Security set to dominate Barrot’s transport agenda

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Jacques Barrot has highlighted security as a dominant aspect of
the Commission’s transport strategy. He sees it as a way to address
potentially conflicting environmental and competitiveness
concerns.

Barrot highlighted security as a “major aspect” of European
transport policy, saying the Commission’s task should be to
“complement” existing EU regulations but also, primarily, to fully
implement existing ones.

The EU needs to be an “exemplary area of security” if it wants
to have the “credibility to act” at international level, he
insisted. 

  • Strengthening European agencies

Barrot said the three European agencies (air, maritime and rail)
needed to be “comforted” in their role. He said the powers of the
European Aviation Safety Agency for instance should be “extended”
to include the “delivery of security certificates”. This, he added,
should be made in a “spirit of responsibility” where powers are
well defined between EU, member states and agencies.

  • Maritime safety

Barrot said the EU needed to “play an active role in
international transport organisations” and “speak with one voice”
in bodies such as the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
He mentioned Russia as a country on which pressure needed to be
applied so that it “accepts security rules” and that “oil spillages
are avoided”.

“Member states have a tendency to wait for disasters to happen
before they take action,” Barrot said in reference to the Erika oil
spillage that triggered EU action on maritime safety. He said
“penal sanctions against those spilling carbon fuels have to be
reinforced” and that the issue of ships flying convenience flags
needed to be tackled in this respect.

Initiatives on security have already been taken at EU level, he
added, but “should continue” so as to clarify “who is responsible”
for enforcing rules.

  • Road safety

Turning to road safety, Barrot said the number of deaths on EU
roads per day equated to the number of people on one airliner. It
is an area where “EU action is necessary,” Barrot said, adding that
the community method of regulation would be used “if
needed”. 

“It’s a technological battle” as well, he said, referring to the
latest safety electronic devices such as glaze detectors. The
Galileo satellite system will also help achieve this goal by
enabling security alert functionalities to be added to cars’
navigation systems.

  • Environment, competitiveness, and security of energy
    supply

Asked by the audience, Barrot showed his concern over the EU’s
“dependency” on fossil fuels and the reduction of CO2 emissions,
noting that “transport is responsible for 30 to 40% of CO2
emissions”.

He said reducing oil dependency can be achieved by “inciting car
makers to shift to fuels that are less dependent on oil such as
biofuels”, but “especially”, he added, “by the shifting part of
freight [from road] to rail and maritime” transportation. 

On the Eurovignette proposal to charge heavy goods vehicles on
motorways, Barrot expressed his conviction that “a solution has to
be found”. The “real costs of transport” have to be “put on the
table”, Barrot said, expressing sympathy towards the idea of a tax
on kerosene to better reflect the environmental costs of air. Air
travel is responsible for a large part of carbon emissions
from the transport sector.

However, he said, “there shouldn’t be a contradiction between
environmental policy and competitiveness”, underlining the
“pressing duty to assess the impact of [EU] norms” in this respect.
“If an [environmental] norm is efficient, then Europe has to pay
the price” but this should not lead to “over-regulation”. 

  • Liberalisation

Asked about how he intended to deal with transport
liberalisation, Barrot said it was “a necessity” but that it needed
to be achieved “through education”. “Our large rail companies have
such assets and know-how that they should not be too
distressed about the process of liberalisation”.

Several transport organisations are calling for the
'externalities' of transport (such as pollution and accidents) to
be integrated into costs so that they better reflect their "true
price". 

Meeting with Commissioner Barrot on 29 November, Johannes
Ludewig, executive director of the Community of
European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER)
said
it was of "outstanding importance" to create "a level playing field
between modes [of transport] and pushing for the internalisation of
external costs - that means for proper pricing in the transport
sector." "We particularly welcome Mr Barrot's emphasis on the
Eurovignette issue, which I am sure he will bring to life with his
commitment," said Ludewig.

Reacting to recent German calls to introduce a tax on kerosene,
the Association of European Airlines
(AEA)
said this would "of course worsen the situation
of the airline industry, but also be bad news for the railway's
users in the long run, and indeed for German and European
competitiveness". "The introduction of punitive kerosene taxation
as a means to make rail travel more attractive is a red herring,"
said the Secretary General of the Association of European Airlines,
Mr. Schulte-Strathaus. "The UN aviation organisation ICAO has
repeatedly maintained that a tax has marginal effects on the
environment. (...) Introducing additional burdens on an industry
which has seen four consecutive years of losses is untimely and
inappropriate because such a tax further undermines the airlines'
perspectives for recovery, and weakens the international
competitiveness of European airlines."

Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot was speaking on 6 December
at a Friends of Europe debate on the theme: "What is the European
Union doing for its citizens in the field of Transport Policy?" The
debate was organised with the support of the Fondation Robert
Schuman.

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