Trans-European Networks – guidelines

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) retains the trans-European networks (TENs) in the areas of transport, energy and telecommunications, first mentioned in the Maastricht Treaty, in order to connect all the regions of the EU. These networks are tools intended to contribute to the growth of the internal market and to employment, while pursuing environmental and sustainable development goals. The end of 2013 saw a fundamental reform of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). In 2022, the trans-European energy infrastructure (TEN-E) guidelines were adapted to support the objectives of the European Green Deal.

Legal basis

Articles 170-172 and 194(1)(d) of the TFEU (the latter with specific reference to energy).

Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network and repealing Decision No 661/2010/EU.

Regulation (EU) 2022/869 of 30 May 2022 on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure.


The Maastricht Treaty gave the EU the task of establishing and developing TENs in the areas of transport, telecommunications and energy, in order to help develop the internal market, reinforce economic and social cohesion, link islands, landlocked and peripheral regions with the central regions of the EU, and bring EU territory within closer reach of neighbouring states.


A. General guidelines and ideas

In its 1993 White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment, the Commission emphasised the fundamental importance of the TENs to the internal market, and in particular to job creation, not only through the actual construction of infrastructure, but also thanks to their subsequent role in economic development. In 1994, the Corfu and Essen European Councils approved the first priority projects (PPs).

B. Sectoral legislative measures

1. Transport

a. 1996 guidelines

Decision No 1692/96/EC of 23 July 1996 on Community guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network set out the general parameters for the overall network. It established the characteristics of the specific network for each mode of transport and identified eligible projects of common interest as well as PPs. Emphasis was placed on environmentally friendly modes of transport, in particular rail projects. The TEN-T covers the entirety of the EU’s territory and may extend to the countries of the European Free Trade Association and to the south-east European and Mediterranean partner countries. Initially, it incorporated the 14 projects of common interest adopted by the Essen European Council. Decision No 1346/2001/EC of 22 May 2001 amending the TEN-T guidelines as regards seaports, inland ports and intermodal terminals completed a Community ‘transport development plan’ for all modes of transport.

b. 2004 revision of the TEN-T guidelines

The 2004 and 2007 enlargements, coupled with serious delays and financing problems – in particular with regard to cross-border sections – led to a thorough revision of the TEN-T guidelines. The number of PPs listed was increased to 30, all of them being required to comply with EU environmental legislation. A new concept of ‘Motorways of the Sea’ (MoS) was introduced with a view to making certain sea routes more efficient and integrating short sea shipping with rail transport.

‘European coordinators’ for particularly important projects were appointed in 2005 to act as mediators in contacts with national decision-making authorities, transport operators and users, and representatives of civil society. A Trans-European Transport Network Executive Agency (TEN-T EA) was set up in October 2006, tasked with the technical and financial preparation and monitoring of decisions on projects managed by the Commission.

c. 2013 revision: integrated network, dual-layer structure (core/comprehensive) and TEN-T corridors

The objective of the EU transport infrastructure policy is to transform the existing patchwork of European roads, railways, inland waterways, airports, inland and maritime ports and rail/road terminals into an integrated network covering all Member States. The lack of a coherent transport infrastructure of this type constitutes a serious barrier to the smooth functioning of the internal market. The creation of this network requires the preparation and implementation of thousands of projects intended to eliminate existing bottlenecks, bridge missing links and improve interoperability between different modes of transport, as well as between regional and national transport infrastructures. Moreover, among the priorities for the development of the TEN-T infrastructure is the application of innovative technological solutions, which have a vital role to play in the transformation of transport to make it accessible to all and create a safer, sustainable, low-carbon and energy-efficient system.

The new EU transport infrastructure policy establishes, for the first time, a dual-layer structure for EU transport routes, comprising a comprehensive network (ensuring effective connections to all the EU regions) and a core network (composed of the strategically most important elements of the comprehensive network). The projects on the comprehensive network should be finalised by the end of 2050, while those that form part of the core network should meet the TEN-T criteria by the end of 2030.

Furthermore, nine major multimodal corridors have been introduced as a new policy instrument to facilitate the coordinated implementation of projects located on the core network. These corridors are meant to bring together public and private stakeholders in order to join up resources for the development of the core network. To make sure that the corridors are implemented effectively and efficiently, each is supported by a European coordinator.

The TEN-T policy also focuses on the development of the MoS, as well as on the implementation of the European Railway Transport Management System (ERTMS). Thus, two additional European coordinators, one for each of the above-mentioned actions, were appointed to lead the process of their harmonised implementation. In 2015, each of the European coordinators drew up a work plan for an MoS or an ERTMS corridor respectively. These work plans are to be updated on a regular basis, taking into account the progress made in the projects’ implementation. Moreover, a major revision of the implementation of the core network has been scheduled to take place in 2023.

In 2014, the Trans-European Transport Network Executive Agency was renamed the Infrastructure and Networks Executive Agency (INEA). Apart from continuing the execution of the TEN-T and the 2007-2013 Marco Polo Programmes, it was tasked with the technical and financial management of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and parts of Horizon 2020, the latter being another EU programme that provides support for research in smart, green and integrated transport, among other fields (for more information on the financing of the TENs, see 3.5.2).

d. The TEN-T revision

On 14 December 2021, the Commission adopted the revision of the TEN-T guidelines. The proposed regulation envisages changes compared with the 2013 Regulation, in particular, the high-quality network has to be gradually completed in three phases: 2030 for the core network, 2040 for the extended core network and 2050 for the comprehensive network. The core and extended core network together form the European Transport Corridors, which are the most strategic part of the network with the highest EU added value. The European transport corridors integrate the core network corridors and the rail freight corridors. Other new elements comprise, in particular, the inclusion of an average dwelling time at border crossings and a limited delay on arrival at their destination for freight trains; higher train speeds across the core and extended core networks; the deployment, across the TEN-T network, of the charging and refuelling infrastructure needed for alternative transport fuels in line with the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation; more transhipment hubs and multimodal passenger terminals in cities to facilitate multimodality; and connecting large airports to rail, where possible, high-speed rail.

The TEN-T regulation proposal is complemented by the ‘Action plan to boost long-distance passenger and cross-border passenger rail’ of 14 December 2021, which has the aim of increasing high-speed rail capacity and new European Investment Bank support for investing in rail, with the overall objective of achieving the net-zero target in the European Green Deal.

On 27 July 2022, the Commission presented an amended proposal to reflect the modified geopolitical context, including an extension of four European transport corridors to Ukraine and Moldova. The Parliament mandate for negotiations with the Council was adopted in April 2023.

In 2023, the Commission also aims to update the map of the indicative trans-European transport network for the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia), including minor changes to the road and rail network.

2. Energy

a. 1996 guidelines

At the 1994 Essen summit, several energy network projects were awarded priority status. Decision No 1254/96/EC of 5 June 1996 laid down a series of guidelines for trans-European energy networks (TEN-E) to help identify eligible projects of common interest and create a framework conducive to their implementation, coupled with sectoral objectives for electricity.

b. Current guidelines

Regulation (EU) No 347/2013 (TEN-E) laid down EU guidelines for the development and interoperability of trans-European energy infrastructure, repealing the previous ones. It also determined the conditions for eligibility of projects of common interest (PCI) for EU financial assistance under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). PCIs are infrastructure projects necessary to implement the EU energy policy priorities, including improved interconnection between national markets, greater competitiveness, security of supply and promotion of renewable energy sources.

As energy infrastructure is a central enabler for the energy transition, a review of the TEN-E Regulation was required following the Commission’s communications on the European Green Deal and a Clean Planet for all. In 2020, the Commission proposed a revision of the 2013 TEN-E Regulation to better support the modernisation of Europe’s cross-border energy infrastructure and achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal. The regulation was adopted by Parliament and the Council on 30 May 2022 and was published on 3 June 2022 in the Official Journal. The revised TEN-E Regulation (2022/869) therefore contributes to achieving the EU’s 2030 targets for energy and climate and its climate neutrality objective by 2050 and to ensuring interconnections, energy security, market and system integration and competition that benefits all Member States, as well as affordability of energy prices. The guidelines mostly end EU support for new natural gas and oil projects and introduce mandatory sustainability criteria for all PCI projects. The 11 priority corridors cover electricity, offshore grids for renewable energy and hydrogen infrastructure, while the three priority thematic areas focus on smart electricity grids deployment, smart gas grids, and a cross-border (captured) carbon dioxide network. The first PCI list adopted under the new rules is expected in autumn 2023.

3. Telecommunications

Decision No 2717/95/EC of 9 November 1995 established a series of guidelines for the development of the EURO-ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) as a TEN. It identified objectives, priorities and projects of common interest for the development of a range of services, based on the EURO-ISDN, with a view to a future EU broadband communications network.

Decision No 1336/97/EC of 17 June 1997 laid down guidelines for the trans-European telecommunications networks (TEN-Telecom). It set out the objectives, priorities and broad lines of the measures envisaged. The priorities adopted included applications contributing to economic and social cohesion and the development of basic networks, particularly satellite networks. These guidelines were modified slightly by Decision No 1376/2002/EC of 12 July 2002.

The guidelines identified projects of common interest and specified procedures and criteria for their selection. The Community programme eTEN, which was a key instrument of the action plan known as ‘eEUROPE 2005: An information society for all’, also built on the EURO-ISDN programme. Completed in 2006, it sought to support the trans-European deployment of services based on telecommunications networks. EU investment is currently focused on modernising existing networks.

In May 2015, as part of its digital single market strategy, the Commission published several proposals to reform the EU telecommunications regulatory framework. In September 2016, the Commission published proposals including a directive setting out a European electronic communications code (EECC). The EECC (Directive (EU) 2018/1972), which entered into force on 11 December 2018, modernised the existing EU telecommunications rules (2.1.8).

Role of the European Parliament

Parliament has strongly supported the TEN policies, and has regularly drawn attention to delays in the implementation of PPs, called for firm timetables, and called on the Member States to increase the budgetary resources available, particularly for the TEN-T network. It has ensured that priority is given to promoting projects with clear ‘European added value’, which have positive and long-term effects on the environment and employment and remove bottlenecks, particularly in rail and combined transport.

With the adoption of its resolution of 12 July 2007 on keeping Europe moving – Sustainable mobility for our continent, Parliament took stock of the situation and laid down new objectives, in particular the need to complete the entire TEN in order to make the most of all modes of transport (‘co-modality’), and to redistribute the balance between modes (‘modal transfer’) in order to reduce the environmental impact of transport. It encouraged rail, bus and maritime transport, which still account for only a small share of the market.

Moreover, in its resolution of 22 April 2009 on the Green Paper on the future TEN-T policy, Parliament reiterated its call for priority to be given to rail (notably for freight), ports, sustainable maritime and inland waterways and their hinterland connections, and intermodal nodes in infrastructure links with new Member States and non-EU countries. In this context, Parliament is encouraging the extension of the TEN-T to the countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and to the Mediterranean partner countries.

Over the past 15 years, Parliament has assisted in the revision of overlapping legislation on the TEN-T. Together with the Council, it adopted, under the ordinary legislative procedure, Decision No 661/2010/EU of 7 July 2010 recasting the TEN-T guidelines. This repealed Decision Nos 1692/96/EC, 1346/2001/EC and 884/2004/EC, and included a new annex containing maps of the 27 Member States and stipulating target dates for establishing the network in all of them.

On 19 November 2013, Parliament approved the new TEN-T guidelines on the basis of precise targets and increased EU financing, and set out a clear vision for the establishment of the core and comprehensive transport networks, with target dates of 2030 and 2050 respectively. Parliament insisted, inter alia, that the selection of projects be based on the idea of EU added value (resulting from policy choices and/or financial intervention leading to significant and measurable improvement in transport connections and transport flows). Moreover, Parliament pointed out the need to define a ‘socio-economic cost-benefit analysis’ as a quantified ex ante evaluation that is carried out on the basis of a harmonised methodology for determining the value of a project or programme. In Parliament’s view, the methodology should also take into account all social, economic and environmental benefits and costs, and serve as an indicator of the contribution to well-being.

After the TEN-T Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013) entered into force at the end of 2013, Parliament’s support for the development of the TEN-T continued. In its resolution of 9 September 2015 on the implementation of the 2011 White Paper on Transport: taking stock and the way forward towards sustainable mobility, Parliament underlined the importance of transport for the economy and for the mobility of people in the EU, while also stressing the need to invest in infrastructure. In Parliament’s view, the completion of the TEN-T is a precondition for a sustainable and efficient EU transport system, which must be boosted by the CEF, as well as by the European Fund for Strategic Investments.

In 2018, the Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on streamlining measures for advancing the realisation of the trans-European transport network. Parliament adopted its decision at first reading in February 2019. The Council adopted a general approach on 2 December 2019. On 8 June 2020, Parliament and the Council agreed on a final compromise text, and on 14 July 2020 the Committee on Transport and Tourism approved the provisional agreement, which was adopted by both institutions and the directive was published in the Official Journal on 20 July 2021.

On 20 January 2021, Parliament adopted a resolution on the revision of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) guidelines. The resolution underlines that it is essential that all relevant EU funds (CEF, InvestEU, European structural and investment funds, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, Horizon Europe, etc.) and European Investment Bank lending be tailored to the specific needs of the transport sector, and that the resources available under the NextGenerationEU fund provide a unique opportunity to guarantee the development of the TEN-T core networks until 2030. Parliament also invited the Commission to strengthen its monitoring of the implementation of the TEN-T by making use of the powers already conferred on it by the regulation.

In its resolution of 10 July 2020 on the revision of the guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure, Parliament called for a revision that takes account, in particular, of the EU’s energy and climate targets for 2030, its long-term decarbonisation commitment and the ‘energy efficiency first’ principle. It highlighted the need to ensure that spending and the selection of PCIs are in line with the commitments made under the Paris Agreement.

In its legislative resolution of 5 April 2022 on the revised regulation on trans-European energy infrastructure, Parliament called for the stronger involvement of stakeholders in cross-border infrastructure planning and the PCI selection process, and a more diverse representation of many different sectors in the consultations. Parliament also pushed for boosting offshore renewable energy projects and for making it easier to integrate them into the EU networks, with the aim of achieving the EU’s net-zero objective. Parliament also underlined, in its resolution of 5 October 2022 on the EU’s response to the increase in energy prices in Europe, that a truly resilient European energy network, including the construction of new interconnectors, would contribute to alleviating the price pressure on businesses and consumers in the short term, and to establishing energy independence and resilience in the long term. It recognised that key infrastructure needs to remain under EU control, thereby fostering open strategic autonomy, and called on the Commission and the Member States to accelerate key infrastructure projects based on renewable energy and clean hydrogen by facilitating the permitting process, while paying due regard to public participation and environmental impact assessment procedures.

In its recommendation of 23 November 2022 concerning the new EU strategy for enlargement, Parliament recommended strengthening partnerships between candidate countries and the EU through principal infrastructure projects within the framework of the trans-European energy (TEN-E) and transport (TEN-T) networks. Parliament is suggesting, among other things, to take immediate steps to achieve the long-term and sustainable connection of candidate countries to the European energy transmission network and include the candidate countries in the EU’s energy policy strategies, with a special focus on those which are heavily dependent on Russian gas and are severely impacted due to their favourable position towards the EU.

For more information on these topics, please see the websites of the Committee on Transport and Tourism and of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.


Davide Pernice / Kristi Polluveer / Ariane Debyser