Hudghton (Greens/EFA) - Mr President, on behalf of my group, I, too, should like to add our condolences to the families who have lost loved ones in this tragedy. Our thoughts are very much with them at this particular time. As a Member who represents Scotland, I feel a particular sadness and concern too about these events. Although Scotland and Greece sit at the furthest edges of the European Union, we nevertheless share a common topography. Both our countries have many island communities around our shores and as such the people of Scotland's islands felt a particular sense of shock following the recent events in Greece. Our island communities depend on ferry services as an absolute lifeline. These ships provide transport for passengers and goods and ensure the sustainability of some of Europe's most remote and fragile communities. It is the duty of Member States to make sure that the owners and operators of ferries are aware of their responsibilities for the safe passage of people and goods.
We are fortunate in Scotland not to have directly suffered the type of tragedy to hit Greece but we are only too well aware that our waters are some of the most hazardous in Europe. We have many concerns about the forthcoming tendering process which is under way. I should like to ask the Commission for some assurance that in tendering for lifeline ferry services, or indeed any ferry services, safety is given its highest priority. In the cut-throat world of tendering, all too often companies can be pushed into cost-cutting measures and I would not like to see safety measures being sacrificed. It is simply not acceptable to the northern and western isles of Scotland, nor for the potential North Sea to European mainland crossing which I hope will be established in the not-too-distant future. Our citizens deserve the best of safeguards in sea transport. The trade unions who represent the men and women who work on ferries, as well as representatives of our seaboard communities, ought to be involved in discussions at the pre-tender stage, so that they can play a role in ensuring that safe practice is not sacrificed for the sake of profit.