EU losing its credibility on transport policy, warns MEP

Europe’s grand project to make transport sustainable in the long
run is simply being abandoned, warns the Parliament’s transport
committee vice-president Gilles Savary in an interview with
EURACTIV.

“Everything that was being announced in the white paper [on
transport] – which was a remarkable and very courageous analysis –
is being contradicted. The dynamic today is essentially
road-based.”

The Parliament’s transport committee vice-president Gilles
Savary (PES, France) could not be more outspoken about his
frustrations regarding Europe’s sustainable transport policy. He
says the 2001 white paper, initially intended to herald a “great
turning point” for the EU’s transport policy is a miracle still
waiting to happen.  

“There was great hope and a certain amount of respect for the
work done by [Commissioner] Palacio,” recalls Savary when thinking
back to 2001. But now he says even the political ambitions have
been toned down.

Eurovignette, a proposal to charge trucks on Europe’s motorways
to finance cleaner alternatives such as rail or maritime transport,
is currently stalled in Council due to disagreement between member
states over how the money collected should be used. 

Now, after months of negotiations, Savary points out that the
directive’s original purpose to finance alternative modes of
transport has simply been forgotten along the way. Palacio, he
says, bowed to road lobby pressures at home ahead of the Spanish
elections.

According to Savary, as it stands today, Eurovignette is “first
and foremost, a road charging tool designed to finance road
transport. That is its essential philosophy. And only very
incidentally is it a tool to finance alternative modes of transport
in border or sensitive regions”. If voted as it is, he says
Europe’s transport policy will suffer “a great loss of
credibility”. 

Asked about his impression concerning the new EU Transport
Commissioner Jacques Barrot, and his pledge to make progress on the
Eurovignette, he said: “[I] have the feeling that M. Barrot reads
his notes, that he is not autonomous. He has not opened
new ways forward on ongoing dossiers. Today, it is the
Commission services which are behind the steering wheel”.

When asked about the current rail liberalisation process, Savary
is equally pessimistic: “I have the impression of being completely
manipulated.”

Taking his cue from the REACH proposal to reform the EU
chemicals policy, Savary has called for an impact assessment
study to be made on rail liberalisation. But his calls have so far
been rejected by the Commission.

According to Savary, liberalisation will lead to small companies
in central Europe being taken over by Germany’s Deutsche Bahn and
France’s SNCF with heavy consequences on jobs.

“I don’t accept the way that the Commission is forcing the issue
with such heavy consequences and without the slightest
assessment.”

Click here to read the full interview [in
French only]

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