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C 161 E/72 Official Journal of the European Union EN 10.7.


 From the information provided in the written question it is not clear in which of the two Member
States mentioned the person concerned has encountered the described problems. The
Commission, therefore, suggests that the Honourable Member or the concerned citizen provide
additional information direct to the services of Directorate General Employment and Social
Affairs. On the basis of that information the Commission will evaluate if further investigations
will be undertaken.

(1) Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71 of the Council of 14 June 1971 on the application of social security schemes to
employed persons and their families moving within the Community, OJ L 149, 5.7.1971.
(2) Council Directive 98/49/EC of 29 June 1998 on safeguarding the supplementary pension rights of employed and
self-employed persons moving within the Community, OJ L 209, 25.7.1998.
(3) Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68 of the Council of 15 October 1968 on freedom of movement for workers within the
Community, OJ L 257, 19.10.1968.

(2003/C 161 E/077) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3191/02

by Bart Staes (Verts/ALE) to the Commission

(8 November 2002)

Subject: Investigation into a cartel of plasterboard manufacturers

In his reply to question E-0929/02 (1), Commissioner Monti repeats virtually verbatim the text of MEMO/
01/149. Very recently, the Belgian construction materials manufacturer Etex announced that it was selling
its 52,94 % holding in Gyproc Benelux NV to the British company BPB. The latter already held 46,1 % of
the shares. At the same time it was announced that British Plasterboard intended to sell its shares in Polish
and German branches of Gyproc to the French company Lafarge. Although the Commission is not
officially prepared to divulge their names, the four companies were named in articles in the press in April
2001 in connection with a cartel investigation by the Commission.

Is the Commission aware of these by no means insignificant changes in the plasterboard industry, and does
it consider them to be in accordance with economic legislation within the EU?

Has the formal hearing referred to in MEMO/01/149 and the answer to question E-0929/02 already taken
place? If so, can the Commission provide a progress report on the investigation?

(1) OJ C 28 E, 6.2.2003, p. 59.

Answer given by Mr Monti on behalf of the Commission

(7 January 2003)

To date, the Commission has not been informed  formally or informally  of any of the transactions
referred to in the Honourable Member’s question.

As regards the investigation into the companies mentioned by the Honourable Member, the Commission
adopted on 27 November 2002 a decision imposing fines of EUR 249,6 million on Lafarge SA,
EUR 138,6 million on BPB plc, EUR 85,8 million on Gebrüder Knauf Westdeutsche Gipswerke KG and
EUR 4,32 million on Gyproc Benelux SA/NV, making a total of EUR 478,32 million (1). Following its in-
depth investigation, the Commission concluded that between 1992 and 1998 these companies had taken
part in a cartel on the plasterboard markets in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the Benelux
countries, whereby they had agreed to restrict competition on these markets in line with their interests,
exchanged information on sales volumes and informed one another of price increases on the German and
UK markets. Lafarge, BPB and Knauf were involved in the cartel from 1992 to 1998 and were joined in
10.7.2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 161 E/73

1996 by Gyproc Benelux. Their complex and long-term agreement constituted by its nature a very serious
infringement of Article 81 of the EC Treaty, lasting as it did more than six and a half years in total, hence
the heavy fines. The fines on Lafarge and BPB were particularly large owing to the aggravating
circumstance of this being their second infringement of Article 81. Only BPB and Gyproc cooperated with
the Commission.

(1) IP/02/1744.

(2003/C 161 E/078) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3205/02

by Kathleen Van Brempt (PSE) to the Commission

(11 November 2002)

Subject: Computer viruses

Firms and private individuals are experiencing more and more frequent damage as a result of computer

Can the Commission say how many computer viruses there are each month in the EU? Can it provide data
for the last two years to show the trend?

How many computer viruses occur each month in Belgium? Can the Commission provide data for the last
two years to show the trend?

Is this a growing problem?

What is the amount of economic damage caused by computer viruses?

What measures is the Commission taking to tackle the problem?

Answer given by Mr Liikanen on behalf of the Commission

(5 February 2003)

Electronic communication networks and information systems are now an essential part of the daily lives of
European citizens and are fundamental to the success of the Community economy. Networks and
information systems are converging and are becoming increasingly interconnected. Despite the many
benefits of these developments, these infrastructures have their own vulnerabilities and offer new
opportunities for criminal conduct and ‘digital vandalism.’ The Commission is very concerned about the
increasing prevalence of viruses and other malicious code.

The Commission does not gather statistics on the precise number of viruses and other malicious code that
are released and does not investigate the amount of damages caused. There are various reports publicly
available that give diverging estimations. The site lists a number of
sites that provide statistics on viruses and damages. On most counts, there are well over 70 000 viruses
around and the number is growing exponentially. In itself, these figures are not that meaningful. The
damages caused by a virus depend on numerous factors, including the speed with which it spreads, the
ease with which it is detected by anti-virus protection measures, and the harm it causes on computers. The
Commission believes that there are no reliable figures available on the amount of damages caused by
viruses. Most companies and individuals do not report the number of incidents of successful virus attacks
or the amount of damages, and in case damages are reported the methods of calculation vary widely and
the accuracy is generally not checked.

Nevertheless, it is clear that viruses form an important and growing problem and the Commission has
addressed the issue of malicious code in a number of Communications and initiatives. In January 2001, the
Commission issued a comprehensive policy statement on cybersecurity and cybercrime, the Communi-
cation ‘Creating a safer information society by improving the security of information infrastructures and
combating computer-related crime’ (1). In June 2001, the Commission issued the Communication ‘Network