New Member States: NGOs warn Commission on infrastructure projects

Environmental NGOs have expressed worries that the Trans-European Network for Transport (TEN-T) might be extended to the accession countries without any previous assessment of the ecological consequences.

The inclusion of the transport network components proposed in the final TINA report into the draft Accession Treaty has prompted environmental NGOs to warn that the TEN-T could be extended to the accession countries without previous assessment of their ecological impact.

The NGOs demand that the extension of the networks be done in full compliance with the EU’s environmental acquis. More specifically, this concerns three pieces of legislation, where conflicts are expected to arise.

  • Natura 2000 (Birds- and Habitats Directives)

The NGOs have evidence that some of the proposed routes will affect sites that will certainly be proposed under the EU’s network of protected areas. The candidate countries will be granted a delay until May 2004 to identify these areas.

  • Water Framework Directive

Some of the listed projects for inland waterways will not comply with the obligations regarding good ecological water status. These obligations have been worked out in collaboration with the candidate countries, none of them has been given a transitional period in this field.

  • Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive

Even though the SEA Directive will not enter into force before June 2004, Member States have been requested to apply its principles as early as possible. For Community projects, assessments will be carried out at EU level. Therefore, the NGOs call on the Commission to provide Strategic Environmental Assessments of the whole transport network before plans are finalised.

 

The guidelines for the Trans-European Network for Transport (TEN-T), adopted in 1996, were supposed to be subject to a "mini-revision" in 1999, and a major revision in 2004. The 1999 revision was then postponed until 2001, to be finally merged with an earlier major review due by the end of 2003. To assist the Commission with this review, a High-Level Group was set up in January 2003 to identify the priority projects for the trans-European network in an enlarged Union.

NGOs had hoped that with the - now abandoned - "mini-revision" an obligation to carry out Strategic Environmental Assessments (SAE) would be included in the guidelines.

Between 1997 and 1999, a so-called Transport Infrastructure Needs Assessment (TINA) was carried out to identify the future TEN-T components in 11 accession countries.

 

By the end of 2003, the Commission is expected to put forward its proposal for a revision of the TEN-T guidelines. The High Level Group will make its recommendations for priority projects in the spring.

 

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