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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

OVERALL TRANSPORT POLICY PAPER EXPECTED FROM THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION IN THE AUTUMN

At first the white paper was planned to be published at the end of March but was then postponed first to the end of June and then to mid-July.  It is now thought it may come out at the beginning of September.  These continued delays do to a large extent reflect that serious internal discussions are still ongoing on very important policy choices for the future.  The final white paper, when officially tabled, might therefore still be changed compared to the information which is now available.

European Transport Commissioner De Palacio, however, stressed in her recent speech before the Transport Committee of the European Parliament that this white paper is “an ambitious one”.  European transport policy has not been submitted to such careful scrutiny since 1992, the year of the previous white paper.

The future white paper is likely to address the congestion of the sky and roads in Europe, and the existence of two other transport means that are either underused (maritime transport) or not sufficiently efficient to be competitive (rail transport).

It seems that the white paper will argue that the time for change has come and Europe must significantly rebalance its transport policy. For the period until 2010, growth of around 40% is expected in freight transport and of more than 20% for passenger traffic.

The white paper considers three different scenarios for the transport policy of the future:

*   the standstill option

*    making little change to current policy approaches

*   a radical approach aiming at substantial changes both within Europe but also at international level.

The Commissioner said that the European Union should be proud of its transport policy and be able to speak with one voice in the various international bodies dealing with transport.

The white paper is likely to say that the Commission should favour less polluting transport modes enabling them to be more competitive as compared to road transport in order to fulfil the Kyoto targets as soon as possible.

To achieve its goal, the Commission will probably propose the setting up  of a new programme entitled Marco Polo to co-finance not least maritime short sea start-up projects.

In all the preparatory work, the Commission has highlighted the benefits of both maritime transport and its natural complement, inland waterways transport, which feeds a proportion of freight arriving at ports to and from internal customers (for example in Germany and the Netherlands). 

It also appears that the Commission might continue to fight the flag of convenience – at least those who are not up to standard - and could act to include ships with under-qualified and under-paid crew in the “black list” in the Port State Control Directive.

Furthermore, the Commission may take a real interest in Japan’s proposal to create an “audit unit” within the IMO to check the work of flag states.

Concerning air transport, the Commission is working hard on the kerosene tax since the current system does not favour the use of fuel-efficient planes.  The Commission has studied the Swedish solution with particular care.  This taxes air transport only when a more environmental friendly alternative exists.