Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
Here in Brussels the big development last week was the successful hearing in front of the Transport and Tourism Committee of the European Parliament for Adina-Ioana Vălean, Commissioner-designate for Transport.  She outlined her strategy for her 5  year term in office. She struck a pragmatic approach during the hearing, and indicated she won’t be afraid to champion the transport industry. During her introductory speech she declared that the right to move freely is highly valued by EU citizens and transport is a priority because it makes this possible, which we therefore should not overly constrain.  On the European Green Deal, Vălean said that it cannot be completed without transport at its core, but greening mobility must serve the citizens’ interests. While additional efforts are needed to reach carbon neutrality targets, this has to be economically feasible to be accepted by the people, she added. Digitalisation and automation entail huge changes for the sector, but this cannot come at a human cost, so greater focus on training and retraining is needed. The Committee recommended that her appointment should proceed. The next step is for the European Parliament’s  Conference of Presidents to decide on 21 November if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to elect the Commission as a whole on 27 November, in Strasbourg. If approved that means work will begin on 1 December.

Vălean has  been an centre-right MEP since 2007 and is highly experienced and respected, but she has mainly focused on energy and the environment, currently chairing the Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee having previously chaired the Environment Committee. She admitted herself that she’s not an expert of every aspect of transport policy, an honest admission which was well-received by her fellow MEPs looking for someone who will listen as well as lead.

Her pragmatism, willingness to listen and above all her desire to maintain high levels of connectivity in the face of the many challenges the sector faces will also be useful attributes for UK transport, be it road, rail, sea, road or air. Our task is, despite the Brexit uncertainty, to build a strong partnership with her and her team to ensure our voice is heard when we no longer have a seat at the table.

In the UK I was honoured to be asked by RIA to share a platform with Andrew Hawkins, Founder and Chairman of ComRes. We both gave keynote speeches and joining opening panel at the Railway Industry Association’s Annual Conference. More here.

This week’s song of the week, following the revelation that Boris Johnson is a fan of the Clash, is Death or Glory by The Clash.

1. Adina Vălean: the new EU Commissioner for Transport
Last week saw (finally) the hearing for the new EU Commissioner for Transport as Romania’s Adina Vălean was heard and then confirmed by the Transport and Tourism Committee. During her hearing, she stressed that transport should be at the core of the European Green Deal and she committed to reducing the environmental footprint of mobility and transportation activities without inhibiting connectivity and freedom of movement. Vălean’s mission letter commits her to taking serious environmental action to cut down on the emissions of the transport sector. Her written answers to questions asked by MEPs also clearly indicate a commitment to bringing the transport sector in line with the incoming Commission’s new green ambitions.

2. Council general approach reached on rail passenger rights
Last week, a general approach on rail passenger rights was proposed within the Council, with the Rail Passengers’ Rights Regulation being under revision. The compromise will now be presented to the Transport Council on 2 December for a general approach to be agreed.

3. Clean mobility: Commission welcomes agreement on tyre labelling to save energy
A political agreement on a European tyre labelling was reached yesterday between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. The new rules improve and strengthen EU tyre labels enabling European consumers to make better choices and bringing energy savings equivalent to taking 4 million cars off of EU roads every year. Following this political agreement, the text of the Regulation will have to be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council.

4EU gets serious on Belt and Road initiative?
Following UKTiE Coordinator Mark Watts’ new blog and vlog this on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which highlighted the big debate  over how Europe should respond. The Financial Times now reports that later this week the EU’s own Belt and Road will be revealed later this week when a ‘Wise Persons’ group tasked with finding some answers present their findings to EU27 ambassadors and finance ministers. The experts have been asked to examine whether the EU’s two major lenders — the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) — are fit for purpose to serve as Europe’s 21st-century international development bank.

5. 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.
  • 2-3 December 2019 – Next TRAN Committee Meeting
  • 2-3 December 2019 – Next ENVI Committee Meetings
  • 01 December 2019 – Start of new European Commission mandate. (tbc)
  • 12 December 2019  – UK General Election.
  • 31 January 2019 – The UK will formally leave the EU. (tbc)
  • 31 December 2020 – End of Transition Period (tbc).
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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