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EU Transport Council

Volume 556: debated on Monday 7 January 2013

I attended the last Transport Council of the Cypriot Presidency in Brussels on Thursday 20 December.

The Council agreed a general approach on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and the Council on periodic road worthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers and repealing directive 2009/40/EC. Following widespread criticism of the Commission’s proposal at the October Transport Council, the UK has been an active and leading negotiator at the working group meetings chaired by the presidency. The presidency subsequently presented a compromise text that reflected the reality of member states’ road safety testing practices. We supported the change of the legal form of the proposal from a (directly applicable) regulation to a directive (which gives member states some flexibility in transposition).

I welcomed the many improvements in the presidency’s text which had substantially reduced the cost implications to a manageable level, and indicated that the UK could accept the presidency’s text. I made clear that as negotiations begin with the European Parliament, we would seek to provide Members of the European Parliament with as much information as possible to explain why the changes to the original proposal were both justified, and necessary.

The presidency provided progress reports on two proposals.

The first was the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the connecting Europe facility. This regulation will provide the legal basis for funding of trans-European transport, energy and telecoms networks for 2014-20. The text will not be finalised until the budget figures for 2014-20 have been agreed in discussions on the multi-annual financial framework (MFF).

The second was the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the implementation and exploitation of European satellite navigation systems. The Council’s position on this regulation, which will provide the legal basis for taking forward the Galileo satellite navigation programme from 2014, was agreed earlier in the year. However, technical discussions with the European Parliament since then have not led to much progress. The dossier will be passed to the Irish Presidency to conclude negotiations with the European Parliament once the budget for Galileo under the MFF has been confirmed.

The Council adopted conclusions on the Communication on “EU’s External Aviation Policy—Addressing Future Challenges”. The Commission welcomed the conclusions, highlighting in particular the worsening aviation relationship with Russia, especially Russia’s ongoing refusal to implement its commitments on Siberian overflight charges. The Commissioner called for collective action at EU level and said he would be producing a road map in the new year with a view to pursuing an EU/Russia comprehensive agreement in due course.

The Council also adopted a proposal for a decision on the comprehensive aviation agreement between the EU and its member states and Israel. The original plan had been for the agreement to be signed in the margins of the Council, but due to internal political reasons, Israel was not able to sign at this time. The Commission hoped that Israel would be in a position to sign this agreement shortly after national elections in the spring 2013.

A high level co-operation agreement with Eurocontrol (European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation) was signed in the margins of the Council.

Under any other business, the Commission provided an update on recent discussions at the International Civil Aviation Organisation to agree a global approach to tackling emissions from aviation. The Commission clarified that it was proposing a temporary derogation on enforcement of the aviation emissions trading system (ETS) relating to international flights and hoped the European Parliament and the Council would approve this through a decision in the first quarter of next year.

Also under any other business, France tabled a room document which called for a discussion to be held in the International Maritime Organization on the 2015 deadline for implementing the new requirements on the sulphur content of marine fuels. A number of member states intervened and stressed that they would be keen to discuss practical issues, such as the cost of low sulphur fuels to businesses.

The cleaner power for transport package which was due to be discussed as an AOB item was taken off the agenda.

Keith Brown MSP, Scottish Minister for Transport and veterans also attended.