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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Speech of Lucien Lux, Minister for Transport, to the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism

Date of Speech : 02-02-2005

Place : Bruxelles

Speaker : Lucien Lux

Policy area : Transport, Telecommmunications and Energy Transport, Telecommmunications and Energy

Mr President,

Members of the Committee on Transport and Tourism,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the name of my colleague, Nicolas Schmit, the Minister Delegate for European Affairs, and in my own name, I thank you for the opportunity you have provided us of presenting to your Committee the programme and the priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency in the transport sector. Minister Schmit has agreed to assume the Presidency of the Transport Council for me in April, as I will be unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict with my agenda as President of the Environment Council. I am convinced that the exchange of views that we will have will allow me to better understand the sensibilities of the members of your committee on the subject of the ‘Transport’ dossier that is currently on the agenda of the Council.

First and foremost, I would like to emphasise the importance of the work of the European Parliament, and most especially of your Committee. The legislative process, as it unfolds within the framework of the co-decision procedure, has become an exercise imbued with a real spirit of partnership between our two Institutions. The positive results of the past should encourage us to continue together along this path. The Luxembourg Presidency will not fail to play an active role in this regard, such as in the numerous contacts my colleagues and I have had with you during the past weeks, Mr President, as well as with the majority of your rapporteurs.

The general working framework under the Luxembourg Presidency

Before addressing the concrete issues of our programme, I would like to outline the general framework within which the Luxembourg Presidency seeks to place the conduct of the work of the first six months of 2005. Owing to its geographic location, Luxembourg is a transit country par excellence, and is thus directly exposed to the strengths and weakness of the European transport system. We are also very interested in improving the transport system while emphasising the problem of the modal imbalance as diagnosed in the Commission's White Paper of September 2001. Our process will be oriented towards the watchwords of the Lisbon strategy: competitiveness, social cohesion and responsible management of our environment. I would add to these watchwords our concern regarding all aspects of transport safety, in particular road safety.

In this regard, I would like to emphasise, in particular, the financial effort that implementing a common transport policy would require, especially as regards the horizontal dossiers. I am speaking specifically of the Trans-European Transport Networks and of the Marco Polo II programme. In fact, despite the commendable will of the Commission to significantly increase the level of Community measures on this matter, it will not be achieved unless the European Union provides the necessary budgetary capacity within the framework of the political agreement to be reached during the next financial perspectives (2007-2013) and on the level of own resources at its disposal.

With your permission, I would now like to turn to specific questions on the work programme of the Luxembourg Presidency in the area of transport.

Surface transport

Beginning with surface transport policy, I would first like to address the Eurovignette dossier. Reaching an agreement on this dossier within the Council in the first half of the year is a priority. The Presidency intends to continue the efforts already begun by the Irish and Dutch Presidencies, both of which have made great efforts in seeking an agreement.

For the continuation of the debate within the Council, the opinion of Parliament in the first reading obviously remains an important point of reference.

The difficulties that the work has encountered are clearly linked to the political sensitivity of the subject. In addition, it should be added that the positions of the 25 Member States are sometimes very different in certain key respects. The geographical location of the individual Member States, whether they are centrally located or on the periphery of the Union, is the source of a good number of these differences. Another major complication is that the new proposed system conflicts with existing systems of infrastructure taxation that sometimes differ significantly from one Member State to another. The challenge thus involves finding a balance between these positions, while ensuring that the text remains coherent and also represents real progress in the existing situation.

Allow me to move on to another important dossier now that concerns ground transport, the third rail package.

The Luxembourg Presidency wishes to continue actively the work on the third rail package with the same spirit and commitment with which the Council undertook the final negotiations on the second package.

The issue of treating the four proposals in questions as a "package" is a delicate one. The Council is well aware that the European Commission, which has been encouraged by the experience with the first and second rail packages, would like the four proposals to be adopted together as a group. At least the Council's opinion on this matter is shared.

We have seen questions regarding the internal coherence of the package and consequently about the reasons that could justify, from a technical point of view, the treatment of these proposals as a group. In addition, within the Council certain proposals at issue are more controversial than others.

Thanks to the excellent work performed by the Dutch Presidency, the Transport Council of December 2004 basically arrived at a general orientation on the certification of on-board personnel conducting locomotives and trains.

In practice, the Luxembourg Presidency will initially concentrate its efforts on the proposal on improving the rights of passengers using international services.

In view of the moderate interest that the proposal on the quality of rail freight has received, the Presidency will once again request the delegations of the 25 Member States to express their opinions on this topic. Based on this new tour de table, we will examine, together with the Commission and the Parliament, what the final fate in store for this package will be.

In parallel to following up on the work on the third package, we expressed to the Commission our wish to see the evaluation of the first rail package accelerated and included in the decisions relating to the second package.

We have, in addition, emphasised to the Commission our interest in an effective association of the Member States to this evaluation, which should include an evaluation of the economic, social and environmental repercussions of the policy of liberalisation pursued up to now and which should be achieved by the end of this year.

In the absence of new propositions from the Commission in the area of internal navigation, no new dossier will address this subject during the Luxembourg Presidency.

Furthermore, it is regrettable that we must confirm that, except for several dossiers regarding, more particularly, automobile manufacturing and therefore within the competence of the Competitiveness Council, no new proposal of the Commission can be found on the agenda of the Council in relation to road safety. Knowing the level of commitment the last two Luxembourg Presidencies have demonstrated, you will understand how much we deplore this lack of dossiers.

I have also insisted, since our first contacts, to the new Vice-President of the Commission, Commissioner Barrot, that one or more new legislative initiatives for which the preparatory work seems to be nearing the end be made available within a reasonable time. Under the condition that the Commission would implement them, I would also be able to imagine starting to examine, during these six months, one or two directive proposals regarding mandatory switching-on of vehicle headlights during the day or focussing on making wearing protective helmets mandatory for motorcyclists.


In the area of aviation, it seems to me to be an appropriate opportunity to address, in the first place, external relations.

This dimension of aviation is a field of mixed competence, as the limits of the respective roles of the Member States and the Commission and the realistic working methods have yet to emerge. The general sentiment within the Council is that a progressive approach that best takes into account the concrete interests at the moment is the best means of making progress.

It seems important to us in this regard to apply flexibly the management framework of the bilateral agreements. In fact, how can the preservation of interests of the Member States vis-à-vis third countries be ensured in the event that the non-Community partner refuses to allow a Community clause in spite of all the efforts of the Member States in this regard? Under these conditions, is it not reasonable to agree on a prolongation of the provisional means of the existing agreements in spite of the fact that the Community clause is not included in them?

Having recently entrusted to the Commission the mandates for negotiations with Morocco and the Western Balkans, the Council awaits with interest the communication of the Commission that establishes a more general policy framework for this area. Our Presidency will invite the Council to respond with this type of resolution.

As regards the "open skies" talks between the EU and the United States, which have failed in June, the EU has taken advantage of this time to intensify its contacts with the industry.

The Council expects the negotiations to be infused with a new spirit with a view to reaching another agreement before the end of 2005.

We also expect new initiatives on the part of the Commission before completing the internal legislative framework in the civil aviation sector. The Presidency is particularly interested in the dossiers on the rights of passengers.

The Council and the Parliament should be submitted a communication of two legislative proposals seeking on the one hand passenger information on the identity of the air carrier, and on the other hand improving the travelling conditions of passengers with reduced mobility.

These proposals will be examined in the order in which they are received. In this regard, informal cooperation with the Parliament with a view to the rapid adoption of these texts seems quite opportune.

Maritime transport

Within the Luxembourg Government, the maritime sector falls under the competence of my colleague Jeannot Krecké, Minister for the Economy and External Trade. Before beginning this part of my address, I would like to report to you that Mr Krecké is prepared, if your Committee so desires, to have a personal exchange of views with you on these dossiers.

In the area of maritime transport, the principal dossier concerns the recent proposal by the Commission on market access of port services.

The Presidency is aware of the sensitivity to the issues raised by this new proposal on port services, which is due primarily to the controversial nature of the reactions that came to light during the previous attempt to legislate in this area.

While awaiting the results of the consultations begun by your rapporteur, as well as the conclusions of the impact studies initiated by the Commission, the Presidency has examined the dossier with the necessary prudence.

On this subject, the Presidency envisages useful contact with your Committee, and particularly with your rapporteur.

The third package on security is maritime security. Here, the Presidency is dependent upon the agenda the Commission established for submitting new proposals.

Intermodal issues

Allow me to come now to the intermodal issues. First I will address the proposal on the second Marco Polo programme. I would like to then emphasise that this is a dossier on which the Presidency would very much like to see progress. The Transport group also examined this proposal last week.

The Marco Polo II programme is similar in several respects to the initial programme, but includes new actions such as "motorways of the sea" and traffic reduction measures. It also addresses the extension of programme to neighbouring countries of the European Union.

The new programme, for which a budget of EUR 740 million has been proposed for 2007-2013, is principally aimed at encouraging the transfer of freight from roadway transport to other modes of transport and at improving the environmental performance of the transport system as a whole.

Even though the new proposal benefits most of a large support from the Member States, the success of the programme will finally depend on the negotiations on financial perspectives 2007-2013. These negotiations will be held in the ECOFIN Council and the General Affairs and External Relations Council. Once a global solution on the financing needs of the European Union has been found, it will be up to the Transport Council and to the Parliament to reach a formal agreement on the Marco Polo II programme.

As I said in the introduction, the regulation project defining the rules for granting financial support for the Trans-European Networks (TEN) is treated within the framework of the future financial perspectives and thus at the level of the ECOFIN Council.

Another intermodal dossier: the European satellite navigation system. More specifically, the GALILEO programme. 2004 was an important and successful year in this area, and the Council promised, last December, to approve the passage to deployment and exploitation phases of the programme.

As regards the financial aspect, that is, the Commission proposal regarding the financial allocation within the framework of the financial perspectives 2007-2013, the Council has reached a consensus on the reference text, except for the amount proposed for the participation of public funds. In fact, that will be set as a function of the aforementioned financial perspectives under the competence of the ECOFIN Council.

Under the Luxembourg Presidency, the authority of the Council will follow the development of the management framework of the system, the negotiations on the concession contract with the successful candidate and the development of the coordination with the third countries.

Continuation of the work on certain dossiers is now at an advanced stage of co-decision

Now I have come to the dossiers on which the Council, in one way or another, has already taken a position. In certain cases, these positions are provisional, and awaiting the assent of the Parliament. At the beginning of my speech, I underlined the importance the Luxembourg Presidency places on successful cooperation with you.

First, allow me to say a word on the proposal on the harmonisation of social legislation within the roadway transport sector - the new Regulation 3820/85 - and on the Directive proposal on the implementation of Regulations regarding social legislation within the roadway transport sector. In regard to the final result - in the form of its common positions - at which the Council arrived in December 2004, it is advisable to regard the two instruments together.

With regard to the proposal for new Regulation 3820/85, the work, which began in 2001, was extremely arduous. It was important to maintain the necessary balance between the requirements relating to the work of the sector on the one hand and the protections of the social rights of the workers on the other hand. Improving road safety also played a major role in the deliberations of the Council.

As this is a directive project, the Presidency is aware that certain aspects of the common position of the Council could give rise to criticism on the part of this Parliament. Nevertheless, in the consideration of the Council, this marks significant progress in the practical implementation of the social regulation. However, the Luxembourg Presidency has been working and will continue to work with your rapporteur to bring the points of view closer together in the hope that an agreement can be reached in the second reading of this dossier.

The Directive proposal relating to driving licenses concerns the revision of a very important regulation. The Council achieved a general orientation on this proposal during its October 2004 session; the provisional result is not very different from the initial proposal. Currently, the Council is awaiting the assent of the European Parliament on this important proposal.

And so we come to the directive proposal relating to river information services. The Council came to an agreement on a general orientation during its session of 7 October 2004. The contacts with your rapporteur have been promising and a good number of the elements have been clarified. It now seems possible to reach an agreement on the first reading of this directive proposal.

I now turn to the aviation sector, and will close with the directive proposal concerning the licensing of air traffic controllers. The Council arrived at a general orientation on this proposal in December 2004, and is now awaiting the asset of the Parliament. In this area, further informal talks with your rapporteur already began under the Dutch Presidency.

The political agreement obtained on regulation project EU-OPS during the Council of December 2004 concerns just one part of the text. The work of updating the rest of the proposal is under way at the Commission, and the Presidency will ensure that this work is continued without delay so that the European Parliament can receive the common position of the Council in its entirety and with the least possible delay.

In the maritime area, an agreement seems possible on first reading on the directive project on the recognition of seafarer training certificates.

Another proposal to be advanced concerns port safety. Here, the Luxembourg Presidency also wishes to achieve an agreement on first reading, and the contacts with your rapporteur make us optimistic in this regard.

The regulation dossier in relation to ISM code (International Safety Management) is a technically complex dossier. The President of your Committee, who is also the rapporteur of this proposal, saw the results of not formulating an amendment on the first reading.

The common position of the Council will be submitted to you soon. We hope to be able to work with your Committee with a view to reaching an agreement on the second reading.

The last, but not the least important dossier on our agenda, concerns penalties for pollution caused by ships. This legislative instrument presented in March 2003 following the Prestige accident, aims to ensure that those causing damage through pollution are subject to the appropriate penalties.

I assure you that the Presidency will agree to make every effort to reach an agreement on this issue. And, I hope that all actors in this debate will understand why there is a fundamental need for this in the area of fighting oil spills and preventing pollution caused by ships.

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would venture to believe that I have given you a general overview of the work that the Luxembourg Presidency intends to successfully complete in the first six months of 2005, and I hope that the cooperation that is envisaged with the European Parliament in this regard is successful using an open approach.

I thank you for your attention, and I am at your service, together with my colleague, Minister Nicolas Schmit, if you wish to go into more detail on any of the subjects I touched on. I am also available to return to this Committee in June, so that I may present to you the results of the work accomplished under the Luxembourg Presidency.

This page was last modified on : 04-02-2005

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