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Luxembourg, 15 June 2011
Transport Council: Ministers consider railway recast, EMSA and Transport White Paper
European Ministers will consider during a Transport Council in Luxembourg on 16 June key proposals from the Commission, including a Directive to foster a single European railway area and, a Regulation to expand the responsibilities of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). In addition they will discuss Europe's response to volcanic ash clouds as well as the Transport White Paper. The Council will be attended by European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport.
Recast of the first railway package
The Council will try to establish a general agreement ('general approach') on a Directive establishing a single European railway area (Recast). The first railway package consists of three directives (2001/12/EC, 2001/13/EC and 2001/14/EC) setting up appropriate conditions for opening up the market of railway services, which were substantially amended in 2004 (second package) and 2007 (third package). Its purpose was to revitalise railway transport (still largely in the hands of state monopolies confined to their national markets) by gradually opening it to competition at Europe-wide level. The market for rail freight transport has been completely opened since 2007 and for international passenger services since January 2010.
The proposal to recast the first railway package is: firstly an exercise in legislative simplification and consolidation ("codification") with the merger of the three directives in force and their successive amendments (all in all nine directives, one decision and two acts of accession). The recast also aims to modernise the legislation and tackle key problems areas, which have been indentified on the market over the last 10 years. The first reading in the EP is planned for this autumn. This includes issues such as access to rail related services and the charging principle.
Minister will debate the Transport White Paper adopted by the Commission in March 2011. The White Paper entitled “Roadmap for a Single European Transport Area” is a comprehensive strategy (Transport 2050) for a competitive and resource-efficient transport system that will increase mobility, remove major barriers in key areas and fuel growth and employment. At the same time, the proposals will dramatically reduce Europe's dependence on imported oil and cut carbon emissions in transport by 60% by 2050.
Ministers are expected to reach a general agreement ('general approach') on a proposal modifying the mandate of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to enable it to deal with new challenges in an ever-changing world. EMSA is widely recognised as an important contributor to the European Union's maritime transport and safety policy in close cooperation with the Commission, the Member States and stakeholders from the sector. Developments since the agency's start in 2003 require now a limited update of its mandate.
The Commission proposed to maintain EMSA's current tasks and overall institutional structure, ensuring continuity for the Agency’s activities which provide added value at EU-level and are well appreciated by the stakeholders. The proposal for a limited extension of EMSA's tasks reflects new needs. EMSA’s updated mandate would:
Volcanic ash clouds
Vice-President Kallas will report on volcanic ash and crisis preparedness and assess the progress that has been made. Last year the European Union reviewed its response after the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in April/May 2010 caused havoc to air traffic. A volcanic eruption exercise was held on 13 and 14 April to test and verify the effectiveness of the various procedures and tools developed during the past year. The new procedures were put to the test when Icelandic volcano Grimsvötn erupted on 21 May 2011. Both showed that new European procedures are a very significant step forward in terms of managing the associated risk and minimising disruption.
What progress has been made since last year?
There have been major improvements in international volcanic ash guidelines, the setting up of a European Aviation Crisis Coordination Cell, very significant progress to fast track the Single European Sky as well as intensive work to produce transparent information for airlines on thresholds for ash.
What did April's volcanic eruption exercise reveal?
The preliminary results indicate that by moving from the old to the new approach, an estimated 30% more flights would have been able to operate.
What did the response to the eruption of Grimsvötn in May show?
Only 900 flights were cancelled compared to 42,600 in the wake of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Although circumstances were very different, it was clear that the new approach allowed states and airlines to more precisely define the safety risk of flights, thereby minimising airspace closures.
Although Europe has made significant steps in ensuring a better level of preparedness for managing and responding to such disruptive situations, there is still room for further improvement:
Inland waterway transport
Ministers will be asked to adopt Council conclusions on "The way ahead towards integrated and competitive EU inland waterway transport". Inland waterway transport plays an important role for the transport of goods in Europe. More than 37,000 kilometres of waterways connect hundreds of cities and industrial regions. Some 20 out of 27 Member States have inland waterways, 12 of which have an interconnected waterway networks. However, the potential for increasing the modal share of inland waterway transport is significant. Compared to other modes of transport which are often confronted with congestion and capacity problems, inland waterway transport is characterised by its reliability, its low environmental impact and its major capacity for increased exploitation. The conclusions call for a continuation of the NAIADES programme after 2013.
Ministers will be asked to adopt an agreement on the accession by the EU to the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) on 23 June 2011 in Bern, Switzerland.
In practice, 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 all the countries which are now members of OTIF which consists of the EU Member States plus Russia, Ukraine, the Western Balkans, Turkey, some Middle East and Northern African states.
Ministers will be asked to support an aviation agreement with Brazil. This would mean the EU and Brazil will gradually open their aviation markets and start a process to make operations in each other's territories easier. It would create new investment opportunities and improve the commercial and operational environment for EU carriers operating in Brazil. The agreement will not only lead to a better business climate, but also to a more harmonised regulatory framework. The agreement will be signed during the EU Brazil summit in October 2011.
Ministers will be asked to grant the Commission a mandate to open negotiations on a comprehensive air transport agreement with the Republic of Moldova. The agreement would aim to mutually open the respective markets and integrate Moldova into European aviation structures. The agreement will be a further step in creating a wider Common Aviation Area between the EU and its neighbours.
Other issues to be discussed include: