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Brussels, 26 September 2003

The EU should be actively involved in issues regarding navigation on the Rhine and the Danube

The Commission has asked the Council to authorise it to negotiate the accession of the European Union to the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine (CCNR) and the Danube Commission. This would enable to EU to improve preparations for enlargement and to be actively involved in these important international organisations in the field of inland waterways.

The Commission proposes that the Community should become a full member of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine (CCNR) and the Danube Commission. As stated in the White Paper on transport policy1, the forthcoming enlargement of the EU will increase difficulties relating to the status of the Community in intergovernmental organisations responsible for navigation on the Rhine and the Danube.

The CCNR is responsible for drawing up the rules governing shipping on the Rhine and its tributaries, i.e. 70% of European tonnage. The EU has endeavoured to incorporate these rules in Community legislation but the coexistence of two separate legal systems poses serious problems concerning the issue of certificates, protection of crews and gaseous emissions. These difficulties are likely to get worse with enlargement given that the six acceding countries connected to the Community's network of inland waterways are not members of the CCNR. If the EU does not become a member of the CCNR, these new Member States will not be able to have certificates issued to navigate on the Rhine but will be authorised to navigate on all other waterways such as the Danube, the Oder or the Elbe, and yet all these waterways will be interlinked on Community territory ...

In the case of the Danube, several acceding countries are already members of the Danube Commission. Their accession to the EU will therefore fragment the Danube into Community sections and non-Community sections (on the territory of third countries). Community membership of the Danube Commission is therefore the only way of maintaining consistency in the rules that apply over the Danube waterway as a whole.

The request for membership transmitted to the Council, however, does not mean that accession will be immediate. In order for the European Union to become a member, the conventions establishing these organisations will have to be amended - the Revised Convention for the Navigation on the Rhine for the CCNR and the Belgrade Convention for the Danube Commission. Whilst these negotiations are taking place, the Commission intends to continue and step up cooperation with these two navigation organisations.

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