The European Commission is organising the fourth edition of the ‘TEN-T Days’ in Antwerp today and tomorrow. Aim of the conference is to discuss the Commission’s new proposals on the guidelines and financial framework (so-called ‘Connecting Europe Facility’) for the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) that were issued last month. More than 700 participants are attending, representing the various stakeholders concerned and policy-makers.
In a statement issued on the occasion of the conference, ESPO expressed its support for the new proposals, welcoming especially the opportunity that the proposed guidelines offer to reinforce the multimodal gateway position of European seaports. ESPO shares the Commission’s view that the core network should be developed as a European priority by 2030 and that the comprehensive network should be achieved by 2050.
“We especially appreciate the commitment that seaports in both networks should have adequate hinterland connections by these deadlines”, commented ESPO Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven, “We recognise that the current economic crisis will make it a very challenging task, but this should not be a reason to reduce ambitions. The Commission should be given the necessary tools to ensure that Member States and other parties concerned meet the target deadlines. In addition, inland transport connections to ports, including road connections, should under the Connecting Europe Facility be entitled to receive grants up to 40% of the eligible costs, similar to cross-border projects.”
ESPO further recommends to make the selection criteria and methodology for the core network ports an integral part of the TEN-T guidelines and to review the design and timeframes of the multi-modal corridors that will serve as a tool to implement the core network. The comprehensive network of seaports should be as inclusive as possible and contain at least those ports that are part of the TEN-T today.
“One thing we regret is that the Commission has not used the opportunity of the TEN-T review to propose measures that aim at achieving a better integration of transport and environmental policy objectives”, added Patrick Verhoeven, “This could for instance be achieved by acknowledging that projects that obtained ‘common interest’ status are of ‘overriding public interest’. In any case, the TEN-T guidelines should include fast track procedures for such projects, in order to deal with environmental and other assessments in an efficient manner.”
As regards the available funding, ESPO wonders whether the 31.7 billion Euro that are proposed under the Connecting Europe Facility will be adequate, given that the overall completion of the TEN-T is estimated to require 500 billion by 2020, of which 250 billion would be needed to complete the missing links and remove bottlenecks of the core network. Whereas public-private partnerships and new financing instruments may help, ESPO believes that governments should in any case continue to take their responsibilities in funding basic transport infrastructure.
The TEN-T proposals need the approval of Parliament and Council under the co-decision procedure. Given the high profile nature of the package, this process will take at least a year, if not longer