On 8 and 9 July, the Transport and Tourism (TRAN) Committee of the European Parliament held its last meeting before the summer holidays and held a vote on the TEN-T guidelines proposal, discussed the results and outlook of Marco Polo, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and Lithuania's priorities for its presidency.
Following five trilogue meetings between Parliament, Commission and Irish Presidency, an informal agreement has been reached on the TEN-T guidelines proposal. On 8 July, the agreement was endorsed by the TRAN Committee with 34 votes in favour, 7 against and 2 abstentions. The final text of the agreement includes several amendments ensuring an improved socio-economic cost-benefit analysis; the involvement of local and regional authorities and of civil society in the planning and implementation phase of a project of common interest; the right balance between environmental protection and the development of inland waterways; a stronger focus on TEN-T priorities and EU added value through narrowing the eligibility criteria for projects of common interest.
On 9 July, the European Commission presented the results and outlook of Marco Polo during the TRAN Committee meeting. The already completed Marco Polo I (2003-2006), which had a total budget of €102 million, generated around €434 million in environmental benefits, simply by removing 21,9 billion tonne-kilometres of freight off European roads. This is the equivalent to a global environmental Return on Investment (RoI) of €13,30 per euro of funding. As regards Marco Polo II, 20 billion tonne-kilometres of road freight have been shifted to other modes of transport and the expected result for the total period should correspond to 42 billion tonnes-kilometres. However, the Commission recognises that the ambitious objectives of modal shift set by the legislator have not been fully achieved (46% of planned modal shift for Marco Polo I) and the focus on modal shift has demonstrated certain limitations. With the objective of improving environmental efficiency of European freight transport and logistics in the period 2014 – 2020, the Commission proposes a new approach in supporting sustainable and innovative freight transport services. The first calls for proposals under the new regime are expected for mid-2014.
During the meeting, the Commission also presented the CEF corridors alignment and the results of the evaluation 2012/2013 calls for proposals to MEPs. As regards the outcome of the calls for proposals, the Commission presented the annual work programme covering remaining projects under the TEN-T framework and the multiannual programme financing priority projects. The total funding for both programmes is € 1,5 billion but no all funds have been used so far. For this reason, the Commission announced that most probably a new work programme will be issued after the summer.
Finally, following its take-over of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which had been in Irish hands since January 2013, Lithuania intervened at the July TRAN Committee meeting on 9 July.
Minister of Transport and Communications, Rimantas Sinkevičius (see photo), presented the Lithuania's priorities during its presidency. According to Minister Sinkevičius, the Directive on alternative fuel infrastructure, the Regulation on the European Global Satellite Navigation System Agency, the technical pillar of the 4th Railway Package and air passenger rights will be high on the agenda. He also acknowledged the challenges which lay ahead and ensured that the Irish Presidency will prepare the ground for a successful conclusion on many of these subjects. MEPs recognised that the agenda was challenging and thanked the Lithuanians for their close cooperation with their predecessors and for their early involvement.