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C 310/20 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 9. 10.


Answer given by Mr Kinnock on behalf of the Commission

(27 March 1998)

As previously mentioned in the replies to the Honourable Member’s written questions E-1118/97 and E-3131/97,
Community legislation does not cover seat spacing beyond the general safety requirements for aircraft, nor does
any other aviation legislation in other parts of the world.

The Commission is well informed about studies and reports on ‘the economy class passenger syndrome’ and the
consequences some passengers are reported to have suffered from being obliged to sit too long in a cramped

The Commission’s work programme does, however, follow certain established priorities taking into account the
relative importance of a variety of issues as well as limits on personnel and budget. The establishment of
mandatory standards for seat dimensions and space, other than those relating to general safety requirements, is
not amongst the priorities and it does not seem to be a priority issue in other parts of the world. The definition of
seat dimensions, therefore, remains the responsibility of aircraft operators.

The Commission provides clear, factual answers that take into account relevant authentic research and the extent
of the legal authority granted to the Commission under the EC Treaty. Its unanimous respect for Parliament and
for Honourable Members is unequivocal. It cannot always, however, guarantee that the answers honestly
provided will give personal or emotional satisfaction to all questioners.

(98/C 310/22) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0089/98

by Carlos Robles Piquer (PPE) to the Commission
(30 January 1998)

Subject: Alternatives to road transport for Spanish fruit and vegetables

The mere threat of French roads being blockaded by striking French transport workers is enough to cause the
price of certain Spanish fruits and vegetables to be halved, thus acting as a death sentence for these perishable
products from Spain.

There is therefore a need to find a permanent alternative to road transport to ensure that the threat of strike action
does not continue to have the catastrophic effect it has already had for the agricultural sector in Spain and in other
Member States.

Would the Commission be willing to assist in the creation of a permanent alternative system for the transport of
fruit and vegetables from Spain to the central and northern regions of the European Union during French
transport strikes, for example using roll-on roll-off ferries to transport lorries?

Answer given by Mr Kinnock on behalf of the Commission

(17 April 1998)

The Commission is aware of the serious difficulties experienced by Spanish exporters during certain industrial
disputes in France. While the Community is not in a position economically or legally to support the development
of alternative transport systems as a response to strikes the common transport policy aims at the wider
development of a European intermodal transport system which will provide alternative transport choices for
shippers and producers at all times. In the case of freight, such a transport system should encompass road, rail,
combined transport, inland waterway and maritime services.

Building on the achievements of the single market, the Commission has pursued a policy to promote modes of
transport that provide a sustainable alternative to road transport. In the case of the Iberian peninsula, the
Commission considers alternative services such as short sea shipping and combined transport services to be
particularly relevant. In its recent proposal (1) for a Parliament and Council Decision modifying Decision
No 1692/96/EC (2) concerning maritime ports, inland ports and intermodal terminals,the Commission proposed a
9. 10. 98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 310/21

modification which would include a new priority project on a ‘Multimodal link between Portugal and Spain and
the rest of Europe’. The Commission has also supported, through the Pilot Action for Combined Transport
(PACT) programme, the launching of innovative combined transport services between Spain and the rest of the
Community, including funding of investment at the Irun and Hendaye and the Port Bou intermodal platforms.
In addition the PACT programme is supporting a feasibility study for the setting up of an intermodal ports
network in Spain, France, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. Finally, a rail freightway will be established shortly
between the north of Spain and the existing French freightway to facilitate the provision of new international rail

(1) COM(97) 681 final.

(2) OJ L 228, 9.9.1996.

(98/C 310/23) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0095/98

by Bryan Cassidy (PPE) and Gunilla Carlsson (PPE) to the Commission
(30 January 1998)

Subject: Duty-free sales within the EU

Does the Commission agree that the ECJ judgment of 11 November 1997 in Eurotunnel SA v Sea France
(Case C 408/95) clarifies the legal position on the ending of intra-EU duty-free shopping in July 1999?

Is the Commission aware of the activities of a well-financed lobby aiming to overturn the unanimous 1991
Council decision to end the taxpayer-financed duty-free concession in 1999?

Does the Commission agree that this powerful body is unscrupulously playing on workers’ fears for their job

Will the Commission launch an information campaign to counteract the misleading propaganda of the duty-free

Will the Commission also set up a web site to rebut the misinformation on the web site of the International
Duty-Free Confederation (IDFC):

Answer given by Mr Monti on behalf of the Commission

(5 March 1998)

The Commission agrees with the Honourable Members that, following the judgement of the Court of justice in
case C-408/95 (Eurotunnel SA v. Sea France), the legal situation is now clear.

Indeed, the Court of justice did not call into question the validity of Council Directives 77/388/EEC and
92/12/EEC. The decision of the Council confirms the views of the Commission. The outcome of this case not
only endorses the decision on the abolition of duty-free sales as adopted by the Council but also confirms these
directives as a whole were an appropriate response to the concerns expressed by the Parliament.

As to the political aspects, the Commission is aware that a wide coalition of interests, lead by the duty-free lobby,
is trying to reverse the Council decision. The Commission has made it very clear that this decision will not be

The Commission is indeed concerned with any threats to employment. As regards the abolition of duty-free
sales, it is however difficult to predict the real effect on employment with any accuracy because there are so
many variables involved.

The dramatic figures on job losses produced by the duty-free lobby can only be considered as exaggerated. These
figures are taken from studies of the lobby which predict the short term impact of abolition of duty-free sales on
employment in affected transport sectors. These figures need to be balanced, taking into account the positive
impact of the decision to abolish duty-free sales. Indeed, the benefit of a possible shift in demand towards the
conventional retail sector should not be discounted.