Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport
"TEN-T Days" conference on the trans-European transport network: opening remarks
Opening remarks for TEN-T Days
Antwerp, 29 November 2011
Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to TEN-T Days 2011 in Antwerp! As in 2008, I would have been happy to receive you in Brussels. But this venue, next to the splendid railway station situated on the core network, makes it a natural choice.
This is the fourth time that Member States, local and regional authorities, stakeholders and the European Commission are meeting to discuss the development and main issues regarding the trans-European transport network.
Of course, this year our focus will be on the new TEN-T Guidelines and the Connecting Europe Facility. This conference, organised so soon after both proposals were launched, will allow – as our previous TEN-T conferences have also done – all parties to have a useful and beneficial exchange as we begin the co-decision process.
Transport in the multiannual financial framework (MFF)
The revised TEN-T Guidelines and their links to the proposed Connecting Europe Facility were adopted by the Commission on 19 October, together with a proposal to launch a pilot phase of the project bonds initiative. This package has a high importance for achieving sustainable growth in Europe, which is now at the core of our concerns. The key objective of both proposals is the targeted use of financial resources, which is especially vital at a time of economic crisis and given that infrastructure is the backbone of the economy.
As you know, the overall Multiannual Financial Framework proposes a stable budget. But within this, transport is a clearly identified priority and recognised as an instrument that can revitalise the competitiveness of our economy. Developing the TEN-T will have positive effects on the free movement of goods, integration in the internal market, accessibility and territorial cohesion, as well as on creating economic growth and jobs.
The TEN-T Guidelines and the Connecting Europe Facility will contribute significantly to establishing a competitive and resource-efficient transport system. They will help to reduce congestion, unleashing the potential of transport infrastructure for business and growth, as well as supporting the development of innovative transport. At the same time, they will help us to achieve the EU's 2020 goals by giving priority to environmentally friendly modes of transport: rail, short sea shipping and inland waterways. They also encourage the deployment of intelligent transport systems that will improve the efficiency of transport operations.
The proposed budget for the Connecting Europe Facility (€ 31.7 billion) is the guarantee that funding will benefit the priority transport infrastructure which has the high EU added value needed to spur economic growth and ensure cleaner transport. That is why the Connecting Europe Facility and the TEN-T Guidelines go hand in hand, and should be discussed together - and also why the Commission has attached, in the Annex of the Connecting Europe Facility, a list of projects to be financed.
Content of the guidelines
While the Connecting Europe Facility takes the next Financial Perspectives as its timeframe, the TEN-T Guidelines aim at implementing the network by 2030 for core network and 2050 for the comprehensive network.
Our concept is based on a dual layer structure and the methodology used to select the top layer, the so-called core network, has gone through a thorough consultation process of the Member States, the European Parliament and all the parties involved. The core network is the main innovation. It embraces both the existing and planned infrastructure, and selects a limited number of projects that offer the highest European added value
These are the areas we need to tackle:
poor East–West connections;
a lack of interoperability;
and we also need to focus investment.
In short, we need to move from a patchwork to a network.
On Corridors in the Guidelines and the Connecting Europe Facility
To implement the core network, the Commission proposes a reinforced corridor approach to bring the highest value for money. One euro spent only within one Member State will give a poorer result than one euro spent in coordination with several Member States and stakeholders involved in the projects, taking into account the overall traffic flows and needs.
These corridors will also provide for greater modal integration, interoperability and coordinated development and management of infrastructure, including binding timetables. We are also very committed to applying the "use it or lose it" rule to ensure the timely delivery of projects.
The corridors will be governed through platforms, composed of the Member States concerned and the other public and private parties involved, all under the auspices of a coordinator and based on the positive experience with the current coordinators. These platforms will be loose structures which strengthen a forum that might already exist. They will not lead to additional bureaucracy. We propose a pragmatic and flexible approach – not ''one-size-fits-all''.
These future corridors are designed as an implementation tool to ensure that investments are coordinated to deliver maximum EU added value. The 10 core network corridors and other key core network sections such as missing cross-border connections and bottlenecks, as well as traffic management systems such as SESAR and ERTMS, will be allocated between 80 and 85% of the available funds to make sure that European financing is available primarily for projects with the highest EU added value.
On the Connecting Europe Facility
Of the €31.7 billion proposed for transport in the Connecting Europe Facility, €10 billion is earmarked from within the Cohesion Fund. This €10 billion is only available for the Cohesion Fund eligible Member States, not the whole EU-27. Higher co-financing rates will apply for this €10 billion: the same as for the rest of the Cohesion Fund. This will provide an additional guarantee for eligible Member States, because €24 billion of Cohesion Fund money will also be allocated to transport projects on the TEN-T comprehensive network.
The Connecting Europe Facility will further enable private sector investment for transport, essential in time of budgetary constraints. We envisage that about €2 billion could be absorbed by innovative financing instruments such as project bonds.
This will be done in partnership with the EIB, which recently scored some notable successes with the Loan Guarantee Instrument for TEN-T Projects: the Tours-Bordeaux high-speed rail link.
Expectations are high. The Commission has calculated that this €31.7 billion could generate between €140 and €150 billion of investment on the European Core Network thanks to the leveraging effect.
I would like to stress that the proposed Connecting Europe Facility is designed to be centrally managed. The TEN-T Executive Agency would be responsible for implementing this budget through calls for proposal. Without well prepared project proposals, there will be no funding. The 'use-it–or-lose-it' principle shall continue to apply, as I have already mentioned.
Apart from the successes of the central management of the TEN-T, I would like to say that the European Coordinators also contribute a great deal to ensuring transparency. They have been heard last week by the European Parliament and are here today with us in Antwerp to pass on the valuable experience they have gathered during their mandates and to participate in several workshops during this conference.
To conclude, I would like to emphasise that it is only with a modernised, much more effective and targeted TEN-T policy which embodies genuine European added value that we will all be able to make a convincing case for the Connecting Europe Facility in the upcoming negotiations for the Multi-Annual Financial Framework. So let us continue to be bold and work together on setting out this new policy.
Thank you for your attention.