The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2005URL (Internet address) : http://www.eu2005.lu/en/presidence/domaines_politiques/transport/
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Transport, Telecommunications and Energy
The Council of the Ministers for Transport, Telecommunications and Energy meets six to eight times a year. Other informal meetings may be held.
The transport sector, which accounts for 7% of GDP, 7% of employment, 40% of Member States’ investment and 30% of EU energy consumption, clearly plays a key role. Over the past 20 years, intra-Community demand for transport has grown almost continuously, with 3% annual growth for goods and 2% for passengers. The EC Treaty initially provided for the obligation to implement a common transport policy. A Court of Justice decision (1985) was nevertheless required before the Council finally decided to adopt measures organising the free movement of services in this sector. Significant work to liberalise transport has been carried out since 1988.
The European Commission completed the transport sector’s objectives set out above in its December 1998 communication. The objectives were to promote the working of the internal market, construct trans-European networks and connect the infrastructures of EU candidate countries to the systems existing within the Europe of the 15. The Commission encourages public-private partnerships (PPP) in the area of trans-European networks.
In September 2001, the European Commission submitted its White Paper "European transport policy for 2010: time to decide". This document sets out 60 measures to nurture the development of transport while ensuring its efficiency, good quality and safety. The European Commission is particularly keen to encourage modes of transport other than road transport, such as coastal navigation (short sea shipping), internal navigation and rail transport. It will also step up the Galilee project, a global satellite navigation system destined to become the industry standard for the 21st century in this field.
The telecommunications market has been fully liberalised since 1 January 1998. In the longer term, the European Union intends to equip itself with a pan-European electronic network enabling the rapid exchange of images, sound and data among authorities, businesses and individuals.
In February 1997, 68 countries signed the World Trade Organisation’s "Telecom" agreement, the aim of which was to reduce the cost of telephone communications. This agreement, in operation since 1998, embodies the following elements in particular:
- since 1998 the United States, Japan and the European Union have been fully open to both internal and external competition;
- the transition periods are December 1998 for Spain, 2000 for Ireland, 2005 for Greece and Portugal;
- Central and Eastern European countries benefit from other transition periods ranging from 2000 for the Czech Republic to 2005 for Bulgaria.
In July 2000, the European Commission formulated proposals to reform legislation in the telecommunications sector. A range of directives were adopted in February 2002, laying down regulations on the universal service and availability for all telecommunications services, licensing, and access by telecommunications enterprises to the existing physical networks, so they can access their clients directly and maintain unconstrained contact.
Major differences exist between Member States’ national policies in the field of energy. France and Finland mostly rely on nuclear power, Italy is supplied almost entirely by imports, the Netherlands export substantial volumes of natural gas, and in Denmark the wind power sector is highly developed. Despite these basic differences, however, all countries agree on how important energy is for our modern societies. Without energy, our society and our economy would surely cease to function. Just as water is essential to human life, energy has become a condition for the survival of modern society. In order to guarantee sufficient, sustained and continuous supplies of energy, the European Union pays considerable attention to the many dimensions of energy production.
Within the context of completing the internal market, the EU has established a free market for energy. Since 1 July 2004, liberalisation of the energy market has been achieved for the commercial sector and regional authorities. It will be achieved for private individuals from 2007 onwards. The range of directives intended to pave the way for liberalisation, including the new electricity and gas directives and the directive relating to tax on energy, were subsequently adopted. Liberalisation, however, establishes limits on competition, whereby the supply of energy must not be threatened under any circumstances. The security of the supply of energy is and will therefore remain a key issue in Europe, particularly in an energy market open to competition.
In September 2002, the Commission adopted a range of communications, directives and decisions, and policy on the security of energy supply continues to expand. In December 2003, the Commission accordingly submitted a range of proposals intended to guarantee the security of the supply of electricity and strengthen the infrastructure involved.
A way to improve the security of supply and delivery is to stimulate innovation, particularly by comparing experience and potential in the transport, telecommunications and energy network sectors. Sustained attention is therefore paid to this area at European level.
In its November 2000 Green Paper "Towards a European strategy for the security of energy supply", the Commission highlighted the importance of energy savings. When EU dependence on external energy sources and problems relating to climate change are considered, it is clear that energy savings remain a topical issue.
In June 2004, the European Commission published a communication on renewable energy that includes an analysis of the progress made in meeting the ambitious objectives the EU established in 2001, in terms of sustainable energy for 2010. The Commission made proposals with a view to adopting an international action plan for biomass and promoting research and development. The Council will also pay unceasing attention to the potential for structurally intensifying development, cooperation and information exchange on sustainable energy within the EU.
Within the context of the debate on the supply security of supply, the Council adopted conclusions on cooperation with neighbouring countries in the area of energy, energy transport and the energy market in December 2003. This primarily involves intensifying cooperation with countries surrounding the EU in terms of energy infrastructure and energy policy, Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, implementing a policy to extend the internal energy market to include the countries of South-East Europe, and dialogue between the EU and Russia.