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Transport: EC Action

Volume 503: debated on Monday 11 January 2010

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what the outcome was of the December EU Transport Council, with particular reference to the discussions on intelligent transport systems; and if he will make a statement. (309627)

The December Transport Council took place during the recess. I therefore reported on the outcome of the Council, including the outcome of discussions on intelligent transport systems, in a letter to the Hon. Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee. The text of that letter is as follows:

“I attended the second Transport Council of the Swedish Presidency, in Brussels on 17 December.

The Council reached a Political Agreement on a Regulation on the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport. The Regulation aims to make bus and coach transport more attractive, particularly to disabled people and people with reduced mobility; and to create a level playing field across Europe, both between operators and different modes of transport. I was one of several Ministers to maintain reservations on the scope, asking for the Regulation to apply only to long-distance national and international services. Some other Member States argued strongly for widening the scope. The Presidency offered a compromise of removing the compensation and assistance provisions from the application to urban, suburban and regional services. This means that the only provisions from which Member States would not be able to exempt such services would be those requiring that ticket prices and conditions must be offered without any discrimination based on nationality or the place of establishment of the carrier, and that there must be no discrimination on grounds of disability or reduced mobility with regard to booking a journey or boarding a vehicle. This compromise was acceptable to all, and on this basis I accepted the text of the Political Agreement.

The Council agreed a General Approach on the proposal for an amending Regulation on the establishment of structures for the management of the European satellite radio-navigation programmes. The text of the General Approach was acceptable to the UK.

There was a Progress Report on a Directive on the deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). I joined some other Ministers in opposing mandatory deployment. We only support the further deployment of ITS where there is a sound business case for doing so in pursuit of our transport goals. I expressed the UK view that such decisions should be for Member States, and my understanding that nothing in this Directive prejudices that right. We will continue to regard this as critical in discussions on any future proposals. The Presidency hoped that the Directive could be adopted as soon as possible during the New Year and that agreement will be reached with the European Parliament.

There was also a Progress report on a proposed Directive on aviation security charges. The UK will continue to work towards achieving a fair and proportionate outcome that balances the interests of passengers and airports.

The Council reached a General Approach on a Directive on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and/or departing from EU ports. The Directive seeks to facilitate maritime transport by simplifying administrative procedures for ships travelling between EU ports by the introduction of streamlined electronic reporting. I stated that the UK still has some concerns relating to the consistency of the Directive with our e-Borders system. We will seek to see these resolved at a later stage of the negotiating process.

The Council was unable to agree to the draft Conclusions on the Commission's Communication “A sustainable future for transport: Towards an integrated, technology-led and user friendly system”. Following the debate therefore, the Presidency issued Conclusions to be used to provide a steer to the Commission on priorities for the next EU Transport White Paper, which is due in 2010.

The Council adopted a Decision authorising the Commission to negotiate an agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), providing a general framework for enhanced cooperation, with priority given to aviation safety issues in the first instance. We welcome this development. The Presidency made clear that the Decision does not affect relations between individual Member States and ICAO, nor does it affect the arrangements for preparing Community positions for meetings of the ICAO Council.

There was a Progress Report from the Commission on the negotiation of a second stage air transport agreement with the US. I joined some others in suggesting that the next Transport Council should review progress and consider any new US proposals, particularly on the key issue of investment reform. The Council took note of the state of play, confirmed the importance of reaching a deal in 2010, and noted signs of progress in some areas, but stressed the need for significant progress in other areas (including investment reform and the environment).

Under AOB, the Commission informed the Council that the outcome of the Galileo procurement process would be announced in a few months time.”