Transport: In Brief

A comprehensive overview of the main policies, key players, major milestones, current hot dossiers and future priorities in European transport policy.

Transport was one of the Community's earliest common policies. Since the Treaty of Rome entered into force in 1958, transport policy has focused on removing obstacles at the borders between member states so as to facilitate the free movement of persons and goods. 

The transport industry also occupies an important position in the European Union (EU), accounting for 7% of its gross national product (GNP), 7% of all jobs, 40% of member states' investment and 30% of Community energy consumption. 

  • Legal Basis:


The Common Transport Policy was established by article 3 f and Title V of the Treaty establishing the European Community

  • Milestones and Key Documents:


    • June 1985: Commission White Paper on the completion of the internal market, including measures for liberalising and harmonising transport policies across the Community.  
    • December 1992: Commission Communication on the future development of the Common Transport Policy.  
    • December 1995: Commission Green Paper "Towards fair and efficient pricing in transport", setting out a fiscal policy on transport.  
    • July 1996: Adoption of a Decision on Community guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network (consolidated text)  
    • July 1998: Commission White Paper aimed at introducing a harmonised approach to transport charging: "Fair payment for infrastructure use: a phased approach to a common transport infrastructure charging framework in the EU"  
    • September 2001: Adoption of the White Paper aimed at making European transport policy more sustainable: "European transport policy for 2010: time to decide" [FR] [DE]  
    • June 2006: Commission proposal for a mid-term review of the 2001 Transport White Paper: "Keep Europe moving - Sustainable mobility for our continent" [FR] [DE] 
    • September 2007: Commission presentation of a Green Paper on Urban Transport (EURACTIV 26/09/07). 
    • October 2007:  Commission adopts "Logistics Action Plan" aimed at making freight transport in the EU more efficient and sustainable, through improved logistics (EURACTIV 19/10/07)

For further information on the EU’s Transport Policy and summaries of legislation, see: 

  • Hot Dossiers in Progress:


Transport security:

Subject:  Following terrorist attacks on US, Spanish and British transport systems, the EU has implemented a range of measures to increase the security of all modes of transport.

State of play:  Tighter EU aviation security rules on taking liquids on board planes entered into force in November 2006. After troubled negotiations, the EU and the US finally concluded a deal on the transfer of confidential passenger data from airlines to US security agencies. The EU is also considering a similar anti-terror screening process for air passengers within the Union. On freight transport, the Commission has frozen a 2006 proposal on supply chain security, following protests from the transport industry, business associations and MEPs.

Related dossiers: 

Road safety: 

Subject:  The EU hopes to halve the number of deaths on the road by 2010. The 3rd road safety action programme (2003) aims to encourage road users to improve their behaviour, to make vehicles safer and to improve road infrastructure.

State of play: The mid-term review of the programme revealed that the number of deaths had decreased from 50,000 in 2001 to 43,000 in 2007. The Commission is stepping up efforts to reach the target by 2010. Priority is especially being given to motorcyclists, the category of road users most at risk. 

Related dossiers: 

Vehicle emissions:

Subject: The Commission has devised a number of strategies aimed at reducing the negative impact of fuel exhausts on air quality and human health, including voluntary commitments from the car industry on CO2 emissions, compulsory limits on emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (via the 'Euro 5' Directive) and the promotion of alternative fuels. 

State of play: The 'Euro 5' standards will enter into force in mid-2009 and stricter, longer-term 'Euro 6' limits would be applied as of mid-2014. The Commission has proposed subjecting carmakers to binding CO2 reduction targets. Also, it will re-examine the biofuels directive in the second half of 2007 in view of speeding up progress towards the goal (set by heads of state and government in January 2007) of increasing their share in transport fuel to 10% by 2010. 

Related dossiers: 

Aviation and climate:

Subject:  Air travel contributes to climate change through emissions of carbon dioxide, water vapour, nitrogen oxides and contrails or 'aviation smog'. CO2 emissions from aviation are of particular concern as they are continuing to rise rapidly, contrary to other industry sectors that are restricted by the Kyoto Protocol.

State of play:  The Commission proposed, in December 2006, to included aviation in the EU's emissions trading scheme. The plan would cover all intra-EU flights as of 2011 and international flights as of 2012, and airlines would be able to trade emission permits with other sectors. The proposal is currently under Parliament and Council's scrutiny. 

Related dossiers: 

Road charging:

Subject:  Introducing "user" and "polluter pays" principles aims to ensure that road usage better reflects its real impact on society and the environment, and to shift freight away from roads onto other modes of transport such as rail and waterways. Charging can also be used in cities as a means to solve congestion and pollution problems. 

State of play: On 10 June 2006 the 'Eurovignette' directive, which lays down common rules on how EU states may charge heavy goods vehicles for using the road network, entered into force. The September 2007 Green Paper on Urban Transport could look into congestion charges in cities. The Commission is expected to present a Communication on the internalisation of external costs for all transport modes before June 2008.

Related dossiers: 

  • Expected Future Policy Proposals:

    • June 2008: Smart charging: by 10 June, the Commission will present a model for infrastructure charging based on the assessment of all external costs for all modes of transport 
    • June 2008:  Commission to present an Air Transport package
    • 2009: Expected launch of a Commission programme on ‘green-powered vehicles’ 


  • Main Actors:





Member States: 

International Organisations: 

European Industry Federations and Trade Unions: 

NGOs and Think-Tanks 

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