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 Over 500 Million People Demand Freedom for Bulgarian Nurses

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Hans-Gert Poettering, born September 15, 1945 in Bersenbrueck, Lower Saxony, is a German conservative politician (CDU), and the President of the European Parliament since January 2007. He studied law, political sciences and history in the University of Bonn, the University of Geneva, the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva and at Columbia University in New York. He has been a member of the European Parliament since 1979. From 1984 to 1994 he was a chairman of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence. From 1994 to 1996, he chaired the EPP and EPP-ED working group on the Intergovernmental Conference 1994. In 1994, he also became vice-chairman of the EPP, and from 1999 to 2007 he was the chairman of the EPP-ED. He was the top candidate of the CDU in the 2004 European elections. He also is a member of the Executive Board of the CDU.

- Mr. Poettering, after the Libyan Court panel confirmed its rule on death penalty for the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor, you quolified this decision as "shocking and outrageous." What new initiatives will the European Parliament undertake within the framework of the campaign for their salvation?
- As you know, at the January plenary session of the European Parliament we adopted a resolution on the urgent situation regarding the Bulgarian and Palestinian medical personnel still being held in a Libyan prison. The Parliament strongly condemned the verdict of the Libyan Criminal Court and stressed that since January 1 the trail concerns five citizens of the European Union. Let me quote the resolution:" ... invites the competent Libyan authorities to take the necessary measures to review and quash the death sentence, and pave the way for an early resolution of the case on a humanitarian basis, thus meeting the necessary prerequisites for the continuation of the common policy of engagement with Libya."
It is clear that this is a very serious humanitarian case and one about which I am personally most concerned. I remain hopeful that there will be a decent humanitarian outcome. The Libyan legal processes have not yet been completed and the European Parliament will be monitoring closely the next stage in the courts. In my view, the death sentences, which have been pronounced, are completely unacceptable. A number of highly reputable international bodies including the International Council of Nurses and the World Medical Association submitted evidence to the Libyan courts, which was ignored.
In any event, in all circumstances the European Union is totally opposed to the death penalty. We just have adopted a resolution, which calls for a universal moratorium on the death penalty. This barbaric punishment is in total opposition to the fundamental values of the EU.

- You were among the first Western politicians who congratulated Bulgarians on their EU membership. How do you think would Bulgaria contribute to a stronger Europe?

- Bulgaria is a country with an ancient history and rich culture. The Bulgarian people have the experience of a communist regime and of a long and difficult way to make their own country a functioning democracy. The commitment of the Bulgarian people to our common European values, such as democracy, protection of human rights and rule of law, which have made the political transition in Bulgaria possible, are very important to all of us. Your experience is highly valuable for us.

- The EC monitoring report on the progress Bulgaria makes in attaining its goals is due in March. In terms of implementing the necessary reforms, which is the area that we should concentrate on? It is likely that the EC will trigger safeguard clauses if the development is slow or insufficient?

- Safeguard clauses were considered as a guarantee that the reform process will be completed also in those areas where the reform process had been not yet fully completed. Especially with regard to issues of internal security this was an important element of reassuring the citizens in other European countries that the accession of the two new member states will take place smoothly and according to the same conditions as for all other accession countries. It is the responsibility of the Bulgarian government to do its job properly as expected. From January 2007 Bulgaria should ensure the safety of the borders of the European Union.

- On January 16, MEPs elected you the next President of the European Parliament. Do you support the idea of enhancing the authority of the European Parliament for the progress of the EU institutional reforms?

- The European Parliament is a very unique institution. It is the only directly elected body of the European Union since the first EU-wide elections, which took place in 1979. That was also the year when I entered this Parliament. Since then this institution has evolved substantially. With each new treaty we gained competence and influence.
Today, the European Parliament co-decides with the Council on 75% of all legislation and on the EU budget. The European Parliament is the voice of 500 million citizens in 27 member states. Therefore more influence of the European Parliament means more influence of the citizens. However, our concern is better legislation and less bureaucracy in the interest of the people.
That is the principle I intend to follow as President of the Parliament in any discussions concerning institutional reforms.

- For Germany's six month EU presidency, Chancellor Angela Merkel chose the motto: "Europe -Succeeding Together." What are the ideas and policy objectives that you share and would like to see imlemented by the summer of 2007? Do you agree with her ideas of "revival" of the European Constitution?

- It is important that the substance of the Constitutional Treaty, in particular the reforms and the common values, are brought into political and legal reality. The European Union of 27 states needs reforms to guarantee its capacity to act. If we want a Europe of results, a clearer division of competences and a simplified procedure of decision-making by member states in the Council is needed.
The Member States will determine the fate of the constitution. I an glad that the current German presidency has decided to prioritize this issue. Although it is too early under the German Presidency to find a solution to the Constitutional Treaty, we hope that at the end of the Presidency the June Summit will be able to agree on a timetable and a mandate with a view that under the following presidencies it will be possible to come to a result before the European elections in 2009.

Slavka Bozukova, StandartNews

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