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C 304/42 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 2. 10.

98

Will the Commission ask the Greek Government to create fair competitive conditions in order to stem the drain
on the resources of Greek SMEs caused by the high level of bank lending rates?

Answer given by Mr Papoutsis on behalf of the Commission
(30 March 1998)

The structure of the Greek national banking system ia a matter for the Greek authorities and not for the
Commission. The Commission expects a lowering of interest rates in due course, in line with what has already
happened in the other Member States, which have already completed such a course of action.

The cost of borrowing also covers the risk, however, and banks normally consider that SMEs represent a higher
risk than large-scale enterprises. The Commission will at an early opportunity raise this point at the Third Round
Table of Banks and SMEs, which will be set up in the near future and whose role will essentially be to develop a
better mutual understanding between the two parties in their professional relations.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has furthermore contributed, by its issuing activities on the ‘Marathon’
market (six issues, for a total value of GRD 135 billion since the opening of this ‘compartment’ of the market by
the EIB in 1994, representing a total of ECU 432.13 million, value as at 23.2.1998) and by its individual and
global loans (ECU 2.770 million in the course of the past five years), with the aim of fostering competition and
modernisation in the Greek banking sector.

In the course of the last five years, the EIB has granted global loans to some ten intermediaries in the Greek
banking sector. The funds channelled in this way have been used to finance 265 projects. The EIB would be
prepared to expand this activity if the intermediaries were able to demonstrate their capacity to relay these funds
efficiently without delay to SMEs.

(98/C 304/57) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0160/98
by Mary Banotti (PPE) to the Council
(3 February 1998)

Subject: Gaza European Hospital

Can the Council inform me of the cost of the total investment by the EU in the Gaza European Hospital?

Can the Council inform me when the International Management team will be arriving in the region?

When will the hospital be fully operational and what is the Council’s policy in meeting the recurrent costs of the
large scale infrastructure projects in developing countries?

Answer
(8 June 1998)

As the Honourable Member of Parliament is well aware, the implementation of actions financed in the
framework of the MEDA regulation, as is the case with the one mentioned in this question, is the responsibility of
the Commission.

Therefore, the Honourable Member of Parliament is advised to refer the present question to the Commission.

(98/C 304/58) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0162/98
by Anita Pollack (PSE) to the Commission
(2 February 1998)

Subject: Combined bicycle and rail travel

In the interest of seeking to curb private car use, does the Commission have any plans to require train operators to
offer bicycle access on trains and to abolish extra charges for this?
2. 10. 98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 304/43

Answer given by Mr Kinnock on behalf of the Commission
(12 March 1998)

On grounds of subsidiarity and because the Commission wishes to promote a commercially minded approach
among train operators, the Commission has no current plans to propose the imposition of requirements of the
kind outlined by the Honourable Member.

As set out in the ‘The Citizens’ Network’ green paper (1), the Commission aims to encourage people to choose
public transport, cycling or walking for more of their journeys. Making it easier to combine the use of bicycles
and trains is an useful way of doing that, and the carriage of bicycles on trains has a role to play alongside
measures to improve cycle storage at stations.

The Commission’s view is that there are two appropriate ways to encourage the carriage of bicycles on trains.
First, public authorities may include requirements to do this when they specify public services to be provided by
operators. In line with the Community’s general approach to public services, it is for authorities in Member
States to define the services they wish to see provided. Requirements should be clearly defined, and operators
compensated if fulfilling the requirement causes net costs.

Second, the Commission wishes to encourage train operators to carry bicycles because it could often be in their
own commercial interests since, demand among cyclists for the ability to travel by rail with their bicycles can be
substantial. Through its policies to promote the Citizens’ Network, the Commission aims to help to make such
arrangements more common. A specific example is its recent decision to provide grant-aid for the planning phase
of the EuroVelo international cycle routes project, sponsored by the European Cyclists’ Federation. One of the
main objectives of this project is to promote cycle tourism and that should increase the demand for transport of
cycles by train to key points on each cycle route, a factor which will be specifically taken into account in the
planning of the network.

An obligatory European requirement for train operators to carry bicycles would impose high costs on operators if
the design of the trains or heavy usage made carriage of bicycles impractical. A requirement to carry bicycles
without charge, as suggested by the Honourable Member, could reduce the revenues earned by some operators.
In achieving the objectives of the Citizens’ Network, it is vital to promote a business-like approach among train
operators and the external imposition of requirements of this kind without compensation, however desirable in
their own right, would contradict to this approach.

The Commission is currently managing a research cooperation project on passenger accessibility of heavy rail
systems (COST 335) with a view to developing European standards for the design and operation of trains,
stations and information services. While the main focus of the project is the needs of people with reduced
mobility, it is likely that many of the train design features examined will also benefit people with bicycles.

(1) COM(95) 601 final.

(98/C 304/59) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0163/98
by Anita Pollack (PSE) to the Commission
(2 February 1998)

Subject: Battery hens

Will the Commission set in train some research on the economic effects of phasing out battery egg production on
those farms or companies that currently use these methods so that measures can be planned to ensure that they are
helped to move to less intensive methods in the future?

Answer given by Mr Fischler on behalf of the Commission
(13 March 1998)

The Commission would refer the Honourable Member to the answer given to her written question E-115/98 (1).
The communication to the Parliament and the Council will indicate the economic effects of the measures
proposed, including estimations on the consequences of phasing out the current battery cage systems.

(1) See page 33.