After the European Commission failed to produce its promised action plan on urban mobility in 2008, MEPs have taken the unusual step of reclaiming the initiative, with a report due before the June European elections.
Following a broad consultation on its Urban Transport Green Paper, the EU executive was due to present an action plan on the issue by October 2008, but has so far failed to do so.
The delay has angered parliamentarians, and prompted an oral question on the issue in December. A debate with the Commission took place during a Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg on 12 January.
Responding to MEPs’ concerns, Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou (replacing Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani, on mission in Japan) said that “unfortunately, the conditions were not appropriate for the adoption of a comprehensive action plan by the Commission before the end of 2008”.
She insisted, however, that the Commission remains fully committed to developing an EU policy in the field of urban mobility, underlining that the action plan is included in its 2009 legislative work programme and “hopefully will proceed this year”.
The Commission’s action plan is almost ready, sources told EURACTIV, but is being held back by Commission President José Manuel Barroso himself. Concerned about his re-appointment, Barroso does not want to publish the document due to German concerns that the plan would transfer more power to Brussels.
The EU executive’s answer does not appear to have been enough to placate the Parliament, which is currently finalising a draft action plan, set to be made public as early as the end of next week. The Parliament’s transport committee is expected to hold its first debate on 11 February, in view of adopting the report at the end of March. The plenary vote on the document is scheduled for the end of April.
MEP Gilles Savary, the Parliament’s rapporteur on the file, stressed that the report would strongly influence the hearing and appointment of the new transport commissioner next autumn.
The Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CMER) welcomed the Parliament’s move. However, it urged, the house to fully respect the principles of subsidiarity and local self-government in the future text. It also called for a European incentives policy to help finance sustainable mobility and address issues related to freight transport, urban sprawl and the urban-rural interface.