Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2003-10-21-Speech-2-131"

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"Mr President, in the light of some of the matters that have been discussed in this debate, I have to keep reminding myself that this is the first reading. One of the problems is that the debate is concentrating on what we have voted in committee already and what we may well vote in plenary on Thursday. The final outcome may be the same; then again it could be different in certain areas, such as category 1(b), where in committee we voted for a figure above the EUR 83 million margin for the less favoured areas. My friend and colleague, Mr Walter, has made the point that there may be a change in the vote of his particular Group, in which case there would not be a qualified majority and therefore the problem would be solved. However, if it did secure a qualified majority, let us not forget that this is the first reading and the question could be resolved in due course. Much has been said about the one issue that is dominating category 4: namely, what is to be done about the funding of Iraq. Whether we adopt or reject the amendment for EUR 500 million, let us not forget that – as I keep saying – it is still the first reading. On the issue of Iraq, it is also worth mentioning that the Council for the first time has invited Mr Brok and myself to go to Madrid for the donors' conference, an extremely generous and welcome offer. Unfortunately, neither of us can go, but we will be replaced by Baroness Nicholson from the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Mrs Jensen from the Committee on Budgets, so we will at least be represented. As Chairman, it is my job to respect the committee's position, not to oppose it. I realise that I am the servant of the committee and I try to reflect what we have voted. Then again, after the vote in the plenary, it is my job also to reflect that position. When it comes to the EUR 500 million, there is confusion in my mind. I know what we voted, but I also know what has been said. For instance, when Commissioner Patten addressed the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Budgets – Mrs Schreyer sent her apologies, she was at another meeting at the same time – he made it clear that EUR 200 million was, in the Commission's opinion, the maximum that could be utilised, based on the assessment of needs. At the Brussels summit last week, which I followed with great interest, not one Member State asked for any amount above the EUR 200 million. When Commissioner Patten made his proposals, he made the point that this was the figure he would be taking to Madrid for the donors' conference. I also heard this morning – whether it is true I do not know – that the US congress had rejected President Bush's amount for aid for Iraq. They have cut it in half, saying that half the amount could be provided as grants, but the other half would have to be in the form of loans. This information needs to be checked, but it is what I was told this morning. If we do not vote the EUR 500 million, and EUR 200 million is the final figure that the Commission settles upon, Commissioner Patten has also said that should that funding be spent rapidly and efficiently, then the Commission would come back with a supplementary and amending budget. I would ask Mrs Schreyer if she can confirm that. It is essential to know – before the vote on Thursday – whether, if the EUR 200 million is agreed by Parliament and then spent quickly, the Commission will come back and provide more money next year, based on needs. Let us not forget that if the EUR 500 million is rejected then our position is EUR 30 million. Then, of course, we would have to look at the proposal for the EUR 200 million and I would hope that, if the EUR 500 million is rejected, we do not decide that EUR 30 million is the amount to which we are totally committed. I would hope that all the political groups opt for the maximum of EUR 200 million, albeit spread over two years. Let us not forget that a codecision agreement is still needed and that the Council will also have to agree to that figure. Then comes the hard bargaining during conciliation as to where the money will come from. If we are naive enough to believe that it will all come from flexibility, then we will have some long nights in conciliation when the matter has to be negotiated."@en1

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