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3. 4.

98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 102/117

The government of Egypt has also denounced the practice and has committed itself to eradicate it. In 1996 FGM
was prohibited by law under a ministry of Health decree. It is this decree which has been recently overruled by an
Egyptian administrative court and there is now technically no legal constraint on the involvement of the public
health system in FGM. However the situation is complex and recent events are by no means a simple triumph of
these in favour of genital mutilation over reason and humanity.

Female genital mutilation in Egypt is almost universal in the rural and semi-rural areas and very widespread also
in towns. Although the debate on the overruling of the 1996 decree has centred on the involvement of the formal
health sector, FGM is overwhelmingly (93%) undertaken by ‘traditional’ health workers. Female children aged
between 7-11 are the principal victims. The importance of tradition rather than religion or law in explaining the
practice is very important. Both Islamic and Christian supporters of FGM cite ancestral tradition and the cultural
acceptability of FGM is very high including among women. The Community’s own surveys of FGM in upper
Egypt (where FGM is universal) suggest that 90% of women support FGM, mainly on cultural and presumed
health grounds.

Given such widespread acceptance by the very population most affected it is no surprise that measures to
eradicate FGM have proved so difficult to implement. It is equally clear that the eradication of FGM is far more
than a health or human rights issue. Legal measures have a role but the real challenge will be to change through
education and information deeply held attitudes and misconceptions.

The government of Egypt has proceeded with considerable caution in this sensitive area. Because of concern that
the 1996 decree would simply force all FGM underground, the ministry continued to allow health service doctors
to perform FGM provided attempts were made to persuade the families concerned not to proceed. Other
campaigns, both national and donor supported, were also launched to persuade families to abandon the practice
but their impact has been limited and the United Nations international children’s emergency fund target of
eradicating FGM by the end of the century is unlikely to be met. However the Egyptian national committee for
population and development (NCPD) and the present minister of health and population remain clearly and
publicly committed to progress.

Community assistance in Egypt can be expected to help in this process. The most notable contribution will be
through the 10 MECU population programme in upper Egypt and through other population and reproductive
health programmes. All of these stress the importance of information and education on reproductive health issues
which not only specifically target FGM but will help create the essential understanding which must precede the
eradication of this inhuman but deeply entrenched practice. The extension of basic education to women and girls,
which is a key component of the proposed education enhancement programme (EEP), will also have a positive if
indirect effect. The Commission will continue to focus on how best to assist in the eradication of FGM while
being aware that only a strategy that is sensitive to widely held cultural values will succeed.

(98/C 102/169) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2779/97

by Luigi Florio (UPE) to the Commission
(1 September 1997)

Subject: The justice system in Italy

1. Is the Commission aware of the serious deterioration in the system of justice − civil, penal and
administrative − in Italy?

2. Is it aware of the unacceptable length of proceedings, the increasingly obvious politicization of a

substantial section of the magistrature and the feuds between certain legal offices?

3. Does it not consider that this situation, which has led to almost universal distrust in the State’s ability to
ensure that justice is done, is creating serious problems for Italy, even in the economic sphere, entailing
undoubted disadvantages and greater risks for anybody operating in Italy, and thereby also jeopardizing the
proper functioning of the single market?
C 102/118 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 3. 4. 98

4. Does it consider it should put forward proposals aimed at reestablishing a more ‘neutral’ and rapid justice
system, more in line with that in other EU countries, since the Union’s objectives under the Maastricht Treaty
include the development of close cooperation in the sphere of justice?

Answer given by Mrs Gradin on behalf of the Commission

(30 September 1997)

The Commission has noted the concerns expressed by the Honourable Member.

As the Honourable Member mentions, judicial cooperation between the Member States is a matter of common
interest under Article K.1 of the Treaty on European Union. Once the Amsterdam Treaty comes into force,
judicial cooperation in civil matters will be covered by Article E of a new Chapter in the EC Treaty entitled
‘Progressive establishment of an area of freedom, security and justice’.

However, the Commission would point out that the aim of judicial cooperation is to enable the national
legislative systems in the Union to operate in a coordinated and harmonious way. It is not intended to remedy
shortcomings in the administration of justice or politicisation of the judiciary. These matters fall within the
competence of the Member States and the Commission does not intend to put forward the proposals suggested by
the Honourable Member.

(98/C 102/170) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2780/97

by Gianni Tamino (V) to the Commission
(1 September 1997)

Subject: Community Initiative Leader and the towns of Ioanina and Igoumenitsa

The Greek region of Epirus, an Objective 1 region in which agriculture is of great economic importance, is one of
the poorest regions in the European Union in absolute terms. The towns of Ioanina and Igoumenitsa (Epirus) are
excluded from the Community Initiative Leader in Greece and the local authorities are questioning the criteria
adopted in the selection of regions which benefit under Leader in Greece.

Can the Commission say:

1. who was responsible for selecting the areas which benefit under Leader in Greece;
2. what criteria were used in the selection;
3. why Igoumenitsa and Ioanina were excluded;
4. whether it intends to use its powers to ascertain whether the selection was made objectively or not and, if not,
whether it intends to find out who was responsible for mismanaging the selection procedure and to review it?

Answer given by Mr Fischler on behalf of the Commission

(26 September 1997)

With regard to the four questions raised by the Honourable Member concerning the non-inclusion of the towns of
Ioannina and Igoumenitsa in the Community initiative Leader II, the Commission wishes to point out the
1. In the Notice on Leader II (1) and in particular in point 15 thereof, it is clearly stated that the Commission
does not intend to intervene in the choice of projects and recipients (local groups and other collective
bodies). The Commission cannot a fortiori intervene in the selection of the partners in each group.
2. The general criteria for the choice of the project sponsors are also set out in the Notice, under point 16(b).
These are as follows: innovation, capacity to serve as a model and transferability of know-how, the rural
character of the projects and the participation of the rural population of the area concerned. Moreover, as
stated in point 8 of the Notice, that population should not as a general rule exceed 100 000 inhabitants in
order to avoid the funds granted being dissipated.