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EU: Transport Council

Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 25 March 2009


My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Geoff Hoon) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I will attend the first Transport Council of the Czech presidency which will take place in Brussels on 30 March.

There will be a progress report and policy debate on the latest situation on the proposed amendment to Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures (the Eurovignette directive). We support the principle of the polluter pays and therefore the broad aims of the directive.  However, we have concerns with some of the proposals, including a requirement to introduce earmarking.

The council will aim to reach a general approach on a proposed amendment to the directive on the organisation of working time in road transport. The amending directive aims to permanently exclude the genuinely self-employed from the scope of the working time rules for mobile workers and provide additional flexibility to industry on night work limits. I expect to be able to agree to the general approach.

Following the recent Commission communication “Action Plan for the deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems in Europe”, the council will be asked to adopt conclusions. The Government support the objectives of the ITS action plan to reduce congestion, tackle environmental issues, provide reliable travel information and improve safety. We welcome the recognition in the conclusions of the contribution that technology can make to meet those objectives.

Within the SESAR project for single sky implementation, the Commission has recently produced a master plan for air traffic management in Europe. The council will be asked to adopt a decision endorsing the master plan and a council resolution on it. The UK has been a firm supporter of the SESAR project from the outset. We recognise the contribution the project can make to improvement of the European air traffic management system, while helping to mitigate the impacts of aviation on the environment. In order for the project to begin its second phase (development), we should endorse this resolution and request the SESAR joint undertaking to complete membership agreements with industry at the earliest possible opportunity.

Under AOB, the presidency will report on progress of the legislative proposals of the single European sky (SES) package. It is expected that the European Parliament in plenary session will by then have voted on these proposals. The first of them is a regulation amending the four regulations adopted in 2004 which established the single European sky. The amending regulation aims to improve the efficiency of air traffic management (ATM) across the EU by introducing targets that ensure all member states contribute to an overall improvement in the performance of the ATM system. The second is an amending regulation extending the responsibilities of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to the safety of aerodromes, air traffic management and air navigation services. The UK has been a firm supporter of the single European sky since its inception in 2004. We are content with progress in negotiations and look forward to these proposals being adopted as soon as possible.

Finally in aviation, the presidency will seek political endorsement for a future council decision to sign a comprehensive air transport agreement with Canada. The UK is supportive of this agreement, which would deliver the phased opening of aviation markets and investment liberalisation for EU and Canadian carriers, as well as other commercial freedoms and improved regulatory co-operation.

In maritime transport, there will be a progress report and policy debate on a draft regulation on the rights of passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterway. We support the aim of the regulation, following provisions already agreed for other transport modes, and we will continue to work closely with the Commission and member states on the details.

Also in maritime transport, the council will be asked to adopt conclusions arising from two recent Commission communications. The first, strategic goals and recommendations for the EU’s maritime transport policy until 2018, has as its aims, acceptable to us in principle, the promotion of European shipping and related industries which are safe, secure and environmentally friendly while remaining efficient, adaptable and globally competitive. The second communication is an action plan with a view to establishing a European maritime space without barriers. This is a concept which we can support in principle. It is designed to extend the Community’s internal market by simplifying administrative procedures for intra-EU maritime transport, particularly short sea shipping, in order to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of this sector, as well as to deliver environmental benefits. I expect to be able to agree to both sets of conclusions.

Under AOB, the council will report on the draft regulation establishing the second Marco Polo programme, following recent negotiations with the European Parliament. The Marco Polo programme provides Community financial assistance to improve the environmental performance of the freight transport system. This proposal intends to stimulate more applications for funding by increasing participation by small enterprises, simplifying administrative procedures, increasing funding intensities and redefining and lowering the eligibility thresholds for project proposals. The Government believe that these amendments should allow the Marco Polo II programme fully to deploy its potential, so we strongly support the proposed revision. 

Also under AOB, the Commission will report on the Galileo satellite navigation programme and on its recent proposal for an amending regulation on airport slot allocation.