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Important points 1994-1999

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Solid progress on transport

Safety first!

In EU transport policy, Parliament's top priority is safety. Thanks to Parliament, much has been achieved on the safety front for citizens travelling in the EU by land, sea, and air. A European Action Plan for Road Safety has been started and legislation adopted with the aim of improving car safety standards. Progress has been made on driving licences in the Member States, technical inspection of vehicles, the transport of dangerous goods and speed-limiting devices for heavy goods vehicles.

"Safety first" has also been the guiding principle in air transport. Parliament helped to shape the rules to ensure that inquiries take place into all civil aviation accidents and incidents and to provide travellers with more information on civil aviation accidents. There must be no secrecy and airlines from non-EU countries must meet the same safety standards as those from the Member States. The use of obsolete aircraft, often from third countries, has been further reduced. Better protection for passengers has also been achieved with the introduction of compensation in cases when they have not been allowed to board.

Safety at sea has also been noticeably improved, again thanks to Parliament. The introduction of port state controls has allowed standards to be laid down for sea-going vessels in all Member States. Perhaps just as important, identical inspection systems have been introduced in all countries. The prime objective is to protect the environment and the safety of sea-travellers. Parliament successfully urged that these standards be tightened up. A great deal of effort was also put into harmonising training standards for seafarers. A widespread view among MEPs is that the EU's young people should be encouraged to rediscover the attractions of this occupation.

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Liberalisation and harmonisation

The transport industry is experiencing at first hand the consequences of the single market. Liberalisation and integration of transport markets are making a big impact and Parliament has had a hand in legislation to keep this process on the right track. Much still needs to be done to bring the benefits derived from competition to everyone: market access must be improved, transparency increased and discrimination prevented. Various measures have been devised to achieve this: on equal working conditions, the environment, safety and the tax system.

Parliament has been especially active on cabotage (i.e. transport services provided by carriers operating in a Member State other than their own) of both passengers and goods by road. It has also taken a keen interest in the safe and proper management of airports and in the enforcement of rules allowing fair competition between the various modes of transport. A great deal of work has been done to enable a new digital tachograph to be introduced and modern technology will be used to eliminate tachograph fraud. This will make it possible - so Parliament hopes - to monitor driving and rest times for drivers of both buses and lorries. Proper working conditions will thus prevail in this sector too, to the benefit of workers, bus passengers, loaders and - not least - other road users.

In a broader context Parliament has expended great efforts on ensuring good working conditions for employees, especially in the transport sector, who are not covered by the Directive on working time. At present nearly all transport sectors fall outside the Directive. Parliament has urged the Commission to put an end to this undesirable situation and to make proposals based on agreements reached by European employers' and workers' representatives. The Commission has recently presented proposals for the road and sea sectors.

Trans-European Networks (TENs)

For the first time there is now a concrete, integrated and coherent plan for the development of a European transport infrastructure, otherwise known as the Trans-European Networks (TENs). Parliament has played an active role in this area through the co-decision procedure. The main emphasis is now on environmental protection, combined and intermodal transport, and the designation of a number of projects to improve connections between remote areas and central regions of the EU. Parliament has also voiced concern about progress in implementing the 14 priority TEN projects contained in the Decision. Although many of these projects are well in hand, much remains to be done. Parliament is favour of private/public partnerships to finance part of these projects and has proposed new forms of long-term funding, as well as the availability of risk capitals, for this purpose.

Putting Europe's railways on the right track

Parliament has stressed the need to increase the efficiency and competitiveness of the rail system. It is energy efficient and has much less impact on the environment than other modes of transport. At the end of the 20th century transport policy must find a way of meeting the ever-increasing demand for mobility and reverse the downward trend in recent years of railways' share of the transport market. Parliament has been particularly active in proposing a phased liberalisation and the creation of entities, separate from the operating companies, for the management of the railway infrastructure.

Pan-European transport policy

Parliament was the driving force of the Third Pan-European Transport Conference held in June 1997 in Helsinki. There were 1100 participants, from 51 countries, including many from the countries of central and eastern Europe. The conference sketched out guidelines for a pan-European transport policy, involving sustainable transport systems which are at the same time practical and meet the economic and social needs of all Europeans, again taking account of environmental and safety standards. The aim is to eliminate discrepancies between the regions, thereby boosting Europe's economic efficiency. The high point of the conference was the designation of ten transport corridors linking the EU, the countries of central and eastern Europe, the Mediterranean bassin.

Tourism

On the basis of the Commission's 1995 White Paper, Parliament pressed ahead with its efforts to achieve a European tourism policy. The main objective was to improve coordination between the activities of the Member States in the interest of improving the economic and tax climate, thereby giving a boost to employment in this sector.

Further information: Ton HUIJSSOON (Tel 0032-2-284 24 08 or E-mail: Thuyssoon@europarl.eu.int)

 

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