Rules on how the EU's "Connecting Europe Facility" (CEF), is to fund infrastructure projects of common interest for trans-European transport, energy and telecoms networks were approved in a joint vote by the Transport and Industry committees on Tuesday.
Transport infrastructure projects to complete EU's core network
Three-fifths of future CEF funding is earmarked to develop modern, sustainable, safe and high performance trans-European transport networks. Designed to carry forecast future traffic flows, they aim to improve the EU's overall competitiveness, reduce transport's carbon footprint and boost the single market by optimising the interoperability of various transport modes. Ports, logistics platforms and "motorways of the sea" will form and integral part of the network.
Projects will be selected annually, on criteria that include maturity and EU added value, with a special view to removing bottlenecks and bridging missing links, particularly on cross-border sections.
Cohesion money for transport infrastructure to stay with cohesion countries
One third of this money - €10 billion according to the Commission's MFF proposal - is to be transferred from the EU Cohesion Fund to be spent in line with the CEF regulation, exclusively in member states eligible for cohesion funding.
As of 1 January 2017, any cohesion money transferred to the CEF which has not been committed to a transport infrastructure project, would have to be made available for all member states eligible for cohesion funding to use to finance transport infrastructure projects that meet the CEF criteria. But until December 2016, the selection of projects must respect national allocations from the Cohesion Fund.
The CEF would support common interest projects help to ensure that no member state is isolated or dependent on a single energy source, enhance security of supply and contribute to sustainable development.
Contrary to the Commission proposal, MEPs insist that projects should be funded primarily by financial instruments. They stress that grants should go only to actions which "according to the project's business plan and other assessments carried out, notably by potential investors, creditors or the national regulatory authority are not commercially viable and for which a financial instrument would not be sufficient to lead to a positive investment decision".
The CEF would support common interest projects that generate demand for broadband services and accelerate the deployment of fast and ultrafast broadband networks at speeds of 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps and above.
Projects promoting the interconnection of public services on-line (e.g. cross-border platforms for public administration, culture, education, research and health) would also be eligible for EU funding. EU financial support for telecommunications projects would in most cases rely on financial instruments.
The Transport and Industry committees adopted the legislative resolution with 81 votes in favour, 8 against and 5 abstentions. They mandated Parliament's negotiating team to open talks with the Council in order to find a first reading agreement, and decided to schedule a plenary vote only thereafter.
In the chair: Brian Simpson (S&D, UK), Amalia Sartori (EPP, IT)