The Baltic Course  

The EU's White Paper

By Anastasia Frisk, PRISMA Consulting Group, Brussels

This presentation at the seventh international Moscow Transport and Logistics conference in March this year underlined the main directions for the European Union's activities in the sphere of transport in the light of the recently published so-called White Paper. The author also looked at the possible influence of this document on Russia's transportation sector

The White Paper on transport policy came into light on September 12 last year. The European Commission has worked on it for more then 3 years. Its publication had been delayed time after time because of disagreement on what the priorities of the European transport policy should be. This document represents an important political decision and will serve as a basis for EU legislative activity in the field of transport for the years to come. The White Paper has no draft legislation attached to it but contains in an Annex a proposed action programme. The action programme extends until 2010, with milestones along the way, notably the monitoring exercises and the mid-term review in 2005 to check whether the precise targets are being attained or whether adjustments need making. Detailed proposals, which will follow the targets set up by the White Paper, will affect all modes of transport, such as, inter alia, rail, maritime and air transport. One of the themes of the proposals would be environmental and safety aspects of transport.

Security standards

The Commission, an executive body of the EU, has recently produced a new package of measures on rail transport. The package, containing five new proposals, is based on the foundation laid by the White Paper.

The most interesting proposal is the Directive on rail safety. It lays down a procedure for granting safety certificates that every railway company must obtain before it can run trains on the European rail network. In order to control the satisfaction of safety requirements, it is planned to establish a European Railway Agency. This Agency could be in operation by 2004-2005. In addition to the Rail Agency, the European Maritime Safety Agency and European Aviation Safety Agency will start operating very soon.

The Commission also sees the adhesion to the EU of the applicant countries as enhancing the opportunities for rail transport. Rail still accounts for 40% of freight there and the Commission will be anxious to ensure that the shift to road, which has already taken place within the EU, does not take place in the applicant countries but instead serves to stimulate traffic on the existing EU rail network.

The European Union started tightening up rules on maritime safety way before the existence of the White Paper. The wreckage of the oil tanker "Erika" aroused much concern. On 12 December 1999, the Erika, a 25 year-old single hull oil tanker, carrying the Maltese flag, registered with Registro Italiano Navale and chartered by Total-Fina-Elf, sunk south of Brittany, polluting about 400 km of French coastline. The damage caused to the environment made the Erika oil spill one of the major environmental disasters of recent years. Among the measures proposed in the aftermath of the Erika disaster, the Regulation on phasing-out of single hull tankers is of particular interest. This Regulation will ban single hull tankers of Category 1 from the EU waters starting from 2003 and by 2015 the requirement will extend to all categories of oil tankers. The Maritime Safety Agency will be established in order to collect and scrutinise information on maritime safety.

Shipping blacklists

The Directive on Port State control provides for ships on the "black list" drawn up by the Commission to be banned from European ports, and that all high-risk vessels be subject to compulsory close annual inspection depending on their age and on a "target factor" defined by the directive. Some 4,000 vessels should be inspected each year, as opposed to 700 at the present time. Post Erika legislation also provides for compulsory introduction of black boxes, similar to those fitted onboard aircraft, on vessels between 2002 and 2007 as well as the introduction of transponders, which will transmit the information on ship register, classification society, presence of dangerous goods onboard etc. This provision will apply to third countries as soon as the international agreement is reached in IMO. The USA have already made a suggestion concerning the anticipated application of AIS carriage (Automatic Identification System) at the latest in 2004.

Environmental concern has found its reflection in the Commission's intention to propose a regulation on the prohibition of TBT anti-fouling paints. The Commission's intention is to prohibit the application of TBT paints from 1 January 2003 to all ships flying the flag of a Member State and to all ships, irrespective of their flag, from 1 January 2008.

The Commission also floats the idea of integrating charges which incorporate costs related to maritime safety, especially "assistance to shipping at sea, buoyage, availability of tugs". It suggests that all ships sailing in European waters should pay such charges, presumably regardless of flag, whether they call at a European port and whether they use the facilities in question.

Aviation noise troubles

In the field of air transport, the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at Community airports starting from 1 April this year, is of great importance.

So far Russia has been refusing to comply with the ban and threatens retaliatory measures, such as an increase in the tax for flying over Siberia, which is already a bone of contention between the EU and Russia. During a meeting in Moscow in May 2001, Russia emphasised the difficulties encountered by some companies that carry Russian tourists towards the Mediterranean coast. Some 200 Russian planes are involved.

During the meeting of Permanent Representatives in February this year, the Commission proposed a temporary solution, consisting in giving exceptional clearance for these charter and cargo aircraft to land in European airports during the summer 2002 season, beginning in April. For the time being, following the latest provisions adopted by the ICAO, the European Parliament adopted a Directive accordance to which decisions could be taken for each individual airport. Stricter conditions will be applied in the case of city airports.