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EU Transport Council

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 30 March 2011

I will attend the first Transport Council of the Hungarian presidency, which will take place in Brussels on 31 March.

There will be a progress report and policy debate on the draft regulation amending Regulation 1406/2002, which established the European Maritime Safety Agency. The proposed amendment gives the agency several new, largely technical, tasks. In principle, the UK would be able to support the proposals, subject to the Commission delivering the additional funding required through a programme of reprioritisation of the current EU budget. It is also important for the UK to ensure that the extension of the agency’s marine pollution response capabilities, to cover offshore oil and gas installations, is at the request of an affected state only, and that any involvement in the analysis of the safety of these installations explicitly excludes activities or requirements related to the exploration or exploitation of mineral resources by means of a well.

There will be two agenda items on global navigation satellite systems (GNSS).

There will be a progress report and the Council will be asked to reach a general approach on a decision on rules for access to the public regulated service (PRS) of the Galileo system. I believe the text to be tabled for general approach addresses the UK’s earlier concerns covering costs, the framework for the manufacture of PRS receivers and associated material, and security standards.

There will be a policy debate and the Council will be asked to agree conclusions following the Commission’s recent mid-term review of the European programmes. The Government are deeply disappointed and concerned that the full Galileo programme cannot now be delivered within the budget or timescale agreed in 2007. A robust assessment of all options is needed in light of this. The Government consider that the programme should respect the 2007 budget by reducing its level of ambition. The draft Council conclusions do not prejudice the forthcoming negotiations on the next multi-annual financial framework for the EU and urge the Commission to continue its cost analysis in order to identify options for cost reduction. They go on to underline the Council’s wish that the cost analysis should result in cost savings. Accordingly, I expect to be able to agree to the conclusions.

The Council will be asked to adopt two decisions in the area of aviation external relations.

The first is a decision on the signature and provisional application of a memorandum of co-operation between the Community and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). I intend to abstain on this proposal as I consider that it is necessary to put down a marker that the UK is concerned about the principle of member state sovereignty in international organisations, and cautious about any proposals which could have the effect of enhancing the role of the EU at the expense of member states.

The second is a decision authorising the Commission to negotiate with Switzerland on an amendment to the existing air transport agreement. This will further remove barriers to market access on the basis of full application by Switzerland of the EU regulatory framework. The UK is supportive of the proposed negotiating mandate.

The Council may be asked to adopt a position on a decision concerning the accession of the EU to the protocol of 2002 to the Athens convention, relating to the carriage of passengers and their luggage by sea, 1974. A number of issues still need to be resolved. I will report to the House on this matter if it is considered at the Council.

I will be raising two issues under any other business. The first is the importance of ensuring that the forthcoming review of European air quality legislation takes full account of transport issues. The second is the need to make swift progress in delivering an enhanced regulatory regime for air cargo security.

If, as expected, the Commission’s new White Paper on transport policy is published before the Council, the Commission will give a presentation on it under AOB. A debate on the White Paper will follow at a later Council, when member states have given full consideration to it. Also under AOB, the Commission will report on the follow-up to the volcanic ash crisis of 2010, looking at the wider scope of crisis management and EU methodology.