Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2007-04-23-Speech-1-213"

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"Mr President, this is the fifth time the European Parliament is considering the regulation on potato starch production quotas. I am proud to present the report on this regulation for the second time. It was my pleasure to do so previously in 2005. In practice, decisions are called for on two issues. Firstly, on how long the system of limiting the production of potato starch should be extended for, and secondly on whether the production quotas allocated to individual countries should remain unchanged or be amended. The European Commission has proposed maintaining the quota system for a further two years, leaving the quotas unchanged. Many members of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development pointed out, however, that two years is far too short a time period to allow for sensible planning. As a result, the Commission agreed to a four-year period. As rapporteur, I supported that proposal. It is a sensible one, because farmers and starch manufacturers should not have swift and immediate changes imposed on them at short notice. Starch production quota amounts are a more difficult matter. Two new Member States, Poland and Lithuania, pointed out as they already had them two years earlier, that the quotas allocated to them are too low in relation to their potential and needs. Lithuania’s quota is approximately 1 200 tonnes. This is not enough to maintain even one plant, and as a result Lithuania has ceased to manufacture starch, although it needs to manufacture around 4 700 thousand tonnes and wishes to do so. Poland is the largest producer of potatoes in Europe, or more precisely, in the European Union, but it has been allocated a quota of 144 000 tonnes. This is several times less that the highest French, German and Dutch quotas. In my capacity as rapporteur, I proposed increasing the quota for Poland and Lithuania. Taken together, the proposed increase amounted to just under 40 000 tonnes, which is less than 2% of the total quota amount of 1 948 000 tonnes. By a small majority the committee voted against this proposal, however. Twenty members voted against it and 17 in favour. As rapporteur, I am required to present the arguments of the majority, even though it is only a small one. I am also bound to mention the arguments adduced by the minority that tabled its amendments. There was widespread concern in the committee that increasing quotas could destabilise the market. I believe these concerns are unfounded, for the following reasons. Firstly, this is not a large increase, as it amounts to barely 2% of the total quota. Secondly, the market has changed. Although the quality of potato starch is higher, it is being supplanted by poorer quality cereal starch. The share of potato starch in total production has decreased from 25% to 20% over the last three years. This means there is actually a shortage of potato starch. Thirdly, there is an imbalance in the relationship between the old and new Member States. Ninety per cent of the quota goes to the old Member States, and only 10% to the new ones, even though the latter account for over 25% of the Union’s human capital. Fourthly, the quotas allocated are often underused. As much as several dozen percentage points are not taken up at times. If the crop fails, a shortage of starch on the market ensues. This is not compensated for in subsequent years, at least not beyond the permitted compensation of approximately 5% of the quota. Fifthly, the Commission itself has recognised the damage inflicted on Poland and Lithuania by the quota system. Commissioner Fisher Boel is present in the House today, and two years ago she herself promised that account would be taken of the special circumstances of those two countries, but this did not happen. Lastly, Europe must demonstrate solidarity not selfishness in response to the perceived needs of these two Member States that have suffered so obviously under the current system. Certain issues were closed five years ago during accession negotiations, but this does not mean that we should remain bound by those agreements forever and ignore the economic changes that have taken place since then. Ladies and gentlemen, as I conclude, I should like to draw your attention to Amendment 8, which could be the basis of a good compromise. What it proposes is that if certain quotas are not used in a particular year, then the next year interested Member States, but only new ones, would be able to apply to the Commission asking to be allocated additional quotas up to the amount unused the previous year. In this way, actual manufacture computed over several years would not exceed the maximum limit of 1 948 000 tonnes, and the new Member States would be able to request higher quotas. I urge you to consider adopting this amendment, as it could lead to a sensible compromise."@en1

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