Cohesion and transport
This Communication aims to develop an efficient and sustainable European transport system taking account of economic development prospects at regional level, the enlargement of the Union to include new States and the importance of public transport.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 14 January 1999: "Cohesion and Transport" [COM (1998) 806 final- Not published in the Official Journal].
Transport policy plays a major role in strengthening the economic and social cohesion of the European Union. Firstly, it helps reduce regional disparities, particularly by improving access to island and peripheral regions. It also has a beneficial effect on employment, by encouraging investment in transport infrastructure and assisting workers' mobility.
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund have done much to help finance transport infrastructure, notably in regions where development is lagging behind (the so-called 'Objective 1' regions) and the most remote regions. For the period 1994-99, the ERDF has earmarked EUR 13.7 billion for the Objective 1 regions, of which 70% for roads and motorways and 16% for railways. Moreover, one half of the Cohesion Fund's resources are given over to transport infrastructure, and in particular the trans-European networks (TENs). The European Investment Bank (EIB), whose activity is geared towards regional development, also helps through loans to fund transport infrastructure.
Transport is a key element in the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP), which is developing an integrated and common approach to spatial planning at European level. To ensure coherent development of the European territory, it seems essential to improve access to infrastructure by removing technical obstacles linked to the national transport systems and supporting the development of the weakest regions.
Development of the TENs is contributing to economic and social cohesion. The requirements of the peripheral regions have been taken into account in this development, and the emphasis placed on airports on islands and in remote areas. The next step is to enhance the role of ports so as to assist the integration of shipping into a global network. It is also necessary, in the peripheral regions, to undertake complementary investment in secondary networks, in order that those regions may gain maximum benefit from the TENs.
Public transport, both local and regional, helps in many ways to combat social exclusion. For one thing, it is a prerequisite for the functioning of the labour market and for economic development. It reduces the isolation of outlying residential districts and rural areas. In addition, it contributes towards a better quality of life, particularly in terms of the environment (air quality, reduced noise pollution).
However, since the liberalisation of transport services could result in the under-provision of services in sparsely populated or remote regions, which would be detrimental to cohesion, care must be taken to see that transport services are maintained, notably by means of public service contracts.
Other aspects of transport policy are also being studied with an eye to economic and social cohesion. These are:
- charging schemes, which should include marginal social costs such as environmental impact and the cost of congestion;
- intermodal transport, which should be developed with due regard to inland and sea ports;
- the method of financing, with increased involvement of the private sector.
Integration of the environment into the formulation of other Union policies has become essential. This is particularly true for transport, which is a major polluter. 25% of carbon dioxide emissions in the EU come from transport. In the interests of sustainable development, it would therefore appear necessary to make the best possible use of existing capacity and to encourage alternatives to road transport.
With a view to the Union's enlargement, the trans-European network needs to develop beyond Community territory. At the third pan-European transport conference in Helsinki, ten priority transport corridors were selected to link East with West. In addition, the pre-accession structural instrument (ISPA) is concentrating resources on infrastructure projects, notably in the field of transport.
In view of all the above, the way forward over the next few years is as follows:
- it will be important firstly to maximise the effectiveness of the Community's contribution so as to enhance competitiveness and create jobs. To this end, projects financed through the Structural Funds will be selected according to their impact on growth, competitiveness, the environment and the creation of permanent jobs. In addition, investment will be encouraged in rail and maritime transport, and in combined and public transport. Private finance will be encouraged, and coordination tightened between the Community's budgetary instruments;
- the TENs will then have to be implemented, with particular emphasis on peripheral regions, but also on the applicant countries, whose successful integration will depend on the development and modernisation of their transport networks;
- lastly, emphasis will be placed on the promotion of accessible, environment-friendly transport services. This will be possible through, inter alia, the recognition and organisation of public transport.