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Brussels, 5 March 2003

Inland waterways: European Commission signs cooperation agreement with Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine

On 3 March 2003 the European Commission and the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine (CCNR) signed an agreement designed to renew and strengthen the pragmatic cooperation between the two organisations. They are thereby contributing towards the establishment of a framework for promoting and developing inland waterway transport in Europe. François Lamoureux, the Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy and Transport and Jean-Marie Woehrling, the Secretary-General of the CCNR, signed on behalf of their respective organisations.

The Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine (CCNR) is the oldest intergovernmental organisation in the world. It was set up by the 1868 Mannheim Convention, and has the task of guaranteeing freedom of navigation on the Rhine and promoting the prosperity of navigation on the Rhine, while guaranteeing a high level of safety of navigation on the Rhine. The CCNR is made up of Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

It adopts binding regulations such as those on the construction of vessels and their equipment, the composition of crews, and the conditions for the issue of boatmasters' certificates for vessels operating on the Rhine.

With a view to the development of a genuine Community policy with regard to inland waterway transport, as announced in the European Transport Policy White Paper, and in view of the accession to the EU of several states with major inland waterway sectors, increased cooperation is needed between the two organisations in order to achieve greater harmonisation between the Community rules and the Rhine rules. The new agreement will provide an appropriate framework for this cooperation. It will replace the exchanges of letters which have governed cooperation between the CCNR and the Commission since the 1960s, the latest exchange of letters dating back to 1987.

The two organisations have common interests in the field of inland waterway transport and wish to promote the unification of the inland waterway market. To this end, they will endeavour to ensure effective coordination between the Community rules and the Rhine rules. The agreement provides for an information exchange procedure. Representatives of each of the organisations will be present at meetings of mutual interest concerning inland waterway transport organised by one or other of the parties; The agreement also provides for the holding, at least twice a year, of coordination meetings between the representatives of the two organisations.

A first coordination meeting was held immediately following signature of the agreement between François Lamoureux and Jean-Marie Woehrling. They discussed such diverse matters as the impact of the enlargement of the EU on the inland waterway transport market, the recognition of Community certificates on the Rhine and the Commission's intention of proposing Community accession to the CCNR. This will provide a solution to the existence of two separate legal systems: one set of rules for the Rhine and a set of Community rules for the other inland waterways.

The Inland Waterways Observatory website contains information concerning Community policy relating to inland waterway transport:

Information on the activities of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine can be found on its website:

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