Establishment of a single European railway area
The Council reached political agreement on a draft directive on a single European railway are (17324/11), confirming its general approach adopted in June this year, while adapting the wording of some provisions in order to take account of amendments adopted by the European Parliament.
Two delegations did not agree to the text, however. One considers the requirement of independence in organisational and decision-making terms for a service operator belonging to a body with a dominant position to be too bureaucratic, and is also opposed to the obligation for railway undertakings to lease unused facilities. The second delegation is of the opinion that the legal framework contained in the text is too rigid and does not take sufficient account of the specific situations of member states. Another delegation abstained, pointing to concerns about infrastructure charging rules.
The political agreement will be formalised in the form of a first-reading position after legal and linguistic checks have been carried out. However, the Council will already endeavour to enter into negotiations with the European Parliament in order to seek agreement on a final text to be adopted jointly by both institutions at second reading.
The draft directive is a recast of the first railway package: a set of three directives on the development of European railways, licensing of railway undertakings and management of railway infrastructure (directives Nos 12, 13 and 14 of 2001), which launched a gradual opening-up of the railway sector to competition at European level.
The purpose of the recast is to simplify, clarify and modernise the regulatory framework for Europe’s railway sector so as to increase competition, strengthen market supervision and improve conditions for investment in the sector. To that end, the recast merges the three directives, together with the amendments made to them over time, into a single text, and makes a number of other changes:
- Competition between railway undertakings will be enhanced by making rail market access conditions more transparent and improving access for operators to rail-related services such as railway stations, freight terminals and maintenance facilities. To guarantee non-discriminatory access, the recast specifically provides that a service operator belonging to a body with a dominant position on the railway market concerned must be independent from that body to a certain extent, which requires having separate accounts and independence in organisational and decision-making terms though there is no need to create a separate legal body.
The independence of national regulatory bodies and their powers, for instance to impose sanctions or audits, will be strengthened. Cooperation between regulators on cross-border issues will also be enhanced. This will help eliminate discriminatory obstacles to access to rail services and ensure the proper functioning of the rail services market.
Financing of rail infrastructure will be improved by longer-term planning, offering more certainty to investors, and by adapting charging rules so as to give incentives to modernise infrastructure, including the reduction of noise emissions.
The recast proposal was presented by the Commission in September 2010 (13789/10). The European Parliament reached its first-reading position on 16 November 2011 (16805/11).
The Council agreed on a partial general approach on a new draft regulation setting out requirements for the construction, installation, use and testing of tachographs (18148/11). The tachograph is used in road transport to monitor compliance with the rules on driving time and rest periods, in order to ensure road safety, decent working conditions for drivers and fair competition between transport businesses. The aim of the new draft legislation, which will replace the 1985 tachograph regulation, is to make fraud more difficult and to reduce the administrative burden by making full use of new technologies and introducing a number of new regulatory measures.
The partial general approach does not cover the proposed provision on merging the driving licence with the driver card used with the tachograph. That provision will be discussed at a later stage, in parallel with the proposal for a revision of the driving licences directive, recently submitted by the Commission (16842/11), which also provides for the inclusion of the driver card functionalities into the driving licence.
The text agreed is a compromise presented by the presidency and supported by a large majority of delegations. However, some delegations still have concerns on specific points. One delegation wishes to extend the exemptions from the requirement to use the tachograph, so as to increase the radius for exempted transport operations to 150 km. Some other delegations, arguing that any harmonisation of sanctions should be excluded, would prefer leaving out the requirement that penalties must be in compliance with the categories of infringements defined in the directive on social legislation relating to road transport activities.
The partial general approach contains the following key elements:
As regards the use of technology, the current manual recording of the location of the vehicle will be replaced by automated recording through satellite positioning. Moreover, remote communication from the tachograph providing basic information on compliance will allow for early detection of possible manipulation or misuse, thereby enabling officers to target roadside checks better and avoid unnecessary checks. However, there will be no obligation for member states to ensure that their inspection authorities are equipped with the instruments required for remote early detection of this kind. In addition, the tachograph may be equipped with an interface facilitating its integration into Intelligent Transport Systems, subject to certain conditions.
The regulatory changes will include stricter requirements for workshops responsible for installing and calibrating tachographs. In order to cut the administrative burden, the exemption from the obligation to use tachographs, which member states may grant to certain users – mainly small and medium-sized enterprises – will be extended: for those users, the new draft regulation introduces a uniform exemption for transport operations within a radius of 100 km, whilst hitherto the exemption has been limited to 50 km in certain cases.
The regulatory measures will apply two years after the publication of the regulation in the Union’s Official Journal, with the exception of the rules on the approval and control of workshops and the use of driver cards, which will be applicable one year earlier. The “smart tachograph”, that is, the pplication of the new satellite-linked technology, will become mandatory 40 months after the technical specifications for the new tachograph have been established, i. e. probably in 2017 or 2018.
The European Parliament, whose approval is also required for the adoption of the regulation, has yet to discuss the proposal.
Training of seafarers
The Council agreed a general approach on updating a 2008 directive defining the minimum level of training for seafarers ( 18147/11), with a view to aligning EU legislation with recent amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). The 2008 directive provides for the transposition into EU law of this convention, which was adopted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and to which all EU member states are parties.
Two delegations, while supporting the general approach, raised certain issues. The first voiced its concerns regarding the requirement to send the Commission information on certificates for statistical purposes. The other delegation considered that there were legal uncertainties in the text and invited the Commission to address this problem in a future recast of the EU’s STCW directive, The amendments to the STCW agreed by the IMO in 2010, which enter into force in 2012 (with transitional arrangements until 2017), include provisions on:
updated standards for medical fitness and fitness for duty, including as regards alcohol abuse,
the establishment of the new professional profiles of “able seafarers” and “electro-technical officers”,
security-related training for all seafarers,
clearer and simpler definition of certificates, and
prevention of fraudulent practices relating to certificates.
The draft directive incorporates these amendments into EU law, while adapting the STCW provisions on watchkeeping in order to bring them into line with EU rules on working time fo seafarers.
In addition, the draft directive extends the time frame available to the Commission for deciding on the recognition of the training and certification systems of non-EU countries from three to eighteen months, as the three-month deadline has proved impracticable. The new text also provides for the collection of information on seafarers’ certificates for statistical purposes, as a tool for policymaking in this sector.
The proposed directive is part of the Commission’s “Social agenda for maritime transport”, which will also include a communication and a legislative proposal for the enforcement of the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The European Parliament has not yet delivered its opinion on the proposal, which was presented by the Commission in September this year (14256/11).
Double-hull requirements for oil tankers
The Council agreed a general approach on a recast of the 2002 regulation on the phasing-in of double-hull requirements for single-hull oil tankers (17025/11). The recast improves clarity by bringing together in a single text the amendments made to the regulation over time; the only change to the rules currently in force concerns the procedure for updating the references in the regulation to the relevant regulations and resolutions adopted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
The Council and the European Parliament will delegate to the Commission the power to align the numbering of those references with any renumbering of the IMO rules. This procedure, introduced by the Lisbon treaty, is to replace the current one under which decisions on amendments to those references are taken by a committee composed of experts from both the Commission and the member states. The Council deemed it sufficient to limit the scope of possible amendments to renumbering since single-hull oil tankers will be phased out in the near future and it is therefore unlikely that the IMO will modify the content of the relevant rules.
The regulation to be recast prohibits the transporting to or from EU ports of heavy grades of oil in single-hull oil tankers and lays down an accelerated phasing-in scheme for the application of the double-hull or equivalent design requirements of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships to single-hull oil tankers, with 2015 as the final deadline. That regulation was adopted in 2002 as a response to shipping accidents involving oil tankers and to the ensuing pollution of the Union’s waters and coastlines. Its main objective is to enhance safety and to prevent pollution in maritime transport by making oil tankers safer.
The European Parliament, whose approval is also required for the adoption of the recast, has not yet determined its position.
Trans-European transport network
The Council took note of a report (17629/11) presented by the presidency on the state of play on
new guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). The
guidelines define a long-term strategy for the TEN-T with the aim of establishing a complete and
integrated transport network covering all member states and regions and providing the basis for the balanced development of all transport modes.
The Council’s preparatory bodies have only recently started to discuss the guidelines proposed by
the Commission (15629/11). While member states generally support the proposal to introduce a
double-layer structure distinguishing between a core network to be put into place as a priority and a comprehensive network, other aspects of the proposed guidelines will need further discussion.
Member states’ main concerns are set out in the presidency’s report. Many delegations took the floor to highlight the most important issues:
The budgetary consequences are considered problematic by several member states, especially as
regards the costs for meeting the requirements set out in the guidelines for the different modes of
transport, in particular rail transport. Several delegations underscored the need to ensure member states’ right to decide on projects to be carried out on their territory. While the core network corridor concept set out in the proposal was supported by several member
states, several other delegations were critical or pointed to the need for clarification. The
governance of the corridors was mentioned as an important issue for further discussion, and the
need to avoid an increase in the administrative burden was underlined.
Several member states also stressed the importance of transport connections with neighbouring
Other issues raised include the binding deadlines proposed by the Commission for setting up the
core and the comprehensive networks, and the Commission’s decision to give the guidelines the
legal form of a regulation, which is directly addressed to all potential stakeholders, including
regional and local authorities and private bodies, rather than a decision addressed only to the
member states, as is the case for the guidelines currently in force.
The Council instructed its preparatory bodies to continue discussions on the proposed guidelines, which need to be approved by both the Council and the European Parliament. The guidelines lay down the requirements for the management of the infrastructure and the priorities for the development of the TEN-T network and also provide for implementing measures. They set out the framework for identifying projects of common interest contributing to the development of the network; such projects may relate to the creation, maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrading of infrastructure for all modes of transport as well as measures promoting its resource-efficient use.
The new double-layer structure of the network, as outlined in the Commission proposal, has the following key features:
The comprehensive network, to be completed by the end of 2050, will be made up of all existing
and planned TEN-T infrastructure meeting the requirements of the guidelines, including resourceefficiency
and environmental and technological aspects.
The core network, to be in place by the end of 2030, consists of the components of the comprehensive network with the highest strategic importance from a European perspective, such as cross-border missing links, key bottlenecks and multi-modal nodes. It will have to meet additional requirements and will be implemented through multi-modal network corridors covering at least three, or in justified cases two, different modes of transport and crossing at least three member states. These corridors will provide an instrument for capacity management, investment, interoperable traffic management systems, and building and coordinating multi-modal transhipment facilities. For each corridor, the member states concerned will set up a platform tasked with the governance and coordinated implementation of the corridor; each platform will be chaired by a European coordinator appointed by the Commission.
Maps indicating the layout of the comprehensive and core networks are included in the annexes to the proposal (addenda to 15629/11), and the proposed list of core network projects can be found in annex I to the Connecting Europe Facility proposal (16176/11).
The first guidelines defining the TEN-T policy were adopted in 1996 and revised in 2004. In 2010, maps covering the 10 new member states that joined the EU in 2004 were added. The revision under way intends to tackle the main problems encountered: missing links, in particular at crossborder sections, infrastructure disparities between and within member states, insufficient multimodal connections, greenhouse gas emissions by transport and inadequate interoperability.