EU Transport Council

Transport written statement – made at on 2 April 2009.

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

I attended the first Transport Council of the Czech presidency, in Brussels on 30 March.

There was a progress report and policy debate on the proposed amendment to Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures—the "Eurovignette Directive". Presenting its latest compromise text, the presidency explained that the draft amending Directive would give member states flexibility to add an element for external costs (e.g. environmental or congestion) to any distance-based charges they levied on lorries. I supported the inclusion of congestion charging from the outset, and restated the UK's opposition to earmarking of revenues.

The Council reached a general approach on an amendment to the Directive on the organisation of working time in road transport. The presidency outlined its compromise text, which would allow member states to exclude self-employed road transport workers from the scope of the Directive, if they wished. The text of the general approach was acceptable to the United Kingdom.

The Council adopted conclusions on the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) action plan, which aims to promote the increase of ITS deployment across the EU, to support cleaner, safer and more efficient road transport. The conclusions were acceptable to the UK.

The Council adopted a decision endorsing the master plan for air traffic management in Europe (a part of the SESAR project for Single Sky implementation) and a Council resolution on the master plan. Both were acceptable to the UK.

The presidency and Commission reported on the good progress made on the legislative proposals comprising the Single European Sky package. These are: a regulation amending the four regulations adopted in 2004 which established the Single European Sky; and an amending regulation extending the responsibilities of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to the safety of aerodromes, air traffic management and air navigation services. I look forward to the formal adoption of these proposals, which are an important step towards completion of the SES.

The Council endorsed the recently agreed comprehensive air transport agreement with Canada. I look forward to the signature of this important agreement in the near future.

In maritime transport, there was a progress report and policy debate on a draft regulation on the rights of passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterway. The presidency outlined the aims of the draft regulation, which are to provide new rights for passengers with reduced mobility and to improve general passenger rights. I noted the progress made on this proposal and stressed that the final outcome of the negotiations should reflect an appropriate balance between the interests of passengers and those of the vessel operators.

Also in maritime transport, the Council adopted conclusions arising from two recent Commission communications, "Strategic Goals and Recommendations for the EU's maritime transport policy until 2018", and an action plan with a view to establishing "a European maritime space without barriers". Both sets of conclusions were acceptable to the UK.

The presidency reported on the draft regulation establishing the second "Marco Polo" programme. This should allow the Marco Polo programme to fully deploy its potential, and we strongly support it.

Under AOB, the Commission reported on the Galileo satellite navigation programme. It announced its plans to make two new legislative proposals, one revising the regulation which established the Galileo supervisory authority, and the other on policy for access to the Public Regulated Service (PRS) for Government-authorised users.

Also under AOB, the Commission presented its proposal to amend the airport slots regulation so as to suspend temporarily the 'use it or lose it' rule for airport slots, with the aim of helping airlines in the economic downturn. This would enable the EU industry to adjust supply to falling demand. I agreed that this was a sensible short term proposal, but stressed that it should be restricted to the summer season, and an extension should be considered only with an accompanying impact assessment looking at consumer/competition implications. I also pressed for a wider review of the slot allocation regulations to be undertaken by the Commission in 2010, to include an examination of how environmental considerations could be taken into account more fully. The Commission agreed to the UK request and underlined the temporary nature of the proposed suspension to those member states with concerns.

Over lunch, there was a discussion of the effects of the economic situation on the transport sector and measures to help mitigate the impact. I pointed to the real economic benefits secured from liberalisation of the transport sector, which are consistent with single market developments, and I emphasised that reduction of carbon emissions has to continue to be taken into account.


John Byng
Posted on 7 Apr 2009 12:17 pm (Report this annotation)

I am glad that the use it or lose it rule has been suspended because it makes no environmental sense to be flying empty aircraft in order to hang on to airport slots.

I am glad too that the Minister secured agreement to a revue of the regulations from an environmental point of view. I hope the review will conclude that the number of slots should be restricted so that aviation does not go through a short term boom at the end of the recession. Such a boom would be damaging to both the environment and the economy because finding and extracting oil is becoming rapidly more expensive and any growth in aviation, after the recession, will be unsustainable.