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2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 137 E/165

If the company is privatised not by stock-exchange flotation but by a trade sale, the following conditions
must be observed if it is to be assumed, without further examination, that no aid is involved:

 a competitive tender must be held that is open to all comers, transparent and not conditional on the
performance of other acts such as the acquisition of assets other than those bid for or the continued
operation of certain businesses;

 the company must be sold to the highest bidder; and

 bidders must be given enough time and information to carry out a proper valuation of the assets as
the basis for their bid.

In all cases, there must be no discrimination based on the nationality of prospective buyers of the shares or
assets concerned.

Some candidate countries have experienced important difficulties linked to the transparency of the
privatisation processes. The Commission has underlined them in its Regular Reports on the progress made
by the candidate countries on their way towards accession.

Clearly, there can be no guarantees that problems will not arise with the implementation of pre-accession
tools. But in case of fraud, signs of irregularity or non-respect of the processes and rules, the Commission
asserts that adequate actions will be undertaken, including, if necessary, the total refund of the Community

(2003/C 137 E/189) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3157/02

by Yasmine Boudjenah (GUE/NGL) to the Commission

(5 November 2002)

Subject: The effects of Agent Orange on health and the environment in Vietnam

Between 1962 and 1970 the American army sprayed thousands of litres of a defoliant known as Agent
Orange, containing dioxin in particular. Apart from major environmental damage, thousands of people are
still affected by serious health problems such as lymphomas, cancers, Hodgkin’s disease and diabetes as a
result of their exposure to dioxin.

In March 2002 a conference in Hanoi brought together epidemiologists, toxicologists and environmental
specialists. At the end of the conference the USA and Vietnam signed an agreement to set up a joint
research programme on the effects of Agent Orange on health and the environment.

Does the Commission not think that the European Union could participate in this research programme
and help to improve patient care?

Answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

(25 November 2002)

The Commission welcomes the agreement between Vietnam and the United States to establish a joint
research programme on the effects of Agent Orange on health and environment in Vietnam.

As already indicated in the Commission’s reply to written question E-2421/01 by Ms. Ludford (1),
assistance to persons affected by Agent Orange in Vietnam is mainly provided by the International
Federation of the Red Cross, working in partnership with the Vietnam Red Cross, through a designated
fund: ‘The Agent Orange Fund: Assistance and rehabilitation for disabled people’. This is a nation-wide
programme, aimed at providing community-based services. The programme is supported by the American,
German and Swiss national Red Cross societies. No request for assistance has been received by the
C 137 E/166 Official Journal of the European Union EN 12.6.2003

The Community-Vietnam bilateral co-operation programme is based on the strategy agreed with the
Government of Vietnam for the period 2002-2006, which aims to facilitate and accelerate the reduction of
poverty in a sustainable manner.

Under this strategy, Community-Vietnam co-operation will focus on two priority focal points:

 enhancement of human development, in particular through integrated rural development targeting

some of the poorest provinces, and through support in the education sector;

 integration of Vietnam into the international economy, by assisting further economic reform and
integration into international and regional economic structures.

Crosscutting themes include disaster preparedness, environmental protection, culture and education,
gender equality, and the promotion of human rights, and good governance. In the framework of the
agreed National Indicative Programme for 2002-2004, an indicative Community grant of EUR 101 million
has been earmarked to implement specified proposals.

The Commission’s overall aid budget in Asia is relatively limited. It is therefore determined to maximise its
impact and the strategic focus it has adopted in Vietnam has helped to do that. Projects agreed under the
1996-2000 co-operation strategy and currently under implementation include two large programmes in
the health sector and one in the environment sector. The Commission is always ready to consider other
issues that may be raised, including assistance for persons affected by Agent Orange. But it needs to ensure
that it retains a well-balanced and focussed approach.

In addition to the Community’s bilateral co-operation programme  Vietnam also qualifies for assistance
under the Commission’s horizontal programmes, including those concerned specifically with the
environment, as well as the Community Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development
and Demonstration Activities and the non-governmental organisations co-financing programme for
developing countries. The possibility of presenting proposals under the next calls for proposals under
these programmes could also be considered.

(1) OJ C 134 E, 6.6.2002.

(2003/C 137 E/190) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3158/02

by Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL) to the Commission

(5 November 2002)

Subject: Delay in taxation of foreign-owned savings accounts due to indecision as to whether to abolish
banking secrecy or to introduce taxation at source

1. Is the EU still negotiating with third countries such as Switzerland and Liechtenstein about the
implementation of the decision taken by the Ministers of Finance of the EU Member States in 2001 to
exchange information about the balances in the savings accounts of each other’s nationals on condition
that the third countries relevant to the management of savings had agreed to cooperate by the end of

2. Can the Commission provide any information about the statement by Commissioner Bolkestein
quoted in the Financial Times on 7 October 2002 to the effect that, while EU Member States are insisting
on firm agreements with third countries on the taxability of foreign savings by abolishing banking secrecy,
they may not themselves be genuinely interested in the successful completion of these negotiations because
this would involve abolishing banking secrecy in their own countries?

3. Do the pessimistic expectations referred to in paragraph 2 apply to Luxembourg, Austria and the
United Kingdom? Are there any other Member States which may consider that it would not be in their
own interests for an agreement to be reached?