Urban mobility: Parliament takes ‘unusual’ initiative


While the European Commission continues to squabble over its draft urban mobility proposal, the European Parliament yesterday (21 January) presented a draft action plan on the issue, setting out measures to make public transport more attractive.

“This is a very unusual procedure. The Parliament is taking an initiative on something that the Commission abandoned,” said the Parliament’s rapporteur on the proposal, French Socialist MEP Gilles Savary.

After a 2007 Green Paper on urban mobility that was “full of hope and promises”, Savary lamented that the Commission is now refusing to present a genuine follow-up action plan, instead proposing separate initiatives “without any coherence” on air quality, urban mobility funding and intermodality of transport modes. The MEP also noted that the House had not been given access to the public’s responses to the Green Paper. 

“We respect the Commission’s right of initiative, but don’t accept the right to do nothing,” added MEP Reinhard Rack, who is the Parliament’s rapporteur on the Commission’s Green Paper.

Meanwhile, Savary underlined that EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani had aimed to adopt the action plan on 10 December, but was unable to do so.

Indeed, sources told EURACTIV that the action plan is being held back by Commission President José Manuel Barroso. 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. Germany itself is also preparing for regional and general elections, due in June and September respectively.

According to Commission sources, Germany is not against urban mobility, but the problem boils down to the principle of subsidiarity, which has already sparked a major row between the German federal government and the Länder (regional governments). 

Meanwhile, Commissioner Tajani is keen to underline his strong commitment to the adoption of a comprehensive urban mobility action plan. Attending a CIVITAS forum on integrated sustainable urban transport strategies yesterday evening, he outlined a number of measures that the Commission plans to introduce in 2009. These include an internet portal to help implementation the Directive on clean vehicles, and EU funding for the promotion of walking and cycling.

“We welcome the intiative and will take account of the Parliament’s report as we complete the action plan,” said a member of Tajani’s private cabinet, who was unable to give a precise date for the adoption of a genuine action plan but said it will be “as soon as possible”.

The Parliament’s draft report, which according to Savary was prepared in close cooperation with all political groups, is based on:

  • Strict respect of the subsidiarity principle;
  • optimising different means of transport for the user, and;
  • using all modes of transport in an integrated urban mobility ‘system’.

Savary stressed that the report would strongly influence the hearing and appointment of the new transport commissioner next autumn. 

The Parliament’s transport committee is expected to hold its first debate on the draft on 10 February, in view of adopting the report a week later (17 February). The plenary vote on the document is scheduled for the end of March.

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