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Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport
Towards a Single European Transport Area
Joint hearing: European affairs committee and sustainable development and regional planning committee
Assemblée Nationale, Paris, 16 November 2011
Messieurs les présidents,
Mesdames, Messieurs les députés,
C'est un honneur d'intervenir devant vous aujourd'hui et de répondre ainsi à l'invitation de M Lequiller, Président de la commission affaires européennes et M Grouard, Président de la commission du développement durable et de l'aménagement du territoire. Je vous remercie de me donner l'opportunité de m'adresser à vous et de débattre des priorités de la Commission européenne dans le domaine des transports. En adoptant la feuille de route "pour un espace européen unique des transports", la Commission présente sa vision pour l'avenir du système de transport au sein de l'Union européenne. Je vais aujourd'hui vous faire part de cette vision.
Ladies and Gentlemen, with your permission, I will now switch to English.
Let me explain how I see the future of transport in Europe for the years and decades to come. As you know, this vision is embodied in our White Paper on transport, called the "Roadmap towards a Single European Transport Area". It is a vision to which we hope everyone can subscribe, so that we can help each other turn it into a reality. I am very grateful for today’s opportunity to speak to you in the hope that we will be working together towards these shared goals.
In Europe, we rely on efficient transport networks for the economy to stay competitive and for our internal market to function smoothly. Transport represents the heart of the supply chain, and, as such, it is a primary enabler of jobs and growth. Without it, we cannot prosper.
Transport is also one of Europe's few industries that successfully competes on the world stage – in fact, we are a global leader in this vital sector. Our transport industry employs around 10 million people, accounting for 4.5% of total employment in the EU and about the same percentage of GDP. Many European companies are world leaders in infrastructure, logistics and the manufacture of transport equipment and traffic management systems. We clearly want to keep it that way. I am pleased to say that France is right at the forefront of this excellence:
In transport services, the list of successes continues: Air France-KLM, SNCF, Veolia Environment. And let's not forget the pioneering role of France’s local authorities in developing modern tram systems, making public transport ever more efficient. But we face many new challenges and barriers which threaten our leading position and we simply cannot afford to lag behind. Europe risks losing out to global rivals, above all to low-cost competitors who are keen to innovate and invest.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We know that the demand for mobility will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. At the same time, parts of our transport infrastructure are starting to creak with age. In some areas, we are already approaching capacity limits. There are also a number of important missing links and bottlenecks. That puts a squeeze on trade flows within our own internal market, to the detriment of the overall economy.
At the moment, there are a number of barriers which threaten that competitive edge and prevent us from completing the EU’s internal transport market. Too much red tape, administrative formalities, numerous ‘missing links’ across the transport network, like technical incompatibilities on national railways and lengthy authorisation procedures for rolling stock.
This is why initiatives such as France's “Assises du ferroviaire” are particularly useful. I would like to welcome it as an opportunity for a national debate on the necessary reform of the national rail system. The services of the Commission participate to the discussion. This is recognition of the existence of a European railway market which must function with common rules.
More broadly, our transport strategy for the future aims to respond to several longer-term challenges.
Firstly, we need to reduce our historic overdependence on oil, which is likely to become harder to source in the years to come. The transport sector remains almost totally oil dependent (96% of its total energy supply), our imports come from increasingly unstable parts of the world – while markets are more volatile that ever. This is why we are looking into innovative (and cleaner) alternatives to fossil fuels and investing in research to develop new sources of energy.
Secondly, our cities, roads, railways and skies are increasingly congested. Urbanisation will continue and traffic in cities and on their access routes will grow. Bottlenecks are also present in some ports.
And of course delivering the EU's climate change targets requires deep cuts in CO2 emissions from transport over the medium term.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We cannot avoid these challenges and we need to act now, to prepare for the future. Merely to maintain the status quo is not an option, especially if Europe is to remain competitive in the world marketplace. With transport policy, we are standing at a crossroads – and this is no time for complacency. What we decide, and do now, will affect the sector for decades to come.
Technological innovation is crucial for tackling these challenges and we must promote it strongly. Research and innovation are central to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. But let's not forget that research and innovation are not enough on their own to solve all the problems: efficiency is also about better logistics and smarter behaviour.
We need to change our travelling habits, better combine or substitute road travel with other modes such as rail, and optimise choices for passengers. We must start thinking about transport as a network, as a system, rather than thinking in terms of individual modes.
Rail and waterborne transport will need to play a substantially greater role in moving freight, particularly over longer distances. Coaches and high-speed rail will need to transport more passengers.
It is also important to recognise that there are practices and behaviour which limit competition and prevent these transport alternatives from becoming more efficient and appealing to users. This is a situation that we can no longer afford. Closed markets and protectionist attitudes are relics of the past and definitely not the answer, if we are to stay competitive.
There are other ways forward – setting minimum standards and improving enforcement of the rules, for example – but not blocking competition.
Passenger transport by rail is a good example where there are still many obstacles to an efficient and competitive European system. A Single European Transport area also means fair and non-discriminatory access to the rail network and to rail-related services. I know this is an important issue for France. The first rail package recast includes provisions to address certain of these problems, but as announced in the White Paper, we will be bringing forward further proposals on access to the passenger market, as well as rolling stock certification, next year. We need to make the rail of the future an attractive alternative to other modes.
Similarly, the Single European Sky must be completed and aviation must be better integrated with other forms of transport. The Single European Sky alone would reduce the distance flown and consequently help reducing CO2 emissions of the sector and allow double traffic at the same cost. Furthermore, integrating and complementing the modal networks helps better exploiting all the available capacity: transhipment facilities, port/rail connections, inland waterways links.
So in the future, Europe’s transport system will be relying a great deal on professional and highly-trained operators. They will play an important role in providing a high-quality service both in public transport and in logistics. They will also benefit from a safer and more secure transport environment, using cleaner vehicles and working within infrastructures less congested than now.
One of the White Paper's top priorities is to complete the trans-European transport network: TEN-T. This is essential for creating employment and economic growth because the network aims to provide a seamless chain linking all modes of transport – air, rail, road and sea. The necessary infrastructure and related developments will require substantial resources. But the financing itself should also be 'smart'.
We are looking closely at how innovative instruments can make transport a solid and attractive opportunity for private capital, particularly for specialised infrastructure investors. Some of these instruments, like project bonds, should have a high leverage impact and generate even more funding for some of our larger transport projects.
Take the funding proposed by the Commission for the next budget period, 2014 to 2020 – the Connecting Europe Facility. This flexible instrument will accelerate infrastructure development in energy, transport and information technology, helping to fill in the missing network links to strengthen the backbone of the internal market. It will offer innovative financing tools for transport projects such as project bonds, combining market-based instruments and direct EU support to optimise the impact of financing.
We are also looking at ways to enhance the financial structure of public-private partnerships, or PPPs, in transport – an area where France is leading the way. Innovative PPP projects have already been used notably for the cross-border rail tunnel on the Perpignan–Figueras section or for the future Tours–Bordeaux high-speed rail line. We would like to see more PPPs set up. At the same time, there has be to a level playing field for such schemes, as well as feasibility assessments to make sure there is value for money.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The White Paper shows how we can achieve the transformation of our transport system and make the vision a reality. The single objective is to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050. Let me briefly mention some of the 10 goals that we have set ourselves, to be achieved by carrying out 40 concrete initiatives to which the Commission has committed itself. These goals will guide policy and measure our progress:
We will not achieve these goals if citizens are not convinced that they are needed. Citizens identify their freedom, economic and social, with the ability to move, to travel, and thereby access new opportunities.
Messieurs les présidents,
Mesdames, Messieurs les députés,
Pour l'Europe, la France prend une place clé dans le domaine des transports: géographiquement, techniquement et politiquement. L'Europe a une vision audacieuse du transport, c'est en unissant nos efforts que nous veillerons au mieux à la poursuite de nos objectifs communs, notamment en terme de modernisation du système de transport de demain, et que nous assurerons les besoins de nos citoyens et des compagnies européennes.
Merci de votre attention.