Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-04-20-Speech-2-076"

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". Mr President, Madam Vice-President, ladies and gentlemen, in 1999 and 2001, in the Mont Blanc tunnel, in the Tauern tunnel and in the Gotthard tunnel, we had three major fire disasters. Those events made it abundantly clear to us at the time that, on the main stretches of the trans-European network and in particular in its tunnels, we had something of a safety deficit. On that occasion, Parliament wasted no time in asking the Commission to carry out the appropriate investigations of this and then to submit a text that would, by becoming European law, enable us to ensure that we could achieve greater safety for the users of the roads of Europe – especially in tunnels. The Commission has taken up the subject in a way which deserves our gratitude, and in the last two and a half years it has in particular been able, in a consistently difficult process of dialogue with Parliament on the one hand and the Council on the other, to make its contribution to ensuring that in record time we have produced a very good joint text, which we can now agree at second reading and thus even before the end of the present parliamentary term. We can then expect, as soon as possible, on the roads of Europe and in the tunnels of Europe, a higher, better degree of safety than prevailed in the past. Of the many points that it has been possible to include in this directive or statutory text, I would like to mention one subject in particular, which above all Parliament, but not Parliament alone, regarded as of particular interest, namely the fact that we are also considering, quite specifically, the interests of the disabled. Last year, we had the European Year of People with Disabilities. At the time, we rightly stressed that it was not sufficient to have a year in which we frequently used the word ‘disabled’ and then did nothing about it. We also had quite specifically to seek to take the subject of tunnel safety seriously in this context. I was also particularly delighted, as rapporteur for this proposal, by the fact that we have also been able to include in the meetings and negotiations for this admittedly far from simple text two countries that are not original Member States of the European Union – I mean unfortunately not original Member States of the European Union – but who are of course also of very particular importance for questions of safety on the European road network. One is Switzerland, and the other is Norway. Both these countries, especially at the level of the Council, but also in meetings with Parliament’s rapporteur, have been involved to a large extent in the discussions, and we can expect that as a result in these countries also a uniform tunnel safety standard at the general European level can be expected. Similarly – and this is the last point that I would like to stress – we can assume that, in the future Member States of the European Union, which will be full members of the EU as from 1 May 2004, with this statutory text, which is for some of the new members part of the that they have yet to take on board, we have created a European basis for ensuring that these parts of the overall European road network are also rapidly offered the degree of safety which must be guaranteed by road builders, road maintainers and road monitors, as we rightly believe. In conclusion, I would like to thank warmly all those who have actively collaborated in the creation of this piece of legislation, especially the Commissioner, who has been decisively committed to the subject, but above all also the Commission as a whole with its staff and both the Council and its staff and also Parliament and our groups here in this House and their staff. They all worked on this text and contributed to the result, which is that, in all probability in a few minutes’ time, we will be able to give almost unanimous assent to this text, and I believe – and we will also rightly be saying this in the next few weeks to the population of Europe – that the work has been worthwhile in the interests of safety for the users of Europe’s roads."@en1

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