Transport Council

Transport written question – answered on 5th January 2004.

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Photo of Dr Jim Marshall Dr Jim Marshall Labour, Leicester South

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the outcome was of the Transport Council held in Brussels on 4 to 5 December; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The transport session of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council met in Brussels on 5 December. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State represented the United Kingdom.

The Presidency gave a progress report on the proposed Directive on sanctions for ship-source pollution, indicating that further work was needed. The Transport Council would call on the Justice and Home Affairs Council to look at the parallel proposal for a framework decision for criminal sanctions. The UK is among Member States seeking to ensure the exclusion of criminal sanctions from the Directive.

The Council reached a General Approach on an amendment to the Regulation which established the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The Regulation extends EMSA's role into the areas of certification of third country seafarers, counter-pollution measures and ship security. The security role is to be limited, on the basis of a Presidency compromise proposal, to ships only (thereby excluding the ship/port interface and ports themselves). This was accepted by all delegations.

The Council reached a General Approach on a Regulation on transfer of vessels between Community registers. The text is acceptable to the UK.

The Council reached Political Agreement on an amending Regulation on airport slot allocation. The Presidency explained that the proposal concerned technical amendments to the existing rules on slot allocation, with market measures left to a later phase. A compromise text safeguarded the possibility of secondary slot trading at congested airports (the key issue for the UK), and removed a time limit on the re-letting of public service contracts. My right hon. Friend joined others in speaking in support of the compromise. The Commission said it would come forward in 2004 with a proposal to introduce market elements to the slot allocation system.

The Commissioner reported on her recent informal talks with the US on EU/US air service negotiations. The US had said that they envisaged the negotiations focusing on ownership and control issues, competition, leasing, and airport access.

The Council reached Political Agreement on a revised proposal to amend the guidelines to the transport Trans-European Network. This provides for: simpler environmental assessment requirements; tighter conditions for start-up aid in the context of 'motorways of the sea'; greater Commission consultation with Member States over action in response to project delays; and scope for adding to or amending the list of priority projects on the basis of two-yearly Commission reports. The amendments are largely acceptable to all Member States, including the UK.

Among AOB items, the Commission reported on progress in negotiations with the United States on interoperability of the Galileo satellite navigation system with the US Global Positioning System (GPS). The Commission also welcomed the commercial and development agreement reached with China on Galileo.

The Council reached a General Approach on the Directive on interoperability of European electronic road tolling systems. The UK has particular interest in this measure because of our plans to introduce lorry road-user charging. We were able to accept the revised text at the Council, which had moved a considerable way to accommodate concerns we had had.

There was a policy debate on the directive on charging of heavy goods vehicles (the Eurovignette directive), on the basis of three questions put in advance by the Presidency. The written submissions by Member and accession States will be used to inform future negotiations during the Irish Presidency. We explained specific points in the UK submission, in particular pressing for the scope of the Directive to permit the inclusion of congestion and environmental costs in any charges and arguing against mandatory hypothecation of toll revenue.

The Council failed to reach agreement on the Directive on weekend lorry bans. We joined a number of other Member States in speaking in support of the proposal. However, the number of Member States opposed to even minimal EU rules prevented agreement. This issue will now be examined further and put to a future Council.

The Commission presented two new legislative proposals in the area of road transport: the third driving licence directive; and a proposal requiring more frequent checking of commercial vehicles for compliance with drivers' hours legislation. These will now be examined in detail before being submitted to a future Council for agreement.

The Council agreed Conclusions on road safety, confirming the agreement reached at the informal meeting in Verona in October. The UK welcomes the Conclusions as a significant contribution to European road safety, and will support future proposals which stand up to the tests of subsidiarity and proportionality. The Commission also presented a Recommendation on enforcement in the field of road safety.

No formal votes were taken.

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