Index 
Debates
Thursday, 13 December 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Action taken on Parliament’s resolutions: see Minutes
 3. Tenth anniversary of the mine ban treaty (Ottawa Convention) (motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes
 4. Textiles (debate)
 5. Economic and trade relations with Korea (debate)
 6. Voting time
  6.1. Financial year 2008 as modified by the Council (vote)
  6.2. Draft general budget 2008 as modified by the Council (all sections) (vote)
  6.3. EC/Montenegro: Stabilisation and Association Agreement (vote)
  6.4. Cooperation between the Fundamental Rights Agency and the Council of Europe (vote)
  6.5. Ovine and caprine animals: electronic identification (vote)
  6.6. Maintenance obligations (vote)
  6.7. 10th Anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty (Ottawa Convention) (vote)
  6.8. EU-China Summit - EU-China human rights dialogue (vote)
  6.9. Combating the rise of extremism in Europe (vote)
  6.10. Montenegro (vote)
  6.11. Shipwrecks in the Sea of Asov/Black Sea and the subsequent oil pollution (vote)
  6.12. Deposit-guarantee schemes (vote)
  6.13. Asset management II (vote)
  6.14. Textile imports (vote)
  6.15. Economic and trade relations with Korea (vote)
 7. Calendar of part-sessions: see Minutes
 8. Explanations of vote
 9. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 10. Approval of the minutes: see Minutes
 11. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law(debate)
  11.1. Eastern Chad
  11.2. Women's rights in Saudi Arabia
  11.3. Justice for the "Comfort Women"
 12. Voting time
  12.1. Eastern Chad (vote)
  12.2. Women's rights in Saudi Arabia (vote)
  12.3. Comfort women (vote)
 13. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 14. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes
 15. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes
 16. Transfers of appropriations: see Minutes
 17. Written declarations for entry in the register (Rule 116): see Minutes
 18. Forwarding of texts adopted during the sitting: see Minutes
 19. Dates for next sittings: see Minutes
 20. Adjournment of the session


  

IN THE CHAIR: MR COCILOVO
Vice-President

 
1. Opening of the sitting
  

(The sitting was opened at 9. a.m.)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Richard Corbett (PSE ). – Mr President, on a point of order, I rise to inquire about the potential use of Rule 147 of our Rules of Procedure, following the disgraceful events of yesterday where some of our colleagues behaved, frankly, like hooligans. I would urge the President and the Conference of Presidents to look into this – to take their time and do it properly, but this, surely, is an instance where the imposition of penalties as foreseen under Rule 147 should be, at least, considered.

We revised this rule last year to distinguish very clearly between protests that are measured, that are visual but do not disrupt the sitting, and those sorts of behaviour which actually disrupt the parliamentary sitting. Yesterday, speakers – including our guest, the Prime Minister of Portugal – were shouted down so that they could not be heard. That is no way to behave in a pluralist, democratic parliament where we thrive on proper debate, not shouting people down.

I would urge the President to look into this and, perhaps at the January sitting, announce what penalties he intends to impose: at the very least a reprimand, as foreseen, but perhaps some of the more vigorous penalties that are provided for in our Rules of Procedure.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − Mr Corbett, leaving aside my personal opinions, where I tend to agree with your feelings and opinion, the problem will certainly be referred to the Bureau under the terms of Rule 147 and I am sure the President will follow it up in accordance with the provisions of Rule 147.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Joseph Daul (PPE-DE ). (FR) Mr President, on this matter I totally agree with what Mr Corbett said to us. I would just like to add that I was there at the sitting this morning, to hear the apology made by the group chairman, Mr Bonde, for what happened yesterday regarding the ushers.

What is unacceptable is that a member of Parliament’s staff, who was only doing his duty as the President and Presidency required of him, should be attacked using words or phrases that I will not say were too strong, but frankly crap – excuse the term, but I am just using the same language.

I do not see any official apologies, so we must take the necessary measures to defend Parliament’s staff. That is why I am here this morning.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − Thank you, Mr Daul. I will conclude the requests to speak on this point, which is a procedural matter, by asking Mr Beazley to speak.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Christopher Beazley (PPE-DE ). – Mr President, I shall be very brief. I just wanted to agree wholeheartedly with both Mr Corbett and my group chairman, Mr Daul. What happened yesterday was utterly inexcusable. However, I would caution, perhaps, that the Conference of Presidents remembers the – perhaps wise – advice of Mr Cohn-Bendit not to give these people the prominence they seek through their quite unacceptable behaviour.

I was wondering whether, perhaps, the services of Parliament might investigate whether additional facilities for Parliament’s crèche might be found, so that those suffering from what apparently is described as ‘offensive Faragia’ syndrome – the symptoms of which are feeling far out and outrageous; it can, in its extreme form, become contagious – but for those who feel obliged to go to this crèche, and I propose Mr Farage as its custodian, the only known therapy is for them to march up and down with a placard with single words on it and shout at each other at the top of their voice. When the fever subsides, they may rest and rejoin the grown-ups. So, I wish those who held up those absurd posters yesterday and those who behaved appallingly a merry Christmas; if they have time over the yuletide to reflect on their behaviour, they might even think what they would like to do when they grow up.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − We will also take account of your suggestion, though personally I have some difficulty imagining these fellow Members in a crèche since, in view of the violent tendencies shown by some of them, we could run the risk of a ‘Massacre of the Innocents’. We will act exactly as laid down in Rule 147 of the Rules of Procedure and will certainly be consistent with it.

 

2. Action taken on Parliament’s resolutions: see Minutes

3. Tenth anniversary of the mine ban treaty (Ottawa Convention) (motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes

4. Textiles (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The next item is the debate on:

– the oral question to the Commission on the expiry of the Memorandum of Understanding between the EU and China on imports of certain textile and clothing products, by Pedro Guerreiro, Jacky Hénin, Roberto Musacchio, Marco Rizzo, Ilda Figueiredo and Helmuth Markov, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group (O-0077/2007 - B6-0388/2007 );

– the oral question to the Commission on textiles by Gianluca Susta, Ignasi Guardans Cambó and Johan Van Hecke, on behalf of the ALDE Group, Robert Sturdy, Tokia Saïfi, Georgios Papastamkos and Vasco Graça Moura, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group, Erika Mann, Glyn Ford, Kader Arif and Elisa Ferreira, on behalf of the PSE Group, Cristiana Muscardini and Eugenijus Maldeikis, on behalf of the UEN Group, Caroline Lucas and Alain Lipietz, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group (O-0074/2007 - B6-0383/2007 ).

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Patrizia Toia (ALDE ), deputising for the author . (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am also speaking on behalf of my colleague Gianluca Susta, the first signatory of the question, who is absent today because of important commitments that have arisen in Italy. Once again, Parliament wants to tackle the complex situation of the textile industry, asking the Commission for more decisive and appropriate intervention.

The sector employs millions of workers in Europe, and accounts for significant turnover in many countries, making Europe the second largest exporter in the world and therefore making a very important contribution to European exports. In my opinion, it is wrong to consider it a mature sector, because in many cases there is scope for modernisation through technological innovation and research into new materials, and it has strong links with fashion, styling and other specialities in which many European countries have genuine expertise recognised the world over.

Naturally, this requires substantial support for the sector through industrial policies that put it in the position of being truly capable of facing global competition. These are also suggestions made by the High Level Group that was set up, and consequently we are asking the Commission just what follow-up and implementation action it has taken. In the immediate future, the urgent problems concern the measures to be taken for the fateful date of 1 January 2008.

I will mention just three problems: the need for very careful checks: how does the Commission intend to implement the surveillance system to ensure there are effective safeguards; how it will cope with the risk of indirect movements and therefore the problem of twin checking of licences? Basically, for all instruments that look good on paper, the problem is how to put them into practice. There is the matter of how to guarantee the authenticity of products and thus the need to keep fighting counterfeiting, piracy and unfair commercial practices, and we hope that the Council – which is not here today – will adopt the ‘made in’ regulation, which is truly necessary and would be a genuine safeguard measure.

There is the problem of consumer protection, including from the point of view of health and safety. We should apply the same health and safety standards to imported products that we use for the manufacture of products within the European market.

Finally – and we are directing this to the Commission – there is the problem of willingness to act. If at the beginning of 2008 there should again be a boom in imports, if there should be peaks again, as happened in the past, we are asking for a genuine willingness to use new instruments and possibly new measures and safeguard clauses.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Tokia Saïfi (PPE-DE ), author . Mr President, Commissioner, two years ago, following the removal of the quotas, the textile sector experienced a veritable big bang. To try to cope with the crisis, Commissioner, you were recommending temporary palliative measures with the aim of controlling and restricting imports of some Chinese textiles. In a few days time, these safeguards will no longer exist and trade in textiles will be subject to joint European Union/Chinese surveillance, which I hope will be attentive and vigilant.

Today, our concern is about the way this system of joint surveillance will be set up. What guarantees do we have that this twin checking system will be both adequate and effective? The textiles sector is one that has always been globalist, both in terms of production and consumption, but it is one that has paid the price for globalisation.

However, globalisation can be anticipated and regulated. For this to happen there needs to be the political will to set up a competitive framework for our European textile industries. We need to work towards fair and reciprocal conditions of market access. We need to continue to be fearless in using the instruments at the EU’s disposal to defend our trade; being protective is not the same thing as being protectionist. We need to prioritise the fight against counterfeiting. The Europe of tomorrow will no longer have any industry if we do not stand up for its intellectual copyrights and expertise. Having the same rules applied by everyone for everyone is the only way of offering all of the parties concerned a win-win scenario.

I therefore wish for 2008, Mr Mandelson, that together we can consider the textile sector’s bright future in a more peaceful climate.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kader Arif (PSE ), author . (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, a few weeks after the end of negotiations on the Memorandum of Understanding introducing restrictions on imports of Chinese textiles, it is essential that the European Parliament adopts a strong position on the future of its textiles sector, the structures and organisational methods of which are threatened by its sudden entry into competition with China.

The joint resolution we are proposing today asks for a clear commitment from the European Commission and the Member States on several points.

Firstly, for companies and workers in the sector who face major restructuring risks to be fully supported by adequate social measures and by the granting of European funds to support the modernisation of their production facilities.

Next, we need to commit ourselves to improving the competitiveness of the European textiles sector within the more general framework of a strong and ambitious European industrial policy. This objective cannot be achieved until words turn into actions and until we invest heavily in research and development.

Furthermore, in view of unfair competition from some of our competitors, who base their competitive advantages on social and environmental dumping, or both, Europe needs effective tools to defend itself. Greater efficiency will not be achieved by means of hurried reform, which will weaken the EU’s means of protection, but by the more transparent and predictable use of existing instruments.

Finally, Europe needs to use the Euro-Mediterranean partnership as the foundation for an integrated manufacturing area that makes the most of the proximity of the Mediterranean countries to increase competitiveness in the international textiles market. The development of the Mediterranean countries with which we want to create a partnership depends on our ability to offer them firm commitments on policies and sectors of common interest.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Cristiana Muscardini (UEN ), author . (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, a few days away from the fateful deadline of 31 December 2007, when the quotas system for textiles from China will be abolished for good, concerns are growing within European industry.

China joined the World Trade Organisation some time ago, and has enjoyed many benefits as a result of this, starting with the ban on reintroducing quotas on its textile exports. Having accepted these advantages, it should have reciprocated by meeting requirements defined and ratified by the World Trade Organisation. It does not seem to us that this has happened, and this is bad for international competition, which is still far from fair, and still far from having the same rules for everyone.

I am not talking about the comparative social and environmental advantages that unfortunately still remain outside any legal framework in multilateral trade negotiations and that one day, very soon I hope, must be brought into the framework of trade that can truly be described as fair. Today, I am talking about the rules that govern the strenuous fight against counterfeits, the safety standards of many products from toys to medicines, and access by our companies to markets like China, which is not the only one where, not just for textiles but also for other sectors, there are still tariff barriers and especially non-tariff barriers that make it very difficult for European industry and small and medium-sized enterprises in the sector to break into the Chinese market.

In view of situations like this in international trade, we should not be afraid, provided that the legal and economic requirements are met, to use the legitimate instruments available, which have been put in place by multilateral international agreements to protect and safeguard the textile industry, specifically to counterbalance the potential negative effects of the ending of quotas. I am talking about the function and effectiveness of the High Level Group for surveillance of the textile market, which will have the task of monitoring the operation of the market in Europe through the import and export licence twin checking system. This is one method that should identify indirect trade movements and provide information about flows of imports.

We need to have the courage and strength to implement the safeguard clause on the basis of the WTO rules and to reintroduce the quotas, at least temporarily, if there is serious damage to our industry from abnormal import levels. I am thinking about the constant use of trade protection instruments, such as anti-dumping and anti-subsidy rules and, more generally, about keeping a channel of comparison open between China and the European Union at all times.

Our textile industry is not afraid of competition, but it must be put in a position to be able to cope with it. Consequently, we need to act on two different fronts. On the one hand it is important to encourage the modernisation and restructuring process that will make the sector more competitive, with social shock absorbers to cope with a possible backlash, and on the other we need to ensure the sector is fighting on a level playing field, with the same rules for everyone.

Mr President, Commissioner, this is also why we are inviting the Commission and the Council to get the identification of product origins off to a stronger and more incisive start.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Caroline Lucas (Verts/ALE ), author . – Mr President, I should like to emphasise that the Greens are very aware that the consequences of a totally liberalised textile and apparel market for EU-based producers is still a very pressing issue, particularly for certain production zones within the EU in which the industry is highly concentrated. Several hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost since the beginning of 2005, albeit fewer than some of the worst predictions.

The Greens have from the start flagged our concern about the impact of competition on European producers. I think we need to monitor the situation carefully and be ready to apply import restrictions if import surges in the next year overwhelm the capacity of EU-based apparel industries to adapt, as well, of course, as channelling research and development resources to that sector.

However, we need to be aware that the problem is very much harder for certain poor countries in the South, like Bangladesh and the Philippines, which have been induced by the World Bank and other donors to invest heavily in exporting clothing and apparel products and now find themselves with shrinking export opportunities, a continuous debt burden, no financial means for adjustment of the sector, and misery – especially for millions of women who work for almost nothing in nightshifts in order to undercut the cheapest offer on the market with an even cheaper one.

It is, in fact, that latter perspective that emphasises that in certain sectors, where too many producers produce too many products, some kind of management tools to control supply are necessary and in the interests of the majority. That is why I urge colleagues to support the amendment that the Greens and Socialists have filed together, which reads: ‘Calls on the Commission to evaluate the usefulness of supply-side management tools for the clothing sector, in order to level off global competition and prevent a lowest-common-denominator approach to social and environmental standards.’

A completely liberalised market in sectors characterised by overproduction capacities brings misery to all but a few. In that respect I think we should use the example of the apparel industry to press for new thinking about the way in which policy ought to regulate markets for the benefit of all. The reintroduction of some kind of quotas should be considered in this evaluation of supply-side management tools.

Another option mentioned in the joint resolution which deserves a more comprehensive evaluation is the creation of a Euromed production zone of the clothing and apparel industry. Indeed, that option not only points towards the improvement of opportunities for development in the southern Mediterranean rim states, but also gives opportunities to the southern European textile and apparel producers who would profit from shorter transportation times to EU markets. It is one of the good examples of how a Euromed economic zone could be sensitively managed without dragging the whole of the Mediterranean region in all-out liberalisation through a free trade agreement. From my Group’s perspective, we regard this proposal as an option in its own right that should be fostered independently of the contested 2010 Euromed free-trade-agreement project, which, according to the sustainability impact assessments done by DG Trade in the Commission, would involve a significant number of quite negative social and environmental consequences.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL ), author . – (PT) We are glad to be having this debate to which my parliamentary group has contributed a great deal. We hope that the debate will help to protect jobs and the activity of the textile and clothing sector, a strategic sector for the European Union, which has been so little protected and so undervalued.

As regards the questions to the Commission, we have nothing to add; they have been tabled. As regards the joint motion for a resolution, due to be adopted by the European Parliament today, we should like to point out that, although it contains certain points that might in practice protect and promote the textile and clothing sector in the European Union, we have reservations about some other points.

To give just three examples: the ‘Globalisation Adjustment Fund’ should not be used as a temporary cushion against the unacceptable social and economic costs of closure and relocation of undertakings, with the consequent destruction of jobs. That is, we should intervene on the causes, not the effects. The current liberalisation policies need to be reversed and financial means made available that effectively help to protect jobs, to modernise the sector and also to promote the introduction of other industries, including those linked to textiles and clothing, thus making for industrial diversification in regions where that activity is currently concentrated.

It would not make much sense to urge the European Union to encourage others to review their monetary policies if the EU does not first critically reappraise the strong euro policy and its impact on some EU countries’ exports. Nor would it make sense to call for trade defence instruments in relation to China, whilst simultaneously supporting the setting up of a Euro-Mediterranean free trade area.

I do not have time in this speech to summarise all our proposals on the European Union’s clothing and textile industry. They are set out in our motion for a resolution. However, we should like to mention some of the amendments tabled to the joint resolution.

They aim at making up for the lack of any mention of the serious consequences of the liberalisation of the textile and clothing industry at global level, with the closure and relocation of numerous undertakings, in particular to North Africa and Asia, leaving a trail of unemployment and serious socio-economic crises; stressing also that the double-checking ‘surveillance system’ will serve no purpose unless it prevents any repetition of the situation that occurred in 2005, underscoring the need for new safeguard measures so as to enable employment in, and the business of, the textiles and clothing sector to be safeguarded and promoted in the EU. The proposals highlight that some countries have adopted safeguard measures applying until the end of 2008 and it is therefore difficult to understand why the EU has not followed suit.

The proposals also express disquiet at the Commission’s intentions to review trade defence instruments according to the interests of firms which are relocating their production to countries where, because of the low wages and social and environmental standards, production costs are lower. They propose that a Community programme should be drawn up for the textiles and clothing sector, and especially for the more disadvantaged regions that depend on it and aid for SMEs. They are proposals which maintain that a regulatory framework needs to be laid down to penalise company relocations, making public aid to businesses subject to long-term commitments regarding regional development and employment, including the requirement to pay back aid if such conditions are not met. Finally, they are proposals which call for a stronger role for workers’ representatives in company boards and in fundamental organisational decision-making. They are proposals that we hope will have the support of the European Parliament.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Peter Mandelson, Member of the Commission . − Mr President, as Members of this House know, back in 2005 the EU and China agreed a memorandum of understanding that included a two-and-a-half-year transition arrangement designed to give some extra breathing space to EU textile producers following the liberalisation of global trade in textiles and clothing.

The arrangement capped growth each year for 10 particularly sensitive textile and clothing products. These caps expire on 31 December 2007, although the memorandum itself remains valid until the end of 2008, and it commits industry and government on both sides to work for a stable transition to free trade in textiles.

It was always my intention to hold China to that responsibility. The Commission negotiated with China a double-checking surveillance system for 2008 that will cover eight textile-product categories with particular sensitivities.

What this means is that China will issue an export licence for all exports and, in parallel, the EU licensing offices in the Member States will issue an import licence. It is a familiar system, and manufacturers, importers and retailers have all welcomed it. Its value lies in allowing us to monitor textile import patterns and, because imports have to be licensed before they leave the dock in China, it allows us to see likely developments in advance.

I am the first to acknowledge the fact that the textile and clothing industry is going through a long period of structural change. This started long before the dismantling of quotas. Successful European companies are not taking the mass producers head on but are investing in technology and in quality. We remain – it is always worth saying it – the second biggest textile exporter in the world. We have more fashion and quality brands than the rest of the world put together. It is a sign of the European textile producers’ confidence and resilience that they have not called for quotas to be further extended. They have argued that their competitiveness depends more now on effective action on counterfeiting and market access in China.

It goes without saying that I intend to throw the entire weight of our trade policy behind these two problems. On market access, we will be seeking new access for textile goods in the Doha Round and in all our new FTAs. We have also set up a specific working group for textiles as part of the renewed market access strategy. Europe is well poised to exploit huge new markets for consumer goods in the emerging economies and we will not simply be sitting back and hoping that these trends go our way.

Counterfeiting is, if anything, an even greater problem. Protecting trademarks and design rights is absolutely central to the textile industry and I raise these issues with the Chinese in every single meeting I have with them.

We have done some useful collaborative work with the Chinese customs service and trade fair organisers, and the Chinese patent office. But, on balance, China remains a huge problem for intellectual property rights holders. The counterfeit markets are cleared out one day and the traders creep back in the next. As I have said in the past, we have not ruled out the prospect of using the WTO if the situation does not improve. Ms Toia mentioned the ‘Made in’ proposal to assist textiles: I made this proposal, I presented it to the Commission, it was agreed by the Commission but it has not been agreed, I am afraid, by the majority of Member States. In view of this, I cannot press the proposal further or do more than I have done.

Last month, at the EU-China summit in Beijing, I was very careful to pass on some frank messages, and they apply in the textile sector as much as anywhere. The EU-China trade relationship has been transformed in the last two decades. Both sides have benefited from it immensely but it has become badly imbalanced. While China dominates our import markets, our businesses are losing out in China because of counterfeiting and market-access barriers amounting to EUR 55 million a day in lost business opportunities. Our spiralling trade deficit reflects both these things.

This is not because of a lack of competitiveness by European producers. We have a surplus in goods trade with the rest of the world and, where we are allowed to compete freely, we are a match for anyone. This is not the case in China. Instead of a level playing field, it is seriously tilted against us. We face trade and investment restrictions, rampant counterfeiting and regulatory barriers in virtually every sector. China’s WTO obligations six years after it became a member are still too often unmet.

I see the textiles problems as emblematic of the broader problems we face in China. We are China’s largest client for clothing and textiles. We have respected China’s comparative advantage in labour and production costs. We are focusing on our own comparative advantages. We are moving up the value chain in what we produce. We expect the same sort of equal opportunity and fair treatment in China’s market that Chinese producers receive in ours.

At the recent summit, the Premier of China, Wen Jiabao, appeared to hear and understand our strong concern and offered to create a high-level strategic mechanism with the EU to focus on rebalancing our trade deficit with China.

I welcome this, with one obvious caveat: it is not one more dialogue or one more roadmap we need, it is action – on the ground, in the markets, in the courts, where it matters to European exporters. And action not just by the Ministry of Commerce but across the board by the regulating agencies and ministries which restrict market access and law enforcement in all parts of China’s economy. The openness of Europe’s own markets to China will not be politically sustainable if this action does not occur.

I talk of textiles and clothing products, but also all sectors where Europe has export interests. The practical delivery of real change by the new high-level trade deficit mechanism, which I and my trade counterpart are charged with designing and launching, will be the definitive test of China’s sincerity. I hope their sincerity matches our own in wishing to resolve the issues before us without resorting to avoidable confrontation.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Robert Sturdy, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . – Mr President, I should like to say to the Commissioner that I find myself almost speechless for once. Congratulations! I think it is exactly what this House wanted to hear and I certainly hope he continues with the points that he has raised today in his negotiations with China. It is encouraging, and it looks to me as though he has a total and utter grasp of the situation. He would not expect me to say that, but I am saying it because I think he has done exactly what is wanted.

I would just say one thing, or two or three things, very briefly. Yesterday, I heard in this House one of the best speeches that I have ever heard any head of state give, and that was by the King of Jordan. One of the things that he mentioned was the situation with Euromed, which has a specific relevance to textiles and, of course, is very important for the stability of the whole European/Mediterranean region. Perhaps the Commissioner could just add his comments on that, because it is coming up for negotiations. I think it is particularly important, particularly as we have Turkey on one side and Morocco on the other; all would be particularly affected by our relationships with China.

Secondly, as one who does not believe in trade defence instruments and believes more in a free market, but in a free and fair market where competition is equal, I am pleased to hear that he is following those lines.

Thirdly, what exactly will happen after the Commission’s double checking finishes – I believe the Commissioner said at the end of 2008 – bearing in mind the United States has just put in place very strict import conditions? Will this mean more products coming on to the European market than we already have?

Finally, Commissioner, may I take this opportunity of wishing yourself, Renate and the rest of your staff a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Harald Ettl, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, what will the year 2008 bring to the textile industry in the European Union? Certainly nothing good. China has developed into the most aggressive textile power in the world and in 2006 alone, 50 to 60% of high technology in textiles was bought for China in the ring-spinning, weaving and texturing machine sector. Capacities are now waiting in the wings.

European retailers and manufacturers are no longer ordering, but are waiting for better offers from China. Further bankruptcies are imminent. The European focus on trade will create even bigger problems for us in other sectors, not just in textiles.

The volume of products we are offered will, of course, increase. The variety of textiles, however, will fall. If the issue is still to have any meaning, then further restructuring of the industry in the European Union must be flanked and more effectively cushioned in social terms. Only a very few niche producers will survive.

This development also has an extra dimension, however. In China, working and pay conditions for textile, garment and leather workers are still abysmal. European retailers and investors are in addition beating down prices in China. Alongside all the competitive advantages in China, survival is made more difficult because of the strong European support given to the remaining European textile industry. A fast buck is always at the expense of the smallest players.

As a trade unionist, I would expect the sports economy staging the Olympics in China to reveal what it is like for the female workforce there. Today 350 to 400 people already die on a daily basis in China’s textile factories. Up to 100 sustain mutilations to their hands every day. Nine out of ten Chinese manufacturers violate international labour standards and even labour standards laid down in Chinese legislation!

However, business is going well for us in the retail trade. As a trade unionist and as Vice-President of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation, I would say to you that it is too late, but not too late for us to take social measures.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ignasi Guardans Cambó, on behalf of the ALDE Group . – (ES) Mr President, I think that the speeches that we are hearing are all along the same lines. There have been very few debates recently in which we have heard people from different sides of the House representing different political sensibilities all talking the same language, with exactly the same objective.

We support free trade, without a doubt, and we support it as a very clear principle. It is therefore not about creating barriers: it is about ensuring that the rules of the game are the same for everyone and accepting that the unfair competition by China, through imposing restrictions on access to the market and through extremely serious, permanent and systematic infringements of intellectual and industrial property rights, or the lack of controls on imports, or the question of exchange rate differences, which obviously not only affect textiles but also many other spheres of our commercial relationship, and other measures on the part of China are placing the industry in an extremely serious and very delicate situation. The industry is continuing to exist and defend itself in order to survive and is not asking for protection, as Commissioner Mandelson rightly said in his speech, on which I certainly congratulate him. It is not asking for barriers, it is asking for the rules of the game to be equal for everyone, and it is asking to be able to play on equal terms.

In fact the situation is changing entirely from the end of the year, and the Commission cannot just note this, observing it as if it was a meteorological phenomenon It has a large number of weapons and tools at its disposal, such as import controls, with which to ensure that the rules of the game are indeed the same, and it can use the defence mechanisms that it has at its disposal.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ryszard Czarnecki, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, Commissioner Mandelson, like a British gentleman, wishes to play chess; it is just that his opponent, the Chinese partner, really wants to play another game altogether with totally different rules.

Obviously we can talk here about monitoring, about controls on imports from China, but let us not forget something known as re-export, which is where China sends certain items to, for example, African countries, and those items then come to us as African products, although really they are products made in Chinese factories located in those countries, or actually manufactured in China.

I would like to emphasise something about which too little is said here: the matter of artificial lowering of the value of the Chinese currency. Obviously this facilitates exports to Europe. This is a serious threat.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group . – (NL) Mr President, I should like to start by thanking Commissioner Mandelson most warmly for his clear arguments. I had already read about them in detail in the European press.

Now for my contribution. The future of the European textile sector in the light of China’s economic rise is at the forefront of this debate. Time after time, the Union reveals itself as unable to anticipate China’s development adequately. The reason for this is the Union’s inability to develop an unambiguous trade policy. The European Union is divided into a northern and a southern camp, be it on the subject of quotas for textile products or of the reform of trade defence measures.

It is high time, therefore, that the Member States learned to see beyond their own interests alone. An initial step in this regard is the recognition by the northern camp that the protection of its own industry against piracy and illegal State aid is not protectionism, and that an effective set of instruments is required for that protection. The southern camp must realise that China’s rise has consequences.

The Union must no longer let itself be caught off guard, as happened in 2005 when the Multifiber Agreement expired. Europe’s industries must seek niche markets in good time. After all, the options for reintroducing quotas are limited until the end of 2008.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Luca Romagnoli (NI ). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, with the Memorandum of Understanding between the EU and China set to expire imminently, it seems to me that the questions presented clearly express the valid concerns of industry and those in the sector regarding the impact, in the past and present, of the importing – or rather the massive invasion – of Chinese products into the EU Member States.

On several occasions I have highlighted the fact – and I have not been the only one to do so – that genuine competition and competitiveness for our products in the internal market, more so than in the external market, is assured not only or not so much by a system of quotas, but chiefly by defending the sector from unfair competition. Such competition is unfair because it is based on vastly lower cost and production conditions. The added value of Chinese production at that cost is disproportionate, because of well-known production factors that are inconsistent with those on our much more civilised continent.

How can we imagine we can compete with manufacturing where the costs are infinitely lower but where, even in terms of comparative quality, the products are now almost equal to many European products? I believe there is really only one option open to us, the only thing that can re-establish a bit of what I might call fair trade and sustainable competition: a surveillance system over Chinese imports should be based, in my opinion, on checking that manufacturing conditions are not very different from those our industry has to provide. We may not be able to demand that labour costs are the same but we can demand that products are definitely made without the use of child labour or in conditions that are shameful or akin to slavery, and that they are made without causing massive damage to the environment, beyond the insufficiently verified environmental safety, consumer safety and certified quality.

A different policy should also be applied to European industries that relocate outside the EU and engage in unfair competition with respect to industries that continue to manufacture within the EU, perhaps through tax measures that counteract the advantage over companies that do not relocate, to achieve a new balance.

To conclude, distribution conditions in Europe should also be monitored more closely, in view of what is certainly going on in Italy at least, where what is actually wholesale marketing masquerades as retail distribution.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Georgios Papastamkos (PPE-DE ). – (EL) Mr President, we, as the European Union, are being called upon – even now – to redraft our strategy for the important sector of textiles and clothing.

The outlines of an overall European strategy could be drawn as follows: firstly, ensuring improved access for European products to foreign markets, through the greatest possible worldwide convergence of customs duties at low levels; and eliminating customs barriers.

Secondly, achieving effective application of the rules of origin to imports.

Thirdly, giving substantial support, through the Globalisation Adjustment Fund, to small and medium-sized enterprises affected by liberalisation. I think it would also be useful to set up a Community programme to support the sector, especially in the less-favoured regions of the Union.

Fourthly, ensuring that there is an effective way of combating piracy and counterfeiting, given that the textile and clothing sector accounts for more than 50% of the recorded cases.

Fifthly, maintaining and strengthening the trade defence instruments, which are absolutely essential for combating illicit practices which harm competition.

Sixthly, guaranteeing that products imported into the European Union are subject to equivalent safety and consumer protection rules.

As regards China, we express our concern at the application of the double-checking system instead of the extension of quotas to the ten categories of products. In any case, we ask of the Commission – we ask of you, Commissioner Mandelson – that the system be applied rigorously and effectively. I also remind you of the ‘ultimum remedium’ of the safeguards which the European Union is entitled to activate.

To conclude, Mr President, liberalisation of the world trading system does not mean tolerance of unfair competition, illegal trade tactics or, in the end, disruption of the economic and social model.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Joan Calabuig Rull (PSE ). – (ES) Mr President, allow me to congratulate you, Commissioner, on your firmness and on the agreement reached in October with China regarding the system of double control of textile exports to the European Union.

In view of the removal of the quota system, which is concluding this year, the agreement will help, or should help, at least, to guarantee that the transition to a free market throughout 2008 is done correctly. This is essential for European manufacturing companies, which have already had to deal with huge challenges, as other speakers have said. The industry and the authorities will have to work together in order to closely monitor the development of trade patterns with China and prevent a repeat of the situation that occurred in 2005.

We do, however, regret the fact that the categories covered by the June 2005 agreement only included eight of the 10 products that were subject to limits until 31 December of this year, and on this point I would like you to clarify what the Commission’s strategy is going to be for monitoring the two categories of products that have been excluded from the agreed double control system, which are cotton fabrics and table and kitchen linen.

There is, however, no doubt that in addition to this agreement we will need to continue to act in other areas in order to guarantee that European industry can compete under fair and reciprocal conditions, for example by making progress on the indication of origin marking – although there are the difficulties that you pointed out – or by promoting working, social and environmental conditions in the negotiation of trade agreements.

All the institutions and businesses must focus on R&D, using the wide range of possibilities offered by the Seventh Framework Programme, and we need to anticipate the changes and, at the same time, take into account the effects of restructuring by adopting the social measures needed to support workers.

Finally, I would like to welcome the agreement reached on the occasion of the Tenth Europe-China Summit that you mentioned, through which a high-level working group will be created to tackle key issues such as the trade deficit, difficulties accessing the Chinese market and intellectual property rights.

This is another step in the right direction in terms of improving our relations with China and promoting an advantageous environment for both parties.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Johan Van Hecke (ALDE ). (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, is there still a future for the European textile industry? The answer lies to a great extent with the European Commission. Last month in Beijing, Commissioner Mandelson denounced the poor safety of Chinese products, the enormous influx of counterfeit goods and the dumping of Chinese export goods. Quite rightly, he threatened to lodge a complaint with the WTO. Europe’s daily imports from China amount to half a billion euro, and eight out of ten of the counterfeit goods intercepted originate from that country.

As well as from counterfeits, however, the European textile sector is currently suffering from the weakness of the US dollar. The weak dollar not only mortgages our exports, but also gives an artificial advantage to countries continuing to use the dollar as a currency. Coincidentally, those countries are situated mainly in Asia, and, not so coincidentally, China is holding on to the dollar. This is intolerable for the textile sector, which works with large volumes and low profit margins.

Our industry cannot and must not fall victim to a strong European currency. Hence the need to use the euro more and more in our trade relations. After all, that was, I thought, one of the reasons for the introduction of our single currency five years ago.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vasco Graça Moura (PPE-DE ).(PT) The consequence of globalisation within the European area is that productive undertakings are the losers and undertakings exporting technology are the winners. That is all very clearly reflected in internal cohesion. In the case of the textile industry, the fact that the sector is mainly made up of small and medium-sized enterprises is a disadvantage on the market that represents 6% of total world trade and an estimated turnover of EUR 566 billion. In addition, many producer regions are suffering the consequences of economic restructuring, so that it is difficult to achieve sustainability in the sector.

European production is forced to compete with that of countries that artificially devalue their currency, do not respect environmental protection rules or bear the costs of environmental protection, that frequently infringe intellectual property rights or, even more seriously, on the social and employment front, apart from having much lower wage costs, do not apply such stringent worker protection measures as Europe does. It is therefore all the more pressing to make sure that WTO rules are respected and that the Commission is able to monitor imports, not allowing a veil to be artificially drawn over the excesses noted in practice with China as regards textile imports, as has happened in the past.

The Commission must adopt all the measures needed to safeguard the interests of the European Union, including if necessary the imposition of quotas on China, possibly up to the end of 2008, within the WTO legal framework and must also insist upon total respect for the rules of fair play. European producers lack incentives for research and development and for improving the skills of the labour force, they do not have appropriate access to external markets or an effective means of preventing counterfeiting. Intellectual property is basic to the added value of the sector and must be defended at all costs in order to encourage production with a high added value. Finally, Mr President, Commissioner, consumer safety must not be forgotten. It falls to the Commission to prevent any product that might be harmful to our families from coming into the homes of Europe’s citizens.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Stavros Arnaoutakis (PSE ). – (EL) Mr President, in Europe, and particularly in Greece, the textile sector consists mainly of small and medium-sized enterprises. Many of these enterprises are developing in the region. We, as the European Union, have a duty to ensure the viability of the sector within our borders, and to guarantee protection for our businesses against unfair competition and illegal trade.

The European textile sector must become more competitive at international level. We need to support measures for the modernisation of our enterprises, innovation, research and development. Of course we must take serious account of the fact that on 1 January 2008 the transition period for quotas on imports of textile products from China ends. In the wider context, however, and for the sake of European consumers, we shall also have to ensure the enforcement of binding rules on ‘made in…’ labelling for textile products, and effective application of the surveillance system for imports from third countries.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Anne Laperrouze (ALDE ). (FR) Mr President, when I spoke in this chamber on this same subject in July 2005, I said that the lessons we would learn from the textiles crisis would eventually help us to maintain and develop other sectors of the European economy. I think we have made some progress, but not very much. Here we are, still demanding more research and development and asking the Commission to make sure that intellectual copyrights are respected. These are decisive factors but they are not enough. It makes me think that, instead of being a factor of the growth of trade and economic development, the WTO and its rules act as a brake. Trade is obviously a source of growth, but in order to be so, it needs to work in both directions. The textiles issue in fact throws up two fundamental problems: the absence of an EU industrial policy and the question of the European interest.

As regards the European interest, I welcome with some satisfaction the Commission communication entitled ‘The European Interest: Succeeding in the age of globalisation’, published in early October, which says that we need: ‘to have ground rules which do not impinge on our capacity to protect our interests and to safeguard our high product standards relating to health, safety, the environment and consumer protection’. We will not tolerate third countries that want to operate in the European Union bending the rules applied to the internal market.

Commissioner, let us start by applying these principles to the textile industry.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ivo Belet (PPE-DE ). (NL) Mr President, I wish to thank the Commissioner for his clear intervention. I should like to address two remarks to him, however. The textile industry is not only important to southern Europe, as Belgium, too, for example, still has a very flourishing textile industry, which provides 25 000 jobs.

Commissioner, the disappearance of quotas for the 10 finished products on 1 January threatens to have serious repercussions again not only for the sectors concerned, but also for upstream businesses. Taking the example of the jeans sector, if this is swamped with Chinese products, whether or not at dumping prices, the producers of the denim material and of the thread are also directly affected. Thus, of course, the ramifications are much broader than they seem at first glance.

My second remark, Commissioner, is that the ‘monitoring system’ currently only monitors the volume of the imported goods. It would be much more efficient if monitoring were also carried out on the basis of prices – and this a priori, or at the time licences are issued. Only in this way is a genuinely proactive, preventive approach possible.

Commissioner Mandelson, we should also like you to tell us when the Commission is planning to take action, as this is rather confusing and vague. In other words, how big do imports from China have to grow and how much do the prices of these imports have to decrease before you actually start to take action? It strikes us as no more than logical that we obtain some clarity on this, too, in advance.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Peter Mandelson, Member of the Commission . − Mr President, I find myself in broad agreement with most of the sentiments that have been expressed during this debate. However, I would at the outset reject Mr Belder’s view that we do not have a common trade policy in the EU, and that the Member States are so divided that we cannot pursue a policy on, for example, textiles.

Our experience in textiles demonstrates only too clearly that we do, in fact, have a common trade policy, through which we have been able to bring together Member States with different emphases and different orientations, to weld together their views and to produce a common trade policy in textiles that has been consistently pursued. There may be differences on the use of trade defence instruments, but through the review and anticipated reform I want to build fresh consensus and solidarity amongst Member States on the use of those trade defence instruments, and notably on their greater use by SMEs, for which I want to bring forward proposals.

Some specific points have been made, for example about the double-checking surveillance which will be in operation in 2008. The Commission will monitor textile imports from China in as close to real time as possible. This includes double-checking surveillance and any other monitoring means at the Commission’s disposal, such as the TAXUD surveillance, which provides trade data on the basis of actual trade. In the face of a sudden surge of Chinese textiles, the Commission stands ready to use all the instruments at its disposal, should the situation so require.

However, I would stress that the 2005 deal was a once-and-for-all deal, and the Commission does not intend to make proposals for the extension of the levels agreed. As such, it is not opposed to more trade, and an increase could be expected. Should the upsurge, however, take such dimensions that action is justified, this will be based on existing requirements and criteria. We do rely on the co-responsibility of China for this smooth transition. China is well aware that it is not in its interests to repeat what happened in 2005. We also rely on the economic operators’ self-interest to avoid a recurrence of 2005. Textiles are now moving into the same category as any other product, so the usual instruments – including trade defence instruments – apply, with the usual standards.

The issue of EU assistance for the textiles industry has been raised. Let me make two last points on this. At the EU level, the Commission has committed over EUR 70 million, for research and development under the sixth framework programme, to textile and clothing projects, while two innovation project proposals have acquired funding within the Europe Innova framework.

As far as the Globalisation Fund is concerned, it is as open to the textile sector as to other sectors. There have, so far, been eight formal applications for a contribution from the European Globalisation Fund, of which four concern textiles. None of these textile cases have yet been approved by the budgetary authority. They are all still being assessed by the Commission services.

Lastly, I turn to the issue of the Euro-Mediterranean, raised by Mr Sturdy. The Commission has set up a formal Euro-Mediterranean dialogue on the future of the textile and clothing industry, in order to define common strategies towards achieving better competitiveness of the industry in the Euro-Mediterranean zone. The objective of the dialogue is to bring Euro-Mediterranean countries and candidate countries together, in order to find common solutions for improving their competitiveness. I look forward to receiving proposals emerging from that dialogue.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − I have received six motions for a resolution(1) submitted in accordance with Rule 108(5) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

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

 
  

(1)See minutes.


5. Economic and trade relations with Korea (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The next item is the report (A6-0463/2007 ) by David Martin, on behalf of the Committee on International Trade, on the trade and economic relations with Korea (2007/2186(INI) ).

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  David Martin (PSE ), rapporteur . − Mr President, this report had to be put together rather quickly, because we anticipated – we even hoped – that the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Korea might be concluded by the end of this year. That is clearly not going to be the case but, nevertheless, we are pleased that Parliament is able to report today and we hope, through our report today, that we will be able to influence the Commission’s position.

To get to where we are today, some of my colleagues had to work extremely hard, and I would like to thank Christopher Ford from the Trade Committee and Emmanuelle Le Texier from the PSE Group, who worked above and beyond the normal call of duty to get this report prepared in time. I would also like to thank Commissioner Mandelson and his services for the good cooperation I have had from the Commission in producing this report, and also the Korean Ambassador, whose assistance enabled me to get an insight into the Korean position on these negotiations.

Historically, free trade agreements between the European Union and Asian countries have been trade-light, despite their name. I think this could be the exception to the rule. Korea has shown a willingness and an ability to negotiate a far-reaching and comprehensive bilateral trade agreement.

Korea is a significant player in the region in Asia. It is now a wealthy country, the 11th largest economy in the world. Its per capita income is comparable to Spain. It is an economy that is growing quickly, and trade between our two regions – between Korea and the European Union – reached EUR 60 billion last year. So it is a deal worth doing, and, if we can get it right, I think it is a win-win situation. The Korean manufacturing industry, for example, can win through access to European services, enabling Korean manufacturing to expand and to compete more favourably. We can win, through access to the Korean market for some of our key goods and services.

The timetable, as I mentioned, was originally set for conclusion by the end of this year. It now realistically looks like May next year will be the earliest negotiations can be concluded, but I am encouraged that, after five rounds of negotiations, talks seem to be getting down to the nitty gritty and seem to be getting serious. There are clearly still significant gaps between the European Union position on issues like country-of-origin labelling, technical standards for the automobile industry and on tariff concessions for goods. But the key point is that negotiations are now being conducted at a serious and detailed level.

My main concerns come in the field of, firstly, social and environmental standards. Even with this delay, the Korean agreement looks like being the first of the new generation of FTAs that we agree. As such, it can be a template for further FTAs, and I would like to see our ambitions in relation to environmental and social standards raised. I would like to ensure that there is a dispute settlement mechanism in the Agreement. I do not believe that we should settle for anything less than the United States have settled for, and they have got a dispute settlement mechanism in their report. I believe issues like ratification of key ILO conventions and the post-2012 application of any new climate change agreement cannot be left to mere gentlemen’s agreements or simply encouraging people to do things. We have to actually have some mechanism for settling disputes. I hope the Commission will look at this again.

I also want to argue that the Kaesong Industrial Complex should be looked at sympathetically in relation to such an agreement. I accept the Commission’s approach that, firstly, we have to get the Free Trade Agreement; but if we can get the FTA, before signature we should look at how we can assist South Korea in terms of encouraging North Korea to come into the real world. The Kaesong Industrial Complex, based in North Korea but run by South Korean companies, is a way of engaging North Korea with the rest of the world, and it is a process that we should be encouraging. I believe that, through our trade agreement, we can do much to assist South Korea in this process. It is not just a matter of interest for South Korea but it is a matter of interest for the world. It makes the world a safer place if North and South Korea can cooperate.

I believe this is an important free trade agreement. I believe it is one that both the EU and Korea can win if we get the right deal. I support the Commission’s view that we should not rush to a settlement, and that a good settlement is better late than a bad settlement that we get early. I hope, when Korea changes president at the beginning of next year, that the new president will instruct his administration to work tirelessly to reach this agreement before the summer.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Peter Mandelson, Member of the Commission . − Mr President, I welcome the excellent and speedy work done by the rapporteur, Mr Martin, and his colleagues and staff. Together they have produced a comprehensive and balanced report, which I commend.

Parliament’s endorsement of this motion for a resolution will send a clear signal of support for the Commission’s policy of seeking an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea, as part of the strategy laid out in the Global Europe Communication of October 2006. The choice of South Korea as partner for this generation of free trade agreements reflects the important economic and political potential of the country, but it is also an acknowledgement of the reality that important barriers exist and persist to stronger economic and trade ties between us.

The motion is timely: free trade negotiations with South Korea were launched in May 2007, and have progressed rapidly so far. We are ready to work for an early conclusion so long as the substance and quality of the outcome are right. That is our bottom line and it will remain so.

Our FTA with South Korea should be fully WTO-compatible. That goes without saying. We seek far-reaching liberalisation in trade in goods and services, as well as in investment. We are paying special attention to non-tariff barriers and to rules and regulations in key areas, such as intellectual property rights, competition and government procurement. I fully agree with the importance the report attaches to non-tariff barriers and to effective dispute settlement machinery in this and other aspects of the prospective agreement.

Studies have suggested that, in some sectors in Korea, non-tariff barriers are now more important than the tariffs themselves. Substantial improvements on these behind-the-border barriers to trade, creating real market access for EU exports to South Korea, will be absolutely key to conclusion of the FTA.

On a few of the specific concerns that have been raised, the question of Kaesong raises complex technical and political questions. We welcome the amendments proposed in this regard, because they highlight the complexity of the question, which will require careful consideration. The recognition and promotion of the social and environmental aspects of trade – sustainable development – will be an integral part of the free trade agreement with South Korea.

I agree that effective enforcement of standards is key to securing an ambitious and effective result on sustainable development in this agreement. However, a cooperative tone can achieve much more in this area than the appearance of coercion. We expect to cover a greater number of multilateral environmental agreements, and to include issues such as decent work and a stronger commitment to ILO core conventions, and expect to go beyond other recent agreements, such as those covered by the Korea-US FTA. We will also aim to involve the social partners and civil society in this cooperation.

The sustainability impact assessment has been launched. The main findings of draft reports in the different phases will be discussed with civil society. We have set up the SIA to ensure that there will be continuous and rapid feedback into the negotiation process. This builds on the initial contacts we had with civil society at the start of the negotiations.

We have also worked closely with Parliament. The cooperation with the rapporteur and the Committee on International Trade has been excellent. I myself, as well as the Director-General, have regularly updated that Committee. As far as the ratification procedure is concerned, this will depend on the content of the agreement itself, but the Commission is in favour of involving Parliament as much as is possible under the Treaty.

Finally, a possible future FTA covering the bilateral trade relations with South Korea will be part of an overall and coherent framework of EU relations with South Korea. The existing bilateral framework agreement will continue to govern bilateral cooperation and political dialogue.

To conclude, the goal of this FTA is to complement an ambitious Doha outcome by going deeper and further bilaterally with South Korea. Past experience shows that such agreements can road test liberalisation solutions and become stepping-stones for the future evolution of the WTO. An ambitious and comprehensive FTA with South Korea is not just commercially significant, but will also mean an important upgrading of the bilateral EU-Korea relationship. It is also a recognition of the engagement of the EU on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. In a wider sense, it is part of our broader commitment to ensuring that EU trade policy in Asia is keeping up with the dramatic development of that region, and securing the benefits in terms of jobs, growth and growing trade for both sides.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Werner Langen (PPE-DE ), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. − (DE) Mr President, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy thanks the rapporteur for adopting our proposals. We think an agreement is reasonable, but would nevertheless point out that there have been considerable sectoral problems with Korea in the past. I am thinking here of the discussion on dumping prices in the shipbuilding industry in recent years, for instance, where we also had lawsuits. We wish to ascertain whether these sectoral problems are being resolved in order to ensure that both sides really are opening up and Korea is not the unilateral beneficiary, and that – even when we think of our pharmaceutical industry, the car industry, of the many industrial sectors – reciprocity is guaranteed.

One particular subject was Kaesong. The Commissioner has just addressed the issue of how to involve these North Korean special zones. According to what I am hearing, eight other special zones are planned. In the opinion of the Committee on Industry, international standards must apply here. We cannot undermine our own free trade agreements in this way. We therefore ask that this aspect in particular be thoroughly checked. Otherwise, many thanks – to the Commission, too – for these negotiations!

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Peter Šťastný, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . – Mr President, let me first congratulate my colleague, the rapporteur Mr Martin, for a high-quality and comprehensive report. Our negotiators should take note of it. We should also learn from the recently completed USA-Korea FTA, which shows that speed of conclusion is important, but should not be the top priority. The main goal should clearly be to accomplish high quality and an even playing field in flows of trade. Today, those flows are still seriously impeded by non-trade barriers.

Korea does not apply international norms or labelling requirements regarding automotive products or other important products such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and electronics. There is also a need for clarification in the area of intellectual property rights and counterfeiting. These issues need to be resolved before we sign this FTA, in order to ensure free and fair trade. Unless all these issues are resolved to our complete satisfaction, I would advise the Commission not to sign this agreement.

I admire the economic miracle of South Korea, which is reflected in the fact that it is the European Union’s fourth largest trading partner. Having a strong democracy has obviously benefited them greatly, and one has to feel sorry for their brothers and sisters in North Korea.

We should be prepared to do all we can to bring about an emotional reunion similar to the one we saw in the late 1980s between East and West Germany. This should, of course, be based on the principle of democracy, which has brought so much success to South Korea.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Erika Mann, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I should like to address three aspects. First of all I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Martin, on behalf of my group. The report has been written with great care and it actually alludes to all the points that are important and have to be debated. It also advises on the appropriate caution to be exercised on certain subjects, e.g. in the automotive sector. In this respect I believe it is an excellent report, which is a good prerequisite and should accordingly be considered by the Commission and the Council. I am pleased to hear that the Commissioner has responded so meticulously to it.

Secondly, I should like to ask the Commissioner: how will negotiations with Korea generally proceed, in your view? Negotiations are indeed underway and are at a very difficult stage. It seemed very much better at the beginning, I believe, than we have thought in the meantime. Parallel negotiations with all the ASEAN nations are also being added, of course. These negotiations are also – as far as I have gathered from the Minutes – at a very difficult stage. What is the Commission’s assessment of this? What influence will our ongoing negotiations with ASEAN have on negotiations with Korea?

My last question to the Commissioner relates to the fact that the Heads of State or Government are just about to sign the Reform Treaty today, 13 December. Under this Reform Treaty, Parliament will in future have a great deal more influence in the retail sector, for which we in this Parliament have been fighting for a very long time. I should like to thank the Commission and Commissioner Mandelson in particular for always having backed this.

My question, however, is this: can you imagine that the Commission will support us when we ask the Council for the right that has already been brought forward under the upcoming free trade agreement and that Parliament will therefore keep the relevant endorsement obligation? Can we assume that we have you on our side in this, Commissioner?

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ignasi Guardans Cambó, on behalf of the ALDE Group . – (ES) Mr President, I would also, on behalf of my group and very formally, like to congratulate the rapporteur David Martin on the excellent quality of the report that he is presenting to the House. In reality, not all reports are equal. It is important that, although here we vote on all sorts of documents, we point out when some of them have a content and a solidity that enable them to be examined in detail, and cover all the subjects that are up for discussion. I therefore congratulate the rapporteur and the team that supported him in making this happen.

It is true that we do not talk about Korea very much here; we do not talk about it enough, although it is undoubtedly one of our major commercial allies, and indeed the fourth largest outside of Europe, as the report states. The European Union is the leading investor in Korea, which is also, undoubtedly, one of the strongest democracies in the whole of that region.

If we consider what I have just said, on the one hand, therefore, and on the other hand the difficulties in the multilateral context and the reality that there are obstacles to accessing the market for European products and services, which are major non-tariff obstacles, it is obvious that this makes it a very clear candidate for a bilateral agreement that has the full support of Parliament. This agreement, however, needs to be well put together, well negotiated and ambitious.

There are difficulties in very specific areas. I would highlight the subject of services, which has already been mentioned, and the subject of intellectual piracy, in one of the countries with the greatest Internet penetration in the world, and where, therefore, there are very specific problems resulting from the fact that copyright and rights protecting the audiovisual sphere are not taken seriously.

Finally, on the question of Kaesong: my group is going to support the text as it is in the report; in other words, we recognise and understand the political content of this area between South Korea and North Korea, but we understand that, if free trade with the European Union were simply introduced into this context, it could cause serious problems, and therefore we would not support the simple inclusion of the Kaesong area in a possible agreement with the European Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, in rising to speak on behalf of the Union for Europe of the Nations Group in the debate on economic and trade relations between the European Union and Korea, I wish to draw attention to the following matters. In a situation where Korea has signed a Free Trade Agreement with EFTA and ASEAN and also with the United States, but will not sign such an agreement with the European Union, the competitiveness of European companies taking advantage of duty-free access to the Korean market will decline. This will have a negative impact on the level of economic growth and the level of employment in EU countries.

Secondly, according to analyses carried out by independent research centres, as a result of the conclusion of a free trade agreement, two thirds of the benefits accruing from such an agreement would go to Korea, and only one third to the European Union. It is therefore necessary for Korea, in addition to this agreement, to make a commitment to the EU in which Korea undertakes to observe European social standards, and in particular the basic elements linked to decent work, as well as environmental and consumer protection standards.

Thirdly, this approach gives an opportunity to lead on to honest competition between Korean and European companies. It is only then that Korean companies will include in their manufacturing costs the overall costs of labour, environmental protection and consumer protection, and thus the price of their products will reflect the full manufacturing cost.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Caroline Lucas, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group . – Mr President, let me start by thanking Mr David Martin for his report and by underlining the crucial importance of this dossier. The EU-Korea Treaty will be the first application of the new EU trade doctrine Global Europe, a doctrine that is highly controversial, not least because it seeks such deep market access conditions through the removal of all kinds of barriers to all-out import penetration, precisely at a time when more and more people are becoming aware that there are very many losers as well as some winners in a completely liberalised global economy.

On the positive side, the report sets out some very good standards for trade and social and environmental fields, which Greens absolutely support, and in that respect I think the report sets a very important precedent for further upcoming parliamentary responses to other free trade agreements, with India and ASEAN, for example. So we welcome the fact that the report insists that there must be no exceptions to the rule that access to the European market is conditional on compliance with environmental protection standards.

We welcome the fact that it demands that the trade agreement with Korea incorporates binding social and environmental clauses and, to our mind, this by itself makes it difficult to contemplate that the North Korean Kaesong industrial complex would be included within the FTA rules. Most importantly, it intends to give teeth to those binding clauses by demanding that they are subject to the standard dispute settlement mechanism.

But we do have some serious misgivings about this report as well. First, there is the demand to scrap all non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to trade without any attempt at differentiating what really constitutes a legitimate NTB and what does not. We should not assume that everything that prevents unfettered free trade is an illegitimate obstacle. There are some very good reasons to qualify trade, especially when public policy wants to put in place controls for social, health or environmental reasons.

We are also opposed to the full introduction of the so-called ‘Singapore issues’ into the free trade agreement. Again there are good reasons why total investment freedom or public procurement should remain outside the scope of a trade agreement. Korea had a devastating experience with the free flow of capital in the late 1990s and they have used sheltered public procurement policies to get back on their feet since then. Now, it is not up to us to judge whether they should offer those items on their side, but we are allowed to judge for our side, and my Group does not support giving unlimited freedom to foreign investors in Europe or destroying the possibility of engaging in public spending for social goals through specific domestic procurement policies.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Philip Claeys (NI ). (NL) Mr President, South Korea is one of the EU’s main trading partners outside Europe, something that is highlighted clearly in this balanced report. It is a country that arouses sympathy owing to its contiguity with the most backward, most totalitarian communist regime in the world.

Trade relations have grown substantially in recent years, which in itself is a very good thing, but that does not mean there are no problems. If we conclude a free trade agreement with South Korea, it must be based on complete reciprocity. South Korea still has far too many tariff and non-tariff barriers for us to really talk of reciprocity.

Europe must insist on the elimination of all these barriers, and must be able to come to agreements that are at least as advantageous as those of the free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hubert Pirker (PPE-DE ). – (DE) Mr President, as leader of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with the Korean Peninsula, I should like to congratulate the rapporteur specifically and say that I am very happy to back this report.

I should also like to emphasise something that many still do not know: that the Republic of Korea is an important trading partner. Precisely for this reason it is important that we conclude a free trade agreement. The aim of this agreement must be to achieve fair and equitable trading conditions to our mutual advantage and our mutual benefit.

I can also say that I am pleased that the negotiations have been running substantially better in the fifth round than they did in the fourth round. I should like to encourage Korea to support EU proposals for the faster and reciprocal abolition of import duties. The EU’s target for this would be 2015.

As we all know, the motor vehicle sector is and remains a challenge in the negotiations. What we as the European Union expect is that our safety standards are accepted by Korea just as we, too, accept Korea’s standards in this sector.

I am optimistic that the barriers in the pharmaceutical products and services sectors, and particularly in the banking and legal advice sectors, can be removed. With regard to Kaesong, I should like to say that it would be significant for the negotiating partners to find a way of supporting the Kaesong project and other projects, on economic and political grounds, particularly for introducing North Korea to the international community of states.

We are generally on the right track and I hope that there will be a conclusion at the beginning or in the first half of 2008.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kader Arif (PSE ). (FR) Mr President, I would first like to thank Mr Martin for the quality of his report. When negotiating this future trade agreement with Korea, we would do well to remember that our priority should remain multilateralism, because we know that the excessive proliferation of bilateral agreements is damaging to the regulated multilateral structure that we belong to. That is why, if we enter a new era of bilateral trade agreements, these should include guarantees and principles, some of which are mentioned in Mr Martin’s report.

The future free trade agreement with Korea should be up-to-date and include restrictive environmental and social requirements such as those in the fundamental ILO conventions, which aim to promote proper working conditions.

Moreover, following Parliament’s commitment to enable better access to generic medicines, I am delighted that the provisions on public health have been included and that our wish has been respected that any demands that would limit our partners’ ability to make use of the flexibilities provided for in the atypical Doha declaration agreement should not be included.

On the other hand, despite its positive points, it is unacceptable that this text makes no reference to the fate of workers in the Kaesong free trade area, as our rapporteur wanted, and I deplore this.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bogusław Rogalski (UEN ).(PL) Mr President, Korea is one of the leading economies in the world, but at the same time it has the greatest difference in income among the OECD states. Korea is the EU’s fourth largest trade partner outside Europe, whereas in 2006 the EU was the largest foreign investor in Korea.

The main problem in our bilateral trade relations is difficulty of access to the market across non-tariff barriers, including a lack of accepted norms and international standards. A free trade agreement with Korea should include protection for foreign investments, a competition policy, public order transparency and trade facilitation.

We must also bear in mind, though, that this agreement could have a negative impact on the European automobile industry, so the Commission must give careful consideration to the strategy of gradual removal of EU import duties. First of all, non-tariff barriers on the Korean side must be withdrawn, so that it does not turn out that the sole beneficiary of this cooperation is Korea.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Glyn Ford (PSE ). – Mr President, I wish to join with the other speakers in congratulating Mr Martin on his report on a free trade agreement with South Korea, which is the EU’s fourth largest trading partner outside Europe and the world’s eleventh largest economy.

I want to deal briefly with two issues. Firstly, the opposition of trade union and farmers’ groups to the free trade agreement with Korea and, secondly, the case of the industrial zone. In the first case, we need to place the opposition in perspective. Thousands demonstrated against the US agreement with Korea and a number of people burnt themselves to death. Rather than thousands, we have only dozens protesting, possibly because we are attempting to include in our free trade agreement an associated political cooperation agreement – social, political and labour clauses that will help protect labour standards in the south and may well enhance them. At the same time, we will not have the discussion over rice which Korea had with the United States.

With respect to Kaesong, we are not arguing that this should be included. We are arguing that we should not automatically exclude it. That is a rather different position, and I hope that on that basis the Liberals will be able to change the way they vote. As the former Prime Minister of Jamaica once said, the only thing worse than being exploited is not being exploited. Some of us had the opportunity to visit Kaesong last month, as part of an EU workshop on economic reform held in North Korea. I saw thousands of happy North Koreans flooding from the zone, smartly dressed, because they have standards of living six times higher than in the North. This is an opportunity, politically and economically, to actually change that regime and move things in the right direction. Kaesong can transform the North and, allowing for the difficulties, should be encouraged and not killed.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Peter Mandelson, Member of the Commission . − Mr President, let me make three brief points. First of all, on the issue of Kaesong, I think that Mr Ford’s formulation – that we should not automatically exclude Kaesong – is the right approach to take. We in the Commission will be very prudent on this subject, but I think, on that basis, the amendment is probably a worthwhile one.

Secondly, I was asked about the overall prospects for the negotiation. Well, in this job I have not discovered a trade negotiation that is not in some difficulty. However, I would say that this negotiation is in less difficulty than some other trade negotiations I could identify.

Lastly, Ms Mann asks whether the European Parliament can obtain rights earlier than the Treaty ratification in respect of this agreement. When asked about this in a different context, I overstepped my collective Commission responsibility in my enthusiasm, so today I shall be a little bit more careful and simply stress that we will seek to involve Parliament as much as possible.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The debate is closed.

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

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 

6. Voting time
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – Before starting the votes, Mr Schulz has asked to speak on a point of order.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I have asked to speak on behalf of my group for two reasons: firstly, for one very general reason – on account of yesterday’s events here in this House – and secondly, because I have a request in connection with the forthcoming votes.

I should like to deal with the general reason first, however. Mr President, would you please issue a statement about yesterday’s events on behalf of my group, particularly about the very specific case, the case concerning our ushers here in this House. I wish to say: it is every man and every woman’s absolute right to be able to express their opinion in this House. We are also accustomed to seeing posters and T-shirts and to everyone being free to express their opinion here. Anyone who is in favour of a referendum is entitled to express this in this House. What we experienced yesterday, however, is not acceptable in the context of this freedom of opinion.

(Applause)

We can argue here about what individual fellow Members are doing here, how they conduct themselves, whether or not they shout. One thing is not acceptable, however, and that is that the ushers in this House, for whom – and I speak on behalf of all my fellow Members, of almost all Members, I believe, in this House – I have the greatest personal and professional respect…

(Applause)

What is not right – and I also speak specifically on behalf of my fellow Member Mr Daul and, I think, also, on behalf of Mr Watson, Mr Cohn-Bendit and Mr Wurtz – is that ushers in this House are physically and verbally assaulted in a heated debate: ushers, who have been discharging the duties of their office, and were described yesterday as the Gestapo and SS. This is a disgrace, Mr President! I think the House should express its total solidarity with the ushers.

(Sustained applause)

Ladies and gentlemen, the ushers in this House are not private individuals; they are officials of this Parliament. They are the long arm of the President in this House. When an usher is physically assaulted here, when an usher is punched here, only one thing is possible: the Member who has done this must be identified! The offence must be reported to the police and his or her immunity must be removed immediately!

(Applause)

Mr President, on behalf of my Group I should like to address the Union for Europe of the Nations Group, particularly Mr Crowley, although I do not know whether he is here, with regard to the votes – that is, the votes on the resolutions on extremism, the EU/China human rights dialogue, Montenegro and the ban on land mines. The UEN Group is a co-signatory to these resolutions. As long as no official apology is forthcoming from the UEN Group for yesterday’s incidents in this House, I see myself, as representative of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, being unable to continue to cooperate with the UEN Group.

In particular I refer to the resolution on combating the rise of extremism in Europe. It was pointed out in the third recital on behalf of the UEN Group, among others, that we condemn racism in Europe and we do so with reference to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. This should have been signed here yesterday and was shouted down by a large proportion of the members of that group. Please withdraw your signature under this joint resolution. You cannot adopt a resolution relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which you all hooted down yesterday!

(Applause and uproar)

Yesterday you expressed the fact that you do not want this Charter of Fundamental Rights. Remove your signature! Our cooperation with you is finished!

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, I have this stack of paper in front of me, which gives you an idea of the amount of work we still have to get through this morning. Some of my fellow Members have nevertheless asked to speak. I do not wish to start a lengthy debate. Mr Daul has asked to speak, as has Mrs Muscardini, so I will let them speak for one minute and no more.

(Noise)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Joseph Daul, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . (FR) Mr President, I will be very brief. I was in the chamber at nine o’clock this morning awaiting an apology for the personal attack on the ushers. As one was not forthcoming I made my statement at nine o’clock this morning, and I am not going to make it again.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Cristiana Muscardini, on behalf of the UEN Group . (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I have been sitting in this Parliament for more than 18 years, and in this Parliament, with my fellow Members, I have always defended human and civil rights and my speeches in the Chamber and questions and motions for resolutions bear witness to this.

I will not take lessons from Mr Schulz because Mr Schulz is not the repository of the truth, either in this Chamber or outside it. Democracy, Mr President, is a value that must be defended, and this includes showing respect for individuals and groups. I feel embarrassed for Mr Schulz because he has said things he must feel ashamed of.

The UEN Group is behind all Parliament’s officials, and particularly the ushers, who on many occasions this year have tried to defend the right to speech and expression that has so often been denied by a few majority groups in Parliament. For this reason, Mr President, the UEN supports the ushers, the UEN believes in fundamental rights, and the UEN calls for respect for duties and respect for people. Mr Schulz, take your own signature off!

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, are there any other group chairmen or women here who would like to speak? I deliberately say ‘group chairmen or women’ because I am not going to let all 785 members speak on this matter.

I cannot see any group chairmen or women, so this item is closed.

(Applause)

I will simply add something that a poet once said, which is that the most beautiful hymns are sung when bombs are falling. I think the one we heard here yesterday was wonderful, for that very reason!

(Applause)

Mr Salafranca wishes to speak on another matter.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra (PPE-DE ). – (ES) Mr President, yesterday there was a brutal terrorist attack in the city of Beirut, in which the Lebanese general François el Hajj was killed.

As the House is aware, Mr President, Lebanon is linked to the European Union by an Association Agreement. At the mini-plenary session in Brussels, Parliament adopted an important report granting macro-financial aid to that country and, to take an obvious example, a delegation from the Committee on Foreign Affairs, made up of Mrs De Keyser, Mrs Gomes, Mr Belder and myself, visited the country last week, so that, like various ministers from the Member States, we could express our solidarity with the cause of peace, for understanding, harmony and reconciliation in the country.

I would ask the President to pass on our support to Prime Minister Siniora in response to this brutal terrorist attack and our unquestionable and irrevocable commitment to the cause of a sovereign, democratic, stable, viable and peaceful Lebanon.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – Mr Salafranca, I think the applause from your fellow Members shows quite clearly that the assembly supports your declaration. It will be passed on.

The last request to speak is from Mr Pirker, on a point of order, and then we will proceed to the vote.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hubert Pirker (PPE-DE ). − (DE) Mr President, this does not really have anything to do with the debate, and I actually wanted to say this immediately after the last debate: it is simply unbearably cold in this House. It may have been quite good yesterday because feelings were not running so high there as they would perhaps otherwise have been. However, in general it is simply too cold and I wanted to suggest, in connection with the debate on the Free Trade Agreement with Korea, that we try to achieve a reasonable temperature perhaps once with a Korean air conditioning system, should we not manage to do so with our European one.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – I think we have covered everything we wanted to cover before launching into the vote.

The next item is therefore Voting time.

(For results and other details of the votes: see Minutes)

 

6.1. Financial year 2008 as modified by the Council (vote)
  

- Financial year 2008

- Before the vote:

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kyösti Virrankoski (ALDE ), rapporteur . − Mr President, the second reading budget conciliation between the two arms of the Budgetary Authority was held on 23 November 2007. Parliament achieved a budget for results on its major objectives: financing for Galileo (EUR 2.4 billion) via a revision of the 2007-2013 multiannual financial framework (MFF) and the use of the flexibility instrument (EUR 200 million); significant further use of the flexibility instrument (EUR 70 million) to finance an increase in the spending on common foreign and security policy (CFSP).

The Committee on Budgets voted its second reading amendments, further to the conciliation outcome, on 29 November 2007. After the technical check of the figures, a small number of technical adjustments were necessary to ensure full respect of the conciliation outcome of 23 November as regards revised financial framework ceilings and the overall level of payments.

The agreed modifications are the following:

First, in heading 1a, commitment appropriations are adjusted as follows:

Amendment 335:

06 02 09 01 (Galileo Supervisory Authority) to EUR 7 460 000

06 02 09 02 (Galileo Supervisory Authority) to EUR 3 100 000

08 07 01 (Research Cooperation – Transport) to EUR 348 922 000

Amendment 331:

02 02 01 (Competitiveness and Innovation) to EUR 126 300 000

Amendment 69:

06 03 03 (TENs – T) to EUR 955 852 600

Second, in heading 1b, in order to meet the overall level of payments agreed at the conciliation, payment appropriations are modified on lines:

Amendment 27:

04 02 17 (ESF) to EUR 3 823 198 181

Amendment 140:

13 03 16 (ERDF convergence) to EUR 10 606 637 496

Amendment 141:

13 03 18 (ERDF competitiveness) to EUR 2 540 832 078

All these technical adjustments were unanimously approved by the Committee on Budgets on Monday 10 December.

Third, a number of technical/nomenclature changes will be made, mainly as regards pilot projects and preparatory actions. These changes have been presented to the President of Parliament. These modifications do not change any figures, nor do they change any MFF classifications.

 
  
  

(The technical adjustments were accepted)

- After the vote:

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Emanuel Santos, President-in-Office of the Council . – (PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, may I emphasise, before going on to comment on the results of the approval of the European Union budget for 2008, that today is a particularly pleasing day for me, not only as a European, but also as a citizen of Portugal. I am of course referring to that historic event – the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon – due to take place in just over an hour in my country’s capital. Following the enlargement of the European Union to 27 Member States, it is another decisive step in European integration, that will make Europe more democratic, more representative, more flexible and effective in the way it works than it was before.

If I might make a brief and early summing up of the achievements of the Portuguese Presidency, I would point to three important areas of success for the future of the European Union. They are the agreement making it possible for the EU Reform Treaty, the Treaty of Lisbon, to be signed today, the holding of the EU-Africa Summit and of the EU-Brazil Summit. To that we might now also add the important agreement we were able to reach on the financing of the strategic Galileo Programme.

Ladies and gentlemen, today we have the second reading of the 2008 budget, the final stage of a long process of negotiation which finally ended very successfully. I am pleased to report the agreement reached between our two institutions in the concertation meeting on 23 November, that dealt in full with all the budget proposals for 2008 on which we had agreed by that date.

In accordance with the procedures, I must point out that the Council will be able to accept the maximum rate of increase resulting from your second reading. I note, however, that some small adjustments are still needed as regards the classification of expenditure on which the Council reserves its rights.

In conclusion, Mr President, I should like to take this opportunity to express once more my gratitude to the Chairman of the Committee on Budgets, Mr Böge and to the two rapporteurs, Mr Virrankoski and Mr Itälä, to my colleagues in the Council, to Commissioner Grybauskaité and to all those who have helped to bring this very demanding budgetary procedure to a successful conclusion, culminating in Parliament’s approval.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – Minister, you have uttered, among other things, the sentence I was waiting for. I therefore note that the budgetary procedure has been completed in accordance with the treaty provisions and the interinstitutional agreement of 17 May 2006. I also note that, in accordance with Article 13 of the interinstitutional agreement, the Council and Parliament agree to accept the maximum rate of increase of non-compulsory expenditure that comes out of the second reading in Parliament. Consequently, the budgetary procedure can be declared complete and the budget definitively adopted.

(Applause)

As you know, the President is currently in Lisbon where a small signature ceremony is taking place. My powers as vice-president end here. The official signature of the budget for the financial year 2008 will be on Tuesday, 18 December, at the plenary session in Brussels.

 

6.2. Draft general budget 2008 as modified by the Council (all sections) (vote)
  

- Report: Kyösti Virrankoski, Ville Itälä (A6-0492/2007 )

 

6.3. EC/Montenegro: Stabilisation and Association Agreement (vote)
  

- Recommendation: Marcello Vernola (A6-0498/2007 )

 

6.4. Cooperation between the Fundamental Rights Agency and the Council of Europe (vote)
  

- Report: Adamos Adamou (A6-0443/2007 )

 

6.5. Ovine and caprine animals: electronic identification (vote)
  

- Report: Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf (A6-0501/2007 )

 

6.6. Maintenance obligations (vote)
  

- Report: Genowefa Grabowska (A6-0468/2007 )

 

6.7. 10th Anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty (Ottawa Convention) (vote)
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0518/2207 )

 

6.8. EU-China Summit - EU-China human rights dialogue (vote)
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0543/2007 )

- After the vote:

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Toine Manders (ALDE ). (NL) Mr President, on a point of order under Rules 114 and 166, which Commissioner Mandelson will recognise: when we are received in China, we use an official symbol, the flag. Now this is being removed from the Treaty, and I would call on all countries to follow Germany’s lead and recognise this officially as a symbol once more, so that we can be received with an official symbol throughout the world.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – This will all be passed on to the competent authorities.

 

6.9. Combating the rise of extremism in Europe (vote)
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0512/2007 )

 

6.10. Montenegro (vote)
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0494/2007 )

 

6.11. Shipwrecks in the Sea of Asov/Black Sea and the subsequent oil pollution (vote)
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0503/2007 )

 

6.12. Deposit-guarantee schemes (vote)
  

- Report: Christian Ehler (A6-0448/2007 )

 

6.13. Asset management II (vote)
  

- Report: Wolf Klinz (A6-0460/2007 )

- Before the vote on Amendment 2:

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Margarita Starkevičiūtė (ALDE ). – Mr President, I would like to clarify our amendment and insert the words: ‘indirectly, for example’, so the text now reads: ‘...the product to retail investors directly or indirectly, for example by bundling it with other retail products’.

 
  
  

(The oral amendment was accepted)

 

6.14. Textile imports (vote)
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0495/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – Before we proceed to the vote on the last report, allow me to dedicate this last vote to a fellow Member who will be leaving us in a few days’ time and who has done a wonderful job for us here, at the European Parliament, and for the whole of Europe. It is, of course, Jean-Louis Bourlanges.

(Applause)

Mr Bourlanges, I hope that the warmth of this applause tells you, more than any speech, how much we will miss you. We wish you all the best.

 

6.15. Economic and trade relations with Korea (vote)
  

- Report: David Martin (A6-0463/2007 )

 

7. Calendar of part-sessions: see Minutes

8. Explanations of vote
  

Oral explanations of vote

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0543/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Frank Vanhecke (NI ). (NL) Mr President, I should just like to say that I did not endorse the resolution on the EU/China human rights dialogue for a number of reasons. In particular, I think that we in this Hemicycle have already churned out more than enough overblown texts, and that the European institutions rarely, if ever, follow these overblown texts and overblown statements with action.

With the Beijing Olympic Games around the corner, their European Excellencies will be once more attempting to curry favour with the Chinese authorities. This is already clear from the present resolution, which, alongside very many sensible elements, asserts that, at the recent Chinese Communist Party National Congress – and I quote – ‘perspectives … arose towards the implementation of higher international human rights benchmarks’. How unworldly of this House; as the reality in today’s Beijing is one of intimidation, deportations, arrests and labour camps. It is time the European Union abandoned its policy of double standards towards China.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0512/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Dimitar Stoyanov (NI ). – (BG) I voted against the resolution on extremism because it is the fruit of that hatred it is called upon to condemn. And who is lecturing us on extremism? Comrade Schulz and Comrade Cohn-Bendit, these champions of Marxism and Leninism, that very ideology which massacred dozens of millions of Russians and Ukrainians in the beginning of last century? Or Comrade Vigenin whose party held the Bulgarian people in its clutches for fifty years and killed thousands Bulgarians in its concentration camps? Are you the ones to teach us what extremism is like? Thank you.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Frank Vanhecke (NI ). (NL) Mr President, yes, that is the way it goes in this House. Unless your name is Mr Schulz, you have to use the explanations of vote to be able to express your opinions. This House has once again laid its periodic egg about the ‘necessity’ of combating ‘extremism’ – but is not talking about real extremism and real violence, for example that of the rising Islam in Europe. Instead, it is talking for the umpteenth time about curbing the freedom of expression of those peacefully standing up for the right to individuality, the right to protect and preserve our languages, identities, cultures and freedom.

It is little short of tragic that this House is constantly speaking about freedom and human rights whilst imposing the severest, most drastic muzzling rules on people who have differing opinions on the matter and, for example, do not simply join the rest of this House in worshipping the sacred cow of the proverbial multicultural society. I, for my part, do not take this resolution seriously and, as far as I am concerned, there can be no freedom without total freedom of political expression.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Philip Claeys (NI ). (NL) Mr President, I too voted against the resolution on extremism. This is not because I feel that the term concerns me – the reverse is true – but because, for the umpteenth time, a legitimate political discourse against further mass-immigration and for a firm adjustment policy is being consciously bound up with extremism and violence.

Even the title of the resolution is misleading and biased. Left-wing extremism is evidently something that by definition cannot exist, and clearly no-one here has heard of the rising Islamic fundamentalism. This is straight out of Kafka. It would be funny if it were not so depressing. Anyone not falling into line with political correctness is criminalised. Perhaps someone could explain how this kind of thing relates to the Charter of Fundamental Rights we signed yesterday.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Koenraad Dillen (NI ). (NL) Mr President, I too voted wholeheartedly against this resolution, as when the fox preaches, look to your geese. I have rarely set eyes on a more hypocritical document than this motion for a resolution on ‘rising extremism’ in Europe – and God knows that Europe and this House have already broken records for hypocrisy.

After all, as my colleagues have already said, there is no such thing as left-wing extremism. Indeed, the finger is not even pointed at Islamic extremism. The suburbs of Paris burned, but the problem apparently lies with the small nonconformist minority that has become the bane of the life of this lofty institution.

Perhaps we should open the gates of the Gulag again for those who still dare to criticise the cult of Europe and the sacrosanct multicultural society – complete with an inquisition and banishment to Devil’s Island for the heretics. Only then will Europe be purged of its last critics, and the cult of Europe will be able to continue its conversion mission undisturbed.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mogens Camre (UEN ). – (DA) Mr President, this resolution contains a justified critique of neo-fascist and fundamentalist movements in certain European countries. However, it appears that as a whole it is unilaterally oriented towards a problem that is described as European citizens with fascist and racist attitudes, and it makes the resolution meaningless. Repeated opinion polls in Denmark have indicated that immigrants from non-Western nations do not feel that they are being subjected to any form of racism or hostile treatment. However, some immigrants from non-European nations have perpetrated very widespread violence towards both Danish citizens and other immigrants. In the official crime statistics, immigrants from non-Western nations are disproportionately over-represented.

Week after week in recent months there have been many shooting incidents on the open streets involving immigrant gangs, as well as individual attacks. Immigrant officials, who are themselves of non-Danish ethnic origin, have had their lives threatened and been told to leave their job, not by Danes, but by people from foreign cultures, who they are trying to help integrate into Danish society. We have a prominent immigrant politician of Syrian origin. He must be protected 24 hours a day, not against Danes but against fundamentalists of an Islamic background. Our intelligence service is constantly involved in preventing violent attacks against Danes and Danish social institutions, not from Danes but from foreigners. Therefore, from a Danish perspective this resolution is absurd. In Denmark, violent racism is directed towards democracy and human rights. On this basis I have been unable to vote in favour of this resolution.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0503/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE ). – (SK) Mr President, the Black Sea is becoming one of the main routes for increasing oil exports in this region and in recent years has unfortunately often been a place of frequent accidents involving tankers and cargo carriers. Twelve vessels sank or ran aground here during a severe storm. These events had serious consequences, affected people’s lives and caused large-scale ecological disasters.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska more than 18 years ago is an example of a large-scale disaster, the consequences of which are felt to this day.

Considering that approximately 200 tankers travel the world’s seas every day, I am of the opinion that the situation should be regularly and closely monitored not only in the Black Sea but also in other seas. The Member States, as well as other countries neighbouring the European Union, should ensure more rigorous application of existing Community legislation and maritime safety standards. In this context, I am calling on the Council to speed up its deliberations and to adopt common positions on the remaining legislative acts in the third maritime package on maritime safety.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0495/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE ). – (CS) Mr President, abolishing quotas and introducing monitoring of Chinese textile imports next year will undoubtedly result in improved control mechanisms. However, I do not agree that woollens should not be subject to monitoring. Our resolution is a political appeal to the Commission, an expression of our wish that greater emphasis be placed on demanding that international obligations are met, and it is a protest against Chinese barriers to imports of European products. I welcome the fact that China will have to issue import licences, which will make it possible to carry out control procedures in Chinese ports and so better protect Europe from counterfeit goods. At the same time it is the Commission’s duty to protect European consumers against toxic substances, for example azo dyes that are sometimes present in Chinese goods. Therefore, I call on the Commission to push for the confiscation of textiles presenting health risks at the borders of the European Union.

 
  
  

Written explanations of vote

 
  
  

- Report: Kyösti Virrankoski and Ville Itälä (A6-0492/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM ), in writing.(NL) The Council and the European Parliament have reached agreement on the additional financing for the Galileo satellite system and expenditure on foreign affairs, including the police mission in Kosovo. To this end, they have increased the 2007-2013 Multiannual Financial Framework and used the flexibility instrument, and there have also been redeployments within the existing budget lines. These redeployments could have been more far reaching.

The main things I have problems with are the adjustment of the previously agreed ceiling for EU funds for the period until 2013 and the use of the flexibility instrument for this purpose. The use of this instrument must be avoided, and at all costs must remain limited to very exceptional circumstances. Any changes in costs must be primarily absorbed by reducing other budget lines. I am thinking mainly of the expenditure that does not concern the central objectives of the European Union and the budget lines whose implementation is already falling behind in respect of the planned expenditure.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL ), in writing. – (PT) The agreement reached between the Commission, the Council and Parliament for the 2008 EU budget reveals the true weight of the ‘big countries’ and the ‘rich countries’ as it responds to their demands to limit the EU budget ceiling as much as possible.

In spite of all the attempts to hide it, the truth is that the Commission’s, the Council’s and the EP’s proposals for the EU budget, and this agreement, were below the figure for 2008 envisaged in the 2007-2013 financial framework. That was also the case last year and in the 2000-2006 financial framework.

In reality, this EU budget for 2008 represents a reduction of more than EUR 9 billion in terms of payments as compared with what was agreed in the financial framework for 2008 – that is, in terms of payments, the EU budget has been reduced from 1.04% to 0.96% of the Community GNI. On the other hand, the EU budget has progressively moved its priorities towards financing the neoliberal, federalist and militaristic policies of the EU.

We therefore reject this agreement.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE ), in writing . (SV) We support the basic principles of the EU budget for 2008 and stress that it must give the taxpayers good value for money. The frameworks set by the financial perspective must be respected and we therefore welcome the fact that the budget will be kept within these frameworks by a good margin.

Agricultural support is one of the areas in which there is scope for cutbacks to the advantage of aims which are more in line with the Lisbon ambitions, that is that the EU should develop into the world’s economically most successful region.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE ), in writing . − During Budget negotiations, Parliament decided with Council to redeploy EUR 50 million from the Decentralised Agencies to part-finance the European GNSS programmes (EGNOS/GALILEO) and the European Institute of Technology. It was not indicated which agencies would be affected.

The reprogramming concerns the agencies under heading 1A under which Eurofound, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living standards, belongs. Eurofound is based in Dublin. This foundation provides an important service in the area of the labour market and working conditions, and a cut would be intolerable and counterproductive.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Albino Silva Peneda (PPE-DE ), in writing . – (PT) I voted in favour of the proposed 2008 budget, firstly because the proposal is clearly in line with the principles set out in the 2007-2013 Financial Perspective.

Secondly, because the proposal put to the vote, after being negotiated with the Commission and the Council, finally overcame the serious problems that arose concerning the financing of Galileo. The solution to this is also very positive, making it possible to provide a reasonable level of financing for projects included in the trans-European networks.

Thirdly, I think that the treasury solutions found are very positive as regards the budget for payments for items financing European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund projects, which are very important for enabling Portugal to develop the projects it needs to achieve much higher rates of economic growth than in recent years and thus to come closer to the EU average.

 
  
  

- Report: Adamos Adamou (A6-0443/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Carlos Coelho (PPE-DE ), in writing . – (PT) Approximately 50 years ago the Council of Europe devised a system of rules and legal and judicial instruments for the purposes of protecting and promoting Fundamental Rights that has become a benchmark for Human Rights, the Rule of Law and Democracy in Europe.

The Agency for Fundamental Rights, which is a legal successor of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, should help to enhance the coherence and consistency of EU Fundamental Rights Policy.

Since both institutions share the same objective (strengthening the protection of Fundamental Rights), it is essential to ensure that they collaborate closely.

This Agreement aims to ensure complementarity and added value and to avoid duplication with the activities of the Council of Europe, as laid down in Article 9 of the Regulation establishing a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

I support the conclusion of this Agreement in a spirit of cooperation, transparency and complementarity, in particular the establishing of a cooperation framework between the two institutions entailing regular contacts and meetings, exchange of information and coordination of activities in order to avoid duplication and to guarantee the best possible use of resources.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marine Le Pen (NI ), in writing . – (FR) The paradox, or perhaps the hypocrisy of the European Parliament, is that it goes about preaching democratic principles and values but flouts them by refusing to apply them when it is inconvenient to do so.

Such was the case yesterday when the European Parliament, meeting in plenary, formally proclaimed the Charter of Fundamental Rights amid general uproar, thus ignoring the protests from the separatists demanding a referendum for the adoption of the new constitutional treaty.

The European Parliament is discrediting itself by refusing any discussion and stigmatising its own elected Members who are committed to promoting the maintenance of national identity and sovereignty.

Freedom of expression only has value if one’s political opponents enjoy it too. According to the conservative political groups, it seems that some speech is illegitimate and needs to be prevented at any cost. As the European Parliament compromises itself by laying claim to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the elected Members from the Front National are stating loud and clear that they do not have the same idea of human rights and will continue to fight for respect for the sovereignty and identity of the nations of Europe.

 
  
  

- Report: Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf (A6-0501/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Duarte Freitas (PPE-DE ), in writing . – (PT) I am voting in favour of the report by Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf since it is becoming urgent to introduce a system of electronic identification for ovine and caprine animals. I regret the 17 month delay in the Commission proposal.

I agree with the amendment to the Commission proposal to the effect that a specific date should be set for the system to come into force, 31 December 2009 being the most appropriate date, as Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf’s report suggests.

I do not agree with Amendments 4 and 5 which would delay the swift implementation of the system. Nor do I agree with Amendment 3, since in my view the document in question aims to set a timetable rather than discuss principles.

 
  
  

- Report: Genowefa Grabowska (A6-0468/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Andersson, Göran Färm, Anna Hedh and Inger Segelström (PSE ), in writing . (SV) We Swedish Social Democrats voted for the report since it is important to remove the current obstacles to the collection of maintenance contributions from a citizen with residence in a Member State other than that of the person entitled to maintenance. In this connection it is particularly important to protect the weaker party in the collection procedure. However, we are opposed to the wording of Amendments 9 and 26 which require the parties, after independent legal advice, to enter into a written agreement on the jurisdiction of the court and on the national law which should be applied in order that the agreement should be effective in the court. Such requirements are not compatible with the Swedish legal tradition.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Carlos Coelho (PPE-DE ), in writing . – (PT) Increasing mobility in the EU, combined with the growing number of couples separating, has brought an increase in the number of cross-border disputes regarding maintenance claims.

The current procedures for obtaining maintenance claims tend to be too long and complicated and in many cases impossible in terms of obtaining results. In the meantime, maintenance creditors, the large majority of them children, live in very poor circumstances and often do not even have money to survive.

This initiative is therefore very important, since it should facilitate the functioning of the internal market and freedom of movement, by the elimination of obstacles created by the discrepancies between the Member States, as regards enforcing maintenance obligations. It should ensure that such decisions are recognised and enforced throughout the European Union in the quickest and most effective way at the lowest possible cost.

It will simplify citizens’ lives and should at the same time have positive social effects in that it will make it easier for maintenance creditors living in another Member State to take a claim to a competent court and, once the court decision has been given, it will be recognised in all the Member States without further formalities.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bogusław Liberadzki (PSE ), in writing. − (PL) Mr President, I am voting in favour of the report on the proposal for a Council Regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations (COM(2005)0649 – C6-0079/2006 – 2005/0259(CNS) ).

Mrs Grabowska is correct in her assessment that there is currently no common, harmonised system of recognition and enforcement of maintenance decisions at EU level.

I agree with the initiative for the quick, free-of-charge enforcement of maintenance claims, especially in the context of cross-border movements of persons.

The report rightly stresses the need for the introduction of such actions in order for a decision to have the same effect as it has in the Member State in which it was issued, without any additional formalities.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0518/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL ), in writing . – (PT) Since 1997, when the Ottawa Convention was signed, on the basis of data available last November, 156 States have signed the Convention. Significantly and regrettably, the USA is not one of those States.

Quite correctly, the resolution adopted today points out the inconsistency between the European Commission’s action in announcing its intention actively to strive for the destruction of anti-personnel mines and support for victims who for the most part, remember, are children, whilst at the same time deleting the specific anti-personnel mine budget line at the end of 2006.

In view of the importance of this action and the fact that victim support is nowhere near sufficient to respond to their needs, we think that a specific anti-personnel mine budget line for the financing of anti-mine actions, victim assistance, and stockpile destruction should be reinstated; furthermore, we would add that there should be a substantial increase in the funds allocated.

We regret the failure to adopt the proposal by our parliamentary group calling upon all countries to immediately halt the production of landmines and urging that under no circumstances or conditions should EU troops make use of mines.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0543/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Robert Goebbels (PSE ), in writing . – (FR) I abstained on the resolution on EU-China relations because I am not keen to associate myself with these paternalistic reprimands or with the moralising discourse that resolutions of this kind convey. A European Union that cannot adopt a Charter of Fundamental Rights that applies throughout its territory is ill placed to try and give lessons to the rest of the world.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0512/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jim Allister (NI ), in writing . − As a representative from a region, Northern Ireland, where Sinn Fein, affiliates of a terrorist organisation which recently murdered a young man, Paul Quinn, has been admitted to government in a coalition with exclusively democratic parties, I was encouraged to note and vote for Amendment 14 which was in the following terms:

‘Deplores the fact that some mainstream parties have seen fit to give credibility and acceptance to extremist parties by entering into coalition agreements, thereby sacrificing their moral integrity for the sake of short-term political gain and expediency.’

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM ), in writing . − Whilst opposed to extremism in any form, UKIP does not believe that we, the British people, need to take any advice on this issue from the EU, and nor would UKIP call for the EU to take any action. This, like all other matters, should be the prerogative of independent, democratic nation states.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Derek Roland Clark (IND/DEM ), in writing . − Whilst opposed to extremism in ny form UKIP does not believe that we, the British people, need to take advice on this issue from the EU, and nor would UKIP call for the EU to take any action. This, like all other matters, should be the prerogative of independent, democratic, nation states.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka, Wojciech Roszkowski and Konrad Szymański (UEN ), in writing. − (PL) Mr President, we are against racism, xenophobia and political extremism. Recent practice in the European Parliament, where these concepts are abused in the ongoing political struggle, giving rise to a threat to free speech, a flagrant example of which was the incidents in the Hemicycle on 12 December this year, however, leads us to believe that supporters of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in which, it must be said, there is a senseless prohibition on discrimination based on ‘any political opinion’, at that time violated the principles they themselves propound.

The lack of any precise definition of political extremism and xenophobia in the resolution, which is intended to combat extremism, leads us to abstain from the vote on this matter.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bruno Gollnisch (NI ), in writing . – (FR) Front National, Vlaams Belang and FPOE are not extremist, racist or xenophobic parties. Lumping them together in a way that is unhealthy and wrong, all the so-called ‘conservative’ parties are still trying to accuse them of being extremists solely because they want to promote the maintenance of national identity.

Democracy is certainly in danger, but those who are pre-appointed by the system as guilty are not the ones threatening it. It is not in danger from the people who criticise and challenge policies, particularly on immigration, and who are therefore accused of being extremist. It is in danger from those who systematically gag freedom of expression in the name of human rights and political correctness, and who are really only masking their own failure to solve the problems they are facing of immigration, lack of security and identity.

By massively increasing the amount of legislation to combat extremism in Europe, Parliament could have been proud of helping to maintain democratic principles and values. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Far from targeting radical Islamism or totalitarian communist regimes, Parliament is just feeding its anti-national and globalist obsession once again.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski (UEN ), in writing. − (PL) Mr President, I categorically oppose racism, xenophobia and political extremism. I do think, though, that in documents adopted under the aegis of the European Parliament a clear definition should be provided of such terms as, specifically, political extremism and xenophobia. If this is not done, this may, under a noble banner, actually serve the opposite aims and become a field for abuses in politicians’ public activities, drowning out free expression and the freedom to voice one’s views.

One example of such selective interpretation of these concepts was provided by the situation that arose at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg on 12 December this year. How, for example, does the provision of an article of the Charter of Fundamental Rights that says that ‘Any discrimination based on ... political or any other opinion ... shall be prohibited’ square with the forcible snatching of pieces of paper with the legend ‘REFERENDUM’ from the hands of Members? This was a peaceful expression of opinion by a few elected Members.

In view of this situation, I abstained from the vote on the resolution on combating rising extremism in Europe.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Carl Lang (NI ), in writing . – (FR) It is astounding to see how hemiplegic the European Parliament can be: it can only look right! The various resolutions proposed by the PSE, Liberals, Verts or even Communists only consider extremism on the part of the ‘extreme right’.

What about radical Islamism and all those Trotskyites and communists? Not once are these types of extremism mentioned.

This is an insult for all the victims of totalitarian communist regimes and for all those who suffer on a daily basis because of the dogma and practices of radical Islamism. The European Parliament does not believe these types of extremism are objectionable. They just do not exist, because they do not form part of the current standard vocabulary of political correctness within these walls.

Out of respect for the principles and values of democracy, equality and tolerance, the PSE Group is quick to welcome the dissolution of the extreme right-wing political group Independence, Tradition and Sovereignty (ITS) before calling for the conditions governing the formation of political groups within Parliament to be strengthened. The leitmotiv of these elected members is to systematically demonise their political opponents in order to impose their conservatism on everyone.

These resolutions are a hypocritical, blind and obscurantist chore. We will be voting against them.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE ), in writing. − While I fully subscribe to genuine measures to overcome racism and extremism, this sort of resolution, generated by the Left, is not helpful and is merely intended to take forward their own distorted agenda. In fact, there is little to distinguish the extreme Left and the extreme Right and they feed off one another. However, the Left has been successful in taking the spotlight off its own extremes and promoting institutions and policies which assist its own objectives. The EU, in its continuous efforts to extend its own reach, is often complicit in this. I do not approve of EU quangos such as the so-called ‘EU Agency for Fundamental Rights’ or indeed funding from public money of the constellation of NGOs pushing the Left’s agenda. I therefore abstained on the resolution.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Thomas Wise (IND/DEM ), in writing . − I am opposed to extremism in any form, but I do not accept that the British people must take advice from the EU on this - or indeed on any other matter. I was not elected to have the EU extend or expand its control over the UK. This matter should remain in the control and prerogative of independent, democratic nation states.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0494/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL ), in writing.(NL) In 1918, independent Montenegro voluntarily chose unification with the neighbouring countries of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia. In 2006, after the break-up of Yugoslavia, the electorate of Montenegro, the last state to remain united with Serbia, decided democratically to end this union. This made Montenegro the 49th independent state in Europe. Now it is important that Montenegro become a normal state, rather than a larger version of Monaco: a paradise for rich foreigners wishing to pay low taxes, launder money and build palaces. Montenegro must do more to combat environmental pollution and cigarette smuggling.

I am pleased that the Committee on Foreign Affairs has accepted my amendments concerning housing and jobs for Serbian and Kosovar refugees. Stateless persons cannot remain stateless for ever, and Montenegro must respect the agreements of the Council of Europe in this regard. Even my proposal regarding the restoration of the north-south railway connections to Nikšić on the Bosnian border and Shkoder in Albania has been accepted. Increasing road transport is not a valid solution. Fortunately, the rapporteur, Mr Vernola – unlike in his previous annual report – is not calling for swift accession to NATO, nor an economic policy that is even more neoliberal than is usual in the rest of Europe. Accession to NATO cannot be a prerequisite for admission to the EU.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0503/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL ), in writing . – (PT) The resolution adopted today in the European Parliament expresses solidarity with the victims of the shipwrecks that occurred in the Kerch Strait – that is, the Strait linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov – causing an environmental disaster.

The environmental impact of the spillage of oil derivatives into the strait was exacerbated by the rapid dispersion of the pollutants due to the strong winds and high waves at the time.

In general, we agree with the positions contained in the resolution, stressing the important role of Member States in ensuring that ships on their national registers conform to international standards and in preventing maritime accidents and combating the consequences of such accidents.

Agreeing with the need to implement measures to reduce the environmental risk and to make progress in maritime safety, we think that any initiative taken at EU level in this framework should be based on enhanced cooperation between Member States, without compromising their responsibilities in this area.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE ), in writing . – (FR) The enlargement of the European Union calls for our solidarity with the population of the 431 000 km2 around the Black Sea.

This solidarity is expressed by the agreement to open negotiations with Turkey, the implementation of the Neighbourhood Policy with Georgia and Ukraine, and the strategic partnership established with Russia. The violence of the storm makes us think about the effects of climate change, in our own neighbourhood too. A risk management policy is required that combines both prevention and the protection of biodiversity.

We remember that the storm trapped four vessels and caused the death of eight sailors. A Russian cargo vessel also broke in two, releasing 4 000 tonnes of fuel oil on a migration route for diving birds coming from Siberia. The European Union sent a team within the framework of the Monitoring and Information Centre. More should be done as part of this initiative. To prevent future disasters, the EU must make sure that high safety standards are systematically applied to the fleet of Russian vessels. The EU must impose the use of
double-hull cargo vessels on its Russian partner, for transporting oil. As the parliamentary assembly of the BSEC meets, we should be demanding the application of the standards in the European maritime safety package.

 
  
  

- Report: Christian Ehler (A6-0448/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE ), in writing. − (PL) Mr President, I am voting in favour of Mr Ehler’s report on deposit-guarantee schemes.

The rapporteur has presented a very good report, in which attention is drawn to the new challenges facing guarantee schemes because of the increasing integration of markets. These challenges must be responded to if the stability of financial markets is to be ensured. Deposit-guarantee schemes are a very important part in the EU financial market system and their operation should continuously be improved.

The rapporteur rightly draws attention to the problem of crisis management and the safety net for cross-border deposits in crisis management.

I agree that crisis management should rest on the foundations of improved early risk detection, better defined and planned procedures of interaction between all parties involved, and clarification of the point at which burdens are to be shared. Differences between systems and the variety of parties involved in the public and private sectors must be taken into consideration.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution (B6-0495/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bruno Gollnisch (NI ), in writing . – (FR) Mass imports, the perverse role played by a strong euro against a deliberately undervalued foreign currency, social and environmental dumping, counterfeits, piracy, dangerous products, and the existence of non-tariff barriers that hit European manufacturing: in the textiles sector as in others, every report and resolution by this Parliament on trade relations with China looks the same.

Why was China’s membership of the WTO accepted under these circumstances? We voted against it. Why refuse to see that liberalising trade with countries that have decided not to obey the rules – and you never challenge this liberalisation – only leads to economic disaster and social disintegration for whole regions and sectors? Why accept the end of textile quotas and the laying off of tens of thousands of European workers? You are worried about it now, but you only talk timidly of possible means of commercial defence, safeguard measures and joint surveillance of exports. It is not much, and it is not enough, but it is better than nothing.

Therefore, though this resolution is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, we will vote in favour.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL ), in writing . – (PT) We are pleased at the adoption of our proposals that:

- maintain that the double-checking surveillance system will serve no purpose unless it prevents any repetition of the situation that occurred in 2005 and that new safeguard measures are required;

- repeat the proposal that a Community programme should be drawn up for the textiles and clothing sector, especially for the more disadvantaged regions that depend on it, and help for SMEs;

We regret the rejection by the majority of the European Parliament of our proposals that, for example:

- referred to the serious consequences of liberalisation in the textiles and clothing sector at global level with firms closing down or relocating, unemployment and serious socio-economic crises;

- pointed out that some countries have adopted safeguard measures applying until the end of 2008, and therefore failed to understand why the EU had not followed suit;

- maintain that a regulatory framework needed to be laid down to penalise company relocations, making public aid to businesses subject to long-term commitments regarding regional development and employment, including the requirement to pay back aid if such conditions were not met;

- called for a stronger role for workers’ representatives in company boards and in fundamental organisational decision-making.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Carl Lang (NI ), in writing . – (FR) The textile sector in France and in Europe since the end of the Multi Fibre Arrangement has turned some of our regions into economic and social deserts. Poverty and deprivation reign there for the thousands of men and women who have lost their jobs.

The destruction of these companies, of this social fabric, in the name of globalisation and pro-European ultraliberalism, is the symbol of one of the greatest economic failures of the European Union.

For years, this approach has led to our manufacturing in all economic sectors, even where it was of a very high standard, being relocated to other countries throughout the world: to North Africa and especially to Asia. This global rebalancing will not actually have given these third countries anything, except to worsen economic slavery for the benefit of a small elite in Chinese factories and to establish long-term unemployment in Europe against a background of persistent economic crisis.

Clearly, global competition, as encouraged by the WTO, is the main reason for the widespread impoverishment and lack of dynamism of Europe. The European Union urgently needs to put an end to this madness, and finally to set up Community protection and preference.

 
  
  

- Report: David Martin (A6-0463/2007 )

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL ), in writing . – (PT) Amongst other things, this report contains a veritable misconception. It acknowledges that ‘poverty remains an unresolved and deepening problem in Korea which, according to OECD statistics, ranks among the three OECD members with both the biggest income gap and the greatest widening of the income gap’ (we might add that it is not the only case, since within the EU the income gap between rich and poor has also widened, particularly in Portugal, where the difference between the richest and the poorest continues to grow, with approximately two million Portuguese living on the breadline).

The report nevertheless calls for a ‘free trade’ agreement between the EU and Korea and for trade liberalisation, when it is known that such policies have favoured and will continue to favour the concentration of wealth on the large economic and financial groups both in the EU and in Korea. It is an agreement which will serve to place workers under even greater pressure to accept low salaries and lose rights and social advances gained in the name of ‘competitiveness’, and to increase the fabulous profits of the few.

In the meantime there is no mention of the shipbuilding industry...

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE ), in writing. − (PL) Mr President, I am voting in favour of accepting Mr Martin’s report on the trade and economic relations with Korea.

The rapporteur has drafted a very good report, in which he points out the importance of Korea as a trading partner for the European Union in economic terms. Conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement with Korea is part of the strategy to provide Europe with a global dimension.

A Free Trade Agreement between Korea and the European Union could constitute a basis for the promotion of high social and environmental standards and could serve as an example for other agreements that are currently at the negotiation stage.

I agree that every effort must be made to ensure that the European Union and Korea – under the aegis of the trade agreement currently being negotiated or through a separate agreement – themselves take on human rights obligations.

 
  
  

(The sitting was suspended at 12.50 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.)

 

9. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS KRATSA-TSAGAROPOULOU
Vice-President

 

10. Approval of the minutes: see Minutes

11. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law(debate)

11.1. Eastern Chad
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item on the agenda are the six motions for a resolution on eastern Chad(1) .

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Adam Bielan (UEN ), author. − (PL) Madam President, I would like to say that I am very disturbed by the intensification of fighting in Chad, but also by the lack of progress in finding a political solution to the conflict. I would therefore like to draw particular attention to the role of the EUFOR TCHAD/RCA operation. The main aim of the European initiative, which is also supported by the UN, is to ensure security in the humanitarian zone.

Bearing in mind the ongoing Darfur crisis and the way in which it is destabilising the situation in the region, it is worth remembering here that the conflict has already crossed the borders of Chad and the Central African Republic. I believe it is vital to put neutral forces from the Member States in place as soon as possible. I would like to stress, though, that the success of such a peace mission is heavily dependent on the political efforts that must be made if a successful peace process is to be conducted.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mary Lou McDonald (GUE/NGL ), author . − Madam President, I want to make a couple of important and essential points. There is absolutely no doubt that intervention is required in Chad. There is no doubt that the teeming human misery of refugees in that part of our world is unbearable to see, but I want to state very clearly that there are a number of core difficulties with this proposed mission.

The first of these is the lack of clarity in terms of the operation’s mandate. We are saying that this is a peace-keeping and humanitarian effort. If that is indeed so, then this must be made doubly clear in the terms of reference for the troops we send. I believe that clarity is lacking.

I do not believe – and I have to disagree with my colleague – that an intervention shaped in this way will actually increase security. We have recently witnessed a growing intensity and barbarity of the conflict. We have also heard from leaders of many of the rebel groups that any intervention, and this intervention in particular, will be considered hostile. That poses a huge difficulty.

I must also say – and, again, I disagree with my colleague – that the troops as currently configured will not act as the neutral force that is required. I have to say, with the greatest of respect for France and her people, that to load the mission so much towards France verges on the provocative, and I think it deeply unwise.

I do not believe that it is possible for us to formulate a common European defence or security policy. The difficulties that have arisen – in this instance in relation to Chad – reflect very clearly why. I think it is undoable, because we have very different traditions and histories and very different foreign policy goals and outlooks. For this reason in particular it is a great shame – if I may say so, coming from a country that is still at least nominally militarily neutral – that the obligations, responsibilities and capacities of militarily neutral states are not recognised sufficiently in the European Union, and particularly not in the Lisbon Treaty. I believe that countries with that tradition could make the kind of valued intervention based on neutrality that my colleague has mentioned.

To conclude, intervention in Chad is necessary. However, the essential thing is how we go about this. Any operation has to be focused. It certainly has to be neutral and, above all, it must have prospects of success.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Matsakis, Marios (ALDE ). – Madam President, I notice that there is no time displayed on the board. Does that mean we will have the privilege of unlimited use of time this afternoon, or is there a technical error?

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – Mr Matsakis, we shall all abide by the time we know has been given us.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Colm Burke (PPE-DE ), author . − Mr President, I initiated this urgency resolution in order to exert political and public pressure on getting the EU peacekeeping mission to the eastern Chad border region deployed as soon as possible. The recent unrest in eastern Chad, including heavy clashes between rebel fighters and the Chadian army, underscores the urgent need for our presence in this region to protect innocent refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) from getting caught in the crossfire. These military offences are exacerbating criminality and leading to increased insecurity around the IDP camps. Not only is access to the camps being impeded for humanitarian personnel, but they are wrestling with the problem of banditry, restricting their ability to provide much needed humanitarian assistance.

I call on the EU and its Member States to honour the political decision made and to provide this mission with more troops and appropriate financial, logistic and air support, including the necessary number of helicopters, as soon as possible. The EU’s credibility in its foreign policy on the world stage is at stake if it cannot mobilise sufficient troops and equipment to make this mission operational. This is an EU peacekeeping mission and therefore concerns all EU Member States, whether they are participant countries or not.

I would like here and now to dispel the myth that this mission will be French dominated. This mission has troops coming from Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria and Ireland. Furthermore, it will not be French led but Irish led. Irish Lieutenant General Pat Nash has been appointed to front this mission, and he will therefore be calling the shots – excuse the pun – concerning troop activities on the ground. This operation is going to go ahead, and such remarks are simply not helpful when it comes to aiding this mission’s perception and eventual reception among the local population in Chad and among the rebel groups.

There have been some hopeful signs of movement this week from other EU Member States, following Ireland’s appeal for this mission to be adequately resourced. It appears that one country has offered medical supplies, while other Member States are discussing providing funding to assist other countries to supply necessary logistical support, including aircraft. Another fourth-generation conference must be called immediately to come up with the necessities to protect our troops in the field so that they can go about their important job of protecting refugees. The time to act is now. Our inaction will cost lives.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alain Hutchinson (PSE ), author . − (FR) Madam President, the resumption of fighting between rebel and government forces in Chad has left hundreds dead and wounded and caused renewed tensions in the border region of Sudan and the Central African Republic. This situation has, de facto, restricted access to refugee camps for thousands of people and made the task of humanitarian aid workers considerably more complicated.

I should also remind you that at present in this region of the world, women and children are still the victims of particularly odious violence and that there are already more than 450 000 displaced people living in terrible conditions precisely where the conflict has restarted.

Against this background, we can obviously demand that the warring factions cease all combat, particularly where civilian populations are affected. We also demand that they respect the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, which means respecting humanitarian areas and allowing the transportation of aid, as well as not attacking humanitarian personnel.

More generally, we are also particularly concerned about the fact that humanitarian law is more and more often flouted, if not totally ignored, by the parties involved in the conflicts. The European Union needs to act specifically against this worrying development. We also urge the authorities in Chad to systematically do all they can to prosecute those responsible for rape, war crimes and all forms of serious human rights violation.

However, I would say that our message is mostly aimed at the European Union, particularly the Council of Ministers, by which we undoubtedly have more chance of being heard and which we ask to assume its responsibilities. On 15 October, the Council adopted a joint action on the EUFOR Chad/RCA operation to provide protection for civilians, humanitarian aid, and security for local and expatriate humanitarian personnel. Just two months later, the deployment of EUFOR troops has still not materialised, due to a lack of resources and sufficient equipment. This is unacceptable and the Council and Commission therefore urgently need to speed up the decision-making process to enable this operation to be conducted as rapidly as possible.

I would also like to point out that no peacekeeping mission in eastern Chad or the northern part of the Central African Republic will be effective without a general reconciliation process involving the whole region. We already know that EUFOR’s presence on Sudan’s doorstep will make it more difficult for the rebels to circulate freely across borders and will therefore cause the displacement of some attacks. The urgent and essential support that the European Union is committed to providing could therefore very quickly prove inadequate.

It is now also essential for the EU to do everything it can to encourage the resumption of peace talks at regional level, in partnership with all those involved in the conflict and the various representatives of the international community.

Finally, I would like to point out that we believe that the European force’s neutrality is particularly important and very strategic here. Since the rebels have already threatened to target it if it is simply a French mission in disguise, we are asking the other Member States to participate en masse in the composition of this force, so it is clear to everyone that it is indeed a European force.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marios Matsakis (ALDE ), author . − Madam President, eastern Chad has become a second Darfur, and the déjà vu scenes of killings and destruction committed against innocent civilians are coming back to haunt us.

Meanwhile, we in the EU, being part of the privileged elite of this world, debate endlessly amongst ourselves on how to deal with the situation. While we – most wisely, but very slowly – consider and reconsider our decision to send an effective peacekeeping military force to the region, those criminals who carry out ethnic cleansing continue their despicable acts unhindered.

One important – perhaps the most important – message that must come out of this debate today is our strong demand to the Commission and Council that EUFOR must be properly set up and deployed to the affected region most urgently. Those in the Council or Commission, or elsewhere for that matter, who delay this action would be responsible for the further escalation of violence and tragedy that will inevitably follow soon.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE ), author. (ES) Madam President, I think that it is particularly significant that the three urgent resolutions that we are debating today have something in common in that they concern different types of violence against women. This demonstrates that this type of violence is something that affects the whole world, although it has particular manifestations and forms in each case.

The first of the three cases that we are dealing with today, the situation in Chad, is a sad example of how, in a context of war, women frequently tend to be used as sexual objects, where rape becomes a weapon of war. This situation occurs especially in refugee camps, but not only there.

The aim of this resolution is, at least for some of us, to point out that the international community, and in particular the European Union, needs to respond to this situation and take on our responsibility to protect the victims.

With this in mind, the deployment of a specific mission, EUFOR Chad/CAR, is a task that certainly needs to be done urgently, but also responsibly. I would like to join with those pointing out that there is definitely a risk that the mission will be perceived as being excessively linked to one country, namely France. I think that this would be damaging, and certainly counterproductive for the objectives of the mission.

I would therefore also like to stress that the composition of the mission should reflect the diversity of the European Union Member States, in order to avoid any confusion between that mission and the French deployment known as Operation Sparrowhawk. We also need to condemn before all possible bodies, and I therefore urge the Council and the Commission to do this, the brutality of the attacks perpetrated on the civilian population by the Janjawid militias and other Chadian groups.

What is especially deplorable is the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, and it is unacceptable for such crimes to go unpunished. I therefore urge the Chadian authorities to take responsibility for investigating these rapes and abuses and to bring those responsible to justice.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bernd Posselt, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Madam President, it has been said of the last Bourbon kings that they always took action too late on an idea, a government or an army. This unfortunately seems to be the case today for the West and for Europe, because we have already allowed the catastrophe in Darfur and in eastern Chad to go on far too long. The later we intervene, the more costly it becomes, not just financially, but militarily and politically as well. I am therefore very grateful to Mr von Wogau for moving matters ahead decisively on military and security policy and I am very grateful to Mr Dess for doing the same in the humanitarian sector. We ultimately have to take action. However, the nations are procrastinating, not only on the equipment required, but also on the troops required. We need troops and forces on the ground with local knowledge and experience. I am very much of the opinion that there should be no disguised French operation, which nobody is talking about either, but we do need the local knowledge and experience of the French. We also, however, need the cooperation of the African Union and the Arab League, which are unfortunately still keeping completely aloof. This should not, however, absolve us Europeans of our responsibilities.

I say very clearly: we want to get involved but we must not make the mistakes we made in Afghanistan, namely intervening without having a political strategy. Anyone who intervenes there must also know that they must have a strategy for peace talks, for interethnic discussions and for a solution to the massive tribalism and other conflicts that exist both in eastern Chad and in Darfur along the artificial borders. As the European Parliament, we should therefore be campaigning for the deployment of troops and for humanitarian aid, but we should also be making our contribution as quickly as possible to a sustainable political peace strategy for the region.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Toomas Savi, on behalf of the ALDE Group . – Madam President, I will be very brief. The second EU-Africa Summit was a complete failure: the two parties did not reach an Economic Partnership Agreement, and relations between those two parts of the world have been frozen.

The tense situation in eastern Chad has not helped much either. One of the prerequisites for fruitful cooperation would be an end to the decades-long military conflicts in Africa. When resolving the conflict in eastern Chad, the European Union must demonstrate that we are determined to reach a peaceful solution and send our peacekeeping military mission to eastern Chad as soon as possible.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Koenraad Dillen (NI ). (NL) Madam President, last weekend an EU-Africa Summit was held in Lisbon. This intended to develop the basis for a new partnership between Europe and Africa: a partnership that, according to the joint declaration of the European Parliament and the Pan-African Parliament, was to be based on shared values and principles, such as democracy, human rights and good governance.

Unfortunately, however, Europe’s attitude to individuals such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya – to name but two; they were both welcomed with a red carpet – proves that there is still a yawning chasm between declarations of principle and reality. The situation in Chad today also shows, if proof were needed, that a large proportion of Africa is far from ready to form part of this ‘community of shared values’.

Therefore, if we Europeans want to remain credible with our discourse on human rights and not simply practise realpolitik, an intervention should indeed send out a clear signal that lawlessness and arbitrariness must make way as quickly as possible for the most basic democratic principles. Unfortunately, the assessment of Chad also applies to a great many other regimes in Africa. Chad is not the only sick man of Africa.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – Thank you for the clarification. I am required to announce the speakers who have registered to speak on behalf of their political groups. Your political group, like everyone’s here, is not in doubt, and everyone here knows which group you represent.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alain Hutchinson (PSE ). (FR) Madam President, to correct what you have just said about the last intervention: the PSE Group spoke through me; I was speaking as the author and on behalf of the PSE Group. I would not like anyone to think that we were not concerned about this issue.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE ). – Madam President, we are all very aware of the appalling humanitarian and security situation in eastern Chad. This cannot be separated from the wider regional catastrophe in Darfur: 300 000 people massacred, two million displaced persons, four million people living on Western food aid. For three years now, the international community has been wringing its hands. I recognise that the European Union has sponsored large-scale humanitarian aid to the region. That is the good side.

Politically, the EU’s contribution is less commendable. It fêtes the Sudanese dictator Omar El Bashir in Lisbon, along with Mugabe the oppressor of Zimbabwe, where in the ultimate sickening act of hypocrisy they sign up to a declaration on human rights and good governance.

The EU’s other contribution is to try and engage in some half-baked military mission in order to stick the ESDP badge on another military operation. The fact is this proposed mission is poorly conceived; the size of the force is inadequate; it lacks vital medical, logistic and transport support elements; it is already three months behind schedule and there is no contingency reserve if the situation should deteriorate even further.

We need only look at the random involvement in this mission – what is after all a largely French-driven operation – to understand why many in Chad, Sudan and the Central African Republic, let alone our own military officers, have a seriously sceptical attitude towards this project. Soldiering should be left to others.

As a matter of urgency it is the UN-AU effort that should be reinforced as part of a coherent strategy for the whole region. This should be politically driven by the UN Security Council.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. − (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the Commission is looking very carefully at the worsening security situation in eastern Chad and is emphatic in its support for the deployment of EUFOR troops in full strength to protect refugees and displaced persons in the region. The European Union will use every instrument at its disposal in eastern Chad to do this. The Commission will provide not only EUFOR troops, but also more than EUR 50 million as part of a comprehensive plan.

With these funds, measures will be financed in the following three key areas, which extend from emergency aid to long-term development aid.

The first sector concerns humanitarian aid, for which ECHO has already provided EUR 30.5 million in 2007 in the form of emergency aid measures for supporting refugees and displaced persons in different sectors in Chad. A similar level of funding has also been set aside to continue these measures in 2008.

The second sector comprises the organisation of a Chadian police force, which will be responsible for carrying out humanitarian protection measures. In the context of the EU and UN missions in Chad, the United Nations are setting up, training and equipping up to 850 Chadian police forces and constabularies, which are to be deployed in refugee camps in eastern Chad. The European Union is supporting this UN programme with EUR 10 million from the Instrument for Stability.

The third sector concerns reintegration and rehabilitation. In 2008 the Commission will be providing EUR 10.1 million from the ninth European Development Fund for development measures promoting reconstruction, conflict resolution and the organisation of administrative capacities. These are measures that are necessary for improving the security situation in the areas of the UN-EU mission. Further measures are planned as part of the 10th European Development Fund, for which EUR 311 million are estimated from 2008 to 2013.

Returning displaced persons to their home country should be supported in the short term with these measures. Their aim in the long-term is to stabilise the situation permanently in Chad and throughout the region.

The previous speakers have rightly referred to the flare-up in the battles between government-friendly rebels and President Idriss Déby’s troops in eastern Chad, which has clearly made humanitarian aid more difficult. Even in the areas around the refugee camps, safety can no longer be guaranteed. In addition, the precarious humanitarian situation is coming increasingly to a head owing to the rapid increase in the number of refugees from the combat zones. In this deeply worrying situation, the restoration of security in the region is a task of the utmost urgency.

In order to cope with this task, a military presence is vital. EUFOR troops should therefore be deployed specifically in these crisis areas. They will, however, be successful only if the causes of the conflict are eliminated and if a political process is introduced at the same time, with the aim of calming the underlying tensions and reducing poverty by facilitating economic development.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today at the end of the debates.

 
  

(1) see Minutes.


11.2. Women's rights in Saudi Arabia
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the six motions for a resolution on the rights of women in Saudi Arabia(1) .

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Adam Bielan (UEN ), author. − (PL) Madam President, referring again to the October 2006 incident, while at the same time bearing in mind the lack of legal protection for women in Saudi Arabia, but above all on the basis of facts that have again been demonstrated by expressions of social condemnation of the voice of rape victims attempting to bring about a public debate on this subject, I call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to cease this type of practice forthwith.

Madam President, I would like to stress that the European Union should not remain silent in the face of the scandalous violation of the rights and personal liberties of women in third countries. A state responsible for protecting its citizens may not resort to breaches of principles of the rule of law under the pretext of standing guard over maintenance of the principle of independence of the courts, as happened in the case of the sentence passed on the woman from Qatif. I am therefore calling for a redoubling of efforts on the part of the government of Saudi Arabia in the matter of observing women’s basic rights.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL ), author . − (SV) Madam President, I have to say that it is immensely sad that abuse of and violence against women never seem to cease. This applies to both this Resolution and the next one. I want to thank all who have helped to bring this Resolution into being. It is almost inconceivable that women in Saudi Arabia are, in 2007, still deprived of all human rights.

It is apparently not enough that women have to be subjected to degrading and scandalous gang rapes. They also have to be punished by the authorities, while the perpetrators go free. I think that all of us, both women and men, must do all we can in the name of solidarity to ensure that human rights apply to women in Saudi Arabia too. We call on the Commission and the Council and of course all the Member States to raise these matters in contacts of all kinds with Saudi Arabia.

We have a multitude of international conventions and we have had pronouncements from the EU in many contexts. Sometimes it is frustrating that we talk and talk and this violence just goes on and on. Thanks to everyone who took the initiative and helped in the work on this Resolution.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE ), author . − Madam President, recently King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was afforded a controversial state visit to the United Kingdom. Our Deputy Foreign Minister praised the shared values of the UK and Saudi Arabia. I found this sycophancy absurd, as my values of democracy, human rights and gender equality are alien to Saudi tradition.

Of course, the EU’s relationship with the House of Saud is based on regional stability and on important commercial ties, in particular oil and arms trading. In fact, the relationship is so important that a three-year UK inquiry into alleged bribes paid to Saudi ministers by an arms contractor was killed by orders of Prime Minister Tony Blair on the grounds of national security.

Worryingly, Saudi Arabia’s brand of fundamentalism, Wahabi Islam, is being exported globally. In London – my constituency – textbooks at a Saudi-funded school were found to contain hate-filled passages about Christians and Jews.

This case of the Qatif gang-raped woman sentenced to 200 lashings has horrified the world. Parliament’s joint motion for a resolution expresses revulsion and repudiation of the Kingdom’s values. Twenty years ago a British TV documentary similarly recounted a story of a Saudi princess who was publicly executed for adultery.

The EU and Saudi Arabia have shared vital foreign policy interests, such as supporting the Middle Eastern peace process, encouraging the Saudis as Sunni Muslims to contain expansionist Shia Iran and supporting the Saudi fight against al-Qa’ida, many of whose adherents, unfortunately, come from Saudi Arabia originally.

But we also need to hold the Saudis to their UN Convention obligations to remove discrimination against women, who cannot even drive a car or vote in their limited local elections. But let us not kid ourselves that we share values with this fundamentalist and medieval regime.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marios Matsakis (ALDE ), author . − Madam President, I will speak in a personal capacity on this matter. Saudi Arabia is governed by a ruthless dictatorship which is, to a large extent, shamefully legitimised in most of the Western world, including many EU countries, because Saudi Arabia is immensely rich in petrol dollars, some of which it uses in Western states in order to bribe them into pretending not to see, not to hear and not to understand what is going on in that country.

But even schoolchildren know that the comical rulers of Saudi Arabia, consisting mostly of the family of one man, His Most Royal Excellency godlike King Abdullah, are imposing on their people a brutal repression. One obvious example is that they treat women as slaves or as pieces of domestic furniture yet, as mentioned just now by Mr Tannock, Mr Abdullah and his six plane-loads of entourage were given a lavishly glorious state welcome in the UK and the Vatican only a few weeks ago. And not a single word about human rights managed to escape through the honourable lips of the Queen of England, or the UK Prime Minister, or the Pope. So much for hypocrisy and double standards, one might be tempted to say.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE ), author . − (ES) Madam President, back in 2005 we had the opportunity to talk about the situation of women in Saudi Arabia, and in that context we did so in relation to the municipal elections and the fact that women were unable to vote.

As well as this discrimination in terms of political rights, however, there are many other types of discrimination that have been reported in various media, recently and continuously, which motivated this second resolution that we are debating today.

The trigger was certainly the incomprehensible sentence passed against a women, known as ‘the Qatif woman’, who was sentenced to 200 lashes for having been found in a car talking to a man who was not part of her family. Not only are the alleged crime, and hence the sentence, unacceptable, but they are also aggravated by the fact that the convicted woman was unable to receive adequate legal advice.

Unfortunately this is not the only case in which one can deplore clearly discriminatory sentences for crimes and the failure to defend women in the legal system. This is, unfortunately, more the norm than the exception. How can a system be considered fair, for example, when it finds the victim of a rape guilty of that atrocity?

Structural change is needed in Saudi Arabia, and the European Union needs to help those who are working both outside and within the country to achieve this. There are no relativisms here that carry weight. Human rights, which include women’s rights, are and need to be universal and defended in any context.

I therefore join in the request made by Mrs Svensson, and I ask the Commission and the Council once again to take any opportunity they can to ask the Saudi authorities to make the appropriate structural and institutional changes, in order to eliminate any form of discrimination against women, including recognising all their rights, in both private and public life, and more specifically, in the political, legal and judicial spheres.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE ), author. − (PL) Madam President, Saudi Arabia is a country in which the law is put into effect according to Wahabi principles, this being the most radical Sunni trend in Islam. Political, social and religious freedom is significantly restricted, and punishments by flogging, the amputation of hands or feet or the death penalty are meted out on a daily basis.

In a country that has been called ‘a human rights desert’ by Human Rights Watch , it is mainly women who fall victim to numerous forms of discrimination in private and public life. The identity of women was only formally recognised in 2001, by issuing them with identity documents containing a photograph. Before that they would prove their identity using a family identity document bearing a photograph of their husband or father. Even if they can afford a car, they are not allowed to drive it. They may study, but lectures given by men are watched by female students on video. They are deprived of the right to vote, and decisions on divorce and child care are the exclusive prerogative of men.

Women are repeatedly the victims of unjust and offensive court verdicts. The instance of the girl from Qatif concerns a 19-year-old gang-rape victim who was condemned to 200 lashes and six months in prison for being alone with a strange man at the time of her abduction.

Despite having signed it, Saudi Arabia does not observe the obligations arising from the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. The authorities must start by lifting all restrictions on women where freedom of movement is concerned and take steps towards gradually increasing the involvement of women in political decision-making on an equal footing with men. Women must have general access to employment at all levels of administration and the opportunity to carry out all public functions.

The introduction of a total ban on the use of flogging and other degrading corporal punishment must also be demanded, as this is a violation of international law and the UN Convention against Torture, to which Saudi Arabia is a signatory.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paulo Casaca, on behalf of the PSE Group . – (PT) Madam President, I should like to add my voice to those of all the other members who have spoken and in particular to point out that we are celebrating the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All, and equal opportunities, by definition, can have no borders, and we simply cannot remain indifferent to what is happening to women in Saudi Arabia and also in the rest of the Middle East as a whole.

I should like in particular to take up a question raised by Mr Tannock concerning specifically the right to drive a car. The Committee of Demanders of Women’s Right to Drive Cars was set up in Riyadh on 27 September. On 6 November the committee commemorated the 17th anniversary of the demonstration against this ban, it has already collected a thousand signatures, and it has enormous strength. It is led by four Saudi women. I should like to call on the whole House, in particular the Presidency, to lend full support to this Saudi Arabian initiative and I should also like to remind you that, in addition to Saudi Arabia, there are at the moment even more serious situations in Iraq. I would remind you of the execution this year in Basra of 40 women for failing to respect the dress code currently being imposed in Iraq, a country where women had the vote before the women of Portugal did, and where today the most barbarous fanaticism is being introduced. We cannot remain indifferent to that situation either.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Toomas Savi, on behalf of the ALDE Group . – Madam President, when addressing the issue of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, there is something that we need to keep in mind. This is that in Islamic societies there is no separation of religion and state. The state is the religion and vice versa. The lack of regard for women’s rights derives from Islamic law, and by comprehending and taking into account this simple fact we might move a step closer to improving the situation.

We cannot impose our values, which have gone beyond our Judaeo-Christian traditions, but we can open a dialogue calling for mutual understanding and preparing the ground for a reform, as several conceptions that do not correspond to our worldwide view are now being disproved.

Having said that, the situation of women in Saudi Arabia is dreadful, and something needs to be done urgently. I therefore urge my colleagues to support this report unanimously.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Koenraad Dillen (NI ). (NL) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the discussion we are holding here today on Saudi Arabia, particularly the dreadful situation regarding women’s rights, should actually be extended to cover a large part of the Islamic world. Only a few, such as the Dutch citizen Ayaan Hirsi Ali, dare come out with it. The discrimination and subjugation of women is rooted in the holy texts of Islam itself.

Discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia and almost throughout the Islamic world has its basis and justification in the Koran. This is a fundamental truth that we must dare to acknowledge in this debate. It was demonstrated just recently in Sudan, where a 54-year-old teacher was sentenced to 15 days’ imprisonment for calling a teddy bear Mohammed, until being pardoned thanks to pressure from international diplomacy. In Saudi Arabia, a 20-year-old woman fell victim to gang rape but was herself convicted. It does not get any more symbolic than that.

However, Saudi Arabia is an ally of the US, of course, and can get away with that bit more. After all, like China, Saudi Arabia is a rich country and we can venture to be rather more flexible when the noble principles we have been discussing so often this week are at stake. Europe should thus also call on Washington to throw all its weight behind improving the situation in Saudi Arabia.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission . − (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the Commission is extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to say something today about the situation regarding women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

The case underlying your resolution gives us cause for the greatest concern. A young woman was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months’ imprisonment after being gang-raped by seven men. The EU dealt with this matter immediately. The EU Troika made representation to the Saudi Arabian Government in Riadh and expressed the EU’s dismay at the verdict of the court in El Katif. The verdict is not only clearly in breach of Saudi Arabia’s international obligations, particularly against the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, but also turns the principle of guilt upside down by declaring the victim to be guilty.

This case brings under the spotlight a country in which discrimination against women is unfortunately part of everyday life. The European Parliament has justifiably asked the Saudi Arabian Government on several occasions to remove the limitations on women’s free movement, including the driving prohibition. This request also applies to the restrictions on women’s access to employment, on their legal personality and on their representation in judicial processes. I unreservedly share Parliament’s concerns about the situation of women in Saudi Arabia.

At the same time Saudi Arabia is bound as a member of the UN Human Rights Council to protect and promote human rights. Saudi Arabia is a contracting party to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Admittedly it has ratified the Convention with one reservation: in the event of a conflict between the clauses of the Convention and the standards of Islamic law, the Kingdom is not obliged thereafter to comply with any clauses of the Convention conflicting with this law. The European Union has repeatedly called on Saudi Arabia to lift its reservations on this UN Convention – particularly with regard to granting equal rights for women and men in relation to the nationality of their children – and will continue to do so.

Human rights issues such as the situation of women are regularly the subject of representations by the European Union to Saudi Arabia. The European Union is reminding Saudi Arabia of its obligations according to international human rights standards, is broaching the issue of the need to treat women and men equally and to combat violence against women and is asking Saudi Arabia to protect and promote women’s rights.

Two recent changes that we have observed could – I say this very cautiously – could perhaps be a sign that Saudi Arabia is, making some progress.

The Saudi Arabian National Society for Human Rights produced its first report on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia in May of this year. Violations of the rights of women, prisoners and workers are published in this report, as are court judgments. The results and recommendations of this report should be acted on and followed up without fail by the Saudi Arabian Government

Furthermore, in October King Abdullah announced a fundamental judicial reform, reinforcing the independence of judges and simplifying fact-finding according to Sharia law supervised by the Supreme Court.

For a country like Saudi Arabia, these are encouraging steps. We should therefore not only be drawing attention to human rights violations in Saudi Arabia where necessary, but also be welcoming and supporting the reforms that have recently been discreetly emerging.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today at the end of the debates.

 
  

(1) see Minutes.


11.3. Justice for the "Comfort Women"
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the five motions for a resolution on justice for comfort women(1) .

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE ), author . − (ES) Madam President, I have to say that, as the driving force behind this resolution, I am particularly satisfied that finally we have found the space and sufficient consensus to table it, because I sincerely believe that the subject deserved this, and much more.

We are talking about almost 200 000 women, euphemistically known as ‘comfort women’, who were forced to be sexual slaves during and before the Second World War by the Japanese Imperial Army. After 62 years, the survivors are still seeking justice.

During their lives they have suffered from poor physical and mental health, isolation and shame, and often extreme poverty. So far the Japanese Government has not complied with international rules on reparation, which include restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and satisfaction, including full disclosure, apology and guaranteeing that the action will not be repeated. This is particularly significant given that Japan is one of the main donors of aid in post-war times.

There was, therefore, an urgent need to react and to point out, as the survivors do, that truth must be linked to justice, and that an apology is empty if it is not accompanied by an acceptance of responsibility. I would like to stress that this is not only about the rights of an individual victim, but about collective rights, which bring with them the responsibility to remember, so that this type of violation does not happen again.

This means that we must ask the Japanese to conduct an exercise in historical honesty and not only acknowledge the facts but apologise on behalf of their predecessors, and to compensate the victims.

Finally, I would like to express my great respect and recognition for the women who had and continue to have the courage to speak out and demand justice, and for the organisations like Amnesty International that are supporting them on this journey.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL ), author . − (SV) Madam President, the Resolution calls for justice and redress for the hundreds of thousands of women, so-called ‘comfort women’, who were forced into providing sexual services before and during the Second World War. All these degraded women who were held in sexual slavery are still waiting for justice and redress. The Japanese authorities have indeed done a certain amount but, as the Resolution shows, a great deal remains for the Japanese Government and authorities to do in order to give those women justice and redress.

The majority of the women who were forced into this dreadful situation were very young at the time. That means that their whole lives have been destroyed by these terrible experiences. They have been forced to live out their lives in poor physical and psychological health, isolation, shame, and often extreme poverty. The fact that these women have not had full justice and redress also means that those who committed these crimes have effectively enjoyed immunity for their acts.

Again the victims, women, are punished while the perpetrators go free. This Resolution is also important for the reason that it highlights what always happens in war and conflict zones, that it is always women who are the main victims. It is therefore important that we draw attention to this matter. We must try to put a stop to this.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marcin Libicki (UEN ), author. − (PL) Madam President, when we talk about crimes and when we think about crimes of the 20th century, we think above all of the crimes committed by the Germans and the Bolsheviks, or rather, to put it more broadly, the Communists. In Europe we are less aware of the fact that in the Far East Japan committed immense crimes from the 1930s until the end of the war. One of the greatest of these crimes was the sexual exploitation of women at this time.

Some 100 000 women from conquered countries in the Far East were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Armed Forces of Japan. This sexual slavery, which was in itself totally criminal, had further consequences too. These consequences were enforced abortions, mutilations and murders on a large scale, and large-scale instances of suicide among these women. Obviously any of these women who are still alive today are very old.

It must be conceded that during the post-war period the Japanese Government did much to compensate for these dreadful offences against the women who experienced them. Today this resolution calls on the Japanese Government to make a final political, moral and financial settlement upon those women who are still alive and with the families of those who have died. This is most certainly their due.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE ), author . – (NL) Madam President, I should like to start by expressing my solidarity with these women – I believe on behalf of all of us. I am pleased that this is on the agenda, as it has taken a very long time. The European Parliament has been wavering for five months over whether human rights for women should actually be a priority or not.

Mr Dillen, who has now left, has just said that oppression of women is typical of the Koran – which is complete nonsense, as the matter of ‘comfort women’ shows that men do not need the Koran to repress and abuse women.

I am actually also rather disappointed with the attitude in the European Parliament. As I have just said, this House wavered over this for a very long time, and I have heard even Members of this Parliament coming up with arguments such as ‘Well, yes, but 90% of these women did it of their own free will’ and ‘Oh well, it is their culture, you have to understand that’. To be frank, I find this sickening. It is rape, and rape is without exception a crime in all ages and all cultures.

I now gather that Japanese school textbooks have been adapted; but I then hear from the Japanese embassy that the tale has to be told very cautiously, as pupils do not yet know much about sexuality and could incur psychological damage. No-one talks about the psychological damage to the ‘comfort women’ themselves. To be frank, I find that quite shocking. Anyway, I am pleased that this is now on our agenda and that we are just about to adopt it.

I think that it is important that apologies be sincere and unequivocal. It is not a matter of a formality. With the previous Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, once more casting doubt on the whole issue, it is not sufficient for the current government to then say ‘Oh, but we shall continue with the previous policy’. Sincere and unequivocal is what is needed.

Also, when I hear the arguments that have been forthcoming from the Japanese embassy in recent days – incidentally complete with a recognition of everything that has already been done – I think that much progress remains to be made on sincerity. I hope, therefore, that this resolution expresses the solidarity of all of us with the victims.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Karin Scheele (PSE ), author. − (DE) Madam President, I am very grateful to the previous speaker for having drawn attention to the fact that no religion on this earth is immune to massive human rights violations against women, but this is more to do with dictatorship and authoritarian systems than with a specific religion.

Hundreds of thousands of women before and during the Second World War were forced into prostitution by the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces. Historians’ estimates assume that around 200 000 of these ‘comfort women’ from Korea, China, Taiwan and the Philippines were handed over to Japanese soldiers as sex slaves. The ‘comfort women’ system is one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century and led to gang rapes on a massive scale and to forced abortions.

After the end of the war, many women were murdered by the armed forces or prevented from returning home. Many of the survivors remained silent out of shame about their past and were stigmatised and relegated to the fringes of society. The issue of forced prostitution was not broached at the war crime trials and there was no talk of reparation.

Not until the end of the 1980s did the fate of the comfort women come to light again. The reason for this was not an automatic change in awareness, but the rapidly growing women’s movement in South Korea. Little by little, women who had been forced into prostitution spoke out publicly. In 1992 weekly demonstrations began in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul with the words: the Japanese Government should be ashamed, not us.

In 1997 the Japanese Government was asked for the first time to take legal and moral responsibility internationally for the most severe human rights violations committed against women. In her report the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women demanded financial compensation for the victims and court sentences for the perpetrators. The reaction of the Japanese Government at the time was an out and out rejection of these demands.

It has already been said several times today that the truth must be taken into account. We are therefore asking the Japanese Government publicly to reject any assertions that deny or question the subjugation and enslavement of the comfort women and we are likewise demanding that they accept moral and legal responsibility for the enslavement of 200 000 people. We are calling on the Japanese Government to implement mechanisms to provide reparations to all surviving victims and their families as quickly as possible.

Many victims of the comfort women system have passed away or are at least 80 years old, which means speed is of the essence. We are also calling on our colleagues in the Japanese National Assembly, however, to make their contribution in parliament to help get these mechanisms accepted.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andrikienė, Laima Liucija, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . – Madam President, there are pages in the world’s history we would wish not to be repeated anywhere, ever.

One of these pages is the story of ‘comfort women’. I refer to the officially commissioned acquisition of young women by the Government of Japan, from the 1930s and during the Second World War, for the sole purpose of sexual servitude to the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces. We do not know exactly the numbers of women who were enslaved but we know that the ‘comfort women system’ included gang rape, forced abortions, humiliation and sexual violence, resulting in mutilation, death or eventual suicide, and that it was one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century, involving not hundreds but thousands of women.

Today, the remaining survivors are 80 and more years of age and one could argue that the problem is no longer an important issue. But I fully understand the wish of these women and their families to clear their names. Today we express our solidarity with the women who were victims of this system. We call on the Japanese Government to formally acknowledge and accept historical and legal responsibility and to implement effective administrative mechanisms to provide reparations to all surviving victims of the ‘comfort women system’ and to the families of deceased victims.

Taking into account the excellent relationship between the European Union and Japan, based on the mutually shared values of the rule of law and respect for human rights, I hope that the Government and the Parliament of Japan will take all necessary measures to recognise the sufferings of sex slaves and to remove existing obstacles to obtaining reparations before Japanese courts and that current and future generations will be educated about these events. I am sure that official recognition of the existence of the ‘comfort women system’ and an apology on behalf of the Japanese Government also would do much to help heal the wounds of our painful common history.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marios Matsakis, on behalf of the ALDE Group . – Madam President, people can be forgiven for their sins, but people’s crimes cannot be forgotten. This applies as much to Japan as it did, for example, to Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.

The Japanese committed immensely barbaric war atrocities in the 1930s and 1940s. To some extent, they paid dearly by having two of their cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, annihilated by the mighty nuclear holocaust brought upon them by the US.

However, Japan inflicted many dreadful evils on the world in the past, and one of these – the sexual slavery of ‘comfort women’ – only came to prominence relatively recently. Some of these poor and now frail elderly ladies are still with us, as the remnants of a past that is inconvenient for Japan but torturous for them.

These women are asking for two very simple things from today’s rich and powerful Japan: an official apology and very modest humanitarian aid. Certainly, the European Parliament, with this joint motion for a resolution, expects and demands that the Japanese Government must do both and fast. Otherwise, aside from the stigma of shame, the EU must consider taking particularly effective action against ex-imperial Japan.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Urszula Krupa, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (PL) Madam President, the subject of today’s debate is a violation of human rights that took place during the 1930s, during the Japanese occupation, when young women in the Imperial Armed Forces were sexually exploited and forced into prostitution, despite the fact that the Japanese Government had signed international conventions on combating traffic in women and children and supported the UN Resolution on Women, Peace and Security.

The sincere sympathy of the Japanese premier is currently being undermined by Japanese officials in connection with the closure of the Asian Women’s Fund programme and mandate in March 2007, out of which only monetary compensation was paid to women.

In supporting the resolution and the demand for compensation, we would, however, point out that in modern times, too, the boundary between the normal and the pathological is being eroded, and this flies in the face of moral norms, so there is a need for radical moves to combat prostitution as a form of modern-day slavery. Prostitutes are not just victims of wars that took place 50 years ago; it could also be women of today who are being exploited, in the Belgian Congo, for example, as reported in the press, and indeed in many other countries, even rich ones.

In the name of respect for the human being we should also unmask the spread of a hedonistic and commercial culture that is pointing towards abuse in the area of sex, drawing even very young women and girls into the sphere of prostitution and other forms of demoralisation.

Respect for the identity and dignity of women is not based solely on uncovering crimes or abuses in the sphere of sexual discrimination or other injustices; it is based primarily on the drafting of development programmes and on the real-life practice of principles embracing all areas of a woman’s life. These principles must be rooted in a new realisation of the worth of a woman as wife, mother, carer or employee, as a human being and a person who is the equal of a man, despite being different.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. − (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, in 1993 the Japanese Government spokesman at that time, Yohei Kono, extended Japan’s ‘sincere apologies and remorse to all those … who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women’. In 1995 the Prime Minister at that time, Mr Murayama, also apologised publicly to the comfort women on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. That same year the Asian Women’s Fund was set up to grant reparations and medical aid to survivors on behalf of the Japanese Government and people.

These attempts to obtain reparations for the comfort women and a renewed public apology from the former Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Koizumi, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 2005 are positive steps by Japan. Japan has thereby recognised its responsibility for these unspeakable human rights violations. Only a few days ago, the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs confirmed the declaration of the government spokesman, Mr Kono, which I quoted at the beginning, as Japan’s official position.

We now have the moving testimony of survivors, and this moving testimony has again aroused interest in this terrible period, in Europe as well as in the United State, Canada and Australia.

Our actions here are not simply about the past; they are about drawing the right conclusions from the events and doing everything in our power to combat today’s forms of slavery, sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

With the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the Commission is actively supporting NGOs throughout the world involved in preventing violence against women and children and combating human trafficking for the purpose of sexual slavery. On 23 November 2007 the Commission sent out a further signal on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, by having affirmed its emphatic commitment to combating gender-based violence.

The European Union is conducting a regular human rights dialogue with Japan, touching on all the EU’s concerns – including women’s rights. Japan is a like-minded global player cooperating constructively with us in multilateral forums in order to improve respect for and protection of human rights. Together with the European Union, Japan has therefore issued a resolution on human rights in North Korea and denounced the actions of the regime in Myanmar.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote on these three topics will take place at the end of today’s sitting.

 
  

(1) see Minutes.


12. Voting time

12.1. Eastern Chad (vote)
  

- Joint motion for a resolution (RC-B6-0527/2007 )

 

12.2. Women's rights in Saudi Arabia (vote)
  

- Joint motion for a resolution (RC-B6-0526/2007 )

 

12.3. Comfort women (vote)
  

- Joint motion for a resolution (RC-B6-0525/2007 )

- Before the vote:

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE ), author . − Madam President, there has been a change in the PPE-DE voting list. I would recommend to colleagues that the change should be from positive to negative. On the original text, on recital B, there is a request for a vote on the original text by the UEN Group, and I am recommending to colleagues that we now vote to delete that paragraph, i.e. vote against. It currently appears as positive. We want to change it to ‘against’.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andrikienė, Laima Liucija (PPE-DE ). – Madam President, I should like to move an oral amendment so that the title of the motion for resolution would read as follows: ‘Justice for “comfort women” (sex slaves in Asia before and during World War II)’.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marios Matsakis (ALDE ). – Madam President, there has clearly been an alteration to the oral amendment, and the author is now in favour of that oral amendment.

 
  
  

(The oral amendment was accepted)

- Before the vote on Amendment 9:

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sophia in ’t Veld, author . − Madam President, we propose inserting the words ‘as is the moral duty of all countries’ after the first part of the first sentence, i.e. it would read: ‘Encourages the Japanese people and government to take further steps to recognise the full history of their nation, as is the moral duty of all countries’.

 
  
  

(The oral amendment was accepted)

 

13. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes

14. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes

15. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes

16. Transfers of appropriations: see Minutes

17. Written declarations for entry in the register (Rule 116): see Minutes

18. Forwarding of texts adopted during the sitting: see Minutes

19. Dates for next sittings: see Minutes

20. Adjournment of the session
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – I declare the session of the European Parliament adjourned.

(The sitting was closed at 4.20 p.m.)

 
Last updated: 22 July 2008Legal notice