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2000 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 280 E/107

(2000/C 280 E/110) WRITTEN QUESTION P-2694/99

by Jas Gawronski (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(11 January 2000)

Subject: Measures to resolve the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea

Can the Commission indicate what measures it intends to take with regard to the conflict between Eritrea
and Ethiopia?

At the Joint Assembly with representatives of the ACP countries last October in Nassau the Members of
the European Parliament requested the Council to take all the necessary measures to ensure that Ethiopia
accepts and implements the peace plan proposed by the OAU. Up to now, Ethiopia has still not
committed itself to the agreement and is still violating the fundamental rights of the Eritrean citizens
resident on its territory.

Article 5 of the Lomé Convention provides for the suspension of cooperation between the European
Union and the ACP States in cases of violation of human rights. Can the Commission indicate the reasons
why it continues to cooperate with Ethiopia?

Answer given by Mr Nielson on behalf of the Commission

(31 January 2000)

The Commission has expressed to both governments and on various occasions its grave concern about the
conflict. It has called on both sides to cease all hostilities and stop the fighting. The Commission has used
all diplomatic means at its disposal to underline to both governments the need to resolve and settle the
conflict by peaceful means only. Moreover, the Union Presidency has addressed various letters to both
governments while a number of Union declarations have been issued on this matter. Regular contacts have
been established between the Commission delegations and the respective governments and between the
Commission and the respective embassies in Brussels. Furthermore, the Commissioner responsible for
development has held meetings with both parties where he underlined the position of the Commission.

The Commission has expressed its unequivocal support to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) efforts
aiming at a peaceful resolution of the conflict. It has strongly supported the OAU framework agreement as
the only basis for a peaceful solution. In this respect, the Commission fully supports the nomination of the
Italian deputy Minister of foreign affairs, Senator Serri, as the Union Presidency’s special representative to
assist the OAU in its mediating efforts. The Commission is examining ways, together with the OAU
Secretariat, in which the Commission could assist the OAU, in particular in relation to the implementation
of the framework agreement.

The Commission has presented a communication to the Council on co-operation with African, Caribbean
and Pacific (ACP) countries involved in armed conflicts. The Presidency is presently preparing draft Council
conclusions on the basis of this Commission document. In the meantime and in the absence of a Union
position on the matter, the Commission does not consider appropriate to take unilateral and isolated
measures in the case of the Ethiopia  Eritrea conflict. However, the Commission has already decided for
structural adjustment programmes to allocate funds in smaller ‘tranches’ and link further disbursements to
a periodic review of the conflict and its possible impact on the public spending, particularly in the social
sectors. As a consequence disbursement of structural adjustment funds to Ethiopia has been halted
since January 1999.

(2000/C 280 E/111) WRITTEN QUESTION P-2696/99

by Neil MacCormick (Verts/ALE) to the Commission

(11 January 2000)

Subject: Internal market: Restrictive practices in car sales

Given that vehicles from Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland can be sold in the UK at prices well below
the manufacturers’ UK list prices and that various other countries also provide substantial savings
C 280 E/108 Official Journal of the European Communities EN 3.10.2000

(in Finland, for example, some vehicles cost up to 60 % less than in the UK, a specific example being the
Saab 9-3 2-0 SE coupé, whose pre-tax price in Finland is £9 223 whereas in the UK it is £20 220).

Given that the Commission publishes six-monthly car-price tables (Ref. IV/F2/0599) which, however, list
prices only for left-hand drive vehicles, thereby clouding clear price comparisons for consumers in the UK.

1. Will the Commission extend its present service and publish price tables for right-hand drive vehicles
in each Member Sates in an effort to increase price transparency and allow everyone to take further
advantage of the ’single market?

2. Is the Commission aware that manufacturers still employ a variety of strategies to discourage people
in the UK from buying, or arranging for the purchase of, their preferred new car from sources outside the

3. Does the Commission agree that such practices by automobile manufacturers deprive EU citizens of
the real advantages of the single market in a domain which, for many people, involves their largest
expenditure on any item of movable property?

4. If so, does the Commission agree that it ought to give very high priority to the taking of effective
steps to end once and for all the uncompetitive practices of this kind that weaken consumer confidence in
the credibility of the ‘internal market’?

5. What steps does the Commission therefore propose to take in the next six months on this matter?

Answer given by Mr Monti on behalf of the Commission

(26 January 2000)

The Commission is indeed aware of the price discrepancies for cars between the United Kingdom and
other Member States. Contrary to what is stated in the Honourable Member’s question, British prices and
supplements for right-hand drive (RHD) specification in each Member State have always been published in
the Commission’s regular report on car prices (1). It has been found that the price differences observed
since 1997 are partly due to the strength of the Pound Sterling and the additional cost of British
specification, while a part must be attributed to low net prices in Member States with high car taxation
(Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland in particular). The strong demand from British consumers to buy
cars in mainland Europe is to an appreciable extent due to the increased price transparency created
through this report.

High price differentials as such do not constitute a violation of European competition rules. The
Commission’s task is to ensure that parallel trade, which is an important market-related factor for reducing
price differentials, is not affected by anti-competitive practices incompatible with Regulation (EC)
No 1475/95 of 28 June 1995 on the application of Article 85(3) of the Treaty to certain categories of
motor vehicle distribution and servicing agreements (2) granting a block exemption to car distribution. In
this respect, since 1995, the Commission has undertaken a number of major initiatives, including the
opening of ex-officio proceedings against certain car manufacturers and their networks and requesting the
establishment of telephone help lines by manufacturers, with the aim of ensuring that consumers from the
United Kingdom also can buy a car in another Member State and benefit from the achievements of the
internal market.

As an example to be mentioned, the Commission’s decision adopted in 1998 (3) against Volkswagen AG
imposed a fine of € 102 million on the undertaking for impeding citizens from other Member States from
buying a new car in Italy.

The present high level of car prices in the United Kingdom and possible restrictive practices by car
manufacturers is also a matter of concern for the British authorities responsible for competition. They have
decided to carry out extensive investigations with regard to the situation of the British market and a report
from the United Kingdom competition commission with some proposals for remedies is expected, in
principle, for the end of January 2000.
3.10.2000 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 280 E/109

The Commission is closely following this exercise in particular, since it will have to evaluate whether
Regulation (EC) no 1475/95 functions in a satisfactory manner in the Member States. It will, to that effect,
issue a report by 31 December 2000. The impact of this Regulation on consumers will be one of the key
elements of the evaluation. This report will serve as a basis for determining the future legal framework for
the car industry and for a possible revision of Regulation (EC) no 1475/95. In this respect, the
Commission firmly intends to take all the necessary measures to arrive at the most satisfactory distribution
system for cars in the interest of the European consumers.

(1) See for example Press Release IP/99/554 of 22 July 1999.

(2) OJ L 145, 29.6.1995.
(3) OJ L 124, 25.4.1998.

(2000/C 280 E/112) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2698/99

by Ole Krarup (EDD) to the Commission

(12 January 2000)

Subject: Control over currency reserves

The national central banks of countries taking part in the Euro (third stage) are to transfer control over a
specified proportion of their currency reserves to the ECB.

If a Member State is obliged to leave the Euro, will control of its currency reserves automatically return to
its central bank free of any charges, financial penalties or the like?

Answer given by Mr Solbes Mira on behalf of the Commission

(18 February 2000)

The EC Treaty makes no provision for a State in the euro area to leave that area. Consequently, it contains
no provisions covering the possible repayment of reserves to the national Central Bank.

(2000/C 280 E/113) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2701/99

by Lord Inglewood (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(12 January 2000)

Subject: Legal action on British beef in the French market

Will the Commission expedite an action in the European Court of Justice in order to obtain an
interlocutory ruling which will enable British beef to re-enter the French market from which it has been
unlawfully excluded?

Answer given by Mr Byrne on behalf of the Commission

(16 February 2000)

The Commission has already opened the infringement procedure under Article 226 (ex Article 169) of the
EC Treaty against France and on 4 January 2000 brought the case before the Court of justice (case
reference No C-1/00).

The Commission decided not to lodge an application for interim measures with the Court. A number of
very stringent conditions have to be fulfilled for the successful pursuit of such an application. Taking
account, in particular, of the caselaw of Court of justice in past cases involving the issue of interim
measures, especially in relation to public health, the Commission reached the conclusion that there was
little likelihood of the Court ordering such measures in the present case.