Main results – Video conference of transport ministers, 4 June 2020

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At their third informal video conference, EU transport ministers discussed a sustainable and digital recovery of the transport sector after the COVID-19 outbreak.

The meeting was chaired by Oleg Butković, Croatian Minister for the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure. The Commission was represented by Commissioner Adina Vălean.

In the discussion, ministers were invited to reflect on

  • initiatives and investments which are the most urgent for a sustainable and digital recovery and which can make the sector more resilient, and
  • the best short to medium-term and long-term tools to meet these objectives.
04.06.2020., Zagreb – Video konferencija ministara prometa Europske unije. Photo: Davorin Visnjic/PIXSELL/EU2020

Working towards recovery, we now have the opportunity to speed up the greening of our transport sector, which will give a boost to our industry. In addition, the financial recovery package presented by the Commission is larger than ever, and it is important that the transport sector is broadly considered in the discussions on the new budget. Our sector is vital for the European economy and global trade, but also for the overall climate ambition at EU level.

– Oleg Butković, Croatian Minister for the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure

In the discussion, ministers reaffirmed the importance of a coordinated approach both in introducing measures to stop the spread of the virus and applying the exit strategy, and in securing the recovery.

They welcomed the tourism and transport package presented by the Commission in May, which includes useful guidelines for the transport sector. Ministers stressed the need for harmonised health protocols to ensure cross-border services.

Ministers confirmed the need for global outreach with a view to resolving crew change issues so that both EU and third-country seafarers can safely return home or embark on new voyages both in EU and non-EU ports.

Member states agreed that transport, as a sector which has been extremely hard hit by the pandemic, will need financial support. A large number of ministers considered that public investment in the recovery of the transport sector should come with a commitment from the industry to cleaner and more sustainable mobility.

Regarding the notion of sustainability, member states agreed that this should not be limited to the greening of the sector but must also include social and economic aspects of the transport industry.

A number of ministers pointed out that some current legislative proposals, such as the review of rail passenger rights and Eurovignette, will contribute to the sustainability of transport. The completion of work on the proposal on the European Year of Rail (2021) would make the benefits of using trains more visible to passengers and businesses.

The ministers of 23 member states issued a statement calling for a platform to facilitate cooperation among member states and with non-EU countries, in close cooperation with the Commission, aimed at improving international rail passenger services. The platform would work closely with the railway sector and passenger organisations.

Several ministers mentioned increased use of sustainable aviation fuels as essential for more sustainable aviation.

Ministers emphasised the importance of the EU implementing CORSIA for the pilot phase, which is to start next year.

Ministers considered that the crisis has provided momentum for a shift to more digital services and administrative processes, which will reduce reliance on redundant physical paperwork.

Ministers welcomed the forthcoming adoption of the draft Council conclusions on carbon-neutral, zero-accident, automated and competitive waterborne transport. A written procedure for the adoption of these conclusions by the Council was launched yesterday.

Finally, ministers called for a coordinated and balanced recovery strategy for transport, which will combine the imperative protection of public health with operational and economic recovery. This strategy would need to be made concrete in the coming weeks.

The presidency produced a summary of the discussion.

Under any other business, the incoming German presidency presented its work programme in the area of transport for the second half of 2020.

Sue Terpilowski
Author: Sue Terpilowski