In view of this week’s Transport Council and the debate it will hold on the 2015 Annual Growth Survey and transport policy’s contribution to EU Competitiveness, growth and jobs, the undersigned associations wish to address the EU Transport Ministers to voice their concerns on the way the Union is tackling transport infrastructure financing and development.
Our associations would like to underline the importance of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) to fund projects along the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T). CEF and TEN-T are the tools of an ambitious and at the same time realistic infrastructure policy, which will contribute to achieving a better-connected Union, fostering the development of the solid transport network European industry needs in order to thrive.
We welcome the Commission’s ambition to attract more private investment to the transport sector, but are concerned that an over-optimistic attitude towards the deliverables of the soon-to-be-established European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) can be to the detriment of many infrastructure projects which are currently eligible for CEF funding but which would probably not be able to attract investment under EFSI.
The reallocation of a huge portion of the CEF budget (18.1% of the CEF transport grants budget in non-cohesion countries) as EFSI credit guarantee will put at risk many projects that have been identified as priorities of the TEN-T network.
As explained in the Interim Report by Mr Christophersen and Professors Bodewig and Secchi, the opportunities offered by the Investment Plan have a clear potential to benefit transport infrastructure projects where traffic is dense, on a relatively short segment, and highly predictable.
However, many port, rail and inland waterway projects present very different features. And yet they are necessary to build an efficient and interconnected, sustainable EU-wide transport network. Public grants will therefore remain of vital importance.
In order to make transport infrastructure projects more attractive to private investors, the Christophersen-Bodewig-Secchi report in many cases suggests blending financial 2 instruments and grants, i.e. funding the riskier or non-revenue generating parts of a project through grants to make the rest of the project more profitable for private investors.
The European transport sector requires indeed to use such blending of financial instruments and sufficiently attractive CEF grants. But this kind of construction is obviously only possible if the CEF grants budget still has sufficient means. Of the EUR 26.4bn originally foreseen for transport in the 2014-2020 financial period, EUR 12bn has already been spent through the 2014 CEF call.
For the sound development of the European transport sector, we hereby call upon all Transport Ministries to reflect on ways to avoid cuts to the CEF budget, as well as to formulate and submit to the attention of the Spring European Council alternative solutions for providing EFSI with an adequate credit guarantee.