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Brussels, 21 March 2007

Commission Communication: towards an integrated approach to trans-European transport, energy and telecommunications networks

One of the central pillars of the Commission's strategy on growth, employment and competitiveness in the European Union is better connection, integration and coordination of the development of European infrastructure, so on Commission President José Manuel Barroso's initiative Jacques Barrot has chaired a Steering Group, consisting of Viviane Reding, Danuta Hübner, Dalia Grybauskaité, Stavros Dimas, Joaquín Almunia and Andris Piebalgs, to develop an integrated approach to trans-European transport, energy and telecommunications networks. Having worked on this for a year, the group has now presented a communication which describes the state of play on each of the three trans-European networks and looks at possible synergies between the networks, ways of reconciling their development with respect for the environment, and improved methods of financing them.

According to Jacques Barrot, "The trans-European transport, energy and telecommunications networks each face much the same problems. Combining efforts to identify the obstacles and propose concrete and innovative solutions in this area will have a multiplier effect on the benefits for growth, economic competitiveness and respect for the environment." Danuta Hübner adds: "Speeding up the construction of the trans-European networks will make for better cohesion between the regions of the Union. To this end we have to develop synergies between the cohesion policy objectives and the priorities adopted for the trans-European networks."

One of the Commission's main concerns is to build the trans-European networks with an approach that is compatible with sustainable development. The completion of the trans-European transport network in particular will have a positive impact on the environment by reducing transport-generated CO2 emissions by 6.3 million tonnes a year by 2020. The priority transport projects favour those modes of transport that are least harmful to the environment, such as rail and the inland waterways. "By connecting up renewable energy sources we will be able to reduce the environmental impact of energy consumption. Also, each new infrastructure programme undergoes a strategic environmental analysis and has to comply with strict European legislation on noise, water, and protection of fauna and flora," says Stavros Dimas. "The Commission has worked out a very specific modus operandi which will enable us to resolve any logjams that may arise between the particular circumstances of each investment project and the need to comply with environmental legislation," Jacques Barrot points out.

An in-depth study has been done to analyse the synergies between the networks. The construction of combined infrastructures offers real possibilities of reducing their cost and their environmental impact. Synergies between telecommunications and transport networks, such as by putting telecommunications cables along a railway line, seem the most promising. Andris Piebalgs notes that "With the European Council's endorsement of this approach on 9 March and its stress on the importance of developing interconnection between the networks, it is now all the more crucial to ensure that we draw the maximum benefit from these synergies."

"The telecom sector has been a pioneer in the development of trans-European networks. However, trans-border markets have been very slow to emerge even in telecoms. Europe needs to create the right economic frameworks for cross-border competition and strengthen the internal market in order to achieve economies of scale by stimulating the much-needed trans-European markets and infrastructures in telecoms," stated EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding.

Joaquín Almunia says "To encourage and facilitate the financing of the trans-European networks, the Commission and the European Investment Bank have proposed developing a new European guarantee instrument which will reduce the risks associated with insufficient revenues during the first years of operation of a project," and Dalia Grybauskaité adds "This instrument would support Public-Private Partnerships, which have many benefits: better control of construction and operating costs, optimisation of risk management and improved compliance with deadlines."

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