Mark’s EU Week for Transport
Last week was the EU Sustainable Energy Week, which UKTiE attended in order to gain further insight into the forthcoming EU climate agenda. The conclusion was that, while the current policy negotiations can appear quite vague, specificity will come and will come quickly once the new European Parliament begins in the first week of July.
We are hearing measures ranging from cutting emissions in shipping, to creating a level playing field by increasing aviation taxation, to sustainable mobility measures. These are just the broad strokes and the first steps of what will be a prominent climate agenda, spearheaded by both an increasingly green-oriented European Parliament.
So what are we doing about this? At UKTiE we are seeking to already engage with EU officials and relevant stakeholders in order to find out where EU policymaking is headed on transport. In that regard, we will be meeting with Henrik Hololei, Director-General at DG MOVE in early July to take stock of transport policy over the last five years, and what the next five years looks like. We will also be meeting with the Croatian Presidency and hosting our annual UKTiE Forum to engage and present our vision and objectives across several avenues of EU policymaking.
News & Views will be taking a break next week, with a return on July 8th, when we should be able to report on the new European Parliament committees and the EU top jobs. News & Views will also be sent out on a bi-weekly basis until the return from recess of the European Parliament.
This week’s song of the week, is L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N by Noah And the Whale.
1. Finnish five party government led by Social Democrat Antti Rinne takes up office ahead of EU Presidency
LP Brussels Advisor Kai Keski-Korhonen writes on the Finnish government plans and EU presidency. Read what the five party Social Democrat led coalition looks like, what it plans to do, what their EU policy is going to look like during the Finnish Presidency of the European Council and beyond. Despite the Presidency programme being vague, partly due to the elections, but also because of the change of Commission, it’s clear that climate change will be high up on the agenda for domestic reasons and there is a clear intent to push the EU to adopt an even tighter line on emissions. Low carbon, carbon neutral and emissions reduction will be key words in this field. And they will try to impose that on legislation and programs wherever possible. Transport policy will be heavily rail focused as well as the need for carbon neutral requirements across all modes. The better functioning of the ‘Internal Market’ will be a clear priority, as well as social justice and cohesion. We might see some activity on digitization, though the area is vague and lacking detailed proposals.
2. Climate Neutrality by 2050
During last week’s European Council Summit, it seemed a foregone conclusion that momentum had swung behind the conclusions stating that the EU must be climate neutral by 2050. However, following some lobbying from countries such as Poland, the goal of achieving climate neutrality in the EU by 2050 ended up in a footnote stating that “a large majority” of EU countries think “climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050”. This amounts to the equivalent of paying lip service to what was supposed to be an ambitious commitment by the EU, seeking to lead from the front ahead of further UN climate talks in September. While this will not dampen the spirits of those seeking to push for further climate action at the EU level, as this is more of a symbolic blow rather than a killer blow to the new green momentum.
3. EU leaders fail to agree top job candidates in Brussels talks
Last week’s European Council Summit also saw the EU leaders fail to reach agreement on who should take on the bloc’s top jobs. However, one conclusion from the summit does appear to have been the death of the Spitzenkandidats like Manfred Weber of the EPP, Frans Timmermans of the S&D and Margrethe Vestager of Renew Europe. They also agreed to meet again on June 30th, coincidentally a mere couple of days before the European Parliament takes office, to try again and come to an agreement on the top jobs. For the time being, the can gets kicked down the road while the EPP, S&D and Renew Europe seek to come to an acceptable compromise on candidates for the European Commission Presidency, the European Parliament Presidency, the High Representative of the EU, and the European Central Bank President.
4. European Council sets new strategic agenda
The European Council agreed to the “a New Strategic Agenda 2019-2024” that sets the EU strategic priorities for the next five years. While this process is happening simultaneously alongside the European Parliament’s efforts to set the EU’s priorities, the European Council does retain the power of strategic agenda setting. While the agenda represents the broad strokes of a vision for the next five years, it does contain certain clues as to where future EU action and focus may lie. One such part is where the agenda states: “the EU will accelerate the transition to renewables, increase energy efficiency, reduce dependence on outside sources, diversify its supplies, and invest in solutions for the mobility of the future.” This means that one of the key climate action focuses will be on ‘solutions for the mobility of the future’.
5. Why the European Union was the biggest winner of the European elections
In his most recent blog, Mark writes that looking at all the results and the key questions from before the election, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the European Union was the big winner of the European elections with the European Parliament primed to continue constructing the European project for the next five years at least.
6. UKTiE has also put together the latest timetable for Brexit. We will keep this up to date as the process develops:
- 29 March 2017 – A50 triggered.
- 5 April 2017 – European Parliament adopted Brexit guidelines.
- 22 May 2017 – Brexit negotiating directives approved by Council.
- 19 June 2017 – Negotiations formally began.
- 23 March 2018– European Council agreed guidelines on the future trading relationship.
- 23-26 May 2019 – European Parliament election.
- 2 July – First meeting of the European Parliament.
- 8 July – First meeting of the TRAN Committee.
- 31 October 2019 – The UK will formally leave the EU. (tbc)
- 01 November 2019 – Start of new European Commission mandate. (tbc)
- 31 December 2020 – End of Transition Period (tbc).
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)