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EU: Transport Council

Volume 700: debated on Thursday 24 April 2008

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Rosie Winterton) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I attended the transport session of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, held in Luxembourg on 7 April. The Slovenian Minister for Transport and Communications, Mr Radovan Žerjav, was in the chair.

There was a progress report and policy debate on the current package of road transport legislative proposals, namely: a recast regulation on common rules for access to the international road haulage market; a regulation on common rules concerning the conditions to be complied with in order to pursue the occupation of road transport operator; and a recast regulation on common rules for access to the market for coach and bus services. The presidency presented a compromise package, including a Commission proposal on cabotage (three domestic deliveries in seven days following an international-laden journey) and an amended proposal on interconnected national registers. On cabotage, a significant number of member states regretted that the proposal was not more liberal. I spoke in support of regulated cabotage, which was only an “add-on” to international journeys, but stressed that it should not be regular or systematic, which the Commission proposal would allow. I stressed the need to address safety concerns and enforcement alongside market opening. I welcomed the agreement in principle to establish interconnected registers, to enable member states to help one another to protect road safety through effective enforcement when operators are working internationally. The presidency concluded that the majority of member states could support the proposed compromises on cabotage and the registers and that it would now work towards achievement of political agreements on the three proposals in June. We will continue to work with it and other member states towards achieving an acceptable outcome for the UK.

On rail freight, the council adopted conclusions on the Commission communication Towards a Rail Network Giving Priority to Freight. The conclusions are acceptable to the UK.

The council reached a general approach on a regulation on implementation of the European satellite radio navigation programmes (EGNOS and Galileo). This follows on from the political guidelines set out in the November Transport Council conclusions on Galileo. This regulation sets the Community budget for the satellite navigation programmes between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2013. It also aims to improve the governance of the programmes by applying a strict division of responsibilities. The text of the general approach is acceptable to the UK.

The council reached a political agreement on a directive on airport charges. The directive aims to establish a framework of common principles to be respected by airport operators when they determine the charges to airlines for the use of airport services, as practices currently differ across member states. These measures aim to create a level playing field to avoid cases of discrimination and to improve transparency. The agreed text of the directive is acceptable to the UK.

The council reached a general approach on a regulation on a code of conduct for computerised reservation systems (CRS) to replace the existing regulation 2299/89. This aims to update and simplify the existing code of conduct and to promote competition between CRS providers, while maintaining safeguards against potential competitive abuses and ensuring the provision of neutral and comprehensive information to consumers. The text of the general approach is acceptable to the UK.

The council adopted conclusions relating to a Commission communication entitled An Agenda for a Sustainable Future in General and Business Aviation. The conclusions are acceptable to the UK.

There were progress reports and a policy debate on two current legislative proposals in maritime transport. These are a directive on compliance with flag state requirements and a directive on the civil liability and financial guarantees of shipowners. These are the final two proposals of seven in the Commission's latest maritime package, the other five having already been agreed by the council. I joined Ministers who spoke against proceeding with these two proposals, which are widely regarded as unnecessary. Many noted the importance of global rule-making in these two areas, under the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The presidency will now reflect on the views expressed on these two maritime dossiers.

Transport items on the list of items adopted without debate (“A points”) were:

adoption of a decision authorising the Commission to open negotiations with Israel on a comprehensive air transport agreement;

adoption of conclusions on the Commission communication First Report on the Implementation of the European Single Sky Legislation—Achievements and the Way Forward;

adoption of decisions on the signature and provisional application of the agreements with Nepal and Australia on certain aspects of air services; and

adoption of a directive on the inland transport of dangerous goods.

These are all acceptable to the UK.