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C 187/44 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 16. 6.

98

Answer given by Mr Kinnock on behalf of the Commission


(20 January 1998)

The Commission first put a proposal for a Council Directive to set the maximum Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
for vehicle drivers at 0.50 milligram per millilitre in 1988 (1) and it was approved by the Parliament in May 1989.
At that time, however, and for most of the period since, support for such a proposal from Member States has not
been broad enough to ensure progress with such Community legislation.

Recent changes in policy by some Member States have, however, encouraged the Commission to reopen the
debate on the permitted maximum BAC for drivers, and last October, the Transport Council was urged to
reconsider the issue. Further efforts are now being made against the background of the strategy for improving
road safety and reducing road accidents and casualties that was set out in the Commission’s communication on
that subject in April 1997.

The Commission shares the opinion expressed by the Honourable Member that, to maximise the safety gains,
legislation on drink driving needs to be accompanied by effective measures of enforcement, most of which fall
under the legal responsibility of Member States.

(1) OJ C 25, 31.1.1989.

(98/C 187/72) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3711/97


by José Barros Moura (PSE) to the Commission
(19 November 1997)

Subject: School transport by bus in the EU

A large number of accidents occur in all the EU Member States involving school buses, in most cases because the
vehicles are not up to proper safety standards.

The use of school buses with a reasonably harmonized appearance (colour, logo, etc), conforming to rigorous
safety standards and thus identified with higher safety levels for primary and secondary schoolchildren, could be
of positive symbolic value for the EU.

Can the Commission state:


1. whether it possesses information on Member States’ practice in this field, and whether special requirements
exist concerning safety checks and certification for vehicles of this type;
2. whether, in the context of the European educational dimension and the rules governing road transport and
safety at work, the possibility could not be studied of turning school transport into a European symbol of
safety for children and access to education?

Answer given by Mr Kinnock on behalf of the Commission


(26 January 1998)

The Commission is naturally concerned by any accidents involving school buses but cannot on the basis of the
available facts, accept the Honourable Member’s assertions that ‘A large number of accidents occur in all the
Member States involving school buses’ and that accidents involving school buses are ‘in most cases because the
vehicles are not up to proper safety standards’.

Of the 45 000 road fatalities that occur annually in the European Union less than one percent relate to any form of
bus or coach and school transport accounts for a small fraction of all bus and coach journeys. Meanwhile, the
evidence is that the overwhelming majority of all road accidents result from human error rather than because of
defective standards.

In response to the Honourable Member’s two specific questions. The Commission is not aware of any Member
State requiring harmonised appearance and higher safety levels for vehicles used in school transport. Council
Directive 96/96/EC (1) lays down requirements for roadworthiness tests on all motor vehicles, including school
buses and consequently provides the type of safety check and certification mentioned by the Honourable
Member.
16. 6. 98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 187/45

Whilst uniquely identifiable vehicles built to special safety standards for school transport (as in the United States)
could provide further safety benefits, the Commission notes that no Member State has yet chosen to take this
approach in national legislation. Such an approach would clearly necessitate the creation of two fleets of buses −
one exclusively for school transport and one for other purposes and may not be regarded as practical or
cost-effective. The Commission will, in any event, continue to promote legislative and other changes in the effort
to try to ensure high safety standards for all buses and coaches, regardless of their use.

(1) OJ L 46, 17.2.1997.

(98/C 187/73) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3716/97


by Heidi Hautala (V) to the Council
(19 November 1997)

Subject: Child kidnappings

From time to time, as a result of divorce or marriage breakdown, children are snatched in the EU Member States
and taken to countries with different cultures. It is made particularly difficult for a Member State’s authorities to
act when a child is taken to a country whose legislation places the power of decision over the child with its father
and his family.

There is little information available about child-snatching, and the EU Member States do not make use of each
others’ experience in order to get children back. Are child kidnappings monitored at Council level? How does the
Council monitor compliance with the Hague Convention? How is the child’s interest assessed where it is shown
that compliance with the provisions of the Hague Convention will do more harm than good to the child?

Answer
(23 March 1998)

1. As it has indicated on a number of occasions, the Council attaches particular importance to matters
concerning the protection of children. A number of measures have been adopted with a view to their protection.

As regards the question put by the Honourable Member, the Council would point out that all the Member States
have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in New York on
20 November 1989. In particular, Article 11 of the Convention provides that States Parties shall take measures to
combat the illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad.

In this connection it should be noted that practically all the Member States have ratified the Convention of The
Hague of 25 October 1980 on the civil aspects of the international abduction of children and all the Member
States have ratified the European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody
of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children concluded in the Council of Europe in Luxembourg on
20 May 1980.

In addition, all the Member States took an active part in the preparation of the Convention of 19 October 1996
concluded at the Conference at The Hague on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and
Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children, which also
includes provisions on the kidnapping of children.

2. In order to follow up the progress of the ratification of those conventions by each Member State, Council
bodies regularly take stock of the situation.