European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Speech at the press conference on the adoption of the Communication on Transport Cooperation with the EU's Neighbouring Regions
Brussels, 7 July 2011
I am very pleased to present today – together with Vice President Kallas – a major initiative to strengthen and deepen our relationship with our neighbourhood in the field of transport.
This is a concrete follow-up to the renewed and ambitious approach to the European Neighbourhood Policy we presented on 25 May, with the vision of building closer relations between the European Union and its neighbours to the East and South.
Today's action plan has concrete measures and actions to achieve our goals in the field of transport, in partnerships with the countries and societies in our Neighbourhood - both within and beyond the enlargement area.
There is great potential to bring tangible benefits to all citizens and countries involved. Deeper economic integration makes transport connections faster, cheaper and more efficient.
A more efficient, safe and sustainable transport system is a catalyst for stability and social development, which is much needed right across our neighbourhood.
The action plan will also contribute to improved mobility and connections within the region, thereby supporting macro-regional strategies such as the European Union Strategy for the Danube Region.
Let me give you an example where increased cooperation has brought concrete benefits. Since Morocco started participating in the European Common Aviation Area in 2006, it has seen an average annual growth of over 15% in air passenger transport to and from the EU. This has created 25,000 additional jobs and a 6.4% reduction in air tariffs.
This is why we propose to create a wider European Common Aviation Area, covering 1 billion people in the EU and all neighbouring countries.
Sharing best practices in road safety is another area where we expect concrete benefits. Mortality due to traffic injuries is considerably higher in most of our Eastern neighbours compared to the European Union, sometimes more than 3 times the EU average.
In term of mortalities, while the EU average is 6.1 deaths per 100,000 citizens, it is 15.1 in Moldova, 16.8 in Georgia, and 21.5 per 100,000 in Ukraine.
Before finishing, let me raise a third area where we want to make quick progress: promoting and financing of key infrastructure connections.
The European Union co-finances transport infrastructure projects by blending EU funds with grants from other donors to leverage loan financing from international financial institutions.
So far, we have been quite successful in doing this. Since 2007 we have supported transport projects in enlargement and neighbourhood countries with over €110 million. With this money, we have leveraged a combined loan total of some €6 billion (€4.5 billion for Neighbourhood Investment Facility and €1 to €1.5 billion for the Western Balkans Investment Facility). So every Euro from the EU budget brings in €55 of loans.
Until the end of 2013, the year our current Multi-Annual Financial Framework ends, we still have a total of €950 million available for blending, which under the same conditions could leverage up to €14 billion in loans.
If we want to spend this money before 2013, and on the right projects, we need to focus all our efforts.
With the enlargement countries and our Southern neighbours, we are already at an advanced stage.
However, with our Eastern neighbours we need to strengthen our cooperation to define a regional transport network and identify key priority projects to fund.
This is why we propose together to establish an Eastern Partnership Transport Panel, under the umbrella of the Eastern Partnership, bringing together the European Commission, the neighbouring countries, the Member States and the international financial institutions. This Panel could be launched at the ministerial conference in Krakow that the Polish Presidency is convening on 24/25 October.
In closing, let me repeat how pleased I am today to be able to present – jointly with Siim – this initiative which has great potential to bring tangible benefits to all our citizens.