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EU: Transport Council

Volume 687: debated on Monday 18 December 2006

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Dr Stephen Ladyman) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I attended the transport session of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, held in Brussels on 11 to 12 December. The Finnish Minister for Transport and Communications, Mrs Susanna Huovinen, was in the chair.

The council adopted conclusions on the Commission communication on its mid-term review of the programme for the promotion of short sea shipping. The conclusions are acceptable to the UK.

The council reached a general approach on a directive amending the current EU provisions on port state control. The general approach, reached on the basis of a compromise proposal, was acceptable to the UK.

The council also reached a general approach on a decision concerning the ratification by EU member states of the 2006 consolidated maritime labour convention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This decision, enabling member states to ratify the convention, and incorporating member states’ and Community competence, is acceptable to the UK.

There was a Commission progress report on the regulation on liability of carriers of passengers by sea and inland waterways in the event of accidents.

The Commission gave a further report on progress in the PPP concession contract negotiations on the Galileo satellite navigation programme. It is keen to ensure that the main elements of the concession contract are in place by early 2007; was hopeful that the financial regulation setting out the financial and legal commitments for the public sector over the 20-year period of the concession contract could be finalised by autumn 2007; and expected that final signature of the concession contract could then take place by the end of 2007. I urged that the Commission ensure sufficient information is made available to the March transport council so that some preparatory work could be carried out before the important decisions that will need to be taken at the later June council. I underlined again the civil nature of the project, and called for better information for the council on economic returns versus cost.

The Commission announced that it would shortly issue a paper setting out its recommendations on future relations with non-EU countries in the Galileo programme. The Commission also reported on the recent publication of its Green Paper on Galileo applications. The paper invites comments from stakeholders on a host of issues relating to Galileo applications.

Over lunch Ministers discussed the member states’ bids for location of the Galileo Supervisory Authority (GSA). The UK's bid is for Cardiff and I spoke in favour of it. There are 10 other bids: from Greece, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, Malta, Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Italy and France. The presidency noted that all 11 bids met the criteria it had drawn up. It was not possible to reach a conclusion, so the Finnish presidency remitted the issue to the incoming German presidency.

The council adopted conclusions on the Commission's communication on freight transport logistics, entitled Freight Logistics in Europe—Key to Sustainable Mobility. The Commission plans to present an action plan for freight transport logistics in 2007. The UK supports this initiative from the Commission, and the proposal to develop an action plan and the conclusions are acceptable to us.

The council reached a general approach on a directive on retrofitting of blind-spot mirrors to heavy goods vehicles larger than 3.5 tonnes registered in the Community. The UK supports the objectives of this proposal, which extends the provisions of a type-approval directive adopted in 2003 (for new trucks) to the existing fleet. The directive will apply to lorries registered after 1 January 2000. I was able to accept the text of the general approach, in the interest of making progress on this important matter. I joined others in calling for the Commission to consider the addition of a mirror covering the front blind spot. A statement to this effect, recording the Commission's agreement, will be entered in the minutes.

The Commission reported on negotiations with the US on air transport. The situation was more complex now than at the previous transport council, since the proposed US rule-making procedure had been withdrawn. The Commission had accepted an offer of further talks in January to consider next steps. The Commission was disappointed with recent developments, but was determined to make progress and to continue to work towards a balanced agreement.

The Commission reported on the agreement reached with Russia on Siberian overflights. The agreement was widely welcomed in the council.

The council adopted a mandate authorising the Commission to open air transport negotiations with Ukraine. The UK supports this mandate.

The council reached a general approach on a regulation amending regulation 1592/2002, which established a framework for aviation safety regulation built around the European Aviation Safety Agency. The text of the general approach was acceptable to the UK.

Under AOB there were reports on the EU-Russia transport dialogue and on the ministerial conference on road safety held in Verona on 3 to 4 November. Agreed without debate were the following proposals, all of which were acceptable to the UK:

Regulation of the European Parliament and of the council laying down general rules for the granting of Community financial aid in the field of trans-European transport and energy networks and amending Council regulation (EC) No. 2236/95;

Adoption of the council decision on the signing of a co-operation agreement on a Civil Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) between the European Community and its member states and the Kingdom of Morocco;

Adoption of a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on public passenger transport services by rail and by road;

Adoption of a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on common rules in the field of civil aviation security;

Adoption of a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles (“framework directive”;

Adoption of a council regulation amending Regulation (EC) No. 1321/2004 on the establishment of structures for the management of the European satellite navigation programmes;

Adoption of a council regulation amending Council regulation (EC) No. 876/2002 setting up the Galileo joint undertaking.

The GNSS agreement with Morocco was signed in the margins of the council, and I signed for the UK.