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Transport Council

Volume 494: debated on Thursday 18 June 2009

I attended the second Transport Council of the Czech presidency, in Luxembourg on 11 June.

The Council adopted a decision, which the UK supported, authorising the Commission to open negotiations with Georgia on a comprehensive air transport agreement.

Under AOB, the Commission presented its recent proposal for a directive on aviation security charges, which aims to ensure transparency, non-discrimination and consultation of airlines when fixing the level of security charges and to ensure that charges are cost-related. I called for the directive to match the airport charges directive as closely as possible. I also emphasised that there should be no restriction on member states’ ability to impose more stringent measures swiftly when the situation demands it, and that the proposal should take into account the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

The Council reached a political agreement on a proposal for a regulation concerning a European rail network for competitive freight. This draft regulation seeks to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of international rail freight in Europe. I joined several other Ministers in expressing the view that the text put to the Council struck the right balance in terms of passenger transport and the designation of rail corridors. Some minor changes were made to address remaining concerns of some member states and the political agreement was reached.

Under AOB, the Commission reported on the current position regarding liberalisation of rail transport in the EU. The UK supported the Commission in its call for all member states to ensure that the provisions on liberalisation set out in the first railway package are properly and comprehensively transposed.

There was a progress report and policy debate on a proposal for a regulation on the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport. The proposal aims to make bus and coach travel more attractive and accessible to all passengers, including disabled people and people with reduced mobility, and to create a level playing field across Europe, both between operators and different modes of transport. In the debate, Ministers were invited to comment on options for the scope of the draft regulation. I stressed that the proposed exemption for urban, suburban and regional transport operated under public service contracts that provide a comparable level of passenger rights was discriminatory in respect of those member states, such as the UK, whose markets have moved to open competition beyond public service contracts, and that such a condition should not be attached to the exemption. On that basis I joined a large number of Ministers in calling for its scope to be limited to long-distance and international journeys.

There was a progress report on a proposed amendment to Regulation (EC) 1321/2004 on the establishment of structures for the management of the European satellite radio-navigation programmes. The amendment, which the UK supports, will bring the regulation into line with recent changes to the finance, governance and procurement procedures for Galileo. Work on it will continue under the Swedish presidency.

There was also a progress report on the proposal for a directive laying down the framework for the deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems in the EU. The Swedish presidency will now take forward negotiations in the working group.

The Council adopted conclusions, which the UK supported, on transport trans-European networks (TEN-T). The conclusions follow a Commission Green Paper, which took stock of TEN-T policy in the light of recent EU enlargement and the need to address the challenges posed by climate change.