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Proċedura : 2006/0183(COD)
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Ċiklu relatat mad-dokument : A6-0124/2007

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A6-0124/2007

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PV 09/05/2007 - 15
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P6_TA(2007)0177

Debates
Wednesday, 9 May 2007 - Brussels OJ edition

15. Public passenger transport services by rail and road (debate)
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  President. The next item is the recommendation for second reading on the Council common position for adopting a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on public passenger transport services by rail and by road and repealing Council Regulations (EEC) Nos 1191/69 and 1107/70 [13736/1/2006 C6-0042/2007 2000/0212(COD)] – Committee on Transport and Tourism. Rapporteur: Erik Meijer (A6-0131/2007).

 
  
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  Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL), rapporteur. (NL) Mr President, public transport is indispensable when it comes to limiting the space taken up by transport vehicles, to protect the environment against cars and to enable everyone to reach places of work and amenities that these days, are often located at some distance from their homes.

This scenario could not be more different from the initial days, when inventors and speculators tried to entice those customers with the greatest purchasing power to buy their new means of transport. Since the introduction of the car, this mode of transport has largely become loss-making, which is why many private entrepreneurs have since pulled out. Rather than a commercial activity, public transport has now become a core task of governments. In many cases, transport companies are owned by the state, region or municipality, and in other cases, external enterprises are compensated for their services with taxpayers' money.

Seven years ago, the Commission moved to lay down the allocation of transport zones and contracts in new Regulations. What was new was not that the European Union would be imposing rules, because that had been going on for more than 30 years, but rather that a radical measure, that had been heralded for many years, the opening up of the market, would actually be taken. All public transport for which government money is made available would need to be put out to tender for five-year periods. Interested enterprises would have to compete in order to secure such temporary contracts and the associated payment of government compensation.

Three arguments played an important role in this. The first one was the expected drop in costs, for example as a result of the drop in salary, since staff would no longer have job security. The second was that new, up-and-coming, large international enterprises would offer to take over the organisation of public transport against payment by the government. The third was the prevention of nepotism and legal cases.

As a fledgling rapporteur, I was told in 2000 that the existing situation had been at odds with the European Treaties for a long time, that all effects had been studied at great length and that this reform had to be carried out as a matter of the greatest urgency. My talks with large city councils, national associations of municipalities, trade unions, user organisations and environmental organisations produced an entirely different picture. Small companies, including all municipal companies, were at risk of going under following a number of award rounds. As a result, small-scale public monopolies would have to make way for large-scale private monopolies, as a result of which in time, the government and user would need to pay more for less, whilst steps towards introducing free public transport and rebuilding urban tram networks could come under fire.

After a year of talks with all parties involved, I suggested to this House on 14 November 2001 that alongside the award of public service contracts to be regulated at European level, governments should remain free to organise their own public transport. This freedom of choice is the best way of getting public transport to win the battle in its competition with the motor car. This House backed me at first reading with 317 against 224 votes.

After more than five years of internal discussions, the Council of Transport Ministers laid down a common position on 11 December 2006 that is in keeping with this first reading. Seeing as the Commission adapted its original proposal, consensus was reached among the three EU institutions, which, alongside public service contracts, also leaves room for government companies and for involving third parties without the need to issue calls for tender.

Needless to say, the text that has now been proposed is meeting with objections among some of this House which in 2001, gave its support to maximum market forces and minimum government service. This has led to amendment proposals relegating the alternatives ‘in-house production’ and ‘direct award’ to exceptions that are only permitted in limited cases. I have noticed that these limitations do not form part of the informal compromise at second reading, something which was the subject of negotiation involving the German Presidency of the Council in April.

This compromise is reflected in the 17 amendments largely tabled jointly by six groups to replace the 42 amendments that were previously adopted by the Committee on Transport and Tourism. This broad consensus obviates the need for a third reading. I am indebted to the shadow rapporteurs, the Commission and the Council, not least the German Presidency, for their contribution to bringing about this agreement that is very different from the proposal from 2000.

Finally, I should like to point out that this compromise package does not provide for the obligation that Member States, in the case of contracts being switched to other companies, should protect employees against dismissal or a drop in salary. What is also missing is a ban on destructively low payments made to government companies for services rendered by them, or adequate measures to protect against poor performance on the part of contract companies. I know that at least my group will be backing proposals to this effect.

Although I do not expect the Council to veto in this respect, I doubt whether the same can be said of the fair majority requirement to limit sub-tendering to half of a contract. We will see tomorrow.

 
  
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  Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, Commission Vice-President Barrot, ladies and gentlemen, this part-session is very important as regards public local passenger transport. Following seven years’ discussion, we are close to concluding a very important legislative procedure at second reading. The consensus we are about to reach is primarily in the interests of our citizens. We can assure them that they will be able to enjoy attractive, efficient public local passenger transport services in future, too. An integrated range of services with just one ticket and a coordinated timetable is the standard we have set ourselves, and which the public rightly expects.

This consensus is also in the interests of all public and private transport undertakings, who are to be given a new legal framework at long last, giving them greater legal certainty and thus also planning security for the future. Finally, the consensus is in the interests of the authorities responsible for public local passenger transport, as the new Regulation strengthens local self-administration.

There is another beneficiary, and that is our environment. Attractive, efficient public local passenger transport means a sustainable improvement in the transport situation in our towns and cities, and also in the climate impact on our conurbations.

If the House succeeds in adopting the compromise package by the required majority in tomorrow’s vote, this will represent a great success for us all.

The fact that we are now close to a consensus is thanks to the rapporteur, Mr Meijer, in particular. The Chairman of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, Mr Costa, and also the shadow rapporteurs Mr Grosch, Mr Piecyk and Mr Cramer, also made important contributions to the struggle to reach an overall compromise.

As a matter of fact, nothing now stands in the way of a consensus; which is undoubtedly related to the fact that, in its common position adopted in December 2006, the Council had already taken account of a number of amendments by Parliament. These cover the following three points, in particular. Firstly, the increase in the scope for action at local level. The passenger-transport authorities now have the choice between a competitive tendering procedure, the use of their own company to provide transport services, and the direct award of a contract. This fundamental principle has not been further called into question. Secondly, the inclusion of quality and social standards. Here, too, there is agreement that the competent authority must meet its responsibilities. Thirdly, the protection of small and medium-sized enterprises. We want to ensure that SMEs will be able to provide their services close to the citizen in future, too, instead of possibly being swallowed up by large international companies.

Particularly helpful as regards the consensus is the fact that we – Parliament, the Commission and the Council – have developed a common basic political understanding of public local passenger transport. This kind of transport cannot be left to the market alone, but rather belongs to the field of services of general interest. For this reason, we need a market organisation that strengthens local decision-making responsibility and guarantees controlled competition. Adequate services of general interest – including in the field of public local passenger transport – are a fundamental precondition for the functioning of the European social model. This also includes social and territorial cohesion in Europe, which cannot be preserved without efficient local passenger transport.

There is also common ground on the issue of the urgent need for legal certainty. Numerous contentious award decisions have shown insufficient clarity in existing law. This will soon change thanks to the new Regulation.

Finally, the new Regulation clarifies the financial relationship between contracting entity and contractor. The party who orders something has to be the one to pay for it. This must not result in either overcompensation or undercompensation.

This has given rise to the question, affecting all of us, as to how – despite the short discussion time – we can reach a consensus during the second reading and thus avoid conciliation? The results of the informal trialogue between Parliament, the Commission and the Council are now before us, and present us with the great opportunity to really arrive at a consensus at second reading.

Right to the end we were still grappling with three political requirements: shortening of transitional periods, further strengthening of SMEs and introduction of a self-provision quota in case of subcontracting to third parties.

Regarding the first of these, our views have come closer together. The transitional period has been reduced from 12 to 10 years, and the deadline for entry into force of the Regulation from three years to 24 months.

We have also reached agreement on the second point. The threshold value for SMEs has been raised slightly. Here, the Council has gone some way towards accommodating Parliament’s demands.

The third point – the so-called ‘self-provision quota’ – remained controversial right to the end. I hope I can say this in the past tense. The views of Parliament and the Council on this important point, the purpose of which is the prevention of social dumping, came into line at the last second. The compromise now reads that, if subcontracting takes place, a substantial part of the services must be performed by the main contractor itself. This affects Amendment 66 to Article 4 and Amendment 67 to Article 5.

I believe that this is a good solution, and am much obliged to all those who contributed to it.

The way has thus been paved for the adoption of the legislation at second reading. If the House votes in favour of the compromise package tomorrow, the Council, too, will give its assent.

 
  
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  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, Mr Meijer, ladies and gentlemen, if we are ready to reach an agreement at second reading on a proposal as sensitive as this, it is in large part due to the tenacity and constructive attitude of your rapporteur, Mr Meijer, whom I would especially like to thank.

I shall simply mention two points on the substance of the dossier. This text recognises for the first time the freedom of local authorities to decide how public transport is organised. Thus, we can allow decentralised bodies more room for manœuvre, which is something worth emphasising on the subject of a Community text. This major development is in response to the demand very clearly expressed by the European Parliament at first reading.

Secondly, the current regulation is more than 35 years old and it had become completely unsuitable. Because of this, it is public transport as a whole that is suffering from major legal uncertainty. This legal uncertainty gives rise to disputes. It compromises development in the sector, since the municipal authorities and operators are denied visibility and certainty when it comes to making what are often very substantial industrial and financial investments.

Today, after seven years of procedure, at the end of three informal trialogues, we have a good agreement within our reach. The compromise between the Council and the rapporteur respects the balance and the objectives of the Commission’s revised proposal and meets the European Parliament’s main demands. This is the case particularly for the limitation of the periods of entry into force and of the transitional periods. On the other hand, this text makes provision for a special scheme for small businesses and family businesses by defining the possibilities for subcontracting.

With regard to subcontracting, I have just been informed that two oral amendments have been tabled that propose, Mr President, compromise wording. The words ‘major partwould be replaced by the words ‘substantial part’. It appears that the purpose of these amendments is to make it possible, Minister, to reach an agreement with the Council at second reading. The Commission can only support this objective. As far as the wording of the amendments is concerned, the Commission is obviously flexible. It can accept this last minute compromise if the compromise makes it possible to finalise an agreement.

Once again, I would thank Parliament for this work, as well as the Presidency of the Council, and I very much hope that we shall at last be able to bring this essential report to a conclusion. I am preparing a Green Paper on urban mobility, so it is very satisfying for me to see matters progressing in this way.

 
  
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  Mathieu Grosch, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, public passenger transport is used by millions of citizens, and we hope a few more after tomorrow. The European Parliament, including our group, has not taken this subject lightly. We have been aware of the conflict between tradition and structures of various kinds in many countries on the one hand, and the new challenges of mobility on the other.

There is one point I should like the House to consider. First reading 2001, common position adopted 2006: when discontinuity is discussed in future, the Council will hopefully bear this in mind, otherwise we shall be looking at a generation rather than a parliamentary term for certain dossiers in future.

There is one consolation, however. As I see it, account was taken of many aspects and proposals by Parliament at first reading. Local and regional authorities’ freedom to issue warnings was addressed. It was important to include these emphases there, and to take account of control of internal operators and also, at last, of the principle of reciprocity.

Parliament wanted to emphasise additional important points at second reading. There is one thing I should like to say first of all, and that is that what goes for us should also go for the Council. The good compromise now present must not be allowed to fail for both sides for the sake of one word. However tomorrow’s vote turns out, I am convinced that good sense will prevail, that this is a good compromise whether or not it is amended. We have shortened the transitional periods, and you know why: this has already taken long enough.

We have improved legal protection, we have tried to improve protection of small and medium-sized enterprises. Why is that? It is because they provide services and contribute to the development of economic structures in certain regions, and because they are unable to simply withstand general competition. On the subject of subcontracting, we want to ensure that this does not lead to social dumping and is not used to circumvent the rules on competition.

Those were our objectives. I believe that, with its proposal, Parliament has created legal certainty and found a very good, sensible path between monopolies on the one hand and uncontrolled liberalism on the other. I hope that the three partners will give their assent accordingly tomorrow – and it looks as though they will.

 
  
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  Brian Simpson, on behalf of the PSE Group. Mr President, I should like to thank the rapporteur, not only for his work on this dossier, but also for his perseverance in bringing this report to its second reading. Clearly, this process is required to bring about a fair and level playing field in the area of local public transport contracts. However, the PSE Group still has some concerns, especially in the area of quality of service offered by transport undertakings and especially in the area of bus transport in some of the Member States.

In this regard, we believe that Parliament, in its pursuit of liberalisation in this area, may have forgotten about the importance of providing quality services and I would hope that in subsequent revisions of this legislation, the issue of quality and the enforcement of quality is given serious consideration. I appreciate that what we have today is a first step and that the road to this second reading has been a long one, but we must recognise the progress that has been made and hope that the agreement between the Council and Parliament can be reached quickly. My group will do all that we can to vote only for those amendments that fall within the compromise deal done with the Council, despite our reservations. For us, the alternative will be conciliation.

What people require is an efficient, reliable, affordable and safe public transport system that places on public bodies a responsibility to ensure that those criteria are met. It also places responsibility on transport operators to deliver, and frankly, that is where the challenges will lie. Whilst it is right to put into place the framework for the issuing of public transport contracts, we cannot allow standards to slip and we must ensure that the procedures are fair and transparent. Hopefully, the framework will soon be in place. Now let us work on the quality of service to be provided.

 
  
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  Paolo Costa, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, almost seven years have been devoted to drafting the report in question. Have they been well spent? They have been seven years following which Mr Simpson still has to talk in terms of our hopefully obtaining something better in a subsequent revision, and following which we need a last-minute amendment in order to try to obtain a compromise. It has taken seven years or, rather, seven years and two months to resolve the issue. I do not believe that this is a problem of life or death. Naturally, Parliament will have its say, and I trust that it will be possible for some of the things hopefully said by Parliament tomorrow to be accepted by the Council, so avoiding the need for conciliation.

It has to be said that I do not feel able to say that we have done a thoroughly good job. Are we able to say that we have done a good job when the reserved right to award contracts directly is so extensive as in fact to eliminate or hugely reduce contracting out on a genuinely competitive basis? Do we, indeed, face the possibility of the in-house awarding of contracts even for services administered on a monopoly basis at national level? Is it possible that the in-house contractor or manager will subcontract services out ‘substantially’ or ‘significantly’ – these being adverbs not defined in law? Is it possible that such a subcontractor, even without a tender, might continue more than 50% of the time merely because he is promising investment? In short, are we likely to be paying too little for rail services in third countries, making it difficult to supply said services? Can it really be that there was no possibility of discussing this problem too and that no solutions can be found to it? Do we really still have to avoid finding adequate solutions to these aspects too?

I want, then, to make a final heartfelt appeal not only to all my fellow Members but also to the Council and the Commission: why cannot we try to make this last effort to provide a thoroughly genuine, reliable and useful solution capable of going beyond the vague terms ‘significant’ and ‘substantial’ which, in my opinion, are really not commensurate with the legal basis of the issue? In no way are we complying with the fourth criterion set out in the Altmark judgment. I really do perceive in all this a degree of haste that, after seven wasted years, seems to me to be unjustified by the facts.

We have tabled a number of amendments designed to correct these structures. We do not think that they need all to be agreed to, but if some of them were accepted we should succeed, after seven years and two months, in obtaining an outcome certainly better than that which we should otherwise obtain with the documents we have before us.

 
  
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  Leopold Józef Rutowicz, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) The new Regulation of the European Parliament on public passenger transport services by rail and road will be very important, particularly to local communities. I would like to thank Mr Erik Meijer for his contribution to this report.

Harmonising the regulations on service contract procurement should guarantee transparency, competition, the proper sharing of costs and funding. It affects primarily public transport and the services provided by small and medium sized enterprises for local communities, which need subsidies. Extending the contract periods (to 8 years for bus services and 15 years for rail services) is a good idea, as otherwise the investments involved in these services would be too risky and unprofitable for small and medium-sized service providers.

The definition of the term ‘internal operator’ or ‘internal service provider’ also needs to be fine-tuned. The proposed mechanism of compensation is quite complex and will need quite a lot of effort to be correctly implemented. I believe that the regulation adopted will serve us all well.

 
  
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  Michael Cramer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, in taking tomorrow’s decision, the EU – according to the Mayor of Munich, Christian Ude – is making a deep obeisance to decrepit structures. The heavy rail transport services provided by regional and suburban railways are being taken out of the regulation, as are large-scale municipal transport services in the major cities. The threshold for small and medium-sized enterprises is several times higher than the threshold laid down in European law on the award of public service contracts. The effect in Germany, for example, will be that more than 80% of transport services will not be covered by this regulation. Our amendment, according to which social, environmental and quality standards would be decisive factors in tendering procedures, has been rejected. That is in the interests neither of passengers nor – Mr Daldrup – of the environment.

Why have a European regulation that only applies to a minority of services? This could also have been achieved through subsidiarity. Anyone who agrees to a transitional period of 30 years – which was the original proposal – clearly does not see any need to act. Despite the fact that the European Parliament has halved this period, we Greens voted against this regulation in the Committee on Transport and Tourism. It is not a compromise and does not change a great deal, which is why we opposed it.

 
  
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  Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (NL) Mr President, the process that we are about to complete is one that has lasted over six years. I am pleased about the agreement with the Council. Although a few aspects of it leave something to be desired, the compromise we now have is an acceptable one.

I am particularly pleased that Member States and regions can, to some extent, decide for themselves how they will organise their public transport. In that way, any competent authority can tailor the compromise to suit its own situation best, which can have a positive effect on the use of public transport.

In order to be able to realise this proposal, we will need to confine ourselves to the elements that have been agreed with the Council. I would therefore like to urge everyone to back only those specific amendments, and leave the other points for another time.

I should like to finish off by thanking Mr Meijer for the commitment and dedication he has recently shown to this. It wraps up neatly our cooperation in the area of transport over the past 25 years.

 
  
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  Georg Jarzembowski (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Mr Vice-President of the Commission, Mr Daldrup, allow me first of all, on behalf of myself and my colleague Mrs Jeggle, to thank all of those involved – the Council, the Commission and Parliament – for reaching this good compromise after seven years. I should particularly like to thank Mr Piecyk, who is unable to be here today but who played an instrumental role in the negotiations.

I personally believe that we are creating legal certainty and that we are striking a balanced compromise between the interests of public and private transport services. Cities and regions are at liberty to award contracts to their own companies without issuing calls for tender. On the other hand, however, we make it a condition that as monopolies – possibly with monopoly profits in other fields – they do not compete with private contractors for the contracts in question. For this reason I believe that this is a balanced compromise.

Mr Daldrup, this is not only about high-quality passenger transport services; it is also about high-quality transport services at prices that passengers can afford. In recent years, this aspect has been somewhat overlooked in some cities and communes. This new legislation will enable us to take greater account of it.

Of the various different points for which we have also won agreement, I should like to refer to just two. You said earlier that in your view ‘the substantial part’ that has to be carried out by the principal contractor in the case of subcontracts was a social dumping issue. If you really have social dumping in your sights then you need to insist that internal operators perform 100% of the services themselves and do not make use of cheaper subcontractors. Be that as it may, my group stands by the compromise that has been negotiated, including the ‘substantial part’. We will see what Parliament decides tomorrow. We will keep our word, however, as otherwise it becomes impossible to enter into compromises with each other. Personally, I also believe that it is particularly important that we have improved the level of legal protection and that companies that believe they have been disadvantaged have quick and effective means of accessing this legal protection.

Finally, I should like to make a personal comment to Mr Daldrup in his capacity as representative of the German Presidency. I hope that you will also take the necessary steps in German legislative procedure to incorporate all of the measures that we adopt tomorrow in full into the Law on the Carriage of Persons (Personenbeförderungsgesetz) and that you will not try to deviate from it because of pressure from certain public companies. The measures that we have decided on are good and we should transpose them into national law as they stand.

 
  
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  Gilles Savary (PSE).(FR) Mr President, I personally shall not take the responsibility for opposing the compromise, because the first reading has lasted seven years. After a very chaotic procedure, we had better not have a second reading that lasts as long.

I should like to say first that, on the whole, I am satisfied with this text. We needed legal certainty and not to leave the decision to the judges all the time. We have also obtained, for the first time, recognition of the free administration of local authorities.

For the rest, this is a text that is nonetheless very complicated, which proceeds from a compromise on the protection of rail transport for some, and of joint local and regional urban transport for others. I am not sure that this is very easy to interpret, I am not sure that this is simply a win-win game, and I am not sure that we ought not to come back to it pretty quickly in order to clarify, for example, what is called cantonment, what are called public-private partnerships, and what is called subcontracting without a tender process, which are all so many loopholes that make it possible to avoid playing the game by the common rules.

 
  
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  Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (ALDE). – (NL) Mr President, there has been much interference on the line for years where the European requirements with regard to more market forces in local public passenger transport is concerned. Europe was going to make public tendering compulsory, but it never got that far. As many fellow-Members have already said, for no fewer than seven years, people have debated, squabbled and, even worse, occasionally ignored the subject altogether. Few Member States felt like getting their fingers burnt on this issue. The apparently growing legal uncertainty in the sector appeared to make little impression.

In order to break the deadlock, the Commission launched a fresh proposal, and with good reason. In recent years, the European market for public passenger transport has changed a great deal in terms of character, and rulings by the Court of Justice have also demonstrated that a new legal framework is simply imperative.

From a liberal point of view, the agreement under discussion will not bring universal happiness. The efficiency battle, which can be won precisely by means of market forces, remains underexposed, and in the area of legal certainty, there are definitely a few question marks to be placed.

Although I would obviously thank the rapporteur for his commitment, it should be clear that I definitely do not see eye to eye with him where his remarks on market forces are concerned. It is precisely in those cases where market forces have been introduced that more transport, more quality, can be offered at a better price. The figures speak for themselves. Anyway, we cannot turn the clock back now.

What is positive about this proposal is that the provision of public transport services and also the underhand award of contracts are subject to strict conditions and criteria in order to prevent distortion of competition. In short, either you are a market player and you compete, or you are a monopolist and limit yourself to your own protecting market. This strikes me as a clear basis to work from for the time being.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, a happy outcome is worth waiting for, at least so the proverb goes. How far this applies to the case in question remains to be seen. It has taken a long time. As several speakers have mentioned, it has taken between six and seven years, and we should not forget that there are also long transitional periods on top of that. This legislative process is therefore difficult to market in the media. We should be aware of this fact. Perhaps that is also why we are dealing with this issue during a night sitting, but of course this has already become the rule for proposed legislation. Nevertheless, we may achieve a good result, at least on a few important key points.

Our principal purpose has been to simplify the provisions, make them more flexible and take greater account of the principle of subsidiarity and transparency in the procedure. In my view it is also important to consider how this will fit in with the third railway package in terms of both timing and content. A further important point is the decision of general principle that public local passenger transport services should be treated no differently from normal rail services. Key provisions here are in particular the granting of financial compensation for the performance of public service obligations on the one hand, and on the other hand the fact that local authorities on the spot should be free to decide how they organise their public passenger transport services: whether they want to outsource them or whether they actually want to provide them themselves.

It is also positive that we have given a special opportunity – in good European Parliament tradition – to the genuine small and medium-sized enterprises in this sector. I can therefore only hope that we will also agree on a reasonable solution to the issue of the award of subcontracts tomorrow. If we do, there will be no further obstacle to concluding the European legislative process successfully. Then it will be over to the national legislators, and hopefully they will not delay in doing their duty.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE). – Regulamentul privind serviciile publice de transport va avea implicaţii asupra tuturor celor 490 de milioane de cetăţeni ai Uniunii Europene. Importanţa subiectului a generat dezbateri timp de şapte ani şi îmbunătăţiri succesive ale propunerii din anul 2000. Având în vedere că doar aplicarea principiilor de piaţă ar putea duce la reducerea numărului de rute şi a frecvenţei acestora, competiţia reglementată introdusă de regulament în domeniul serviciilor publice feroviare şi rutiere va permite atât sectorului public, cât şi celui privat, să îmbunătăţească calitatea şi securitatea serviciilor în transportul public de călători.

Referitor la regulile de compensare financiară pentru obligaţiile privind serviciul public de transport de călători, este important ca autorităţile competente să finanţeze în mod corespunzător obligaţiile privind serviciul universal de transport public de călători şi costul utilizării infrastructurii de transport aferente. În acest domeniu, este nevoie de investiţii şi, de aceea, se impune o durată minimă a contractelor. În acest context, este important să se asigure condiţii egale de competiţie între companiile private şi autorităţile publice şi operatorii interni ai acestora prin definiţii riguroase şi condiţii clare privind calitatea şi frecvenţa serviciilor publice de transport de călători.

Autorităţile publice responsabile trebuie, însă, să introducă şi garanţii suplimentare pentru subcontractori, pentru a evita discriminarea în favoarea principalului contractor, în special în cazurile în care contractorul principal a primit un contract direct, fără organizarea unei licitaţii. Închei prin a sublinia importanţa competiţiei şi, mai ales, a calităţii serviciilor de transport public de călători. Felicit autorul raportului şi Comisia Europeană pentru importanţa acordată acestui subiect.

 
  
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  Gabriele Albertini (PPE-DE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the regulation on public passenger transport services by road and rail, on which we are preparing to vote, concerns 80% of passenger rail transport and is extremely important for the development of European rail transport, characterised as it is by very diverse national situations.

With the regulation having remained blocked in the Council for almost seven years, I can understand the desire of many of my fellow Members to conclude at second reading, thus avoiding the conciliation procedure and the informal negotiations with the Council that are held to that end.

I should like to congratulate my colleague, Mr Grosch, and our coordinator, Mr Jarzembowski, on the substantial results achieved. However, I regret the fact that the principle of reciprocity, which our group had already firmly supported at the time of the third rail package, should not have been included among the compromises. In fact, in my country, Italy, public transport services by rail are liberalised and are awarded through the tender procedure. In various European countries, national and regional transport operates instead according to a legal monopoly system, a situation that may continue even after the current regulation has been adopted.

There will therefore be market asymmetries and undue benefits for businesses that operate in markets closed to competition but that will be able to compete in open markets. In this regard, I myself, my colleague, Mr de Grandes Pascual, and other Spanish and Italian colleagues from our group, have tabled two amendments – Amendments 43 and 45 – which include clauses on reciprocity with respect to businesses operating in national monopoly regimes. It will thus be impossible not to support the amendments that amend the proposal along these lines. However, regardless of the outcome of the vote on the individual amendments, I will not fail to guarantee my support for the report in the final vote.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, Mr Barrot, Mr Lütke Daldrup, ladies and gentlemen, as several of our fellow Members have emphasised, this text has been under discussion in the European institutions for almost seven years now, and that is far too long. We need to reach an agreement today: it is essential for the organisation of local public transport in the European Union.

Allow me warmly to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Meijer, as well as the shadow rapporteurs, Mr Grosch and Mr Piecyk, even if he is not present this evening. I congratulate them for having negotiated over the last few months with the Member States and for having succeeded in reaching an agreement with the Council on this text. I think that the compromise that has been reached ensures a good balance between controlled and progressive opening up to competition and respect for public service demands. That is why I believe that we must support this agreement and so avoid pointlessly prolonging the discussions, which would be inevitable if we went for conciliation.

Of course, this agreement is not perfect, but it is a good compromise that should make it possible to give real legal certainty to all the transport operators concerned and to establish a modernised framework that is conducive to the development of public transport in Europe. I really hope that we shall be able to adopt it tomorrow by a large majority, thereby giving public transport services for people travelling by road and rail a harmonised and balanced framework.

 
  
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  Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Barrot, ladies and gentlemen, the debate has been encouraging and gives us reason to hope that after a long period of debates and negotiations an agreement will be reached tomorrow. We have a good compromise on the table. No doubt everyone here has parts of the text where they would have liked to see something different and parts that they are more or less keen on. It is always the case with compromises, that we have to give ground to each other. We must bear in mind that companies, towns and cities and above all the public are waiting for legal certainty and certainty as a basis on which to plan, so that they know how we are going to move forward on public local passenger transport services in our cities and regions.

I should like to express my grateful thanks to the rapporteur, Mr Meijer, the shadow rapporteurs, Mr Grosch and Mr Piecyk, and the many others who have contributed to this endeavour. It has been a long and at times arduous debate. I believe that we have achieved a good result that we can also justify to the outside world, and I hope that tomorrow both decisions are made and that we succeed in agreeing a joint solution in this second reading.

 
  
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  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, I too would like to thank Parliament for its work and to thank also the Presidency of the Council. We are, I think, approaching a solution that will enable us to have rules that are clearer and more balanced for this public transport sector. Certainly, any compromise is only one step, but it is an important step inasmuch as it allows progressive opening up and, at the same time, it gives a basis to the notion of public service in order to put an end to damaging legal uncertainty. Finally, as I underlined at the beginning, it makes it possible to give local authorities more room for manoeuvre, thereby establishing the notion of subsidiarity.

I should like to add that, in the name of subsidiarity, the Commission did not feel it was necessary, in its initial proposal, to lay down quality criteria. Nothing, however, will prevent the granting authority from laying down criteria that the candidate transport operator will have to meet.

I think that we must now take advantage of this urban mobility policy to ensure the quality of transport in our towns and conurbations. I too, therefore, am hoping for an agreement tomorrow so as to enable us to get through this next step and, once again, I am grateful to Mr Meijer and to the shadow rapporteurs, Mr Piecyk and Mr Grosch.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow.

Written statement (Rule 142 of the Rules of Procedure)

 
  
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  Gábor Harangozó (PSE), in writing. – The current Community regulatory framework drawn up back in 1969 was designed for a public transport industry not yet facing the challenges and opportunities of a single European market in the sector. It is therefore obsolete. In spite of the failure to reform in 2000, this new proposal is to be understood as a genuine step forward for the public transport sector. The recent opening of the sector to competition needs to be tackled definitively on an EU-wide basis. It is indeed high time to secure clear Community rules to ensure fair and transparent competition for a modernised rail and road transport sector. With the harmonisation of key aspects and the protection of both operators’ and passengers’ interests, we should allow the sector to become more competitive. Not only should the sector be more competitive, but by updating the regulatory framework our aim should also be to enhance the quality and the attractiveness of public transport in the Union as a whole by introducing controlled competition. It is in this respect that I strongly support the Commission proposal and the improvements proposed by the amendments tabled by the Committee on Transport and Tourism.

 
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