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2. 10.

98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 304/159

(98/C 304/242) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0791/98

by André Laignel (PSE) to the Council
(16 March 1998)

Subject: Applying the 35-hour-week initiative throughout the European Union

Throughout the European Union, a reduction of the working week to 35 hours would clearly have a beneficial
effect on employment, the quality of life of European citizens and equality of access to employment.

To that end, a clear and spontaneous undertaking by the Commission is essential. In what form and on what time
scale does the Commission propose to act to harmonize social legislation in line with the best practice,
particularly by establishing a legal working week of 35 hours in all countries of the European Union?

(4 June 1998)

The Council would point out to the Honourable Member that the 1998 Employment Guidelines it adopted on 15
December 1997 (1) include among their objectives encouraging adaptability in businesses and their employees,
in particular by modernizing work organization. In that context the Council invites the social partners to
negotiate, at the appropriate levels, agreements to help make undertakings productive and competitive so as to
achieve the required balance between flexibility and security. The Guidelines specify that: ‘Such agreements
may, for example, cover the expression of working time as an annual figure, the reduction of working hours, the
reduction of overtime, the development of part-time, lifelong training and career breaks.’

The Honourable Member will be aware that Article 118b of the Amsterdam Treaty, currently before Member
States for ratification, provides that ‘should management and labour so desire, the dialogue between them at
Community level may lead to contractual relations, including agreements’ and that such agreements are to be
implemented at Community level at the joint request of the signatory parties by a Council decision on a proposal
from the Commission.

With respect to the issue to which the Honourable Member refers, concerning a reduction of the working week in
the European Union to 35 hours, the Council would point out that it has received no proposal from the
Commission on the matter.

(1) OJ C 30, 28.1.1998, p. 1.

(98/C 304/243) WRITTEN QUESTION P-0843/98

by Jean-Antoine Giansily (UPE) to the Commission
(11 March 1998)

Subject: EU support for the holding of elections in Togo

In the context of the forthcoming presidential elections in Togo, a Commission mission has published a set of
official recommendations to ensure the complete transparency of the poll.

As part of the financial aid for the holding of these elections, it appears that a Commission expert is to be
instructed to assist the National Electoral Commission set up by a law of 9 September 1997, all of whose
members − half of them from the presidential majority, half from the opposition − have already been sworn in
on their appointment.

1. Has the Commission expert yet been appointed, and if not, when will this happen?

2. What will be his precise terms of reference?

C 304/160 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 2. 10. 98

Answer given by Mr Pinheiro on behalf of the Commission

(26 March 1998)

Compliance with democratic principles and the rule of law in Togo require any presidential election there to be
completely above board and the lead-up to it open and fair.

In reply to the Honourable Member’s question, a specialist was sent out earlier this month to determine whether
and how support could be given to the belatedly established national electoral commission in light of the fact that
the first round of presidential elections is set for June this year.

The Commission intends to continue very close monitoring of the elections in conjunction with the Member
States. It is supporting campaigns by Togolese NGOs to inform the public of the elections and will assist with a
training programme for those bodies involved in the electoral process.

(98/C 304/244) WRITTEN QUESTION P-0854/98

by Lyndon Harrison (PSE) to the Commission
(11 March 1998)

Subject: Responsibility for fire

The responsibility for fire falls across many directorates-general of the European Commission. In what way does
the Commission ensure that these matters are dealt with in a coherent and focused manner?

Answer given by Mr Santer on behalf of the Commission

(8 April 1998)

The Commission is collecting the information it needs to answer the question. It will communicate its findings as
soon as possible.

(98/C 304/245) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0867/98

by Armelle Guinebertière (UPE) to the Council
(31 March 1998)

Subject: Netherlands’ bill on the treatment of prostitution and procuring

The attention of the Council of Justice Ministers is drawn to a bill tabled by the Netherlands government in that
country concerning the treatment of prostitution and procuring.

This bill lifts the ban on brothels, sets out a female sex workers’ charter for so-called voluntary prostitutes and
decriminalizes procuring. If it is passed, the bill is likely to set a European precedent.

Can the Council of Minister of the European Union accept legislation which undermines the inviolability and
inalienability of the human body and repudiates the UN Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons
and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others of December 1949?

(4 June 1998)

The Council is not competent to comment on bills submitted by the Member States’ governments.