Index 
Debates
Monday, 12 November 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Resumption of the session
 2. Statements by the President
 3. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes
 4. Membership of Parliament: see Minutes
 5. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes
 6. Calendar of part-sessions: see Minutes
 7. Signature of acts adopted under codecision: see Minutes
 8. Corrigendum to a text adopted (Rule 204a): see Minutes
 9. Documents received: see Minutes
 10. Oral questions and written declarations (tabling): see Minutes
 11. Lapsed written declarations: see Minutes
 12. Texts of agreements forwarded by the Council: see Minutes
 13. Action taken on Parliament's resolutions: see Minutes
 14. Petitions: see Minutes
 15. Order of business
 16. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
 17. The role of sport in education (debate)
 18. Statutes for the Euratom Supply Agency (debate)
 19. Application of Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their families to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States (debate)
 20. Protection of soil - Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection (debate)
 21. Amendment of Directive 2003/87/EC so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community (debate)
 22. Comitology (debate)
 23. International accounting standards (debate)
 24. Membership of political groups: see Minutes
 25. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes
 26. Closure of sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: MR POETTERING
President

(The sitting was opened at 5 p.m.)

 
1. Resumption of the session
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  President. − I declare resumed the session adjourned on Thursday 25 October 2007.

 

2. Statements by the President
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  President. − Ladies and gentlemen, it was with deep sadness that we heard of the tragic event in Finland, in which eight people – pupils and teachers – were killed. On behalf of the House, I should like to express our deepest sympathy to their families and the Finnish nation.

The groups have requested me to make a statement regarding the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Convention). The 10th anniversary of the signing of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction is coming up in just a few weeks. On 3 and 4 December 1997, 122 states signed this historic treaty in Ottawa. Anti-personnel mines make no distinction between civilian and military victims. They are directed against people, with the aim of killing or maiming them. Effecting their prohibition by means of the Ottawa Convention is a victory for humanity.

The Convention is also a success for internationally linked civil society. In a process that had never been seen before, a coalition of non-governmental organisations, together with committed governments and parliaments outside the usual diplomatic forums, managed to get an international treaty signed. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 to acknowledge this achievement.

The European Parliament supported the campaign to outlaw landmines from the very beginning. After the signing of the Convention in Ottawa, the European Parliament campaigned using resolutions, hearings and opinions to ensure that it would be implemented effectively. Today it is clear that the international campaign has been extremely successful. More than three quarters of all states have ratified the Ottawa Convention. The use of anti-personnel mines has decreased drastically, as has the number of countries that produce landmines. Despite these successes, there are more than 69 countries that have not yet abolished landmines. It has become apparent that this goal cannot be reached everywhere unless additional financial assistance is provided.

Europe has made an important contribution to implementation of the Ottawa Convention over recent years. From 1997 to 2004, the European Union invested more than a billion euros in the battle against landmines. The European Commission’s anti-mines strategy is numbered among the most successful elements in the development of European external relations. This is not only an expression of our humanitarian obligations, but also a worthwhile investment in sustainable development and human safety.

The Council of the European Union is about to adopt a new joint action on landmines within the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. We welcome the intention of working towards universal ratification of the Ottawa Convention and an effective Review Conference in 2009.

We look forward to close cooperation with the Council and the Commission in implementing this joint action. I hope that we shall soon have an opportunity to discuss with the Council and the Commission their respective initiatives on the topic of landmines and how they are coordinating with each other. The final goal that we all have in common is a world without landmines; to achieve this, the European Union must have a coherent common policy.

(Applause)

 

3. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes

4. Membership of Parliament: see Minutes

5. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes

6. Calendar of part-sessions: see Minutes

7. Signature of acts adopted under codecision: see Minutes

8. Corrigendum to a text adopted (Rule 204a): see Minutes

9. Documents received: see Minutes

10. Oral questions and written declarations (tabling): see Minutes

11. Lapsed written declarations: see Minutes

12. Texts of agreements forwarded by the Council: see Minutes

13. Action taken on Parliament's resolutions: see Minutes

14. Petitions: see Minutes

15. Order of business
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  President. – The final draft of the agenda for this part-session, as laid down by the Conference of Presidents at its meeting of Thursday 8 November pursuant to Rules 130 and 131 of the Rules of Procedure, has been distributed to you. The following amendments have been requested to this draft agenda:

Tuesday:

The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe has requested that a statement by the Council and the Commission on the shipping accidents in the Black Sea be placed on the agenda for Tuesday afternoon, after Mr Leinen’s report, with a corresponding extension of the afternoon sitting until 6.30 p.m. This would mean that questions to the Commission would not commence until 6.30 p.m. and would thus be half an hour shorter.

Who would like to justify the motion?

If there is nobody to speak for or against this motion, that is the end of the matter.

(The motion lapsed)

Wednesday:

The Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance requests that a statement by the Council and the Commission on the situation in Georgia be included and dealt with in a joint debate with the report by Mr Obiols i Germà and Mr Tannock, and that the afternoon sitting therefore be extended to 6.30 p.m. and questions to the Council shortened by half an hour. They also request that the debate on Georgia be concluded with the tabling of motions for resolutions and that voting on the matter be carried out during the November part-session in Brussels.

Who would like to justify the motion?

 
  
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  Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Verts/ALE ).(DE) Mr President, there is not much for me to justify: it is obvious to all what is happening in Georgia, and it is clear that we should include Georgia when we are discussing neighbourhood policy. This should be laid down, so that the Council knows what is what. Then we should quietly proceed with preparing a resolution, for I believe it is important that the European Parliament formulate a clear resolution on the events in Georgia. This should then be adopted in Brussels. That is the correct formal procedure and I hope that all Members will agree to it, so that we can proceed in this way.

 
  
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  President. − That was the justification. Who is speaking in favour of the motion?

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (PSE ).(DE) Mr President, we wish to support this for a very important reason. The Rose Revolution in Georgia brought many positive elements with it, especially after the Shevardnadze regime. Now there is a great danger that the undoubted successes will be destroyed if the opposition’s criticisms are not addressed.

An initiative by the European Parliament could help President Saakashvili to get back on the right track; that is, to begin dialogue with the opposition.

I should also like to ask you, Mr President, to maintain contact with the Speaker of Parliament, who is also very active there, and to try to convince her, too, to follow the path of dialogue. That is the point of this debate and also of the resolution, and I therefore support it wholeheartedly.

 
  
  

(Parliament adopted the motion)

 
  
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  Alfonso Andria (ALDE ). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I must apologise. I asked to speak earlier and, despite the fact that I stood up and signalled several times, I was not given the opportunity to speak. I would just like to understand something. I intended, on behalf of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, to request a statement from the Council and Commission on the Black Sea disaster. Without hearing who was in favour and who was against, I am not sure what was decided. As I said, this was my intention, and I signalled this request. It was my intention to direct this request to the President: that there should be a statement by the Council and the Commission on the Black Sea disaster. I am simply asking for clarification on what Parliament has decided to do.

 
  
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  President. − Mr Andria, please bear with me. I called very clearly for Members who wanted to justify the motion. There was no response. Nor were those responsible for managing the procedure in the room at that point. I looked around very carefully, and there was no contribution to be heard at all, either to justify or to support the motion, and so the House agreed that it was not necessary for anyone to speak against it if it was not justified. Those of us up here agreed, as did the plenary, that this motion thus lapsed and is no longer on the agenda. Therefore I ask that we now proceed as has just been decided.

 
  
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  Alfonso Andria (ALDE ). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to explain. I stood up and signalled, even verbally, but the President indicated that I should stop. I stood up several times. I would ask you to include this initiative on the agenda and to ensure that the Council and Commission issue a statement. In any case, at the start of the session, the President said that there was a request from the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

I do not see why we cannot have a debate simply because a request was accidentally missed. I asked to speak, no one noticed, I even stood up.

 
  
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  President. − Nobody here in plenary noticed, and that is why I told you that. However, if you feel it is necessary, we shall be happy to vote on it.

The Chair of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe wishes to speak.

 
  
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  Graham Watson (ALDE ). – Mr President, I know that my colleague tried to interject when you raised it, but I think it would be helpful if I made one thing clear to the Chamber: we are not seeking to have a debate with the Commission and the Council about this; we know how little time we have with the Council this week. But if there could be a statement from the Commission and we could have a debate on that basis, then that would be sufficient.

 
  
  

(Parliament rejected the motion)

***

(The order of business was thus adopted) (1)

***

 
  

(1)For details of the amendments to the order of business: see Minutes


16. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
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  Kinga Gál (PPE-DE ). – (HU) Last week, for the third time, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences organised the World Science Forum in cooperation with the EU, UNESCO and the International Council for Science. Scientists and decision-makers from more than 60 countries participated in the World Science Forum, including four Heads of State, the Director-General of UNESCO and the Commission’s Environment [...] (interjection: I am sorry, Mr President, but I cannot carry on like this!).

As László Sólyom, President of the Republic of Hungary, recommended the creation of a world environment organisation in his address, the leaders of the United Nations Environment Programme announced the formation of a new international organisation. It was recommended at the World Forum that the parliaments of as many countries as possible should establish the institution of a commissioner responsible for future generations.

The main message of the World Forum is that science and politics must act together to halt climate change and the destruction of the environment. According to the participants, a ‘scientific Davos’ has been created in Budapest, in other words, Budapest is now for science what Davos is for economic issues.

The next event in the series will be in 2009, when it is intended to host the world’s science, education and finance ministers in Budapest, as the main event of the Year of Creativity. I would like to ask the Commission and you to support the event and the concept behind it, that is to say, we must defend ourselves and future generations as well as the environment and sustainability. Thank you for the floor, Mr President.

 
  
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  Eluned Morgan (PSE ). – Mr President, one of the greatest problems in relation to EU policy is implementation. This is particularly true in relation to directives relating to Lisbon and climate change.

On 4 January 2006 the energy performance of the Buildings Directive should have been implemented in all Member States. This would have led to massive energy savings. The problem is that only eight countries communicated full transposition on time. That means that all of the following countries have failed to implement the laws that they themselves signed up to: France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, the UK, Spain, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Malta.

The EU will lose credibility and its attempts to reduce carbon emissions will not be taken seriously unless its laws are respected on time. I urge you to write to the Member States I have just mentioned, to speed up implementation of this important directive.

 
  
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  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE ). – (RO) The safety of Italian citizens on the territory of Italy comes within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Italian Government. The Government of Romania cannot intervene in any way. The thing that the Government of Romania can do, and it has done it, is to cooperate and provide all necessary information in order to prevent possible crimes committed by Romanian citizens.

Up to now, the Italian Government has had no strategy to improve the situation of Roma on its territory. The best proof is the fact that the Italian Government has made no request to receive European funds for the integration of Roma, although it was obvious that the Roma had started to represent a problem that required an approach for several years.

The European Union Member States have the right to expel citizens who commit crimes, but no country of the European Union can have the right to expel European citizens who might be criminals, without having committed a blamable act.

Directive 38 of 2004 clearly explains these situations and the Italian Government Decree exceeds the spirit of the European Directive.

The European Parliament and the European officials should take a stand regarding Decree 181 of 1 November 2007 and ask the Italian Parliament for the final form of the law to comply with the letter and spirit of the European Directive.

 
  
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  Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski (UEN ). – (PL) Mr President, recently Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, former President of France and the main architect of the Constitutional Treaty that was rejected in the French and Dutch referendums, stated that the EU Reform Treaty adopted in Lisbon was no more than a revised version of the Constitutional Treaty, from which references to the Constitution had deliberately been removed.

Let me quote his words: ‘above all to head off any threat of referenda by avoiding any form of constitutional vocabulary’ – end of quote.

That is how EU citizens learned that a referendum on the Reform Treaty is a threat to Europe, and the authors of this Treaty concede that manipulations are deliberately being practised to deceive the peoples of Europe.

This outrageous utterance shows that referendums on the Treaty are needed, but before they are held an honest debate is required, not least in the forum of the European Parliament. Our electorate must be made aware of what this document really is.

 
  
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  Věra Flasarová (GUE/NGL ). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, during a recent meeting with Czech citizens I was informed that there are still people there who are experiencing difficulties with the still pending harmonisation of EU legislation on concessions for disabled people travelling outside their home country. I have already spoken this year in Parliament about the fact that harmonisation of EU legislation, which would enable people with different degrees of mental and physical disability to obtain a single document entitling them to concessions throughout the EU, would allow them to exercise their right to free movement, and as such it would enable them to participate more fully in our society.

Another issue voiced by the citizens that merits our attention concerns the deadline for calls for submissions of projects for financing under the European Social Fund. I appreciate that the funds are directed to the citizens in need. However, drawing up and submitting projects in the period between the launch of the call and the deadline for submission is, according to disability organisations, at times a superhuman achievement even for a completely healthy person. I know that the Reform Treaty gives greater consideration to people with disabilities but it will not resolve everything. We must therefore look at whether we need to pay more attention to people with disabilities. Where are the boundaries between the able-bodied and the disabled? As far as assistance goes, who is the giver and who is on the receiving end? Any one of us might one day find ourselves on the other side of this equation.

 
  
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  Bernard Wojciechowski (IND/DEM ). – (PL) Mr President, the Polish press has reported that the names of two Polish women have been left off the memorial in Madrid commemorating the victims of the terrorist attack on 11 March 2004. The missing names are those of Danuta Teresa Szpila and Alina Maria Bryk. Their families are offended. The memorial was unveiled eight months ago.

The names of immigrants from Morocco and Romania have also been omitted. I am therefore asking my fellow Members from Spain: has this error been put right yet? Why were these names not included on the memorial? I would also ask, Mr President, that you show an interest and intervene in this matter.

 
  
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  Dimitar Stoyanov (ITS ). – (BG) Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Ahmed Dogan, the leader of the anti-constitutional Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms which holds the mandate of the Bulgarian Government, declared in the night of the run-off of the local elections that vote shopping was an European practice. That disgraceful statement evoked the justified anger of the Bavarian Minister of European Affairs Markus Söder. In his interview for Die Welt Söder demanded that an investigation be carried out and the EU funds be stopped for Bulgaria.

The MRF is the political heir to a Turkish terrorist organisation. Ahmed Dogan was the founder of that organisation, for which he was convicted and imprisoned as a terrorist. Right from the outset, Ataka Party has always opposed the existence of this mafiotized structure whose funds are used for vote shopping, as well as for economic racketeering and horrendous discrimination of Bulgarians in their own country.

The stopping of EU funds will be tantamount to penalizing the Bulgarian people because of a political mafioso. Therefore it is better to stop Dogan instead! If he found the vote shopping to be an European practice, then you could imagine how the four representatives of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms came to the group of Liberals here, in the European Parlia\ment!

This Parliament should condemn the anti-democratic statements of Ahmed Dogan and form an inquiry committee to investigate the recent local elections and the elections for the European Parliament held in May this year. Thank you!

 
  
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  Jaroslav Zvěřina (PPE-DE ). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, the final decision on the entry of nine EU Member States into the Schengen area was welcomed with enthusiasm by the citizens of the Czech Republic. It will imply formal changes to the security system and protection of national borders and facilitate the free movement of goods and people, but it will also have some surprising complications. At the recent meeting of local authorities from South Bohemia, Bavaria and Upper Austria, some experts mentioned that the new obstacle along the former national borders could be the so-called ‘non-interference zone’ of the Šumava National Park. Some tourist routes from Bavaria border the non-interference zone and the strict environmental laws do not allow these routes to cross Czech territory. Not so long ago there was an Iron Curtain along the Czech-Austrian and Czech-German borders, which cut off the former East Germany and Czechoslovakia, ruled by a totalitarian communist regime, from the democratic world. We might live to experience a situation whereby the people in these regions are divided not by an iron but by a green curtain.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE ).(DE) Mr President, I beg your pardon, but in the second-to-last intervention the German translation by our otherwise extremely capable interpreter stated that Mr Söder was Bulgaria’s Minister for Europe. I think it is important to point out, however, that he is in fact Bavaria’s Minister for Europe, and this shows how important it is that we receive written minutes again, and not only audiovisual recordings.

 
  
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  President. − We shall note that.

Mr Dîncu now has the floor. Is he absent?

 
  
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  Richard Corbett (PSE ). – Mr President, this is a ‘catch-the-eye’ debate.

How did that Member manage to catch your eye without being here?

 
  
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  President − I understand that you have an interest in promoting ‘catch-the-eye’, so you have succeeded!

 
  
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  Kristian Vigenin (PSE ). – Mr President, I would like to draw your attention to the increasing activity of far-right extremist forces, which sometimes we tend to forget and even to forgive.

In less than a month we have faced a number of worrying events. In October a group of young Italians outraged the memory of the Holocaust, shouting in favour of Hitler in the Dachau concentration camp. Spain has witnessed racist attacks against immigrants in Barcelona and Madrid. The paramilitary Hungarian Guard has shown its violent face in Budapest. In recent days we have seen far-right ideas which are contrary to the very basic values of our European project infecting political life in Belgium and Italy and influencing political decisions and actions.

Special attention should be given to last week’s far-right rally in Prague, which attempted to celebrate the 1938 anti-Jewish purge known as the Kristallnacht on 9 November. All these events are becoming part of our daily life. It is time to wake up. We, the European parliamentarians, should lead the battle for the principles which brought us into this House: peace, democracy, tolerance, justice and solidarity. Let me underline that the existence of a far-right political group in this Parliament is encouraging extremists across Europe. My only hope is that this abuse of democracy will soon be brought to an end.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE ). – Mr President, it is almost certain that the foot-and-mouth disease virus that caused enormous damage to the British economy last summer escaped from the Pirbright Laboratory in Surrey. This establishment is an EU reference laboratory which is supposed to protect our animals from contagious diseases and not to cause epidemics through incompetence.

In the last two weeks the same laboratory has been the protagonist in what appears to be another fiasco. It has been issuing scores of confusing and sometimes contradictory results, with respect to foot-and-mouth disease, on animal samples sent from Cyprus. This apparent irresponsible behaviour has had severe effects on hundreds of farmers on the island. The Cyprus authorities blame all the confusion on the European Commission, and the citizens are understandably rather upset.

Before Pirbright causes another dangerous blunder, could you please ask the Commission to take this laboratory off the list of animal testing reference laboratories and replace it with a more trustworthy facility, for agriculture’s sake?

 
  
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  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski (UEN ). – (PL) Mr President, I would like to raise an issue that was bothering us all not so long ago; namely the change from summer to winter time (and back again in March).

It is said that this brings considerable savings in electricity consumption. It seems to me that this is not so, as the amount of daylight does not change in any way. Nor does electricity consumption for street lighting, as this is regulated automatically, depending on the amount of natural light available.

Electricity consumption at industrial plants does not change. The only minor savings are in household electricity consumption, but new timetables are printed, trains are stopped, there is disruption for the elderly and also for children, and there is disruption to information systems. I would be glad, Mr President, if Parliament were to hear authoritative information from the Commission concerning the gains and losses brought about by the time change.

 
  
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  James Nicholson (PPE-DE ). – Mr President, I would like to bring to the attention of the House a proposal by FIFA, the governing body of football, allowing players born in Northern Ireland to represent the Republic of Ireland. The Northern Ireland football team has a very proud history going back many decades and has produced many great football teams over the years, defeating many of the large nations in Europe. Over those years, Northern Ireland has had many difficulties, as it has over the past 30 years, but during all that time, soccer was able to bring the people together. So I say clearly to FIFA: you are wrong to go down this road, and it would certainly not help Northern Ireland’s chances of developing totally in the future, especially at a time when we believed we were returning to normality.

 
  
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  Glyn Ford (PSE ). – Mr President, I would like to raise the issue of Cadbury Schweppes, which has just announced in my own constituency that it is going to close its factory in Keynsham with the loss of 500 jobs and move production to Poland. This has been opposed by the British and Polish trade unions as they believe that this is an attempt by Cadbury Schweppes to race to the bottom, with people prepared to take the lowest wages being taken on board.

Chocolate has been produced in Keynsham for 250 years, and for nearly 100 years by Cadbury Schweppes. It is going to create 500 job losses there and the total, with the knock-on effects for subcontractors, will be something like 1 500.

It is hoping to get European money to help pay for moving this production. I am fully in favour of European job-creation projects, and I hope that the Commission will continue them – whether in the United Kingdom, Poland or elsewhere – but money from the European Union is for job creation and not job relocation. I hope the point will be made very clearly to the Commission that we do not expect it to pay for these job losses.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE ). – (PL) Mr President, EU integration is passing through a series of phases. As a result of implementation of the Schengen Agreement, another group of states will enter the area which border restrictions and controls have been lifted. We welcome this, as a considerable proportion of Poland’s eastern border is also an EU border.

The entry into force of the Schengen provisions has obliged on Poland to carry out extra controls on this border. I am thinking particularly of the border with Ukraine, a state that is becoming an important EU partner since its democratic and economic transition. Poland and Ukraine are linked by centuries of history as neighbours. Today we need especially close contacts and cooperation between our citizens and our peoples.

We must therefore create good conditions and make it convenient for people crossing the Ukrainian-Polish, border – that is, the Ukrainian-EU border – while keeping unnecessary administrative requirements and costs to a minimum. This should not be a border of division, but one of neighbourly cooperation – a border that in future will persist only formally, on paper, when Ukraine becomes integrated into the EU – and let us hope that it will.

 
  
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  Viktória Mohácsi (ALDE ). – (HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to speak about the situation that has developed in connection with that of the Romanian Roma in Italy. I feel it is regrettable that such a tragedy had to occur in order for the Italian decision, which everyone has interpreted differently, to shed light on the real problem, which I have represented at every forum for as long as I can remember.

In this very Chamber I always mentioned the lack of a Roma integration policy during the accession discussions for Romania and Bulgaria. If minority groups leave their homeland in the hope of a better life, that is also a problem. But it is also an enormous problem that there are discriminatory situations within the borders of the European Union and certain minority groups are forced to leave the land of their birth.

The time has come to create the comprehensive strategy that we voted for in our decision of April 2005 – this Parliament voted for it – in which we asked the Commission to urge the Member States to create the strategy. Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia have already created the strategy and are participating in the Decade of Roma Inclusion programme.

If the 2005 guidelines and Parliamentary decision were not satisfactory for the Commission or for the other Member States, the matter must be taken up again. We not only need to create a comprehensive Roma strategy but, with regard to urging the creation of the strategy and to its seriousness, we also need to create a so-called EU fund as soon as possible in the interests of fully integrating the Roma, especially in order to stop educational segregation.

 
  
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  Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka (UEN ). – (PL) Mr President, I was really supposed to be speaking today about the situation in Burma, but information I have received obliges me to draw your attention once again to Russia.

While preparations for the European Union summit were taking place in Mafra, in the Russian city of Kazan, 720 kilometres from Moscow, another round in the long-running battle between the authorities and the media was being played out. This time the part of victim was played by Natalia Petrova, a maker of documentary films about, among other subjects, Chechnya. The role of the torturers was played by plain-clothes officers from the local police.

They arrested Ms Petrova at her home in front of her parents and two small children. During her arrest she lost consciousness, was struck several times and was burned with cigarettes. She came round at police headquarters, from where she was released after a few hours. One of the journalist’s daughters also suffered injuries, as did her mother. Are these the standards of police behaviour in a democratic state that is a member of the Council of Europe? Are these events to be robustly exposed in this forum in order to make Europe aware of what is really happening in Russia?

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL ).(PT) I should like to use the opening of the plenary session of the European Parliament to express our solidarity with the Gestnave and Erecta workers who are doggedly and courageously continuing to fight for integration into Lisnave. That integration, if they achieve it, is merely the implementation of what is stipulated in the agreement signed 10 years ago between the Portuguese State and the Mello Group within the framework of the restructuring of the Setúbal peninsula shipbuilding industry, but also of what is enshrined in the Portuguese Labour Code.

Finally, I should like to express our full support for the innumerable initiatives which the Gestnave, Erecta and Lisnave workers have taken over the years to enforce the law and bring justice for the workers and the future of the shipbuilding and repair industry in Portugal.

 
  
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  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE ). – Mr President, a recent poll in Ireland showed support for the Reform Treaty to be at alarmingly low levels of just under 25% saying yes and over 62% undecided. Yet this week the Commission’s draft legislative work programme for 2008 states that ‘work will also be continued in order to allow companies to choose an EU-wide tax base’.

Dr Sean Barrett, a senior lecturer in economics at Trinity College Dublin, has today described the reduction of the corporation tax rate in Ireland from 50% in the 1980s to 12½% a decade later as ‘the most important policy measure that achieved the transformation of Ireland’.

The concept of an EU-wide tax base with the dangerous option to collect corporation tax on sales based on the rate in each country undermines trust, contributes to rising Euro-scepticism in Ireland and is extremely misplaced in the context of the ratification of the Reform Treaty.

I therefore ask that this matter be raised urgently with the Commission. Our focus should be on the important elements of the proposed Treaty and the real obstacles in the internal market, not jeopardising emerging markets, inward investment and the future ratification of the Treaty by working on an unwise, distrusted and thus unacceptable common tax-base proposal.

 
  
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  President. − Commissioner Figeľ is here, so I am sure that he has taken careful note of that.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE-DE ). – (SK) This coming 17 November is for the Czech and Slovak people as symbolically important as the fall of the Berlin Wall was for the Germans.

Eighteen years ago a barbarian totalitarian regime came to an end in these countries. Subsequently, the Czech and Slovak people once more became part of Europe. Because of this event, 17 November is an anniversary that is alive, a symbol of something important to be remembered. The united Europe is founded on the defeat not just of Nazism but also of Communism. Just as not dealing with the Nazi crimes and criminals has been a threat to Europe, the same applies to the crimes of the Communist regime.

I would like to recall here the legacy of Pope John Paul II, whose famous words ‘do not be afraid’ were an important display of solidarity for Slovak dissent. I would also like to mention President Reagan, whose words about the ‘Evil Empire’ turned him into our President, even though we did not vote for him. Communism was defeated by the courage of men and women; injustice made way for justice. Freedom is a great gift, and I am pleased to be able that today as a Member of the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (PSE ). – (HU) A decisive majority of the European Parliament has rightly been disgusted with events in Italy, but there is extraordinarily great hypocrisy in this, ladies and gentlemen. As if we didn’t know that there are 3-4 million Roma living in difficult circumstances in Romania; as if we didn’t know that there are 12 million Roma living in Europe. This also demonstrates that the European Union does not have a minorities policy, not for indigenous minorities, not for the Roma, nor for migrant minorities.

I am pleased and proud that the European Socialists have condemned the principle of collective guilt in Italy, and I would also have been pleased if my own group had done the same with regard to the collective branding of the Hungarian minority living in Slovakia.

Mr President, I would very much like to ask that during this parliamentary session there should at last be a person responsible for minority matters in the European Parliament, the Subcommittee on Human Rights should finally be a proper committee, and there should finally be some monitoring, since our President is a truly ‘minority-friendly’ President. Thank you.

 
  
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  Milan Horáček (Verts/ALE ).(DE) Mr President, we saw only recently the fourth anniversary of the imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, who has heart problems and is suffering from hepatitis. It is unacceptable that these two men remain in prison in the Siberian city of Chita, in violation of Russian law.

For spurious reasons, their applications for early release, which is possible under Russian law, were overruled, despite good behaviour. This was clearly a step designed to keep opposition to a minimum before next year’s election.

When our group visited Moscow two weeks ago, I met with Mr Khodorkovsky’s lawyer, Mr Yuri Schmidt. We also met with various other representatives of Memorial, with Garry Kasparov and Grigory Yavlinsky, all of whom confirmed that the Yukos problem is very much a political one. I therefore call upon the EU to address human rights violations more intensively and clearly in its dialogue with Russia. What matters here is not retribution, but humanity and justice.

 
  
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  Rodi Kratsa-Τsagaropoulou (PPE-DE ). – (EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to talk about the tragic political situation in Lebanon and the role that the EU is urgently called upon to play. Today is all too typical of this crisis, because once again the election of the President of the Republic has been postponed.

Regional power squabbles affecting Lebanon have deepened the rift between political groups. As a result, the people are being held hostage, there is a risk of civil war and the whole area is unstable.

The EU, which is in partnership with Lebanon, is following an action plan determined by its Neighbourhood Policy. The EU and its Member States contribute 40% of international development aid. The Union has met its responsibilities in the strengthened peacekeeping force. Yet all this is useless unless a national agreement is reached to avert the crisis. The way ahead is difficult, if not impossible, owing to the failure of the presidential election. The Union must play its part as an effective negotiator and initiate real dialogue. We have no time to dither; we cannot just wait and see.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM ). – Mr President, the European Court of Human Rights recently made a ruling with far-reaching implications. The case in question was that of the Amalgamated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen versus the UK. It concerned Mr Jay Lee, who had been a member of ASLEF and the British National Party. Mr Lee was expelled by ASLEF because of his BNP membership. The Court upheld this action.

The BNP is a political party with its roots in neo-Nazism. Nevertheless, under UK law, membership is perfectly legal. The British Government has conceded that trade union law must now be amended so that unions can expel members whose political views they do not like.

The role of trade unions is to collectively represent the material interests of their members in the workplace, not to decide what political views are acceptable or unacceptable. The Court’s decision is yet another European nail in the coffin of British liberties.

 
  
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  Toomas Savi (ALDE ). – Mr President, we were shocked at last week’s violent clashes between protestors and police in Tbilisi, Georgia. The fact that President Mikhail Saakashvili declared a state of emergency to overcome the riots and conducted a violent crackdown is highly alarming.

According to statements from the participants, the riots had nothing to do with external influences, but were the expression of severe displeasure with the Government.

President Saakashvili overreacted, since violence is not an appropriate solution when addressing the justified concerns of the opposition. Furthermore, President Saakashvili declared that there would be presidential elections in Georgia in January 2008.

We should not overlook the disturbances. The EU has provided Georgia, as a European Neighbourhood Policy country of destination, with advice on carrying out its regime transition. We should ask ourselves whether we have done our best to avoid such a crisis from occurring and, moreover, whether we can be sure that this will not reoccur in some other destination country.

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE ). – Mr President, at the recent Mafra summit, the Russian side proposed founding an institute to monitor the human rights situation in the EU countries. The Russian representatives commend this initiative as a political measure to counterbalance continued EU criticism of the worsening human rights situation in Russia. The institute in question will be financed by Russia.

In my opinion, the EU leaders should in principle avoid such attempts to politicise human rights issues. It is true that there exist adequate human rights dialogue mechanisms between the EU and Russia. These mechanisms unfortunately have not been adequately used, due mainly to the lack of Russian response to the problems raised by the EU.

Following this idea, one could imagine that, next, President Ahmadinejad will insist on establishing on EU territory an Iranian-financed institute on human rights and Holocaust studies. I am convinced that initiatives like this can only discredit the noble cause of defending human rights.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS ROURE
Vice-President

 

17. The role of sport in education (debate)
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  President. – The next item (A6-0415/2007 ) is the report by Pál Schmitt, on behalf of the Committee on Culture and Education, on the role of sport in education (2007/2086(INI) ).

 
  
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  Pál Schmitt (PPE-DE ), rapporteur . (HU) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, allow me first of all to express my thanks for the numerous remarks and recommended improvements that have been sent for my report. My objective was to talk about strengthening the role of school PE and sport in education.

Nearly a quarter of the children living in the European Union are overweight, and 50% of them only participate in sports activities during school PE classes, whilst the number of PE classes is continuously falling. As a result of this dangerous process, diabetes, high blood pressure, diseases of the heart and nervous system, spinal and vascular ailments are spreading throughout Europe and will significantly increase the health care expenditure of individual Member States in the future.

We cannot allow ourselves to compensate for the inactive lifestyle and sedentary everyday life typical of European adolescents by neglecting such a simple yet effective tool as the PE class. As a one-time Olympian, a practising sports director and naturally as an MEP, it is my obligation and my responsibility to find a way for the Union to do its share in the fight against obesity in pupils, in supporting a healthy, active lifestyle, in establishing the health of European adolescents and in the process of education through sport.

Allow me to congratulate the heads of the Member States on their wise decision not to forget sport at the latest Lisbon summit and to give the Union the right of initiative in sport after approving the Reform Treaty. The Commission has prepared numerous programmes for promoting a healthy lifestyle, and in the field of healthy nutrition, but there is not enough coordination among these programmes. Sports experts, PE teachers and trainers must be given a greater role and respect in their implementation.

It must be said that the White Paper on Sport published by the Commission in July, and the Action Plan relating to it, are a step in the right direction. We are also counting on the cooperation of the Commission in promoting research that is important for sports experts, and in gathering statistical data to measure the sporting activities of pupils and their physical condition.

I feel it is important that, using lifelong learning and the framework of the Bologna process, we can promote mobility and continued training for trainers and PE teachers, we can mutually recognise the degrees that attest to their qualifications, and we can assist with more effective cooperation among organisations of sports experts.

In addition to physical exercise, PE in schools develops such important qualities as persistence, team spirit, willpower and fair play, which the young people entrusted to us will be able to benefit from throughout their lives. School sports facilities and gymnasia in the Member States are often extraordinarily neglected, and they are poorly maintained and shabby. Another great problem is the lack of qualified PE teachers, that is, the disorganised state of further professional training and the fact that the content of the PE curriculum is out of date.

Unfortunately, PE in schools has lost its importance, although it is the basis for both physical and mental development. Delicate and rough movements, which can be well developed through sport and popular games or any activity involving movement, are also essential in the study of reading and writing. It is no accident that dyslexic and dysgraphic children are also treated using movement therapy.

PE is the only subject in the curriculum that focuses not only on mental development but also on physical development, the development of an active culture and hygiene. It is a joint task for PE teachers and parents to teach and encourage children to have a healthy lifestyle and to take regular exercise, and to draw their attention to the harmful physical and mental effects of prohibited performance-enhancing drugs, alcohol and other drugs.

In order to improve the state of health and physical condition of children of school age, we recommend that PE in schools be made compulsory in primary and secondary schools, and that there be an opportunity for children to exercise at least three times a week as part of the curriculum. Sport has a prominent role in promoting social integration and reinforcing social cohesion, in so far as sport is an important tool for socialisation and intercultural dialogue.

The issue of gender equality has been given a big role in the report. I also feel it is important that those who live with a disability should also participate in regular PE at school that corresponds to their needs and is increasingly integrated. In my report, I also mention that PE and organised sports at school play a prominent role, not only physically but also mentally, in the healthy development of children and, at the same time, a level of socialisation. I recommend in my report that the regions that have been left behind in this field should be able to compete for funding for sports investment from the Structural Funds.

Finally, I would like to thank the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, and the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs for their valuable contributions to the report. Ladies and gentlemen, I respectfully ask you to support my report. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  Hans-Peter Martin (NI ).(DE) Madam President, I asked for the floor before the report was announced. The President in the chair before you called upon a large number of Members – as part of the catch-the-eye procedure – who were not even present in the House. For that, he was reprimanded by the Rules of Procedure incarnate, Mr Corbett.

I tried to speak dozens of times, and also handed in my request, but was ignored. I believe that what the President in the chair before you has just done is contrary to the rules of this House and unworthy of this Parliament.

 
  
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  President. – Mr Martin, there were far too many one-minute speeches. Normally it lasts half an hour. It has overrun that by quite a lot, so I am sorry.

 
  
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  Ján Figeľ, Member of the Commission . − Madam President, first of all my congratulations to Mr Schmitt and the committee on the own-initiative report. This report is timely and very inspirational. We used this report in drafting our White Paper as one of the contributions that I think important in a common strategy towards sport in Europe and I am happy that there is a lot of concrete convergence between the White Paper adopted in July and this report.

In general this report and our White Paper agree that the general orientation of physical education does not necessarily correspond to today’s societal needs. The subject is increasingly marginalised within school curricula programmes, so that is why we need to improve.

I would like to mention some of the issues or areas in the report and in the White Paper. Both documents recommend enhanced cooperation between the health, education and sport sectors to define and implement strategies to reduce health risks such as being overweight.

Regarding the time devoted to physical education, we will build this into a set of physical activity guidelines. We should develop this with Member States by the end of next year, 2008. We are also considering introducing the award of a European label to schools which are actively involved in supporting and promoting physical activities in a school environment.

Concerning research, the White Paper proposes mobilising the seventh Research Framework Programme to support multidisciplinary research in this area, mainly on lifestyle aspects of health. We also recommend considering the role of sport in the field of social inclusion, social integration and equal opportunities in the programming of Structural Funds.

Concerning investment, as far as top class sport is concerned, we have launched a study on the training of young top-level sportsmen and sportswomen in Europe. This should enable us to identify the right instruments to develop sports training and education for young persons, and also ensure higher quality and quality more generally.

In the mean time, we are supporting sport and physical activity through the Lifelong Learning programme, the Youth in Action programme and the Europe for Citizens programme. Let me underline at this moment that the general call for proposals for 2008, 2009 and 2010 in the framework of the Lifelong Learning Programme has included physical education and sport among its priorities, and this will open new funding opportunities for this education area.

To conclude, we are looking forward, as Mr Schmitt mentioned, to the ratification and entry into force of the Reform Treaty because this will open up new possibilities. Our experience with the Pierre de Coubertin Action Plan and your own report will help us to shape those possibilities better to support Member States’ efforts to promote the role of sport in education in the coming years. I thank you again for your contribution.

 
  
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  Christa Prets (PSE ), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality . – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, in sport – and we are talking about fairness here – no distinctions can be made between the sexes; women must be treated equally. This begins during the school years, during PE classes, and extends right through to high-performance training in top-class sport, for here far too little consideration is given to female traits and female biological requirements. More attention needs to be directed to this.

In top-class sport, the same applies to the public and to attention from the media, which has an effect on funding. Women are greatly disadvantaged in top-class sport, and it is high time that we made sure that fair play applies to everyone in this regard, too.

We also need to ensure that the integration of girls from different cultural groups into school sporting activities works better, and must try to involve everybody, despite religious and cultural differences.

 
  
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  Manolis Mavrommatis, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (EL) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to congratulate our fellow Member Mr Schmitt, who has brought his experience to bear in his report. I stress that sport and children’s participation in sports activities are very necessary today in view of the changes that have taken place in our everyday lives.

Children these days spend much of their time in front of the television, video games and computers. Their diet is anything but healthy. Child obesity has become an increasingly serious problem inevitably entailing serious health hazards. For children sport is not only a way of exercising and developing new group skills; it is also recreational and teaches teamwork. The physical exercise involved in doing sport has a beneficial effect on young people’s physical health. Commissioner, children are not eating more, but they are less active and get less exercise. A sedentary life and obesity often cause high blood pressure and diabetes, which affect a steadily increasing proportion of the EU’s population.

Member States today must promote physical exercise as a school subject in order to prepare children for a healthy lifestyle. Member States and the competent authorities must ensure that greater emphasis is placed on the promotion of health in the curriculum, and that physical education is given equal status with other subjects on the timetable. Member States must also lay down a minimum requirement for the number of physical education lessons in schools.

Lastly, the Member States must actively support all forms of physical education and promote dialogue between parents, PE teachers and sports associations outside school.

 
  
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  Christel Schaldemose, on behalf of the PSE Group . – (DA) Madam President, I should like to thank Mr Schmitt for his good report and for his constructive collaboration during the preparation of this. The role of sport generally and specifically within education is an incredibly important issue. Commissioner Kyprianou said less than a month ago that he believed that the greatest threat to the health of EU citizens was obesity. Unfortunately, I think that he is right, and therefore it is crucial that we focus on the problem and on what we can do to solve it. We have an important obligation to our children, particularly those who do not form good eating and sports habits at home for social or family-related reasons. Therefore, the focus on the role of sport in education is important.

School can and should play a major role in providing children with good habits, as children spend a large proportion of their day there. As pointed out in the report, it is therefore not necessary to discuss whether sport is essential within education. However, it is important that we discuss how we can ensure that there is more sport in school. It is also important that children develop good exercise habits as early on as possible. This is obvious for health reasons but, at the same time, as Mr Schmitt has also said, we know that exercise and sport can develop social relationships among children and young people and create social integration irrespective of ethnicity and social class. This is why sport is such an important tool. What can we do, therefore? We must ensure that children have the opportunity to do more exercise than is the case today. Sport should not just be something for affluent children. Sport should be a natural part of every child’s life. At this juncture, it is also necessary to ensure that sport does not only mean competitive sport, but something that everyone can participate in, and that is why it is important that sport be integrated within education.

There is therefore a general need for individual Member States to prioritise sport as a part of education much more than is the case today, and as part of this to ensure that the correct facilities are available and also qualified teachers, for example. It is therefore clearly a key responsibility for the Member States, but with this report we want to help focus on the problem and the possible solutions, and naturally also highlight what the EU can do in connection with this. In addition, there are three things that are required. We need teachers to have a greater insight into the reasons for the barriers to children participating in sport. A better relationship between sport at school and sport in leisure time also needs to be created. In addition, as has been mentioned previously, we need to prioritise resources, time and sports facilities. I am very pleased with the report; it is a good report and sets out the conditions that are required in order for sport to help improve the health of children. Therefore, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament wholeheartedly supports the report, but we feel that it is important that it be only the first step towards a major initiative to deal with the problem of obesity. We believe that it is necessary for us to both use more resources and take more time in this area.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula, on behalf of the ALDE Group . (FI) Madam President, first of all I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Schmitt, for this report. It has to be said that this is an excellent and timely topic. It raises the issue of physical education and the role of sport in schools. If we look back these 20 to 30 years, as Europeans we know that this is one area of school education that we have neglected. This is conspicuous everywhere in Europe in the shape of a decline in general fitness. It is also conspicuous as a range of side-effects. Fort example, there has been a noticeable increase in obesity. Diabetes has also become a commoner phenomenon, as has cardiovascular disease. Mental health problems have also become commoner. We might also suggest, as has already been said here, and as said earlier on by Mr Mavrommatis, who is from the land we know as Ancient Greece, that in olden times it was said that a healthy soul in a healthy body is the very best situation, and this is what we should be aiming for once again in Europe. We should also understand that exercise is vitally important for a person’s general wellbeing.

We live in what we call the information society in Europe, but I hope the information society might become something more. It could be an education society, which also extends to body education and exercise. In Finland our Olympic winner Tapio Korjus is now heading a body education project, which is an attempt to promote the view that healthy physical education has an effect on a person’s general wellbeing. We are inclined to think that good results are expected to appear on the horizon.

The core issue, however, is teacher training and schools, with physical exercise actually becoming a priority in teacher training. This should also be required of teachers because there are special problems with many children in remote areas.

I really hope that improvements will be made to physical education, that schools and fitness organisations will find one another more easily, and that all children and young people can experience the delights of physical education in their own lives and build their future upon it.

 
  
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  Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Madam President, physical activity is indisputably an important factor in the life of every person. It could be said to improve the state of our health and of our souls.

According to numerous studies and statistics, the state of health of EU citizens is deteriorating year on year as a result of a lifestyle that is getting faster and faster and is causing us to devote less and less time to sporting pursuits and recreation. If we add poor diet to this, for example the inclusion of fast foods in the daily menu, we could say that a healthy lifestyle has been abandoned. What is worse, we are responsible for the health of children and young people who are suffering increasingly from obesity and coronary diseases.

The lifestyle we impose on children is one of travelling to school by car, inadequate physical education at school, returning home by car and, once home, computers and television, which is not the best of lifestyles. This is why now is the time to take stock and to support all useful initiatives aimed at creating an active lifestyle. It is time to pass resolutions on the role of sport in education along with the comments and proposals announced by Mr Schmitt. It is time we took the subject seriously.

 
  
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  Mikel Irujo Amezaga, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group . – (ES) Madam President, on behalf of my group, I would like to first of all congratulate Mr Schmitt on this report, and also stress the importance of increasing the number of hours of teaching of physical education in schools. Adequate time spent doing the right physical activity is the best possible way to complement all-round personal development, from both a mental and a physical point of view.

Balancing time dedicated to study with the time needed for sport is a challenge that we need to meet for our children as soon as possible, as it will enable us to ensure that they have a good quality of life in the future. It should also be taken into account that this is a key time for acquiring habits, which means that physical education is vital. I would also like to highlight the need to introduce campaigns aimed at children, and this is a request to the Commission. These campaigns and programmes need to be aimed at children and their parents so that they adopt healthy lifestyles that include physical activity and exclude habits such as smoking, which continues to be one of the blots on health in Europe.

To conclude, I think that all the speakers so far have mentioned improving training for physical education teachers, as, at the end of the day, this programme cannot go ahead without them.

 
  
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  Nils Lundgren, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (SV) Madam President, this report on the role of sport in education deals in detail with the question of how Member States shall organise the subject of physical education in school. It is another example of how the EU’s politicians and officials go into any area and at any level of detail they choose in their zeal to centralise political power here. Subsidiarity is embraced in speeches, but is never respected in political practice. This sets a new record for absurdly detailed regulation.

Let me give some examples. Paragraph 10 says that the Member States shall be called on to make PE compulsory in primary and secondary schools and that at least three PE lessons per week should be guaranteed. Paragraph 24 talks about the importance of offering sports coeducation for children at nursery and primary schools.

This is the kind of thing people are getting up to. It is a brazen and ridiculous attempt to promote the position of the EU in an area which should be decided upon by the peoples of Europe themselves.

 
  
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  Slavi Binev, on behalf of the ITS Group (BG) Mme Chairperson, Colleagues, It is gratifying to note that such a famous and prominent name in world sports as Pál Schmitt has contriubuted his authority to raise a very important issue for the future of Europeans before the European Parliament. For the attitude to sports is, in fact, attitude to the health of people in united Europe. I feel honoured and proud to speak on his report as an athlete, as a representative of an ancient people with immense sport spirit, and also as a person concerned with the future of children in united Europe, the future of our children.

In my opinion, things are crystal clear: more sports at school, less drugs at school; more spending for sports at school, less spending for healthcare because it is perfectly obvious that it is ten times better for our children to be happy than to be better cured; more sports competition at the earliest age, less aggression in the other spheres of life; more international sporets races involving school children, less inter-ethnic and inter-state tensions in the European Union and in the world at large. Therefore, bacause of the time constraint, I would like to highlight those aspects that need further development on the basis of the report by the champion and highly respected athlete and politician Pál Schmitt.

I would like to see a recommendation of the European Parliament to all Member States to increase the number of sports classes at school to five hours a week. I suggest that the European Parliament think seriously and include in its future budget a proposal to organise international competitions under its auspices for schoolchildren in some sports that are most useful to adolescents. The report points out that sports at school is unattractive. Have you ever thought why football is attractive? Because football players are stars. Let us have Europe single out its school sport stars in various areas! Thus will shall give much more publicity to sports at school that a directive or a recommendation could possibly give. They will be European school champions in athletics, football and basketball, martial arts or swimming. In this way, we might not be able to restore the Spartan ideal of a healthy spirit in a healthy body, mens sana in corporare sano , in its authentic meaning, but we shall contribute much more than a report could contribute.

The decision to hold youth Olympics in 2010 follows these lines but the Olympic spirit cannot prevail in school sports if we rely only on the four-year Olympic cycle. We should use time in between more intensively by offering a meaningful sports calendar for school children.

The European Parliament should make special efforts to prevent the spread of drugs through sports at school. In closing, I believe that the uderstanding of this Parliament about sports at the earliest age bodes well for the future…

(The Chairperson iterrupts the speaker )

 
  
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  Ljudmila Novak (PPE-DE ). – (SL) The importance of physical exercise to the development and health of young people is well known. However, we also know that present-day lifestyles mean that many children spend a great deal of time indoors and in front of computers. Therefore, Mr Schmitt’s report, which aims to encourage the Member States and all of us to rethink the role of sport in education, is very important.

I would like to point out two aspects which are also referred to fleetingly in the report. Firstly, the importance of sports education to children with special needs. There is a tendency for as many of such children as possible to be integrated into mainstream schools. However, because of the different needs of these children and young people it is not always possible to provide appropriate equipment and treatment in a mainstream school. On the other hand, precisely these children require special attention and physical activity since movement-impaired children, for example, spend a great deal of time in a sedentary position and therefore need even greater opportunities for exercise. Consequently, where they are included in mainstream schools, appropriate conditions for physical activity adapted to them should be provided.

The second aspect I would like to point out is the role of sports clubs and the impact of sports coaches on the development of young people. It is not only sporting achievements that are important but also health and educational work with young people, to which coaches in clubs should also devote a great deal of attention. Parents want to entrust their children to someone who will not only strive for the best possible sporting achievement but also look after their health and act as an educator and a role model in all respects. Only in these terms can we speak of the positive role of sport in the lives of young people.

 
  
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  Christa Prets (PSE ).(DE) Madam President, there was of course the European Year of Education through Sport, and I think that we can and should go back to many of the conclusions that Year brought us in the way of insights. We have already adopted some resolutions on various matters. There is still much on the agenda, including the report by Mr Schmitt, and I think we have a great deal of material to hand in order to illustrate and confirm everything that is now being discussed; that is, how important sport is and what we should learn and take from it. But not enough is happening in sport – I mean, not enough is happening for sport.

People are more aware of health, but obesity and diabetes are on the increase, especially amongst children. We have spoken a great deal about teacher training, and I think that we have to begin with primary school. There are no specialist PE teachers in primary schools – at least I know that is true of my country – instead, teachers with general training are used to teach PE as well. Specially trained teachers are needed here as well, so as to begin as early as possible.

I believe that cooperation between associations, schools and public authorities is very important. Associations do a lot in the way of education and training work with children, and receive far too little support. They all struggle financially with too little money, while in fact their services are invaluable. I am proud of the project currently operating in Austria in which sporting administrators have managed to get into schools and increase the physical education offered, in cooperation with teachers and each state’s school organisations. There is a particular focus on the children’s aptitudes and abilities.

I believe it is very important to involve the parents. We cannot and must not leave everything to public bodies; instead we must also make people aware that nutrition and physical activity are important for children. It is important to start with the parents here, too.

 
  
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  Karin Resetarits (ALDE ).(DE) Madam President, congratulations to Mr Schmitt on his own-initiative report. I hold the opposing view to Mr Lundgren. Unfortunately, in school matters, the European Union is being restrained by the Member States, for any objective analysis of the problem quickly reveals how vital it is that the approach to different aspects of schooling be harmonised. PE is part of this, in the same way as training in creative thinking or social involvement.

Mr Schmitt’s report concentrates on PE. While in the USA only very sporty students who also have excellent grades get a place at a good university, in Europe it is exactly the other way around. The higher the level of schooling, the less time there is for young people to be involved in sport.

PE has a lowly status in the world of school. Sport is regarded as being only a leisure activity, and that is a mistake. Sport enables people to overcome mental limits, and that is exactly what we need in Europe. These days, people often manage to have a career in sport despite school, and not because of school. That is an error in our system, one that the present report brings to our notice.

Finally, I should like to speak up for a community that cannot do so here for itself. Due to the political situation in their country, young sportspeople in the Turkish part of Cyprus cannot take part in international competitions. They hope that the European Union will bring an end to their isolation. By now, more than three years since Cyprus joined the European Union, if a solution is not already in place, at least a proposal for one should be under consideration.

 
  
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  Ewa Tomaszewska (UEN ). – (PL) Madam President, we take care of the balanced development of our economy, but often we neglect the need for balanced development of our children – not only their intellectual development, but also their physical development.

The school years are a period of dynamic growth in children and young people and of rapid biological development and maturation. Physical movement and the exercise of various muscle groups is particularly important for health during this period.

Young people spend a lot of time in front of television screens or computer monitors. This may help intellectual development, but it has a negative impact on physical development. It causes curvature of the spine. This may be avoided through regular involvement in sport. Meanwhile, school sports facilities are often not accessible after lessons, and young people are unable to make use of them. I support the report.

 
  
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  Rolf Berend (PPE-DE ).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the Commission’s White Paper and Mr Schmitt’s excellent report feature both the educative function of PE in schools and the role of sport in social integration and fostering good health. Awareness of all aspects of this in society should now be increased.

Alongside what we have learned from the European Year of Education through Sport and from the Lifelong Learning, Youth and Europe for Citizens programmes, it is now time to devise initiatives to make the most, in our times, of the various forms of physical activity comprising sport, both in schools, clubs and associations, and as spontaneous, informal physical activity.

In an era when we do very little physical activity, sport has much greater significance for us than it did for our parents and grandparents. In a time when children prefer to play computer games, there is a growing need to promote active, healthy lifestyles for children and young people. Unfortunately, there are many signs that, in many schools, even the time available for PE often fails to correspond to the reality on the ground – that is, implementation sometimes fails to meet with legal obligations. It seems that a reality check is necessary in many schools in this regard.

I also support the rapporteur when he calls on the Commission to draw up guidelines on the application of the State aid rules to public sports facilities – naturally, fully respecting the principle of subsidiarity – together with the national and European umbrella organisations for sports. We need clarity on what type of state support is regarded as acceptable and lawful and which aspects can be integrated with one another, possibly including the strengthening of investment in physical education, and with regard to the financing, if necessary with assistance from European funds within the framework of the Structural Funds, of the modernisation and provision of schools.

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki (UEN ). – (PL) Madam President, I fully support the draft resolution, and I thank the rapporteur for the very good drafting of this text. For me there is no doubt: in my youth – and the same will be true of most of you – school and youth sport affected a much larger percentage of young people. Now the number of hours of PE at school has fallen. Of course this has an impact on young people’s health, as Mrs Tomaszewska has said.

Involvement in sport must be given due prestige. One way of doing this may be to include sport in the scope of application of the European transfer of credit points in schooling and vocational training. Mutual recognition of diplomas and licences conferring a right to provide services in the sports sector throughout the European Union will certainly help to guarantee the free flow of students, sports people and employees in Europe and will improve the opportunities for people in this industry to find good jobs. Emphasis should also be placed on the social and cultural aspect of the existence of clubs and sports associations for local people and national communities.

 
  
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  Ovidiu Victor Ganţ (PPE-DE ). – (RO) Madam President, Mr. Commissioner, dear colleagues, I welcome and support Mr. Pál Schmitt’s report on the role of sport in education because it offers us, one more time, the possibility to get actively involved in improving the life of our fellow citizens.

Supporting physical education and sport, the European Parliament gives a signal not only for a healthier life, but also for the promotion of the common European values that we all inherited from Greece and Ancient Rome.

We have to give more substance to the dictum mens sana in corpore sano via concrete actions which are often conditioned by financial aspects.

For this reason, we ask the Commission, the Council and the Member States to find the adequate instruments to increase investments in the field of school infrastructure and equipment.

One extremely efficient way to achieve this consists in the European funds for disadvantaged regions, especially in the new Member States, which need to be supported in order to increase their capacity of absorption.

Moreover, I believe that the European Union should initiate a sustained media campaign, especially in the TV children and youth programmes, in order to encourage them to practice sport so as to reduce obesity, smoking and drug consumption, as well as to promote correctness, team spirit, discipline, solidarity, tolerance and to combat discrimination.

As regards us, many Members of the European Parliament have practiced sport. I believe we should establish a way to annually reward the best initiatives for promoting physical education and sport, by offering a prize, for instance.

 
  
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  Ivo Belet (PPE-DE ).(NL) Madam President, congratulations to Mr Schmitt on this excellent report, and also once more to Commissioner Figeľ on the White Paper on Sport. I should like to reiterate that clearly, as this represents a very important step forward, particularly in view of the section on sport contained in the EU Reform Treaty.

Ladies and gentlemen, the European Union’s involvement with sport is not evident to everyone; however, whether we like it or not, a number of aspects of sport must be examined from a European angle.

I shall select one such aspect: the plea in Mr Schmitt’s report for extra financial support for sports clubs that actively collaborate with schools. This can be fitted perfectly into the ‘open sports ground policy’, including in the case of professional sports clubs. Besides, ladies and gentlemen, sport is an excellent instrument to restore enthusiasm for school and education among socially disadvantaged groups of young people. I think that this aspect of sport, too, deserves maximum support.

Then there is of course the obesity problem. This needs to be addressed urgently. As we read in the Schmitt report, ever more young people are having to deal with this. In the EU-27, one in four children is now overweight, not because they eat too much, or have a poor diet, but chiefly owing to insufficient physical activity.

Hence the report’s appeal to the Member States and the regions to allocate a minimum of three hours a week to sport and include this in the timetable of primary and secondary schools. This appeal comes not a minute too soon. We cannot impose this at European level – nor do we want to, of course – but we can mark defaulting Member States and regions as being bottom of the class. Indeed, this is also an economic necessity, for – as we know – childhood obesity is one of the causes of cardiovascular disease, including in later life.

Thus, we have every interest in investing more time and energy in school sports facilities.

 
  
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  Ján Figeľ, Member of the Commission . ? (SK) I welcome the very encouraging atmosphere during this debate, which confirms that sport and physical education certainly have an effect on health, but also on certain values held by young people and our entire society.

I think we are all in agreement on the very practical arguments that have been put forward about the preventive role of physical education. It is appropriate and timely to invest more resources in this direction. Sport also encourages values such as fair play, team spirit, discipline, an understanding of rules, acceptance of others and solidarity. That is why sport is a great instrument for integration, whether it be social integration, at a local level or a European level, which does not mean assimilating or absorbing other groups, but encouraging participation within agreed rules. Therefore, the more education and the more sport in education, the better our coexistence.

As many of you stated, there is consensus on this. However, what do we need to do now to accomplish more: it is one thing to agree but we must act, too. I think that there are some elements that show a certain amount of maturity and readiness, and I mentioned one at the beginning. In the Lifelong Learning Programme 2008-2010 sport and physical education have been prioritised in calls for individual projects for mobility, curricular collaboration and school partnership. It is an invitation, an offer of space. The same can be said for the Structural Funds and the modernisation of our schools.

The White Paper is a very comprehensive document. In 50 years these issues had never been formulated like this because we evolved from steel and coal to issues that are today more inclined towards the knowledge society. In this context, sport is a very popular and important activity, which is why this contribution today is very important and has come at the right time. It includes 53 activities for the years ahead, many of which have the aspect of education through sport as a common feature.

I will conclude by saying that Article 149, which refers to education and youth, for the first time also includes a section on sport. I believe that in the ratification process, which will start after the signing of the Treaty, support for sport will be demonstrated in this dimension, too, and that in a few years, with the gradual developments, the EU might even be able to establish a sports programme, based, of course, on the principle of subsidiarity, as stipulated in the Treaty. That is part and parcel of this debate, but also of decisions that might be made as part of similar discussions. I would like once again to thank Mr Schmitt and all those who contributed to this inspiring report, and I look forward to further collaboration.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday, 13 November 2007.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Zita Gurmai (PSE ), in writing . (HU) Sport is now far more than a leisure activity: it interweaves all of the economy and society. Sport is the perfect tool for education: it teaches us about social coexistence and that if an individual is integrated into any group, he can become a useful member.

Through sport, we attain respect for companions, opponents and rules, and we attain solidarity, an enterprising spirit and collective discipline. Its key role in the world enjoys general recognition everywhere, and sport has become an important player in disseminating positive values and messages and in building socially and environmentally sustainable economies.

The surge in sedentary occupations, the increase in cars, the reduction in exercise and the increasing consumption of food and drink with high energy content are causing significant health problems for our citizens. Therefore, people must now be persuaded from an early age to live a healthier life - in which exercise is one of the main components - and obviously the proper infrastructure and sports opportunities must be ensured for them.

This concerns a wide, distinct range of branches and activities that are based on institutions, social factors, widespread communication, the expansion of services and political responsibility. In order for European citizens to change their exercise and healthy lifestyle habits, joint efforts by the public and private sectors will be necessary to change ways of thinking, increase awareness, create specific, practical initiatives and develop infrastructure, and local governments will have a special role to play in this.

 
  
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  Toomas Savi (ALDE ), in writing . – Mr President, as a former javelin thrower and current President of the Estonian Ski Association, I am sincerely glad that Pál Schmitt has come up with a report on the role of sport in education. In Europe there is a great variability in popular sports in different Member States – from skiing in Finland to soccer in the UK, from hockey in the Czech Republic to cycling in the Netherlands.

Altogether we have got many talented trainers who could be more involved in professional exchange to promote diverse sports across Europe and to provide students of all ages with more versatile possibilities. I fully support Article 50 of the report, which calls on the Commission to promote the European mobility of physical education teachers and trainers. The European Union stands united in diversity and we should take stock of our extensive expertise in the field of sports.

Another article that I consider immensely significant is Article 10, which calls on the Member States to make physical education compulsory in primary and secondary schools and guarantee at least three lessons of physical education a week, even better one lesson a day, which promotes a healthy lifestyle among European youth.

 

18. Statutes for the Euratom Supply Agency (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the report (A6–0376/2007 ) by Romana Jordan Cizelj, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a Council decision establishing Statutes for the Euratom Supply Agency (COM(2007)0119 - C6-0131/2007 -2007/0043(CNS) ).

 
  
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  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission . − Madam President, I wish to begin by congratulating the rapporteur on her report.

Nuclear energy is an important component of a European energy policy mix, and today we are witnessing a renewed interest in nuclear energy, both at European and international level.

The Euratom Supply Agency has, during its more than 45 years of existence, helped to ensure the supply of nuclear fuels for the benefit of Community users.

The Supply Agency is a body which was established by the Euratom Treaty, meaning it stems directly from a primary law instrument. It aims at the long-term security of supply through reasonable diversification of supply sources for nuclear fuels. Equal access to sources of supply is an important element of the Euratom Treaty, and this is ensured by the Supply Agency.

Today, the Supply Agency operates on statutes from 1958, when the Community consisted of six Member States. The enlargement of the European Union calls for the modernisation of these statutes. This is the purpose of our proposal; this is also why the Supply Agency cannot be considered a new agency within the meaning of the Interinstitutional Agreement between the European Parliament and the European Commission.

The European Parliament has long called for the role of the Agency to be revived and for the powers contained in the Euratom Treaty to be used in full. I would, in particular, mention the Maldeikis report on the 50th anniversary of the Euratom Treaty, which this House adopted earlier this year. I am pleased to say that the Commission welcomes most of the amendments proposed. I share your view that the role of the advisory committee needs to be strengthened. I also agree that it should contribute more to the preparation of the market surveys of the Agency.

In conclusion, I welcome the support that the European Parliament is giving in order to reinforce the role of the Euratom Supply Agency. I look forward to the discussion.

 
  
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  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE-DE ), rapporteur . (SL) The role of nuclear energy is becoming increasingly evident, not only in Europe but also globally. Reliability of supply, energy market competitiveness, and minimisation of the environmental impact of the production and use of energy form the bases of European Union energy policy. At the same time, sustainable energy development is also having a positive effect on the development of technology, economic growth and employment. All this points to achievement of the Lisbon strategy objectives.

A balanced energy mix is one of the conditions necessary for sustainable development, combating global warming and climate change, reducing reliance on imports, and ensuring secure energy supplies. In the European Union, nuclear energy also forms a component part of that mix. We must therefore ensure that we have a secure and reliable supply of nuclear material and competitive, properly functioning energy markets on which we can rely.

The Euratom Supply Agency was set up for this reason. Its role needs to be strengthened further in the light of the changing conditions on the world energy markets. Naturally, I also agree with the Commission that the enlargement of the European Union to 27 Member States and the financial regulation adopted for the Agency demand new, modernised and improved statutes for the Euratom Supply Agency.

I have also emphasised the Agency's increased role in my report. We need a strong body which will, in addition to its basic role of monitoring supply and demand for nuclear material and services, provide and regularly carry out studies of the risk on the market and of long-term price movement on the market in nuclear materials. It must have control over the conclusion of long-term nuclear fuel contracts and provide a framework for investment, etc.

In order for all these tasks to be performed successfully, I have proposed a greater role for the Advisory Committee, which I see primarily as an expert body. On account of its diverse expertise it is able to lend the Agency unique support for the tasks entrusted to it by the Euratom Treaty. I therefore believe that the number of members of the Advisory Committee should be increased, primarily in terms of experts. I believe that the Member States which have nuclear fuel cycle activities and also contribute the most funds are entitled to an additional member on the Advisory Committee.

In order to ensure consistency in the work of the Committee and enable it to develop high-level expertise, I propose setting up a Bureau or body of executive officers and that that body be composed of a Chair, two Vice-chairs and two advisors. Consistency can be provided only by means of a simple structure and a clearly defined role for the executive officers of the Advisory Committee, who form a link between the Advisory Committee and the Agency's Director General. They must coordinate the activities of the Advisory Committee, in particular those which relate to the drawing up, assessment and review of its reports and the expansion of expertise. Without investment in knowledge and human resources the set objectives for a competitive and technologically advanced Europe will hardly be met.

I would like to emphasise further the need for transparency, which is largely a matter for the Agency's annual report. I believe that the European Parliament should also be informed of every major Agency project. Its role in the Agency’s budget procedure must be defined more clearly.

The Agency's annual report, the results of studies and other relevant texts should be received not only by the European Parliament but also by the Council, the Court of Auditors and the Member States. Only with a good flow of information and the establishment of good practice can we improve the Agency's performance.

The method of financing the Agency, which until now has been rather complicated and unclear on account of the Agency’s specific nature, can also help provide transparency. I would like to simplify this method and therefore support the Agency operating in the same way as other European agencies. Nuclear energy forms part of the energy mix and I would like it to operate under the same conditions as those which apply to other sources of energy.

In order to make the situation simpler, more transparent and consistent with the provisions of the Euratom Treaty, I propose that the Supply Agency have its own budget line which will be separate from the budget of the Commission departments and in which administrative expenditure will be clearly separated from the Agency's operational expenditure. This would allow the European Parliament, as a branch of budgetary authority, to acquire control of the Agency's budget, thereby also contributing to a more transparent and democratic Europe.

Whether we agree with the increasing role of nuclear energy or not, its existence is a present-day reality. We certainly want secure supplies and functioning markets, but this can be provided only by a long-term vision and a powerful body with sufficient powers and democratic control. The new Statutes for the Euratom Supply Agency seek to attain these objectives.

Finally, I would like to thank the Commission for its cooperation and for answering rather difficult questions on the Statutes. I would also like to thank the members of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy for their constructive cooperation in drawing up and adopting the report. I would also ask you to support it in the vote at the plenary session and would be pleased to hear the comments of fellow members.

 
  
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  Giles Chichester, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . – Madam President, first of all may I join in congratulating Mrs Jordan Cizelj on her report. She has put a lot of work into making many serious and sensible improvements to this proposal.

I have to say that I hope very much that the Council will take them on board. I am aware that we are only in consultation on this. I welcome the emphasis in the report on openness – openness as to the functioning of the Agency – and the emphasis on the role that this Parliament should play in the work of the Agency.

In that vein I support the amendments from the Committee on Budgets, which exercises our authority as part of the budgetary authority.

I also welcome the proposals that Mrs Jordan Cizelj has put in for clarification of the role of the Agency, in particular the role of its committee. Although I might not personally be quite so enthusiastic about an increase in numbers, nevertheless, I think it is extremely helpful to be more open and specific about the role of the committee.

By way of contrast, I have to express my regret at one or two wrecking amendments, particularly Amendment 39, which I think, rather mischievously – but perhaps deliberately – goes in exactly the opposite direction from the intention and role of the Agency and the whole Euratom Treaty. But there we are. Perhaps it is not such a surprise, coming from the Verts/ALE Group.

But, finally, I would like to welcome the renaissance of nuclear energy – as the Commissioner has said, at both European and international level – because of the vital role it will have to play in dealing with climate change.

 
  
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  Atanas Paparizov, on behalf of the PSE Group (BG) Dear colleagues, on behalf of the Socialists, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur Mme Cizelj for the thorough work and the good cooperation within the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy in the preparation of the report.

I believe that the adoption of new Statutes for the Euratom Supply Agency should reflect not only the new number of Member States but also the modern financial rules. First and foremost, the Statutues should provide the groundwork for strengthening the role of the Agency and ensuring regular supplies under the most favourable terms and conditions for the supply of raw materials and nuclear materielle.

In this connection, I support the proposal for the Agency to reinforce its analytical functions with regard to the development of the market for nuclear materials, and to conduct regular reviews, including market risk analysis. The prestige of the Agency and the expertise in its work will be enhanced by the proposals to specify and foster the role of the Advisory Board at the Agewncy. Special attention should also be paid to the proposals to promote transparency in the activities of the Agency.

From the perspective of the role of the European Parliament, it would be appropriate to make changes along two lines: clearer definition of the role of the European Parliament in the budgetary procedure and submission to the European Parliament of the work programme, the annual reports and the studies of the Agency with a view to providing regular and detailed information on its activities. I am confident that the adoption of the European Parliament’s proposals by the Council could provide the foundations to promote the authority of the Agency so that to become a leading initiator of the implementation of the European Parliament’s address to the international community in point 9 of its resolution of 14 March 2007 concerning non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, appealing for support to initiatives for multilateral international uranium enrichmnet centres under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As Javier Solana pointed out in Lisbon on 6 November at the Euromed meeting, this issue has become particularly topical now, when countries like Morocco, Egypt and Jordan have announced ambitious programmes for the development of nuclear energy.

In closing, I would like to express my confidence that the adoption of the new Statutes for the Euroatom Supply Agency will contribute to the fostering of the role of the European Union in the application of stringent rules for non-proliferation and nuclear safety. (The speaker continues his speech in English)

I would like especially to thank the Vice-President of the Commission, Mr Frattini, for his support for the proposals made by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and for his statement that the Agency should become a viable body of the European Union in the light of the revival of the role of nuclear energy and a new, more balanced attitude to it.

 
  
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  Šarūnas Birutis, ALDE Group .(LT) Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to thank our rapporteur for the excellent result, a well-balanced report.

The main role of Euratom Supply Agency is to ensure equal access to and security of nuclear energy supply for all users within the European Union. Today, the Supply Agency operates on the basis of statutes adopted nearly 50 years ago. The challenges of life alongside the enlargement of the European Union, as well as the necessity for the Agency to adopt a modern financial attitude, have called for new statutes. The financial attitude of the new statutes is in compliance with the European Community’s general financial framework and is also in line with the enlargement of the European Union.

The discussions on the new statutes have not been easy in view of the composite nature of the Agency. It is obvious that the agency has actually acted as a Commission body, although, according to the Euratom Agreement, it was established as an agency with legal status and considerable financial independence. Otherwise it would not have needed statutes, which Commission bodies do not usually have. It is of great importance to certain Member States because of the type of activities it was expected to carry out. That is why it does not constitute a typical decentralised agency in an EU sense.

I would like to express my joy at the fact that a consensus has been reached within the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on the number of members of the Agency’s Advisory Committee. With due respect for the Commission, I would like to point out that the suggestion on limiting the Committee’s influence and cutting the number of Committee members down to 42 was not very good, especially in view of the Commission’s recommendations to establish such instruments, structures, as the Office of the Energy Observatory, with a view to creating efficient European Energy policy.

The Committee shall assist the Agency in carrying out its tasks by giving opinions and providing information. It shall act as a link between the Agency and both producers and users in the nuclear industry. Because of its varied expertise the Committee could provide the Agency with unique support in the tasks assigned to it by the Treaty.

I am in favour of not limiting the terms of office of members of the Advisory Committee. That way we will be able to achieve stability in the Committee and consistency in its competence. This amendment is of great importance to small countries, and here I am thinking of my country, Lithuania, and certain others, so I am in favour of it and welcome it.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MAURO
Vice-President

 
  
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  Liam Aylward, on behalf of the UEN Group . – Mr President, I fully recognise that energy choices are matters to be decided by individual governments in Europe. However, I believe that the time has now come for the European Union, possibly via the Euratom Treaty, to set up an independent nuclear inspectorate in Europe, which would have the power to fully investigate safety standards at nuclear plants in Europe. That said, the British Government should map out a timetable for the orderly closure of the Sellafield nuclear plant, because of the history of serious safety deficiencies and system failures at this facility.

The notorious B30 pond has been home to vast quantities of untreated radioactive materials since 1959, at the Sellafield nuclear plant. Even the British decommissioning authority is not aware as to the exact levels of untreated radioactive materials at this B30 plant. The British Government must spell out a detailed plan as to how it is going to decommission this radioactive dump, known as the B30 pond. Eighty-three thousand litres of radioactive materials which leaked from the THORP nuclear reprocessing facility in April 2005 has ensured that this plant has remained closed since that date. The British Government should now state that, due to the well-documented safety problems at the THORP plant, this facility should never be reopened.

 
  
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  Satu Hassi, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group . (FI) Mr President, may thanks go to the rapporteur for a serious survey of this issue, although my Group disagrees with many aspects of the matter. For the Greens the entire Euratom Treaty is the bane of our lives, because it favours nuclear power over safer forms of energy. We could nevertheless accept the Statutes for the Euratom Supply Agency if they met three conditions: transparency, self-funding and independence of monitoring. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

First of all the Supply Agency is financed by the taxpayer. This means hidden subsidies for nuclear power. Article 54 of the Euratom Treaty allows the Agency to collect funds when nuclear material is being sold by means of a charge. The Greens believe that self-funding should be made compulsory under the law.

Secondly, independence of monitoring should be guaranteed. This proposal would result in a situation where the Directorate-General for Energy and Transport is both promoting the use of nuclear energy and monitoring it, which is not right, especially as at international level the International Atomic Energy Agency also has an inconsistent role as a monitoring body for nuclear safety and one that promotes nuclear power.

Thirdly, the structure of the Supply Agency’s Advisory Committee is distorted, having a disproportionately large share of countries producing nuclear power on it, something which will be made worse by the amendment adopted by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.

Because of these drawbacks we unfortunately cannot support this proposal.

 
  
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  Ján Hudacký (PPE-DE ). – (SK) I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Cizelj, for her excellent and inspiring report.

The adverse energy situation in the world, the EU’s high dependence on energy imports and the rise in greenhouse gas emissions all mean that nuclear energy, despite its many ideological opponents, is receiving more attention at EU level and has already become an integral part of the energy mix of some European countries.

In this context the Euratom Supply Agency has to face these challenges with a view to offering its customers comprehensive and effective services with a high degree of flexibility and access to supply sources. Allow me to touch briefly on three aspects that are fundamental to the fulfilment of this Agency’s mandate.

First of all, I would like to mention the Agency’s tasks. I fully agree with the rapporteur that its tasks should be more clearly defined, in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty and the objectives of a common policy on security of supply of nuclear materials in a renewed energy context. My second point relates to the Agency itself. The new Agency Statutes proposed by the Commission seem at first glance to be sufficiently effective with regard to both the organisational structure, for example the reduction in the number of members of the Advisory Committee, and the budget. Taking into account, however, the Agency’s overall role, it should maintain a high level of competences in order to perform its mission in monitoring evaluations, proposing recommendations and conducting specific market studies. The Agency should have staff with a high level of expertise from the industry at its disposal, with broad experience of the market and fuel cycle operations.

In the area of inter-institutional relationships the European Parliament should receive on a regular basis any important reports from the Agency, which would also increase the transparency of its activities and budget. The third point concerns the transparency surrounding the financing of the Agency. Despite the fact that the Agency was established on the basis of the Euratom Treaty, as a legal entity with a high degree of financial autonomy, its relationship to the Commission creates a complex and opaque financial mechanism, allowing only limited access to financial information.

 
  
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  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission . − Mr President, once again I would like to thank the rapporteur for the useful work done. I also thank you all for the debate, which shows and confirms that there is a need for the modernisation of the Statues of the Euratom Supply Agency.

We adopted the proposal on the Statutes of the Agency in the spring of this year. Your report will enrich the initial proposal of the Commission. For this reason, I can assure you that, during the final discussion in the Council, the Commission will support most of the amendments tabled by Parliament.

Once again, I thank you for your support and your attention.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.

 

19. Application of Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their families to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the Commission statement on the Application of Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their families to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

 
  
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  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission . − Mr President, we followed very closely the evolution of the situation in Italy. We are worried about the growing street crime and wish to express, first of all, our sympathy to the families of individuals who have been victims of criminal activities.

We welcome the bilateral cooperation measures announced last week by the prime ministers of Italy and Romania. We will ensure that the rights of Romanians are respected, as all citizens’ rights should be.

Under the transitional arrangements to the complete opening of labour markets, Romanian nationals must apply for job permits in certain Member States. We will make sure that Member States observe the principle of non-discrimination in their national legislation and administrative practice.

The Free Movement Directive, Directive 2004/38/EC, allows for the expulsion of European citizens when an individual represents a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society. This is a decision to be made on a case-by-case basis and in the full respect of the guarantees of substance and procedure. In cases of immediate expulsion, the urgency must be duly justified. Under the Directive, the host Member State may expel European citizens also if they no longer fulfil the conditions attached to their right of residence. Inactive Union citizens may be expelled if they become an unreasonable burden on its social assistance system; in other words, if they do not have legal financial means to guarantee proper daily living conditions. In this case, expulsion shall be based on objective elements and a ban on re-entry cannot be imposed.

Expelling European citizens is an extreme measure. It is a limitation of one of the basic freedoms of the Treaty. Measures should be taken to strike the right balance between the right to free movement and the duty of each Member State to react in the interests of honest citizens when the legal conditions to stay are not fulfilled.

The Italian authorities officially notified the Commission of the text of the decree on 7 November 2007. The decree must be adopted by the Italian Parliament within 60 days. As you know, the Italian Parliament has the power to change the text of the decree. The position of the Commission on the Italian legislation transposing Directive 2004/38/EC will, of course, depend on the final version of the law as it emerges from the Italian Parliament. The decree entered into force immediately, but the Directive is sufficiently precise in its terms to be directly applicable by national courts. This means that if a Union citizen considers that the individual expulsion measure taken against him or her does not respect the guarantees laid down in the Directive, he or she can appeal before the national courts. In case of doubt on the application of European law, as you know perfectly well, national courts are obliged to refer the issue to the European Court of Justice. We will continue to monitor the situation, pending the examination of the decree by the Italian Parliament.

We are also worried about some racist and xenophobic demonstrations that have accompanied the introduction of the decree in Italy. Roma groups are the largest minority in Europe. Roma communities throughout Europe face difficult conditions. There is a long past of persecution. This situation leads to human suffering and social tension. Inclusion requires efforts by everyone concerned, including the Roma themselves. Specific protection must be given to individuals, children and women especially.

Criminals of whatever nationality very often exploit particularly vulnerable people such as children. Roma children face double discrimination. Firstly, they are victims of stereotypes and prejudice. But also they may face violations of their fundamental rights, even from within their communities. We see, too often, neglected Roma children on our streets or living in poor, often tolerated conditions in modern European favelas . Children may be brought into a life of crime or forced to beg. Roma schoolchildren tend to leave school early without qualifications for the future or skills to care for themselves and their families.

If we only look at a group when we consider how to protect fundamental rights, then we risk missing the protection of individuals within that group and we miss the opportunity to break the circle of wrongdoing and fear.

We are ready to assist Italy and Romania in making the best possible use of all possibilities already existing under European law and under European funds. It should be also stressed that Roma communities live in many other Member States such as France, Ireland, Spain, Slovakia, the Czech Republic or Hungary. The social inclusion of Roma communities can also be further improved in these Member States, notably through the structural funds, which can be quite helpful.

European funding, specifically targeted at the needs of Roma communities, is already available in areas such as social inclusion, the fight against discrimination, regional development and education. In the previous programming period, the structural funds made available more than EUR 275 million for Roma-related projects. An additional EUR 60 million was made available to Romania and Bulgaria between 2004 and 2006, under the pre-accession instruments. The funding of Roma-related projects will continue in the structural fund programming period 2007-2013. The European Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC), which covers Roma people, provides for protection against discrimination in employment, education, social security, health care, goods and services, and housing. We are actively ensuring that this legislation is applied across the EU.

Finally, as much as the Commission is not prepared to tolerate any form of discrimination or intolerance of its citizens, we equally will support Member States who lawfully protect their citizens from criminality, whether they are nationals or citizens of the Union in general. After all, freedom, justice and security go hand in hand.

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to congratulate Mr Frattini on his comprehensive report and on the proposals, ideas, content and values defended in his speech. Certainly the reunification of Europe has led to the growing movement of citizens within the Union, which in some cases has transformed into a real migratory phenomenon. This is the case in Italy, where today there are around half a million Romanian citizens.

The EU has tried, with Directive 2004/38/EC, to guarantee respect for both the rights of Community citizens who emigrate from one country to another, and the right of the Member States to expel EU citizens who do not obey certain rules: I am referring to the ability to support themselves and to the risks to public policy and safety. Unfortunately, in Italy the way the EU directive has been applied is too little, too late. The result? A failure to expel many citizens who, if deported, perhaps would not have committed crimes in Italy.

Unfortunately, crimes have been committed which have shaken public opinion, committed by people with a European passport. The reaction has been one of unacceptable xenophobic violence. The violence and murders committed in Italy must be strongly condemned and solidarity shown for the victims’ families. The violent and xenophobic reaction must also be condemned, although unfortunately, when the rules are not applied, when the laws are not enforced, citizens risk dispensing justice themselves, and this is quite frankly unacceptable.

Member States have very clear responsibilities, as do local authorities. In Rome, despite numerous reports, unfortunately no action has been taken in response to certain social situations, such as the slums inhabited by Roma citizens. These are situations where quick action should have been taken. Sometimes belated measures do nothing to solve problems that have blown up. We are not in favour of mass expulsions. Every citizen who commits a crime is personally accountable. It is not a question of nationality or of belonging to a particular ethnic group. Further collaboration between Romania and Italy would of course be useful. It is no accident that the PPE text was signed by me and by my colleague Mr Marinescu.

This is a question that specifically concerns the Roma people. It does not concern Romanian citizens and this is why we are asking for a specific agency be set up for the social integration of the Roma communities, a European agency to show that Europe is doing its part to solve a problem that otherwise risks instigating even greater social panic.

 
  
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  Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group . – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are in a very difficult situation. It is difficult because the events that have transpired in Rome merely bring to the surface something that we have not seen until now, or did not wish to see. The murder that occurred there was a profoundly condemnable, abhorrent act. The reactions unleashed by this murder are alarming. However, the fact that a single offender who commits a criminal act is embedded in his judgment as part of a large group of people who, so to speak, are held collectively responsible for the acts of one individual, is nothing new in the history of humanity – it has always occurred – but it is always equally condemnable. Therefore, the first thing we must do is to differentiate. We must look very carefully. It is all true: integration of the Roma into our society has not been working for a very long time. This is also linked to the fact that there is very little commitment to integrating the Roma into our society. They are a difficult people, with their own autonomous culture, and it requires a great deal of effort to integrate them, but it can be done. It can be done if we respect them and their culture.

Nevertheless, it must be made clear that a state under the rule of law must be able to ensure its survival by all constitutional means. A state under the rule of law must use every means at its disposal to maintain public safety and preserve order. What is the best way to do this? The best way is not to generalise but to assess each individual case, and that is exactly what must happen in Europe. When it comes to freedom of movement, we have to check, in each individual case, what right a citizen of the Union has gained and, when he moves from one country to another, what rights form the basis of the way he should be treated.

In the European Union, we guarantee freedom of movement. All citizens of European states – at least, those which are part of the Schengen area – enjoy this integral freedom of movement. This does not mean that they can do what they like when they move from one state to another. They must respect the rights and laws there; but, conversely, the state that belongs to the Schengen area must also respect the rights of the citizen of the Union on its territory. It is not possible to say in a general way‚ ‘it is this group’s fault, and this group has to go, because none of its members have work permits, or because they do not fit in with our idea of our culture, or because they are all unemployed, or because they are begging’. Instead, in each and every case, we must ascertain what rights a citizen has, just as in each and every case it is ascertained what rights he has violated. This is precisely the task that the Italian and Romanian Governments are now undertaking, and that the Commission must also undertake.

Here I must say, Commissioner Frattini, that you are not doing justice to your role. I was extremely surprised to read your remarks in Il  Messaggero . Until then, I had the impression that you were a very moderate Commissioner. You won the respect of my group because you had hitherto worked very sensitively in what is a sensitive area of politics. However, the remarks that you made in Il Messaggero regarding work permits and people’s income structure – suggesting that it was possible simply to go into a camp, ask someone how they earned a living and, if they could not explain on the spot what they lived off, deport them – are reminiscent of a totally arbitrary state. We do not live in such a state, however. It is your task, Commissioner Frattini – especially as the Commissioner responsible for human rights – to defend the principles of the European Union and not to promote yourself again as a minister in a future Italian Government when required.

(Applause from the centre and left)

 
  
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  Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group . – Mr President, most of us recognise the benefits of migration. The Member States which have opened their borders to migrants from other Member States have not seen a rise in unemployment; rather, they have seen a growth in productivity, a rise in economic growth and the creation of new jobs.

It is the old, old story. The incomers do jobs that the natives do not want to do, they work hard, they cost little and they bring new ideas. But it is important to recognise that some people cross borders not wishing to work – or at least not wishing to work legally. European Union law recognises this, as you have laid out, Commissioner. While giving the right to reside in other Member States, it allows the host state to limit the right of residence to three months if there is no means of subsistence and to terminate that right if there is a threat to public order.

One of the great successes of our Union has been this right to move freely, now enjoyed by millions of citizens in their studies, in their working lives, in retirement. It is not without its challenges and, just as the Jews, a people lacking a homeland, were often unwelcome in ages past, so today the Roma, some nine million people, are discriminated against in many host countries. Yet to equate the Roma people with the country of Romania, even if many of them are Romanian citizens, is to misunderstand the nature of both. You might as well equate them with the city of Roma.

European Union funds have been made available for the integration of the Roma. We are working with George Soros and his Decade of Roma Inclusion. But we need all Member States to sign up to that and a common Community framework strategy for Roma inclusion if this is to work.

It is a pity that Italy did not draw down any of these funds. Spain drew down some EUR 52 million and Poland some EUR 8 million. But it is not only a lack of foresight on the part of the Italian Government; it is also matched by a lack of foresight on the part of the Commission. I think Mr Barroso was wrong when he said in his interview in La Repubblica yesterday that it is inconceivable that European Union authorities should promote integration on the ground. It should not be inconceivable.

I share, Mr Frattini, the views of Mr Schulz. You should not be playing party politics in this matter. This House demands that you concentrate on your current responsibilities, not on your possible future career. Italians know as well as others the vulnerability of migrant communities. In 1893, at Aigues-Mortes in France, Italian salt workers in the Peccais were lynched in xenophobic attacks about the protection of local jobs. But one of the great achievements of the Union is that such pogroms are a piece of the past.

Too often, nonetheless, democracies are run by crisis management. It is, perhaps, more evident in Italy than elsewhere. But if there are problems in Italy, there will be problems in other countries too. If the right of residence abroad is an EU right, we cannot allow Member States to rewrite the exceptional provisions, as the Italian Government has done in its decree. There is nothing to stop a country giving powers to prefects to deal with it as long as there is a right of appeal. An appeal to a justice of the peace who is not a legal expert is insufficient, just as is the use only of Italian or English in legal documents. But I trust the Italian Parliament will correct these provisions and ensure consistency of the national legislation with EU provisions.

For us, this is the first real case of the European Parliament overseeing the application of justice and home affairs legislation, together with national parliaments. We need to look not only at what does not work, but at what does work, and we need your active commitment, Commissioner, in that task.

(Applause from the centre and left)

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli, on behalf of the UEN Group . – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would also like to thank Commissioner Frattini for his detailed report this afternoon. In my opinion, Directive 2004/38/EC is a valid point of reference, guaranteeing full affirmation of the right of movement of EU citizens, avoiding any form of discrimination and establishing the principle of full integration.

This directive is essentially concerned with protecting the rights of someone residing in a Member State, as well as the rights of citizens of that Member State, in keeping with the principle of reciprocity. It offers maximum protection for people working, studying and wanting to become integrated, but comes down hard on those people who break the rules. It is on this latter point that Parliament must have a real discussion.

Not only are there rights, there are also duties and rules which must be respected. We cannot continue to ignore the fact that there is a percentage – no doubt an absolute minority, but this percentage does exist – of people who travel to other Member States and who have no intention of reporting their presence to the host Member States, simply because they do not want to be officially recognised, because they have no intention of abiding by the laws and working legally.

We need to address properly the problem of who moves to and who enters a Member State, intent on remaining on the fringes of society. No doubt the tools can be improved, but some of them are already available to the Member States under Directive 2004/38/EC. This is why first we must call for the prompt, full, thorough and concrete application of the Directive in each Member State.

Perhaps it might also be worth refining the Directive, not only imposing an obligation on visitors to declare their presence in the territory of the host Member State on certain terms, but an obligation on the Member State to impose sanctions on anyone who does not abide by the rules. In Italy for example, the decree implementing the directive sets forth certain terms and conditions, but it does not provide any sanctions, so the law is in fact completely ineffectual.

Above all, we need to make sure that immigrants are escorted back to their own country, obviously in cases where there are genuine reasons for doing so. However, I should point out that anyone who commits a crime, anyone who violates human rights, because this is also important, who exploits children, who exploits women or who represents a threat to public safety, must be removed and returned in no uncertain terms to the authorities in his or her country of origin. We also need laws for people who do not work, for people who have a hand-to-mouth existence and who can thus represent an excessive burden for the community of the host Member State.

I would like to finish by mentioning the Roma children and making the case for Italy. There are around 50,000 children, or rather at least 50,000 exploited children in Italy. They are of Roma origin, they are forced to beg, they are not vaccinated, they do not go to school and they live in absolutely deplorable sanitary conditions. I would like to remind everyone that around a week before Mrs Reggiani was killed in Rome, in the same shanty town as the one in which Mrs Reggiani’s killer lived, a two-month-old Roma child died of cold. This was in Rome, one of Europe’s foremost capital cities.

Therefore, I will finish by asking, is this truly integration? Is this respect for human rights? We have a duty to ask serious questions without hypocrisy and we have a duty to say that everyone is equal before the law.

 
  
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  Monica Frassoni, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group . – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, on 2 November Mr Frattini said that ‘What has to be done is simple: go into a travellers’ camp in Rome for example, and ask them: ‘Can you tell me where you live?’ If they say they do not know, take them and send them home to Romania’. That is how the European directive works, plain and simple, and we need to pull down the travellers’ camps immediately. You also said that the UK, France and Germany habitually expel citizens who are out of work, that Italy does not do this and that therefore it has failed to implement Directive 2004/38/EC properly.

I am speaking to you as Co-president of a European political group and I am addressing you as a European Commissioner, therefore we must absolutely leave aside the fact that in Italy, we probably campaign in different coalitions, but here we are acting and should act as Europeans. I think that the statements you made to Il Messaggero are unacceptable and furthermore are in complete contradiction with what you said here to us last night. Which of the two Frattinis is the real one? The one who said that we needed to pull down Roma camps or the one who said, as the directive quite rightly says, that citizens can be expelled based on precise rules and even more precise guarantees? I would really appreciate an answer to this question.

With regard to the question of other European Member States, I would be grateful if you could explain the situation to me. We have made a few inquiries and have discovered that none of the countries mentioned – the UK, France or Germany – has ever deported European citizens for economic reasons, which in any case is prohibited by the directive, and that no citizen has ever been found to be an excessive burden for the economy of the countries of residence. Therefore, I would like to know whether you knew about this, because it seems to be crucial information.

I fully support the fact that this directive provides a precise framework. However, I think that it could have been even more precise and better done, and I am even of the opinion that the case or cases that we are discussing today are symbolic of the way in which the directive must be applied and how the Member States perceive and see enlargement and freedom of movement, which is an absolute priority for us. May I just say, Mr President, Mr Tajani and Mrs Angelilli, that a country where the mafia has a business of around EUR 90 billion and where events take place such as those of recent days can teach us very little on the subject of immigration.

 
  
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  Roberto Musacchio, on behalf of the GUE/NGL group . – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, our discussion here is not about Italy or Romania, it is about Europe and the life of its citizens: a woman was killed, and our thoughts and sympathies must go to her family; Roma and Romanian citizens are disgracefully attacked; our identity, our values, our laws and our history, including tragedies such as the persecution of the Roma people, let this all be called into question today and let us not forget and make sure that there is no room for racism of any sort.

These tragedies have taught us the importance of laws that sanction rights: there is no safety without the law. This is how important our laws are, our treaties are, even our economic regulations, which sanction the value and right of mobility and residence, which are the legitimate rights of European citizens, and not concessions, which can be regulated but not denied. European laws are clear: everyone has the right to mobility and residence, with removal only in extreme cases where national security is at stake. Expulsion is strictly individual and never collective, and is accompanied by the guaranteed right to a defence. These are proportional measures that always allow for the continued right of mobility, a right that will never be denied for economic reasons, because poverty cannot be a stigma or a reason to discriminate against citizens.

This is what Article 27 of the directive says, it is the law. It is all the more sacred because it concerns rights. The law applies to everyone, not least of all to Commissioners – and I must say Mr Frattini that in your numerous statements here in Parliament, I have had great trouble in finding the spirit and the letter of the law, in fact I cannot seem to find either of these – and to the Member States, who must transpose their membership of Europe and its directives for all of us.

There are still too many people dying in Europe today. In Italy, a woman died from a violent attack by a Romanian man. This is extremely distressing to me. Anyone guilty of murder has to pay the price, but that has nothing to do with Roma or Romanian citizens, who have seen some of their own people unfairly attacked. Blame is individual, never collective. So many migrants die trying to get to Europe. These people are overwhelmed and are calling on us to act. This suffering is why we must make Europe a land of the law and of rights, of sacred laws, particularly when we talk about reception. These laws form the basis of security.

We want this to be solemnly reaffirmed in Parliament with a vote so that there can be no more misinterpretation of our European laws.

 
  
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  President. − In accordance with our rules of procedure, I would like to ask Members who are speaking not to quote other Members, for the simple reason that under the rules they could ask to speak later. Therefore, to allow the debate to run smoothly, I would ask everyone to address Parliament in general, citing the facts; clearly this does not apply to the Commissioner, who will be fully entitled to explain his reasons at the end of the debate.

 
  
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  Jens-Peter Bonde, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group . – Mr President, my friends in the new NIP Party in Romania were furious when they learned about the expulsion of thousands of Romanians from Italy. I understand them fully.

I phoned Commissioner Frattini, who assured me that no Romanian would be expelled without having met a judge. There was a derogation, however: when people, after staying for three months, have no money to live on, they can be expelled without a decision from a judge. I agree with this procedure if it is administered in good faith. Free movement does not include a right to receive financial support from the state you visit. You should be able to live on your own budget or have a job.

Criminals may also be expelled if it is decided by a judge, but it is not up to the police to decide who are criminals. For such decisions, we must have independent judges. I hope my friends in the Italian Government agree with this fundamental principle of the European Union.

 
  
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  Luca Romagnoli, on behalf of the ITS Group . – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by thanking Mr Frattini for being here again, for his commitment and for making himself available to us. You are an asset to your country. It is a shame that I cannot say the same of other Italian representatives and I do not like this.

We have discussed – and are still discussing – the Schengen Agreement. Despite all the social unrest that the free movement of citizens within the EU is undoubtedly causing in Italy, Mr Amato has decided that it would be a good idea to focus on other issues. Something needs to be done to prevent this social unrest from reaching the levels witnessed in our country. However, it does not appear that anything is being done, given the rising crime rate at all levels in Italy, ranging from anti-social behaviour to organised crime, not to mention the steady inflow of illegal immigrants into our country, and above all the fact that some people who come to Italy with study, work or tourist visas are not returning to their own countries when these expire. This last point has not been widely covered by the media.

Furthermore, the current Italian administration and the Minister of the Interior seem to be unaware of the crime committed in Italy largely by foreigners, some of whom are European citizens, travellers or people who call themselves this. This was highlighted a few months ago in the report by the Italian Prefect Mr Serra to the Italian Parliament.

The Italian government is becoming an embarrassment to an increasingly tired nation, and they are not alone. This government, which is as incapable of understanding social unrest as it is of preventing it, cannot conceive of addressing the problem. It does not occur to it – and one wonders how it could – to admit the failings of current migration policies or the lack of application of European directives, in this case Directive 2004/38/EC.

On this subject, the Italian government complains of having difficulty in identifying the exact date of entry. It is clear that under the Schengen Agreement, these difficulties are growing out of all proportion. It is also obvious that my party and I would like to revoke the Schengen Agreement. Even the repeated acts of political hooliganism in Italy in recent months, suffered in many cases by my party, perpetrated by the followers of anarchic and boorish communism protected by representatives of the institutional left, are still being ignored by Mr Amato.

Unfortunately, Mr Amato and President Prodi, like so many mayors, not least of all Rome’s, do not live in working-class areas, they have no contact with travellers’ camps – legal or otherwise – and they do not use public transport or experience the bullying, violence and prevarication that even EU visitors face in Italy on a regular basis. These irresponsible politicians talk about solidarity, in whose name an entire population is made to suffer their foolish decisions.

The European Union, rather than lament the fact that Italy has not asked for funding, should take note of what President Barroso said, in other words that if a Member State allows slums to develop on its territory, what can it expect the Commission to do? Mr Amato chooses to be absent from meetings on the subject. Meanwhile, Italians would like to do the only right thing: start voting and tell the government to go to hell.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE-DE ). – (RO) The European Union is a community of values in which respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms prevails and its policies include the security of citizens and the fight against criminality, as well as the protection of children and the fight against instigation to violence.

I firmly condemn violence and offences and I deeply regret what happened in Italy! But I believe that the abuses and injustice committed in the name of the law are unacceptable, induce fear and humiliation and may instigate hatred within human communities.

I have discovered a tendency to escalate this situation unjustifiably, also fueled by political and xenophobic statements uttered by certain politicians.

I am worried by the fact that, according to the information published so far, only Romanian citizens have been expelled from Italy. All the Member States have the right and obligation to draw up legislative acts that would ensure and consolidate public order and safety.

All the European citizens, whatever their nationality, have the obligation to comply with the law and its provisions, wherever they are on the territory of the European Union.

Yet, at the same time, we have to condemn intolerance and xenophobia and, especially, the unjustified expansion of hard feelings and stigmatization from a few individuals, who are on bad terms with the law, to an entire ethnic group or, more seriously, to an entire nation.

I believe the Italian State, just like all the other Member States of the European Union, has the duty to protect the rights and liberties of the European citizens residing on its territory, who integrate into the community and obey the laws.

A common European approach of the policies of immigration and integration of minorities is required. The issue of minorities and, especially, of the Roma minority, is a European issue and it should be approached in a coherent and unitary manner, not only in moments of crisis.

All the relevant bodies should cooperate, first of all the European Commission and the Agency for Fundamental Rights, as well as the relevant institutions in the Member States.

I call upon the European Commission to review the priorities and mechanisms of the European Social Fund in order to extend the financing of common actions, which would contribute to the social inclusion of the Roma minority.

At the same time, I ask the European Commission to urgently examine compliance of the decree law, issued by the Italian authorities, with the European legislation and to give assurance that the implementation of any provisions of this type shall not lead to abuses against honest people, irrespective of their nationality.

 
  
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  Gianni Pittella (PSE ). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I believe it is right that our Parliament should send the family of Mrs Reggiani a message of condolence. I would also like to censure the recent statements by Mr Frattini, who in interviews referred to earlier confused his role as representative of the Commission with that of a member of the opposition, denying Mr Tajani this pleasure, when he would have been better to use his prestigious role to brighten the national political climate.

It pains me to say it, because we have often supported Mr Frattini’s proposals and initiatives. Mr Frattini knows only too well that, as pointed out by some of my fellow Members, there is no European text that makes provision for the automatic expulsion of citizens from other Member States on economic grounds.

The recent provisions of the Italian government are in line with the European directive, respecting its spirit and strengthening certain aspects considered important in light of the situation in Italy. All Italian institutions – and I say this to Mr Tajani, to Mrs Angelilli and to other members of the opposition – from the City of Rome to regional authorities, right down to the smallest local council, are committed to this. It is undignified to sling mud at the degree of civilisation and integration that our country has achieved over the years.

I hope that the European Parliament will reaffirm its refusal of the principle of collective responsibility, which is used to incite hatred and violence in the heart of Europe.

What we need to affirm instead is the need to combat any form of racism and xenophobia, and any discrimination based on nationality and ethnic background. We have a road map for this: the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It is important that we do our best, as the Italian and Romanian Prime Ministers have asked, to ensure better social integration of disadvantaged peoples and cooperation between Member States, both in terms of managing the movements of our own migratory flows and through social development and welfare programmes financed by the Structural Funds.

What we need to do in future is simple: none of us must forget that immigration is a resource, it is part of our future, but it must be governed. I therefore propose that the Member States act now to establish closer European coordination to regulate migratory movements in the European Union.

 
  
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  Adina-Ioana Vălean (ALDE ). – Mr President, I should like to thank the Commissioner for addressing Parliament on this very important issue.

There has been a lot of emotion in Italy following the murder of an Italian woman by a Romanian citizen. There has equally been a lot of emotion in Romania following reprisals against Romanian citizens by Italian gangs.

However, when we put away emotions, we get back to our basic values and principles: freedom of movement for all citizens, the rule of law and its conformity with European law.

Let me remind you, should it be necessary, that freedom of movement for European citizens is a fundamental right enshrined in the founding Treaties. Unfortunately, these recent events have shown us that we need to make more effort to consolidate these rights and ensure they are enforced adequately throughout Europe.

In today’s Europe we cannot accept irresponsible authorities pointing fingers at specific nationalities or ethnic groups. Neither can we accept the claim that the free movement of workers might be a route to increasing criminality, because crime has neither nationality nor ethnicity. This attitude can only lead to dangerous developments and more xenophobia.

On the contrary, I believe we must continue to encourage mobility of people and give workers the same opportunities all over Europe, to reinforce a strong European identity. This was the founding fathers’ genuine wish for the creation of the European Union.

While I reiterate that the European Union must ensure all its citizens live in an area of freedom, security and justice, I believe we should also pay more attention to integration and freedom of movement.

The answer to crime is not closing borders. The answer to crime is not encouraging xenophobia, discrimination and stigmatisation of nationalities or ethnic origins. The answer, in a modern Europe, is more police and judicial cooperation, more integration policies, more resources for those called to serve and protect all our citizens, whatever their nationality.

I would like to see a Europe where all citizens can live, work and circulate freely. The European Commission, as the guardian of the Treaties, must now ensure that these basic rights are correctly implemented and enforced. I call on the Commission to stand firm on these principles.

 
  
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  Elly de Groen-Kouwenhoven (Verts/ALE ). – Mr President, the situation of the Roma in Europe is getting worse. The developments in Italy prove that to us. We have all seen that unchallenged xenophobic and racist hysteria can overcome common sense. The crime of one single person has fuelled an unprecedented media lynching. This moved us towards restrictions on the fundamental rights of European citizens based on popular racist and xenophobic hysteria.

We must not let that happen. Criminal issues are for the judges to deal with, not for politicians or civilians. However horrible and condemnable the crime that took place in Rome is, it should not lead us to collective responsibility of a whole nation. The events in Italy did uncover the reality of the campo nomadi , in which so many Roma live. The fact that tensions and instability arise from such situations is not questionable. That is why we must act. My first assistant is a Roma. Integration can proceed quickly.

In 2005 we adopted a resolution that asked for concerted EU and national action for speeding up the inclusion of Roma. Therefore, I propose that we, as MEPs, show that we care, and urge decision-makers to join us. I propose that the EP establish a permanent European Parliament rapporteur on Roma issues, who would monitor the situation of the Roma in Europe and come annually with recommendations to the Commission and governments. In addition, we should call upon the Commission to establish an EU Roma inclusion fund, together with an EU strategy for Roma inclusion and a Roma unit within the European Commission. This will ensure proper management of the EU Roma inclusion policies.

 
  
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  Umberto Guidoni (GUE/NGL ).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in the wake of the brutal murder by a Romanian citizen of Giovanna Reggiani, whose family is offered our heartfelt condolences, many political groups in Italy have pointed the finger at Europe. However, what happened is not due to enlargement, Schengen or other European directives on free movement within the European Union.

These are age-old problems that deserve a less superficial approach and which cannot be addressed with a decree rushed through Parliament to satisfy public opinion. For this very reason, we need to be more attentive and re-examine the entire matter within a framework of legality, unfettered by emotions or urgent demands. The rule of law requires that criminal responsibility should be individual and not collective. To deviate from this principle would set a dangerous precedent that could lead to the criminalisation of certain migrant nationalities.

The potential effects that this might have are worrying. In Italy, we have seen a witch-hunt culture emerge towards Romanian and Roma citizens, with many punitive expeditions: even children in schools have been the subject of scorn and mistreatment. The issue of security is clearly legitimate, but we cannot fall into the trap of polemics and exploitation deliberately designed to fuel hatred and xenophobia merely for partisan reasons. If objectivity could be restored to Italian politics, the public would learn that Italy was not overcrowded with delinquent migrants. Immigration is certainly a subject that requires European coordination, but we cannot use Europe simply to limit the freedom of movement of migrants.

Mr Frattini’s actions should be condemned. He has used this opportunity to join the national polemic expressing opinions contrary to European directives. It would have been better if the Commissioner had proposed a series of integration policies, for example based on the increased resources from the Integration Funds and the need to free national reception policies from the constraints of the Stability Pact, as has already been done for security policy.

It is also important that we insist on coordination and reinforcement of judicial instruments and police powers to tackle organised crime and trafficking, an odious crime which has now reached the transnational level. The discussion of the application of Directive 2004/38/EC is the right sphere in which to have a debate on the expulsion of Romanian citizens in its proper legislative setting; it is an opportunity to confirm how the free movement of Romanian citizens is an inalienable right of European citizenship.

The directive is clear: people cannot be removed as a preventive measure, but personal accountability must be assessed, and this information should be used as a starting point so that government decrees can remain in line with the pro-European tradition of our country.

 
  
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  Alfredo Antoniozzi (PPE-DE ). – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for the courage and consistency that brooks no hypocrisy, which unfortunately often prevails in our institutions and which to a certain extent we have also heard here today. Mr Guidoni, the decree you are attacking is a decree of your own government, so we need some clarification here.

The distressing events in Italy, and in Rome in particular, are only the latest in a series of incidents that have often gone unheeded or have been ignored. Europe is founded on the principles of freedom and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. The Italian people have always shown that they support inalienable values such as non-discrimination, equality between peoples and democracy.

However, I believe it is only right to add, using the information from the official Caritas report produced in cooperation with the Italian Ministry of the Interior and which paints a fairly serious picture, that this has been happening since 1 January 2007, following the migration of Romanian citizens to Italy on an unprecedented scale in the EU.

I hate to say it, but we only need to run through a few of the figures to see the absurdity of the situation. In 2006 alone, 17,900 Romanians were arrested in Italy. This is not the fault of an entire people, it is the fault of individuals. However, we need to reflect and the question automatically arises: why did the Italian government not ratify the decree transposing Directive 2004/38/EC sooner? Furthermore, why does the decree not implement the provisions of the directive relating to residence after a period of three months? Why did the Ministry of the Interior fail to provide adequate measures for application in relation to the conditions and requirements to be satisfied and the checks and controls and possible repatriation of EU citizens guilty of not respecting the imperative conditions provided by the directive?

This laxity has caused a culture of permissiveness which is beyond understanding. It has resulted in the indiscriminate arrival of indigent people, fuelling each day the sense of despair that exists and leading people to the inevitable short cut of breaking the law. For example, the Mayor of Rome tolerated the establishment of around a hundred Roma camps and shanty towns, where the most elementary human rights were compromised and where hygiene and personal dignity were completely ignored, before then deciding to dismantle them. It was an act of thoughtlessness for which we are still paying today. We are in favour of solidarity and reception, but this has to be in accordance with the law, guided by the certainty of the law and public policy.

 
  
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  Adrian Severin (PSE ). – Mr President, today I will try to forget that I am a Romanian. I will try to forget, even if people are deported, attacked and killed within the borders of the European Union, simply because they are guilty of being Romanian either ethnically or by citizenship.

Today, I shall try to think as an Italian and as a European. If I were Italian, I would think that I should have the right to feel secure in the country of my ancestors. I would have been outraged by the miserable camps of miserable people around my country’s wonderful towns. I would have been disgusted to see an increasing number of criminals threatening the peaceful life of my compatriots. But, while looking for my security, I would realise that this is consolidated daily by the creative work of more than one million immigrants who are producing Italian goods, offering services in areas left by Italian labour, buying Italian merchandise and paying taxes to the Italian authorities. On the contrary, I would feel that my security would be weakened if those non-Italian residents left my country, if their human rights were violated and if they became the subject of xenophobic practices.

If the basic rights of a single human being are violated by my country’s authorities, who try to hide their weaknesses by intensifying the law behind racist concepts, xenophobic excuses and discriminatory measures, my own rights – and, moreover, everybody’s rights – are in jeopardy.

It is not the first time that security has been set against democratic and humanitarian values, when some believe that fewer human and civil rights mean more security, when insecure people look for refuge within their national community, wrongly thinking that ethnic similarity brings better protection. This is false. An ordinary crime has one or several victims. Racism is also a crime, but it is an extraordinary crime and everybody, including the criminal, is a victim of racism and xenophobia. Racism and racial rule are therefore sources of insecurity.

As a European democrat, I cannot possibly accept that diversity means more insecurity or that some criminals should be socially integrated while others should be excluded. Some have the right to defence and others do not. Some are given the benefit of the doubt and others are not, depending on their national or ethnic origin. As a European, I would not allow one of the Member States – say, Romania – to become a ghetto for the Roma or a European Union Siberia where undesirable European citizens are deported. I can understand that the extreme right is xenophobic, but I cannot understand when the democrats resort to xenophobic and racist speech. I cannot understand the weaknesses and demagogical racist speech of the democrats, and I condemn them more than the extreme right for xenophobia.

For all those reasons, we should now take alarm and mobilise. I hope that the European Parliament motion for a resolution to be adopted on this issue will bring us together in defending European values and the future of Europe.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Alfonso Andria (ALDE ). – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the government of each Member State has the right and duty to clamp down on crime to ensure the safety of its citizens and of anyone living and working in the country. The debate that we are engaged in today must avoid the twofold temptation of emotiveness and instrumental political reaction.

The preparation of a bill under the name of a ‘security package’ had been in the pipeline for some time in Italy. The dramatic events of last October persuaded the government to convert it into a decree-law, which immediately began to have an effect. There was nothing hasty or improvised about it, and in any case amendments will be tabled before Parliament, as we know. Let us look at the substance of the question and we will understand that the content of the decree is absolutely fair: it is a case of targeting those who threaten law and order with their conduct, comprising public safety and harming all those who come to Italy to improve their lives by working. This decree does not target everybody, but is in favour of people who come to Italy to be integrated in complete accordance with our laws and who in any case represent the vast majority.

The presence in Italy, as in any other country, of people who do not abide by the rules, makes integration more difficult for others. What I mean is that a rejection mentality emerges which makes the integration process harder. Hence the prompt response of the Italian government, which has also been quick to avoid any instrumental political positions and dangerous signals, such as punitive expeditions or patrols that would send out a misleading or even perverse message to the public.

 
  
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  Evgeni Kirilov (PSE ). – Mr President, according to the Directive, and in compliance with the principle of non-discrimination, all Union citizens and their family members residing in a Member State should enjoy equal treatment. Alongside the right of freedom of movement, they are entitled to take up employment in the country of residence – regarded as related rights in Article 23 of the Directive.

In this sense, the freedom of movement of workers is a fundamental right, complying with the idea of a united Europe, whose citizens can be freely employed everywhere. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the citizens of most of the new Member States, including Bulgaria and Romania, who are facing restrictions.

After a public debate on whether Bulgaria will or will not apply the Community law in this field, and whether to undertake a reciprocal approach, it was decided not to do so and to abide by the common Community goals, so that the European Union could respond adequately to the contemporary global challenges.

While saluting those Member States that have taken the same position so far, I call upon the other Member States to join in and take into consideration the fact that the transitional periods are obstacles to the development of a single European labour market and hamper its competitiveness.

The analyses point out that the old Member States that have opened up their markets have received much more benefits than problems with the workers received. On the other hand, the new Member States already face serious shortages of qualified workers. The recent Eurostat survey published today indicates that there has not been large-scale migration of Bulgarians and Romanians after accession. The survey also shows that 80% of Bulgarians abroad are working, which is undoubtedly an employment quota a number of EU countries can only dream about.

Despite the progress achieved so far, the freedom to move still lags far behind other European freedoms. The idea of EU citizenship is also distorted by creating first-, second- or third-class citizens, as we are witnessing in our debate today.

A real transition from EU common market citizens to EU citizens with full rights and responsibilities should effectively take place as soon as possible, for the benefit of all of us.

 
  
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  Viktória Mohácsi (ALDE ). – (HU) Thank you very much. Commissioner, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as you know, there are officially 560 thousand Romanian citizens living on the territory of Italy, but according to some estimates the number exceeds 1 million. A large part of them live in settlements on the outskirts of Rome, Turin, Milan and Naples. There are no excuses for the murder in Rome: if someone has committed a crime, he should answer to the court for his actions.

However, as a liberal, I do not and cannot accept that a criminal of any nationality, belonging to any ethnic group, should serve as the basis for passing judgment on the whole of the given group, making room for violent acts of extreme force, the targets and victims of which are innocent people, as is demonstrated by the regrettable events that followed the murder.

I would like to remind you that I spoke to Mr Rehn, the Commissioner for Enlargement, many times about the fact that the post-accession migration of people living in poor social conditions and in abject poverty in settlements in the two countries that acceded on 1 January 2007 might emerge as a serious problem in the Member States of the EU, precisely because of the lack of integration. The warning was not followed by serious measures during the accession negotiations. I would not even dare to estimate the number of Roma in Europe who are escaping from the new Member States to the Member States of Western and Northern Europe in the hope of a better life, expressing their dissatisfaction with the integration policy of the country they left.

Similarly, in the period before the accession of these two countries, I raised the importance of preparing for migration problems related to this, and many of my fellow members rejected it, viewing it as a restriction of the freedom of movement. Our response to this might be: are we creating a government decree at an extraordinary session that forms a legal basis for expulsion? Some serious concerns have emerged in connection with the constitutionality of the government decree and its relationship with international and EU law. I am also thinking of infringements of the Free Movement Directive and the Racial Equality Directive.

Is this really how to face up to real problems? The 27 countries of the EU cannot fall into a situation where we transfer the problems from one country to another within its borders.

Allow me to read out just a few pieces of data that I read in a report by the European Commission and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. In 2002–2003, more than half the pupils in special schools in Slovakia were Roma. In Germany, only half of Roma children went to school, and 80% of those went to special institutions. In Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and Slovenia, Roma children are the majority of those attending special schools. In 2003, 80% of Roma in Slovakia did not have a registered place of work, 80% of them in Romania and Bulgaria have incomes below the national poverty threshold, and I could list ... (the President cut off the speaker) I could list more of these cases. Thank you.

 
  
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  Jan Marinus Wiersma (PSE ).(NL) Mr President, I believe we readily agree that an effective approach to crime deserves our support, and of course there is never any excuse for murder, but I believe we also agree that the right to reside in the Schengen area is a great asset and is tangible proof of European citizenship. Anyone seeking to curtail it must be able to present very good arguments. In particular, we must also beware of collective arrangements in this context, as when one talks about collective arrangements, one soon finds oneself talking about one group, and at this time we happen to be talking about the Roma. I think this very unfortunate.

I am pleased with Commissioner Frattini’s remarks about the Roma and about the fact that the European Union could do more for this group, but I remain unhappy, of course, with his earlier remark about the Roma in connection with events in Italy. There is a good deal of talk today about the consequences of the migration that has been taking place since the enlargement of the European Union and that also took place previously within the enlarged Union, and of course there are consequences to contend with. I believe we must also look to some degree at the causes, however, and at ways in which we, the European Union, can do more for people travelling into the EU, as they are simply seeking better living conditions, employment, and better conditions for their families and children.

I am very much in favour of making better use of European funds in order to do more for the Roma, particularly in the new Member States, but I should like to reiterate that in the past this Parliament has already called for recognition of the Roma as a European minority – that is, a very special group, not comparable with other minorities. Making the Roma a European minority would directly open up many more opportunities for the Union to do something about the problems.

I would reiterate our appeal to give a single Member of the Commission responsibility for Roma policy, rather than the current situation, where various Commissioners deal with this area, with one coordinating. Competence must rest in one pair of hands.

Finally, as far as discrimination and social exclusion are concerned, these have been priorities of this Parliament, including during negotiations with the new Member States. I am pointing the finger at the new Member States, but we know that there are also problems in the older ones.

At that time, all kinds of agreements were made with the governments of the new Member States, but these are being implemented unsatisfactorily or not at all. I think that the European Union, the European Commission, must also play its part by revisiting the agreements made at the time of accession, particularly those concerning improving the situation of the Roma. The issues concerned here are discrimination and social exclusion.

Hence our group’s appeal to discuss this once more with these new Member States. We shall certainly be doing this ourselves, but this is also an appeal to the Council and particularly to the Commission: not only Commissioner Frattini, but also his colleagues.

 
  
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  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission . − (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is clear that even on this occasion, I must use the customary sincerity and frankness in addressing this Parliament, towards which I harbour the utmost respect, although this does not preclude me from replying to statements and considerations which I do not share.

I did not just start taking action and speaking out on this issue a few days ago. Many of you have recalled one or two lines from an interview I gave – one of many – on 2 November. I started taking a real interest in this question months and months ago. This was at the request of Italian mayors, who as we know belong to different political parties, most of them in the centre-left.

At the conference of Italian mayors on 19 May, an important meeting which took place months ago – and considering how often I am quoted, I too keep a record – Italian mayors raised the issue of security in their cities with the Italian Minister of the Interior, blaming it on Europe. At the end of that meeting, Mr Amato said that it was a grave mistake to think that the issue of security was exclusively the problem of the wealthy who had something to protect, and that it was a phenomenon which, unless addressed, would turn neighbours into enemies. This led to the appeal to the European Commission issued that same day.

On 23 June, at the General Assembly of the ANCI – which as Italian MEPs will know, is the Italian local authority association, presided over by the Mayor of Florence – the Roma reception plan was unveiled following a meeting which had taken place a few days before between local authority representatives and myself. At that meeting, which took place in Bari, the reception plan for the Roma people was unveiled and a request issued for European funding – which until then had not been requested by Italy – to cover the costs of the plan. Italian mayors agreed that the integration system should be based on values of reciprocity, arguing that we had a duty to welcome and integrate immigrants provided that they accepted the rules of our country.

This was the position I adopted for months and months, ever since the start of the summer in fact, until an event promoted by the Mayors of Bologna and Florence led to a national campaign against people who clean car windscreens. The Mayor of Florence – who clearly you know, he is not someone who can be suspected of having racist sympathies – even proposed criminalising homeless people who clean car windscreens.

I met with the mayors again, and then on 25 October, a few weeks ago, a memo from an Italian agency, after yet another meeting, said that ‘the mayors do not agree, they want new laws immediately and are claiming that people do not understand the divisions that are forming within the majority. These statements included an appeal from Italian mayors and from the Italian Minister of the Interior to me, because at that time no one thought that Europe had any tools like those subsequently adopted with the decree-law to tackle situations where there was a clear violation of Directive 2004/38/EC.

This is why I started taking an interest in this subject, and to all those who took the floor to criticise me, I say this: I do not think that you will find a single time when I did not make a positive and honest contribution and cooperate with Mr Amato, who is responsible for this matter in Italy. I challenge you to prove otherwise, that I refused to collaborate when asked to do so by Mr Amato and that I did not respond to requests that the Italian government legitimately made to Europe, as happened a few days ago.

A few weeks after these events, the first figures were released – I remember it well because, as a member of the European Commission, I received protests from Bucharest – by the Mayor of Rome, claiming that Romanians were responsible for 75% of crimes committed in Italy, when in actual fact it was 75% of crimes committed by foreigners, and so a much lower percentage. Many of you will remember that people took to the streets in Bucharest to protest against these statements, yet despite this, I was still holding talks with the Mayor of Rome, offering him the resources of the European Social Fund. He sent me a letter, which is clearly on the record, asking for help and support from Europe in the form of integration measures. I considered that this was my duty and I did this.

To conclude, I do not think that anyone in Parliament can be in any doubt over the fact that, apart from what some of you have decided to raise here today, which is just one aspect of a particular interview, I trust that none of you can overlook what I have achieved over the years. I have worked and I still am working to ensure that the Schengen area is extended before Christmas to include the nine new Member States.

What is this if it does not make freedom of movement more effective? If this happens, it will be partly down to my efforts. I have been working on this for the past two and a half years and have never been afraid to say that the right of free movement is one of the pillars of the European Union. I cannot believe that anyone can criticise me for being someone who does not want this right to be recognised.

A final word on the subject of Romania: I have listened to the Romanian MPs. They more than anyone else know what I personally have done to help Romania join the EU, with reports, with advice, with the visits I have made. Well, I do not think that anyone in Parliament can suspect even for a moment that I do not have, for Romania and for the Romanian people – not Romanian criminals, who I regard in the same way as Italian criminals – the utmost respect and deepest friendship, or I would not have done everything I have done over the last two years. I do not think that extrapolating a single sentence from an interview can change these facts.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday at 12 noon.

Written statements (Article 142)

 
  
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  Alessandro Battilocchio (PSE ), in writing . (IT) International public opinion has been shaken by the recent tragic events in Rome. I think it is unfortunate that some political groups are clumsily trying to exploit this situation for political ends, sometimes by evoking a dangerous and counter-productive return to the past. European legislation establishes certain benchmarks that must be respected in all 27 Member States, bearing in mind that some countries, for geographical and logistical reasons, are easier to get to. A system is needed that places rights above everything else, but which does not ignore the duties of the individual; it is the very synthesis of these two aspects that determines the efficiency of policies in this sector. A fundamental approach must also be adopted which on the one hand obliges Member States to integrate law-abiding European citizens and on the other allows them to expel those who break the rules. This is a challenge in which Europe has a fundamental role.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE ), in writing . – (RO) Criminality has no nationality. I regret and condemn any criminal act, wherever it happens, and justice should do its duty. Yet, one cannot stigmatize an entire people or ethnic group for a crime committed by one of its members.

Fighting criminality should not infringe upon the free movement of persons, a fundamental principle of the European construction.

European citizens have the right to live and travel freely, without fear of being persecuted or subject to acts of violence in the Member States.

I ask the European Commission to examine the decree recently approved in Italy, which allows expulsions without granting any legal guarantees to the persons expelled, especially if they are citizens of the European Union. This decree has allowed abuses that certain Romanian citizens have already suffered. I ask the Italian State to take actions in order to stop the abuses.

I believe this situation should be urgently solved in order not to allow European Union citizens to be discriminated against, regardless of whether they are Romanian, Italian, German, Spanish or French. I don’t want this decree to become a dangerous precedent that would question the very respect of the Union’s fundamental principles. This might affect the internal credibility of the European Union, as well as its credibility as a world player.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS MORGANTINI
Vice-President

 

20. Protection of soil - Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the joint debate on:

– the report by Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the protection of soil and amending Directive 2004/35/EC (COM(2006)0232 – C6-0307/2006 – 2006/0086(COD) ) (A6-0410/2007 ), and

– the report by Vittorio Prodi on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on the Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection (2006/2293(INI) ) (A6-0411/2007 ).

 
  
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  Martin Schulz (PSE ).(DE) Madam President, I would not have asked for the floor again had not the Commissioner tried to play the victim in his closing remarks. Commissioner, you must come to terms with the fact that you are in a European forum in which you have a specific obligation to be very careful about what you say, and what you said in the Il Messaggero interview was factually incorrect.

No authority in Europe has the right to go into some camp, ask a person ‘How do you make your living?’ and deport the person if they cannot answer immediately. That is completely and utterly wrong, but that is what you said in the interview with Il Messaggero , so do not get into a huff when it is pointed out to you.

 
  
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  President. − In any case the debate is closed. I am sorry, but it is not possible. I thought that you wanted to put an item on the agenda. The debate is closed. Let us proceed. ... I am opposed to this intervention. We cannot go any further with this, I thought that Mr Schulz wanted to add an item to the agenda.

 
  
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  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. − (EL) Madam President, let me start by thanking the European Parliament and especially the rapporteurs, Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines and Mr Prodi, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and the other committees, for their contribution during first reading.

The Commission’s proposal for a thematic strategy for soil protection arises from work begun in 1998 on the initiative of the German Ministry of the Environment. As a result of lengthy consultations with interested parties and the Member States, soil was recognised as a valuable natural resource and its degradation in Europe is becoming problematic. The Commission has subsequently collaborated with the parties involved, above all with Parliament and the Council, so that soil protection issues can be better understood and a consensus can be reached in this area.

Τhe Parliament resolution on the 2002 Communication on soil protection made important recommendations to the Commission about the direction it must take to ensure proper soil protection in Europe. With the conclusions approved in Majorca in 2002, the European Council asked the Commission to propose a comprehensive, far-reaching strategy on soil protection embracing general principles, appropriate quantitative and qualitative targets, and schedules for gauging and evaluating the planned measures.

Let me turn to some more specific issues. I find it very satisfying that soil degradation is recognised as a grave problem that must be overcome. In view of the present Parliament’s keen interest in desertification, for example, it is important that here in Europe we should openly declare our commitment to dealing with the causes of this problem, both in Europe and around the world. Climate change and certain unsuitable soil management practices are putting our soil at risk. Determining the extent of degradation and then developing methods to ensure that soil is used sustainably represents a direct application of the knowledge-based approach that Parliament rightly values. Thus efforts will be guaranteed to be more focused and resources will be used more effectively to serve our purposes.

Businesses are entitled to expect consistent application of Community legislation by Member States. In the environmental impact analysis prepared by the Commission, it is estimated that there are about 3.5 million sites in the EU likely to have become contaminated. A proportion of these, perhaps 15%, have definitely been contaminated. It is therefore vital that businesses should be confident that similar procedures will be adopted for the designation of contaminated sites, thus allowing for planned investments.

We must also bear in mind that there is a direct relationship between climate change and soil. For example, according to a recent research article published in the authoritative international scientific journal Nature , over the past 25 years in the United Kingdom alone, the soil has been releasing 13 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year - as much as would be given off by an additional 5 million cars each year. It is also worth noting that the soil’s ability to absorb carbon and convert it into useful humus has not yet been fully exploited.

In the light of this, allow me to summarise the basic aims of the measures proposed by the Commission:

Firstly, a highly flexible, but consistent and comprehensive European soil policy must be developed. With the creation of a framework for sustainable soil use, and with the adoption of measures at source, this policy will prevent further degradation of the soil, whose vitally important social, environmental and economic functions will be preserved.

Secondly, the necessary information on the condition of soil in Europe must be gathered so that we can make knowledge-based policy decisions and focus our efforts where the most serious degradation has been noted.

Thirdly, degraded soils should where possible be restored on the basis of an analysis of soil condition, to be carried out by the Member States. The aim of the restoration should be to achieve soil quality consistent at least with the current and intended use of the land.

Fourthly, minimum common rules should be adopted for the EU as a whole to ensure a consistent approach among the Member States on matters of soil protection. These common rules will help establish transparency and avoid distortion of the internal market.

The aim of the strategy and the directive is to launch a long-term policy on soil protection in Europe, so that in a few years, time all the Member States will have made considerable progress in this area.

I should like to draw your attention to certain key aspects of the framework directive on soil protection:

Firstly, the document produced after the codecision process has to be unambiguous and provide legal clarity for the interested parties affected by this legislative process. We must avoid introducing amendments with legal loopholes, unnecessarily restricting the scope of the directive.

Secondly, the proposal already contains a high degree of subsidiarity and flexibility. I understand that certain amendments are being proposed to increase still further the degree of subsidiarity. However, you must be sure that these amendments will not create difficulties in the application of the directive by all Member States. This applies especially to the amendments concerning programmes of measures in the priority areas specified in the directive.

Thirdly, in order to achieve a high degree of environmental protection, we must agree on a consistent approach to be followed by all Member States for the identification of contaminated soils. The proposed deletion of Annex II would prevent us from achieving our aim.

To conclude, let me state that from now on the Commission will follow developments during the discussion of its proposal in the Council and in the European Parliament. It will then define its position accordingly.

 
  
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  Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines (PPE-DE ), rapporteur . – (ES) Madam President, before discussing the proposal that is going to be voted on this morning, I would like to thank the rapporteurs from all the political groups, and I would especially like to thank Mrs Sornosa, from the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, and our friend Mr Prodi, who have really worked side by side and have enriched the directive, as have the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance and many other Members.

The document that is going to be voted on tomorrow has several amendments, which were the result of an agreement, and it has therefore been enriched by contributions from other political parties. It is a document that is largely based on a consensus, which is unexpected in an environmental policy that it could be said is going to generate a new European policy and is opening up a new path.

This document is extremely innovative, as it is responding to a new way of tackling directives. We were facing the problem that, out of 27 countries, only nine had soil protection legislation, and this is an issue that we are going to have to tackle again in the future. Europe has developed asymmetrically, and there are currently many countries that are at doctorate level in terms of soil policy while others are only doing their A-levels.

How can we arrive at a policy of consensus, a common policy, when there are such huge differences? This is the challenge with which we were faced. What was the solution? We went to the Treaty and saw that when defining directives, Article 249 states that directives are common objectives, but that the implementation and application of them can be left up to the Member States, and this is what was done.

Articles 1 and 2 have been strengthened right up to Article 6 in order to make the common objectives clear. In other words, we have set out the goal. We know the goal that we need to get to, and we have to recognise that sustainability is a process that needs to have clear goals, but not all countries can move at the same pace. Those who have not yet begun to advance cannot be asked to do the same as the rest.

We therefore ask for implementation to be left in the hands of the Member States, with maximum respect for subsidiarity, thus eliminating the fear in some countries that have already made progress that their official arrangements will be repeated. There is no need for those countries that have clear soil protection to do it all over again.

This policy of flexibility also applies to recognising that, given the climate and conditions in each country, each one needs to be allowed to come to an agreement with its citizens in order to implement these policies. Therefore, for example, in Article 8 we guarantee that farmers can make an agreement with their Member States on soil conservation, and those that have already done so will not have to repeat the legislation.

This means that at the same time we need to ensure that there is a clear policy on contaminated soil and, in this respect, the health of citizens comes before everything else, along with the objectives of protecting health and being transparent in providing information to citizens; this is clear.

Why do I think it is important for there to be a directive, in the face of the critics that do not want one? It is important, ladies and gentlemen, because we have to build Europe based on our strengths, so we need to follow those countries that have done things well. On the other hand, if we do not legislate we will enter into uncertainty and insecurity, and insecurity and uncertainty undermine the market and health.

Let us build Europe around its strengths, not its weaknesses. This is the path that we have to take.

Moreover, subsidiarity is being guaranteed, and it is being stated that there does not need to be duplication of official arrangements or of legislation. Member States are being given responsibility for carrying it out, and freedom means responsibility.

In a Europe of 27 members, we need to learn that environmental policy cannot be made by implementing it through the judicial system. We cannot solely rely on prosecutors and the Court of Justice to apply it. We need to rely on a common policy, and on faith in the credibility and capacity of the Member States to get going and carry out the best policies. This is why we have largely looked to good practice.

Something else that is innovative about this directive is that, for the first time, it tackles climate change in relation to soil, dealing with adequate treatment of soil for floods, and for combating desertification and erosion. There is another thing that we need to take into account: Europe and its countryside are the result of the work of man; they have been produced by farmers as the gardeners of the countryside. We must take into account that the Europe of the future must be built by its citizens, and therefore, I repeat, we must set common objectives, but help them to take the path that will also ensure health and a commitment to transparency.

Thank you very much, and thank you once again to the political parties.

 
  
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  Vittorio Prodi (ALDE ), rapporteur . (IT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you and extend my thanks again to the rapporteur Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines. It was a task that we worked on together and I hope that this has helped to improve the text.

The directive under discussion today is aimed at protecting European soil from phenomena such as desertification, erosion and salinisation, increasingly linked with climate change and specific soil pollution. Paradoxically, despite the numerous regulations on the use and release into the environment of pollutants, there was no directive that made provision for any obligation to identify and certify soil that had been seriously polluted before improving it.

However, this seems to bother some people in Parliament and elsewhere, who are critical of what they call an attack on subsidiarity and the suffocating presence of the European institutions, which are using measures such as the Soil Framework Directive to harass groups of farmers or businesses, with unfair laws, unjust provisions and new administrative and/or financial burdens.

What are we talking about? We are talking about the same directive that gives the Member States a period of some 25 years just to identify all areas in the national territory that might be considered seriously polluted, and thus compromised for various uses, both public and private, and all areas at serious risk in fact of desertification, erosion, salinisation and loss of compaction.

We are talking about guidelines for organising a systematic improvement scheme, where necessary, in the collective interest. We are talking about the protection of human health alongside the protection of the environment. We are talking about a framework directive that not only respects the autonomy of the Member States, but contains no onerous provisions.

I ask you then why this aversion on the part of certain Member States and Parliament – the usual suspects – to accepting a list of activities and sites that must undergo comprehensive investigation by the national authorities? What do they have to hide? Why so much aversion, when their representatives on the Council have already accepted the binding nature of the investigation into all sites proposed by the Commission in Annex II, and the principle of transparency which must prevail in soil-related transactions?

In addition, there is added value in a Europe-wide approach towards soil monitoring, which will improve the ability of the Member States to learn about their soil. In any case reports to the Commission will be practically automatic, since they will be based on satellite surveys. It is not common knowledge perhaps that a project of this type has already been carried out by the Commission, resulting in the Soil Atlas of Europe , which is a good example of what can be achieved if we work together.

However, there is another argument for a Community-based approach towards soil protection, which is climate change, a challenge facing all of Europe. This challenge will consist of extreme climatic events: more rainfall, longer droughts, less snowfall and an increase in sea levels. This means that we have a duty to manage the soil, precisely to combat these challenges, to increase water retention times across the entire territory to prevent flooding and encourage groundwater absorption, particularly along the coasts, and prevent saltwater infiltration, most likely due to rising sea levels.

Forestry management to control the risk of forest fires, since increased droughts will mean a greater risk of desertification in case of fire. Incidentally, this type of land management will encourage the use of renewable energy such as hydro-energy and biomass. Finally, we should not forget the part the soil plays in balancing greenhouse gases.

During the vote on Wednesday, I would ask you to consider that what we need more than anything is a strategy and a directive that can guarantee future generations the use and enjoyment of the soil that we now have in our safekeeping, bearing in mind that each Member State faces the same threats and the same environmental risks. The soil is a resource, a resource that is scarce in Europe, and we must maximise its availability.

 
  
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  Joan Calabuig Rull (PSE ), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy . – (ES) Thank you, Madam President, and thank you also to Commissioner Dimas for his decisive support for this directive.

We would like to welcome the Commission’s proposal, as of course it aims to protect the soil and preserve its capacity to continue to carry out its environmental, economic, social and cultural functions, all of which are of course essential to human activity.

Moreover, as the Commissioner rightly said, it proposes flexible rules, which are ambitious in their objectives and not excessively prescriptive in their content. Within a common framework, a minimum common denominator, the Member States are going to define their own level of intervention, enabling more efficient use of administrative capacity at national level.

Despite the exaggerated resistance to this directive from some sectors, it is evident that soil is a vital resource that is essentially non-renewable, which is suffering under growing environmental pressure for which human activity has significant responsibility.

According to the reports that have been discussed here, it has been calculated that the cost of soil degradation is approximately EUR 40 000 million per year, a cost that is borne by society in the form of damage to infrastructure, increases in the cost of healthcare and many other factors.

This directive is of course based on the precautionary and preventive action principles, and on the principle that environmental damage must be rectified at its origin and that the polluter pays.

This legislation will mitigate the cross-border effects of soil degradation, which do also exist, and it will help to ensure equal conditions in the internal market.

I would like to highlight this aspect, because the different obligations that economic operators may impose, in line with different national soil protection legislation, could distort competition.

To conclude, the soil protection directive is a step forward that will enable competition with greater transparency and will protect areas of common interest such as water, food safety and human health.

 
  
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  Neil Parish (PPE-DE ), Draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development . – Madam President, I would really much prefer that this directive was not coming before us. I would be supporting a rejection of it – not because I do not want to see soil protected, because it is in all our interests that it should be. But is the directive the right way forward?

Commissioner Dimas, you said yourself that, at the moment, only nine Member States have legislation in place to protect soil. I would suggest that it is up to the other 18 Member States to put legislation in place to protect the soil and we should not necessarily bring forward another directive. We already have a Groundwater Directive and a Nitrates Directive. As far as agriculture is concerned, we have got a lot of cross compliance legislation that deals with the soil and soil compaction. I know the rapporteur is doing her very best to bring agriculture out of the proposal but I rather fear that what we will see is yet more bureaucracy and yet more difficulties for farmers.

The Commissioner also stated that there are 300 types of soil throughout the European Union. It is very difficult to have one general directive to cover all these positions. You only have to consider agriculture in a year like this, where in some Member States there have been droughts and others have had very wet weather, very heavy rainfall. If you dig potatoes in many of the northern Member States this year, where there has been lots of rain, then of course you will cause compaction. It is necessary to do that in order to get the crop. That can be rectified the following year by subsoiling and repairing the damage to the soil.

We need flexibility in all this. I really do think that the idea of having yet another directive in order to put more regulation upon our farmers and upon our industry is the wrong way to go.

 
  
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  Karsten Friedrich Hoppenstedt, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . – (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the Soil Protection Directive and the Soil Framework Directive, together with the Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection, rank among the key topics in this part-session, as of course they have done in recent weeks and months in the committees.

Normally a strategy – in this case about soil – is dealt with before the relevant directive, for good reason. The advantage of proceeding in stages is usually that interests are discussed openly early on, so that the newly gained points of view can be taken into account as the directive is formulated. With regard to the strong criticism that has been directed at the Commission proposal on the Soil Protection Directive, prior discussion about the topic would undoubtedly have been helpful, including to calm tempers all round.

In contrast to the normal nature of a framework directive, the Commission proposal – and I share this opinion – includes very rigid, detailed regulations, and commits the Member States to numerous examinations and reports that would result in a considerable administrative load. This is unacceptable.

The new Member States already have national soil protection legislation that functions well. For them, the Commission proposal would in some cases require their systems to be completely restructured: a high level of regulatory duplication and additional bureaucratic burden. Therefore, numerous Member States are sceptical about this Directive, as has already been stated.

Nevertheless, in the last few months I have been heavily involved in transforming the Commission proposal, rewriting it. Essentially, it was a matter of allowing the Member States more scope within which to operate, while still pursuing the goal of curbing the growing deterioration of the soil at European level.

I hope that, in the end, together with our friend Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines, we arrived at a sensible result, including with regard to the significance of the overall topic of soil protection, a result that can be a model worldwide as well as in Europe. May I therefore express my warm thanks to the rapporteur once again for offering a solution that enabled a compromise to be found.

 
  
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  María Sornosa Martínez, on behalf of the PSE Group . – (ES) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, in European legislation important natural resources (water, air, species, the habitats of flora and fauna) have specific Community legislation, while soil as a resource does not have any. It is time to resolve this imbalance, and I therefore thank the Commission for its proposal, and also thank the rapporteur, Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines, for the work that she has done.

As many of us have said, soil is a non-renewable and therefore limited natural resource that carries out many important ecological and economic functions, and it is the basis of almost all human activities. There is no doubt that the involvement of the European institutional legislative system in this area will provide an impetus for the improvement of legislation that is being put in place in many countries, by giving it a coherent framework that is supported by European regulation, and possibly European resources.

With regard to the immovable nature of soil, which appears to be cited as proof by some in order to justify their preferences for national or subsidiary treatment rather than a European policy, the European Commission’s communication gives a sufficient argument as to why there needs to be a strategy at European level, and some colleagues, such as Mr Calabuig Rull, have mentioned this.

There are some Member States that are not very eager for the standardisation of soil protection at European level, and we therefore think that both the strategy and the directive are being given the right focus in terms of being a flexible legal instrument that is ambitious and not excessively prescriptive. This means that each Member State can adapt it to its needs and to its social and economic situation, as a framework has been set out and long-term goals have been set.

In short, I think that the methodology of the proposal for a directive, based on prevention, raising awareness among citizens, providing information, identifying priority areas of degradation and making inventories of contaminated soil along with programmes of national measures and rehabilitation strategies is a coherent, efficient and flexible approach to dealing with the problem of soil degradation in Europe, while respecting the diversity of national situations and options.

I therefore ask this House, first of all, for a resounding ‘no’ to the outright rejection that this proposal has received in some sectors, and to support the compromise amendments, which we arrived at following lengthy negotiations.

Perhaps this is not the directive that everyone would like, but precisely because we are all in some way against this directive, it may be able to serve us for the future.

 
  
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  Holger Krahmer, on behalf of the ALDE Group . – (DE) Madam President, first of all, I too should like to convey my very sincere thanks to the rapporteur, Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines, who has expended a great deal of energy in the last few months acting as a broker between proponents and opponents of a directive and who, in the end, managed to prepare the basis of a workable compromise.

Nevertheless, I am, as I always have been, of the same opinion as the Members of this House who want to reject the Commission proposal. Let there be no mistake: our soils are the basis of our existence. Without healthy soil there is no agriculture, no natural cycle of nutrients and, in the long term, no life. We are responsible for protecting our soils from harmful effects where possible, and keeping them in good condition.

However, this Directive is not the right way to achieve this. I do not believe that the question here is whether we wish to protect our soils better or not; instead, at the European level the question as I see it is: is this within our jurisdiction or not? I believe that it is not.

Obviously, many Member States have developed their own functioning soil protection legislation, with more concern for and better solutions to local problems than would be possible with centralised regulation from Brussels. Therefore I would ask the House to support the amendments that retain operational scope for the Member States.

Apart from that, we are about to create vast amounts of new bureaucracy and expense for administrative bodies and businesses. There are amendments that would use the mere establishment of an industrial business as a reason to require detailed examinations and reports.

Let me quickly give you just one example, that of the building of industrial gas plants. These separate normal air, which is a mixture of gases, into its components –which does not harm the soil at all. We should not be worrying about things like that, but only about things where there is justified concern that they may contaminate the soil.

I believe that it is high time we refrained from the preparation and publishing of soil status reports. That is an encroachment on freedom of contract. The sale of land is covered by civil law, with good reason, and it should stay this way. Ladies and gentlemen, I hope that, in the end, we shall achieve a Directive that really does guarantee protection of the soil and does not primarily increase administrative load.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Madam President, there is a saying that is well known in many countries: ‘better late than never’. We are coming late to soil protection, after many decades of devastation, as is most evident in industrial regions, but it is good that we have come to realise that the soil feeds us and we must not destroy it. We must not treat it like a commercial item and operate a policy under which the biggest business is the purchase of agricultural land and its alienation from agricultural production for other purposes.

This policy is already coming home to roost. It is good that we can finally see this and begin to protect the soil, our provider. May I remind you of the thought to be found in the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, that one condition for effective soil protection is the maintenance and development of agriculture. Soil nurtured by farmers retains its fertility, but when it is deprived of this care it turns into a desert. On behalf of the Union for Europe of the Nations Group, I support the reports by Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines and Mr Prodi.

 
  
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  Hiltrud Breyer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group . – (DE) Madam President, we stand for a definite ‘yes’ to EU-wide soil protection. We have heard that soil is our most important non-renewable resource. Soil deterioration costs the EU more than EUR 38 billion every year. In Germany, only 2% of the soil is still in its natural condition. Twelve per cent of soils in the EU are affected by erosion.

Soil deterioration does not respect national borders. Thus we are in the process of pulling the rug out from under our own feet by the way we are currently using our soils. The EU proposal was good; it went in the right direction, and we should have liked to improve it. I know that the rapporteur fought for it, but unfortunately the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety watered down and further spoiled a great many points of the proposal under pressure from the conservatives and the agricultural lobby. I cannot understand why we in the Committee on the Environment have agreed to maintain secrecy about soil containing inherited contamination. I hope we shall still be able to correct this tomorrow. It runs counter to transparency and also to the Aarhus Convention.

We also know that climate change and good-quality soil go hand in hand, that soil is an important carbon dioxide pool and is continually losing this ability to bind CO2 . Because of the watering down that has happened in the Committee on the Environment, I fear that an ambitious Soil Protection Directive is, unfortunately, impossible. However, we need effective soil protection with a shared timeframe and common criteria.

In short, we need effective, specific goals to put a stop to the deterioration of soils in the European Union. We must not give up on creating something that is legally binding because of this so-called compromise. Only legally binding measures will enable us to set an ambitious soil strategy in motion.

 
  
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  Roberto Musacchio, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group . (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, we have before us a very important and positive directive. I would like to thank the Commissioner, Mr Dimas, who handled this. I say so myself, as a member of a group that often criticises directives and the Commission: this is not the case here.

This directive will be a huge step forward for Europe, both from the point of view of the quality of its policies and its effectiveness. With the completion of the framework directives on the natural elements, the soil will be considered as a key part of the biosphere, a fundamental element of the environmental and climatic balance and not just a platform on which to build.

The soil is living, it absorbs CO2 , it produces biomass: it must be safeguarded, it must even be improved, because European soil is particularly polluted. Europe understands this. We had a long and difficult discussion in the Committee, and I would like to thank Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines for being so passionate about the subject.

However, there is the risk that Parliament will interfere with the Commission’s text. I never like to see this happen, I always prefer it when Parliament is more advanced than the Commission. Someone has even recommended that the directive should be rejected, but this would be a serious mistake. Europe must look to the future. The soil beneath us is soil that we all share, it is part of our planet. It is the only soil we have and we must look after it.

 
  
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  Kathy Sinnott, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group . – Madam President, I can see some of the logic in EU-level legislation regulating water and air quality. We share these in the EU and, indeed, globally. However, I find the logic fails with the protection of soils. Soils are much less mobile and, other than the setting of reasonable standards of protection, should be the competence of Member States and, within them, the local authorities. Before the EU takes too much control of soils maybe we need to do a bit of soul-searching.

In Ireland, some of the problematic policies in terms of soil degradation have come top-down from Europe. For example, the EU sugar reform removed beet from the wheat rotation. The insertion of beet conditioned the soil and made it more suitable for cereals. Also, the EU forest grants over the years have resulted in unsuitable spruce plantations that, in growth, have made the soil more acidic and, in harvesting, have in some cases compacted the soil, rendering it infertile, whilst in others have loosened it from the hills, from which it has been washed into rivers and lakes.

Soil varies enormously but it should be living and renewing. The EU should ban soil destruction but leave its care and management to the people who understand its composition in each area.

 
  
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  Irena Belohorská (NI ). – (SK) Before looking at the actual wording of the proposed framework directive on soil protection, we should consider whether EU legislation in this area is actually needed.

The opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs should be taken into consideration. It clearly rejected the need for soil protection legislation in the EU on the basis that soil does not have any cross-border implications and is therefore a regional issue. Despite the fact that other committees, in their respective opinions, were essentially in favour of EU legislation in this matter, certain factions are somewhat hesitant. For example, the amendment to Article 5 in the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development clearly indicates that the degradation of the soil has local or regional causes and effects and it is therefore essential to adopt national as opposed to European measures. This appears to be in conflict with the remainder of the text, which is clearly in favour of the framework directive. Similar wording can be found in the amendment by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety to Article 2.

On the other hand, it is important to recognise that the degradation of soil, as a non-renewable resource, has significant consequences on other aspects, for which legislation already exists, such as water quality, food safety, climate change, etc. Even if both sides were partly right with regards to the need for a framework directive, I believe that the decision to adopt or reject the European framework will be a political one.

I would like to comment on the change in the character of the report from negative to positive. One example is the replacement of the term ‘risk area’ with ‘priority area’. I believe that for areas where soil degradation needs to be stopped urgently we must use urgent terminology; soil at risk must be indicated with a negative term to underscore the seriousness of the situation.

 
  
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  Jan Březina (PPE-DE ). – (CS) Madam President, Commissioner, first of all I would like to thank the rapporteurs for their work on the proposal in question. Unfortunately, however, I must endorse the position of the Committee on Legal Affairs, which calls on the committee responsible to propose rejection of the Commission proposal.

The reasons cited by the committee are valid and remain so in spite of the substantial changes made to the proposal in the last few months. Soil really does not have any cross-border implications and should therefore remain a competence of the Member States. Therefore, despite the positive changes, this proposal continues to represent a breach of the principle of subsidiarity. As far as proportionality is concerned, adopting such legislation could be seen as a waste of resources. Moreover, it is important to remember that within the EU there are many different soil types, which are used in a variety of ways.

It is true that the Directive in question has become what could be described as a flexible framework directive. In addition, as a result of our new philosophy, the Directive is binding as far as the results are concerned, but leaves the decision on the form and method up to the Member States. It is very positive that the existing Member State legislation covering these objectives does not need to be revised. As such, we are genuinely moving towards the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. A positive side effect of this legislation would be the pressure that would be brought to bear on Member States with inadequate soil protection legislation at present, but I am not sure if this is the best way to put pressure on them. After having weighed up all the pros and cons, I believe that it is not necessary to adopt the proposed directive. The Member States can protect their soil on their own. To conclude, I would like to reiterate the words of the French philosopher who said that if a law is not essential it must not be written.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele (PSE ).(DE) Madam President, I am another representative who believes that soil protection is very definitely a task for the European Union, and that the European Parliament should therefore adopt this Framework Directive. Nor, to be honest, do I understand the comments that have been made about how the different soil types in our Member States have not been taken into account. I am going to read this Directive through again and try to see what the other Members are referring to, for I did not notice these inflexible measures and proposals.

I should also like to mention the role of agriculture, for, in my view, the compromise amendment by the various parties is very important. It requires the Member States, when using soil for agricultural purposes, to encourage crops and afforestation methods that could have a beneficial effect on soil organic matter and soil fertility and thus prevent landslides and desertification.

Likewise, agricultural methods that prevent the compaction and erosion of soils should also be supported. We know that very often agriculture causes problems for soil quality, and I believe that this clarification is absolutely vital. I do not believe that the ‘support for agriculture, no matter what’ formula is sufficient to protect soils at regional, national, or even European level.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN ). – (PL) Madam President, a framework directive on soil protection will in my view be an instrument that promotes the production of foodstuffs and adequate supplies of clean water for subsequent generations of EU citizens.

The soil also performs many other important functions: it is a substrate for human activities, along with towns and infrastructure, and also for nature and valuable landscapes. Protection of the soil is essential for the maintenance of our natural heritage and raw materials.

In view of this situation, a flexible framework directive recognising the principle of subsidiarity will be an instrument that encourages Member States to protect their soils. A directive couched in such terms is binding for Member States in respect of the results that may be achieved in the area of soil protection, but leaves Member States the choice of the forms and methods used to achieve such protection.

The proposals contained in the directive whereby Member States are to draw up lists of contaminated areas, including on a regional scale, to be published and updated every five years, are worthy of note. This is important information for the protection of the life and health of EU citizens.

 
  
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  Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE ). – (FR) Madam President, I would also first like to congratulate our rapporteurs and applaud the difficult job Mrs Gutiérrez has accomplished in producing a result to protect our soil.

Unlike other fellow Members, I believe a more restrictive legislative approach would have provided better protection.

I also think it is a pity that our fellow Members whose countries have stricter regulation than that proposed here are still trying to water down this report with amendments that I would urge you very strongly to reject tomorrow.

Our agricultural and industrial activities and transport plans have drastically affected the quality of our soil. However, this same soil is the foundation of biodiversity and our food. It filters and stores organic matter and minerals, and also helps us to access water. It plays a prominent role in the fight against climate change. Furthermore, faced with growing demand for food and energy production, it is essential that we safeguard and restore the quality of our soil and prevent desertification.

Without legislation at European level, we cannot hope for results.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM ). (NL) Madam President, I am speaking here on behalf of my colleague Mr Blokland.

This debate is a further demonstration that the proposed soil policy is very controversial. Now that there are two proposals – the strategy and the Directive – it seems as though a new branch of environmental policy is being introduced. I say ‘seems’, as nothing could be further from the truth. Sustainable management of soil use already comes to the fore in 33 European directives, such as the Water Framework Directive. Why, then, are we presenting overlapping legislation, entailing yet more burdens, particularly for Member States that already have a well-functioning soil policy?

I shall be supporting Mr Prodi’s Thematic Strategy. In my opinion, Member States who have yet to develop a soil policy must do so on the basis of the strategy. The framework directive, on the other hand, is disproportionate and also, in my view, contravenes the principle of subsidiarity. Unlike air and water, soil does not have a cross-border dimension, and policy is often implemented on a regional or local scale. This is also the reason that I – that is, Mr Blokland – have joined in signing the amendment rejecting the Commission proposal.

 
  
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  Jim Allister (NI ). – Madam President, we are familiar with the idea that a land grab is the unwarranted appropriation of property belonging to another. It seems to me that this soil directive amounts to an unwarranted power grab by Brussels, and of course brings with it an inevitable layer of fresh bureaucracy.

Soil, as has been said in this debate, unlike air and water, does not flow from state to state. It has no cross-border dimension. Thus policy on soil is and should remain a Member State issue.

IPPC, cross-compliance obligations, the Landfill Directive and the Nitrates Directive all give us more than enough EU involvement. Hence I have no apology for favouring total rejection of this power-hungry proposal.

But, if, true to form, the EU nonetheless decides to meddle in this national issue, then one initiative it could consider is to introduce a payment to farmers in return for providing carbon sequestration in soil management and farming practices.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE ). – (FR) Madam President, my first thought on this proposal for a directive was to reject the text. I also think that a framework directive was perhaps not an appropriate solution.

Why have another text on the protection of soil when we already have a whole raft of regulations on soil, waste, pesticides and the protection of nature? Within the framework of better lawmaking, I was thinking that we should not appear to be going through the European Commission mill again. I was putting myself in the shoes particularly of the mayors of our municipalities, who would find themselves with another text to dissect.

However, the reality is this: human practices have not respected the soil. We have worn out the soil with intensive production. In addition to this there is climate change and desertification. Our urban planning policies have mineralised the soil, degraded it, and our fellow citizens are now surprised when they experience catastrophic flooding because the soil no longer absorbs the rain. Who has not seen the open wounds in the landscape caused by the quarries that supply us with such valuable materials?

Impoverished, dried out, degraded, polluted and bruised soil – that is what has become of this land, which previous generations spoke about with veneration because the land was everything to them: their work, their food, their life and, for many, their only property. What was once our mother Earth we now regard with suspicion. What will be the consequences of this degradation, this pollution, for our environment and health?

Mrs Gutiérrez has done a remarkable job in trying to find an acceptable approach, in trying to bring closer together those who did not want this directive and those who did. She has listened to Parliament. She has found balanced positions that respect the need for subsidiarity in the choice of methods, because there is enormous disparity between the Member States. The final text has evolved a great deal. It avoids increasing the burden of administrative costs by encouraging us to put right the mistakes of the past, our agricultural, industrial and urban practices that did not respect the soil. This report, completely remodelled by Mrs Gutiérrez, is satisfactory. There is such soil diversity in the European Union that the subsidiarity guarantee is essential, while ensuring the protection and sustainable use of the soil.

 
  
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  Gyula Hegyi (PSE ). – (HU) It is our fundamental goal to guarantee a healthy environment for our citizens, and there is stringent Union legislation for most elements of our environment. Soil is the only element of the environment that we have not yet been able to regulate, so there is currently no Union instrument to halt the pollution of soil and the erosion of its quality, even though this causes many tens of millions of euros’ worth of damage for all of us.

According to the current legislation, it is only compulsory to act against soil pollution when the pollution enters other elements of the environment: groundwater, fresh water, agricultural products, or when it is too late to act in practice. I would welcome the adoption of this new Directive by the European Union, and I am pleased that a compromise package has been created that is even more acceptable from the perspective of environmental protection.

It is also important from a Hungarian perspective that, as many of us have proposed, the legislation should also deal with tackling soil acidification. This is a serious threat to agricultural production, so it must be fought using Union instruments for this reason too. Recognition of the polluted areas will encourage remediation, so we can prevent the pollution of water tables for drinking water, and naturally the cultivation of polluted plants. Soil regulation is therefore in the interests of farmers.

I therefore hope that certain MEPs from the right, including, surprisingly, some Hungarian MEPs, will not succeed in their endeavour to prevent the creation of a Directive to protect the interests of Hungarian agriculture and the environment. In the spirit of the Directive, the rehabilitation of the polluted or soil-degraded areas uncovered will be a task for the Union, for which resources will need to be found in future Community budgets.

 
  
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  Jeffrey Titford (IND/DEM ). – Madam President, this proposal for a directive on soil protection has huge credibility gaps. Firstly, soil contents and qualities in different parts of an individual country vary considerably. How much more variance will there be between the soils of 27 different countries with vastly differing climates? It is absurd to suggest that the EU can introduce a one-size-fits-all directive on soil from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia.

Now a word on behalf of our already hard-pressed farmers, many of whom have written to my constituency office to strongly question the need for a directive on soil protection. They have quite rightly pointed out that they have a vested interest in protecting the soil, because it is their livelihood. They also suggest that it would place another onerous burden upon them because of the failure to give enough recognition to existing national legislation.

The second large credibility gap is provided by the EU’s short-sighted open border policy, which has encouraged mass immigration from Eastern Europe to my country. This has generated the need for a correspondingly huge programme of house building on every square inch of land available – some three million new homes by 2020, we are told. Even the green belt is under threat. Burying vast acreages under solid concrete is not my idea of the best way to protect soil.

 
  
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  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE ). (NL) Madam President, Commissioner, I support the soil strategy elaborated in the Prodi report, but oppose the Directive on soil. I do so quite clearly on the basis of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

Therefore, I have tabled an amendment rejecting it, but also one opting for another instrument, namely open coordination. The objectives can be achieved in full by this means. After all, it is abundantly clear that this all centres on stimulation, knowledge sharing and monitoring. Everything is possible, including financial support from the Union.

The risk of duplication remains: once again, priority areas are designated, and even the sea bed has been drawn back into the debate. The citizens of my country, the Netherlands, do not understand the reason for unnecessary legislation from above, from European level. As has been said, there are already more than 30 directives concerning soil quality, either directly or indirectly. What is the point of central legislation when a decentralised approach is also possible? Nevertheless, I do appreciate Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines’s attempts to steer the rules more in the direction of subsidiarity.

Finally, I have submitted many more proposals, with 40 signatures: amendments aiming to further increase the emphasis on quality and soil protection and to respond to new challenges such as climate change. No legislation should be adopted at European level, however. I appeal to my fellow Members to support my amendments in this regard.

 
  
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  Dorette Corbey (PSE ). (NL) Madam President, my thanks to Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines, but I must say that, unfortunately, we do not agree with her.

There are a great many places in Europe with soil pollution or other soil problems such as erosion. These problems must be solved as quickly as possible. I assume that everyone agrees with this.

The Commission is proposing to solve soil problems at European level – and, as far as I am concerned, there lies the problem. After all, soil problems are often local, and only in specific cases do they have a real cross-border impact.

European cooperation is desirable in the case of soil problems with a cross-border impact, and in that instance solidarity and cooperation are important. In the case of local and national soil problems, however, European policy is completely unnecessary. Many Member States already have a good national policy for solving and preventing soil problems. Their policy offers a level of protection that is at least as high as the one now on the table.

The Directive on soil should take these Member States into consideration – they should be exempt from European obligations – and therefore we plan to vote against this Directive.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE ). – Madam President, I came to this debate from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, where we rejected the proposal for a directive. I favour the Prodi strategy with some reservations.

All of us want our soils protected, but I think those of us who are concerned about this directive believe that it is not necessary to do it in this way. Mr van Nistelrooij pointed out a much better way of doing it, through open coordination. The difficulty that I see in terms of soil protection is that we are not doing enough research on how to protect soils and that a great many researchers and advisers in the agricultural area are involved in form filling – forms that are created here in the European Union and which take them from their jobs of being involved with farmers in best practice in terms of soil protection.

It is very difficult for farmers to come to terms with more bureaucracy. They are dealing with this every day, with cross compliance. I believe that soils are being protected through good agricultural practice. It is a Member State issue. I had hoped that the debate here tonight would convince me that we need a directive but so far I have not been convinced of that.

I accept the work done by the rapporteur, and certainly she has taken out a great many of the concerns we would have, but it does leave me wondering why we need this at all. I think that Irish farmers, who are in large measure now worried about the Reform Treaty, will see this as another attempt to stifle them in their everyday activities, unless we can convince them that is not the case.

I repeat the point that my concern is that the research and advisory work is, in fact, almost being destroyed by the levels of bureaucracy that the EU has created. Yes, we need to deal with soils that are contaminated, but we have directives that already do that; they are in place. I am not convinced, from today’s debate, that we need such a directive. I will remain open-minded until the end of this debate and see if I am thus convinced, but, so far, I am afraid not. Yes to the strategy, but no to the directive.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MAURO
Vice-President

 
  
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  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE ). – (HU) Thank you, Mr President. Firstly, I would like to congratulate Mrs Gutiérrez on having spent a great deal of time and energy compiling a draft text that has actually managed to come for plenary debate and voting despite the resistance that can be experienced in the Parliament.

Today, when the extreme weather conditions caused by climate change and civilisation mean an increasing burden on soil and thereby on the whole living world, this legislation is of particularly great importance. For my part, the Directive is one of the most important statements on the importance of agricultural activity, and the undying merit of the people who work to maintain, protect and improve the soil. Without them, we would not only be deprived of food, but the environment around us would also suffer serious damage.

Sustainable agriculture implemented with knowledge is one of the mainstays of environmental protection. However, one of the most important conditions for this is information. Information about the condition of the soil that is accessible to the public would be one of the fruits of the new legislation, which would finally protect people and farmers instead of polluters.

In my homeland of Hungary, the picture is typically two-fold: on the one hand, there is land of excellent quality and a high degree of legislative protection but, on the other hand, there is industrial pollution caused by forty years of Communism, and cleaning it up will take at least another forty years and EUR 4 billion. Right now we are spending Union money on remedying this, but we would like to speed this process up in future, and this legislation would be a great help.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, by adopting the Soil Protection Directive we are completing a process in the theological sense too. We have already regulated all the elements that created the world: air, water, fire – meaning energy – and their importance is thoroughly and appropriately protected by the Union, so now it is the turn of the fourth element, earth, thus completing the circle. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Frieda Brepoels (PPE-DE ).(NL) Mr President, Secretary, I should like to start by expressing my sincere congratulations to our rapporteur, Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines, and by thanking her for her enormous efforts to strike a balance between supporters and opponents of this Directive, in what is after all a very difficult dossier.

Personally, I am firmly convinced that a European Directive on soil protection is necessary, for various reasons. I hope that there is still a chance of my convincing Mrs McGuinness.

Some MEPs reject the framework directive because their country already has far-reaching legislation on soil. My region – Flanders – has also been conducting a progressive soil policy for some years. For example, a system of compulsory soil certificates in the case of property transfers – even now inconceivable in many Member States – has been in place for a long time.

I should like to turn the reasoning of these Members around. This flexible Directive not only provides a framework for those Member States that do not yet have a soil policy but is also clearly capable of preventing the undermining of the competitive position of the countries and regions that are already making an effort. For this reason, it is very important that all Member States take the measures presented in the report.

There is certainly a cross-border impact in a great many places: for example, erosion in Flanders could generate sludge in the Netherlands and vice versa. The Directive also provides a coherent framework for existing legislation on soil protection.

I could give more reasons but, because of time constraints, I shall conclude by saying that the report under discussion today fills all the aforementioned needs much better than the original Commission proposal. I myself have also tabled many amendments and am very pleased with the result.

The proposal provides the Member States with sufficient elbow room, creates no additional administrative burdens or duplication, and also explicitly recognises the role of regional authorities. I therefore hope for strong support from my fellow Members in tomorrow’s vote.

 
  
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  Robert Sturdy (PPE-DE ). – Mr President, may I first of all congratulate Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines. I think she has done an absolutely fantastic job on a report which is not needed or wanted by most of us and, Commissioner Dimas, in my opinion brings this House and the Commission into total disrepute. You are bringing out legislation which is totally and utterly unnecessary.

What you should be doing is enforcing the legislation that we have. The Commission usually fails totally in enforcing legislation which is already there. I can give you a number of cases, but I do not wish to do it just now. If I were to look, for example, at your colleague, Mr Kyprianou: we have just had yet another outbreak of foot-and-mouth in the United Kingdom; we have got bluetongue; today it was announced that we have avian flu. He promised to stop all this. He was going to do everything to stop it. I believed him. I believe the Commission when it says something, and yet what happens is that it does not enforce the legislation that is in place to stop these sorts of things coming in. I call on this House to totally reject this piece of legislation.

I think Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines has done an absolutely fantastic job and I will support her totally if this House decides not to reject it, but I shall briefly mention something that Mrs Scheele and Mrs Corbey said on erosion. I totally agree with them. Erosion is a big problem, but not necessarily in the European Union. It is a problem where we have deforestation, and that is something that we could do something about.

I thought Mr Allister’s points were absolutely correct. I think the Commission is failing us. It fails to enforce regulations.

I will leave you with one last thought. As a farmer, the soil is my life. I will protect it to the very best of my ability. Do not put more legislation in place. Allow me to get on with protecting the soil, which provides the food, which provides the income for the people who live in the rural communities.

 
  
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  Horst Schnellhardt (PPE-DE ).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, what the Commission states – that soil is the crucial basis for the long-term, sustainable production of food, feed and biomass – is true.

It is also true that we cannot be satisfied with the state of the soils in the European Union, but to draw from that the conclusion that we need a directive at European level is to head off in the wrong direction. Why is that? We are not taking account of the fact that there are already numerous regulations within the European Union that apply to soil and that we could use effectively. Examples are the Habitats Directive, the Directive on integrated pollution prevention and control, the Water Framework Directive, the Groundwater Directive, and the rules on cross-compliance: with these, we can have a financial influence on the improvement of the situation in individual countries. These are all existing measures, and if we add the Soil Protection Directive to them it will create regulatory duplication – parallel legislation – that really only creates more bureaucracy.

We say we want to reduce bureaucracy by 25% by 2010, but this will only achieve the very opposite! It will achieve a 25% increase. In the Treaty, we undertook to regulate locally the things that could best be regulated at that level, and that is what we must do, and we must accelerate this. The claim that the deterioration of soil is causing climate change is, however, unacceptable. Scientists are unanimous that this deterioration is a result of climate change, and not the reason for it.

The rapporteur has certainly put a lot of work into this, but when we see that rules that are implemented by other directives have priority, that is unacceptable: we do not have top-priority directives and then lower-priority directives.

If we really want to achieve something, let us stick to the method of open coordination, transferring expertise from country to country. That is the right approach and it will surely bring a result. This Directive, on the other hand, brings only bureaucracy and confusing legislation.

 
  
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  Markus Pieper (PPE-DE ).(DE) Mr President, where is the added value? Where is the justification for European regulations on soil protection? The Commission’s arguments concerning cross-border effects are rather artificial – at least from the ecological point of view. Nor can I accept the argument that the internal market is distorted by different national soil protection legislation. If the Commission really meant that, it would not present us with a framework directive, which accords the Member States the greatest possible self-determination in the definition of goals for soil protection. That would increase the differences in soil protection legislation more than it would even them out. Does not this approach reveal that the Commission is unsure as to how it should proceed in terms of subsidiarity when it comes to legislation for soil in specific locations? In such a case, where we all wish for better soil protection, but national legislation differs, should we not first use the instrument of open coordination? I believe so.

The Framework Directive takes the second step before the first. We are missing out on the opportunity for countries without legislation to learn from countries with excellent soil-protection practices. We shall also experience bureaucracy, particularly in those countries that already have tough legislation. Why should they have to examine their entire country and define risk areas, even though they already have exemplary legislation? We do not need this bureaucracy, nor do we need the gilt-edged soil-protection system that Europe is now demanding from us.

In closing, a comment on the argument that Parliament itself asked for this Directive years ago. Yes, that was the case five years and more ago. However, in the meantime we have had experience of the Habitats Directive, the Directive on integrated pollution prevention and control, the Water Framework Directive and many more. As well, unlike the Commissioners, we are held accountable locally. Therefore we do not hold fast to five-year and ten-year plans when businesses and local authorities on the ground are telling us that it is too much of a good thing. I acknowledge the efforts of the rapporteur to make the Directive less stringent, but bureaucracy is best avoided at source. We still have the opportunity to do that by rejecting the Directive.

I hope that we give the Council a strong signal that it cannot expect its nations to accept this wave of bureaucracy.

 
  
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  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission . − Mr President, first of all I would like to thank the speakers in this debate for their positive contributions and I would like to outline the Commission’s view on a number of key issues raised by Parliament.

Let me state that the Commission will follow the development of its proposal in the Council and in Parliament and consider its position under the light of these developments.

I will start with those aspects of the thematic strategy which appear in the report of the Committee on the Environment and which are not covered in the directive.

I welcome the support given in the report to tackling soil protection at a European level and the crucial links between soil protection and any strategy to combat climate change, biodiversity loss and desertification.

I also agree on the fact of reviewing existing environmental legislation to fully exploit and further strengthen the potential synergies with soil protection.

Finally, the resolution you have approved proposes a number of recommendations as regards a new directive on biowaste and a communication on desertification.

The Commission will take these recommendations into account when developing further measures implementing the thematic strategy.

Let me now turn to the soil framework directive and outline the Commission’s current thinking regarding the issues raised.

Many of the amendments proposed by the Committee on the Environment provide useful clarifications to the proposal. I am referring in particular to a better clarification of the objective of the legislation and the role played by soil functions in ensuring sustainable use of soil in Article 1, pursuant to Amendment 36. In addition, elements such as the introduction of voluntary codes of good practice or of a non-binding annex on possible measures to combat soil degradation can be supported in Articles  4 and 8, pursuant in part to Amendments 58 and 65.

The addition of acidification to the list of soil degradation processes that need to be tackled in order to consider the different soil conditions that apply in some new Member States. The Commission also considers the clarification introduced in the provision dealing with the identification of contaminated sites in Article 10, pursuant to Amendment 74, as an improvement to the text.

However, there are also a number of amendments which raise concerns for the Commission. Firstly, Amendment 38 on Article 1, to make the soil framework directive subsidiary to other European Union legislation so that soil protection provisions contained in other Community legislation would take precedence over the provisions of this directive.

Secondly, it is clear that there must be a date by which the programmes of measures for tackling agricultural threats should be drawn up.

Thirdly, some amendments, such as Amendment 77 concerning Article 12, eliminate the provisions concerning the information on soil contamination to be provided for certain land transactions.

The soil status report is a very important part of the Commission’s proposal. It will increase the level of transparency in land transactions, assist the competent authorities in identifying contaminated sites and speed up the establishment of the inventory. The costs involved in producing this report are negligible compared to the amounts of land transactions of such industrial sites.

I would like to emphasise the importance of keeping a common list of activities in Annex 2. This annex is of fundamental importance if a meaningful, enforceable, systematic and cost-effective inventory of contaminated sites is to be achieved.

Many Member States and regions already use a very similar list to carry out their investigations. It is very important to have a common list to ensure harmonised implementation and to avoid a distortion of the internal market for the different sectors.

Thus we will provide investors, economic operators, public authorities and society at large with legal certainty and a common ground to assess the progress in identifying contaminated sites.

I shall provide a complete list of the Commission’s current position on the amendments to Parliament’s secretariat(1) . As I have already mentioned, I can assure you that the Commission will follow the development of its proposal in the Council and Parliament and consider its position in this light.

Once again I would like to thank the rapporteurs for their efforts.

Commission’s position on amendments by Parliament

Gutiérrez-Cortines report (A6-0410/2007 )

The Commission will follow the development of its proposal in the Council and in the Parliament and consider its position in the light of this development. The Commission’s current position on the proposed amendments is that there are 50 amendments which the Commission can accept fully, in part, or in principle.

These are amendments: 1, 7, 12, 13, 15, 20, 22, 30, 36, 41, 42, 45, 47, 49, 53, 55, 58, 59, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 69, 73, 74, 79, 80, 83, 86, 89, 90, 92, 96, 98, 99, 103, 104, 108, 115, 117, 137, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148 and 150.

It cannot accept 111 amendments: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, 43, 44, 46, 48, 50, 51, 52, 54, 56, 57, 60, 66, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 75, 76, 77, 78, 81, 82, 84, 85, 87, 88, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 100, 101, 102, 105, 106, 107, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 116, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 138, 139, 140, 141, 149, 151.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote on the Gutiérrez-Cortines report will take place on Wednesday at 12 noon and the vote on the Prodi report on Tuesday at 11.30 a.m.

Written statements (Article 142)

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE-DE ), in writing . – (DE) In the light of the recent agreement on the Reform Treaty, the European Parliament, and with it the whole EU, must support and strengthen this renewed confirmation of a spirit of closeness to citizens and of the protection of subsidiarity, starting with the current initiatives.

The present proposal on the Soil Protection Framework Directive does not do justice to this intention. The bureaucracy required in connection with it bears no relation to the actual usefulness of the Directive, and there is no way it can be justified to the citizens of Europe. Quite the contrary, it runs counter to the decision of the European Council to reduce bureaucracy at EU level by 25% by 2012. Soil is first and foremost a local resource.

Effective soil protection must, therefore, be carried out at the most suitable levels – at the regional or local level. Only at these levels can the very wide range of soil characteristics be dealt with comprehensively. Despite the extensive improvements made by the rapporteur, I reject this proposal, because it infringes the principle of subsidiarity. Some Member States already have extremely good regulations, which could even be weakened by this Directive. If necessary, the open-coordination method could provide a solution.

 
  
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  Witold Tomczak (IND/DEM ). – (PL) Soil degradation is a fact. One factor causing of this state of affairs is … the common agricultural policy. Self-sufficiency in foodstuffs has been achieved at the cost of the intensification of agriculture and degradation of the soil.

An increase in economic efficiency leads to the elimination of small and medium-sized farmers, the vast majority of whom are more environmentally friendly than large profit-oriented agricultural businesses. This is the final call to slow down the process of abandoning farming and return to a rational and balanced agricultural model that protects the soil. The current distribution of agricultural subsidies is, however, in conflict with this model. Subsidies are directed above all to agricultural concerns and large intensive farms – 1.39% of beneficiaries receive almost 30% of subsidies!

The CAP must be amended. Its main aim should be the production of healthy foods, not increased competitiveness. Good soil should be a key element in this new policy. That is why I support all actions that serve to protect the soil and restore its fertility.

Let us not compete with products originating from monocultures and intensive livestock rearing. Let us say NO to cheap meat crammed with hormones. Let us not compete with fruit that has little nutritional value, with cheap, low-quality wine or with GM foods, whose consequences we still know little about.

The European agricultural model should genuinely make us stand out in the world and be an example to it.

 
  

(1)Commission's position on amendments by Parliament; see Annex


21. Amendment of Directive 2003/87/EC so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the report by Peter Liese, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2003/87/EC so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community (COM(2006)0818 – C6-0011/2007 – 2006/0304(COD) ) (A6-0402/2007 )

 
  
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  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. − (EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me particular satisfaction to open today’s discussion on the proposal to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading, known as the ETS, within the Community.

I should like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Liese, and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety for their efforts to date. I should also like to thank the other three committees for their participation and their contribution to the discussion.

It has already become widely accepted that climate change is taking place and is being caused by human activity. The measures we take over the next 10 years will determine whether we manage to bring the situation under control or let climate change reach levels so dangerous that it threatens the wellbeing and stability of our societies. The EU has the capability, the resources and the will to lead the global effort to combat climate change. This is the clear message that we will be delivering in a few weeks’ time in Bali, where the Future International Action on Climate Change Network is to be discussed. This opportunity has allowed all three bodies, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, to set ambitious and binding targets for reducing emissions. To achieve these targets, all sectors, including that of international air transport, must take their share of responsibility.

Until now, international air transport has been relatively favourably treated compared with other branches of the transport sector. In terms of taxation and VAT, international air transport continues to enjoy privileges enjoyed when it was still a small, emerging economic sector after the Second World War. In negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s, air and sea transport were exempted from targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These targets affect only internal flights. Now air transport has grown considerably, and it has become the cornerstone of globalisation, as it brings peoples and economies closer together. The Commission fully recognises the importance of air transport for international trade and economic development. On the other hand, the negative impact of air transport on the environment has begun to make itself felt, the dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions being a palpable example of this. The contribution of air transport to global emissions of greenhouse gases is equivalent to the total emissions of the UK or Canada. In the EU, CO2 emissions from aircraft are nearly double their 1990 total, and the forecast is for 150% growth by 2012.

We cannot of course allow this situation to continue without taking measures to combat it. The air transport sector must also contribute to the fight against climate change, otherwise we shall be seeing air transport favoured over other branches of the economy which are already making significant efforts to reduce their emissions. This is precisely why the Commission proposed in its communication in September 2005an overall approach to combating the impact of air transport on climate.

Our strategy is based on policies already applied by the Community, but it also strengthens and extends them. Our current policies include research into new, cleaner technologies and further improvement in the air traffic management system in Europe through the Single European Sky and Clean Sky programmes. Yet these measures alone are not enough; further action is needed, and for this reason, in December 2006, the Commission proposed that air transport should be included in the Community system for emission allowance trading. This is the proposal we are discussing here today.

The Commission’s approach is in two stages. Firstly, from 2011, all flights within the EU will be included in the system. In stage two, from 2012, all flights to and from EU airports will be covered. We are starting with internal flights: this shows our willingness internationally to take the lead in this effort. At the same time, we are exhorting our international partners to join the common endeavour.

At the last conference of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in September, we faced strong opposition from many third countries regarding our plans to include all aircraft in the trading system, regardless of nationality. The reasons vary from country to country, but it became clear that the developing countries in particular believed we should begin at home before also applying the system to flights to and from their countries, and to their airlines.

As a result, we must show greater determination. One of the main points of the proposal is that it must be applied to all airlines operating on the routes covered by the system, irrespective of their nationality, in order to avoid discrimination. The proposal is in line with the Chicago Convention and the bilateral aviation agreements. This position was supported by all 42 European states at the ICAO Conference. Europe registered a formal reservation on this issue, thus allowing us room for manoeuvre.

The ambitiousness of the Commission’s proposal can be gauged by its call to stabilise emissions at the 2004-2006 average. Given the forecasts of rapid growth in air transport, this will have a considerable environmental effect. In 2020 we will be saving a total of 183 million tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to twice Austria’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions from all sources. This means a 46% reduction in emissions compared with a situation whereby air transport would not have been included in the Community trading system.

As regards the allocation of emission rights to airlines, we propose a simple approach. In the period before 2013, a percentage of the air transport emission rights will be made available by auction, in line with the percentage auctioned to other sectors. The remainder will be distributed free of charge according to a benchmark, rewarding high-performance airlines. From 2013, the proportion of allowances made available by auction must be in line with the proportion agreed in the general review of the ETS. Lastly, the same harmonised benchmark methodology will continue to be applied to the distribution of the remainder.

Ladies and gentlemen, combating climate change is now the EU’s highest priority. The proposal under consideration concerns one of the most rapidly increasing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. It therefore symbolises the Union’s resoluteness on this issue. Through specific measures it seeks to control a difficult problem in a branch of the economy where effective policies have not hitherto been successfully developed. Europe has a duty to play a leading role, but must do so in a way that does not provoke its international partners. In view of the serious doubts expressed by many of them, we must both show our determination and adopt a sensible position. The Commission firmly believes that the proposal we are considering tonight corresponds precisely to this need.

 
  
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  Peter Liese (PPE-DE ), rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, over the last few months, almost everyone has realised that we must do something to prevent dramatic climate change.

Reports by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and by the former chief economist of the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern, have made it clear that the cost of doing nothing is very much greater than the cost of doing something. Sir Nicholas even said that, if climate change continues unchecked, this could have the same negative effects in economic terms as the two World Wars. This example makes it clear that this is not a trivial matter or some line dreamt up by the Greens, but a matter of tangible economic interests and something that truly affects every individual. It was, therefore, logical that the summit of EU Heads of State or Government in March decided that the European Union would reduce its emissions by at least 20% by 2020 and, if we reach an international agreement – which we do want to do – by 30%.

It is therefore inconsistent for a major area of the economy not to reduce emissions at all and instead let them continue to increase unchecked. As the Commissioner said, aviation emissions have doubled since 1990. It is a good thing, then, that the Commission has made a proposal to reduce CO2 emissions in the aviation sector. However, this proposal also has flaws, and I am certain that the European Parliament will address these tomorrow with numerous amendments.

I should like to thank all those who have made it possible for us to come to what I believe will be a satisfactory result tomorrow, especially the shadow rapporteurs, Mr Jarzembowski, the rapporteur in the Committee on Transport and Tourism, who was involved in the Hughes procedure, and all the participants from the other committees that provided an opinion. Although some positions diverged, I think that we were agreed on many important points, and shall agree tomorrow when it comes to the vote.

We are agreed that we want one single starting date. Both flights within Europe and intercontinental flights that take off or land in Europe should be included in the system on the same day. This is essential for reasons of competitive neutrality, and also because two thirds of CO2  emissions come from intercontinental flights rather than flights within Europe. Naturally, we must also speak with third countries, so the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety also adopted a motion that the Commission should continue to negotiate with third countries. If we can then agree on common goals and a common approach that achieves just as much as the Commission proposal, then we should also enter into negotiations with third countries.

We are agreed – this is a second point that I should like to highlight – that we wish to auction a much larger proportion of allowances. This is important for newcomers, but mainly to lessen the ‘windfall profits’ that are so prominent in the electricity sector. Electricity prices have risen even though the allowances were distributed at no cost. This is why a larger proportion must be auctioned off and the revenues given back to citizens in the form of lower taxes and charges on environmentally friendly transport; this is also what the committee decided.

We are agreed that the upper limit for emissions should be below 100%, because this is about reducing and not just stabilising CO2 levels. In addition, the Committee on the Environment has decided to introduce a multiplier of two, in order to take nitrogen oxide emissions into account. If the Commission makes a proposal – which is then adopted – as to an alternative way to deal with nitrogen oxides, then this multiplier can be dropped, but for now, we need it. Furthermore, it is also very important to bring in an efficiency clause, and the Committee on the Environment has also decided on this. The goals that the airlines set themselves for improving efficiency must be achieved, and the aviation industry must not be able to simply buy its way out.

Ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow there will be some very close voting in some areas. There are some points on which we do not all agree. On behalf of my group – not as the rapporteur – I can say that the Committee on the Environment has gone too far at some points. For example, we shall not support a cap of 75%, and we should still like to obtain relief for small and medium-sized enterprises. The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats will vote in favour of the report in any case, and I believe that Parliament as a whole will give a clear signal to the Council.

We should not be satisfied with merely formulating general goals to tackle climate change, but should also implement specific legislation. We shall note with great interest whether the Council puts its words into action or whether it falls short of its own targets or even weakens the Commission proposal. The European Parliament will not accept that.

(Applause)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Alain Lipietz (Verts/ALE ), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs . (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, rapporteur, I would first like to offer my warmest thanks to the Commission for having dared to break the aviation taboo, without waiting for the IATA decisions, and I congratulate the rapporteur for having supported this.

As draftsman for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, I will concentrate on just one point: the issue of competition.

You mentioned, Commissioner, that this directive removes an error in the regulations that favours other modes of transport over aviation. That is an excellent point.

It should not be the case that the way it is applied ends up favouring certain companies over others. Practically every one of us has, at least once this year, flown with an airline that did not exist three years ago. We cannot therefore guarantee an income to the existing companies. The greater the share allocated for distribution by auction, the better the competition will be.

 
  
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  Silvia Ciornei (ALDE ), Rapporteur for endorsement Committee on Industry, Research and Energy . – (RO) Mr. President, Mr. Commissioners, dear colleagues, as rapporteur for the ITRE opinion, I can tell you that the directive has been intensively debated in our committee as well.

We have tried to find a balance, as correct as possible, between the necessary environmental protection actions, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the necessary actions to assure the competitiveness of the European air industry and to establish equal treatment for all the airlines in the European Union.

I am glad to find proposals also made by the Committee on Industry in Mr. Liese’s report, especially regarding the simultaneous inclusion into the trading system of greenhouse gas emission shares of all arrival and departure flights in the Community and the provision of access on the market for all newly-established airplane operators.

At the same time, I have to say that I regret the solution found for establishing the total quantity of shares to be periodically distributed to airplane operators.

The 2004-2006 reporting period, accompanied by the continuous periodic decrease of the total quantity of share, does not take into consideration the fact that the aviation sector is under full development in the new Member States, thus disadvantaging the airline operators in these countries and, at the same time, it could prevent a competitive development of the European aviation sector, according to the transport requirements brought about by the economic and social development of the European Union.

I appreciate that the variant voted by the ITRE Committee, which proposes 2008-2010 as a reference period, with the possibility to change the total quantity of shares in order to take into consideration the future developments in the sector, either increasing or decreasing, better defines the necessary framework for a correct competition between the airplane operators in the European Union and for the competitiveness of the overall European economy.

I hope the vote to take place this week will be as close as possible to the line adopted by the ITRE Committee.

 
  
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  Georg Jarzembowski (PPE-DE ), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Transport and Tourism . – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we in the committees are unanimously of the opinion that the starting date for European airlines and airlines from other countries that fly into our region must be the same, for we must consider the competitiveness of our airlines. Nevertheless, at the ICAO Conference we saw that the other countries opposed this. In this respect, there is no point in having a double deadline.

In the Committee on Transport and Tourism, however, we believe that the deadline should be 2012. Commissioner, you quite rightly pointed out that aviation was excluded according under the Kyoto Protocol. In this respect, 2012 is the correct year, because this allows the best chance of convincing third countries to participate after all. It provides enough time for them to join our system or to set up an equivalent system. We cannot accept your leading role and that of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, which goes even further and wants to see 2010, because this completely overlooks the global dimension of aviation, the nature of the competition between airlines. We cannot disadvantage our airports, our airlines and employees in this area. Therefore, the best acceptable time would be 2011, but the date must apply to all airlines.

Furthermore, we must strike a balance. We want to reduce the effects on the climate of aviation, but we must also keep in mind the competitiveness of our airlines, and consider the airports and passengers – especially those from remote areas – and keep prices affordable for them.

We therefore advocate achieving a reference period soon, and having a sensible percentage for the allocation of allowances – the Committee on Transport was in favour of 110, but just under 100 would also be feasible – and a sensible percentage for the auction. There is one thing we must not do: we must not make it too expensive for our passengers in Europe from more remote areas to travel by air – so, please, let us have a gentle introduction to emissions trading.

 
  
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  John Purvis, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . – Mr President, Mr Liese has produced an excellent report. Nevertheless, as PPE-DE Group shadow on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, I support my group’s amendments, which seek what we think is a better balance between wish and reality.

In my view, the emissions trading scheme is the most cost-efficient, demand-sensitive and objective market-based instrument available for reaching Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 20% by 2020.

The aviation sector’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is growing fast, and I therefore fully support its inclusion in the emissions trading scheme.

We must have a single start date. I think 2011 is a reasonable compromise between the different dates we have before us. And with this, Europe will lead the way strongly for the rest of the world.

The amount of allowances allocated by auctioning should be set at a reasonably high and increasing level, in order to avoid the disadvantages for competition which are associated with grandfathering and benchmarking. Auctioning is much more economically efficient; it encourages new entrants, innovation, and the reduction of emissions through technological and operational improvements. The revenues generated from the auctioning of allowances should be reinvested in R&D in the aviation industry.

There is much potential for technological innovation, to reduce the sector’s CO2 emissions. Furthermore, the single European sky, which the Commission mentioned, when fully implemented will reduce CO2 emissions by up to 12%, and this should be put into operation with urgency.

In our amendments we have highlighted the importance of giving special consideration to remote and isolated regions. Now we can only hope that the Council will respond positively to Parliament’s insistent wake-up call.

 
  
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  Matthias Groote, on behalf of the PSE Group . – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to start by thanking the rapporteur, Mr Liese, for his fair and constructive cooperation over the last few months.

The inclusion of aviation in emissions trading is the first legislative procedure after the Spring Summit, at which the Heads of State or Government set some ambitious goals. We in the European Parliament have also put the topic right at the top of our political agenda by setting up the Temporary Committee on Climate Change. Experts and climate researchers have reminded us in hearings in the Committee on Climate Change that we must reverse the trend in CO2  emissions in the next 8 to 10 years. After that, emissions must not increase any further; instead, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced so that global warming can be kept to less than two degrees.

The starting date of 1 January 2010 that was voted on in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has central significance. We need to have 2010 as the starting date because there is no time to waste in combating climate change and the ‘braking distance’ in climate change matters is very long and increases with the passing of time.

As far as the Commission draft is concerned, that is, the distinction between flights within Europe and intercontinental flights, I must say that I am very glad – Mr Jarzembowski mentioned this – that we in Parliament are agreed that we want one single starting date.

As well as the time-related components, the upper limit for the emissions allowances to be issued is very significant. Here we need to proceed realistically and be ambitious. Capping emissions from aviation at 80% of the 2004-2006 figure is a good and fair approach. This capping is necessary so that the 87% increase from aviation between 1990 and 2004 does not undermine the reduction in other industrial sectors. To ensure that allowances fetch an appropriate price so that the emissions trading scheme can be effective, the proportion of allowances to be auctioned off must be much higher than the Commission has proposed.

Therefore, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament suggests increasing the proportion of emissions allowances to be auctioned to 25%. As far as revenues from auctioning off the allowances are concerned, the Member States should use these for measures to adjust to climate change and for the fight against climate change, both within and outside the European Union.

Another important matter: all aircraft upwards of a take-off weight of 5.7 tonnes must be included in the emissions trading scheme. Tomorrow we shall vote on an amendment that provides for only aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of more than 20 tonnes to be included. Our aim must not be to leave business jets out of the emissions trading scheme while fully including aircraft carrying holidaymakers.

I should like to think that tomorrow we shall be bold in moving towards more climate protection, and I hope that tomorrow we shall set it in motion.

 
  
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  Holger Krahmer, on behalf of the ALDE Group . – (DE) Mr President, my thanks in the first instance to the two rapporteurs on this topic, Mr Liese and Mr Jarzembowski, who evidently did not always have a smooth ride together on this topic. Together with investment in new technologies and the creation of further infrastructure, emissions trading can make an important contribution to the reduction of CO2  emissions in aviation. In doing so, emissions trading must allow growth rather than hindering it. It should provide incentives to renew fleets and create more efficient, more modern aircraft.

The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is making the case for including all airlines in a single starting date of 2011. In our view, the emissions from 2004-2006 should serve as a basis. This rewards those airlines that have updated and modernised their fleet in the past. My group proposes setting the cap at 90%. This is ambitious, more ambitious than the Commission’s proposal, but not excessive. A maximum of 30% of the allowances should be auctioned off, in our opinion, to make it easier for new operators to enter the market.

The revenues from the auction should primarily be used by the aviation sector to reduce emissions. We are also in favour of increasing the take-off weight to 20 tonnes, because we want to keep the bureaucratic hurdles for small operators to a minimum. I make the case for including aviation in a trading system that is as open and efficient as possible. Limiting how credits can be used makes no sense ecologically. Just as every gram of CO2 emitted must be regarded in the same way, the reduction of emissions, too, has the same effect everywhere. There are good economic reasons for unlimited, flexible access to credits if emissions can be reduced elsewhere less expensively.

Aviation is vitally important to Europe’s economic growth. Globalisation is unthinkable without airlines that are competitive. In future, people will want to fly more, not less, not only in Europe but also, in particular, to other parts of the world; we have to acknowledge this.

The EU is single-handedly deciding to include aviation in emissions trading and is making both friends and enemies internationally in the process. If we Europeans want to lead the way in climate politics, we have to ask ourselves not only how far we should go but also how we can take everyone else with us. This question will come up again in Bali. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to distance ourselves from insular EU solutions in climate policy.

 
  
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  Guntars Krasts, on behalf of the UEN Group . – (LV) Thank you, Mr President. Greenhouse gas emission trading is the correct response for reducing gas emissions in aviation. However we need to carefully evaluate the terms for introducing quotas in order to avoid distortion of competition for the Member States’ aviation companies and EU residents’ travel opportunities. The majority of air carriers in the new EU Member States are lagging far behind the aviation companies in the older Member States, in terms of both the number of passengers carried and greenhouse gas emission volumes per capita. It is difficult to evaluate the extent of the future growth of air carriers in the new EU Member States, but I am in no doubt that in order to balance the mobility indicators for residents of the Member States, transport volumes in the newer Member States must grow significantly. It will hamper the equalisation of EU residents’ mobility if terms are not laid down in the rules for greenhouse gas emission trading to specify how rapidly growing aviation companies will be able to continue their growth, so that the resources spent on the acquisition of emission quotas do not act as a brake on their development. Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has supported the proposal to create a reserve for new aircraft operators, and this is the right approach. However, in order to ensure that aircraft operators with varying initial positions and growth trends, are treated equally, we ought to reserve part of the quotas for aircraft operators with rapidly growing capacity. Growth that exceeds the average EU annual rate of growth in passenger numbers by a factor of at least two could be taken as an indicator of rapid growth in capacity. Both of these proposals are vital for fostering competition in the EU air carrier industry. Thank you.

 
  
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  Caroline Lucas, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group . – Mr President, I should like to thank Mr Liese for his excellent cooperation and congratulate him on his work.

However, I have to say that I appreciated his work a lot more before he had to seek compromises within his political group, which, if adopted, would substantially weaken the position taken by an overwhelming majority in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety just last month. That matters, because we have to substantially strengthen the Commission’s original proposal if we are to have any real chance of seriously reducing the impact of aviation on our climate. According to the Commission’s own figures, all its proposals are currently going to achieve is that, by 2020, instead of aviation emissions growing by 83% under a do-nothing scenario, they would grow instead by 78%. That reduction is the equivalent of less than one year’s growth in air travel. That is not serious, it is not ambitious, it is not global leadership.

To achieve emission reductions via trading relies crucially on scarcity of permits. Since aviation emissions have already doubled since 1990, to call for an initial allocation equivalent to average emissions over the period 2004-2006, or even 80-90% of that, is simply too generous. I therefore urge you to support my Group’s amendments for an initial allocation that is 50% of that amount. We also need 100% auctioning so that there are no windfall profits at the expense of the passenger.

Finally, I urge you to vote against the ALDE Group’s frankly scandalous amendment, which seeks to remove the restrictions on access to clean development mechanism and joint implementation project credits, not just for aviation but for all sectors in the ETS. Removing such limits provides an open invitation to business as usual. Aviation and the other industries will be able to continue to increase their emissions without constraint by merely buying up the supposed reductions made elsewhere, and, considering recent reports that up to half of reductions from CDM and JI projects are questionable, this will fundamentally undermine the integrity of the entire scheme.

Tomorrow the European Parliament faces a serious test of whether it really wants to take real action on climate change, and, if it is going to show genuine leadership, then it needs to support the Green amendments.

 
  
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  Bairbre de Brún, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group . – (GA) As the shadow rapporteur for the GUE/NGL Group, Jens Holm, is absent, please accept his apologies for the fact that he cannot be here with us for tonight’s debate. It now falls to me to outline the GUE/NGL view.

It is time for airlines to become involved in the efforts to combat climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation have doubled since 1990 and account for between 5% and 12% of carbon dioxide emissions in the EU as a whole.

The EU’s leaders committed themselves in March of this year to achieving a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions – compared with the 1990 level – by 2020. We now have an opportunity to show the wider world that we will meet those targets.

The Commission proposal recommends that the aviation sector should not have to comply with the average for the years 2004 to 2006. That is more than 90% above the 1990 level. The Commission is also recommending that auctioning should account for no more than about 3% of the allowances. Airlines will have no incentive to lower their levels themselves if they can get their carbon emission permits free of charge. The auction percentage should be 100% – as we ourselves as well as the Greens are advocating – since this would be consistent with the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

The GUE/NGL Group believes that the proportion of allowances to be allocated should be 20% of the average for the years 2004 to 2006; this would limit the amount of allowances that the aviation sector could buy from other sectors or under the ETS scheme; and the auction rate could rise to 100%.

Airlines are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and throughout the world. It is time to put an end to special treatment and take into account the impact on the environment and on climate change.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (SV) Mr President, climate change is a transboundary environmental problem and the EU is an important actor in the global climate work. Emissions are rising globally and time is short. The Swedish June List therefore supports the main thrust of the proposal we are debating this evening.

Integrating aviation into the EU’s emissions trading scheme is an obvious and cost-effective step in the climate work. However, it is not the trading in itself that leads to reduced emissions, but the total emissions ceiling which we choose to establish. The scheme needs to be broadened to include other climate-impacting sectors in order to achieve the climate goals we have set ourselves.

We are in favour of the Committee’s proposal of a single start date for the Directive. It is unacceptable that the Commission has allowed itself to be influenced by international political pressure aimed at delaying the climate work and distorting competition. The Directive should also apply to everyone. We cannot allow exceptions for particular persons or events. Our Heads of State must pay for their costs like the rest of us. Anything else would be unreasonable.

Finally, I would like to point out that common environmental goals should not be used as a means to introduce a common tax policy. The revenues from the action should not be transferred to the EU as proposed by Amendment 14. Each Member State must be allowed to decide for itself how to use the revenues from the sale of emission allowances.

 
  
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  Roger Helmer (NI ). – Mr President, we propose to bring a new industry, aviation, into the European emissions trading system (ETS), yet that system is spectacularly failing. It has not reduced carbon emissions at all, yet it has created a whole new stratum of bureaucracy, administration and expense for industry. It has transferred large sums of money from countries which have been responsible with initial allocations to those which have been profligate, notably from Britain to France and Germany. Within Britain it has had the perverse effect of transferring funds from hospitals to big oil companies.

The ETS has created a complex web of politically influential vested interests and rent seekers who have lobbied to manipulate the system for their own ends. The Commission’s plans to get tough over allocations will simply move the problem on. With lax limits on allocations bought in from outside Europe, EU funds will flow to countries like China, where regulation is minimal and records may not be accurate. So big foreign polluters will make vast profits for little effort, great damage will be done to European economies and CO2 emissions will continue unchecked. Mr President, it is quite simply scandalous that we propose to bring a new industry into this failing system. I say to you that you must put your own house in order before you think of extending it.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE-DE ).(DE) Mr President, it is always interesting to hear how some Members refuse to accept reality. I find the Commission proposal good. I also believe that Mr Liese has further improved it. This is a classic case of the internalising of external costs.

Markets can function only if we create the right framework conditions. We have all undertaken to apply the ‘polluter pays’ principle, but this also means that those who bring the costs into being must also pay the price. This means including all costs, and that includes the environmental costs brought about by the CO2  emissions of aircraft. I also believe that we must bring more courage and ambition to this matter. We all know that for all of us, including many people in the United Kingdom, doing nothing in this case would be much more expensive than taking this step.

However, we must also be fair. All sectors must contribute to this system. We know that CO2  emissions at a great height have a much more damaging effect than CO2  emissions on the ground. This must also be taken into account when we are talking about including these aircraft emissions. In addition, this is a sector that is characterised by very high growth rates. Secondly, we must also say that we have the potential to introduce various management measures to further limit these CO2  emissions. That must also be taken into account.

The Community has an obligation to function as a role model in the international arena. We cannot expect other countries to get on board if we are not setting a good example. I also believe that we have significant opportunities here to build on the competitive advantage in this particular sector that we already have to some degree, so we should provide innovative companies, in particular, with the support they require.

 
  
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  Dorette Corbey (PSE ). (NL) Mr President, first of all, my compliments to Mr Liese, who has prepared a superb report. My compliments also to our shadow rapporteur, Mr Groote.

Aviation, like other sectors, must make a contribution to the fight against climate change. We cannot achieve the climate objective of a 20 or 30% reduction by 2020 unless everyone makes a contribution. The aviation industry is utterly opposed to receiving excessively tough action, but we hear this from all sectors, and if we appease everyone, absolutely nothing will come of our climate policy.

Thus, it is a good thing that the Commission wants to bring aviation within the ETS, but it has been rather too generous in terms of the number of emission allowances it plans to allocate to the sector. In my opinion, 80% of emissions should really be the upper limit. The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety rightly wants to see a gradual decrease in this ceiling, in line with the European climate objective of a 20 or 30% reduction.

Aircraft operators have promised a 50% increase in the efficiency of aircraft engines. The Committee on the Environment intends to hold them to this, and that is a good thing: the more economical the better.

A third important point concerns the auctioning of allowances. In my view, as many as possible should be auctioned: 25% is really the minimum. The proceeds of the auction must go towards combating climate change and, in particular, to adapting developing countries to climate change. The least developed countries make hardly any contribution to climate change but have to suffer its gravest consequences. This legislation enables us to do something about this.

 
  
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  Chris Davies (ALDE ). – Mr President, I have here a letter from General Motors complaining about Parliament’s position on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cars. I have another letter from British Airways – another bit of special pleading – complaining about this measure and how the extra costs will mean it will be more difficult for them to invest in the lower carbon technology in planes that they wish to have.

I do not believe a word of these letters! Just special pleading from one industry after another. Have none of these executives read the United Nations report? This report says that, within 20 years, up to two billion people will face severe water scarcity, partly because of climate change. We have to do something about this. Michael O’Leary of Ryanair may be the unacceptable face of public relations for the airline industry, but he speaks a lot of truth when he says, very clearly, that he does not give a toss for the environment so long as he can stuff his pockets and those of his company full of gold.

Well, we have to provide some balance. We have to ensure and facilitate the position of our constituents who enjoy travel, but we also have to make sure that the concerns for the environment are properly addressed.

Now, this measure here goes a small way towards slowing the spectacular growth of the airline industry. It will encourage the industry to invest in abatement measures. It will ensure that at least the basic principle that the polluter pays should be incorporated into our approach.

But above all we have to ensure that we have a cap which encourages measures to be taken, a cap which, I think, must be at least a little bit more ambitious than that currently proposed by the Commission.

 
  
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  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski (UEN ). – (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, may I thank all the rapporteurs. We are faced with a complex problem. On the one hand we have environmental considerations relating to our atmosphere, while on the other we have to contend with the development of air travel, an important source of economic activity, embracing transport and tourism and operated in a very competitive market.

Decisions on this matter must be prudent and unambiguous, but in no case should they discriminate against European carriers, including those from the new Member States. This could be very damaging to European aviation without achieving the goal of a reduction in harmful gas emissions. It is obvious that the earth’s atmosphere knows no borders. Inclusion of carbon dioxide emissions from civil aviation in the EU scheme must therefore be recognised as legitimate.

In addition, I am of the opinion that we should take account of emissions of other gases too, such as toxic oxides of nitrogen. I feel that the most important actions are those that will effectively restrict harmful gas emissions through the use of innovative solutions in the aircraft engine sphere, the design of aircraft with better aerodynamic parameters, and a radical improvement in air traffic control that limits unnecessary time spent airborne. I see emissions trading at this time as something of a substitute. I would see it as sensible today to accept a baseline period of 2007-2009, to set an emissions ceiling at a level of between 5 to 10% over 100% in view of the rising interest in flying, and to include in addition non-EU carriers operating within the EU.

 
  
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  Umberto Guidoni (GUE/NGL ). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, climate change is one of the most serious problems we face. If we want to safeguard our future, we can no longer ignore the environmental question and we must be ready to change our lifestyles, particularly in terms of mobility.

Transport is one of the sectors that contributes most to energy consumption and the one that relies most on the use of fossil fuels. Within this sector, aviation is playing an increasing role. In 2004, greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft in the EU rose by 87% compared with 1990. Europe is responsible for around half of CO2 emissions from aviation. This trend is no longer sustainable and it is essential that we take proper measures, for example by cancelling the tax benefits for this industry.

I believe that the Commission’s proposal for a directive on emissions quotas for aviation is a vital tool for tackling head-on the problems relating to climate change and we welcome the report by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety that reinforces the original directive.

However, and it is important to underline this, we need to maintain some qualifying points in the debate and vote that will be held tomorrow. Of these, I think the Community emissions trading system should apply to all flights, both to and from the EU. This cannot be put off until after 2010.

It is also important that a significant proportion of quotas are allocated by auction and the proceeds of these must be used to subsidise the cleanest forms of transport, for example by abolishing taxes on environmentally-friendly transport, in order to create low-cost tourism that uses less polluting forms of transport such as trains. We also need to encourage research into more efficient aircraft engines and more effective air traffic management.

I hope Parliament will not devalue the compromise put forward, which will allow Europe to become a leader in the fight against climate change.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM ). (NL) Mr President, I am speaking here on behalf of my colleague Mr Blokland.

The proposal to incorporate aviation into the emissions trading scheme should be a clear signal from the European Union of the need to contribute to the ambitious reduction targets agreed at the start of this year. In the light of this, the parliamentary committee responsible has endorsed the Commission proposal and even pushed for it to be tightened up.

Last week it seemed we were on course to reach an agreement at first reading. This hope was reinforced by the Council Presidency but proved to be unfounded, as no mandate could be obtained from the Council.

This week it is important, in my opinion, that we do not settle for a dilution of the Commission proposal but strive for a proposal with clear ambitions in order to be consistent with the course charted this spring with regard to emission reduction. Thus, I wholeheartedly support the course charted by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE ).(DE) Mr President, I agree with the points that almost all the other Members made. I say ‘almost’ all the Members, and will concentrate, therefore, on three formal aspects.

Point 1: We do it over and over again in this Parliament, and today we are doing it again: we relegate important legislative proposals to the evening sitting. That way, we ensure that as few people as possible are listening and that, with only a very few exceptions, there is nobody sitting in the visitors’ gallery, and we ensure that journalists, who should be reporting all this, are most likely already giving their attention to other things in the evening.

Secondly, we are always hearing, and we have heard in this debate too, that we, the European Parliament, have to stick our necks out at first reading and take particularly demanding positions, as the Council will subsequently put the brakes on anyway, and in the end we shall not get where we want to go. I caution against this position: it was true for a long time but is increasingly no longer the case. We saw it in relation to the air-quality regulations, for example, where there have been and still are initiatives where the Heads of State or Government, and even the Ministers for the Environment, have gone a long way with us even at first reading. With the results we have decided upon, that will mean that in 10 to 15 years, in Central Europe, we shall have to cordon off all cities between Nuremberg and Bologna because we cannot keep within the values that have been set.

Thirdly, here in the European Parliament, we must implement a viable working relationship to achieve sensible joint solutions. In what has occurred in relation to this Directive over the past weeks and months, I see a successful path and a successful attempt to do that. Environmental, transport, economic and industrial matters are not yet included in a wise compromise, but they will be, I believe, after the result of tomorrow’s vote. Now all we have to do is persuade the rest of the world to join in and do something for the environment.

 
  
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  Eluned Morgan (PSE ). – Mr President, first of all, I would like to say that it is lovely it is to see Mr Dimas back.

It is pretty much accepted that the carbon emissions in relation to aviation are currently a very small proportion of the overall carbon emissions of the EU. But you would have to be a fool not to see the incredible growth in the sector in recent years and to recognise that the industry’s own plans for expansion are enormous. Currently, the technology for alternative, less polluting fuels are limited in relation to aviation. This is why it makes absolute sense to accept that aviation is likely to continue to grow, but we need to ensure that this growth is offset in other sectors of the economy which do have alternatives in terms of reducing carbon emissions. That is why it is essential that aviation is brought into the emissions trading scheme (ETS).

I would also like to underline the point that the EU has a principle that it is the polluter who should pay. Under the current ETS, far from the polluter paying, we have seen many polluters making windfall profits thanks to the ETS. This has to stop. It is right, therefore, that many of these carbon creators should be auctioned, especially when the wholesale reform happens.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this debate is the question of where ETS auction money should be spent. In the forthcoming ETS review, there is potentially EUR 200 billion which could be raised if we went for full auctioning. I am sure many of us could think of countless ways to spend that kind of money, but I believe it would be sensible if we could steer this money via the EU budget, if possible, to spend on climate change initiatives which could include transfers of finance to the developing world including, for example, to pay for reforestation in developing or emerging countries.

But, also, there needs to be recognition that even in our own Member States we are likely to see a huge increase in terms of energy poverty. Perhaps we should think about steering the money in this direction as well. So the decisions we make tomorrow will give an indication of where we should go, in terms of the ETS reform as a whole.

 
  
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  Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (ALDE ). (NL) Mr President, instead of all manner of ineffectual taxes and charges, the Commission is proposing the present market-based instrument; a choice I endorse wholeheartedly. It is environmentally effective, economically efficient and eminently suitable for broader application; at least, it has the potential to be all of these things.

It became clear quite early on that opinions in this House are somewhat divided. The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety ended up diametrically opposed to the Committee on Transport and Tourism. My colleague Mr Krahmer has said all that needs to be said about that. Compromise amendments have now been drawn up, and tomorrow’s vote will show whether or not emotion leads the way.

Climate issues are hot, and voting Green is extremely sexy. There is not so much wrong with that in itself, but as I see it, a stranglehold on the European aviation sector and the associated employment cannot be the intention.

I consider it counterproductive to attempt to artificially diminish one particular mode of transport, in this case aviation, in favour of another. All the evidence suggests that demand for high-speed transport outstrips supply. We need all modes of transport; we really cannot manage with trains and buses alone.

The aim was to develop a model that was as workable as possible and could be extended and/or copied worldwide – and, yes, if we really want to be environmentally effective, the latter is of vital importance.

If not, our efforts will remain just a tiny drop in the proverbial ocean, and that is what I should like to avoid. Mr Rack put it so aptly when he said just now that, to be effective, we have to persuade the rest of the world, as only then will our action be of any use.

 
  
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  Sérgio Marques (PPE-DE ).(PT) Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as a Member elected for one of the seven outermost regions, I must inform this House of the immense concern in those regions regarding the implementation of the directive under discussion. That is for one simple reason: the outermost regions are almost exclusively dependent on air transport and any increase in the price of that service, which would inevitably arise from the implementation of the directive, will make access more difficult, increasing their isolation, which was a determining factor in granting the outermost regions special status at European level, as enshrined in Article 299(2) of the EC Treaty.

On the other hand, the increase in air transport costs will result in an even greater competitive disadvantage for those regions, penalising tourism, the main economic activity for the majority of them. We can expect a reduction in the number of tourists and/or in the amount each of them spends, which could lead to a drop of at least 2% in GDP according to studies carried out by the Government of the Canary Islands. Yet improving the accessibility of outermost regions to reduce their isolation, and promoting their competitiveness, are two of the three major EU policy priorities for the outermost regions set out in the Commission communication, ‘A stronger partnership for the outermost regions’, which Parliament fully supported. We have to highlight how contrary to and inconsistent with those priorities the implementation of this directive will be.

I think that, for the first time we have before us an EU legislative act which would have the effect of increasing the isolation of these regions. Certainly Amendments 5 and 6 tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats following a compromise between the rapporteur, Mr Liese – whom I must congratulate on his excellent work – and Mr Jarzembowski and Mrs De Veyrac, do to some extent offset the effects of the directive, but they are not enough. I therefore call on the three institutions to try to find better solutions, in the next stages of the legislative process, to lessen the impact of this directive on the outermost regions.

 
  
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  Ulrich Stockmann (PSE ).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the rapidly growing aviation sector must be integrated into the emissions trading scheme as quickly as possible. That will mean that this form of transport also starts making a contribution to the reduction of the anthropogenic greenhouse effect.

From the point of view of transport policy, our legislative task now is to refine the framework conditions. These framework conditions must be defined in such a way that the possible impetus for savings is provided via an appropriate price per tonne of CO2 , without drastically limiting the number of flights. To achieve this, when the airlines are first issued with allowances, for example, this must be done in such a way that the lack of such allowances can be realistically balanced out on the market, otherwise flights would have to be cancelled, and I do not know how much of that we and our society could cope with. Even if airlines were issued with 100% allowances upon entering the scheme – and none of us is asking for that – an annual growth in aviation of 5% would require an equally high volume of savings in terms of CO2  emissions. That is no small challenge.

The greatest potential for reduction is in the realisation of the Single European Sky, which means that it depends on the political will of the Member States. The airlines’ only option for the time being, therefore, is to update their fleets, if there is sufficient capital left over for this purpose after the planned auction sums are taken into account. That will hardly be the case for regional airlines.

 
  
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  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE ). – Mr President, bearing in mind that politics is the art of the possible and that sometimes the best can be the enemy of the good, I would like to thank my colleague Mr Liese for the tremendous effort he has put in to reach a position – an agreement – not least amongst all of us in the PPE-DE Group but also with colleagues across this House.

International aviation is outside Kyoto obligations, and the complete lack of progress in ICAO over the 10 years that they have been mandated to address emissions makes it important that the EU takes the lead. The proposed emissions trading scheme should apply to all flights, including from third countries, from a common start date for competitiveness reasons.

I would now like to concentrate the remainder of my two minutes on one point that I do not think any other colleague has raised. It is a point that is a very serious national problem for Ireland.

Under the proposal, fungibility or convertibility of aviation allowances to Kyoto allowances free of charge is proposed. An airline may demand conversion of its aviation allowances to these Kyoto-backed allowances, and the issuing Member State must comply. This is a huge problem for us in Ireland, because, if airlines were to convert free of charge, we would have to replace these Kyoto allowances by those that the Irish state would have to buy on the market at full market price.

The Irish registry will carry a disproportionate share of flights on our books due to the size and geographic spread of some airlines, as the airlines, particularly Ryanair, are registered with the Irish Aviation Authority for all of their EU operations. The success of Ryanair means that they have 20 operational bases across the EU serving almost 130 destinations and, yes, increasing. But they operate only a small proportion of those flights in Ireland.

I would like the Commission specifically to say whether it will accept Amendment 47, which deletes those particularly difficult sentences.

The polluter-pays principle cannot be interpreted to mean that the Irish taxpayer pays for pollution in our fellow EU Member States.

 
  
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  Riitta Myller (PSE ). – (FI) Mr President, urgent action is needed to fight climate change and, just as has been said here, all industries that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have to be involved in that action. Aviation cannot be given a free ride. The greenhouse gases from air traffic are increasing fast. This is important to remember, as it is often said that air traffic only accounts for two or three per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. As said before, greenhouse gas emissions from aviation have increased by as much as a half since 1990.

The idea now to include air traffic in emissions trading is specifically an EU proposal. The purpose is also to establish a global system over the longer term, one where air traffic also shares the burden. We might now learn a lesson from the drawbacks of the general emissions trading directive and increase the proportion of auctioned allowances in the initial allocation of rights. The initial allocation, and the system as a whole, must encourage a reduction in emissions, so that short air journeys are replaced with train journeys, and that would suit especially well those regions with a dense urban network and population. On the other hand, we have problems in areas where there are fewer inhabitants and which are a long way from urban centres, and it is important that the European system should take account of remote areas in a balanced way.

 
  
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  Corien Wortmann-Kool (PPE-DE ). (NL) Mr President, by introducing emissions trading into aviation, Europe shows ambition, the ambition to tackle CO2 emissions and combat climate change. After all, nowhere in the world to date – not even in California – has such an ambitious approach been proposed. Even compared to the emissions trading scheme for industry, this is a very ambitious plan.

However, what did our Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety do? It tightened up this proposal considerably on the key points, and thus we have flown past our objective. Europe must show leadership, but leadership means not only taking the lead, but also persuading others, winning them over – and this in the extremely competitive environment of international aviation. Therefore, the new regime should on no account lead to high costs and bureaucracy, particularly for Europe’s airlines, but there must be a gain for the climate. A net climate benefit must emerge, preferably worldwide.

I am pleased, therefore, that amendments have now been tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats and also by the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, which I expect to steer us onto a realistic course tomorrow. This is necessary in order to promote cleaner flying in practice, too, as having to go through the bureaucratic mill of an auction – even with clean aircraft – is hardly salutary. As regards the number of available allowances, too, I look forward to a more realistic outcome tomorrow.

However, this proposal alone will certainly not suffice. The Commission and the European Parliament must stand shoulder to shoulder to bring about the Single European Sky, as five times more environmental gain is to be achieved from that.

Mr President, I hope that we can step up the pressure on Member States in this regard, too, as only then can we make a real difference to the climate.

 
  
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  Robert Evans (PSE ). – Mr President, tonight, for once, Parliament really can lead the way in protecting the environment. I think, as Mr Belder said, the Commission was really a bit timid in its original proposal. The European public, I think, will be looking to this Parliament to set the highest standards and ambitious targets.

As a member of the Committee on Transport, and along with my colleagues in the PSE Group, I did not support Mr Jarzembowski’s line that was pushed through with, I regret to say, the support of the Liberal Group, the ALDE Group. We wanted to strengthen the original proposal, not to water it down.

So I say congratulations to Mr Liese for his report, and I quote, ‘we do not just inherit this planet from our ancestors, our parents, we borrow it from our children’. And, like Ms Lucas, I appeal to all the groups in this Parliament to think about how they vote tomorrow; be prepared to compromise, be sensible, be realistic, but above all, be positive, because Parliament has a chance to be at the forefront of protecting the environment for 500 million citizens and their descendants.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE-DE ).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, many thanks to the rapporteur, Mr Liese, for his good report, and to Mr Jarzembowski. I believe that, overall, the compromises are very workable. Politics often depends on symbols, and we are sending a clear signal here: it is the first legislative proposal since the Spring Summit. Thus we are beginning actively to implement climate protection.

The seven key points of this report – the commencement of emissions trading, the reference period, the number of permits, the use of the proceeds, exceptions for smaller aircraft and the method of calculation – have, in my view, been sufficiently and reliably addressed in the compromises. I do not wish for any derogations, although I do believe a special additional arrangement for the outermost regions is required, so that these areas are not disadvantaged.

I believe that the proposal is very good and that competition has been sufficiently acknowledged. We should not forget: even if 100% of the allowances are auctioned – purely theoretically, as we have just heard – that is a sum of EUR 2 billion, definitely a manageable sum for the airlines, which will, no doubt, have an effect on the setting of prices. However, I do not envisage any problems with this, including in connection with the large number of flights.

I should like to see the EU push further ahead with this in the context of climate protection, and I hope that we can convince all the other major competing airlines to join this agreement.

 
  
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  Gyula Hegyi (PSE ). – Mr President, civil aviation seemed to be a luxury in the past, when mostly the rich and the so-called jet society used the advantages of quick flights. Nowadays, at least in the European Union, civil aviation is a necessary part of our life, without which the Parliament and the Council simply could not work. If the distance from Brussels is more than 1 000 km, there is no realistic alternative to flights in the absence of rapid trains.

With the accession of the new Member States and the boom in low-fare airlines, we have two or three times more flights than before the enlargement of the EU. International aviation is not yet covered by the Kyoto Protocol. However, direct emissions from aviation account for about 3% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and this is increasing fast. I think that the quantity of the three allowances should have been based on the emission rate per capita of greenhouse gases in the different Member States, as there are large differences between them. I feel that it is unfair that western European countries have the right to emit around three times more greenhouse gas from aviation as Hungary and other new Member States. I think this principle should be applied in other environmental policies requiring a total amount of decrease instead of a percentage decrease. Otherwise, those who polluted less in the past will be punished.

 
  
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  Christofer Fjellner (PPE-DE ). – (SV) Aviation must pay for its environmental costs, and therefore this proposal is good. Aviation cannot be exempt from environmental costs which other means of transport pay. But I have a problem with the frenzy against aviation permeating this debate as if it were the greatest environmental villain and the best thing would be if we stopped flying completely. That is quite simply not true. Aviation accounts for five per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. A full aircraft uses less fuel per passenger kilometre than a car. It can and must be made even better, but through us making tough demands on the aviation industry which drive developments forward, not through us stopping flying.

Travelling and meeting people from other parts of the world is important. I am convinced that Ryanair has done more for understanding among the peoples of Europe that the EU’s cultural projects together. Less travel must therefore not be an end in itself. Isolating people takes us back in history to a dark period.

The Commission’s proposal is heading in the right direction, but it has a cynical perspective – that it is someone else who should fly less. An attempt has been made to exempt flights by Heads of State or Government, while at the same time citizens are required to act responsibly. Proposals like this cause politicians to be held in well-deserved contempt, and I am glad that we on the Committee on the Environment have removed these particular formulations.

Equally cynical is how a number of Left colleagues are demanding that we reduce aviation by more than half in only a matter of years. Those who make such proposals are unlikely themselves to take the train from, for example, Stockholm to Brussels. It is as if their own journeys are invaluable but others travel just for fun.

With that kind of irresponsible proposal it will be ordinary people who are forced to pay, not politicians and corporate executives, where someone else picks up the bill. It will be students who can no longer afford to study abroad in order to go out and see the world. It will be grandmothers up in Norrland who will not be able to see their grandchildren in the city so often. It takes us back to a time in the 1980s when an SAS cabin consisted only of corporate executives, politicians and union bosses.

Instead we shall vote tomorrow for tough but realistic demands on the aviation industry which force them to pay for their environmental costs, which force the development of better and more environmentally friendly aircraft technology, but which above all make it possible to prioritise, to compare aviation with the real carbon dioxide villains, like coal-fired power stations. The important thing is that emissions are reduced, not flying.

 
  
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  Emanuel Jardim Fernandes (PSE ). – (PT) Mr President, whilst agreeing with the Commission’s and the rapporteur’s proposal, I should like to draw your attention to the fact that it is not in line with Parliament’s objectives set out specifically in the report on reducing the climate change impact of aviation; I would draw attention especially to the situation of the most isolated territories which are particularly dependent on air transport, especially the outermost regions.

Nor does it follow the line of the question raised by the Commission itself in its communication of last September on a ‘Strategy for the Outermost Regions’. I quote: ‘What measures are needed to prevent the aim of reducing emissions from adversely affecting the accessibility, economy and citizens of the ORs?’ In voting for Amendments 99 and 100 supported by the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Parliament will be addressing the issues raised through possibly setting up an impact assessment and suitable mediating measures to ensure that the outermost regions are included in the emissions trading scheme in the future – a necessary step that must be done in an appropriate way and guarantee environmental and economic sustainability and mobility in those regions, which are totally dependent on air transport due to their geographical situation.

 
  
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  Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE-DE ). – (PL) Mr President, today we are discussing a draft resolution on the inclusion of European civil aviation in the EU’s emissions trading scheme. In my view, this very important draft was drawn up in haste, without proper consultation with the aviation industry, especially representatives of the new Member States, and without analysis of the economic and social consequences of its introduction, as well as from the aspect of environmental protection and of the consequences for civil aviation and the threat to Europe’s economic development, for example in the sphere of tourism, which is the main source of income for very many regions.

The draft also constitutes a threat to the competitiveness of airlines and may cause a radical deterioration in the already difficult financial situation of many European aviation companies. I therefore think that the earliest start time for inclusion of the aviation sector in the scheme for all communications is 2012.

I definitely support the scheme’s so-called broad geographical scope, in other words the inclusion of all flights from and to the EU, regardless of the national attribution of the carrier. This is the only solution that guarantees that the required environmental effect is achieved and that does not expose European carriers to a drastic fall in competitiveness.

In my view, the total number of allowances allocated to the aviation sector should be set at Community level by reference to mean emission levels arising from aviation, at least for the years 2005-2007, while the emissions limit should be set at a level of 100%.

Bearing in mind the diverse positions presented during the course of our discussion and the fact that this project relates both to the environment and to the economies of all EU states, as well as to our citizens, we should take decisions that are both measured and good.

 
  
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  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE ). – Mr President, I guess I come from one of those ultra-peripheral regions, in this case called Finland. If I was not able to fly here, it would probably take me two days to get here. This is not by bike: it is by boat, car and train. That is just by way of introduction.

I think there are really six points here, and I would like to focus on one – but I will go through all six. Point number one: entry into force – I would go for the EPP-ED compromise, in other words, 2011. Caps on emission rights: for me, 95%. Reference, yes, for me: 2005-2007; auction, for me: 25%; profits: partly back to the airlines, and then partly to other good climate change causes. But for me the big issue is number 6: the allocation basis; in other words, ATK versus RTK. Now, I realise that this is a difficult issue for many, but for me it is not an environmental issue in that sense. Really, the cap has already been set. What we are talking about with ATK and RTK is the allocation between the different airlines.

Neither system is perfect, but we cannot be in a situation where airlines coming from the more peripheral areas will be punished and unequally treated in comparison to those airlines which might be based in Frankfurt, Berlin, London, Brussels or Paris. Train is not an option for us: it is that simple. The way in which climate change is going, I am afraid the only place where we are going to have snow in the winter in the future is going to be Lapland. I know that those flights might be full going up there, but they may not always be full coming down, so we have to be very careful that we do not make this into a race to the bottom. So I would urge all of my friends and colleagues tomorrow to vote on ATK rather than RTK. It is a life and death issue for the peripheral areas, but I know it is not a life and death issue for those coming from the middle.

 
  
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  President. – It remains to be seen whether Father Christmas’s sleigh will be included in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE ). – (PL) Mr President, I fly here from Kraków, where it was white over yesterday and snow had covered the entire city, so it is not so bad yet.

Protection of the natural environment and countering negative climate changes have become a challenge for the whole of humankind. As an EU citizen, I highly value involvement in the protection of the European Union’s environment. However, we should never forget the impact of legislation in this area on the European economy.

In discussing the directive on CO2 emissions in aviation today we have run up against this problem. Air transport is currently experiencing a sharp increase. This concerns the new Member States in particular, where this market is developing exceptionally rapidly, providing an increasing number of jobs. On the macro scale, this is leading to a rise in GDP.

It is consequently my view that the new Member States should have the opportunity to adapt the level of development of aviation to that of the old Member States, which could be achieved by having a very long introductory period for the directive. The new directive in its proposed form may hinder the development of this sector, which would be contrary to the policy of creating a level playing field in the Community.

A further hazard is a loss of competitiveness among European companies compared with third countries, so it is a matter of importance that the new regulations are accepted globally, not just by the European Union.

I would like to avail myself of the opinion held by scientists and comment that no development of new technologies capable of effectively reducing CO2 emission levels in aviation is anticipated. It is therefore of exceptional importance to seek restrictions on gas emissions wherever this is feasible. One effective tool is the modernisation of air traffic control, where, according to analysts, fuel consumption savings of between 6 and 12% may be achieved.

To conclude, I would like to emphasise that in conducting a pro-environment policy we should bear in mind its impact on each Member State. The baseline period should therefore, in my opinion, cover as far-reaching a period as possible, in other words the years 2007-2009.

 
  
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  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission . − Mr President, first of all I would like to thank all the speakers in tonight’s debate for their positive contributions and I would like to turn to the details of some of the amendments.

There are many amendments that are acceptable, at least in part or in principle. For example, the Commission accepts that it would be useful to require aircraft operators to develop monitoring and reporting plans. Operators in the current scheme must also do this to obtain a greenhouse gas permit. This will facilitate credible verification and thus safeguard the environmental integrity of the scheme by preventing fraud.

Other examples include the exemption of certain activities such as humanitarian or firefighting flights. However, while I fully agree that we need to get started as soon as possible, a 2010 start date would be very challenging. There would be insufficient time to complete the preparatory work and, in particular, to complete the allocation process which requires more lead time than the process used in the current system.

Regarding the scope, I have already explained why the Commission still believes a two-step approach would be helpful to convince third countries that the European Union is ready to take the lead, consistent with our special obligations as a region of developed countries.

Regarding the call for more auctioning, I am well aware that this is in line with the growing consensus about the advantages of auctioning and I expect we will soon discuss this a lot more in the context of the general ETS review. However, in the period before 2013, aviation should be treated as much as possible like other sectors.

The share of allowances auctioned should therefore be the average percentage of auctioning applicable to other sectors, as laid down in the national allocation plans for 2008-2012. What happens after 2012 should depend on the general review of the ETS.

Finally, I will share with you some concerns we have regarding amendments that relate to limits on the use of non-aviation credits, to the use of a multiplier for non-carbon dioxide effects and to an additional energy efficiency factor. These amendments all have the effect of limiting the possibility of aviation operators to use allowances, other than aviation allowances, to cover their emissions. This is not consistent with the fundamental idea of open emissions trading, which is what ensures cost-effective solutions. Moreover, these changes would complicate the scheme significantly.

The Commission’s proposal already provides aircraft operators with extra incentives to improve fuel efficiency. There is, in our view, no need for additional features that will just make it more complicated.

In summary, the Commission can support 27 of the 100 proposed amendments fully, in part or in principle. I will give Parliament’s secretariat a list detailing the Commission’s position on the amendments(1) , including Amendment 47 for which I would like to say that the Commission will maintain the provisions which foresee a change of the registry regulation, but is open to consider ways to ensure that conversion of aviation allowances does not burden Member States’ compliance with a Kyoto target.

Commission’s position on amendments by Parliament

Liese report (A6-0402/2007 )

The Commission can support fully, in part, or in principle 27 amendments: Numbers 1, 3-5, 7, 8, 10, 14, 17, 26, 29, 30, 36-38, 40, 45, 47, 49, 51-53, 57, 65, 70, 76, 79.

The amendments which the Commission cannot support are Numbers 2, 6, 9, 11-13, 15, 16, 18-25, 27, 28, 31-35, 39, 41-44, 46, 48, 50, 54-56, 58-60, 61-64, 66-69, 71-75, 77, 78, 80-100.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, from 11.30 a.m.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE-DE ), in writing . (FR) The need to act quickly and effectively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is an obvious fact that can no longer be denied. Within this context, reducing the impact of transport on global warming will play a decisive role. The text we are discussing is one of the measures taken to achieve this, and I support this initiative.

This legislation, however, will only be a success if we manage to reconcile the environmental objective with the objective of mobility for citizens, while respecting countries outside the EU.

It is therefore essential that we achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions at the lowest possible cost for passengers. What is demanded of aviation should be sufficient not to compromise the reductions achieved by other sectors but balanced enough not to penalise the growth of the aviation sector.

That is why I believe that targets for reducing CO2 emissions that are too rapid and too harsh, though laudable from a purely environmental point of view, are out of touch with reality and are in danger of having a counterproductive effect.

I hope our vote tomorrow will take account of these different parameters.

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE ), in writing . (FI) We are to introduce a unique system, with air traffic having its own climate policy instrument. Emissions trading in the area of air traffic involves risk factors, and I appeal to you all to pay attention to one or two important issues.

Although we are, with good reason, worried about increasing emissions from aviation, air traffic itself is nonetheless the future. I might even say it is inevitable for the environment. For example, according to the highly regarded MIPS survey on the overall incidence of environmental pollution, air traffic has its own benefits and would appear to be a solution for the future. Completely emissions-free aviation would thus solve the problems of emissions from transport, and that should be our priority objective.

For that reason, in the building of compromises I wanted to channel revenue from emissions trading specifically into research and development in the area of aviation. If the growth in emissions is really worrying, the available resources should be spent specifically on the development of emissions-free transport. Hopefully, the Council also understands how important this is.

On the other hand, the directive should also ensure that the Union’s peripheral regions are able to compete fairly in the emissions trading system. This is especially relevant in the matter of non-auctioned rights in the allocation system. The ATK (‘available tonne kilometre’) model, which is based on an aircraft’s maximum capacity, would be the best way to guarantee fairness in emissions trading, and would ultimately be better for the climate. This is true because the system where non-auctioned emissions rights are allocated by volume of goods and passengers would encourage the use of connecting flights and flying via cities with massive volumes of passengers.

A system meant to protect the climate should encourage a system where air fares tend to be determined more on the actual number of kilometres flown. At the moment it is frequently the case that longer, and therefore more climate-damaging flights, which also make a stop en route, are cheaper. That is not rational as far as the environment is concerned.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE-DE ), in writing . – (RO) The inclusion of aviation into the European emissions trading scheme is a positive action, emphasizing Europe’s pioneering work in combating climate changes.

The aviation emissions trading should not cause a decrease in the number of flights and an increase in prices, negative consequences for passengers, for the aviation industry and for the sustainable development of transports. Under these conditions, it is important to solve the technical causes.

The reduction in emissions can be achieved by manufacturing engines with a new design, which would ensure more efficiency in the fuel consumption, by improving the aircrafts’ aerodynamics, using new metallic alloys and composite materials for building fuselages.

We also have to take into consideration research in the field of alternative fuels. NASA has announced the launching of a programme to find solutions for improving kerosene.

Therefore, it is necessary to supplement financial resources for research and development and to encourage private investments in this field, while the funds obtained from bids within the scheme should be used in the fields of research and aeronautical innovation, which are capable of providing concrete solutions.

I also ask the Council and the Commission to continue their efforts in negotiation with the international bodies and the partner third countries in order to obtain all the necessary agreements as to avoid any international litigations in the case of enforcing these legal provisions.

 
  
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  James Nicholson (PPE-DE ), in writing . – Aviation should be brought within the scope of the Emissions Trading Scheme. The ETS has shown its worth since being set-up two years ago. It should be a useful means of ensuring that the aviation industry plays its part in the fight against climate change. However we also need to reform the scheme so that it can fulfil its role effectively.

Of course, none of us believes that this development alone is the answer to the emissions problem but it does represent a significant step in the right direction. Furthermore, it shows that the political will is there to take difficult decisions for the benefit the planet and its inhabitants. What we must also see is essential reforms of the way the emissions trading scheme works.

In all of this we must ensure that the consumer is not unfairly burdened with huge rises in the cost of flying and consider looking at other ways in which CO2 emissions from the aviation industry can be reduced. I am aware that EU Transport Ministers are currently doing this by examining ways of modernising air traffic control and introducing new systems of landing fees related to greenhouse gas emissions.

 
  
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  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE ), in writing . (HU) An ever-increasing proportion of the population of the developed world understands the threat posed by climate change. However, we need to take drastic steps if we are to reduce our emissions by 20% over 13 years.

Unfortunately, we are hardly seeing any steps to take us in this direction. It doesn’t matter which of the emitting areas we investigate, there will always be ‘voices’ that want to protect the very industry we are talking about now.

At the same time, we know that we can only meet the target that has been set if we involve every affected area in reducing emissions. If we make an exception for one, we will have to make up for it somewhere else. Which one will be the odd one out?

Air travel today is a tiny area, but one that is growing dynamically. Its growth is closely linked to the global price of raw materials, on which it does itself have great influence. We as politicians will truly support European businesses from a strategic perspective if we create an environment for them that encourages innovation.

None of this affects passengers, since the measures taken towards reducing CO2 will increase the ticket price for routes within Europe by a sum of no more than approximately EUR 1. This is a fraction of what we have to pay for anti-terrorism security measures! Together with this, however, a good-quality railway of 1000 km must compete with aviation and, to achieve this, the airlines must bear the costs to which they give rise, to the same extent as we expect it of railways and road traffic.

 
  

(1)Commission’s position on amendments by Parliament: see Annex.


22. Comitology (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the Commission statement on comitology.

 
  
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  Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission . − Mr President, the comitology reform that was decided in July 2006 introduced a ‘regulatory procedure with scrutiny’, which gives a veto right to the European Parliament on measures of general scope that amend a basic legal act adopted under codecision.

In the framework of this reform, the three institutions concluded a joint statement in which they committed themselves to adapt 26 priority basic acts to this new procedure, and the Commission adopted 26 priority alignment proposals at the end of last year. It is in our common interest to have these alignment instruments adopted as soon as possible. The Commission is therefore very pleased to see that Parliament is now ready to vote on several legislative resolutions, after having reached good and fair compromise solutions between the three institutions.

Other important dossiers will be on the agenda of another session of the European Parliament later this month, and I am confident that we will be able to settle these dossiers as well. I want to thank the rapporteurs from the different committees for their very cooperative and constructive approach.

Consequently, the whole package of the 26 priority alignment proposals could be ready for adoption before the end of this year. This would be a very good result which will pave the way to the so-called ‘general alignment’. As you know, the Commission made a commitment to review all existing codecision basic legal acts, in addition to these 26 priority acts, with a view to bringing them into line with the new regulatory procedure with scrutiny. The Commission will respect this commitment and propose this general alignment of all non-priority acts. It concerns in total more or less 220 acts. This will take the form of four to five omnibus or package proposals, the first of which should arrive in the European Parliament shortly in November. The next two omnibus proposals will follow within a couple of weeks and the final proposal just before the end of the year, or very early next year.

A third aspect of revising Parliament’s scrutiny rights is the revision of the agreement concluded in 2000 between the Commission and Parliament on comitology procedures. Here I would like to thank Parliament and, in particular, Mr Galeote and Mr Corbett for the excellent spirit of cooperation which prevailed throughout the negotiations. I would also like to thank them for recognising that the special procedures foreseen in the agreement will apply in all extremely urgent cases.

I am pleased to announce that the results of these negotiations have been politically endorsed and that the Commission will be ready to proceed to the formal adoption of the revised agreement, as soon as Parliament formally endorses the outcome of the negotiations. I am confident that the agreement we reach will help our two institutions work more efficiently in the future.

 
  
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  Alexander Radwan, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, this discussion on comitology has been going on for a long time. On the basis of the Basel II report, the European Parliament has finally won rights of scrutiny that should actually be normal in a democracy, against huge opposition from the Council and opposition from the Commission. Now we must attend to adapting the directives accordingly. Here the focus has been on the question of adapting the relevant directives – and that is understandable. The question of the extent to which we adapt the directives legislatively is certainly an important aspect.

However, the agreement between Parliament, the Commission and the Council is about how Parliament can be appropriately involved. The Commissioner expressed her hope that Parliament will adopt the relevant alignments in the current year. It is important to us that Parliament be informed about the processes in good time and that the exchange of information to Parliament via the comitology committees take place promptly. The actual implementation phase is yet to begin and time will tell whether or not this will strengthen the rights of Parliament.

The same applies to requests for urgent debate. To take one example: accounting is next on the agenda, IFRS 8. Here the procedure was that we in the comitology process were, unfortunately, only informed by the Commission at the last minute. Then we were expected to take a decision relatively quickly. The key, apart from the formal alignment process, will be whether the Commission, the relevant Directorates-General, the officials working in this area, are willing to include Parliament in the work in good time. Only then will effective scrutiny be possible. This is where it will be revealed whether the Commission as a whole is for this or not.

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès, on behalf of the PSE Group . (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, here we are, talking about comitology again. Basically it is a matter, as you said, of implementing the agreement that we all welcomed as a success when we entered into it in July 2006.

There are two aspects to it: the practical aspect, which I will not go over again, but also its translation to each of the directives and, today, we are concerned with the 26 priority directives. I am speaking in relation to those referred to the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. From that point of view, I would like to express our determination that the European Parliament’s position, when it examines these 26 priority directives, should be as coherent as possible. The same comitology agreement needs to be applied to these 26 directives, hence the idea of a parallel approach. However, as we well know, in these negotiations the devil is in the detail, and we met him during these negotiations on three particular points I would like to mention briefly.

The first point concerns something that, within the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs – but not only there – has felt like a kind of provocation. On the subject of accounting standards, an area in which the European Parliament exercises its full powers and competencies, the Commission presented a proposal that said that urgency should be applied as an automatic procedure. We did not accept this and fortunately I see that we managed to get the Commission to back down on this point and forced it to give up its demands for systematic urgency, which would have deprived Parliament of an effective right of control in an area where, on the contrary, it has demonstrated its ability to be useful, effective and relevant.

The second point is, of course, the issue of what are known as the ‘sunset clauses’ or revision clauses. The Commission and the Council really wanted these clauses to disappear. They felt that this was an inherent element of the comitology agreement made last year. In a spirit of cooperation, we have ensured that the Commission will be invited to check the efficacy and democratic functioning of the conditions of transmission of implementing powers regularly, every three years. I believe this is a good way to proceed and I see that, in the commitment the Commission agreed to sign through what is now known as a revision clause, it is invited to look at the extent of its competence and justify any changes in legislation or the absence of such changes.

The third area is obviously the issue of scope. What we see is that the Council has not always followed the Commission’s proposals, whether on transparency or prospectuses, the definition of cross-border missions or equivalences.

I do believe, however, that in a spirit of cooperation, including on the part of the Portuguese Presidency, we are reaching a result that should satisfy all the institutions and I am pleased about this.

 
  
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  Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE ). – (ES) Mr President, following the speeches from the Vice-President of the Commission and my colleague Mrs Berès, my speech is almost superfluous.

I was responsible for producing the report for the Committee on Legal Affairs and, in agreement with our fellow Members from the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, we arrived at the conclusion that the urgent procedure that the Commission was asking for in Article 6(2)(2) was unnecessary, because at the moment cooperation between Parliament and the Commission, and also the Council, is excellent.

Consequently, the report by the Committee on Legal Affairs asks for this article to be removed and adopts two further recitals, two further changes to the recitals, aimed at highlighting the flexibility of the procedure.

After the adoption of recitals 1 and 2 in committee there were negotiations between Parliament and the Commission, which Mrs Wallström referred to, and we tabled a final amendment, Amendment 4, which replaces the current Amendment 2, and establishes a formula for cooperation between the three institutions. In other words, what is important in this text is the final sentence, which says that the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament need to act diligently in order to ensure that these rules and interpretations can be adopted in time, in order not to undermine the perception and, ultimately, the confidence of investors.

I think that, at the moment, this formula of compromise between Parliament, the Council and the Commission could help to solve the problems without us having to resort to the urgent procedure that the Commission originally proposed.

 
  
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  Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission . − Mr President, thank you for your constructive comments at this late hour.

Let me just make two short last comments. First of all, on the register, I think you are absolutely correct in underlining the need to have information about the procedure, to be well-informed about the progress of different files, and one of the measures that we have agreed on is, of course, to update our comitology register as well.

This we have agreed between the institutions, and the Commission is investing in this and we are sure that it will be in place by March next year. So I think at least this will help, but we will also encourage, of course, our services to work as closely as possible with the Parliament.

The other comment is simply to say that I hope that we agree that the whole idea behind this particular procedure is to ensure that we have a consistent and coherent application of the new rules. That is also why we have proposed this sort of package or omnibus proposals, and that is, I think, the way forward: to make sure that we follow closely what has been agreed and that we can, between the two institutions, handle it as effectively as possible as well.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

 

23. International accounting standards (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the motion for a resolution on international accounting standards (B6-0437/2007 ).

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès (PSE ), Chairman of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs . (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, there is a certain logic in the sequence of discussions we are having because, in this debate, we have to decide whether or not to adopt the so-called IFRS 8 standard at European level.

In a previous debate on 25 April 2007, when Parliament had to decide on this standard, we were unequivocal in stating that we felt the conditions were not in place for us to be able to do this. There were two reasons for this.

The first was that we had just given the European Commission and the Council a very clear message that we felt that the convergence process the European Union was entering into with countries outside the EU for the recognition of their accounting standards could not simply amount to a cut-and-paste of their standards with the international standard. We also felt that the convergence process should be a mutual process.

When it came to the IFRS 8 standard, we had the impression that this was not the route that was being followed by the international organisation and we wanted to alert the public to this.

The second reason for doing so was that many people were warning us, quite rightly I believe, of the fact that this accounting standard was being proposed for all users, namely auditors, investors and supervisors, without an impact assessment having been carried out first.

Now, we know the obsession of the Commission chaired by Mr Barroso with having these impact assessments carried out regularly as part of better regulation, which it uses as a roadmap. It seems to us that what applies at European Union level should also apply to the self-regulating international standardisation bodies We have therefore asked the Commission to conduct this impact assessment itself, in the absence of any assessment by the international body.

The Commission met its formal commitment by presenting the conclusions of this impact assessment to the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs in early September, as agreed. Nevertheless, in future, we need to acknowledge that the scope of this assessment and the way all the parties were interviewed undoubtedly needs to be reviewed to improve the spectrum of those interviewed, so that it is not only those known as the preparers, that is those who draw up the accounts.

Through its desire to move forward with this debate and perhaps also to contribute to the international standards becoming the reference throughout the world, Parliament still wants to adopt the IFRS 8 standard today and this demonstrates both its sense of earnestness in the procedure for adopting the accounting standards and also its sense of responsibility.

As important discussions begin with the United States to establish the conditions for its own adoption of the accounting standards, it seems important to us to show our determination to do so ourselves in a lucid and responsible manner.

I hope this Parliament will adopt the IFRS 8 standard tomorrow, while stressing that when it is revised – and this is already in progress at the IASB, the International Accounting Standards Board – account is taken of the need for precise financial information about the reality of group activities. Many NGOs in particular are sensitive to the fact that through this information, a clearer picture of the activity of groups – for example, mining in a particular geographical area or country by country where this is significant – can be given to those affected by these activities.

Finally, as my last point, I would like to say again to the Commission that we feel the result of this procedure is a very important call to respect the European vote, as a matter of equivalence, and that, when impact assessments are carried out, these enable all parties to express their points of view.

 
  
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  President. – I would like to point out to you that the vote will not take place tomorrow, but on Wednesday.

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission . − Mr President, I would like to warmly thank the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs for the excellent work they have carried out regarding the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) 8 – Operating Segments, the new standard on segment information.

After the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) issued the standard in November 2006, a debate ensued concerning the suitability of IFRS in the European context. This debate was useful. We had to make sure that the European Union would not adopt a new accounting standard just for the sake of convergence with the equivalent US standard, but mainly because it improves the quality of financial information and is conducive to the European public good.

Before reaching a final decision, the Commission and Parliament agreed in May 2007 that the Commission’s services would carry out an analysis of the potential consequences of adopting IFRS 8. They ran a public consultation during July and August and gathered the views of stakeholders on the cost/benefit implications and the overall impact of adopting IFRS 8. On the basis of almost 200 contributions, my services have prepared a report which was provided to Parliament on 10 September 2007. The report’s main conclusion is that the benefits of adoption of IFRS 8 would outweigh its costs. Further, many constituents stressed that a swift endorsement of IFRS 8 would remove uncertainty about the treatment of financial statements for the period ending in December 2007.

Let me stress that we did not ignore the concerns that had been raised regarding the introduction of the so-called ‘management approach’, which gives management more leeway compared with the existing standard on segment reporting. Some constituents were concerned that IFRS 8 lacks strict requirements on detailed geographical information because it allegedly does not require sufficient detail on a country-by-country basis. Discussions with constituents revealed, however, that IFRS 8 is rather expected to improve this kind of disclosure. Further, it seems that particular concerns in this area, in our view – and in the view of the majority of respondents to our consultation – cannot be resolved through a financial reporting standard on segment information. This could be better done through a further development of a framework regarding corporate social responsibility aspects.

We agreed that IFRS 8 should not be adopted solely for the sake of convergence, yet we believe that it is crucial to see the issue also in the broader context of the European Union adopting a set of standards which are truly global. A couple of years ago we all agreed that Europe should not opt for its own set of standards but rather support and promote the development of a high quality and global set of standards like IFRS.

We are working on improving the governance of the IASB. On 7 November the European Commission, the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Japanese Financial Services Agency made a joint statement announcing their agreement to seek certain changes to strengthen the institutional framework of the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) Foundation. These changes are intended to strengthen the accountability of the Foundation’s trustees, in particular by replacing the current self-appointment process for the appointment of the trustees with a process in which public authorities are responsible for the final approval of trustees.

The joint statement also recognised the importance of further strengthening the IASB’s due process, including by carrying out impact assessments. This agreement provides a strong basis to address the concerns expressed by this Parliament. It also reflects the issues identified by the Commission’s two monitoring reports to ECOFIN concerning the IASB’s governance. We will work with the IASC Foundation and the international partners to develop more detailed proposals in the coming months. We will, of course, maintain a close dialogue with the European Parliament throughout this process. I am confident that the outcome of this process will ensure that standards respond to European needs and are easily acceptable and applicable by all stakeholders in the EU and also globally.

Let me conclude. The swift adoption of IFRS 8 is important for two reasons. It improves the quality of financial information and it provides certainty to all market participants. The discussions of the last months have demonstrated that a stronger involvement of the European Parliament in the endorsement process is necessary. The Commission will also continue to work with the IASB and the IASC Foundation and with our international partners to ensure that the process of developing international accounting standards is fully accountable, transparent and meets the needs of European stakeholders.

 
  
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  Alexander Radwan, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . – Mr President, Commissioner, the IFRS 8 process is symptomatic of where we stand today with regard to implementation, endorsement, of IFRS in Europe. I should like to say very clearly from the outset, to those who perhaps always assume the opposite of Parliament, that the majority of the European Parliament is in favour of IFRS, of a global standard, and of taking the same course on this, the right course.

We ought to examine this IFRS process, in particular, in relation to whether all is well with it at the moment: the Commission presents the European Parliament with a standard at short notice, the Commission and industry are expected to implement it relatively quickly, pressure from industry gets stronger and stronger, and those who have the duty of justifying it to citizens on the ground are not given any opportunity to form an opinion on it.

The Commission has prescribed an appropriate phase, but we are going to have to do some straight talking about what has happened now, as the implementation phase is now being postponed retrospectively. To avoid this happening in future it is vital that the legislative institutions, such as the European Parliament, are informed about the work in good time. I welcome the announcement last week by the Commission, with the SSI, the Japanese and IOSCO. What the IFRS organisation then presented – regarding providing its own governance – is a correct, but long-overdue step towards appropriate legitimisation and governance. We, the European Parliament, shall pay particular attention to whether democratic rules of play are observed.

That does not mean that the European Parliament must be directly involved, but only if the process is working correctly shall we be able to ensure that it operates optimally in future when each individual standard is implemented – and in future we shall be consulted about each individual standard.

 
  
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  Sharon Bowles, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, adoption of the IFRS 8 standard will enable our companies to use the standard for the current financial year and put an end to uncertainty.

The management approach will enable our companies to report publicly, with the same structure used internally, thereby reducing the burden of reporting. Users will have access to information that was previously kept internally. So IFRS 8 is a win for both the companies and the investors.

But I have some concerns about the impact assessment that follow a pattern about which I have spoken before. Respondents this time seemed predominantly producers rather than users, and with regard to users there were no questions on comparability. A more pro-active approach may need to be taken with respect to impact assessments generally, and it certainly cannot have helped in this instance if one hoped-for sector of respondents does not have key questions posed.

Further, some of the justifications in the report do very little to justify. Indeed, to me they look more like the type of document that is written ahead of meetings in the hope of reaching agreement.

I am very British about this and prefer my minutes and responses and reports to look like they were drafted after events.

I regret that European companies have been kept waiting for our endorsement of the standard, but Parliament should not be expected to give its assent, on a say-so, without time and proper information to make an assessment.

However, I am pleased that there has been an improvement in cooperation recently, and I look forward to that continuing.

 
  
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  Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE-DE ). – Mr President, the importance of appropriate accounting standards cannot be exaggerated. In today’s world there is a growing need for clear, comparable and sufficient information for investors as well as facilitating business by reducing compliance costs.

Therefore, I agree with my colleagues on the importance of prudence in the question. Decisions should not be taken lightly, and I really think that the views of all colleagues who have mentioned timely impact assessment as an important tool to find balanced solutions and make sure that all stakeholders and their opinions are considered are very important.

Parliament should, of course, be kept duly informed. Of equal importance is to ensure that the EASB governance system is reviewed and adjusted so that regulatory authorities can support its standard-setting process and its result. It is, after all, the only body we have to do a cross-border account standards setting process.

However, while the process has not been perfect, we must not let this delay our work to close the gap between us and our economic partners. Today’s world is much more interconnected, and it is in our interest to make it function as smoothly as possible, and compatible standards are vital to this end.

Within the Transatlantic Economic Council, both sides are eager to make this work, and IFRS standards and financial reports are an important tool to find this mutual recognition of standards.

For now, the IASB is the best way we have. European stakeholders must be involved and the functioning of the IFRS should be monitored. It can and should also be changed to correct possible mistakes, if we make mistakes. Democracy, of course, takes time but sometimes it is needed to correct mistakes. Many of my colleagues have mentioned that it was very important that Parliament was able to raise some concerns and make improvements to the process.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Wednesday, at 12 noon.

 

24. Membership of political groups: see Minutes

25. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes

26. Closure of sitting
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  President. – All that remains now is to thank our last six surviving fellow Members, our two courageous visitors in the gallery, the 15 or so officials and our 69 interpreters – there are more of them than all the spectators put together – for their participation.

(The sitting was closed at 11.50 p.m.)

 
Last updated: 30 June 2008Legal notice