MEPs reject EU road-safety inspection as ‘bureaucratic’

The African insurance single market is worth $1.4 billion. [Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock]

Parliament’s Transport Committee has rejected a Commission plan that would force member states to upgrade their highways. Road stakeholders say the move was “short-sighted and nationalistic” and will slow down progress to reducing road deaths in the Union. 

The Transport Committee of the European Parliament, on 5 June 2007, rejected the Commission’s proposal on road-infrastructure safety management. 

Citing, among other reasons, their wish to avoid additional bureaucratic constraints for the member states, a small majority of Committee members voted against the draft legislation. 

"We are for more road safety but this Directive would make a farce out of the 'better regulation' which is being propagated by the Commission itself," said the EPP-ED Group Spokesperson and shadow rapporteur on this issue Renate Sommer, explaining that the proposal to make member states notify each and every traffic accident to the Commission was "simply insane", adding: "We cannot expect the citizens of Europe to be submitted to such bureaucratic delusion." 

"We have to bear in mind that road infrastructure throughout the EU cannot be lumped together. They are regionally as different as the different driving behaviour," she said. 

The European Union Road Federation (ERF) criticised some MEPs for voting according to "short-sighted and nationalistic considerations", wanting to avoid their governments any extra costs when starting new infrastructure projects or maintaining existing road networks, instead of defending the European people. 

"All the specialists and every single stakeholder organisation from motorcyclist riders to road builders believe the Directive is a good thing. Some even consider it should go a lot further - for example its scope was limited by the Commission to the Trans-European Road Network, which encompasses some 80,000km of roads against a total of more than 5,000,000km in the EU27," ERF Policy Director Tom Antonissen told EURACTIV. 

The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), which had originally called for the Commission to adopt binding safety standards rather than mere guidelines, said: "Despite the proposal's weaknesses, it was a step in the right direction…Today's decision of the Parliament's Transport Committee has however dashed any hopes for even such moderate rules to be adopted. Many member states have thus been given plenty of rope by the highest elected EU body to continue to disregard their obligation towards their citizens in keeping road infrastructure safe during many years to come." 

"If the EU is serious about halving yearly road deaths by 2010, it must exploit all policy instruments available. The EU's Common Transport Policy has suffered a heavy blow today due to the lack of political wisdom, resolve and responsibility on the part of the European Parliament," said Jörg Beckmann, ETSC executive director. 

According to the Commission, road infrastructure and design are a contributing factor in one out of three fatal accidents. 

Driven by the goal of cutting the number of deaths on European roads from roughly 40,000 a year in 2006 to 25,000 by 2010, the Commission made, in October 2006, a legislative proposal to improve road infrastructure on the trans-European network – a move that it claimed could save 600 lives and prevent around 7,000 injuries annually. 

The proposal foresaw that member states would have to carry out road-safety impact assessments and audits for all infrastructure projects, as well as routine safety inspections of roads and roadworks and yearly evaluations of the network. 

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