I attended the second Transport Council of the Belgian presidency in Brussels on 2 December.
The Council discussed air cargo security. Following the recent discovery of explosive devices in air cargo, a high-level group produced a report on strengthening air cargo security, for both Council meetings on 2 December (Transport and Justice and Home Affairs). The presidency presented this report, which sets out ways to strengthen the security regime around air cargo coming into the EU.
The UK broadly welcomed the report and the associated action plan and provided the Council with some details of the recent air cargo incident. The presidency concluded orally that the Council had a “positive appreciation” of the report, and asked the Commission and member states to ensure a speedy implementation of the action plan. The Commission was asked to report back to the Council on progress made. A parallel discussion took place in the JHA Council.
The presidency updated the Council on progress with negotiations on the draft directive on cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety. The proposed directive aims to improve cross-border enforcement of certain road safety offences by facilitating exchange of data between authorities. The UK and Ireland supported a proposal to change the legal base for this proposal to Justice and Home Affairs, and emphasised that this change engaged our right to decide whether or not to opt in to the directive. We reserved our position on the substance, pending formal consideration of our stance and consultation with Parliament during the permitted three-month period. Both countries tabled minute statements to this effect.
All member states were in favour of the change of treaty base. The Commission has however made it clear that it does not support a JHA legal base. The presidency concluded that there was consensus on the text of the draft directive, but did not seek confirmation of a political agreement. They acknowledged the UK’s rights under protocol 21 to have the necessary period to consider whether or not to opt in.
The Commission presented its recent proposal to recast the 2001 first rail package, which set the initial framework for a single European rail market. The presidency gave an account of early discussions on the proposal. The discussion in the Council concluded that the publication of national rail infrastructure development strategies was a good approach. The UK broadly supported the proposal, in particular endorsing the need for adequately resourced and properly independent regulatory bodies, in order to facilitate market entry and competition. However, I highlighted the importance of effective enforcement of the existing directive if we are to see real progress on opening up rail markets across Europe to cross-border competition. Discussions will continue under the Hungarian presidency.
The presidency reported on progress in discussions on a proposal for a decision on the public regulated service (PRS) of the Galileo programme. The decision would set out controls over access to the high-accuracy positioning signal from Galileo. The UK noted the lack of an impact assessment and expressed disappointment at the lack of visibility on costs. We expressed concern about handling of security and stressed that common minimum standards needed to be defined by the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) Security Board. Discussions will continue under the Hungarian presidency.
Following the informal meeting of EU Transport Ministers held in Antwerp in September, the Council adopted conclusions on the integration of waterborne transport into the EU logistics chain. The conclusions are acceptable to the UK.
The Council also adopted conclusions following the Commission’s communication entitled “Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011-2020”. The conclusions state that any new EU legislation must be proportionate and supported by robust impact assessments, and the UK was able to support their adoption.
Among AOB items, the Commission gave a presentation of its recent proposal to revise the regulation which established the European Maritime Safety Agency and to bring the agency’s tasks into line with more recent legislation. The UK supported a statement by Germany, which expressed concern about any increase in EMSA’s budget and staffing.