Mark’s EU Week for Transport
Hello from Brussels. Another week in Brussels, another crisis!
This week I want to cut trough the noise and analyse the three big developments.
First, that so-called crisis summit on the EU budget #NextGenerationEU.
Second, the big EU idea for transport. Hydrogen.
Third, the latest Transport Committee of the European Parliament and the stormy debate on the crisis in transport and tourism.
And I’ll do all that without the Waffle.
And of course, the all-important song of the week to lift our sprits. Appropriately enough, it’s The Style Council performing Long Hot Summer.
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So first that crisis summit. The row is over whether the EU’s plan, NextGenerationEU, with recovery funds already agreed, to more than double the EU budget, by €1290 billion, to a total of €2390 billion! So, it’s amazing only a handful of Member States are holding out. But I’m confident they’ll do a deal if not now, by the next scheduled summit in October, and the EU’s massive firepower will be unleashed next year. There will be winner and losers, as the EU starts to truly intervene in the economy and industry like never before.
Second, hydrogen. The big idea for transport and energy is hydrogen. Described by Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans as a ‘Rock Star’ fuel, as he unveiled the European Commission’s hydrogen strategy. It certainly has many positives, not least the fact hydrogen does not emit CO2, and almost no air pollution when used, and could potentially decarbonise hard to decarbonise sectors like steel and transport.
But there is a catch. Hydrogen is almost entirely produced using from fossil fuels, less than 0.1% of global dedicated hydrogen production today comes from water electrolysis, so taking into account production, it’s actually an incredibly dirty fuel with high CO2 emissions. And switching existing production to renewables, let alone scaling up renewable production to produce hydrogen on the scale envisaged by the European Commission, will cost a small fortune and potentially take many years.
So, what’s it all about? Energy sovereignty and security. Read my blog here on the ‘European Way’ policy drivers, which explains what the drivers behind the development of radical new EU policies, like hydrogen.
My view is that we need a technology neutral EU energy roadmap, based on cost benefit analysis of hydrogen, and other alternative and sustainable energy solutions such as batteries, wind, solar, bio and synthetic gas. And why rule out nuclear?
Third and finally, the big row in the Transport Committee of the European Parliament, where MEPs seemed less than impressed with Andreas Scheuer, the German Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, representing the Germany Presidency, and Kerstin Jorna, Director-General for Internal Market.
A typical reaction was the heartfelt please by Portuguese Christian Democrat MEP, Cláudia Monteiro De Aguiar MEP, who was deeply concerned with the situation of the tourism sector and she pointed out the many ways in which MEPs, across all the political groups, had been pushing for a common approach for tourism, to no avail.
And a big problem is a lack of strategic priorities, by European governments and the EU. The German Minister, to be fair, pointed this out. He questioned whether they had the Presidency for 6 months or 6 years, given there were so much was mentioned in the discussion.
And that’s one of the problems with transport. Too many priorities, so there are none. Mark Twain said “To change your life, you need to change your priorities.”
To change transport, we need to have some priorities!
Finally, planning ahead, the TRAN agenda for September!
1. Money, money, money
Throughout the weekend, EU leaders met in Brussels in an attempt to hammer out an agreement on both the multi annual budget and the EU Recovery Fund. The big debate? Grants vs. loans, conditions vs. no conditions, Southern Europe plus Germany vs. the so-called ‘Frugal Four’ plus Finland. Having gone on late into the night last night, leaders agreed to resume discussions this afternoon with a lot of goodwill having already been evaporated throughout a tense weekend of negotiations. Any agreed deal will most likely be sub-optimal for all sides, but any compromise will also require a deescalation of tensions between the two negotiating sides. There is an expectation that if there is no agreement today, EU leaders may yet push the next round of negotiations into August.
2. Hydrogen in the limelight
Following the publication of the Hydrogen Strategy a couple of weeks ago, the European Commission is now hitting the streets to sell their vision hydrogen as the backbone of a decarbonised European energy market. With transport looking increasingly like the sector where early successes of hydrogen are expected, all eyes will therefore be on the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive, and the revision of the Energy Taxation Directive to see how the Commission intends to both incentivise the use of hydrogen as well as deploy it widely enough in order to make as big a difference as it claims hydrogen can make. Even in the aviation sector, Airbus has given an early indication of support to the prospects of hydrogen for the sector.
3. TRAN Committee left underwhelmed by German Presidency priorities
Last week, the German Federal Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Andreas Scheuer, presented the priorities of the German Presidency to the TRAN Committee. MEPs on the Committee were rather underwhelmed by the lack of focus and deliverable priorities for the transport sector. If transport is to benefit from a successful recovery, big things will need to happen during the German Presidency, something which MEPs made clear to Andreas Scheuer during last week’s presentation.
4. The European Way
UKTiE Coordinator Mark Watts has written a new blog on EU policymaking, across all sectors, is changing to fall in line with a new concept of European sovereignty, otherwise known as the ‘European Way’. What are the policy drivers behind this concept?
5. UKTiE has also put together the latest timetable. We will keep this up to date as the process develops:
- 1 July 2020 – Deadline for extension of the transition period.
- 8 July 2020 – Next meeting of the ENVI Committee
- 13-14 July 2020 – Next meeting of the TRAN Committee
- 17-18 July 2020 – European Council Summit.
- 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).
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)