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2000 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 374 E/141

(2000/C 374 E/166) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0714/00
by Glyn Ford (PSE) to the Commission
(17 March 2000)

Subject: National bankers and ethnic entrepreneurs

Has the Commission, in its roundtables with national bankers, raised the issue of discrimination against
ethnic entrepreneurs? If not, will it do so in future?

Answer given by Mr Liikanen on behalf of the Commission
(18 April 2000)

The issue of discrimination against ethnic minorities in the area of finance was touched on in both the 2nd
and 3rd Round tables of bankers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), since entrepreneurs from
ethnic minorities were identified as being among the more vulnerable groups that encountered difficulties
as regards access to finance. The Round table of bankers and SMEs is an initiative of the Commission to
improve the relationship between banks and SMEs.

The 3rd Round table brought together European SME organisations and representatives from the European
banking (saving, cooperative, commercial banks), venture capital and mutual guarantee associations and
several public SME development agencies of the Member States. The final report of the 2nd Round table
was adopted early in 1997 and the final report of the 3rd Round table will be adopted in May or in June

Some of the participating bankers seemed to feel that lending to such entrepreneurs meant taking on
higher than average risk and often was not profitable, which translated into additional caution when
assessing requests for loans. However, they continued to offer micro-loans to business creators in order to
facilitate the integration of ethnic minorities into society, especially when part of the risk was taken on by
public programmes.

In the 2nd Round table, one of the case studies highlighted in the final report as a best practice was that of
Mama Cash in the Netherlands, an organisation that provides advice and guarantees to women (especially
immigrant women from ethnic minorities) wishing to set up businesses, who have been refused credit by
the banking sector. The initiative was considered to be especially interesting because it was successful, self-
sufficient and did not rely on public funding.

The draft final report of the 3rd Round table also looks at the ethnic minority issue, highlighting various
initiatives taken by British banks in order to better serve their customers from ethnic minorities.

The Commission will examine thoroughly the recommendations of the Round table on better access to
micro-loans. In the meantime, the Commission recalls that, in its proposal for a directive on equal
treatment irrespective of racial and ethnic origin of 25 November 1999 (1), discrimination on grounds of
racial or ethnic origin in access to services is expressly forbidden. The Commission has called on the
Council and the Parliament to accelerate their handling of this proposal in order to secure its early

A copy of the final report of the 2nd Round table is sent direct to the Honourable Member and
Parliament’s Secretariat.

(1) COM(1999) 566 final.

(2000/C 374 E/167) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0723/00
by Roberto Bigliardo (TDI) to the Commission
(17 March 2000)

Subject: Violation of directives by insurance companies in Italy

Is the Commission aware that Italian insurance companies refuse to insure the vehicles of Italian citizens in
southern Italy, particularly in Campania and Puglia, even though motor vehicle insurance is compulsory
C 374 E/142 Official Journal of the European Communities EN 28.12.2000

under Italian law? For years, those companies have penalised citizens from southern Italy, charging higher
insurance premiums in the above areas on the grounds that a large number of accidents occur in that part
of Italy. This attitude leads to unequal treatment amongst Italian citizens, violates Community directives
and makes it impossible for people to comply with the legal requirement that they obtain insurance.

Would the Commission not agree that a directive is required in order to put an end of such unequal
treatment amongst Italian citizens and, at the same time, oblige companies operating in Italy to ensure
southern Italian drivers?

Answer given by Mr Bolkestein on behalf the Commission

(7 April 2000)

The Commission was not aware of the facts mentioned by the Honourable Member. It would point out
that the third non-life insurance directive 92/49/EEC (1) introduced, in the case of motor vehicle insurance,
a single authorisation and prudential and financial control system operated by the Member State in which
the company has its head office. The taking up and pursuit of the business of insurance are subject to the
granting of a single administrative authorisation by the authorities of that Member State. The conditions
and scales of premiums no longer require the prior approval of the supervisory authorities of the home
Member State, whose role is confined to monitoring forecasts of premiums and other financial resources
intended to cover the company’s commitments and solvency margin.

Consequently, in the specific case of Italian companies with their head office in Italy, these companies fall
entirely under the financial supervision of the Italian authorities. In other words, the compatibility of
Italian insurance companies’ policies as regards premiums, which are designed to create technical
provisions sufficient to cover their contractual commitments, should be considered in the light of the
provisions of domestic Italian law and is the sole responsibility of the Italian supervisory authority.

Account must also be taken of the fact that companies fix their rates according to, among other things, the
average frequency of accidents. According to their assessment of the risk, they are free to decide to modify
their offer or even to leave certain areas of the national markets to their competitors.

For the rest, it is for the national authorities to provide for the appropriate mechanisms to ensure that
policyholders can comply with their obligation to take out compulsory third-party insurance.

The Commission is consequently unable to intervene in an area which falls within the responsibility of the
competent Italian authorities as regards monitoring and the commercial policy of companies.

(1) OJ L 228, 11.8.1992.

(2000/C 374 E/168) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0724/00
by Joaquim Miranda (GUE/NGL) to the Council

(14 March 2000)

Subject: Support of the peace process in Djibouti

A framework agreement designed to bring peace to Djibouti was signed in Paris on 7 February 2000 by
the country’s government and by the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD).

The Council Presidency has since welcomed the suspension of hostilities between government and rebel

In what ways is the Council intending to encourage and support the implementation of the agreement?