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C 304/36 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 2. 10.

98

Answer given by Mrs Bjerregaard on behalf of the Commission
(18 March 1998)

At the end of November 1997 the Commission received a dossier concerning genetically modified tomatoes from
the Spanish authorities under Article 12(2)(a) of Council Directive 90/220/EEC on the deliberate release of
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment (1). The procedure laid down in Article 13 is under
way. The tomato contains an antibiotic resistance gene used as a marker gene and a partial endogenous
polygalacturonase (PG) gene which decreases the rate of fruit softening.

Directive 90/220/EEC stipulates that before a GMO product is placed on the market an assessment must be
carried out of the potential risks for human health and the environment. Accordingly, all GMO product
notifications are assessed on a case by case basis which includes consideration of the genes inserted into the
organism in question.

To date, the Commission has received no information on the marketing of genetically modified tomatoes as a
novel food or novel food ingredient pursuant to Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 258/97 of the European
Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 1997 concerning novel foods and novel food ingredients (2).

(1) OJ L 117, 8.5.1990.
(2) OJ L 43, 14.2.1997.

(98/C 304/50) WRITTEN QUESTION P-0134/98
by Georg Jarzembowski (PPE) to the Commission
(23 January 1998)

Subject: Shipbuilding industry

The European shipbuilding industry faces fierce competition. Widespread subsidy schemes have distorted the
international market and resulted in over-capacity throughout the world. The 1994 OECD agreement seeking to
produce uniform conditions for competition has yet to be ratified by the USA. While support measures for the
shipbuilding industry in the EU have nevertheless rightly been restructured, with order-related subsidies in
particular to be completely abolished, Far East yards are still receiving massive subsidies which are distorting
competition. After the collapse of the financial markets in East Asia the provision of billions in IMF aid seems
likely to preserve this overcapacity and hence the distortions of competition.

1. Has the Commission therefore investigated the extent to which funds put up by the IMF are being passed on
even to the State-aided shipbuilding industry in South Korea, the world market leader? If it has, what has it
discovered? If it has not, why not, and will it now do so?

2. Has the Commission held talks with the Member States to ensure that they are not, by their indirect aid via
IMF payments and the support the latter are giving to South Korean yards, undermining the European
shipbuilding policy, which seeks to create a competitive European shipbuilding industry?

Answer given by Sir Leon Brittan on behalf of the Commission
(23 February 1998)

At the request of the Council, and having regard to the possibility of a delay in or failure of the entry into force of
the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agreement because the United States’
fails to ratify it, the Commission put up a proposal for a new aid scheme for the industry in order to make
European shipbuilding competitive in the future and prepare it for the challenges of the new millennium.
2. 10. 98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 304/37

The Commission is concurrently carrying on with its attempts to persuade the United States to ratify the OECD
agreement, with the application of which is the main objective of the Community.

Regarding the financial crisis in Asia, and its possible knock-on effects on the Korean shipbuilding industry, the
Commission shares the Honourable Member’s disquiet and in collaboration with Member States is watching for
any impact on the Community industry.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) plan which Korea has accepted, provides only for financial aid to stave
off collapse of the financial and banking system and in no way provides for any allocation of funds to sectors of
industry. Quite the reverse: the IMF authorities have pointed out that in no case should aid be used to save
businesses in trouble. The structural reforms demanded by the IMF, and the drastic conditions imposed in terms
of the prudential rules for lending by Korean banks, will undoubtedly preclude any repetition of the mistakes
which encouraged Korean shipyards into ill-considered investments in capacity and caused some of them to
become insolvent.

In the course of the debate in the Council about future aid arrangements the Korean question was discussed at
length, as were the risks to the Community industry resulting from devaluation of the won. Member States which
are members of the IMF, and as such can affect its decisions, are fully aware of their duty to be vigilant in this
field.

For its part the Commission, which is not a member of the IMF, nevertheless keeps a careful eye on how the
situation is developing. It will undoubtedly bring to the attention of the Council the risks of any use of aid which
would be against the interests of the Community, particularly in shipbuilding. If necessary it could propose that
Member States adopt a common position on this matter which would be forwarded to the IMF leadership with a
view to forestalling this danger.

(98/C 304/51) WRITTEN QUESTION P-0137/98
by Ilona Graenitz (PSE) to the Commission
(23 January 1998)

Subject: Recognition of sign language in the Member States

Having regard to the EP resolution of 18 July 1988 (OJ C 187, p. 236), which called for official recognition of
national sign languages in the Member States, and whereas the recognition of this non-ethnic language minority
is a fundamental and important measure for the maintenance of culture, for the quality of life and, above all, for
training opportunities for deaf people, I should like to know:
1. In which Member States has the national sign language actually been officially recognized or have
comparable measures been taken?
2. Are those countries where this has still not occurred being supported in their efforts and, if so, in what way?
3. Is the Commission aware that, in the case of the deaf, this not only involves an issue affecting the ‘disabled’
but that what is involved here is a linguistic minority, which is still not recognized in many Member States
10 years after the EP resolution?
4. Is the Commission planning to submit to the Council urgently required proposals on this issue?

Answer given by Mr Flynn on behalf of the Commission
(5 March 1998)

The Commission would refer the Honourable Member to the reply it gave to her oral question H-42/98 during
question time at Parliament’s February 1998 part-session (1).

(1) Debates of the Parliament (Februay 1998).