Council and Commission statements – Conclusions of the G8 meeting in Genoa
Annemie NEYTS-UYTTEBROECK, opening the debate on the G8 Summit in Genoa for Council rejected and condemned violence. She noted however that responsibility for public order fell within the competence of Member States. She recognised too that the EU should respond to the anxieties of the protesters. She wanted Parliament to be involved in examining the effects of globalisation and to promote dialogue with developing countries. In particular she noted that Prime Minister Verhofstadt would be publishing his own thoughts on the issue. Mrs Neyts, declaring herself one of the generation of 1968, argued that protest was a good thing. She believed that there should be a proper ordering and control of globalisation – this should be the task of world organisations. She recognised that globalisation and the development of new technologies did not always benefit everyone. It was important, she concluded, to minimise the damage caused by globalisation.
Commissioner Antonio VITTORINO stressed that a number of important decisions had been made at Genoa, however most media attention had focussed on events outside. He too emphasised the need for a proper dialogue with civil society. People with a genuine grievance to express should not be tarred with the same brush as violent protesters. It was important to have a full dialogue with bona fide organisations. He also considered that it was important to improve European cooperation in the field of law and order, although he recognised that Member States had responsibility for law enforcement. All police and judicial actions must respect civil and human rights.
Turning then to the content of the conference, Mr Vittorino emphasised that north-south inequality could not be tolerated and it was also important to involve civil society in a dialogue. He noted that Africa would be the main topic of next year’s summit in Canada. This year, the conference had discussed trade issues and the need for a new round of talks. He noted in particular that Russian President PUTIN had said that his country was ready to follow the EU in its ‘Everything but Arms’ initiative. There was support for the precautionary principle in the field of food safety. Other issues addressed included climate change and communicable diseases. In conclusion Mr Vittorino recognised that several aspects needed to be changed in future years.Next year Canada would hold a much less elaborate summit.
Antonio TAJANI (EPP-ED, I) regretted the fact that there had been very little coverage of the positive results of the Genoa Summit. He stressed that practical decisions had been made with regard to Africa and to reduce debt. Mr Tajani emphasised that demonstrations and attacks on police were unacceptable. He believed that greater cooperation was needed between police forces. It was ridiculous to teach Italy lessons on democracy.
Enrique BARÓN CRESPO (PES, E) also recognised that the summit conclusions had been obscured with the debate on public order. He agreed that progress had been made in some areas but this was not enough. However, he did welcome the fact that the issue of global warning and the Kyoto Protocol had been addressed.
For the Liberals, Giovanni PROCACCI (I), while recognising that there was no magic cure for problems caused by globalisation, was concerned about the slow pace of developments and in particular a means of putting some form of democratic control over the decision-making procedure at an international level. It was important to look at the role of non-governmental organisations, he felt. Paul LANNOYE (Greens/EFA, B), on the other hand, felt that the G8 Summit represented a turning point in the sense that more and more people were now prepared to demonstrate openly against inequalities brought about by the free market and free trade. For too long poorer people had been offered little opportunity to demonstrate their views, yet this Summit had shown there was support at a wide level. He looked to the EU for concrete action and welcomed the forthcoming debate on the Tobin tax on international capital investment.
Francis WURTZ (EUL/NGL, F), while deploring the violence of the Genoa Summit was looking for a positive reaction from the EU to the problems of globalisation, while Cristiana MUSCARDINI (UEN, I) pointed out that some 2/3 of the world population were still living in extreme poverty. Targeted intervention and aid from the wealthier countries was needed to address this problem, she argued, albeit with proper respect for democracy.
Marco CAPPATO (TGI, I) was also concerned about threats to democracy and the rule of law. Pasqualina NAPOLETANO (PES, I) while unreservedly condemning the use of violence, at the same time, expressed her regret at the loss of life at the Genoa Summit. This was so unnecessary, she felt, and looked to the Italian parliament to complete its investigations into the circumstances surrounding this. Monica FRASSONI (Greens/EFA, B) questioned whether the events would have been so awful if the EU had committed itself to signing and upholding the new Charter of Fundamental Rights. Luigi VINCI (EUL/NGL, I) pointed out that poorer people throughout the world were not benefiting from the globalisation process. Caroline LUCAS (Greens/EFA, South East) was another speaker to be concerned by what she felt was the overreaction of the police and the ensuing brutality. A neo-liberal policy was not working to the advantage of all, she felt, pointing to the low levels of development assistance committed by EU Member States.
Replying to the debate, Mrs Neyts-Uyttebroeck welcomed the opportunity for this dialogue with MEPs which, she said, the Presidency took extremely seriously. She too expressed regrets at the tragic circumstances leading to loss of life. On a more positive note she looked to the beginning of a wide-ranging debate on globalisation. She expected the EU and its Member States to cooperate to prevent further violence and develop an organised response to events.