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18.7.2002

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Official Journal of the European Communities

C 172 E/61

For the time being, and in the absence of any formal complaint, there is however no open case on Microsoft’s Office XP, Internet Explorer 6 or Windows XP products as referred to by the Honourable Member, although the Commission is carefully monitoring all developments with respect to these products.

3. The Commission does not have at its disposal any information on how difficult, costly and time-

consuming it is to replace Microsoft ‘smart tags’ by a different feature, nor on whether, files must be

developed and installed, and HTML code attached to all pages on an Internet site which consumers must download.

Nevertheless, in the ongoing proceedings, the Commission is examining to what extent Microsoft has taken active steps as alleged by its competitors to make it technically difficult for their customers to remove certain Microsoft products and to replace them with alternative solutions which may better fit customers’ purposes.

4. The Commission does not have at its disposal a formal confirmation from Microsoft or any other

source that the company has deferred the exposure of ‘smart tags’ for a period of six months. If an allegation of a concrete infringement of Community competition law were brought to our attention, the Commission would investigate it and take the necessary steps.

5. The Honourable Member will understand that as the Commission has not yet concluded its

investigation on Microsoft it would be premature to speculate at this point what the outcome will be. The main priority for the Commission in the ongoing proceedings is to preserve the possibility of consumer choice and of innovation for all players in the relevant markets.

(2002/C 172 E/065)

WRITTEN QUESTION E-3437/01

by Paolo Bartolozzi (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(21 December 2001)

Subject: Customs barriers and related problems in the European textile sector

European textile industries are faced with customs problems which prevent them from being fully competitive on the market. Certain countries outside Europe impose heavy import duties: India 40 %, Pakistan 30 %, Argentina 30 %, China 24 %, Brazil 20,5 %, Russia 25 %, Australia 25 %, Korea 13 % and the United States between 7 and 28,3 %.

In view of this, what steps does the Commission intend to take to improve access to third-country markets for Community products. Furthermore, what measures will it introduce to restore a balance in non- reciprocal import duties, on the basis of relations between the fifteen EU countries and the non-EU countries, by re-establishing a substantial and formal principle of fair competition?

Can the Commission also say what steps it will take, in view of the outcome of the WTO negotiations in Qatar and the earlier Seattle Round, to help solve the enormous problems of social dumping and related environmental and health problems, which are jeopardising the textile sector, undermining the global trade system and having repercussions on the social fabric of non-European countries (child labour and exploitation of the environment contrary to the principles of sustainable development).

Finally, and still in the context of global trade, can the Commission say what measures it intends to take to safeguard the trademarks and intellectual property of European firms in terms of the fight against fraud and falsification, in the light of the influx of counterfeit products onto the European market?

Answer given by Mr Lamy on behalf of the Commission

(18 February 2002)

As the Honourable Member is aware, all restrictions on imports of textiles and clothing into the Community are going to lapse by the end of 2004 as a result of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) of 1995. The Community is abiding by this outcome of the

C 172 E/62

Official Journal of the European Communities

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18.7.2002

Uruguay round and will respect the commitments under the ATC. At the same time, however, the Commission is fully aware of existing barriers to Community industry’s efforts to penetrate certain third countries’ markets. Keeping Community industry’s export interests in mind, the Commission has obtained authorisation from the Council to negotiate improved market access to the textile and clothing markets of WTO countries subject to quantitative restrictions in exchange for an accelerated dismantling of those restrictions, as compared to the obligations under the ATC. The exact scope of concessions which may be offered will be determined in the light of concrete and tangible improvements in tariff and non-tariff areas in access to the markets of third countries of interest to the Community textiles and clothing industry. Agreements have been concluded notably with Sri Lanka and Pakistan and exploratory talks are underway with a number of other exporting countries.

With respect to the link between trade and social development, the Commission’s communication of 18 July 2001 ( 1 ), set out a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of core labour standards and the improvement in social governance in the context of globalisation. In this communication, the Commission suggested action in a number of policy areas trade, development, external relations and social policy at European and international levels. As regards trade, the Communication has already brought concrete results by the adoption on 10 December 2001 by Council of the new generalised system of preferences (GSP) Regulation, Council Regulation (EC) No 2501/2001 of 10 December 2001 applying a scheme of generalised tariff preferences for the period from 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2004 ( 2 ), which significantly strengthens the social incentive scheme and the links with the social governance system. Indeed, the governance aspect is central to the strategy, and the Commission continues to pursue the objective of an international dialogue with the participation of WTO and International Labour Organisation (ILO), as well as development organisations, governments, civil society and social partners as a means to further social development in the context of globalisation.

As regards the environment, textiles are covered by the Community’s ecolabel system. The ecolabel provides an incentive for producers everywhere to adopt environmentally preferable production methods so that they can reap the benefits of the growing consumer preference for goods produced in this manner. The Community identified labelling as one of the three key trade and environment issues to be addressed in a new round and succeeded in getting the subject into the Ministerial Declaration adopted by the 4th WTO Ministerial in Doha in November 2001.

The Commission is aware of the problems that counterfeiting poses for European textile firms.

Crucial to preventing them entering the European market is Council Regulation (EC) No 3295/94 of 22 December 1994 laying down measures to prohibit the release for free circulation, export, re-export or entry for a suspensive procedure of counterfeit and pirated goods ( 3 ) (as amended by Council Regulation (EC) No 241/1999 of 25 January 1999 ( 4 )) which enables customs authorities to impose stricter checks and allows rights holders to lodge an ‘application for action’ with customs. The figures for 2000, with almost 68 million items intercepted, are 168 % up on 1999 and demonstrate how seriously customs takes the task of protecting intellectual property rights. The statistics published by the Commission for 2000 show that 49 % of these operations at the Community’s external frontiers related to garments and clothing accessories.

On the internal front, on 30 November 2000 the Commission adopted an ambitious plan to step up action against counterfeiting and piracy in the single market ( 5 ). Among the measures envisaged are a proposal for a directive to harmonise the Member States’ laws on enforcement of intellectual property rights, to be presented by the Commission in 2002.

To tackle the problem at source the Commission regularly raises counterfeiting issues with its trading partners and backs the WTO’s Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which lays

18.7.2002

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Official Journal of the European Communities

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down minimum standards of protection and means of enforcement. TRIPS is a crucial to helping exporters defend their interests.

( 1 ) COM(2001) 416 final.

( 2 ) ( 3 ) ( 4 )

( 5 ) COM(2000) 789 final.

OJ L 346, 31.12.2001. OJ L 341, 30.12.1994. OJ L 27, 2.2.1999.

(2002/C 172 E/066)

WRITTEN QUESTION E-3438/01

by Alexander de Roo (Verts/ALE) to the Commission

(21 December 2001)

Subject: Compliance with?essential requirements’ with regard to packaging

One of the few ‘essential requirements’ laid down in the Packaging Directive stipulates that the use of heavy metals in packaging materials must be restricted to the minimum adequate amount. However, in the Netherlands, the Environmental Hygiene Inspectorate does not monitor compliance with that requirement, which is not seen as a priority. The upshot is that packaging materials with an excessively high chromium content are on the market in the Netherlands.

Is the Commission aware of this state of affairs? If so, will it call the Netherlands Government to account over its failure to ensure compliance with the ‘essential requirements’?

Answer given by Mrs Wallström on behalf of the Commission

(6 February 2002)

Article 9 of Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC of 20 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste ( 1 ) requires Member States to ensure that from 31 December 1997, packaging may be placed only on the market if it complies with all essential requirements defined by the Directive, including Annex II. One of these requirements is for packaging to be manufactured in such a way that the presence of noxious and other hazardous substances and materials as constituents of the packaging material or of any of the packaging components is minimised with regard to their presence in emissions, ash or leachate when packaging or residues from management operations or packaging waste are incinerated or landfilled. In addition, Article 11 of the Directive places an obligation on Member States to ensure that the sum of concentration levels of lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium present in packaging or packaging components does not exceed 100ppm (from 30 June 2001).

The Commission is currently not aware of cases of non-compliance to these requirements. However, the Commission will question the Dutch authorities regarding their obligations under Articles 9 and 11 of Directive 94/62/EC.

( 1 )

OJ L 365, 31.12.1994.

(2002/C 172 E/067)

WRITTEN QUESTION E-3458/01

by Rosa Díez González (PSE) and Luis Berenguer Fuster (PSE) to the Commission

(4 January 2002)

Subject: SMEs and credit cards

The conflict between businesses and the banks issuing credit cards has flared up in Spain once again, because of the high levels of commission charged by the banks,