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Procedure : 2008/0183(COD)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0032/2012

Texts tabled :

A7-0032/2012

Debates :

PV 14/02/2012 - 11
CRE 14/02/2012 - 11

Votes :

PV 15/02/2012 - 8.3
CRE 15/02/2012 - 8.3
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2012)0042

Debates
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

11. Food distribution to the most deprived persons in the Union (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the recommendation for second reading by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1290/2005 and (EC) No 1234/2007 as regards distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union (18733/1/2011 - C7-0022/2012 - 2008/0183(COD)) (Rapporteur: Czesław Adam Siekierski) (A7-0032/2012).

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski, rapporteur. (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, the food distribution programme to benefit the most deprived persons within the European Union already has a rich history. It was launched in 1987, when the Council decided to make available to the Member States agricultural products from intervention stores so they could be used to provide food aid for the poorest persons. When intervention food stocks decreased in subsequent years, the purchase of food products on the market for the same purpose was authorised.

The development of agricultural policy resulted in a reduction of intervention stores, and consequently in the need to purchase more food products on the market for this programme. A case against acquiring food by purchasing it on the market was taken to the Court of Justice. On 20 April 2011 the Court ruled that this was contrary to the legal basis and that the programme should be restricted only to food drawn from the intervention stores. This meant that as of 1 January 2012 the programme would have been reduced from EUR 500 million per year to a little over EUR 100 million. Subsequently the European Parliament took strong action and, in its resolution of 7 July 2011, called on the Commission and on the Council to devise solutions for the years 2012–2013 as a matter of urgency, to prevent such a dramatic reduction of this programme.

It should be recalled that the Council did not accept the Commission’s initial proposal of September 2008 or Parliament’s position of March 2009. The Commission’s subsequent approach, which entailed providing a legal base for the programme through social policy and not just through the common agricultural policy, also failed to obtain sufficient support in the Council. It was only the decisive action taken by the Polish Presidency that removed the blocking minority and allowed work to speed up. A trialogue took place on 6 December 2011 at which Parliament and the Commission accepted the Council’s position. At an extraordinary meeting in Strasbourg on 12 December 2011, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development then accepted the outcome of the trialogue. The Council’s Special Committee on Agriculture gave its consent on the same day. This compromise received final confirmation from the Council at its meeting on 23 January 2012.Subsequently, on 26 February, Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development expressed its full support for the compromise adopted by the Council and accepted the request for the Council’s position to go through the adoption procedure before the plenary of the European Parliament.

It should be borne in mind that that position concerns implementation of the programme for the period 2012–2013. The sum of EUR 500 million will be maintained, and this is a very significant sum. The legal base for implementation of the programme will remain the common agricultural policy. The European Parliament’s request for the programme’s requirements to be met with European products in the first instance is honoured. Agreement for full Community funding was given. The institutions distributing the food were required to provide comprehensive information about the source of the support being European Union funds.

Today’s discussion is taking place after yesterday’s debate on the situation of the homeless, most of whom need this free food. After all, it is now winter. The crisis affecting our countries is felt most strongly by the poorest persons, who are the main beneficiaries of food aid in the framework of this programme. In total, almost 18 million Europeans benefit from it. They are the persons who find it hardest to survive, such as the homeless I referred to earlier, the unemployed, the elderly, the disabled and also large families and single parents. Europe has enlarged significantly, and the number of poor and needy individuals has increased significantly. It is estimated that approximately 40 million persons in Europe are currently living below the poverty line, and that a further 40 million are in danger of slipping below it. The programme has been warmly welcomed by charitable institutions and NGOs involved in food distribution, but what is most important is that poor and needy persons are being helped. It is good that the European Union remembers them. That is why we must do all we can to prepare a suitable legal base for the implementation of this programme in the period 2014–2020.

 
  
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  Dacian Cioloş, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, I am thrilled that a solution could be found for the 2012 and 2013 plans, enabling us to continue with this programme.

May I remind you that after over three years of intense negotiations between the institutions, we finally managed – as Mr Siekierski pointed out  – to give this programme a new legal framework for the years 2012 and 2013, which were no longer covered as a result of the Court of Justice ruling.

I surely do not need to remind you that the European Union is going through one of the worst economic crises in decades and that, unfortunately, the number of citizens having to rely on food aid is increasing exponentially. We therefore had a political and civic duty to provide an immediate response to the needs of the poorest people.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the European Parliament as a whole, and in particular those Members who personally got very involved in ensuring the continuation of these programmes. It is also thanks to your strong support that a compromise on this complicated issue could be found, and in particular your persistence and your extremely clear stance on this issue.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Member States, which, in a manner reflecting a true European spirit, worked to finally reach a political compromise.

The Commission therefore supports the results of the inter-institutional negotiations and may accept the Council’s position at first reading to ensure the continuation of the scheme until 2013. As you know, the Commission has worked hard to make this agreement possible. I would remind you that, since our initial proposal in 2008, we have proposed a number of adjustments to the regulatory text to try and satisfy the expectations and objections from some Member States as well as the calls from the European Parliament.

Now that there is finally a qualified majority in favour of continuing the programme for a transitional period until 2013, we have the political agreement and, after the decision, the legal basis to continue this programme in 2012 and 2013 within the common agricultural policy thereby preventing the programme from coming to an abrupt end. Once the regulation is adopted, my staff will do their utmost to ensure that additional resources for the 2012 and 2013 plans are committed as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Agnès Le Brun, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, an agreement has been reached, which we will have to decide about in plenary tomorrow, but I must say it has all left me feeling quite strange.

First of all, I am happy, then I start asking questions and finally I start worrying.

I am pleased that, this year and next, Europeans in need will still have food to eat thanks to the European aid programme for the most deprived. Our fellow citizens would obviously not have understood why nothing was being done to release such necessary funds when we have recently learned that EUR 82 billion of European funds lies dormant in the Union’s coffers.

Then I start asking questions and finally I start worrying. I question the future of the food distribution programme. How can we conceive depriving some 13 million Europeans in need of food from 2014 onwards? Besides which, how many will be in need of it by then?

We know that solutions exist. We should therefore call on the Council to shoulder its responsibilities and preserve this fund during the next multiannual financial framework. If this does not happen, it will all dramatically backfire for sure. We need to accept this compromise but together reaffirm our commitment to the food distribution programme.

 
  
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  Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, on behalf of the S&D Group.(PT) Naturally I should like to support Mr Siekierski’s recommendation and to salute the Commission, represented by Commissioner Dacian Cioloş, for the way he sustained his objections so that this level of aid to the most needy could continue. It would be incomprehensible to European citizens if European solidarity broke down at the precise moment when it is most needed, at the time of the worst crisis Europe has seen for many years. Therefore, despite the reservations of certain Member States, I am convinced that it will be possible to keep this kind of support in the budget and, whether it comes under agriculture or any other area, the important thing is to maintain this aid in the future, for as long as poverty exists in Europe. Hopefully this future will be short, and if it is, it will be because we have been able to end poverty in our European continent.

 
  
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  Sylvie Goulard, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I really appreciate your support, which helped achieve this result. This just goes to show what we can do between institutions when we work together and I hope we can continue to do so.

I should like to make two comments. Firstly, on behalf of the Extreme Poverty intergroup which I now chair: I think there is a real issue regarding subsidiarity that we cannot avoid in Europe and that affects each level of decision-making. I respect this principle, and there are some members of my group who have a more stringent and more legal view of subsidiarity.

Some may think that the most deprived should be taken care of by the Member States and at local level. However, all the same, I think it would be a serious mistake to allocate Europe alone the role of bogeyman, the role of an institution imposing austerity and restraint, and to believe that the job of helping the most vulnerable in our society rests solely at local level.

I call on the Commissioner to defend the Europe 2020 strategy. It worries me greatly that, in the European Council’s conclusions, there has been a movement away from the Europe 2020 strategy towards the Euro Plus Pact, where there is no mention of combating exclusion and poverty.

Secondly, in the forthcoming reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP), I also believe that the issue of food deserves to be looked at from the point of view of the common agricultural policy. I do not have the answers today, I have not taken any definitive position. However, there is a social aspect in helping the most deprived and there is also an aspect that, in my opinion, falls to the common agricultural policy.

What kind of food does the common agricultural policy provide? At what price? For those who may not have the means to fund themselves, is having to resort to charity the right answer or should we have a common agricultural policy that provides food for all? I do believe that that was what the founders of the CAP had in mind.

We will have the chance to talk about it and I am counting on you, Commissioner, to help us have an in-depth debate and above all practical measures for all.

 
  
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  Martin Häusling, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I, too, would like to thank all those involved in bringing about this compromise, who ultimately led to its success. Retaining food aid is indispensible, particularly in times like these. By this point, almost 19 million people are dependent on food aid. It is an act of European solidarity for Europe to provide aid this way. Clearly, we must not restrict our thoughts to these two years. Instead, we must now essentially begin developing the new programme for afterwards. Poverty will not be a thing of the past after this programme and, at the end of the day, we cannot accept simply declaring, at that point, that our work is done.

We need to work towards this, as we are no longer simply dealing with emptying out surpluses from the European Union’s overfull stores. Instead, we need to move to a regional partnership between farmers and the ‘most deprived food aid’ scheme that ensures that, ultimately, there is aid for those who live in poverty. That can only happen in collaboration with the farmers and the ‘most deprived food aid’ scheme. In the case of Germany, we have ensured that we also include the food banks.

It is important that we continue this kind of food aid, as European aid, even beyond this date. We welcome the fact that countries like Germany have now given up their obstructive attitude and we hope that, in future, countries like Germany will help to come up with a new concept.

 
  
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  James Nicholson, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, I take the opportunity of welcoming the debate and congratulating Mr Siekierski on his report, but I have to say I consider that this report looks backwards and not forwards.

It harks back to the day when Europe had milk lakes and butter mountains. The good thing is, however, that those, thankfully, have all gone. In my opinion, what we are discussing today is a social policy and not an agricultural policy. While I have every sympathy with deprived people, the homeless etc., I have to say there must be a better way of addressing this particular issue.

To buy the food and distribute it will be very expensive so, as I have said, there must be a better way. I think this is where the Commission needs to consider what it should do in the future. I know that some countries currently have many problems with bad weather, snow and everything else, and there will always be people needing help and support. But this is not the way to provide that support.

 
  
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  Younous Omarjee, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(FR) Mr President, what we are being asked to vote for tomorrow is the abolition in 2014 of the European food aid programme for the most deprived, because no guarantee has been given so far as regards future programming.

To put it frankly, this is a disgrace. It is a disgrace that a blocking minority is being masterminded from Germany to prevent food being given to those that go hungry – a disgrace that is also indicative of what the European Union has become: sacrificing solidarity at the altar of ultraliberal and bureaucratic logic.

Should we be resigned to the idea that the European project is now helping to crush the weakest? When it comes to finding billions for the banks, they change the law. Yet, when it comes to the most basic charity to the poor, the legal wrangling begins.

As far as our group is concerned, Germany and the EU Court of Justice and its judges have clearly lost touch with reality and their stance is totally indefensible. These decisions fuel the growing disenchantment among the people and the European Union.

 
  
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  John Stuart Agnew, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, a programme was introduced to cut intervention stocks; it succeeds, but does the programme stop? No, of course not. For the Commission nothing can ever stop. Not only that, they act illegally.

To quote the Danish Parliament, the legal basis cited by the Commission is incorrect. Incoherence partners illegality, and while this report refers to people not having enough food, plans to reform the CAP propose measures which will cut food production in some of Europe’s best farmland. Only the Commission could make me feel sorry for French farmers.

Like East Anglia, my region, the Paris Basin is intensively farmed and very highly productive, but in future they, like us, must produce less. It is called creating ecological focus areas: 7% comes out of farming. The Commission claims that this will cool the world’s weather. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecasts warming of an average of 0.2°C per decade. According to the last figures I heard, we had not actually warmed at all in the 2000s!

This weekend I recorded the lowest temperature on my farm since 1986. Commission policies are illegal, incoherent and apparently stupid all at the same time. When will common sense prevail?

 
  
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  President. − Mr Agnew, perhaps the word ‘stupid’ does not exactly match with parliamentary courtesy.

 
  
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  Dimitar Stoyanov (NI).(BG) Mr President, firstly, I would like to congratulate the Commission on finding a solution to this issue within just four months of the last parliamentary hearing, an issue that was pending in the Council for two years. This achievement, besides being effective, is also in accordance with the resolution we approved at that time. Nonetheless, remaining focused is essential, Commissioner. With just less than two years remaining on the negotiated grace period, the time for taking action has arrived. This is why, considering the difficulties that have accompanied this programme so far, you must start preparing immediately for its continuation in the next programming period. I will also take the opportunity to remind you, as mentioned in my previous speech, that Bulgaria is the only country yet to be included in this programme; in other words, it contributes money, but does not receive anything back. I would therefore like to ask you to take the necessary steps to include all European countries in this programme.

 
  
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  Esther Herranz García (PPE).(ES) Mr President, apart from the 80 million poor people we are talking about, a further 43 million people find it hard to manage to eat animal protein twice a week.

This situation could become worse because these people – the ones who have problems managing to eat animal protein twice a week – could find themselves in dire straits, as the economic crisis is becoming even more acute. This is not exactly the best time for the European Union to be cutting the food aid budget in the run-up to the next multi-annual financial framework period.

The agreement, endorsed by Parliament, extends food aid under the conditions requested by this Chamber. It also represents, however, a certain level of resignation towards the block that some Member States have kept up for several months in the Council.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to urge all of you here to take whatever initiatives are necessary to keep food aid going beyond 2014. Parliament should not stand idly by in the face of such an important humanitarian issue.

We should not accept the status quo, and this means we should use the negotiations for the next multi-annual financial framework period to express our opinion on this issue, and to push for an agreement between the Council of Ministers and Parliament to ensure that aid for the poorest can be maintained beyond that date.

Food banks have been able to provide a noteworthy social service thanks to European aid, and this should not be paralysed through the selfishness of some governments. This service has benefited 13 million people, which has enabled us, with minimal effort, to make the common agricultural policy a bit more important.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D).(RO) Mr President, I would like to begin by thanking all those involved for the efforts they made in finding a compromise on this programme. Poverty is worsening in the European Union and millions of people can only afford to have a hot meal every couple of days. More than 18 million Europeans have received food via this programme. This is why it would have been a disastrous decision to cut the funds allocated to this programme or finance it from national budgets, especially at a time of economic crisis.

I would like to stress the need to maintain this programme with funding from the CAP even after 2013. I wish to express my concern about the statements made by the German and French governments about getting rid of it. I wish to convey to them that the right to food is a fundamental right. Moreover, during a difficult time of deep economic crisis, we have an enormous duty to the most vulnerable population groups. Just as Member States have a duty to help those who cannot help themselves, the European Union must likewise demonstrate that solidarity is more than just a principle on paper.

 
  
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  George Lyon (ALDE). - Mr President, as others have stated in this debate, this programme arose at a time when food mountains and milk lakes were the norm. Thankfully that is now history. It is my opinion that we need to take account of the change in circumstances and recognise that this programme belongs to social policy and not the common agricultural policy. I believe that the move proposed by the Commission in the post-2014 MFF, to move the programme through to social policy and deliver it in that way, is the correct longer-term solution.

However, the situation we face today concerning next year’s budget for the programme is unsustainable. I will support the compromise found between the institutions at the vote tomorrow. If we do not accept this temporary deal the risk is clear: money available to charities in 20 Member States will drop from EUR 500 million to EUR 113 million next year, leaving over 18 million poor and in need. That cannot be allowed to happen in 21st century Europe, especially at this time of crisis. Therefore I would urge colleagues to support the temporary solution at tomorrow’s vote.

However, it is important to stress that this deal can in no way serve as the foundation for the future of the programme beyond 2013. Tomorrow we are only voting on a transitional solution to unlock the short-term deadlock. It is not a long-term solution. We will have to find a proper, agreed, solid basis for the long-term future of this programme. I reiterate my call for it to be transferred to social policy for future delivery.

 
  
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  Marije Cornelissen (Verts/ALE).(NL) Mr President, I am delighted that the compromise by the Council of Ministers has solved an acute problem. Thanks to the Dutch Government among others, things had almost reached a point where 18 million of the most deprived people in Europe, from one moment to the next, would not have received any further food aid.

However, I am still worried. No one seems to be thinking constructively about how we can help food banks to become independent of direct food deliveries from the EU, and I find a great danger in this. Member States are not preparing their food banks for a possible end to aid. Parliament is ignoring the fact that the aid programme can run for another two years only on condition that it stops in 2014. If we let this uncertainty continue, we are back in the same situation as in December, with food banks that have no independence at all and poor people living under the sudden threat of hunger. We want to start working towards independence now. By giving food banks the tools to gather for themselves the food that must otherwise go to waste: lorries, computers, training in logistics, a public brand awareness campaign, the pooling of expertise in the management of food banks without government support.

Now that food aid is assured for the next two years, it is very important to get clear about what happens after that, and I call upon the Commission, the Council and my colleagues to do so as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella (S&D), ‘Blue-card question’ to George Lyon. – (FR) I would like some clarification from George Lyon. He appears to be saying that, beyond 2013, the matter would need to come under social policy and therefore, as far as I understand it, it is a matter for Member States as they are responsible for social policy.

I would just like to point out to him that in voting for the six pack and then maybe the two pack, in the current economic situation, it will be impossible for Member States to pursue a social policy because some Commission officials oppose an increase in social spending, because limiting spending is all they know. We are just passing the buck to Member States who will be unable to carry out social policy.

I would like to draw his attention to this matter and I would like him to tell me if that is what he meant or whether he thinks we need to address this issue in the budget for social cohesion in Europe? I look forward to hearing his response.

 
  
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  George Lyon (ALDE), Blue-card answer to Marc Tarabella. – Just to clarify for Mr Tarabella, I would prefer it to be moved back to Member States’ responsibility, but I recognise that this is not going to be the case. Therefore I support the Commission’s proposals that we maybe deliver it at a European level but through the legal basis of social policy and not through the common agricultural policy.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR).(PL) Mr President, I should like to congratulate Mr Siekierski on a good report. Food aid is needed. On the one hand, there is widespread poverty within the European Union. This has been particularly evident during this severe winter – 600 individuals have frozen to death in Member States of the European Union. On the other hand, we might not have a surplus of food, but farmers are constantly experiencing difficulties in marketing it. It follows that this programme ought to operate.

In my country, Poland, the programme is operating quite well and it would not be possible to stop it suddenly. Accordingly, it is right to extend it to 2013, though I share the view, expressed on behalf of my political group by Mr Nicholson and others, that this programme should be financed under social policy, and not under agricultural policy, because agricultural policy has other objectives. First and foremost we must protect food production and guarantee food security for Europe. That is what the common agricultural policy should be aimed at, but the programme should be maintained during this transitional period.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL). (PT) Mr President, the latest Eurostat data for 2010 reveal a drastic situation in terms of poverty and social exclusion: 26.9% of children under 17 and 19.8% of the elderly are at risk of poverty. In total, as has already been said, 115 million people in the European Union are at risk of poverty, which represents almost 24% of the population. Today these numbers are likely to be even higher due to the impact of so- called ‘austerity measures’, with more unemployment, lower wages for workers and reduction in social benefits.

In this situation it is even more important to maintain and strengthen the programme for distributing foodstuffs to the most needy, to ensure that those dependent on food aid and the many who will come to rely on it do not suffer from food poverty.

For this reason, we think it is essential that this aid is maintained over the next 2014–2020 financing period, at least under the current conditions, which means through the annual financing of EUR 500 million guaranteed in its entirety by the European Union.

 
  
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  Giancarlo Scottà (EFD).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the objectives of the programme for food distribution include reasonable prices, market stabilisation and support for deprived persons. The institutions and national authorities have confirmed the need for full support of the programme through the EU budget, rejecting proposals for cofinancing by the Member States.

There has been discussion about food wastage. We recently approved the report by Mr Caronna, which included the problem of the meagre access of the poorest population groups to food. I think that the issues are closely linked: helping to reduce wastage also means helping the most deprived.

There are many local initiatives to help people in financial difficulties. I would like to mention the example of food collections, which should play a more prominent part in the programme on which we have been asked to vote. People who wish to donate spontaneously but do not have channels to do so need to be organised and put online. I would like to take the opportunity to thank all those who work towards these goals in their everyday lives.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, I do not think that I need to present any more arguments supporting the programme for distributing food products to the most deprived persons. Although it comes at the eleventh hour, approval for the financing of this programme means that we are extending a hand to our fellow citizens facing particular problems.

This programme, which has proved its effectiveness for 25 years, symbolises Europe’s solidarity and unity. More than one in thirty Europeans has received food aid in recent years, and I would like to remind you that out of the 40 countries occupying the top places in the global food vulnerability index four are Member States of the European Union. I congratulate the Commission for the efforts it has made to end the current stalemate. I also congratulate the Council for the wisdom and compassion it has shown and, lastly, I congratulate the rapporteur for all his fine work.

At the same time, I feel that this is the point when the European Parliament needs to be already starting to think about the future of this programme after 2013. Finding a suitable legal base, along with the Council and Commission, is the first step that we have to take. Are the programme’s costs high? No. We are talking about one euro per year from every one of Europe’s 500 million citizens. The United States invested USD 85 billion last year in the food aid programme, marking a 15% rise on the previous level in 2010. More than 43 million people, more than one in eight Americans, received this aid.

At the moment, we are talking more about productivity, growth and innovation. I firmly believe, without any shadow of a doubt, that they are the right solutions for resuming economic growth. However, we do not have the moral right to ignore the poor in Europe. The food aid programme has been operating for a quarter of a century and must continue to provide a safety net for those who need it.

 
  
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  Paolo De Castro (S&D).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased that tomorrow we will be voting on the recommendation for a second reading on the programme for the distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union, which involves the continuation of this important programme until 2013.

After all these months and the commitment of so many people, whom I would like to thank, starting with our rapporteur, Vice-President Siekierski and Commissioner Cioloş, we have managed to achieve this important result, which means not abandoning 18 million poor people in Europe to their fate.

The European Parliament has often expressed its approval of this programme and also of its continuation after 2013. Our political initiative will therefore continue, we will not rest just with tomorrow’s vote, Mr President. In full compliance with the ruling of the Court of Justice, Europe must also be able to continue offering solidarity to the weaker members of our society in the future, particularly during these tough economic times.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (ALDE). - Mr President, I wish to thank the rapporteur for his strong work on this issue and for acting quickly to ensure that NGOs, charity organisations and European citizens who rely on the deprived persons’ food programme were not left in the lurch for 2012 and 2013.

When I spoke in this Chamber on this issue last year I urged the European leaders to use a little common sense – if not some compassion – in relation to the continuation of this scheme. I am pleased that the scheme has been guaranteed for a further two years. However, the 13 million people who rely on this scheme for food are not going to find an alternative in two years’ time. If anything, the numbers requiring food aid will increase, given the current economic situation.

This scheme must be continued in a format that will ensure that those at risk of food poverty have access to food. I understand that there are those who object on the basis of budget allocation, subsidiarity and a perceived overlap with national competence.

That is all very fine, but 43 million people in the EU are at risk of food poverty. We have a scheme in place that provides food for these people. Why change it because of an ideological objection? For 500 million people it represents value for money in terms of delivering actual results. We must not play politics with a scheme that improves the immediate situation for those who cannot afford to feed themselves or their families.

 
  
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  Karima Delli (Verts/ALE).(FR) Commissioner, more than 43 million Europeans are threatened by food poverty. It is therefore with a certain amount of relief that we welcome the new extension of the European food aid programme until 2014. The poorest will continue to receive the essential charitable support that they need at a time when the demands faced by these charities are growing.

Yet the real question is what next. What will happen after 2014? Is it not just lip service the promise to reduce poverty by a quarter in the EU by 2020? We must give ourselves the means to achieve this goal. That is why we will ensure that the new financial framework preserves this programme as part of the cohesion policy to ensure that those Member States in need do actually benefit from this aid. However, there is one condition: this transfer to the ESF should also be allocated a large enough budget to ensure that no-one is left by the wayside. What is at stake here is the matter of solidarity between the European people.

One final point, Commissioner, the poorest are also entitled to a healthy and balanced diet. Only a truly sustainable CAP can guarantee that fewer Europeans will need food aid in the future.

 
  
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  Julie Girling (ECR). - Mr President, the availability of food for everybody is undoubtedly an important thing in any civilised society. I have no difficulty at all with that. My difficulty with this proposal lies in its assumption that creating a EUR 500 million programme centrally is an adequate or efficient response to hunger. I believe that measures of this type should be delivered by individual Member States in ways which are administratively efficient.

The continuation of such a programme for 25 years is not evidence of its success, but evidence of the development of the dependence culture that should be broken. By the continuation of this scheme under the guise of solidarity we do nothing to encourage an efficient and productive food industry in Europe. Aid in kind is contentious across the world and I seen no reason why it should go unchallenged here in Europe.

 
  
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  Tadeusz Cymański (EFD).(PL) Mr President, one of the consequences of deepening divisions between the social classes has been an increase in the number of people requiring food aid. Different levels of income and property are normal in a democracy, but social contrasts and glaring discrepancies are not. In my view, our debate should not centre on whether or not this programme should be continued, but on how it should be implemented in practice. This programme should not be perceived as a substitute and a replacement for the role and significance of national aid. It does, however, complement national aid, and is an expression of solidarity and of the realisation of the ideals on which the functioning of the European Union is based. We should strive to reduce the extent of poverty, but it would be fanciful to think that poverty can be totally eliminated. Unfortunately, we are faced with the prospect of major social problems and the European Union cannot and must not abandon this programme. It should also be noted that charitable organisations, disregarding the tardiness of institutions, are already engaging in activities this year, particularly in such difficult conditions as those of the present crisis.

 
  
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  Christa Klaß (PPE).(DE) Mr President, around 18 million Europeans suffer from food poverty and depend on food aid. That cannot and must not be the case in Europe. The aid programme that we are discussing today grew from the surpluses in the common agricultural policy (CAP) in days long since passed. Mr Siekierski said as much. We have changed the CAP, but hunger has remained.

The transitional solution now proposed will ensure supplies only until 2013. The question, then, is what comes next? We need to clarify areas of responsibility. In principle, EU agricultural policy cannot be a source of social security. It is, essentially, the primary responsibility of every state to ensure and to safeguard the elementary provisioning of its own population. However – and I address this point to Mr Tarabella – that does not in any way preclude European solidarity. Support programmes must be implemented at national level, and that is also where the responsibility for such programmes must rest. That way, they are sustainable. The situation of the most deprived must be improved in the long term. Commissioner, you should hold a round table discussion involving the Member States in question and the European Union in order to come up with joint solutions that eliminate the problem of hunger in a targeted way.

On the other side of the coin, the scale of food wastage is shameful: around 50% ends up being thrown away! We need a new culture of valuing our food. However, we also need information and education in order to re-learn proper housekeeping and the proper handling of food. When a third of all adults can no longer cook it is no wonder that many people are not able to feed themselves with low-priced staples. This is an ethical problem, but it is also an economic and a social one.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Jacky Hénin (GUE/NGL), Blue-card question.(FR) Mr President, if we are to believe what my colleague is saying, it is because some people cannot cook and do not know how to use food that so much is wasted and that those who have nothing cannot eat. Tell us, how do you eat when you have no money to go shopping?

 
  
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  Christa Klaß (PPE), Blue-card answer.(DE) Nonetheless, it remains cheaper and healthier to feed oneself with staples. That is why education should always include teaching people how to make really healthy food from a potato or a carrot. This would also help to fight poverty and hunger in Europe.

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella (S&D).(FR) Mr President, I am not going to start talking about cooking but I am clearly very saddened today that we are having this debate at all. This debate should never have taken place during the current difficult times.

For, after all, what are we talking about? We are talking about EUR 500 million that is already in the budget, that could be used and that could have been used differently following a decision of the Court of Justice to fill the purpose that they are being used for today, in other words, relieving the pain of 16 million European citizens who do not eat every day to satisfy their hunger.

Instead, we are having to have this debate. I welcome the Commissioner’s determination to save this budget, because at the end of the day – as Mr Omarjee pointed out – we go around talking about hundreds of billions for the banks yet what a fuss when it comes to EUR 500 million for the very poorest! This is serious.

What signal will Europe be giving out if this programme is not saved beyond 2013? Today, I must commend you, Commissioner, and the rapporteur and all those who helped ensure that it was saved until 2013. However, the fight to keep it beyond 2013 starts tomorrow morning, because there is no question of abandoning a programme that looks out for the poorest citizens of the European Union.

 
  
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  Patrizia Toia (S&D).(IT) Mr President, I too applaud the positive outcome of the transitional period, and hope that a definitive solution will be found in the financial programming that will deliver a stable, definitive and rapid response to a real need, which is unfortunately growing, because the number of poor people, the new poor, in Europe is continuing to rise. New areas of the population that were formerly self-sufficient now do not have enough food to live on, and food is a primary basic right. These are poor workers, single mothers with children, and people suffering from invalidating illnesses. The spectre of hunger has once again raised its head in civilised Europe.

I believe that we cannot remain indifferent, just as we cannot support the reasons of those – including many of our colleagues, unfortunately – who think the responsibility should lie first and foremost with the Member States, that we should focus on nutritional education, and so on.

In my view we should first of all take this action and then abolish food subsidies, not the other way round. Luckily, however, outside Parliament, Europe is made up of young people, volunteers, associations and political groups that want this House to deliver more fairness and solidarity in Europe. This is what we are working towards.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D).(HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is lucky that the poor and the hungry are not observing this debate, because it would cause them to loathe the European Parliament and the institutions of the European Union even more than they do already. Today’s debate is a disgrace, and I wish to draw the attention of the agriculturalists to the fact that the agricultural sector is not terribly highly regarded in Europe. In other words, it would greatly improve the prestige and reputation of the agricultural sector if we would not refer to separating the agricultural sector and welfare policy. I wish to draw the attention of Mr Nicholson and Mr Lyon, whom I highly respect, that, as we agriculturalists who are sitting here know well, direct payments include a vast number of social elements in the first pillar. Anyone denying that is lying. It follows that hungry people are not interested in whether they receive their bread and butter in the framework of common agricultural policy or welfare policy, but in whether they receive food to eat or not. I therefore ask the agriculturalists not to make such references, but to protect the poor and the prestige of the agricultural sector.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D).(LT) Mr President, I am nevertheless pleased that we managed to find a compromise solution, which we will be able to approve and which will allow our most deprived citizens to be provided with the same amount of food aid for the remaining two years until the new multiannual financial perspective. It is also very important that 100% of the LTL 500 million comes from the European Union budget, and I definitely agree that only products produced in the European Union should be used and those foods that are produced in the European Union, not imported from somewhere else.

Indeed the Council’s desire to reduce the amount of food aid at this difficult time is absolutely incomprehensible, when the number of people requiring aid has really grown as a result of the crisis. I therefore agree that today we have to make savings, both at EU level and in the Member States, but we cannot do this by reducing assistance for the poorest people who have increased in number.

We all agree that during the crisis there certainly has not been a drop in the number of poor people and savings in this area would not solve the problem of the financial crisis. Instead we would be turning our backs on our citizens and undermining the goals that we set ourselves a year ago – of pulling up to 20 million people out of the poverty trap.

 
  
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  Estelle Grelier (S&D).(FR) Mr President, we should, of course, be glad that the Member States have finally reached an agreement to ensure the immediate future of the European food aid programme for the most deprived citizens. This agreement was vital for millions of Europeans who have already been given a rough ride because of the crisis but it is far, far from enough. In fact, it is conditional upon the withdrawal of the Food Aid Programme in 2014, and on the will of the German Chancellor, a will that unfortunately is not upset, that Europe is no longer funding any social policy of this type beyond that date.

We are Europe. We have core values and shared ideals that we support: peace, prosperity, of course, but also solidarity and the right to dignity, given that dignity is the opposite of humiliation …

(The President asked the speaker to slow down)

 
  
 

(FR) I was saying that dignity is a fundamental right of the European Union, given that it is the opposite of humiliation and I was pointing this out for the benefit of the Greek people. Dignity implies that European citizens can have decent food, shelter and heating and this cannot be conceived through one short statement after another from minority States and purely legal decisions.

I therefore urge the Commission and the Council to implement practical solutions to achieve these objectives within the Union.

 
  
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  Karin Kadenbach (S&D).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, on the one hand I am quite relieved today because a legal framework has been found to overcome the rather cynical approach of saying that ‘there is no budget heading for helping people’. I am also relieved to hear you say that you believe there will be a solution after 2013.

Nevertheless, I do believe that what we have here is only emergency treatment of the symptoms. What really worries me is European Union policy and, in particular, a number of statesmen and stateswomen who are pursuing precisely the policy that leads to poverty. There are very few cases where poverty and need in Europe can be traced back solely to natural disasters. The reality is that they can be traced back to an enormous financial disaster. What we decide here in Europe at this point will perhaps help bring about food distribution. What we need, however, is fair distribution. We need to act much earlier. We need to provide education and we need to provide jobs and incomes. The aim, as Mr Capoulas Santos said, must be that one day we will no longer need this aid. I say yes to food distribution now, as a remedial treatment of the symptoms. What we really need, however, is treatment of the causes, and that means fair distribution.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (PPE).(ES) Mr President, I reiterate: the food programme must be extended indefinitely. Our credibility is linked to the solidarity we show, and more so in a crisis period. Nobody can reasonably deny this, nor will they be able to.

We know the disappointing and bitter figures. What poor person cares about the legal basis, or the ruling, or the common agricultural policy or the social dimension? Are we going to explain it to them? I do not want to and I cannot. We do not provide any justification for not giving, ladies and gentlemen, but we want to justify the fact that now we are taking away what we once gave them, and this is truly inexplicable. I ask for justice and I ask for compassion.

We cannot reduce the EUR 500 million, because it is needed. For poor people, the situation is not a crisis. It is critical, and it affects the most vulnerable of them: old people, children, the sick, the homeless, those without power, without medicines and without food.

React, ladies and gentlemen of the Council, react. I do not see any poor person sitting in the Council, Mr President.

 
  
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  Spyros Danellis (S&D) . – (EL) Mr President, poverty is a political, economic and social problem. The Union certainly needs an integrated approach to poverty. The relief provided by the food distribution programme for deprived persons is important but it is not, of course, a solution to the problem. Of course, that does not mean that it should be abolished. Also, deprived persons do not care if the resources come from the CAP or from the European Social Fund.

The current economic crisis in Europe will exacerbate survival conditions for a very large section of the population and this must be addressed in a viable and cohesive manner. Combating poverty and exclusion are clearly a matter for the Union. At the same time, we should perhaps remember that the rest of us, who are able to eat our fill, must become more responsible citizens. The 179 kilograms of food wasted per person per year is, I think, an insult to deprived persons and is also a matter that should concern us.

 
  
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  José Bové (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, there are some saying today that this project has nothing to do with the common agricultural policy. I tell you this is not the case.

What is now very clear is that the objective of the common agricultural policy was to ensure food security, to make sure that products are affordable for all consumers, ensuring farmers’ income. Feeding all the citizens of Europe is therefore part of the fundamental charter of the first integrated European policy.

When we can now transfer money from the CAP balance to fund the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) to the tune of almost EUR 500 million, how is it that, in some States, some are questioning the EUR 500 million to help the poor?

We have now reached an agreement until 2014. I think that after this, there will need to be a link between the CAP and welfare systems to ensure that the poorest have access to this food. We are committed to this and I hope that in terms of agricultural policy, special efforts will be made so that the poorest can also directly access production.

 
  
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  Alfreds Rubiks (GUE/NGL) . – (LV) Mr President, together with the many millions of poor people living in the European Union, I should like to let the Commission know how pleased I am that it has reached agreement with the Council that this programme will be continued. It involves not only food for victims of hunger, but also support for agriculture. In Latvia last year more than 185 000 people, that is one in every 12, received this aid. I also agree with those of my fellow Members who are arguing for this programme to continue. As a basis for its continuation, I should like to see us taking food from the intervention stockpiles, and not from the market, that it should be fully paid for from the European Union budget, and that it should all have been produced in the European Union.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Mr President, after several years of the European Council blocking the continuation of food aid to the most deprived persons in the European Union, we have finally reached a situation where we can debate and approve the continuation of this aid in 2012 and 2013. Given that this temporary programme already takes into account the majority of significant changes proposed by the European Parliament, such as the procurement of food in accordance with competition rules, for example, or the use of food sourced primarily from the European Union, we have no reason to prolong this process by submitting additional amendments.

It is therefore necessary to comply with the annual limit on the provision of aid from European Union resources, which is set at EUR 500 million, and to try to ensure that food aid is distributed effectively and meaningfully, in order that it reaches those who need it most. Already, however, Commissioner, we have to start working on mechanisms for continuing the programme beyond 2013, because dependent people in Europe will otherwise remain without help after this date.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE).(PL) Mr President, Commissioner, contrary to what many people think, the European Union is not an oasis of peace and prosperity. The economic crisis is causing social unrest and has resulted in protests. These protests are often simple calls for help, since there are many people in Europe who truly have no food to put on the table. The frequently quoted fact that 18 million EU residents – including those drawn from groups other than just the unemployed, migrants, the homeless and generally excluded groups – are availing of the food distribution programme, demonstrates how important it is for our people.

We have to remember that 40 million people in the EU are enduring poverty and just as many are at risk of such hardship. I am pleased, therefore, that the agreement between the institutions has been reached and that the assistance programme will be implemented. Those in need are not interested in the legal basis for the programme. This protracted discussion is an embarrassment for the EU institutions.

 
  
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  Monika Smolková (S&D). (SK) Mr President, access to food and an adequate diet should be the basic right of every citizen. Statistics show that this is not the case. In 2008, 13 million people in 18 Member States made use of food aid, but in 2010 this number had risen to 18 million. The economic crisis and the related decline in jobs have brought greater poverty for more people, who have become dependent on food aid. Going forward, the programme must therefore remain one of the key ways of protecting those who are most in need.

The programme must be effective not only in its accessibility, but also in its speed. We should prevent the mistakes that we have seen in each Member State, for example in Slovakia, my own country, where redistribution takes a long time and is accompanied by misunderstandings, thereby losing the meaningfulness of the aid provided. Therefore, the chain from production to distribution must be organised so that it is as short and as effective as possible.

 
  
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  Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, the rise in basic food prices in recent years has significantly shrunk European citizens’ purchasing power. The economic and financial crisis within the EU has had a considerable impact, automatically increasing the social vulnerability of the EU’s most deprived citizens.

It is vital to continue the food distribution programme in the current economic and political climate. It could provide strong support to 18 million Europeans without imposing additional burdens on national budgets. We need a transitional solution as a matter of urgency for the remaining years in the current multiannual financial framework. The proposal was blocked at the Council for two years, and we are pleased that we have finally reached a compromise. I wish to thank the Commission and Commissioner Cioloş for the efforts they have made.

I therefore support the adoption of measures for the EU to resume granting this aid as soon as possible, as well as the proposal tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) to extend the programme during the next multi-annual financial perspective.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Mr President, in my homeland we have a saying, which goes ‘help quickly and you help twice as much’. That is happening now, which is a good thing. It also seems to be reasonable to have obtained food from the intervention stocks. There are now problems with that, however. For one thing these stocks are shrinking, and for another surpluses cannot always be used where they are produced. The result is therefore food transported over long distances, costs and also damage to the environment.

It would therefore be a more sensible approach to promote and support small and flexible local structures primarily involved in working with the food aid programmes. Obviously, I do not mean old-style state agricultural combines on the former Communist model, but small, smart structures and concepts that make it possible to help the poor quickly but also to retain the jobs that we need in the agricultural sector.

I do not believe that poverty can be abolished that quickly. We will, rather, have to deal with greater poverty, and that is why concepts like this absolutely need to be provided for in the medium term.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Dacian Cioloş, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say a few things in response to your comments.

The food aid programme for the most deprived persons was borne of a two-fold objective of the common agricultural policy. On the one hand, the CAP seeks to ensure that farmers have a constant and fair income, which is why we have the market intervention mechanism, and on the other hand, it seeks to ensure that all European Union citizens have access to food. As a result, rather than destroying the surplus intervention stocks on the market, they were made available to the most deprived persons.

Since then the common agricultural policy has evolved, as have the instruments within it. For that reason, the European Commission is proposing maintaining this programme, because even if we no longer have the public stocks, some EU citizens still have difficulty getting access to food and that problem has yet to be solved. The Commission therefore wants to continue this programme in the context of the European social policy.

It is not true to say that there is no European social policy; I would remind you that we have a European Social Fund. That does not mean that the European Union and the Commission are alone in implementing social policies in Europe. That is the responsibility of the Member States but it does not prevent us from having a social policy.

Therefore, in response to those who say that there is no future for this programme after 2013, I say that the European Commission has proposed maintaining this budget in the framework of the social policy. That budget proposal is now being examined in the Council and in Parliament, which will take a decision on it. On the basis of that decision on the future of the budget, the European Commission will of course fulfil its right and duty to initiate legislation, including in this area. That is the answer that I can give you.

Naturally, even if the programme of aid for the most deprived becomes part of the social policy, that would not prevent us from looking at the issues of food waste and nutrition. The Commission is considering this and will present its ideas to Parliament.

In conclusion, I would also like to respond to Mr Agnew, who made a comment about the Commission. I can assure you, Mr Agnew, that the Commission has never asked farmers to produce less, but to produce better. I think that that is an intelligent solution, not a stupid one, as you described it. That is the direction of all of the proposals that we have put forward.

I also want to say to Mr Stoyanov that if Bulgaria does not participate in the scheme to aid the most deprived, it is because that is what its government has decided. We cannot force the Member States to take part in the programme, but those who want to take part can do so.

Once again, I would like to thank you for your support for this programme and I welcome the fact that, with this decision, we can now ensure that this programme continues, at least for the next two years.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski, rapporteur.(PL) Mr President, it was heart-warming to hear in this House such immense support for the distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union. I am certain that we are all happy with this outcome. Words of gratitude are due, in particular, to the European Commission, for its determination in working towards ensuring that the programme is fully functioning. The Commission recommended a number of adaptations and improvements for the programme.

We should remember that it was the legal basis, and not the principle of or the necessity for food distribution to the most deprived, which was contested before the Court of Justice. The Court challenged the legal basis only. It is true that those in need are not interested in legal bases, however Parliament must make decisions about these legal bases, and we need to discuss them in this House. As the Commissioner said, the programme is available to countries that express their interest and intention to participate in the programme. Currently, limited intervention in the agricultural market, low food stock levels and proposed changes in the provisions of the common agricultural policy (CAP) over the period 2014–2020, will require the development of a new legal basis. I am convinced that on the initiative of this House we will accomplish this objective.

We are aware of the need for the food distribution programme to be implemented in a way that is more efficient and brings improved results. In addition, it is a good idea to analyse the relevant experience of other Member States. We should ask food distribution organisations as well as social and consumer bodies about better and more effective ways of managing this programme in the future. Further close cooperation with the governments of the Member States is necessary. Finally, it is our wish for Europe and for the world as a whole that the number of people requiring free food remains at a minimum. We should therefore aim to grow the economy and reduce unemployment. Lastly, I would like to thank all those who contributed to saving this programme. Ladies and gentlemen, let us keep up the good work for the future.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing.(PT) Today, several countries in the European Union are faced with a crisis that affects the poorest most of all. We see 80 million European citizens in a situation of poverty and around 45 million at risk of malnutrition. Fortunately, after difficult negotiations, there is now support for continuing the food aid programme for the neediest in 2012 and 2013. However, it was scandalous the way in which seven countries initially prevented this at a meeting of Ministers for Agriculture. Austerity measures, which hardly exist in countries assisted by the troika, inevitably affect these populations, and this has clearly been a political choice, reinforced by a discourse which maintains that sacrifices for all are inevitable. On the other hand, the EU, which was quick to support the banks with thousands of millions of dollars, cannot be so hard-hearted as to refuse the EUR 500 million of essential support for the Food Aid Programme, especially in this difficult period when it is needed more than ever. Europe has contradictions which need to be resolved, for the sake of this project and for the sake of European citizens, particularly the poorest. A Europe of solidarity must strive for greater equality.

 
  
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  Ivo Belet (PPE), in writing.(NL) Today, we have finally been able to secure food aid for the poor for this year and the next. This is good news for the millions of Europeans who depend on food aid. Certainly, now that their numbers have increased because of the economic crisis, we cannot leave the poor anywhere in Europe out in the cold. That is European solidarity. We must now make every effort to safeguard this programme beyond 2014 in the negotiations over the long-term budget. The programme has been in existence for 25 years and is a cornerstone of our solidarity with the poor. Belgium is one of the Member States that has consistently committed itself to it.

 
  
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  Nessa Childers (S&D), in writing. – During times of crisis, it is almost always those who are worst off who suffer the most. Unfortunately, despite the development which has occurred in Europe over the past generation or so, this is still very much the case. However this crisis is also an opportunity for Europe to break with the past, and set a new precedent for both good times and bad. By prioritising the most deprived at this juncture, we can set a standard to be followed even when this crisis is overcome, and which will be adopted automatically during any time of difficulty in the future. Furthermore, as an agricultural union, Europe has the benefit of a great deal of quality foodstuffs, and while programmes for the distribution of these goods have existed for some years now, to the Commission’s credit, they should be developed and expanded upon in the months and years ahead.

 
  
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  Frédéric Daerden (S&D), in writing. – (FR) This Regulation and the extension of the programme to the end of 2013 are, on the whole, positive news in this period of suffering for the most deprived. However, an agreement between a number of Member States not to extend these measures beyond 2014 because they would be purely a Member State competence is unacceptable. That attitude reveals several contradictions.

There is a contradiction between the pressure on national budgets from the economic governance measures and the desire to add to them the burden of this aid. There is a contradiction between the Member States having sole competence in the social field for the MDP scheme, but not for the wage levels or pensions affected by the economic governance measures. There is a contradiction between this position of certain Member States and my report on poverty, in which Parliament calls for the programme to be continued after 2014 and states that the austerity measures must not undermine social protection.

The Union’s solidarity is at stake and the citizens are watching us. We must consolidate this programme for the years to come.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing. (RO) The European programme for deprived persons has helped achieve social policy objectives, in addition to fulfilling the agricultural aspect of the common agricultural policy. The programme has proved to be an important means for supporting certain groups of people affected by poverty, especially against the backdrop of the current economic and financial crisis. This programme provides a tool that the European Union can use to offer direct assistance to those in need in the more than 20 Member States, thereby showing that the principle of European solidarity works.

I welcome that this programme will continue this year because, in Romania alone in 2011, NGOs provided assistance to more than 2.8 million people on very low incomes. However, in my view, it is paramount that this aid also continues in the future. I think that the EU needs to provide support to deprived persons at a comparable level to this year, in the knowledge that the common agricultural policy also has social elements. After all, people in need have still to be given assistance. Based on the principle of European solidarity, the Member States which oppose this measure must prove that they understand the situation of the groups suffering poverty and agree to continue the programme under the necessary conditions, which is also proof of EU-level solidarity.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D), in writing. (RO) The Council must stop stalling the programme for distributing basic food products to the most deprived members of the population, especially during the current financial crisis when these sections of the population are likely to suffer most.

Although it is not completely satisfactory, the Council’s position must be adopted as soon as possible by the European Parliament so that the food aid can be released as a matter of urgency. One positive aspect is that the programme will not be subject to any reduction in funding and it will also continue to be financed 100% from the EU budget. At the same time, it will be based on European agricultural produce, which will help support the EU’s domestic production. On the other hand, there is no guarantee yet, unfortunately, that the food aid programme for the most vulnerable groups will also continue after 2013.

I believe that the programme must be extended under the same parameters after 2013 as well, given that the estimate for the number of people who genuinely need this programme is not going to fall; on the contrary, it is set to increase.

 
  
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  Filip Kaczmarek (PPE), in writing.(PL) I am very pleased that the prospect of discontinuing the programme of food distribution to the most deprived persons has been averted. Over the course of the next two years, the programme will ensure food aid is provided to the most deprived persons within the European Union. The programme, which has benefited 18 million persons within the EU in 20 Member States, will be continued until the end of 2013, with an annual budget of EUR 500 million. It is important that the programme is also continued beyond 2013. Unfortunately, I am quite certain that we will not have succeeded in eradicating poverty by that time. Poverty is precisely the most important rationale for the continuation of this programme. The ever-growing number of persons within the EU in need of assistance is disturbing.

 
  
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  Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska (PPE), in writing. – (PL) The European food distribution programme is important to many Member States and confirms the fact that the European Union holds a sense of responsibility towards its most deprived and poorest residents. Statistical data suggests that over 18 million persons across the EU avail themselves of this programme on an annual basis. The food that reaches the most deprived households provides significant support to the families living in these households. In the face of the ongoing crisis, the number of poor and socially excluded people is constantly increasing, and for that reason, I think that it is essential for this document to be adopted as soon as possible. Food aid is very important and should be continued, however, in my opinion, many of those who avail themselves of this support would prefer to be employed. Apart from food support, our actions should also focus on job creation, aimed at reducing the number of poor and homeless people.

 
  
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  Véronique Mathieu (PPE), in writing. – (FR) It was important for us to adopt the agreement between Parliament and the Council as quickly as possible in order to maintain the funding for the European food aid programme for the most needy at EUR 500 million for 2012 and 2013. Numerous charities in Europe depend on this report, blocked for two years in the Council, for their food supplies. Although the blocking minority in the Council gave in at the end of 2011, allowing the programme to be extended for two years, we sincerely hope that a solution can be found to enable a similar European contribution to be maintained after 2013. We are therefore determined to find an alternative to financing the MDP programme from the budget for the common agricultural policy. Following the ruling by the Court of Justice, the purchase of food financed to this level by the CAP does not comply with European legislation, so we have to look for other possible sources of funding and thus support the actions to help the needy through charitable organisations.

 
  
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  Vladko Todorov Panayotov (ALDE), in writing. – Current estimations from the Commission reveal that 50 million people in the Union are at risk of food poverty while, for a number of reasons, fewer and fewer surpluses are available in the framework of the Scheme for food distribution to the most deprived persons in the Union, set up in 1987. As a matter of fact this aid, which provides food-aid for 13 million people across the EU, is losing its capacity because on the one hand, the reframed CAP has increased dependency on market purchase while on the other, the current economic crisis has considerably aggravated poverty. If food aid is only a short-term form of assistance in the struggle against poverty in Europe, we need to insist on its importance being maintained and enhanced. The rise in inequities among EU citizens is a threat to the EU, and access to food must be one of our priorities as it concerns fundamental rights and human dignity. The fight against poverty and exclusion is one of the five pillars of the Europe 2020 Strategy and the most urgent one to reach.

 
  
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  Vilja Savisaar-Toomast (ALDE), in writing.(ET) This report on the distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the European Union is extremely important considering the economic conditions of recent years and the increased number of deprived persons. I am glad that after two years of blocking, the Council has decided to move forward, and I therefore wholeheartedly support the rapporteur’s position that the second reading in Parliament should be completed as soon as possible. On the positive side, it should be emphasised that the Commission and the Council have agreed to a 100% level of financing, and have also set the total amount of aid at EUR 500 million. It is worth pointing out – and the Council has also drawn attention to this – that the system of food distribution should be improved, and it must be ensured that assistance truly reaches those who need it. Unfortunately there have been cases in Member States in which food aid is indeed distributed free of charge, but this is only done in larger centres, and it can be obtained by all who desire it. In rural areas, therefore, aid unfortunately does not reach those who need it most. The Council position emphasises that food aid should be distributed to those who have been designated as deprived persons as defined by the local or national government. Here the role of local social workers should definitely be increased, as they are best aware of who needs assistance and how to ensure that they receive it. One important point that I would like to emphasise is that I wholeheartedly support the distribution of food originating from the EU, which is also supported in the Council’s positions.

 
Last updated: 20 May 2012Legal notice