Vice-President of the Commission, responsible for transport
Opening speech to the annual TEN-T Days
TEN-T Days 2010: Trans-European Transport Networks
Zaragoza, 8 June 2010
Ministers, Honourable Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to address you for the opening of the TEN-T Days. I extend my thanks to the Spanish Presidency of the Council, the Region of Aragon and the City of Zaragoza, who have helped the European Commission organise this event. These TEN-T Days are an important moment in the process of revision of the TEN-T guidelines, as they will provide an opportunity for all the participants to react to the Commission working document adopted on the 4th of May. This working document, which is in fact a consultation document on the future of TEN-T policy, has integrated the results of the 2009 TEN-T Days, which took place in Naples in October of last year. This working document has also been shaped by the work of six expert groups, which have reviewed issues such as design methodology, the integration of transport policy into TEN-T, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), connection with third countries, financing, as well as legal and non financial issues. I hope that this will serve as a basis for the discussions today and tomorrow.
The Commission has also produced an updated progress report on the state of completion of the 30 TEN-T priority projects, which shows that TEN-T policy has achieved some successes, but still needs a strong budgetary effort, in particular on cross-border sections. These TEN-T Days will also mark the occasion of the appointment of three coordinators for Priority Projects: Peter Balázs, resuming his activities as coordinator for Priority Project 17, Paris–Bratislava; Pat Cox, nominated to succeed the late Karel van Miert on Priority Project 1, Berlin–Palermo; and finally Gilles Savary, nominated on Priority Project 22, an important East–West railway axis linking Germany all the way through the Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary to Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. In addition, Memorandums of Understanding will be signed on three Priority Projects: the high-speed rail axis linking the Iberian Peninsula with France and the rest of Europe, Lyon–Torino all the way to the Ukrainian border, and Rail Baltica. This will conclude the heavy agenda.
The TEN-T policy review is part of a larger approach underlying the future White Paper on Transport, to renew the strategy defined in 2001. It is also fully part of the Commission's proposal for a ''Europe 2020'' strategy to succeed the Lisbon strategy that was adopted in March. Our European transport policy targets some important objectives. I believe strongly that the transport systems of the East and West of the EU need to be effectively unified in order to make enlargement a physical reality, and not just a regulatory one. Creating an efficient and low-carbon transport system is an important aim. I believe we should concentrate on the optimisation of each mode of transport to the most appropriate distance: road for shorter distances, rail and inland waterways for longer distances; the promotion of alternatives to fossil fuels; and the pricing of externalities should in future be more strongly related to the use of low-carbon transport infrastructure. Effective planning of infrastructure investment on a pan-European basis would reinforce the access to markets of disadvantaged regions, ensuring economic, social, and territorial cohesion. Inter-modal integration in a single infrastructure is important. In the field of research and technology it is important to use smart tools wherever possible. Technology is also needed to ensure interoperability, develop alternatives to fossil fuels, intelligent traffic management systems, etc. Investing in the deployment of new intelligent transport systems on a continent-wide scale will diminish congestion, maximise the utility of existing infrastructures, and reduce CO2 emissions. Intelligent transport systems also contribute to safety and security.
The recent ash cloud crisis illustrated the shortcomings of the transport system in the EU. That is why the Transport Council of 4 May stressed the need for a robust and interlinked European transport system, where the different transport modes act in close cooperation with each other. The Trans-European Transport Network is one of the largest European projects. It is attractive by its concrete detail, the concept is easily understood, it is a great and ambitious undertaking and is the hardware of the internal market.
The 2010 progress report brings a lot of information about recent successes in implementation of the priority projects. No need to repeat them here. But there are also weaknesses and questions for the future. The progress report says that today is very clear that significant parts of the 30 priority projects will not be completed until 2015 or even 2020. If I look at the beautiful and well-known map of Trans-European Networks, I see the parts of TEN-T coloured in red, which describe the postponed, not completed parts of the network. And they are mostly the cross-border sections of TEN-T, sections, which bring European added value, which are really important for the European internal market and free movement of people. To design for the future of the Trans-European Transport Networks which would only be a smokescreen for the package of good, and of course necessary, national infrastructure investments – it makes no sense for European people as a whole. Every future priority project of the Trans-European Transport Networks must be measurable, there must be visible economic and political contribution to European competitiveness, integration and free movement of people. I hope and I am convinced that our days in Zaragoza help us to find right methods to define real trans-European transport projects.
The consultations will lead to guidelines, guidelines to a real plan of Trans-European network for the next period, linked to the future financial perspectives of the EU. I would like you to reflect upon the following questions:
What should the ‘core network’ of the EU be? How to define it? What to do with the current priority projects in TEN-T? Will the future core network projects add up to the existing ones? Would a combination work? Should we change, modify, abandon some priority projects?
Where should we make crucial investments to facilitate better functioning of existing networks? It is clear that a big jump in infrastructure is not possible. Building new railways, roads, airports, and ports is enormous work and takes a long time and bigger resources. All smart transport systems can bring larger and faster benefits. What about information platforms for people and customers to facilitate co-modality, IT tools to reduce congestion? (And I am not talking here about removing regulatory obstacles, which can also have huge positive effect).
What is our line concerning road transport, road infrastructure? It is absolutely clear that road transport will play a major role in our transport system in the visible future. And it is also clear that in many countries especially in the eastern part of Europe, there is an acute need for improving road networks and it is an issue of strategic importance. Better roads contribute to lesser congestion, better safety, better services, including alternative fuel stations. Should we create certain standards to define real high-quality European roads of strategic importance? This could even be a brand called "EuropaRoad" and the standard could be used to develop transport networks in our neighbouring countries.
This conference comes also at a critical moment of the development of the European Union. At a time when finance ministries will look at ways to decrease public expenditure, there is a great risk that capital investments to improve our competitiveness, investments into our future economic growth will be sacrificed or delayed. I believe, on the contrary, that investment in transport infrastructure can be a very significant factor in kick-starting economic growth today and raising the overall rate of potential growth in the longer term. A strong push towards the completion of the Trans-European Transport Network can be especially beneficial for Europe.
As regards the funding of infrastructure, the current situation has three fundamental weaknesses. First, the public funding available is insufficient to ensure the completion of the Trans-European Transport Network, especially the completion of the 30 Priority Projects agreed by the Member States. For 2007–13, national funding represents €196bn and the EU contribution only €51bn while the investment needs are estimated at €350bn, revealing a worrying funding gap. Second, the use of public funding, both at Member State and EU level, is far from being as efficient as it could. Member States traditionally emphasise national and regional planning against EU priorities, resulting in a fragmented development of the transport networks in Europe. Moreover, the lack of coordination and consistency between the Cohesion and Structural funds and the TEN-T programme in the funding of transport infrastructure often results in undesirable dissemination of EU resources. The differences in size, management and scope of applicability of the two instruments are additional shortcomings of the current EU funding framework. Third, there are only a few mature and well-prepared projects of EU common interest in Europe. Many projects are delayed because of poor design and incomplete preparation, and are therefore not ready to absorb the planned public support.
I propose therefore to establish a "one-stop-shop" for EU transport financing instruments. This initiative could take the form of a European funding framework, which ensures a single programming of EU funds to make sure that our transport objectives are delivered by maximising the EU leverage. In cooperation with the EIB, which has become a key partner for funding investments in large transport projects, I propose to create an enabling framework for the development of PPPs. Also we need to better coordinate with the EIB in order to benefit from the EIB's know-how in the early screening and assessment of projects. Moreover, beyond resorting to the EU and national budgets, i.e. the taxpayers, innovative ways of raising funds can be looked at. Pricing the use of infrastructure with the internalisation of externalities can provide significant benefits towards a less congested, more sustainable and financially viable transport system.
I call on you to submit your contributions to the ongoing consultation. These will be taken into account for the new legal instrument for TEN-T that will come in early 2011. Please reflect upon the elements to define what is the added value of the future Trans-European Transport Network projects, what is the contribution of transport infrastructure to European competitiveness, functioning of the internal market, free movement of people and European integration.
Thank you for your attention.