Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2008-01-15-Speech-2-351"

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"Mr President, Commissioner, in the coordination committee of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development we pondered whether to produce a report on this matter or to let it pass without a report. I had the task of examining this question in greater depth, and we subsequently decided that we would draft a report, which means that the two of us can discuss the matter again this evening – a useful thing in itself. We did stumble over a few points, however, and this is reflected in the amendments we have formulated. Firstly, the Commission’s report said that the proposal was largely uncontested in the Council as elsewhere. Our enquiries, however, have revealed that some countries, particularly in northern Europe, cannot do much with this satellite data because everything is still covered in snow there when the images are captured. Secondly, the data is collected by private companies, which make it available to the Commission, and these private companies’ main customers are in the gas and oil industries, an area of business that involves a degree of speculation. What we must ensure – and this is why we want to invoke our parliamentary powers of scrutiny – is that this collected data is truly unconnected with any private speculative ambitions but that is actually used, as you have said, for the sole purpose of harvest and yield forecasting. As you are also aware, however, this very data is used for speculation in commodity futures on the stock exchange, and such forecasts could be used for that purpose. Before going any further, let me emphasise that the Commission and Parliament do share a common interest here, but Parliament has a scrutiny function, and so it makes sense for us to talk about that and to request reports from the Commission which show clearly what has happened to this data, how it is recorded and what purpose it serves. It is essentially a matter of calling you to account in the coming years. Then we were somewhat puzzled, of course, to learn that the financial basis for this data collection was suddenly to be changed. Hitherto we have had a dedicated budget heading under which increases in appropriations and proposals for their retention have had to be discussed. Now these activities are to be transferred to the Guarantee Fund, over which Parliament has less power of scrutiny. Now we can assume that, when the Treaty enters into force at the start of 2009, the Guarantee Fund will no longer exist and these matters will therefore pass into full budgetary sovereignty of Parliament. This approach was at least proposed, and when we received the report it was not yet clear when the Treaty would materialise. So we said no, we did not want to make any changes now; it should stay as it was, namely in a budget line which could then be scrutinised by Parliament on the expenditure side. All in all, Commissioner, I certainly believe we have more important problems to discuss and try to resolve concerning the health check than the subject of our deliberations here this evening. Farmers, however, are very sensitive when there is any suspicion that they are being spied upon. You have made it clear that this is not about surveillance or spying. I shall gladly pass on that message, but you must understand us. We as a Parliament must also ensure that you do. It is because of our accountability to our voters that we have discussed this matter and are making this point."@en1

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