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2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 137 E/159

At the Johannesburg Summit a ‘European water initiative’ was adopted. How does the Commission intend
to develop and implement this initiative? Is the Commission in a position to say whether additional
European funding will be made available over and above what has already been invested, and if so, under
which funding programmes and for which types of project?

Answer given by Mr Nielson on behalf of the Commission

(25 November 2002)

The Commission would refer the Honourable Member to the reply it gave to Oral Question H 696/02
during question time at Parliament’s October 2002 session (1) and adds the following elements of reply to
the specific questions raised:

 The figure of EUR 1,4 billion is an average of Union (Community and Member States) aid assistance in
the field of water. The figure is based on information received from Member States about allocations
for 2002, completed by information from Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development/
Development Assistance Committee (OECD/DAC) reports.

 For the Commission EUR 135 million are allocated to water in 2002 from the Community Budget and
the European Development Fund (EDF). The calculation does not include water-related activities
included under other sectoral headings, such as health, environment, rural and urban development,
as well as research programmes.

 An inventory is currently being carried out in the framework of the Union Water Initiative, which will
result in a more detailed presentation of Community and Member States’ bilateral projects in the water

(1) Written reply 22.10.2002.

(2003/C 137 E/182) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3124/02

by Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL) to the Commission

(30 October 2002)

Subject: Lack of standardisation of batteries and adapters for the supply of electric power for portable

A report in the Netherlands edition of the free daily newspaper ‘Metro’ on Monday 21 October 2002
comments that people can now take with them on journeys all of the equipment which at one time could
only be used at home, such as phones, digital video cameras, computers and printers, and that this weighs
no more than the old portable typewriters. However, the report also points out that each of these types of
equipment has its own combination of batteries and adapters for charging and for converting power from
the grid, and that this means that it is necessary to also carry a large number of relatively heavy devices in
order to operate such electrical equipment on journeys.

The author, Jack Nouws, expresses his surprise at the fact that standardisation has not yet been carried out
at EU level, asking how much money could be saved by laying down legal requirements for all mobile
phones to have the same type of adapter socket and for this same adapter socket also to be used for all
portable equipment, so that one charger is sufficient for all makes of equipment. He comments that
Members of the European Parliament travel a great deal, not just between Brussels and Strasbourg, and that
it is surprising that a proposal has not long since been put forward by a zealous official.

Aware of this,

1. Why, when the market for portable electrical equipment began to take off in the 1980s, was
standardisation of charging devices not carried out, not even between the different types and makes of
mobile phone?

2. What are the additional annual costs borne by individual consumers, organisations and companies in
the EU Member States for replacing, continuing to use simultaneously and carrying different devices
for charging and for converting electric power?
C 137 E/160 Official Journal of the European Union EN 12.6.2003

3. What steps have been taken to date to achieve standardisation, as compared with connectivity for
fixed equipment, and what has delayed or prevented the establishment of standardisation?

4. What further steps is the Commission considering adopting in order, finally, to swiftly introduce
standardisation at least at the EU level and, if possible, at world level, and to discourage the
production, import and sale within the EU of equipment deviating from the standard? When can these
measures be expected to lead to results?

Answer given by Mr Liikanen on behalf of the Commission

(8 January 2003)

The Honourable Member notes that batteries and chargers for state of the art portable equipment are not
always interchangeable. Users therefore carry a variety of chargers with them when travelling with portable

Although it would be convenient for a user to be able to charge all portable devices with a single charger,
there are a number of technical reasons as to why this has not yet been achieved.

Firstly, portable devices have different power requirements. Laptop computers for instance require a large
battery pack as they consume far more power than Personal Digital Assistants, GSMs or other hand-held
devices. They also operate on higher voltages. Therefore, in practice batteries for portable devices differ in
capacity, size and voltage.

Secondly, the technology for batteries and chargers is continuously developing. Since the 80’s the first
usable technology (Nickel Cadmium) has been replaced, firstly, by the nickel-metal-hydride battery,
and subsequently by the more powerful Lithium Ion technology. Users wish their batteries to be charged
quickly. The optimal method for doing so, however, differs between these technologies.

For these reasons the manufacturers provided their portable equipment with different plugs, sockets and
charging devices in order to ensure good operation.

Therefore, the Commission believes, at this point in time, that the current speed of technological
innovation very often prevents the creation of widely accepted European standards in this sector.

It is also important to remind to the Honourable Member that standards are voluntary and even if in
general standardisation has a positive effect on the economy, public authorities should leave the setting of
standards to the market and encourage the process when there is a clear need. For the time being the
Commission doesn’t feel that the lack of standardisation for battery chargers had a negative economic
effect on the rechargeable tools market.

Nevertheless, the Commission shares the concerns on the lack of standardisation of chargers for mobile
phones. A first investigation has demonstrated, that connectors of mobile phones of the various
manufacturers differ, whereas some manufacturers even regularly change the interfaces between versions
of their own products. These interfaces are also used for connecting other peripheral devices, which in
principle could justify changes. However, such changes do not always seem to be technically justified. As a
result chargers technically suited for charging the batteries of certain mobile phones, are not used as they
have a wrong connector. This also applies to other add-ons (hands free sets, keyboards, etc.).

The Commission intends to raise this matter with industry so as to assess, why industry has not
harmonised these interfaces on a voluntary basis and to investigate what can be done to improve the
situation e.g. through standardisation. It, however, remains reluctant to mandate the use of standards for
the reasons mentioned before.