Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
‘I’m telling this story
In a faraway scene
Sipping down raki
And reading Maynard Keynes’

No, I’ve not done a Cummings, but I’m sure like most News & Views readers I am starting to dream of a holiday in the sun, and in the next couple of weeks we’ll find out whether we will be allowed one! Read my take on the prospects for summer holidays this year, and my analysis of two other key developments in Brussels in the past week.  Welcome to Mark’s Week!

1.    To pack, or not to pack: that is the question  
Much of southern Europe have announced they are to open for the summer holiday season, but whether northern Europe can get there is another matter. And will it be safe if we do? The European Commission published their guidelines to reboot the tourism sector in a safe and coordinated way, but unfortunately these laudable aspirations have not been met with the clarity, coherence, and confidence from Member States that the travel industry and travellers alike desperately need. But there is good news. We can fly. The new COVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol from the European Aviation Safety Agency and the European Centre for Disease Control provides practical, proportionate and evidence-based guidelines, noting that ‘no reports have documented the transmission of COVID-19 on board an aircraft’. It advocates social distancing to maintain health and safety but recommends that if physical distancing cannot be guaranteed other preventive measures ‘including strict hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette and should wear a face mask.’  These guidelines, which include airports, provide a good template for others in the transport and tourism sector who wish to get moving.  So, it looks like we can start to pack, although in some countries of origin later rather than sooner, and many train, bus, coach and ferry and cruise operators, hotels, bars & restaurants will struggle with social distancing. And there may well be consumer reluctance to travel, with levels of fear and anxiety still so high. So, these measures will have to be strictly and demonstrably enforced and regularly reviewed, and I argue the Commission should get everyone around the table and agree a single plan. At last I think we can say we’re on the move!

2.    The future’s bright, the future’s Green 
There is an absolute commitment now to ensure the economic recovery is green. Indeed the European Green Deal is now the EU’s growth strategy. As we previously reported European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans was the first to resolutely argue for a green recovery, but he’s now been followed by President Macron and Chancellor Merkel, many other member states and much of civil society and industry. Companies seeking to adapt to the new normal and compete, which will be very different to the world we left, should take also  close look at the Commission’s Biodiversity Strategy, which highlights the challenge and provides a clear roadmap for the future.  Contrary to what was leaked last month, there will not be as many delays to the Work Programme as had been expected. Finally, the European Commission yesterday announced a proposal for COVID recovery plan, a Next Generation EU instrument of €750 billion (several times larger than the Marshall Plan). In total, the European Commission has now announced a recovery package of 1.86 trillion Euros, and much of the increase will be financed through the EU’s own-resources, i.e. taxes on carbon emissions, possibly aviation & shipping, digital firms, big companies and single use plastic.  Of course, it is still only a proposal at this stage, but whatever the eventual compromise the EU budget will be significantly larger, and the regulatory environment will positively discriminate in favour of green businesses.

3.    Brexit – time for a cease fire. 
Because of COVID19 if nothing else that the Frost/Barnier hostilities should be called off, they serve no useful purpose on either side, other than political theatre.  The recent exchange of angry letters generated much heat, and bolstered the core supporters on both sides, but did nothing to generate the light we need to forge a compromise. Georgina Wright, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Government wrote an excellent analysis, arguing ‘To get anywhere close to a compromise, the UK will need to get much better at showing the EU what the deal does for them’. This is more likely to sway decision makers in EU capitals (and their lobbyists) than arguments over precedent. And the same is true on the EU side, start arguing the benefits of a deal to London. It’s time for an independent and eminent person to help cool tempers and broker a cease fire! Any nominations?

That all important Song of the Week, to lift our spirits in these challenging times: is PRUITT’s  remix of  McFadden & WhiteHead’s classic hit, Ain’t No Stopping Us Now. Thanks to the award-winning US DJ for allowing us to use his music. You can check him out here:

1. Next Generation Europe: the next frontier?
Yesterday, the European Commission has put forward its proposal for a major recovery plan. To ensure the recovery is sustainable, even, inclusive and fair for all Member States, the European Commission is proposing to create a new recovery instrument, Next Generation EU, embedded within a powerful, modern and revamped long-term EU budget.

2. Adjusted Work Programme 2020
The Commission has also unveiled its adjusted Work Programme for 2020, which will prioritise the actions needed to propel Europe’s recovery and resilience. One of the key pillars of this Commission’s Work Programme is the European Green Deal, below you will see a list of Green Deal associated files that have been delayed:

The headline for the transport sector is that the Strategy for sustainable and smart mobility, earmarked for Q4 2020, will not be delayed as was initially thought. Attached to this new strategy are the associated FuelEU Maritime and Refuel Aviation initiatives which are also not delayed and will be released in Q4 2020.

3. What’s past isn’t just prologue
While the European Commission published a new Work Programme for the remainder of 2020, some of its most important work has already been published or launched. Files such as the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the new Industrial Strategy, the 2030 Climate Target Plan, and a New Circular Economy Action Plan have already been launched in the first months of the von der Leyen Commission. While these files may need to be reassessed for continued relevance in a post-COVID world, these files remain as important to the upcoming work of this Commission as any of the new and updated initiatives launched yesterday. 

4. Mutualised European debt, European Commission loans, how transport could help pay for it
As Euractiv reports, the European Commission’s €750 billion recovery fund could be covered financially by new sources of revenue, which include extending the EU’s carbon market to the aviation and shipping sectors. Cash generated by the Emissions Trading System (ETS) via sales of pollution permits to certain sectors is currently channelled back into national budgets, but that could change if the Commission’s plan gets enough support. Cash generated by the Emissions Trading System via sales of pollution permits to certain sectors is currently channelled back into national budgets, but that could change if the Commission’s plan gets enough support. In order to fund its ‘Next Generation EU’ recovery scheme, the executive has suggested that the ETS could be extended to include sectors that are now exempted and that Brussels would keep any new profits.In order to fund its ‘Next Generation EU’ recovery scheme, the Commission suggested that “Options could include an Emissions Trading System-based own resource including its possible extension to the maritime and aviation sectors, and a carbon border adjustment mechanism”. 

5. Will COVID-19 derail the European Commission’s climate agenda?
UKTiE Deputy Coordinator Ryan Hunter has written a  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. We will keep this up to date as the process develops:

  • 8 June 2020 – Next meeting of the TRAN Committee
  • 8 June 2020 – Next meeting of the ENVI Committee
  • June 2020 – First High Level EU-UK Conference.
  • 18-19 June 2020 – European Council summit.
  • 1 July 2020 – Deadline for extension of the transition period.
  • 15-16 October 2020 – European Council summit.
  • 10-11 December 2020 – European Council summit.
  • 31 December 2020 – End of current Multi Annual Financial Framework.
  • 31 December 2020 – End of Transition Period (tbc).
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)

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