granted discharge to the 1996 accounts. The caretaker Commission led by Mr Santer needed to go immediately, he said, and the renomination of Mr Santer or Mrs Cresson was not acceptable to his group. He believed in individual accountability, as not all Commissioners could be tarred with the same brush. He concluded by stressing that the EU needed a strong, politically reformed Commission.

Jean-Claude Pasty (F, UFE) argued that the responsibility for the failures outlined in the report rested not just with the Commission, but also with Council and Parliament. He stressed the need to speed up the reform of the institutions with binding deadlines. He called for removal of dead wood and the rooting out of fraud, with substantive reform of the management procedures and proper and independent financial control. The tendering procedures needed to be fully transparent, he said, as did the recruitment systems. Alonso Puerta (E, EUL/NGL) spoke of the most serious institutional crisis facing the EU and argued that since 1994 the member state governments had not given sufficient resources to the Commission to carry out the tasks it had been allocated. He welcomed the reinforcement of Parliament's authority and called for a new Commission to be appointed as soon as possible to face the challenges of the future. The Berlin Council, he concluded, must produce a concrete calendar. Magda Aelvoet (B, Greens) noted that if the lead of the Socialist group had been followed, Parliament would have granted discharge of the 1996 accounts and things would not have developed as they had. She was unhappy with the absence of any collegiate responsibility but was encouraged by the fact that Europe's citizens were debating the current events with interest. A new team needed to be appointed as soon as possible to start the reforms, she said. Parliament also needed to put its own house in order, she concluded.

Catherine Lalumière (F, ERA) believed that it was important to avoid a power vacuum in appointing the Commission but she recognised that it was also necessary to follow proper procedures that were long and cumbersome. She would like certain Commissioners to stay in office and she too stressed the need for strong EU institutions and a strong Commission . Like a number of speakers she also argued that Council had been negligent in the process. Jens-Peter Bonde (DK, I-EN) considered that the conclusions of the Committee of Experts did not go far enough and he wanted the Commission as a whole to be investigated. It must accept its responsibilities, he said, and stand down. Cristiana Muscardini (I, Ind) too called for a new Commission that would be in office for six years with a new President.

As Joschka Fischer was returning home to a German Cabinet meeting on Kosovo, it was left to Günter Verheugen to respond to concerns raised in the debate. He expressed satisfaction that there did seem to be a broad consensus emerging between Parliament, Council and the member states on the need for a rapid solution to the crisis. He was looking towards the appointment of a new President for the long-term rather than an interim stop-gap, with a view to restoring credibility of the Commission, carrying out internal reforms and showing that the high standards expected by the tax payer were set. He felt initial discussions could go a long way at the Berlin Summit, certainly as regards to procedures but was inclined to the view that another special summit would be needed to finalise the process, in view of reconciling the 15 different national views. He also emphasised the importance of taken on board Parliament's concerns and indeed emphasised that the key decisions facing Berlin such as the Agenda 2000 programme, would not be put on the back-burner because of the crisis over the Commission. Nevertheless, he accepted that reforms should extend to all institutions including both Council and the European Parliament, where he said, the Presidency supported Parliament's proposal for a common statute and that this would be a priority in the months ahead. He looked to MEPs in those countries where support was not yet forthcoming to put pressure on the various national delegations to secure an agreement.

In the debate, Budgetary Control Committee Chairman Diemut Theato (D, EPP), said the committee was vindicated in its views of two months ago, by the report of the independent experts. At the same time it had become clear that the Commission had provided "insufficient" and "misleading" information to the committee and that this should not happen again. Laurens Brinkhorst (Nl, ELDR) was concerned however about Council's suggestion for the period of office for the new President and whether or not to appoint an interim Commission. Not to do so, he warned, would threaten the sovereignty of the new Parliament to be elected in June, since it would then have to deal with a Commission, both chosen under the old Maastricht terms and set to serve through its period. He favoured the appointment of a short-term Commission charged with cleaning up the present problems and leaving reforms until later. Gisèle Moreau (F, EUL/NGL) warned that it was Parliament rather than the Commission that should be strengthened following the present crisis with a view to increasing democratic controls over the institutions at both the national and European level. Edith Müller (D, Greens) felt that it was only the Commission that faced a crisis and that it was now up to the Council and the Parliament to lead the way forward under the "spirit" of Amsterdam.

The report, Ian Hudghton (North East Scotland, ERA), underlined the need for urgent reform and to tackle what he called this "culture of complacency at the highest level". There was now an opportunity to undertake radical measures, he said, and for MEPs to be given tough new powers to tackle fraud. Europe's citizens would not be satisfied with less. He recognised the need to get a new Commission in place as soon as possible and at the same time leave a way for enabling the new Parliament to pass judgement on those chosen to run the institution from the year 2000 onwards.

James Elles (Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire East, EPP) saw the independent experts' report and the Commission's resignation as vindicating the work of the Budgetary Control Committee and those that refused to approve the Commission's management of the 1996 accounts back in December. Mr Van Buitenen should be reinstated, he said. He then took issue with colleagues who had waited for an outside experts' report, which he commented was probably drafted by the same people who worked on the Budgetary Control report. What was important now was for the reforms to continue apace and concentrate on developing a new code of conduct, the screening process and a new statute. The choice to be made was whether the future should be based on "the rule of the few" or "the rule of the many". For him it was clear, democracy.

Alan Donnelly (Tyne & Wear, PES) looked forward to its further report. He stressed that reforms in the EU's institutions did not end with the resignation of the 20 Commissioners, but that there was a need to find the causes of the widespread problems and the Committee of Experts needed to come forward with remedies. The structural problems within the EU needed to be examined, including the whole management structure. Root and branch reforms were essential, he said. What was needed were specific recommendations and not a "generalised polemic". A new Commission President needed to be appointed as soon as possible to implement every step of the report at every level of responsibility, he concluded.

Joe McCartin (Connacht/Ulster, EPP) argued that it was a crisis in the Commission and not a crisis in the EU. Parliament and Council needed to reassure Europe's citizens that the key tasks would still be tackled. There was nothing in the present crisis that could not be handled, he believed. Nevertheless, he considered that Parliament had simply stumbled along rather than charted out a course. The Budgetary Control Committee had voted in favour of discharge of the 1996 budget and the plenary had expressed its confidence in the Commission. Mr McCartin believed that the Commission's failures were obvious; it had been given too many tasks without adequate resources to carry them out. Finally, he regretted that "people of honour" within the Commission had been forced to resign.

Edward McMillan-Scott (North Yorkshire, EPP) declared that he was probably the least surprised person around about the findings of the Committee of Experts. Since 1990, he declared, he had been seeking to draw attention to the problems of fraud. He regretted that there had been a delay in action being taken following the revelations of Paul van Buitenen. What we were seeing now, he concluded, was simply the van Buitenen 2 report.

Bernie Malone (Dublin, PES) argued that now was an opportunity for a fresh start. She believed that the Council also needed to examine itself. She called for a number of reforms, including transparency on the contracting process; an ending of the de facto national quota for senior staff; and the end to the parachuting of cabinet staff into senior posts. Mrs Malone also noted that most EU funding was managed by national governments and that there was evidence of fraud and irregularity here as well. Finally, she argued that Council should stop meeting behind closed doors.

MEPs subsequently voted 442 to 33 with 53 abstentions in favour of a resolution that calls on the European Council at the Berlin Summit to come up with a precise timetable for the appointment of a new Commission President and fellow Commissioners. Parliament wants to see the appointment taking place under Amsterdam Treaty procedures and for another new Commission to take office as from 1 January 2000 to be appointed in the same way. The resolution calls for a thorough overhaul of the Commission and a radical reform of management and financial control systems. Parliament also wants to see a second report from the Independent Experts, dealing with such issues as the awarding of financial contracts and how the Commission deals with cases of fraud completed before September 1999. The resolution notes "the principle of collegiality" but takes the view that the experts' report establishes a case for individual responsibility for each Commissioner in the case of wrong doing. Parliament sees the institutional crisis as an opportunity to strengthen political and democratic controls and in particular the Commission's accountability and is insistent that the resignation of the Commission is not used as an excuse for delaying a decision on the Agenda 2000 package at the Berlin Summit. Council is also taken to task for not giving proper consideration to the Court of Auditors' report on the Commission's management of the budget.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Confidential information - new rules agreed


Confidential information - new rules agreed
(A4-0107/99 - De Giovanni)

Monday 22 March - Following the Commission's resignation and the events of the past week, the report was referred back to committee for further discussions to take light of the new developments.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Parliament to get involvement in Euratom Treaties


Parliament to get involvement in Euratom Treaties
(A4-0104/99 - Tindemans) (B4-0326/99)

Monday 22 March - The non-involvement to date of Parliament in the Euratom Treaty was the key issue in the debate on the proposed accession by the EU to the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO). However most speakers welcomed the announcement by Sir Leon Brittan that the Commission would now be taking the necessary steps to ensure that Parliament is informed in future of all agreements under the Euratom Treaty.

Leo Tindemans (B, EPP) for the Foreign Affairs Committee therefore was able to recommend approval of the EU's accession to KEDO. KEDO, he said, was established by the US, South Korea and Japan to enable North Korea to freeze its nuclear programme and eventually dismantle its Soviet-designed Graphite-Moderated Reactor in exchange for the construction of two new nuclear plants - Light Water Reactors and an interim supply of heavy fuel oil. These new plants would be safer to operate and would also make it more difficult to extract weapons-grade fuel, he said.

Mr Tindemans stated that Council had decided that the Accession Agreement with KEDO should be concluded by Euratom and that the Euratom Treaty did not provide for consultation of the European Parliament. Council and Commission had declined to do this on a voluntary basis. However, he noted, the EU's membership of KEDO required funds from the Budget, and Parliament was originally threatening to withhold the necessary money unless agreement could be reached on involving it in future international agreements concluded under the Euratom Treaty. Such an agreement had now been reached, he said, and he was tabling amendments that removed the paragraphs in his report on blocking the funds.

His line was followed by Laurens Brinkhorst (Nl, ELDR) for the Budgets Committee who believed that the item under discussion was part of the wider ongoing debate about democracy and accountability. Although the Euratom Treaty had given no powers to Parliament, he said, it clearly had a role as part of the budgetary authority. Mr Brinkhorst was also one of a number of speakers to express his dissatisfaction that there was no Council speaker present. Glyn Ford (Greater Manchester East, PES) for the Research Committee also supported the agreement which, he noted, provided a seat for Euratom on KEDO's Board with full voting rights, in return for a contribution of .15m per year for five years.

For the EPP Georg Jarzembowski (D) stressed that North Korean military activity should not represent a threat to its neighbours. Wolfgang Kreissl-Dôrffler (D, Greens) opposed the funding going to the building of the Light Water Reactors which were, he said, "white elephants" and did not represent a proper environmental approach. Olivier Dupuis (I,ERA) was also against the proposal to join KEDO as it involved, he believed, propping up an "insane regime".

Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan then gave details of the procedures whereby the Commission would update the House on future Euratom agreements. This would include providing Parliament at the beginning of every year with a list of Euratom agreements currently under negotiation or for which negotiations would be launched in the forthcoming year, with regular updates and with briefings upon requests. It would subsequently provide MEPs with the texts at the same time as they were forwarded to Council, enabling Parliament to express its views on them before they were concluded.

In the same debate MEPs also discussed the broader issue of EU relations with the Korean Peninsula. Mr Tindemans, presenting a resolution on behalf of the Foreign Affairs Committee, stressed the importance of developing links with North Korea and proposed in particular that Parliament should receive a delegation from the North Korean Supreme People's Assembly. This line was supported by Mr Ford, who was one of a number of speakers to highlight the serious problems of malnourishment in the country and the need to provide assistance.

MEPs subsequently voted to endorse the agreement to pay for the modernising of nuclear power stations in North Korea through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO). In an amendment tabled by Mr Tindemans himself on behalf of the Committee the proposal to block the funds earmarked for 1999 was deleted. This was in the light of the Commission's agreement to involve Parliament in all future Euratom agreements.

The resolution from the Foreign Affairs Committee calling for improved relations between the EU and North Korea was adopted without amendment. A series of amendments from the ERA which strongly condemned the Pyonyang regime were all defeated.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Product liability - common position approved unamended


Product liability - common position approved unamended
Co-decision procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0068/99 - Roth-Behrendt)

Tuesday 23 March - In examining a Council common position at second reading on a Commission proposal to extend EU product liability legislation to primary agricultural products, following the BSE crisis, MEPs discussed a number of amendments tabled by the Environment Committee including one to extend the legislation further to manufacturers of raw materials or seeds, including material that has been genetically modified. Two other amendments highlighted by Environment Committee reporter Dagmar Roth-Behrendt (D, PES) included: one to extend the period of liability from ten years as agreed by Council in the common position to twenty years; and another to extend liability from .70m to .140m. These amendments were particularly important, argued Mrs Roth- Behrendt, in view of the fact that diseases such as CJD could not necessarily be detected at an early period and the figure proposed by the Committee was only fair, in view of the extent of the possible damage.

Mrs Roth-Behrendt's amendments were supported by numerous speakers, including Doeke Eisma (Nl) for the Liberals, Johannes Blokland (Nl, ELDR) and Phillip Whitehead (Staffordshire East and Derby, PES), with Mr Eisma pointing out that BSE had acted as a catalyst for the legislation and that it was now imperative to clamp down on all unsafe products. Ilona Graenitz (A, PES) underlined the need for each individual producer to be brought under the scope of the legislation so that they would be liable for what they marketed, while Daniela Raschhofer (A, Ind) emphasised the importance of extending consumer protection legislation, particularly to include GM foods. She was however, of the view that the legislation as phrased by the Commission impinged too much on national civil law where primary agricultural production was concerned, and should be re-examined.

A dissenting view was expressed by Françoise Grossetête (F, EPP), speaking for the EPP, who could not go along with demands to extend the time period from 10 to 20 years, and indeed felt the legislation was being particularly hard and unreasonable on the farming community. Measures were already in place to take account of the BSE effect, she argued, and no further extension of the product liability legislation under discussion should be agreed without an extensive study on the implications, she argued. In an attempt to answer her concerns, Mrs Roth-Behrendt pointed out that the proposed amendment relating to liability for manufacturers of seeds, would, in fact, protect farmers, since they would not be responsible for any damages or illnesses caused here.

But Commissioner Mario Monti could not go along with the key amendments to extend the amount and time periods, pointing out that Council had reached its common position unanimously. Thus, if Parliament tried to push these amendments further, there would be the risk of prolonged negotiations with ministers delaying the entry into force of the new law and its main aim to extend product liability to primary products. He could however, accept some of the other amendments including the one to include GM seeds and for the Commission to review the situation with a view to amending legislation next year.

MEPs approved Council's common position on a Commission proposal to extend EU product liability laws to agricultural products. None of the amendments tabled secured a sufficient number of votes to be adopted at second reading.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Budget 2000


Budget 2000
(A4-0109/99 - Bourlanges, A4-0120/99 - Müller)

Tuesday 23 March - Jean-Louis Bourlanges (D, PES) introduced his report by pointing out that the budgetary procedure for the year 2000 commences in exceptional circumstances. Given that the present multi annual financing framework (1993-1999) known as the financial perspective (FP) and the Interinstitutional Agreement (IIA) are due to expire and the overall agreement on Agenda 2000 has yet to be reached, Mr Bourlanges stressed Parliament's determination to adopt a budget which would reflect its objectives and political priorities: job creation, continuing education and training, research and development. He stressed the necessity of rigorous management of agricultural costs.

Edith Müller (D, Greens) reporter on the budgets of Institutions other than the Commission, referring to the recent press coverage of Parliament's activities, pointed out that both officials of the institutions and the public at large await structural reforms not only in the Commission but in all the European institutions. European public administrations must be as efficient as organisation in the private sector, she said . The experience of member states should be studied particularly with regard to decentralised responsibility. Transparency, mobility and staff training are key elements for increasing professional standards and increased efficiency, she added.

There was a general consensus among participants in the debate that whilst budgetary rigour was necessary, it was not synonymous with austerity. As the first report of the Independent Experts had pointed out, the institutions and especially the Commission require the resources to carry out their programmes. Freezing the administrative budget, as proposed by the Council, would in effect result in the loss of 4000 jobs in the institutions, 3000 of them being in the Commission. This was incompatible with the will to restructure and ensure that the Commission could reduce its reliance on BATs ( technical assistance bureaux).

Closing the debate Commissioner Liikannen stressed that the Commission could not accept the proposal to block the administrative budget at its present level and the resultant loss of human resources which would further reduce the Commision's ability to manage the programmes for which it is responsible.

MEPs subsequently approved Mr Bourlange's resolution on the guidelines for the 2000 budget with the priorities of supporting jobs, helping small firms and a strong EU research and education policy. Following the report of the Independent Experts, the resolution draws attention to the need to make available adequate provision for staff resources. On the budget of the other institutions, Mrs Müller's resolution which includes a call on Council to approve a common statute for MEPs and MEPs' assistants was approved. The cost of running Parliament is estimated at .923.5m in 1999 but could be less next year

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Drug trafficking - support for closer cooperation


Drug trafficking - support for closer cooperation
Consultation procedure
(A4-0110/99 - Stewart-Clark)

Tuesday 23 March - There was general support in the debate for two proposed joint action programmes, tabled under the third pillar and designed to ensure closer cooperation amongst police and customs services with a view to tracking down criminal organisations, especially drug traffickers. Welcoming the aim of the programmes, Sir Jack Stewart-Clark (Sussex East and Kent South, EPP) however, urged the authorities to operate with the same kind of "intelligence" as would be taken by the criminals. He particularly singled out a phrase in the proposed legislation, referring to "the deployment of large numbers of police on recognised routes". If the routes were recognised, he argued, then the criminals would also be aware of them. He proposed adding the words "if necessary" and urged the authorities to take a more flexible approach. He also singled out another phrase in the legislation referring to measuring success by the number of arrests. This should be changed by introducing a phrase along the lines of "bringing criminals to justice". Other speakers such as Gerhard Schmid (D, PES) and José Mendes Bota (P, EPP) too supported the action programme and particular closer cooperation while Jonas Sjöstedt (S, EUL/NGL) added a note of caution. He reminded the House that the programme was taking place under inter-governmental arrangements where democratic controls were weak. The European Parliament does not have any power, for example, with regard to tabling binding amendments. He drew attention to one amendment designed to ensure privacy with regard to the collection of personal data.

Replying to the debate, Commission Gradin underlined the importance of closer cooperation to detect new smuggling routes. Information exchange would be vital here.

The resolution on two proposed joint action programmes to step up police cooperation with a view to combating international crime, and in particular drug trafficking, was adopted. A number of amendments were passed including one designed to ensure that the police do not abuse their privileges.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Leonardo II - Crackdown on fraud vital


Leonardo II - Crackdown on fraud vital
Cooperation procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0108/99 - Waddington)

Tuesday 23 March - Reporting on the Leonardo II vocational training programme, Susan Waddington (Leicester, PES) reminded MEPs that it had been singled out for detailed scrutiny by the Independent Enquiry Committee into fraud which had discovered "mismanagement, fraud, secrecy and nepotism" and, she added, "the Commission has let us down". Beneficiaries have not received a proper entitlement as a result of mismanagement by the contractor, she said. In the light of the past week's events, Mrs Waddington said, the Education Committee would now be tabling amendments designed to ensure that this would not happen again and in fact that the administration would be carried out by the Commission's services. The programme was important as "a laboratory for innovation". It brought real benefits to citizens by enabling best practices to be copied and offering mobility in the area of vocational training. It was important to switch the emphasis to ensure that disadvantaged groups and the disabled would be able to benefit in the future, she said.

Replying for the Commission, Erkki Liikanen stated that he could accept 30 of the 33 amendments tabled. He was unable to accept the amendment calling for the development of a permanent dialogue with the relevant NGOs representing the interests and groups concerned by the programme. He could also not accept the amendment which seeks to delete reference to the technical assistance organisations and to define the roles of the temporary staff recruited to carry out operational duties. He stated that he would be responding in writing to this amendment, but he could not accept the abolition in principle of the technical assistance organisations. He did nevertheless accept the need for rules governing the correct management of funds and that there should be a role for external authorised auditors.

The common position on the second phase (2000-2004) of the EU''s Leonardo vocational training programme was adopted with amendments that sought to ensure quality training and to tighten up controls over the programmes. The amendment that sought to delete reference to the technical assistance organisations (TAOs) was not however passed.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Reform of UN needed to tackle globalisation


Reform of UN needed to tackle globalisation
Own initiative report
(A4-0077/99 - De Melo)

Tuesday 23 March - The House voted to adopt the resolution which calls for reforms in the United Nations as the best framework for tackling the challenges posed by globalisation. A series of amendments from the PES Group stressing the importance of the United Nations were adopted.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Financial regulation


Financial regulation
(A4-0140/99 - Dell'Alba)

Tuesday 23 March - MEPs adopted a resolution calling for an overhaul of the financial regulation to improve procedures to combat fraud.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Civil aviation


Civil aviation
Cooperation procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(COM 98-0759)

Tuesday 23 March - MEPs approved a technical proposal relating to approval to international procedures in civil aviation.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Visas - crackdown on forgeries


Visas - crackdown on forgeries
Consultation procedure
(A4-0112/99 - Lehne)

Tuesday 23 March - The resolution on a proposal to strengthen procedures with regard to detecting forged visas and related documents was adopted with amendments seeking to tighten up the procedures.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Call for a Europe-wide student card


Call for a Europe-wide student card
Consultation procedure
(A4-0122/99 - Evans)

Tuesday 23 March - MEPs voted without amendment to endorse the resolution which urges the Commission to conduct a feasibility study into the possibility of introducing an EU student card

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

VAT - present rules extended throughout 1999


VAT - present rules extended throughout 1999
Consultation procedure
(A4-0129/99 - Secchi)

Tuesday 23 March - MEPs approved a Commission proposal to extend current VAT rules until the end of the year. Two proposed amendments designed to bring about the "definitive" VAT system as from 1 January 2000 were rejected.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Iraq - refugee action plan criticised


Iraq - refugee action plan criticised
Third pillar
(A4-0079/99 - Terrón i Cusí)

Tuesday 23 March - MEPs adopted a resolution strongly objecting to a Council action plan to deal with refugees from Iraq and the neighbouring region, since it was adopted without consulting Parliament. The resolution expresses disapproval of the fact that the action plan gives the impression that only Iraqi and Kurdish refugees are concerned, whereas people from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Egypt are also affected. There is support for the EU granting aid to those regions facing a sudden influx of immigrants from neighbouring war-torn regions. There is a specific call on the Turkish authorities to find a solution to the Kurdish question. In addition, while there is support for the tough action to combat illegal immigrants, MEPs take the view that immigrants without proper documentation should not be automatically expelled. The Commission is requested to come up with a proposition for the directive for the procedures as soon as the Amsterdam Treaty comes into force MEPs are concerned about the violation of human rights and the oppression faced by minorities and would like to see a detailed study carried out on the situation..

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Application of Community Law


Application of Community Law
Consultation procedure
(A4-0092/99 - Sierra González)

Tuesday 23 March - The resolution on the 15th Annual report (!997) on the application of Community Law in member states was adopted without amendment.

- 1 -
PE 275.814

 
  Legal notice