EEA: Candidate countries heading down road of unsustainable transport

A new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) warns that EU candidate countries are rapidly adopting the EU’s unsustainable transport patterns. A growing level of total transport traffic is largely being driven by an increase in road transport.

Currently, the candidate countries have quite different transport systems from those of the Member States. In a number of respects, transport in these countries is much less harmful to the environment than transport in the EU:

  • Transport accounts for only 19% of overall energy consumption, compared with 34% in the EU.
  • Transport-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita are three times lower than in the EU.
  • Road networks are nearly 40% less dense than in the EU; the total length of motorways is more than ten times shorter.

However, the picture is changing rapidly.

  • Energy consumption by transport is increasing rapidly.
  • CO2 emissions have been rising since the second half of the 1990s.
  • Land-take by transport infrastructure is increasing; the total length of motorways has doubled over the last 10 years.

Relative to the EU’s goals for integration of environmental concerns into transport policy, the report arrives at mixed conclusions for the candidate countries:

  • Decoupling transport growth from economic growth: The intensity of freight transport decreased relative to economic growth during the 1990s, but it is still on average five times higher than in the EU. With respect to passenger transport, prospects are less clear.
  • Modal shift: Railways’ share of freight and passenger transport remains well above EU levels, but road and air transport is on the increase.


According to Gordon McInnes, EEA Interim Executive Director, the main challenge for the accession countries is now “to maintain the advantage they still have in certain aspects of transport and environment while meeting society’s need to improve living standards and consequent demands for increased mobility."


In the third report under the EU’s transport and environment reporting mechanism (TERM), the EEA looks at the progress made in each of the 13 accession candidate countries, including Turkey, in integrating environmental concerns into transport policy.

This process of integrating environmental concerns into transport policy was started in 1998 as part of the wider "Cardiff process". The main objectives of the EU's environmental transport policy include:

  • Decoupling transport growth from economic growth: breaking the close link between economic growth and transport expansion;
  • Modal shift: In a first phase, stabilising the “modal split” – the relative shares of the different transport modes – at 1998 levels by 2010; from that date, shifting traffic from the roads back to rail and inland waterways.


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