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Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF)

In this agreement the European Union (EU), as a regional economic integration organisation, accedes to the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF).

ACT

Information relating to the entry into force of the Agreement between the European Union and the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail on the Accession of the European Union to the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) of 9 May 1980 , as amended by the Vilnius Protocol of 3 June 1999.

SUMMARY

The Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF) was established on 1 May 1985 following the 1980 Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF 1980). COTIF 1980 was subsequently amended by the Vilnius Protocol of 3 June 1999 (now COTIF 1999). OTIF currently has 46 member states from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and one associate member state (Jordan). The European Union (EU) acceded to this convention, as a regional economic integration organisation, with effect from 1 July 2011.

OTIF headquarters are based in Bern, Switzerland and the functioning of the organisation is ensured by the Secretary General, the General Assembly, the Administrative Committee, the Revision Committee, the Committee of Experts for the Carriage of Dangerous Goods, the Committee of Technical Experts, and the Rail Facilitation Committee.

The aim of OTIF is to promote, improve and facilitate international rail traffic, in particular by:

  • establishing and developing systems of uniform law in the contract of international carriage of passengers and goods in international rail traffic, in the contract of use of wagons as means of transport in international rail traffic, in the contract of use of infrastructure in international rail traffic, and the carriage of dangerous goods in international rail traffic;
  • contributing to the removal of certain obstacles to the crossing of frontiers in international rail traffic;
  • contributing to interoperability and technical harmonisation in the rail sector;
  • establishing a uniform procedure for the technical admission of railway material intended for use in international traffic;
  • monitoring the application of all the rules and recommendations established by OTIF.

The establishment and development of a common rail policy by the EU implies that EU member countries have relinquished to the EU their power to legislate on various rail transport matters which are covered by COTIF. According to Article 3(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Union has "exclusive competence for the conclusion of an international agreement when its conclusion…is necessary to enable the Union to exercise its internal competence, or in so far as its conclusion may affect common rules or alter their scope". The accession of the EU to COTIF is therefore essential to enable the EU to exercise its competence in international rail relations where its internal competence has been established. EU accession is also meant to safeguard legal security for other OTIF members entering into rail relations with EU countries, since the latter may no longer enjoy rights or assume obligations individually vis-à-vis third countries on matters where the EU as a whole is competent.

EU accession to COTIF will facilitate the development of a uniform legal system applicable to the international carriage of passengers and freight by rail across the 46 countries which are now members of OTIF. Accession is not only a legal obligation for the EU; it is also in the interest of the promotion of rail transport worldwide.

Last updated: 23.08.2011
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