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C 110 E/8 Official Journal of the European Union EN 8.5.


Through its Education Sector Strategic Plan, which forms the basis for the planning and financing of the
education services, the Ministry of Education is committed to address both the issue of disabled school
children and recruitment of disabled persons as Ministry staff.

Children, particularly the poorest amongst them, are a natural target group for Commission health
interventions in Asia, for example in India, where Commission supports the Health and Family Welfare
Programme. As far as children with disabilities are concerned, the Commission concentrates on prevention
through supporting immunisation, e.g. EPI (Expanded Programme of Immunisation) Programmes in
Bangladesh) and, more specifically, polio eradication programmes.

The rights of disabled people in Cambodia have been of particular concern to the Commission. The
amputation prevalence rate in Cambodia is among the highest in the world (1 in 236 persons). Although
the number of accidents decreases, landmines and unexploded ordnance continue to pose a major threat to
the population, in particular in poor and remote areas.

In terms of prevention, the Commission has funded a large number of de-mining operations. It has also
supported the institutional strengthening of the national authorities in charge of the mine action sector.
Further support is scheduled in the National Indicative Programme 2002-2004.

The Commission is also actively supporting the work of non-governmental organisations, such as
Handicap International, which are directly involved with the physical and socio-economic rehabilitation of
persons with disabilities, with strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Social Affairs and other
organisations to provide services to people with disabilities.

A large number of programmes funded by the Commission also support the rehabilitation and
development of the public health services, thereby contributing to the prevention and treatment of various
forms of disabilities.

The Commission will continue to fund the work of organisations that support the disabled with a focus on
capacity building and organisational development of southern organisations. The focus will be to increase
their input into development programming, to raise their profile, reduce stigma and increase awareness.
The involvement of disabled people in all phases of any programme designed to benefit them will be

The Commission will circulate a guidance note to all country offices on disability and how to best
incorporate the needs of the disabled into future programming.

(2003/C 110 E/007) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1029/02

by Anna Karamanou (PSE) to the Commission

(15 April 2002)

Subject: Tragic death of 14 girls in Saudi Arabia

The newspaper, Arab News; and Amnesty International report that 14 girls lost their lives and dozens of
others were injured in a fire at their school in Mecca on 11 March 2002 when the religious police
(Muttawah) prevented them from fleeing the fire because they were not wearing headscarves and no male
relatives were present to collect them. Furthermore, the religious police prevented rescue teams from
entering the school as men are not allowed to mix with women. This tragic event is a stark illustration of
the appalling effects of gender discrimination on human life. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is a party to the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Will the Commission exert pressure on the government of Saudi Arabia to launch an investigation as a
matter of urgency into these tragic deaths and bring those responsible to justice to prevent similar
occurrences in the future? Will the Commission make representations to the Saudi Government to put an
end to the policies and practices which devalue the lives of women and perpetuate discrimination against
8.5.2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 110 E/9

Answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

(21 May 2002)

As the Commission does not yet have a Delegation in Riyadh, it has learned about the tragic death of the
fourteen girls in Saudi Arabia mainly through the media. Obviously, if the reports about the circumstances
are correct, this is totally unacceptable and unforgivable. The Commission will raise the matter at the
Middle East and Gulf (Comem) working group in the Council and ask Member States for further

The human rights situation, including gender discrimination, in Saudi Arabia is of serious concern to the
Commission. It regularly raises these matters within the framework of the yearly meetings of the Union/
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Joint Council. Furthermore, there will be a human rights clause in the
Free Trade Agreement with the GCC, which is currently being negotiated.

The Commission is planning to open a Delegation in Riyadh towards the end of 2002. This presence on
the ground will be an important development in our bilateral relations, enabling us not only to strengthen
our human rights dialogue with the Government of Saudi Arabia, but also to take up certain, individual

The Commission wishes to assure the Honourable Member that it will continue its efforts to improve the
human rights situation, including gender discrimination, in Saudi Arabia.

(2003/C 110 E/008) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1066/02

by Glyn Ford (PSE) to the Commission

(17 April 2002)

Subject: Retaliatory measures against the USA

Is the Commission convinced that, in the interest of improved security, it is necessary to include on travel
documents biometric data such as fingerprints, retinal patterns, etc?

If so, what steps are being taken to incorporate such data into EU passports?

If not, what retaliatory measures does it plan to take against the US authorities for their proposed
abandonment of the US visa waiver programme for countries whose passports do not meet the above
requirements, as it will prove to be a non-tariff barrier impeding free movement of EU citizens to the
United States when no similar restrictions will apply to the movement of US citizens into the EU?

(2003/C 110 E/009) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1067/02

by Glyn Ford (PSE) to the Commission

(17 April 2002)

Subject: Amendments to US immigration regulations and the potential ending of the visa waiver scheme
for EU citizens

In view of the likely changes to US immigration regulations which, from the end of 2003, will require
passports to include biometric data such as fingerprints and retinal patterns, etc. for participation in the
visa waiver scheme, can the Commission estimate the likely impact of the ending of this scheme for EU
citizens in the absence of any amendments to EU passport regulations, in terms of the full costs of
obtaining visas and the likely impact on the volume of travel with respect to airlines, tourist operators and
other businesses?