Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
Hello from Brussels. Hope you had a good Easter despite the challenging circumstances. More tragic news in the last few days, with thousands more deaths from COVID19. But there is some light at the end of the tunnel, which is allowing more attention to be given to what sort of Europe we want once we’re through this stage of the crisis.

Here we enter our fifth week in lockdown, and it is likely to be extended until 3 May at the earliest. In France President Macron last night announced an extension until 11 May, and the UK is likely to follow suit. But amidst the gloom there is some light. Many countries have flattened the curve, including Austria, Denmark,  Czech Republic, and even Italy and Spain. They are even beginning to very tentatively lift their lockdowns. Meanwhile other countries, like the Netherlands and in particular Sweden are following a different path, with more reliance on individual responsibility, are also flattening their curves too.

So what’s next? This week the European Commission will launch the EU recovery plan, which will guide Member States and industries on how and when to exit the lockdowns. This comes on top of the European Council’s and the ECB’s financial rescue plan. Some politicians and NGOs are arguing that any exit must favour companies and organisations which deliver on the Green Deal’s commitments. So far I’ve seen little in the way of leadership from business about how Europe gets back to work in a safe and sustainable way. Of course businesses are in crisis mode, working hard just to survive. But as McKinsey & Company have been saying that isn’t likely to be good enough, you need to plan ahead too. To get through the crisis today we need a little bit of hope for tomorrow. More on that next time.

The EU institutions have certainly found a way of planning ahead. A lot of new transport regulations have just been agreed by Ministers for the haulage sector, and in the past few weeks the European Commission have launched a dozen or so major new initiatives, that affect all modes, that are now out for consultation. It’s vital we all respond. Even the European Parliament’s TRAN Committee meets next week, with a packed agenda.

Finally, the negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship, AKA Brexit, have reached a critical stage. Supposedly the third round of negotiations will begin next week, but there is tremendous pressure, particularly on the EU side, to find a way out and extend the transition. The UK Government is resolved not to do so, but I would be surprised if an elegant face saving compromise is not found. But that means the UK will of course be subject to EU rules and regulations, without any official say, for longer than even I imagined.

Hope you enjoy News & Views. Support our work by joining UKTiE. For more information check our website, watch my vlog, and take care!  

This week’s song of the week is Bleiben Sie zuhause.

1. Aviation passenger rights argument breaks out in EU aviation sector
Euractiv reports that fourteen European governments are in favour of allowing airlines to issue vouchers instead of refunds for cancelled flights, as the EU’s passenger rights charter creaks under the pressure created by the coronavirus outbreak. With air travel down up to 90%  in Europe because of lockdown and quarantine measures prompting mass cancellations of flights, airlines have tried to offer vouchers instead of refunds to customers, in an attempt to keep cash reserves intact. This is, however, in contravention to EU rules which state that when services are cancelled, another flight option or ticket reimbursement should be provided. Despite this, a group of 14 countries – including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands – are in favour of a more lenient stance towards passenger rights.

2. TRAN Committee amendments on Opinion for Recommendations on the negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Last week, the TRAN Committee, one of the European Parliament’s Committee’s for opinion for the institution’s ‘Recommendations on the negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ published its amendments for its opinion which is being led by Johan Danielsson (S&D, Sweden). Amendments 1 and 2, on behalf of Renew Europe and the S&D group, respectively, seek to detail what level playng field arrangements should entail: with the Renew Europe amendment highlighting safety, security, and passengers’ rights and the S&D amendment focusing on safety and state aid. 

3. Pascal Canfin MEP leads call for green recovery call for action 
Pascal Canfin MEP (Renew Europe, France), who is Chair of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, has today published a call for action which launches “the European alliance for a green recovery with 180 ministers, MEPs, CEOs, NGOs & Trade Unions”. The letter states that “after the crisis, the time will come to rebuild. This moment of recovery will be an opportunity to rethink our society and develop a new model of prosperity. This new model will have to answer to our needs and priorities.” The letter therefore calls for a ” global alliance of cross-party political decision-makers, business and financial leaders, trade unions, NGOs, think tankers, stakeholders, to support and implement the establishment of Green Recovery Investment Packages acting as accelerators of the transition towards climate neutrality and healthy ecosystems.” The letter is co-signed, among others, by big businesses such as Coca-Cola, LEGO, Unilever, IKEA and Volvo.

4. TRAN Committee extraordinary meeting next week
Next week, on April 21st, the TRAN Committee will hold an extraordinary session to discuss recent COVID-19 developments and their impact on the transport sector. The agenda for the session shows that the Committee will hold an exchange of views with Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market as well as votes on some pending files, particularly on the aviation side. 

5. Will COVID-19 derail the European Commission’s climate agenda?
UKTiE Deputy Coordinator Ryan Hunter has written a new blog on whether the current COVID-19 crisis will derail the European Commission’s climate agenda. With the COVID-19 crisis taking hold all over Europe and the rest of the world, and it understandably becoming the European Commission top priority, there are questions being asked about the European Commission’s ability to deliver on the ambitious climate agenda present in its Work Programme for 2020. Does it have enough bandwidth, or will it be derailed?

6. UKTiE has also put together the latest timetable for Brexit. We will keep this up to date as the process develops:

  • w/c 20 April 2020 – Next Round of future relationship negotiations (tbc)
  • 21 April 2020 – Extraordinary meeting of the TRAN Committee
  • 1 July 2020 – Deadline for extension of the transition period.
  • 31 December 2020 – End of Transition Period (tbc).
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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