Parliamentary questions and answers
I regularly ask parliamentary questions in Strasbourg and Brussels to get answers on your behalf. If you have an issue that you would like me to ask a question on please get in touch.
Q - In view of the new restrictions imposed by the Spanish authorities at the pedestrian border between Spain and Gibraltar, does the Commission have plans to review its initial conclusions?
A - As already announced, after the expiry of the six month deadline regarding its recommendations, the Commission intends to assess the situation again. Nevertheless, following new complaints pointing to long waiting times at the pedestrian lanes, the Commission has again contacted the Spanish authorities to draw their attention to the need to improve the situation of EU citizens commuting daily between Gibraltar and Spain.
Bulgarian and Romanian citizens entering the UK.
Q - Has the Commission made an estimate of the number of people from Bulgaria and Romania that have entered the UK?
A - The Commission has only an estimate of the number of people from Romania that have entered the UK (7505 persons in 2010 and 8422 persons in 2011 as provided by the UK to Eurostat).
With respect to residence, official migration statistics transmitted by the UK record 94.825 Romanian persons in the UK on 1 January 2012 (75.572 on 1 January 2011).
The UK has not provided to Eurostat estimates as regards Bulgarian nationals.
Nevertheless, the EU-Labour Force Survey indicates that, in the 3rd quarter of 2012, around 52000 Bulgarian (and around 97000 Romanian) citizens were residing in the UK.
EIB allocating funds to Turkey.
Q - What is the Commission’s reasoning as to why the European Investment Bank is allocating funding to Turkey (not a member of the European Union), in direct competition with jobs within the European Union?
A - EIB has been operating in Turkey since the mid-1960s. EIB operations are either covered by the EU Budget guarantee under the EIB external mandate, on the basis of a Decision the European Parliament and the Council, or carried out at the own risk of the EIB under the Pre-Accession Facility. Since 2007, EIB had signed more than EUR 13bn of operations in Turkey, out of which around half were under the mandate.
Decision 1080/2011/EU on the current EIB external mandate was adopted in November 2011 by the European Parliament and the Council. Decision 1080/2011/EU foresees a ceiling of around EUR 9 billion for the Pre-Accession region. Moreover, it is also envisaged that a substantial part of the EUR 2 billion climate change envelope would be allocated to the Pre-Accession region.
Turkey is one of the eligible countries for EIB operations in the Pre-Accession region. EIB activity in that region takes place in the framework established in the Accession and European Partnerships which sets the priorities for the candidates with the view to making progress in moving closer to the Union and which provide a framework for Union assistance.
Car manufacturing capacity in the EU.
Q - What are the Commission’s reasons for not steering a coordinated effort to cut car manufacturing capacity in the EU? This would mirror what Brussels achieved in the early 1980s, when Viscount Davignon helped Europe’s steelmakers to cut 20 % of their capacity.
Q - Has the German car manufacturer BMW lobbied the Commission against cutting vehicle manufacturing capacity? If so, could the Commission provide details?
Q - Has the German car manufacturer Audi lobbied the Commission against cutting vehicle manufacturing capacity? If so, could the Commission provide details?
Q - Has the German car manufacturer Volkswagen lobbied the Commission against cutting vehicle manufacturing capacity? If so, could the Commission provide details?
Q - Has the German car manufacturer Mercedes lobbied the Commission against cutting vehicle manufacturing capacity? If so, could the Commission provide details?
A - The Honourable Member can be assured that the difficult economic situation of the automotive industry in Europe is of a sincere concern to the Commission. The automotive industry is of strategic importance for the EU’s prosperity and job creation and has a multiplier effect for the European economy via linkages with other industrial sectors. Already in the past, the Commission has been actively engaged in actions aimed at both supporting the competitiveness and sustainable growth of this industry. Today, with the unfavourable economic situation affecting the EU automotive industry, the Commission wants to provide additional support to the sector with the CARS 2020 Action Plan that was adopted on 8 November.
Concerning the manufacturing capacity, it indeed has to be recognised that the industry suffers from structural overcapacity – although the situation varies between the Member States and manufacturers. It is, however the role of the industry to address this problem. The Commission cannot operate a plan similar to Davignon Plan 35 years ago since there is neither legal basis nor economic conditions to do so. On the other hand, the Commission can accompany workers affected by restructuring and ensure that current restructuring process enables us to safeguard healthy and competitive industrial base in Europe. Investment in innovation will be crucial in that respect as spelled out in CARS 2020 Action Plan mentioned above. The issue of tackling overcapacity in automotive industry in Europe has been and will be discussed with Member States and relevant stakeholders, including industry and the staff representatives.
New Commission job scheme.
Q - The Commission’s ‘first EURES job’ scheme – limited at the moment to Spain, Germany, Denmark, and Italy but potentially to be extended to the entire EU-27 – allows jobseekers from the continent to claim the sum of GBP 1000 if they obtain jobs in the UK. Given that youth unemployment in the UK has been rising steadily over the past 18 months – with the latest estimate at 957 000 – has the Commission considered the effect of the EURES scheme on youth unemployment in the UK? If so, what preliminary conclusions has it reached?
A - 'Your first EURES job' is a pilot job mobility scheme to help young people find jobs in other EU countries. As it is testing a new concept, its resources and overall target (5000 placements by 2014) are limited. For the period 2014-2020 the Commission has proposed to continue the funding of such 'targeted job mobility schemes' under the EU Programme for Social Change and Innovation. These schemes can focus on specific target groups e.g. young people but also on specific occupations, sectors and/or countries.
The current scheme is based on support from certain national employment services – information, job search, recruitment, funding – for both young jobseekers and businesses interested in recruiting from outside their home country.
Germany is currently the main recruiting country in Europe, accounting for the larger share of job placements. In other EU countries, such as the United Kingdom, only bottleneck or niche job offers are targeted by the scheme.
This small-scale initiative will not have disruptive side-effects or limit the number of vacancies for national jobless young people. It redeploys competences and skills to where shortages have been identified. Funding is moreover subject to conditions and procedures put in place by the relevant employment services. The scheme will be evaluated by mid-2014.
Contingency plan for Greek exit?
Q - Despite the success of the European Stability Mechanism in German courts, the upcoming Troika report will again raise the spectre of a potential Greek default. Has the Commission prepared a contingency plan for a Greek exit?
A - The accession to the euro is irreversible. The Commission does not prepare any plan that would be contrary to the Treaty of which it is the guardian.
The cost of opting out of criminal justice powers.
Q - It has been suggested that, if the UK chooses to opt out of the 130 criminal justice powers, it could be forced to pay administrative fees (Daily Telegraph, 15 October 2012: ‘MPs will get to vote on EU powers opt-out’). Could the Commission describe the nature and amount of these fees?
A - Article 10(4) of Protocol 36 to the Treaty of Lisbon enables the United Kingdom to notify that it opts out of all acts of the Union in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters which have been adopted before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and have not been amended before 1 December 2014. The United Kingdom has not at this point made such a notification.
In the eventuality of such a notification, the Commission would assess any direct financial consequences that might be incurred taking into account the provisions of Article 10(5) of Protocol 36.
Opting out of the European Arrest Warrant.
Q - UK Home Secretary Theresa May has said that pending a parliamentary vote, the UK may opt out of some 130 EU criminal justice powers . If the UK chooses to opt out of the European Arrest Warrant, what would happen to existing extradition cases involving UK citizens?
A - Article 10(4) of Protocol 36 to the Treaty of Lisbon enables the United Kingdom to notify that it opts out of all acts of the Union in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters which have been adopted before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and have not been amended before 1 December 2014.
The United Kingdom has until now not made such notification.
According to Article 10(5) of Protocol 36, which grants the United Kingdom the right to notify its wish to participate in acts which would have ceased to apply to it, the Union institutions and the United Kingdom shall seek to re-establish "the widest possible measure of participation in the acquis of the Union in the area of freedom, security and justice without seriously affecting [their] practical operability …, while respecting their coherence".
According to Article 10(4) of Protocol 36, should there be an opt out notification, the Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, shall determine the necessary consequential and transitional arrangements. The United Kingdom shall not participate in the adoption of that decision.
For these various reasons, it is not yet possible to assess at this stage any potential operational, legal or financial consequences of a UK decision taken regarding the European Arrest Warrant or any other acts concerned by a potential notification under Protocol 36.
Accountability in the new Instrument for Pre-Accession
Assistance (IPA II).
Q - According to a UK Government briefing paper published on 23 April 2012, there is no mention of evaluating the progress of candidate countries using a ‘three-tier system’ even though consultations included with the proposed IPA Regulation recommended assessing progress relative to the path to accession, national strategies and achieving results at the level of programmes, sectors and measures.
Can the Commission please explain why an important accountability measure such as this was not included in the proposed IPA Regulation?
A - The Commission proposal for a Regulation on the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II) was submitted to Parliament and Council in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure. Relevant committees in both branches of the legislature are currently considering the proposal.
As the Explanatory Memorandum of the proposal mentions, one of the results of the stakeholders consultations carried out during the drafting process was the support for the adoption of a "three-tier approach" to monitoring and evaluation.
In line with this conclusion, the importance given to monitoring and evaluation processes as a major part of the overall accountability principle is indeed reinforced throughout the current Commission proposal. For instance, in Article 2 – Specific Objective, par. 2, it is clearly stipulated that progress of beneficiary countries towards achievement of IPA specific objectives shall be assessed through indicators which shall also be used for monitoring, evaluation and review of performance, as appropriate.
Moreover, for a successful adoption of the "three-tier approach", further and more detailed provisions concerning monitoring and evaluation are foreseen . Thus, in accordance with Articles 7, 10 and 11 of the IPA II Regulation proposal, the IPA II Implementing Rules will provide for the additional regulatory framework.
Q - Do EEAS staff enjoy diplomatic immunity? If so, are any EEAS staff not covered by diplomatic immunity?
A - The EU Delegations in third countries and at international organisations, their staff and their property, have been granted privileges and immunities equivalent to those referred to in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 18 April 1961, by agreements or arrangements with the host country, international organisation or third country concerned.
Within the EU, Protocol No 7 on the privileges and immunities of the European Union is also applicable on the EEAS and its staff.
EEAS Delegation Transitions.
Q - In a December 2011 report by the High Representative, it was stated that ‘many delegations [in the EEAS] have managed the transition without any additional resources’. Could the Vice-President/High Representative please specify which delegations managed the transition cost-effectively?
A - The creation of the EEAS and the transition by EU delegations in taking over the previous tasks of the rotating presidency has taken place against the background of acute budget constraints. The limited extra resources available have been allocated to delegations according to a rigorous assessment of political priorities and workload, fully consistent with the principles of cost-efficiency and effectiveness. The success of this process has been generally welcomed by Member States and the authorities of third countries. The EEAS is grateful for the support of the European Parliament in the budget procedures for 2011 and 2012.
Q - Could the Vice-President/High Representative provide details of how many EEAS officials have been dismissed from their duties?
A - No EEAS official has been dismissed since the creation of the EEAS.
EEAS 2011 budget.
Q - According to a December 2011 report by the High Representative, ‘The budget of the EEAS in 2011 is EUR 464 million divided between EUR 184 million in headquarters and EUR 280 million in delegations. The EEAS also manages EUR 253 million on behalf of the Commission for the administrative expenses linked to Commission staff in delegations.’ Can the High Representative give details as to whether this yearly budget will decrease in 2012? Also, can the High Representative give details as to why the EEAS, which is separate and distinct from the Commission, is managing part of the budget on the latter’s behalf?
A - The EEAS budget for 2012 (Section X of the EU General Budget), as jointly approved by the European Parliament and the Council in December 2011, is EUR 492 million divided between EUR 192 million for headquarters and EUR 300 million for delegations. In addition, the EEAS manages EUR 264 million for the administrative expenses linked to Commission staff in delegations.
The Commission has specific competences under the Treaties, notably to implement the EU budget and the European Development Fund as well as regarding trade negotiations. As a result, the Commission has staff in EU delegations. The EEAS is made up of a central administration and of the Union’s delegations to third countries and international organisations. For reasons of transparency and sound financial management, the resulting costs of the Commission’s activity within the EU delegation are born by the Commission, as they used to be before the creation of the EEAS. However, it has been deemed more practical to entrust the management of delegations entirely to the EEAS. This is why the Commission is providing the EEAS with annual contributions to cover the costs of its staff in delegations.
EEAS staff conflict of interests.
Q - Employees of the European External Action Service (EEAS) are governed under the same rules as EU civil servants. (‘All members of the staff of the EEAS covered by the Staff Regulations and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants shall have the same rights and obligations, regardless whether they are officials of the European Union or temporary agents coming from the diplomatic services of the Member States’.)
However, these rules stipulate that they may take no instruction from a Member State. If they are already members of the diplomatic service of their own country (and thus must take orders from it), how will these staff members possibly be able to reconcile the demands of their national post with the EU civil service rules which instruct them not to take such instructions?
A - Article 6(4) of Council Decision 2010/427 establishing the organisation and functioning of the EEAS provides that "the staff of the EEAS shall carry out their duties and conduct themselves solely with the interests of the Union in mind. (...) they shall neither seek nor take instructions from any government, authority, organisation or person outside the EEAS or from any body or person other than High Representative (...)".
This obligation applies to all members of staff of the EEAS, whether officials of the Union or temporary agents coming from the diplomatic services of the Member States.
EEAS staff from the diplomatic services of the Member States take, in practice, unpaid leave from their diplomatic service in order to take up employment at the EEAS. They do not take instructions from their national diplomatic service while they are employed by the EEAS.
Cost-effectiveness of the EEAS.
Q - In a December 2011 report by the Vice-President/High Representative it was stated that the EEAS is ‘not about replacing national diplomatic services, but in making a more effective and cost efficient use of resources’.
Since the budget for the EEAS continues to grow, can the Vice-President/High Representative state whether efficiency and cost-effectiveness is still the primary goal of the EEAS? If so, how does the Vice-President/High Representative plan to accomplish this goal?
A - The European External Action Service's (EEAS) primary goal as defined in Article 27 of the Treaty on EU is to assist the High Representative in fulfilling her mandate. Within that perspective, the EEAS is making its best effort to increase its efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
In 2011, thanks to the elimination of duplications, synergies and savings from more modern working methods, the EEAS has managed to cover through substantial staff redeployments the chairing of the Political and Security Committee and working groups, to reinforce priority areas for Parliament (development policy and crisis management, peacekeeping) and to provide for new functions to support the High Representative and the Corporate Board, including policy coordination, strategic communication, strategic planning and a legal service. The EEAS has opened new delegations in South Sudan and in Libya within its existing appropriations.
In 2012, the EEAS has cut its appropriations for missions by 10% and for representation by 5%. It is redeploying 20 AD staff to delegations, the equivalent of more than 3% of headquarters’ AD staff.
For 2013, the EEAS has cut fitting-out, removal and installation costs, furniture and transport equipment in delegations by EUR 6.1 million or 1.3% of its 2012 budget. It proposes to freeze appropriations for missions, representation and training at headquarters and in delegations, transport and technical equipment, public information and public events at headquarters, at their 2012 level in nominal terms.
The EEAS building policy is geared towards promoting synergies wherever possible with other EU Institutions and Member States through sharing of premises and pooling of services. This should gradually result in savings for Member States’ diplomatic services and greater efficiency on the ground.
Relations with South Sudan.
Q - Can the Commission provide details regarding its diplomatic and economic relations with South Sudan?
A - Following South Sudan's independence in July 2011, all EU Member States have given diplomatic recognition to the new state. Following the signature of an Establishment Agreement between the EU and the Republic of South Sudan, the EU has opened a full-fledged Delegation in the capital Juba whereas South Sudan has opened its embassy in Brussels and appointed an ambassador to the EU institutions. In terms of political dialogue, the EU Head of Delegation has regular contacts with representatives of the government. At the highest political level, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, visited Brussels in March 2012 and met with the Presidents of the European Council and the Commission, the HR/VP, as well as the Commissioner responsible for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response and the Commissioner responsible for Development.
A more regular and strengthened political dialogue on peace and security, human rights, governance and sustainable economic development will be established between the EU and South Sudan following the latter's request to accede to the EU-ACP Partnership Agreement and the expectation that it will become a member there before the end of 2012.
Economic and trade relations between the EU and South Sudan are limited due to the country's economic structure which is based on oil production and self-sustaining agricultural production and livestock. EU Member States are not represented among South Sudan's main trading partners for its oil. South Sudan will become eligible for the EU's Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative as soon as it is granted Least Developed Countries (LDC) status.
Somali fishing waters.
Q - The outbreak of Somali piracy can arguably be traced to predatory fishing in Somali waters by foreign vessels during the 1990s. This destroyed the livelihoods of Somali fishermen, pushing many into piracy. Does the Commission intend to investigate whether EU/EC vessels were involved in this fishing during the 1990s?
A - The Commission is aware of these allegations. Information on fishing off the coast of Somalia collected by EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta is forwarded regularly to the Commission. EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta also sends information on fishing off the coast of Somalia to the UN Secretariat's Department of Political Affairs at its request. In the course of its duty, EU NAVFOR ATALANTA has not observed any evidence of illegal fishing in Somali waters.
At this stage, there is a lack of proof regarding these allegations and inconsistencies in the accusations relating to alleged illegal fishing by EU vessels in the waters of Somalia. With regard to EU fishing vessels, regular monitoring and analysis of the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data show no entries into Somali waters. Nevertheless, the Commission considers it necessary to continue close monitoring and to pay particular attention to analysing future records in depth to assess whether incursions are taking place, if illegal fishing is going on and to what extent this can be curbed. If incursions are spotted, relevant authorities are asked to explain.
EU fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean are bound by the rules of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, which manages the tuna fisheries in the region, the principles of the Common Fisheries Policy and the Bilateral Fisheries Agreements the Union has in the region with third countries. Compliance with those provisions is closely monitored in the first instance by the Member States and then by the Commission.
If substantive information of such allegations is provided, it will be in first instance for the Member States to investigate these allegations.
Macro-financial assistance to third countries - (Application
Q - Could the Commission provide details of the application process to be followed by third countries in order for them to receive macro-financial assistance?
A - The application process for requesting Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) is triggered by a letter sent to the Commission from the Government of a third country, referring to the circumstances which have led to the request (such as the existence of a balance of payments crisis, the existence of a residual external financing gap, etc.). Then, the Commission verifies if the applicant fulfils the conditions for providing macro-financial assistance, in particular the so called Genval criteria (see reply to Question E-003883/2012.
In case the Commission finds that the Genval criteria are met, it may adopt a proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council for an MFA operation. If the legislative decision-making process leads to a positive decision by the co-legislators, the Commission concludes a loan- and/or grant agreement with the authorities of the third country, as well a Memorandum of Understanding which contains the economic policy and financial conditions attached to the assistance.
Macro-financial assistance to third countries: (Criteria).
Q - Could the Commission provide details of the criteria that a third country must fulfil in order to apply for macro-financial assistance from the EU?
A - The Macro-financial assistance (MFA) instrument is governed by the “Genval principles” (exceptional character, political pre-condition, complementarity, conditionality, financial discipline and geographical delimitation). They refer to the informal ECOFIN Council Conclusions first agreed on 9 October 1993, as revised on 20 March 1995 and as finally adjusted and adopted on 8 October 2002 as formal ECOFIN Council Conclusions, accompanied by a letter from the President of the Council to the President of the Commission, concerning notably the MFA’s geographical delimitation.
While legally non-binding, the “Genval principles” provide an overall “political” framework for MFA and have been as such the basis for the Commission's MFA proposals. These criteria are summarised in the Explanatory Memorandum of the Commission proposal for a Framework Regulation on MFA (COM (2011) 396 final).
Geographic limits of the European Union.
Q - Could the Commission comment on what countries it regards as being qualified for potential EU membership, based on their geographic location?
A - The Treaty on European Union says in Article 49 that "any European State" which respects the values on which the Union is founded and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union. These values are referred to in Article 2 of the same Treaty.
Every country meeting the conditions of Article 49 TEU has to meet the basic conditions laid down by the European Council, in particular the criteria set out at its meeting in Copenhagen in 1993. These criteria require the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union, and the ability to take on the obligations of membership, including the administrative capacity to effectively apply and implement the acquis. The capacity of the Union to integrate new members is also an important consideration.
The enlargement process currently encompasses Iceland, Turkey and the countries of the Western Balkans. Croatia has the status of an acceding country, and is scheduled to join the EU on 1 July 2013 following ratification by all Member States of its Accession Treaty. Accession negotiations are on-going with Iceland and Turkey. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have the status of candidate countries, with which accession negotiations have not yet begun. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo re potential candidates.
Turkey, immigration and border security.
Q - Could the Commission clarify whether any funds have been granted to Turkey/Turkish organisations for the purpose of border security? If so, could the Commission provide the source for the amounts?
A - In the field of border security Turkey receives EU support under the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) Assistance Component I. EUR 440 million is earmarked (17% of the total) for the period 2011-2013 for justice, home affairs and fundamental rights. Part of this amount is for projects aiming at supporting the establishment of an integrated border management system, at enhancing the capacity to prevent illegal migration and at further improving the conditions for asylum seekers in Turkey. Projects are for example being implemented to align Turkey's National Action Plan on Border Management and overall integrated border management (IBM) strategy with EU standards, to transform the current border management into an integrated border management system. The Commission also financed a project for a training programme for Border Police. All IPA National Programmes for which Financing Agreements have been concluded between the Commission and Turkey as well as the Project Fiches which fall under these annual funding programmes are available online here.
Expulsion of a Member State from the EU.
Q - While the treaties allow for disciplinary measures to be taken against Member States (cf. Article 7 TEU), there seems to be no mechanism for expelling a Member State from the EU. Can the Commission comment on this?
A - Whereas Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union provides for the suspension of certain rights of Member States, there is no Treaty provision concerning the expulsion of a Member State. The terms of any European Union Treaty are decided by the Member States of the European Union.
Trade and Turkey.
Q - In the light of Turkey’s free trade agreements with Egypt, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia, as well as its role in establishing an approximation of an internal market with the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States, can the Commission comment on Turkey’s potential economic contribution to the EU given that nation’s tendency to establish independent free trade agreements?
A - The EU-Turkey Customs Union has contributed significantly to the increase of the EU-Turkey trade as well as to foreign direct investments mainly from the EU to Turkey. It has also facilitated the economic and business integration of the EU and Turkish economies to the benefit of both parties.
According to Article 16 of Decision 1/95 of the EU-Turkey Association Council establishing the EU-Turkey Customs Union, Turkey needs to align to the EU commercial policy. This includes the need for Turkey to conclude Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with the EU's FTA partners.
Visa and immigration issues in Turkey.
Q - Can the Commission comment on how it plans to manage the migration of citizens from Turkey in the event that Turkey accedes to the EU, given that Turkey has visa-free travel agreements with Syria and Iran and the ongoing issues with illegal immigrants from other MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) countries arriving in Greece from Turkey?
A - As a candidate country to the EU, Turkey will have to fully align its legislation and practices with the EU acquis by the time of accession. In particular, Turkey will have to align with the EU lists of countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 ). This Regulation is part of the so-called Schengen acquis, but it will be binding and applicable for Turkey already from the date of their EU accession (and not only from a future date on which Turkey could become part of the Schengen area without internal borders).
In all of the relevant fora, and in particular in the framework of the EU-Turkey Association Committee, the EU encourages Turkey to work towards alignment with the positive and negative EU visa lists at an early stage in the broader context of the prevention of irregular migration to the EU. The visa waiver that has been granted in the past years for certain third countries such as Syria, Libya or Yemen (countries which are on the EU negative visa list) does not go in this direction. This has been conveyed to the Turkish authorities and the Commission will continue to monitor this issue closely.
Q - How many people does the EU employ at its delegations worldwide? Does the High Representative plan to increase the number of staff in the future?
A - There are 5806 persons currently employed in the EU Delegations worldwide, of which 3746 are Commission staff and 2060 are European External Action Service (EEAS) staff. The staff resources of the Institutions are set by the budget authority in the annual budget procedure. The 2012 EEAS budget foresees 20 additional establishment plan posts (AD) for the Delegations, as well as the possibility to redeploy up to 20 more posts from headquarters to the Delegations, all in the last quarter of the year. On the Commission side, some redeployments between delegations are envisaged to better match local presence with the actual workload in each delegation.
VP/HR - EU delegations.
Q - What is the total staff budget for all EU delegations worldwide?
Does the High Representative plan to increase the staff budget in the future?
A - The full answer is in PDF format which you can download here.
The 'Rotterdam/Antwerp effect' and its impact on non-EU trade.
Q - Can the Commission comment on the phenomenon known as the ‘Rotterdam/Antwerp effect’? Specifically, can it comment on the circumstance that, despite this effect being common knowledge, little is being done to address the fact that the transportation of goods outside the EU is under-represented in official customs figures?
A - The Commission is fully aware of the phenomenon known as the ‘Rotterdam/Antwerp effect’ and its consequences, in particular, for EU statistics relating to external trade with non-member countries (extra-EU trade statistics).
Extra-EU trade statistics are compiled on the basis of the customs declarations. Therefore, exports are allocated to the country where the goods are declared and cleared for the customs export procedure.
Without doubt any information obtained on intra-EU goods movements prior to such customs clearance would enhance the relevance of trade statistics. In order to identify the ‘Rotterdam/Antwerp effect’ in extra-EU trade statistics, the "Member State of actual export" can be indicated on the customs declaration. However, this data element is currently defined in the customs provisions in force as optional for Member States and thus Member States may decide to waive its collection. This option is taken by some Member States; in those cases, the information is therefore also missing in international trade statistics.
The European Commission has taken the necessary steps to ensure that under the provisions of the Modernised Customs Code - at the moment subject to a recast and to be called then Union Customs Code - the respective information shall be collected by all Member States on a mandatory basis.
Governance Agreement/Treaty - Referendums.
Q - Will the Commission undertake NOT to fund, overtly or covertly, one side of the campaign in a possible referendum on the Governance Agreement/Treaty as agreed on 9 December 2011?
A - The ratification of the international Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance (TSCG) is the exclusive responsibility of the Member States that signed the Treaty.
As part of its communication activities the Commission will continue to perform its duty of providing EU citizens with factual and objective information on matters related to the European Union. This can involve information on the TSCG.
Expenditure on public relations.
Q - What is the Commission’s projected annual budget expenditure for the promotion of EU enlargement?
A - As pointed out in the Commission's answer to the Honourable Member's question related to Croatia's forthcoming accession E-000523/2012 , information and communication actions on enlargement policy aiming at citizens in the 27 Member States are financed from the PRINCE Programme (budget line 22.02.1001). For 2012 the budgetary authority allocated EUR 5 million.
Information and communication actions targeting the general public in the candidate countries and potential candidates are financed from the IPA Programme (budget line 22.02.1002), for which the budgetary authority granted a total of EUR 10 million for the 2012 budget year. The majority of this will be implemented by EU Delegations in the countries of the enlargement region.
Joining the euro - (potential) candidate countries.
Q - Does the Commission favour the following countries joining the euro zone should they accede to the EU?
Albania - Bosnia and Herzegovina - Croatia - Iceland - Macedonia - Montenegro - Serbia - Turkey.
A - Although all the countries listed in the question have the ultimate ambition of joining the EU, they are at varied stages of the accession process.
For applicant countries joining the EU, following the successful completion of negotiations in all chapters including a chapter on Economic and Monetary Policy, there is an acquis obligation to adopt the euro once they fulfil the necessary conditions, notably a high degree of sustainable convergence as defined by the criteria set out in Article 140(1) TFEU (i.e. price stability; sustainability of the government financial position; exchange rate stability; and convergence of long-term interest-rates). Accession to the euro area is decided by the Council, on a proposal from the Commission and a recommendation by euro area Ministers, after consultation of the European Parliament and discussion by the European Council.
Budget deficit and the Maastricht treaty
Q1 - According to the Maastricht Treaty, no Member State is to exceed its yearly budget deficit by the equivalent of 3% of gross domestic product.
Will the Commission enforce this criterion by the year end?
If not, are any plans currently being considered to enforce the principle?
Q2 - According to the Maastricht Treaty, no Member State is to exceed its yearly budget deficit by the equivalent of 3% of gross domestic product.
Does the Commission maintain a record of countries who have violated the principle?
Q3 - According to the Maastricht Treaty no Member is to exceed its yearly budget deficit by the equivalent of 3 % of gross domestic product.
Is the Commission planning to introduce sanctions against the countries violating the principle?
If so, what kind of sanctions are being proposed?
A - In accordance with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Stability and Growth Pact, specifically Council Regulation (EC) 1467/97 , excessive deficit procedures have been opened against all EU Member States running a budget deficit of more than 3% of GDP for a given calendar year (or financial year in the case of the United Kingdom), where the deficit is not close to that threshold and the deviation from the threshold is not temporary and exceptional. Currently such procedures are ongoing for 23 EU Member States, with deadlines for the correction of the excessive deficit ranging between 2011 and 2015. All Member States for which the excessive deficit procedure has been opened are subject to continuous monitoring and, following the October notification of fiscal data and the next autumn forecast, a reassessment of the situation will be carried out.
So far sanctions are envisaged for euro area Member States at an only very late stage of the excessive deficit procedure. However, the reform of the EU's economic governance which can be expected to enter into force by the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012 will make it the rule to implement them much earlier. Non-interest bearing deposits amounting to 0.2% of GDP then may already be imposed on a euro area Member State as the Council decides that an excessive deficit exists, in case of particularly serious violations of the requirements for budgetary discipline. Moreover, if no effective action with regard to correct the excessive deficit is forthcoming, the euro area Member State will be subject to a 0.2% of GDP fine. The decisions on the imposition of sanctions will be taken by reverse qualified majority voting, thereby making it much more difficult to stall such decisions. This should clearly make sanctions a more credible deterrent and by implication strengthen fiscal discipline.
For a full record of ongoing and closed excessive deficit procedures please refer to the dedicated website here.
Confidential beneficiaries of EU aid - follow-up questions.
Q - 1. Will the Commission outline what if any scrutiny is given to ensure the 700 beneficiaries use the money properly?
2. Will the Commission set out the criteria and mechanism that allow a beneficiary to be granted confidentiality?
3. Will the Commission provide a breakdown of the 700 projects on the basis of which of the three grounds for confidentiality justifies it in each case?
4. Will the Commission, without naming beneficiaries, provide a breakdown of the value of the aid per project?
5. How confident is the Commission that the status of confidentiality is not subject to abuse and how can an MEP be assured that abuses are not taking place?
6. Would the Commission accept that whereas commercial confidentiality is normal and reasonable for the voluntary use of private funds, the use of taxpayers’ money should be subject to more demanding criteria, and does it therefore ever make transparency a condition of the granting of aid - and if, not why not?
7. Would the Commission accept that the granting of confidentiality in the case of EU aid should be an exceptional measure, as these funds come from taxpayers, but that the number – 700 – of such confidential beneficiaries and the total amount involved suggest that it is a routine practice, with confidentiality being granted far too easily?
8. Will the Commission set out to reduce the incidence of confidentiality being granted?
9. Will the Commission state whether the frequency of the granting of confidentiality is increasing or decreasing?
A - 1. The Commission carries out the selection procedures, implement the grant agreements and proceeds with all mandatory ex ante and ex posts controls, irrespective of the decision to publish the beneficiary's names in Financial Transparency System (FTS).
2. The criteria to classify a beneficiary as confidential are contained in the legal acts detailed in the Commission's previous answer to the Honourable Member E-005457/2011 .
It is the responsibility of each Authorising Officer to decide, on the basis of the criteria laid down in the legislation, whether information on a beneficiary of funds is subject to confidentiality.
3. See reply to point 9
4. The FTS system aims at providing information on the amount and the name of the beneficiaries of EU Funds. However, it is not designed, and does not aim, at providing detailed information on each project, nor the specific reasons which justify the confidentiality. This specific information is not kept in centralised database and, therefore, the Commission can only provide this specific information on a case by case basis and upon written request.
Concrete information on a given beneficiary or a project qualified as confidential may be provided to the Honourable Member in the context of the procedure set up in the provisions of the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission and its Annex II.
5. The Commission applies the rules through the different checks and controls which are integrated in the Commission's financial circuit, and which are irrespective of whether the name is published or not in the FTS.
The Commission strictly applies the rules through the different checks and controls which are integrated in the Commission's financial circuit, and which are irrespective of whether the name is published or not in the FTS
The Commission is improving the quality of data since the inception of the FTS in 2007. With 92.000 lines of details published in 2011, administrative errors based on incorrect encoding may accidentally happen. In such cases, the Commission makes all possible effort to remedy any omission. No intentional abuse has been detected so far.
Under the procedure mentioned in point 2, the Parliament may always use its right of scrutiny to verify that the reasons provided in a particular case is appropriate and reasonable and that no abuse has been made.
6. In application of Article 30(3) of the Financial Regulation, the FTS database provide a consolidated view of all EU funds spent under centralised management and enable user-friendly searches of the data to be undertaken, based on relevant criteria. It is published on the Internet, so as it may be consulted instantly, anonymously, world-wide and cost-free.
The FTS is binding and applicable in all Member States. It is not subject to negotiations and is an inherent condition for all grants and tenders under centralised management mode.
However, the Legislative Authority has also foreseen cases where confidentiality should apply because other interests must be protected, such as the protection of personal data.
7. The confidentially is indeed an exception, which must be interpreted in a restrictive manner.
However, most cases involving confidential beneficiaries relate to payments made to natural persons hired by the Commission (such as technical experts for cooperation projects). In these cases, the Authorising officer may in principle only publish their identity if this is necessary and proportionate to a legitimate aim. In a recent judgment, the Court of Justice [Volker and Schecke joint cases C-92/09 and C-93/09] has declared illegal rules requiring the publication of the name of natural persons receiving EU agricultural funds .
8. See reply to point 9
9. As the Honourable Member may see in the FTS, confidential beneficiaries have increased since 2007, both in number and amounts. The number of confidential beneficiaries, in particular when it relates to information concerning natural persons, does not depend on the Commission policy but on the specific legal requirements of confidentiality attached to each case.
Q - In the view of the Commission, is Turkey predominantly in the geographical continent of Europe or predominantly in the geographical continent of Asia?
A - The borders of the European continent are not defined under international law.
Accession negotiations take place in accordance with article 49 of the Treaty, which refers to "European states". In its opinion on Turkey's application for EU membership, the Commission declared it to be a European state in the sense of Article 49 of the Treaty. In opening the negotiations on 3 October 2005, the Council referred to article 49 as well. The European Parliament, in its resolution of 15 December 2004, also supported the start of accession negotiations.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a member, stated in its Recommendation 1247 (1994) that "the Council of Europe (…) should, in principle, base itself on the generally accepted geographical limits of Europe" and added that "all member states of the Council of Europe are European."
The Commissioners' travel and representation costs in 2009 and
Q - Will the Commission state what each individual Commissioner spent on travel and representation respectively in 2009 and 2010?
A - The Commission would refer the Honourable Member to its answer to written question P-3005/11 for the total costs of the missions carried out for official purposes by each Commissioner in 2009 and 2010. With regard to the representation expenses incurred by each Commissioner in 2009 and 2010, the Honourable Member is asked to refer to the table which the Commission is sending directly to the Honourable Member and to the Parliament Secretariat.
The Commission is sending direct to the Honourable Member and to the Parliament's Secretariat a table showing the total costs for the missions undertaken by each Commissioner in 2010.
It should be noted that the destinations, reasons for and length of the missions undertaken by Members of the College, as well as the composition of the delegations accompanying them where necessary, fall within the Commissioners' area of responsibility in exercising their powers and as part of their general remit of representing the Institution. (Spreadsheet with commissioner's expenses is here.)
Record of Commissioners.
Q - Upon appointment to Commissioner is the past record of the candidate taken into account? If so, how?
A - Before Commissioners are appointed, the President elect of the Commission receives the proposals from the Member States governments. The proposals are accompanied by their Curriculum Vitae.
Commissioners designate are required to issue a declaration of interests which must be completed and made available before their hearings by Parliament. In their declarations of interests, Commissioners-designate state inter alia their previous activities, namely the posts they held over the last ten years in foundations or similar bodies, in educational institutions and in the governing, supervisory and advisory organs of companies and other bodies devoted to commercial or economic activities.
They are then submitted to hearing by Parliament that finally approves the new Commission.
So, in short, Commissioner's designate are proposed by the governments of the Member States, approved by the Council with the agreement of the President-elect of the Commission, scrutinised and approved by Parliament, and finally formally appointed by the European Council.
Q - Can the Commission confirm that it has no plans to impose a uniform monetary policy on those countries that have decided to stay out of the euro?
A - Member States outside the euro area retain their powers in the field of monetary policy, in line with the Treaty and its Protocols. The Commission does not interfere in the conduct of monetary policy.
Review of glyphosate.
Q - The new report, ‘Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?’, presents evidence that even the pesticide industry knew from its own tests as long ago as the 1980s that the herbicide glyphosate/Roundup causes birth defects in laboratory animals at high doses, and has known since the 1990s that these effects also occurred at lower and mid doses. Approval has currently been extended until 2015, but the Commission’s slowness in preparing new data requirements for the more stringent new pesticide regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 means that glyphosate will not be reviewed under up to date data requirements until 2030.
1. In the light of the evidence in the new report, will the Commission cancel its delay in reviewing glyphosate/Roundup?
2. Will the Commission arrange a review of glyphosate/Roundup as soon as the new data requirements are published, under up to date data requirements?
3. Given that the German federal office BVL told the Commission as recently as last year that there was no evidence of teratogenicity (ability to cause birth defects) for glyphosate, will the Commission ask BVL to publicly retract its advice?
A - The Honourable Member is invited to refer to Commission's reply to written questions P-10522/2010, E-6135/2011 and E-6375/2011 which also relate to the recent report published on the internet and in which the safety in use of glyphosate and its formulated products is criticised.
Meanwhile, the rapporteur Member State (RMS), Germany, has delivered its views on the above report and these are currently being examined in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.
Pending the outcome of that examination the Commission considers it is not appropriate to withdraw the current inclusion of glyphosate or to address specific recommendations to the German authorities.
Glyphosate is included in the renewal programme laid down by Regulation (EC) No 1141/2010 . In 2012, a supplementary dossier will have to be submitted by the applicant to the RMS for the re-assessment of the substance. The scientific re-assessment of the substance shall have to be concluded at the latest in 2014 in case of EFSA consultation, and the decision making process by the Commission (approval or ban) should be completed by end of 2015.
The Commission is currently working on the new data requirements, which are expected to be adopted early 2012.
Echinococcus multiocularis (dog tapeworm).
Q - I have been made aware by constituents of the EU veterinary health harmonisation requirements which will allegedly no longer permit the UK to insist on the immunisation of pet dogs coming into the country against Echinococcus multilocularis (dog tapeworm), which is potentially transmissible to humans and potentially fatal.
Can the Commission confirm whether if this is true? If so, is the Commission aware of the negative effect and threat to human health the legislation might pose and the fact that its implementation would remove a long standing rule designed to prevent and eradicate a terrible parasitic disease in both humans and animals?
A - The issue of the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis has already been addressed by the Commission in its reply to the previous written question E-004928/2011 by Mr Tannock.
Following extensive expert consultation, the Commission adopted on 14 July 2011 Commission delegated Regulation supplementing Regulation (EC) No 998/2003 as regards preventive health measures for the control of Echinococcus multilocularis infection in dogs (C(2011) 5016 final). For certain Member States, including the United Kingdom the proposed measures maintain the same level of protection against the parasite as previously established by their national legislation, as long as no occurrence of the infection is recorded in the framework of the harmonised wildlife surveillance programme they are to implement.
This proposal was submitted to the European Parliament and Council for a 2+2 months scrutiny. If the Parliament and Council do not oppose this act it could be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and enter into force before the aforementioned national measures expire on 31 December 2011.
Q - The long-distance transport of animals to slaughter or for fattening often entails severe welfare problems and suffering for the animals concerned. The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe recommends that, ‘Animals should be reared as close as possible to the premises on which they are born and slaughtered as close as possible to the point of production’. In light of this, is the Commission prepared to (i) develop a strategy to enable the long-distance transport of animals to be phased out and (ii) recommend, when it produces its forthcoming report on Regulation (EC) 1/2005, that a reasonably short maximum permitted journey time be placed on the transport of animals for fattening or slaughter?
Analysis of reports by the Food and Veterinary Office reveals poor levels of enforcement of Regulation (EC) 1/2005 in many Member States. What steps does the Commission plan to take to secure improved enforcement?
A - Indeed the Commission is currently preparing a report on the impact of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport . The report, which is planned for adoption during the coming months, will consider the difficulties related to the proper enforcement of EU rules. In the light of the report and the foreseen discussions in Parliament and the Council, the Commission will consider which actions are the most appropriate to address the problems that may be identified.
Any time the Commission inspection service of the Directorate General for Health and Consumer Policy (Food and Veterinary Office, FVO) identifies weaknesses or failures by the competent authorities of the Member States to carry out their duties, recommendations are made seeking actions to address these points. The subsequent follow-up includes an assessment of the action plan provided and, as necessary, further meetings with the central competent authorities. These follow-up actions may imply further inspections or, where it is shown that non-compliance by the Member State's competent authority is general, systematic and persistent, infringement proceedings can be launched to secure implementation of EU legislation.
With the aim of improving enforcement, the Commission has also started a series of meetings with the national contact points for animal welfare during transport from each competent authority. The discussions aim at facilitating cooperation and coordination on aspects of official controls in relation to the long distance transport of animals.
Cost controls for public relations services within the European
External Action Service.
Q - How does the Commission intend to exercise cost controls on public relations services within the European External Action Service? Can the Commission state the budget for the allocation of services under the ‘framework service contract for communication and information initiatives and products related to EU’s external relations’? Can the Commission explain why there is a need to outsource a contract for communication and information initiatives and products pertaining to the EU’s external relations, rather than rendering the services within the European External Action Service?
A - The Honourable Members refer to the information and communication budget of the EU in the field of external relations. This budget is implemented under the responsibility of the Commission and under the authority of Baroness Ashton as one of its Vice Presidents, with part being implemented through EU delegations. The budget, which is set annually by Parliament and Council, remains more or less constant over the period 2007-2013, except for an increase to broadcast Euronews in the Farsi language and a one-off increase for the EU’s participation in the Shanghai World Exposition. The objective is to promote the interests of the EU and its Member States by providing information on EU policies to people in third countries.
The specific call for tender referred to is for a maximum of EUR 10 million spread over four years. This tender is simply designed to ensure continuity of previous actions and is a standard procedure. Having a competitive public procurement procedure is the most cost-effective way for the Commission to obtain the necessary support services for running these activities. The Commission indeed uses service providers for a number of activities which do not necessarily require statutory staff, or where there is no in-house expertise.
Revision of pre-accession funding allocated to Turkey.
Q - In view of the clampdown on journalists in Turkey by the Turkish Government (The Justice and Development – AK Party), does the Commission have any plans to review the level of pre-accession funding allocated to Turkey?
A - Pre-accession assistance (IPA) to Turkey is usually linked to the fulfilment of specific conditionalities at project level, also in the area of the political criteria. For instance, IPA support for the establishment of the Ombudsman institution in Turkey has been linked to the adoption of the law establishing the Ombudsman.
In 2010 the Commission has been providing support to create a sound functioning relationship between judiciary and independent media (the project Improved Relations Between Mass Media and Judiciary) as well as an EU-Turkey dialogue project including a specific component targeting media (project Civil Society Dialogue Between EU and Turkey-III). The overall objective is the respect for freedom of the media in Turkey.
Moreover, the new draft strategy for pre-accession funding in 2011-2013 defines freedom of expression as one of the priorities to be supported; consequently the intention of the Commission is to enhance EU assistance to Turkey in these fields.
For older Q and A's go to the archive here.