Jacques Barrot: Towards a European Port Policy

Brussels, Belgium – Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission, Commissioner for Transport on 22 november 2005 speeced at the ESPO Annual Luncheon on the European Ports policy.

Monsieur le Président, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Members of Parliament,
I am delighted to be able to speak to you today on the European Ports policy. It is for me the first occasion to address your organisation officially. ESPO is a very appreciated partner of the Commission in many areas of European policy. Of course our attention today is focussed on the vote in the TRAN Commission on the proposal for port services. But this only one aspect of a truly European ports policy. I suggest that we step back for a second and look at what ingredients such European port policy must be made of.

1. The Challenge
My mission as European transport Commissioner is to develop a European transport policy at the service of mobility, prosperity and security in Europe. Studies show that transport is set to double by 2030. Maritime transport will be directly concerned, as sea transport accounts for 90 % of external trade and 43% of internal trade in the Union. If nothing happens, pollution and congestion will increase prices of our products and impact negatively on the competitiveness of our industry and the quality of life of our citizens. Congestion is estimated to represent around 1,1% of the EU’s GDP, or more or less the EU budget (EUR 100 billion). There are also adverse consequences for safety (over 44 000 deaths on Europe’s roads each year), the security of energy supply (the transport sector is very dependent on oil) and the quality of the environment (transport is responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions). There are no simple solutions to such complex problems.
For environmental and other reasons, building new roads is not the answer. Modal shift between road and rail or road and sea could be an answer, but today it remains insufficient. This is due to the imbalance between modes of transport. Therefore, European transport policy must promote the modal shift towards modes of transport which are less congested, safer and less polluting. The EU needs the development of both ports and short sea shipping as a viable alternative to road transport.
Ports must rise to the challenge of providing an alternative.

2. What can Europe do to help ports in Europe to live up to that challenge?
One year into my new mandate, I know that views differ as to the answer to this question.

State aid
If we want investment in ports, we need clear and transparent rules from Europe: Which parts of a port can be financed by the state? When does such financing constitute a state aid to the company running the port? How much transparency on port financing is necessary? My services are preparing guidelines on state aids in the port sector. But we need your experience and your input to make such guidelines a useful tool for your investments. Unlike in the aviation sector, we have very little precedents of state aid cases in the port sector. If you want these future guidelines to be useful and complete, you must help us. We need a level playing field in Europe.

Environmental rules
It can be difficult to develop port activities and respect of environmental standards at the same time. This problem is not new. It is at the heart of the Lisbon strategy: we must match economic growth and sustainable development. Are our legal tools for environment policy appropriate for allowing investment in ports? If not you should tell me, and we will start a reflection process on the issue. If our rules on environment unduly hamper investments in ports, trucks will stay on the road with all the negative consequences.

Intelligent transport chains and logistics
Ports must be fully integrated into “intelligent transport chains”. As I said before, inter-modality is not –yet- one of the success stories of European transport policy. I want to make a difference during my mandate. Intelligent transport chains can reduce the price of a product, reduce the impact of transport on the environment and make European products more competitive in Europe and worldwide. To bring about change, we must change behaviour. The “truck from door to door” may be the most simple solution, but not necessarily the most efficient). The logistics sector, will be key to a success. I will present a communication on logistics before the end of next summer.

Security of transport operations is a priority for the Commission. We must act on the level of infrastructures, but we must also look at the organisation and the level of training. We are preparing a new proposal on intermodal security that would evenly share the burden of cost for security between all the operators involved in the transport chain. The advantage of Europe acting is, that there is no effect on inter port competition.

Reduce red tape
Of course economic activities in ports must be regulated. But not too much. We all must constantly strive to reduce unnecessary administrative burdens.
Europe can help. The Directive on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and/or departing from ports of the EU Member States simplifies maritime transport. The special Customs regime for ‘Authorised Regular Shipping Services’ provides for a simplified customs regime for regular (short-sea) shipping services.

Motorways of the sea
The “motorways of the sea” is the flagship initiative which aims at introducing a network of high quality maritime links in Europe, with frequency, regularity, high throughput and good connections to the hinterland, in particular through inland water and rail transport. They will operate in intermodal logistic chains capable of bringing goods from door to door in an efficient way. Clearly, the motorways of the sea initiative extends beyond the maritime links between ports.

In addition to reducing road congestion through modal shift, the motorways of the sea aim at improving cohesion by making peripheral regions more accessible. It is evident that such an important initiative needs to be well prepared and the ports have obviously a key role to play. As part of this preparation process, four corridors have been designated for the setting up of projects of European interest**. At this moment, master plans are being prepared for each of these corridors and it is important that all key actors, contribute with their knowledge of the market to allow to better target the investments needed to set up the Motorways of the sea in an optimal way.

Marco Polo
I would also like to mention the Marco Polo initiative. The Programme supports actions in the freight transport, logistics and other relevant markets. These actions shift the increase in international road freight traffic to short sea shipping, rail and inland waterways. The Programme runs from 2003 to 2006 with a budget of 100 € million for the EU25. Countries such as Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Romania have joined the programme, and are contributing financially.

Port liberalisation
And last but not the least, let me turn to the debate on the liberalisation of port services.
Views on this proposal diverge dramatically between political groups. Member States, at this stage, are also divided on the merits of this proposal. The Commission has consistently said that it will listen and work with both the European Parliament and the Member states on this proposal. We want to reach the best outcome possible.
Today the Parliament has decided to create more suspense. I will carefully monitor the situation in the run-up to the Plenary. The glass is half full or half empty. But I do not think it is the moment now to stop the process of discussion in the European institutions. It would be a bad signal. Our objective is to allow for development and investment in European ports. We consider that such investment needs the security of a stable legal framework. Economic analysis, commissioned from different sources, suggests that there is market failure at least in some European ports. It is now for the European Parliament and the Council to identify which legal rules allow for the best investment opportunities.

I sincerely look forward to a dialogue with you and the European port sector in the future. We must join forces to shape the European port policy of tomorrow.

* Directive 2002/6
** Motorway of the Baltic Sea (linking the Baltic Sea Member States with Member States in Central and Western Europe, including the route through the North Sea/Baltic Sea canal) (by 2010); Motorway of the Sea of western Europe (leading from Portugal and Spain via the Atlantic Arc to the North Sea and the Irish Sea) (by 2010); Motorway of the Sea of south-east Europe (connecting the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus) (by 2010); Motorway of the Sea of south-west Europe (western Mediterranean, connecting Spain, France, Italy and including Malta and linking with the Motorway of the Sea of south-east Europe and including links to the Black Sea) (by 2010).

Auteur: Redactie Infrasite

Bron: European Commission