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25. 2.

98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 60/27

Answer given by Mr Kinnock on behalf of the Commission

(17 June 1997)

1. In the third framework programme transport elements were covered within two different specific
programmes namely Drive II and Brite-Euram. These programmes concentrated on narrow objectives such as
road telematics and aeronautics. There were no funds for inland navigation. In the fourth framework programme
however there is for the first time a comprehensive specific programme dedicated to transport with an overall
budget of 256 MECU.

2. Out of the 256 MECU, there is an allocation of 19% (49 MECU) waterborne transport research and
development which encompasses R&D in maritime transport and in inland navigation.

Under the first and second calls for proposals, four research projects and one concerted action are co-funded in
the area of inland navigation. A concerted action is a forum of Member States’ representatives and delegates of
European organisations to set up a European network of interested parties, to establish a European
state-of-the-art, to define common European user requirements and methodologies and to define future R&D
needs. The Community’s contribution to these projects or actions amounts to 2.4 MECU.

The third and final call for proposals closed on 17 March 1997. The process of evaluation and selection is
currently in progress, but not yet finalised. Information on its results will be available in the course of 1997.

3. Projects have an average life span of two years meaning that all of them are still ongoing. Final results,
particularly in terms of implementation, are therefore not available yet. This also excludes an economic impact
assessment at this stage of the programme.

(98/C 60/52) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1568/97

by Honório Novo (GUE/NGL) to the Commission
(6 May 1997)

Subject: Delays in the payment of Community co-funding

As a result of meetings which I have held in my country (Portugal) with a number of local authorities, bodies and
organizations which are engaged in various projects involving Community co-funding, I have learned that there
are serious delays in the payment of invoices which are regularly submitted by the bodies and local authorities in
question to the appropriate national authorities. The delays can be as long as several months (in most cases nine
or ten months, if not more).

The delays cannot be attributed to procedural irregularities on the part of the beneficiaries since payments are
eventually made without any alteration to the documents initially submitted to the national authorities, which
indicates that those documents are legally in order.

Furthermore, most of the bodies with which I have had dealings do not want − or do not dare − to contact the
Commission direct in order to ascertain the reasons which could account for such extensive delays, since they
fear that they will not be considered for future projects.

In view of this situation, which clearly jeopardizes the satisfactory completion of projects and could undermine
the financial soundness of the authorities, bodies and organization which devise and promote them. I consider it
my duty to draw the matter to the Commission’s attention. Would the Commission therefore answer the
following question?
1. Are these extensive delays (which are widespread in Portugal) in the making of payments to bodies and
organizations the result of delays in the transfer of the corresponding amounts from the Commission to the
national authorities, or are they due to late payment of funds by the national authorities?

Answer given by Mr Liikanen on behalf of the Commission

(26 June 1997)

The Commission is very concerned that its payments should be made within the agreed time limits.
C 60/28 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 25. 2. 98

For this reason it has set a target of 60 days within which payments should be made. This period runs from the
date on which the Commission receives an invoice or properly completed payment request to the date on which
its bank account is debited. The authorizing department is obliged to record the date on which the invoice is
received in the central accounting system, which means that statistics are available for each department to be able
to measure its performance in complying with payment deadlines. Data for the last financial year (1996) show
that the 60-day deadline is generally adhered to.

The Commission is not aware of any particular problems with payments to Portuguese bodies or associations.
However, the Honourable Member should note that the period counted by the Commission, which it keeps close
tabs on, runs up until the instruction for one of its bank accounts to be debited is recorded. The Commission uses
the SWIFT network for virtually all its payments. In practice this means that the money reaches the recipient
authority within 2 to 4 working days following the transfer order. The Commission has no control over how the
Community money is subsequently redistributed by the national authorities.

The Commission would ask the Honourable Member to notify it of the cases he is referring to where payment has
apparently taken an unusually long time, so that it can look into them more closely.

(98/C 60/53) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1572/97

by Amedeo Amadeo (NI) to the Commission
(6 May 1997)

Subject: Discrimination on the grounds of age

In the near future the European Union could enact provisions against discrimination on the grounds of age if the
proposals for reform debated at the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) are accepted by all the Member States
in June. To underpin the new legislation, a new Article on discrimination (6a) would be included in the Treaty,
whose scope would be extended to include discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic and social origin,
religion, disability and sexual orientation.

This is a highly topical subject at a time of particularly high unemployment and an almost exponential increase in
the average age of European citizens.

Can the Commission state whether there is any truth in the various press reports on this subject, as mentioned

Answer given by Mr Santer on behalf of the Commission

(23 June 1997)

The Commission would refer the Honourable Member to its answer to Written Question E-1560/97 by
Mr Ilaskivi (1).

(1) OJ C 373, 9.12.1997, p. 143.

(98/C 60/54) WRITTEN QUESTION P-1603/97

by Jan Sonneveld (PPE) to the Commission
(5 May 1997)

Subject: Netherlands buy-up rules for 2-week old piglets and impact on sow welfare

The Netherlands Agriculture Ministry proposes, in response to overcrowding on pig farms caused by swine fever
outbreaks in the Netherlands province of North Brabant, to buy up piglets at two weeks old. This will, however,
have an adverse impact on the welfare of sows. For reasons of animal welfare it is laid down in Netherlands
legislation that piglets should not be separated from sows at earlier than three weeks.