The EU and its neighbouring regions: A renewed approach to transport cooperation
The European Union (EU) is a major political and economic partner of countries in neighbouring regions. Strengthened cooperation in the transport sector can help neighbouring regions become economically stronger and politically more stable and will directly benefit citizens and businesses both in the EU and in neighbouring regions.
Communication of 7 July 2011 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament – The EU and its neighbouring regions: A renewed approach to transport cooperation [COM (2011) 415 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This communication sets out a renewed transport policy cooperation between the European Union (EU) and its neighbouring regions, following the 2007 Commission Communication on the extension of the major trans-European transport axes to the neighbouring countries which focused on infrastructure aspects. This communication outlines short (until 2013) and long term measures in all transport modes to link the EU transport system with that of its neighbours – both the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the enlargement countries.
The majority of ENP countries lie across the sea from the EU or at least a considerable distance away from EU capitals. Aviation therefore has a significant role in passenger transport. Short term actions proposed by the Commission in the aviation sector include:
- complete ongoing negotiations and extend negotiations for air services agreements to other neighbouring countries;
- continue to help neighbouring countries to modernise their air traffic management systems (SESAR) and join one of the European airspace blocks;
- help neighbouring countries to achieve compliance with EU and international aviation safety and security standards.
The Commission also proposed the following longer term actions in the aviation sector:
- consolidate aviation agreements with the eastern and southern ENP countries with the aim to complete the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA);
- extend aviation safety cooperation under European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to eastern and southern ENP countries;
- extension of the Single European Sky to include neighbouring countries.
Maritime and inland navigation
A quality competitive maritime transport with a good environmental, safety and security performance is in the common interest of both the EU and its neighbouring countries, which have regional seas in common. In this communication the Commission proposes the following short term actions:
- help neighbouring countries to improve their Flag State performance and comply with safety, security and social standards;
- extend the scope of European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to provide assistance to neighbouring countries;
- promote the SafeSeaNet and CleanSeaNet systems to neighbouring countries;
- work with neighbouring countries to simplify procedures for short sea shipping in line with the European Maritime Transport Space;
- help neighbouring countries to achieve EU and international standards in inland navigation;
- work towards the modernisation of the Danube Commission as part of the revised Belgrade Convention.
In the longer term, the Commission proposes to promote closer integration of the EU’s neighbouring countries to the “Blue Belt” of free maritime movement in and around Europe, intended to reduce administrative charges linked to EU maritime transport.
Road transport is important for trade with neighbouring countries which share a land border with the EU. However, administrative burdens at the border crossings remain an obstacle to an efficient trade flow between the EU and its eastern neighbours. The Commission therefore proposes the following short term actions to improve road transport cooperation with the EU’s neighbouring countries:
- assist the non-EU contracting parties of the UN Agreement on driving time and rest period rules in international road transport (AETR) in the deployment of digital tachographs;
- seek a mandate for the EU to become a contracting party to the AETR in order to bring its provisions into line with the EU’s social rules in the road transport sector;
- help neighbouring countries to increase their road safety;
- study the impact of gradual road market opening with selected neighbouring countries;
- improve customs cooperation with Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine to facilitate border crossings.
The Commission also proposes, in the longer term, to extend the scope of Interbus Agreement to include international regular carriage of passengers by coach and bus and enlarge the agreement to cover ENP countries.
The EU market for rail freight and international passenger services have been completely opened, enabling new competitors to enter the market. Rail freight could have a competitive advantage over other modes of transport, in particular on long Euro-Asian corridors, if the current physical and non-physical barriers could be removed, such as the lack of interoperable rail systems, insufficient technology, and inadequate cooperation on border crossings. The Commission therefore proposes the following short term actions in the rail sector:
- minimise technical barriers to trade, such as the difference between the gauges used in the EU and its neighbouring regions which slows down freight and passenger transport flows;
- promote the deployment of European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) in neighbouring countries to ensure interoperability and safety of railways networks;
- promote the participation of enlargement and neighbouring countries in the activities of the European Railway Agency (ERA).
In the longer term, this communication proposes the study and improvement of trans-shipment practices, and considers the possibility of an extension of the EU open rail market to ENP countries.
The Commission aims to improve and promote infrastructure connections by defining the networks, prioritising projects and mobilising funds. This would include, amongst various proposed actions, strengthening the Commission’s cooperation with the International Financial Institutions in the eastern and southern ENP and developing further maritime based connections through the Motorways of the Sea concept.
FRAMEWORK FOR IMPLEMENTING POLICY AND INFRASTRUCTURE COOPERATION
To lead both the policy cooperation and transport infrastructure planning, the Commission proposes to establish a Transport Panel under the Eastern Partnership which would set out a new approach for cooperating on all transport issues relating to the eastern neighbourhood countries. The Commission also proposes to sign the Transport Community Treaty with the Western Balkans, which would aim to establish an integrated market for infrastructure and land, inland waterways and maritime transport.