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Presentation by Minister Radovan Žerjav of the programme of the Slovenian Presidency (transport issues)

Mr Chairman, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to be here today to present the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency to the TRAN Committee of the European Parliament in the area of transport, for which I am responsible. Slovenia is the first of the ten new Member States that joined the European Union in 2004 to assume the Presidency. This is a sign of great trust and recognition of our achievements so far, but it also represents a great responsibility for us. I hope that with your help and cooperation we will be able to overcome the difficulties any EU Presidency would have to face and achieve our objectives. The Slovenian Presidency attaches the greatest importance to constructive and trustful cooperation with the European Parliament in general, and with the members of the TRAN Committee in particular. Given the number of co-decision dossiers in the transport area, close cooperation with the members of the Committee seems indispensable if we want to obtain significant results.

It is only good cooperation between the European Parliament and the Council that will enable us to conclude the numerous important dossiers. This cooperation has already been exemplary during the presidencies of our German and Portuguese colleagues, and I must say that the Slovenian Presidency intends to continue working with the European Parliament in the same constructive spirit.

One of the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency will be the renewed Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs. We believe that more resources should be put into research and innovation, renewing business potential, helping small and medium-sized enterprises and improving labour markets. We also intend to pay the greatest attention to recent developments concerning energy and climate change, which are of course very important. Furthermore, we believe that the Western Balkan countries should be progressively associated with EU transport policy with a view to preparing their future accession to the EU. I mention these general priorities of the Slovenian Presidency because I firmly believe that the transport sector can make a significant contribution to achieving the these goals.

During our preparatory work, Slovenia has been working closely with its two presidency predecessors Germany and Portugal within the framework of the 18-month programme, while at the same time already coordinating with future presidencies.

In the transport sector, several dossiers will be considered as our priorities, given their importance in attaining the above goals. Particular importance will be placed on improving transport safety, increasing the quality and interoperability of European railways and concluding agreements with the Western Balkan countries in areas concerning transport. Especially close to our hearts is the further progress of the GALILEO project, where we want to continue the successful work started under the German and Portuguese presidencies.

Firstly, and as I have already briefly mentioned, I would like to start with a Commission proposal expected for the beginning of 2008 concerning a Council Decision authorising the Commission to negotiate an agreement with the countries of the Western Balkans creating a Common Transport Area. As you understand, Slovenia, for both geographical and political reasons, attaches the greatest significance to EU relations with the Western Balkans. We believe that the future of the Balkans is within the EU. Stability in the region is paramount, and the EU must show these countries the way to attaining a European perspective. Therefore, we consider that all initiatives that progressively integrate these countries into the EU should be encouraged and strongly supported.

Concerning land transport issues, transport safety is a priority for the Slovenian Presidency, and we look forward to pursuing work on the proposal for a Directive on road infrastructure safety management. I would like to refer to the fact that the Council reached a general approach on the above proposal at its meeting in October 2007. I understand that an opinion on this proposal could be adopted shortly. Assuming that our institutions are thinking along the same lines, I expect that we will be able to reach an early agreement. Still on road safety, and provided that the Commission proposal does not arrive too late, we hope to be able to make some progress on the proposal for the Directive on the cross border enforcement of controls and sanctions. We believe that both proposals could significantly contribute to improving road safety and, therefore, contribute to our common goal of considerably reducing the death toll on Community roads.

As you know, in 2007 the Commission put forward a set of three proposals to recast the texts for the existing Interoperability Directives on high speed and conventional rail which promote railway cross-acceptance amongst the Member States, including the Communication "Facilitating the movement of locomotives across the European Union", amended Rail Safety Directive and amended Regulation establishing a European Railway Agency. I do not need to re-emphasise the importance of these proposals. European railways need to be revitalised, and obstacles to the free movement of railway rolling stock in the Community have to be removed. During the Portuguese presidency, an agreement with the European Parliament was reached on the first proposal. We intend to build upon this good work and pursue informal consultations with the rapporteurs on the other two, quite technical dossiers with a view to reaching an agreement as soon as possible. We also intend to start the discussion on the Communication "Towards a rail network giving priority to freight" which the Commission presented to us at the end of last year and adopt Council Conclusions on these railway issues.

Concerning road transport, we intend to continue the examination of the proposals on the conditions for pursuing the occupation of road transport operator and for access to the international road haulage market and to start the examination of the proposal concerning the common rules for the international carriage of passengers by coach and bus. These proposals are expected to bring benefits to the road transport market. Their main objectives are to reduce distortions of competition and administrative burdens, to improve social conditions in the sector and to have a positive impact on road safety and the environment. Given their importance, we hope to be able to reach a timely agreement with the Parliament on these three proposals, whose importance I would like to underline.

Concerning maritime transport, under the Slovenian Presidency the two remaining proposals of the Third Maritime Safety Package will be examined: the Directive on compliance with flag State requirements and the Directive on the civil liability and financial guarantees of shipowners. We will do our utmost to be able to reach political agreements on these two proposals. I would like to mention that the Council has already reached a political agreement on five proposals of the same package. As the Council in the past respected the wish of Parliament and the Commission to treat the seven proposals as a package, no common position has yet been transmitted to you. In the meantime, I think it became clear to everyone that we have a considerable amount of work to deal with. The technical complexity of some of the legislative proposals will take some time, not only for our examinations in the Council but also for the negotiations with the Parliament. In order to speed up the process we would like to come to a mutual agreement to start with those dossiers which are ready for the second reading: the Directive on port state control, the Directive on accident investigation and the Directive on vessel traffic monitoring. I hope to receive a clear signal from you regarding support for such a programme. We do not intend to question the "package approach"; quite the contrary, we share the opinion that only by adopting all seven proposals can we contribute to Community maritime safety as a whole. We simply would like to speed up the closing of the package by starting the second readings. Recent accidents in other parts of the world indicate that the risks are still high and that we should do everything necessary to avoid the repetition of similar accidents in our waters and along our coasts. Therefore, we should start the implementation of the above Commission proposals as soon as possible. I am sure that we will all work with that objective in mind.

In accordance with the Council conclusions of December 2007, the Slovenian Presidency will continue the work on EU common maritime policy; in this process, we will focus on exchanging good practices and creating integrated national maritime policies.

Concerning the air transport sector, our main objectives will be further liberalisation in the internal aviation market, improved transparency, and simplified legislation and procedures, as well as increased technological innovation, security and airport efficiency. Therefore, priority will be given to examination of the proposals concerning airports charges, the draft Regulation on a Code of Conduct for computerised reservation systems and SESAR. I would like to underline that these proposals are in line with the main objective of the Lisbon Agenda for the EU to remain a competitive economy and are part of a wider approach focused on the promotion of efficient airport operations, optimal use of scarce capacity and new technologies, as well as on helping Europes aerospace and aviation industries compete more effectively at the international level.

As you know, the Council at its session last November agreed on a general approach to the Commission proposal on airports charges. This proposal defines a number of basic principles to be respected by airport operators in determining airport charges, such as non-discrimination, the obligation for the managing body to engage in consultations with air carriers, and transparency for the independent supervisory body. Given the importance of these objectives, which I assume we share, I hope that the Council and the European Parliament will be able to reach a prompt agreement on this text.

We also intend to start the examination of the Commission proposal regarding the computerised reservation systems (CRS). It aims to significantly simplify the Code of Conduct and to reinforce competition between CRS providers while maintaining basic safeguards against potential competitive abuses, especially in the case of close links between CRSs and airlines, and ensuring the provision of neutral information to customers. We hope to be able to make significant progress on this dossier by the end of June.

I would also like to make reference to SESAR. The SESAR project constitutes the technological element of the Single European Sky. It aims to give the Community a high-performance air traffic control system by 2020 which will enable the safe and environmentally friendly development of air transport. The Commission will submit a Communication on SESAR during the first semester of 2008, which will include a proposal for endorsement by the Council of the European Air Traffic Management Master Plan. Furthermore, the Commission has submitted a report on implementation of the Single European Sky Regulations and plans to submit additional legislative proposals on the same subject. The Slovenian Presidency is looking forward to receiving the above proposals and aims at adopting the ATM Master Plan and bringing the Single European Sky project forward as much as possible.

Continuing in the area of aviation transport, I would like to mention the external relations aspect. The Slovenian Presidency, in light of recent successes, will pursue efforts aiming at enlarging our cooperation with third countries on aviation matters. One of the aims of our Presidency is to examine the possible granting of new mandates to the Commission, authorising it to open negotiations with third countries on comprehensive aviation agreements, in particular with Israel. Furthermore, we will continue to monitor the progress achieved in ongoing negotiations with other countries such as Canada and the US. Concerning the US, we intend to officially mark the beginning of the EU-US second stage of negotiations with a high-level event in Ljubljana next April. We hope this will be a good start for a new phase of successful negotiations, to which the European Union attaches the greatest importance.

Energy and environment are also among the general priorities of the Slovenian Presidency. In the transport sector, we will contribute to achieving these goals by discussing the Directive on the promotion of clean road transport vehicles. Reducing transport emissions is intensively discussed within the framework of the environment as well. During our Presidency, we hope to make progress on the Directive on including aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading, and we will start a new discussion of the proposal on emissions of commercial vehicles, the so-called Euro VI, and the proposal on reducing CO2 emissions in new vehicles. Last but not least, we are planning to start discussing a proposal for a regulation on type-approval of hydrogen-powered motor vehicles within the framework of the internal market. By making progress on these proposals, we will comprehensively cut transport influences on the environment. These proposals are also personally important for me, due to the fact that our Ministry is very active in their discussion. I can also inform you about the planned informal ministerial meeting, at which we will discuss the necessary adaptation of TEN-T to future needs while at the same time respecting the necessary greening of the transport system.

Finally, a word on GALILEO. Last November, the Council adopted a highly important Conclusion establishing the basic principles of the financial aspects, governance and procurement of this key European project. On that occasion the Council underlined the economic and public merits of GALILEO and EGNOS, and the direct benefits of both programmes in terms of new services and markets. The Council agreed in applying for the deployment phase of the GNSS programmes under public procurement and set 2013 as the starting date for the commercial operating phase. With the principles of these Conclusions, we can now start to work on the legal basis with a view to adopting, in close cooperation with the ITRE and TRAN Committees of the European Parliament, the Regulation on the further implementation of the European satellite radio navigation programmes (EGNOS and GALILEO).

In conclusion, I would like to thank you all for having listened patiently. I remain at your disposal to reply to any questions you would care to pose. In any case, I look forward to having other opportunities during the Slovenian Presidency to pursue this discussion on transport matters.

Thank you very much.


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Date: 23.01.2008