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Brussels, 5th March 2008

Commission proposes a Transport Community with the Western Balkans and takes further steps in strengthening cooperation with neighbouring countries in the transport sector

The European Commission adopted today a package of measures aimed at improving transport connections between the European Union and its neighbours. It proposed a mandate in view to negotiate a Transport Community Treaty with the Western Balkans and reported on the good progress in the exploratory talks that followed the adoption of the "Guidelines for transport in Europe and neighbouring regions".

"Transport connections are key to connecting people and companies. This must be an integral part of our policies with regard to our neighbours. I am particularly pleased that following our exploratory talks with the Western Balkan countries, we can now propose to establish a transport community, which will help to interconnect infrastructures and align rules for safety, environment and services. Such transport Community is a concrete way of fostering regional cooperation, stability and peace in the true spirit of Jean Monnet", said Vice-President in charge of transport, Jacques Barrot.

The package of measures adopted today now proposes negotiating directives for a treaty establishing a Transport Community with the Western Balkans. The objective of the treaty is to establish an integrated market for infrastructure and land, inland waterways and maritime transport and to align the relevant legislation in the Western Balkan region with Community legislation.

The establishment of the Transport Community would accelerate the integration of the transport systems within the region as well as with those of the EU. It would also speed up the alignment of the relevant legislation and allow transport users and citizens to benefit from the accession process more rapidly. The Transport Community would also provide operators and investors in the transport sector with legal certainty, thereby stimulating and speeding up the necessary investments and economic development.

At the same time, the Commission reports on the progress made on its Communication[1] on Guidelines for transport in Europe and neighbouring regions. These guidelines outlined the first steps of a comprehensive policy for closer integration of the EU transport system with neighbouring countries. The policy focused on five main transport axes used for international trade and on the relevant standards and legislation affecting the use of these routes by all transport modes.

The final objective is to develop common rules for the transport sector as a whole and thus create an effective transport market involving the EU and its neighbours. The Communication also announced the launch of exploratory talks with neighbouring countries to assess their interest in strengthening the existing coordination framework.

The first round of the exploratory talks has now been held with all the neighbouring countries in the North, South, North East and South East, as well as around the Mediterranean Sea. The talks are progressing well and have already been successfully concluded in the Western Balkan region.

The Commission will make concrete proposals to implement the policy in the other neighbouring regions in autumn 2008, following the outcome of the second phase of the exploratory talks.

[1] COM(2007) 32 of 31.1.2007

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