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Accession to the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF)

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This is to recommend to the Council to authorise the Commission to negotiate an agreement setting out the conditions for Community accession to the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail.

ACT

Recommendation for a Council Decision authorising the Commission to negotiate the conditions for Community accession to the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) of 9 May 1980, as amended by the Vilnius Protocol of 3 June 1999 [COM(2002) 24 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The entry into force in 1985 of the 1980 Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) marked the birth of the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail, known today as OTIF.
This Convention was signed in Bern and amended by the Vilnius Protocol in 1999. The Protocol is unlikely to enter into force before 2004, according to estimates of the ratification process.
The aim is to establish a system of uniform law applicable to the carriage of passengers, baggage and freight in direct international traffic between Member States.

OTIF currently comprises 41 countries:

  • all European states excluding the successor states of the former Soviet Union (except Lithuania and Latvia);
  • four states in the Middle East (Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Syria);
  • three states in North Africa (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia).

The headquarters of the organisation are in Bern and its constituent bodies are: the general assembly, the administrative and financial committee, the revision committee, the committee of experts for the carriage of dangerous goods and the central office for international carriage by rail.

The main tasks of OTIF concern:

  • international rail transport law (passenger and freight traffic);
  • carriage of dangerous goods;
  • contracts for the use of vehicles ;
  • contracts for the use of railway infrastructure;
  • validation of technical standards and adoption of uniform technical specifications for railway equipment;
  • removal of obstacles to the crossing of frontiers in international rail transport;
  • participation in the preparation of other international conventions concerning rail transport.

Accession to the Convention is open to regional economic integration organisations such as the European Community. In this context, the issue of membership was raised when the directive on the interoperability of the rail system was presented.

Furthermore, the new proposals on rail transport directly concern the areas covered by the Vilnius Protocol, in particular passengers rights, obligations of freight operators and interoperability.

During the negotiations, the Commission will in particular have to:

  • ensure that, in the areas where competence lies with the Community, it has the same number of votes as all its Member States together;
  • declare that the uniform rules on the validation of technical standards and the approval of railway equipment used in international transport will not apply where these areas are already covered by Community legislation;
  • reserve the right not to apply certain provisions of the other Appendices to the Protocol;
  • stipulate that the deconnection clause, under which countries' obligations as EU Member States take precedence over those contracted by them in COTIF, also applies to the European Community as a member.

RELATED ACTS

Proposal for a Council Decision on the conclusion by the European Community of the Agreement on the Accession of the European Community to the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) of 9 May 1980, as amended by the Vilnius Protocol of 3 June 1999 [COM(2003) 696 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The accession of the Community to COTIF should promote the development of rail transport throughout Europe, through improved technical and administrative interoperability of rail systems, and help rebalance the roles of the different modes of transport in favour of rail.

Last updated: 21.05.2007
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