Official Journal of the European Union

CE 184/12

Wednesday 22 April 2009
Annual report on the deliberations of the Petitions Committee 2008


European Parliament resolution of 22 April 2009 on the deliberations of the Committee on Petitions during the year 2008 (2008/2301(INI))

2010/C 184 E/03

The European Parliament,

having regard to its previous resolutions on the deliberations of the Committee on Petitions,

having regard to the results of the fact-finding missions undertaken by the Commission in 2008 to Romania, Bulgaria, and France and the corresponding reports and recommendations approved by the Committee,

having regard to Articles 21 and 194 of the EC Treaty, which confer on all EU citizens and residents the right to petition the European Parliament,

having regard to Rules 45 and 192(6) of its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Petitions (A6-0232/2009),


recognising the importance of the petitions process and its specific attributes, which enable the responsible committee to seek solutions and explanations for EU citizens who petition Parliament,


having regard to the growing number of EU citizens who petition Parliament, together with the efforts by the Committee on Petitions to further expedite its procedures in order to provide a better service for citizens seeking its assistance,


whereas several of the recommendations adopted in the 2007 Annual Report are yet to be implemented by Parliament’s authorities, such as the request for an urgent improvement of the administrative resources, including linguistic and legal expertise, of its Committee on Petitions in order to increase Parliament’s capacity to conduct independent investigations of petitions addressed to it, and, for instance, closer cooperation with SOLVIT in the field of petitions and complaints regarding the internal market, and the establishment of a common EU portal for European citizens,


mindful of the fact that, in spite of considerable progress in the development of the structures and policies of the Union during this period, citizens remain directly aware of many shortcomings in the application of the policies and programmes of the Union as they affect them directly, and whereas these are frequently the subject of petitions received,


whereas the institution of the ‘Citizens’ Initiative’ under the Treaty of Lisbon will result in even greater public participation in the activities and work of the European Union,


whereas, consequently, Parliament has a responsibility to ensure better application of Community law by the individual Member States in the interests of EU citizens and residents, and thus to work in cooperation with Member States to achieve this objective,


whereas, however, many Member States remain reluctant to cooperate actively with the responsible committee, in particular by failing to attend meetings of the committee, and whereas this denotes a lack of loyal cooperation with the institution,


whereas failure to cooperate actively and in a timely manner with the work of the responsible committee in the interest of the correct application of Community law raises doubts about the desire and intent of the Member State concerned to correctly apply EU policies and objectives and therefore exposes the authorities to measures in the form of sanctions and penalties which are available under the terms of the Treaties as well as to public criticism,


recognising, however, that many Member States demonstrate a good level of cooperation and work with Parliament in an effort to respond to the concerns of citizens as expressed through the petitions process,


recognising the constructive contribution made to the petitions process by the services of the Commission, which regularly provide, at the request of the responsible committee, preliminary assessments of many petitions received,


whereas such cooperation could and should be further enhanced, notably as regards procedures pursuant to Articles 226 and 228 of the EC Treaty in duly justified cases,


whereas Parliament has considered that it would be legitimate for it to make use of its powers under Article 230 of the EC Treaty, if this proved necessary in order to put an end to a serious infringement of Community law which has been revealed in the course of examination of a petition and where a significant difference of interpretation persists, despite efforts to resolve it, between Parliament and the Commission, as regards the action required under Community law for the protection of citizens’ rights in the case concerned,


whereas the infringement procedure does not provide a remedy for petitioners even when a Member State is obliged by the Court of Justice to modify its legislation so as to bring it into conformity with EU legislative acts,


whereas the inability to provide a non-judicial remedy directly to EU citizens who have been or have become victims of the lack of proper application of EU law constitutes a basic injustice which requires further consideration by the EU institutions, and in particular by Parliament,


whereas, under Article 230 of the EC Treaty, Parliament has the right to bring actions before the Court of Justice under the same conditions as the Council and the Commission and whereas, pursuant to Article 201 of the EC Treaty, Parliament is empowered to exercise control over the activities of the Commission and thus has at its disposal both the legal and the political instruments to respond more effectively to citizens’ legitimate concerns,


whereas Parliament should review its own procedures in order to facilitate actions, notably under Rule 121 of its Rules of Procedure, before the Court of Justice when the rights of petitioners are at stake,


whereas it should be recalled that, pursuant to Article 6 of the EU Treaty, the Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, principles which also constitute a basic element of the Copenhagen criteria for accession to the EU, and whereas Article 7 of the EU Treaty lays down specific procedures which can be initiated for serious and persistent breaches of the principles mentioned, or a clear risk thereof,


mindful of the motions for resolutions submitted to plenary in 2008 and adopted by an overwhelming majority of Members, pursuant to Rule 192(1) of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure on the basis of petitions received concerning the impact of the Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea and concerning misleading directory companies,


whereas increased concerns over energy supply security have resulted in projects for pipelines for natural gas and liquefied natural gas which, especially when they are rushed through without proper evaluation of the risks and alternatives, have raised petitioners’ concerns over the lack of consideration given to potentially serious risks to the environment and human health and safety in respect of, notably, projects in the Baltic Sea, Wales and Ireland,


whereas it is evident from the examination of petitions that the lists of projects mentioned in the Annexes to Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (1), as amended, do not cover a number of important installations and activities which have emerged since the latest amendments to those Annexes, such as re-gasification plants and bio-diesel plants,


whereas the many petitions presented in relation to the Natura 2000 network have continued to show that ending loss of biodiversity constitutes a major challenge for the Union and that the Habitats Directive (2) and the Birds Directive (3) constitute basic and indispensable tools for fulfilling the EU’s commitment to end biodiversity loss by 2010,


whereas the examination of petitions has also shown that the lack of sufficient sources of fresh water is frequently aggravated by other factors such as growing demand for water due to excessive urbanisation and leisure projects, inadequate maintenance of infrastructure and prevention of leakage, intensive use of water by industrial agriculture and a pricing policy which does not encourage the sustainable use of water,


mindful of the recommendations made by the Committee on Petitions following visits to Fos-sur-Mer, Cyprus and Romania,


bearing in mind the concern expressed by the Committee on Petitions in relation to certain infrastructure projects in the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria, observed during a fact-finding visit in 2008,


whereas although Ann Abraham, the UK Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, addressed the Committee on Petitions in December 2008 and presented it with her findings, which took her four years to complete, the subsequent response by the UK Government in January 2009, involving possible ex gratia payments to those disproportionately affected, cannot be regarded as a proper remedy for the many victims of the debacle,


recognising the positive and constructive cooperation with the European Ombudsman in 2008, the support provided by the Committee on Petitions for the recommendations contained in his Annual Report for 2007 and his Special Reports on complaints 1487/2005/ and 3453/2005/ respectively concerning the use of languages by the Council and the Commission’s application of the infringement procedure, and welcoming the modifications to his Statute approved by Parliament,


whereas in 2008 the Committee on Petitions received 1 886 petitions, of which 1 065 were declared admissible and 821 were declared inadmissible; whereas the number of petitions that do not meet the conditions of Rule 191(1) of the Rules of Procedure has significantly risen since the beginning of 2007,


Welcomes the involvement and contribution of petitioners at each meeting of the Committee on Petitions, which allows for a direct and open dialogue with European Parliament representatives and continues to encourage individual EU citizens and community associations to come forward with issues which concern the area of activity of the European Union and which affect them directly, believing that this process enables Parliament as an institution to play a significant role in monitoring the application of Community law by the Member States and to better defend and promote the fundamental rights of all EU citizens as defined in the EU Treaty;


Urges national and regional parliaments, as representatives of EU citizens, to remain vigilant in relation to the way in which Member States apply the Treaties and EU legislative acts, notably as regards issues related to the environment, social and employment rights, the free movement of persons, goods and services, financial services, citizens’ fundamental rights including their right to legitimately acquired property, recognition of their professional qualifications and all forms of discrimination, and calls on the EU institutions to communicate effectively with the citizens so that they are aware of their rights and of the duties of the national and local institutions;


Emphasises that, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, Parliament cannot regard as admissible petitions which seek to appeal against decisions of competent authorities or judicial bodies of Member States and that information to that effect must be communicated in a clear and understandable way to the petitioners; emphasises, moreover, that complaints must fulfil the conditions of Rule 191(1) of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure before they can be declared admissible;


Calls for those recommendations adopted in the 2007 Annual Report which have not yet been implemented to be implemented within a reasonable timeframe;


Calls on the Commission, all Member States and their national, regional and local institutions, together with their Permanent Representatives, to cooperate fully with the responsible committee of the European Parliament when investigating allegations or proposals contained in petitions, on a loyal and constructive basis, with a view to finding solutions to issues raised through the petitions process;


Requests that a full review of possible procedures to ensure remedial action for EU citizens be conducted by the responsible bodies in the European Parliament, the Commission and Council, and that a new interinstitutional agreement incorporating reinforced powers for committees of inquiry be negotiated in order to further strengthen the rights of EU citizens;


Believes that such a review would complement any eventual implementation of the Lisbon Treaty by providing additional safeguards based on the declared rights and obligations of EU citizens and EU institutions;


Recalls that, as emphasised by Parliament in its resolution of 20 April 2004 on the Commission communication on Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (4), respect for and promotion of the values on which the Union is founded and defence of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights are a particular responsibility for Parliament as the directly elected representative of European citizens, and further recalls that Parliament expressed the view in that resolution that ‘ignoring the possible need for penalties must create the impression that the Union is not prepared or is not in a position to use all the means at its disposal to defend its values’;


Calls on the Commission, once again, to ensure that greater recognition is given to, and greater emphasis placed on, the petitions process, notably as regards application of the infringement procedures and the requirement to inform the Committee on Petitions directly and officially when decisions are taken to initiate proceedings under Articles 226 and/or 228 which are related to the issues raised in individual petitions;


Recalls that Parliament has considered that allegations of serious infringements of Community law which the Committee on Petitions has deemed well founded in the course of the examination of petitions but which the Member State concerned refuses to admit, and which are likely to set a precedent at the national level, should ultimately be examined by the Court of Justice in order to ensure the consistency and coherence of Community law and the reality of the internal market (5);


Acknowledges that infringement proceedings, even where successful, may not result in any immediate remedy regarding the specific concern raised by individual petitioners, and that this frequently undermines public confidence in the ability of the EU institutions to meet their expectations;


Takes the view that, as there are clear indications that the objective of ending biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010 cannot be achieved, urgent action must be taken in order to render the application of the Habitats and Birds Directives more effective, and calls on the Commission to do its utmost to ensure that those directives are applied by the Member States in a manner which is consistent with this objective;


Calls for the Commission, in cooperation with Parliament, to promote to Member States the importance of forward thinking – especially in the area of planning approval – in helping to prevent potential breaches of provisions of Community law that have been adopted but are not yet in force;


Recognises that, sometimes, it is impossible to find solutions to the complaints raised by petitioners, on account of weaknesses in the applicable Community legislation itself;


Is concerned by the large number of petitions received by the Committee on Petitions seeking voting rights for resident ‘non’-citizens of Latvia in local elections; recalls that the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have recommended that non-citizens should be permitted to participate in local elections; urges the European Commission to closely monitor and encourage the regularisation of the status of ‘non’-citizens in Latvia, many of whom were born in Latvia;


Notes that many petitions received by Parliament from individuals and associations largely concern matters which do not constitute an infringement of Community law and which should therefore be resolved by exhausting all legal avenues of redress existing in the Member States concerned; further notes that, once all appropriate action has been taken at national level, the appropriate appellate body is the European Court of Human Rights;


Notes that the ‘one-seat petition’ signed by 1 500 000 people, which seeks to have the European Parliament meet in one location, has not yet been fully addressed; recommends that the Committee on Petitions deal with this matter as a priority during the next parliamentary term;


Therefore calls on responsible legislative committees to bear in mind proposals or suggestions which may from time to time be made by the Committee on Petitions regarding the application by Member States of specific EU legislation, with a view to possible revision or further investigation;


Recalls Parliament’s request to the Commission to step up its monitoring of the implementation of Directive 2006/114/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 concerning misleading and comparative advertising (6) with regard to misleading business-directory companies and to report to Parliament on the feasibility and possible consequences of extending the scope of Directive 2005/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005 concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market (7), specifically by replacing the word ‘consumer’ by the words ‘target of the practice’;


Endorses the Ombudsman’s call to the Council to expand the language options of the websites of its Presidencies to include the most widely spoken languages of the European Union, with the aim of ensuring that citizens have direct access to the activities of the Council’s Presidencies; refers in this respect to the French Council Presidency, which published its official website in compliance with the Ombudsman’s recommendations;


Endorses the Ombudsman’s call to the Commission, with reference to the implementation of the Working Time Directive (8), to handle complaints by citizens in conformity with principles of good administration in the field of the Commission’s discretionary powers regarding the opening of infringement procedures;


Welcomes the constructive cooperation between the Ombudsman and the EU within the appropriate institutional framework; endorses the Ombudsman’s repeated calls for the adoption of a Code of Good Administrative Behaviour, common to all EU institutions and bodies, as approved by Parliament in its resolution of 6 September 2001 on the European Ombudsman’s Special Report to the European Parliament following the own-initiative inquiry into the existence and the public accessibility, in the different Community institutions and bodies, of a Code of Good Administrative Behaviour (9); is of the view that the Ombudsman, the Commission and Parliament should develop a common EU portal for the treatment of complaints addressed to the EU institutions;


Urges the implementation by all parties of UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984) on the Cyprus issue, which would lead to the full restoration of property to its legitimate owners in Varosha; suggests that, in the event that there are no visible results by the end of 2009, the committee responsible might consider bringing the issue of the Famagusta petitioners to plenary;


Calls on the Romanian authorities to adopt measures to conserve and safeguard Romania’s cultural and architectural heritage, pursuant to Article 151 of the EC Treaty, as called for in Parliament’s Declaration of 11 October 2007 on the need for measures to protect the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Joseph in Bucharest, Romania, an endangered historical and architectural monument (10); with reference to the problems concerning restitution of property confiscated under the Communist regime, points out that, under Article 295 of the EC Treaty, property ownership is a matter of national competence;


Requests the French authorities to prepare an epidemiological assessment to determine the impact on the area close to Fos-Berre, in the immediate vicinity of the incinerator plant under construction at Fos-sur-Mer; recognises that Council Directive 1999/30/EC of 22 April 1999 relating to limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter and lead in ambient air (11) does not prohibit the construction of an incinerator in an area already affected by atmospheric pollution, but points out that, under Directive 1999/30/EC and Council Directive 96/62/EC of 27 September 1996 on ambient air quality assessment and management (12), measures are to be taken to ensure compliance with European standards on atmospheric pollution;


Recalls the recommendations contained in the 2007 Annual Report of the Committee on Petitions with a view to reviewing the administrative procedures for the treatment of petitions, such as, for instance, the transfer of the registration of petitions to the Petitions Committee secretariat, close cooperation with SOLVIT, further enhancement of the petitions database, the development of an EU portal for European citizens, etc; welcomes the drafting by Members of a Code of Good Practice for the treatment of petitions, which would come into force at the beginning of the next parliamentary term;


Instructs its President to forward this resolution, and the report of the Committee on Petitions, to the Council, the Commission, the European Ombudsman, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, their committees on petitions and their national ombudsmen or similar competent bodies.

(1)  OJ L 175, 5.7.1985, p. 40.

(2)  Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7).

(3)  Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds (OJ L 103, 25.4.1979, p. 1).

(4)  OJ C 104 E, 30.4.2004, p. 408.

(5)  See Parliament’s resolution of 9 March 2005 on the deliberations of the Committee on Petitions during the parliamentary year 2003-2004 (OJ C 320 E, 15.12.2005, p. 161).

(6)  OJ L 376, 27.12.2006, p. 21.

(7)  OJ L 149, 11.6.2005, p. 22.

(8)  Council Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time (OJ L 307, 13.12.1993, p. 18).

(9)  OJ C 72 E, 21.3.2002, p. 331.

(10)  OJ C 227 E, 4.9.2008, p. 162.

(11)  OJ L 163, 29.6.1999, p. 41.

(12)  OJ L 296, 21.11.1996, p. 55.