Speech by R. Sinkevičius, Minister of Transport and Communications, at the European Parliament TRAN committee

18 December 2013, Last updated at, 10:44 EET
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Mr Chairman, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to come back here today and present to your Committee an account of what the Lithuanian Presidency achieved in the last six months.

When I was here before your Committee in July presenting our work programme for the second semester of 2013, I commit myself to ensure a smooth and continuous law development process, to act in a fair and unbiased manner, focusing on the main objective – to create a reliable, growing and open Europe.

At that occasion, I also vowed that in order to achieve this objective Lithuania will focus its efforts in the field of transport on the development of new technologies, the environmentally-friendly infrastructure network and the common European transport area, on traffic and vehicle safety in the European Union, and on the interoperability between the transport networks of the EU and third countries.

Before going into the details of what was achieved in the last semester, I would like to express my gratitude to all my colleagues in the Council for their constructive co-operation. I would like to thank you, dear Brian, and your Committee for the constructive, effective and mutually beneficial co-operation you offered from the outset to the Lithuanian Presidency. For me that is a prime example of a wise political leadership.

I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to the Rapporteurs of the various files we worked together during the last semester: Ms Olga Sehnalova, Mr Werner Kuhn, Ms Vilja Savisaar-Toomast, Mr Keith Taylor, Mr Dominique Riquet and Ms Christine de Veyrac as well as their respective shadows and, it goes without saying, to you, Mr Chairman.

In the first place, would like to highlight that at the last Transport Council held on 5 December we reached a general approach to the directive on alternative fuel infrastructure. As you know this directive aims to reduce the dependence on oil, create a cleaner environment, and increase competitiveness of European economy. The Presidency deployed all its efforts to achieve this general approach as it was one of the priorities in Lithuanian Presidency. We believe that this initiative is a foundation for a sustainable and efficient transport system of the European Union. Therefore, even after reaching a general approach it is important to continue working in order to reach a final agreement. Moreover, today, at first meeting with rapporteur Karl Fidanza we exchanged views on a number of issues of common concern as well as looked at the initiative from all angles. I am convinced that the third partner of the present Presidency Trio – Greece, which will be at the helm as from January 2014, will have a strong foundation to continue the negotiations with the European Parliament.

Additionally, we deployed a lot of efforts to achieve a first – reading agreement on European GNSS Agency regulation. The regulation sets out to ensure an appropriate process of accreditation of the European satellite navigation systems.

Furthermore, I would like to note that today the General Affairs Council has adopted a general approach on Directive on Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), which enables efficient allocation and distribution of marine areas, as well as favours the development of various sectors such as maritime transport, renewable energy and tourism. On this regard, the Council had a pretty intense and complex debate, thus, a general approach reached today is good news for the EU Parliament as it affirms that the Council is ready to negotiate.

We are pleased that also in the field of railway transport, in October, at the Council meeting, we reached a general approach on the recast of the rail safety directive. This recast is a second part of the Fourth Railway Package. Additionally, Lithuanian Presidency continued the debates on the Fourth Railway Package and presented a progress report on the proposal for a Regulation on the European Railway Agency at the Council meeting held in December. I believe that the progress achieved on this file will enable the following Presidency to continue the discussions.

The work done with the EU Parliament on the Roadworthiness Package should be underlined as well as it required a lot of time and efforts. Agreements reached on a package of proposals on periodic technical inspections of vehicles, road checks on commercial vehicles and vehicle registration documents is an important step toward the common safety standards in the European road transport system. The negotiations on this package was not easy, therefore, I am very grateful to all three speakers and particularly to you, Mr. Brian, for constructive and positive approach undertaken at the Council.).
Over the last six months, Lithuania worked hard in order to ensure that progress was achieved in the Council's discussion of proposals for enhancing air passengers rights to information, assistance while travelling, and proper compensation in case of delays, cancellation or denied boarding. You might recall that our initial aim was to reach a general approach at the Council meeting in December. But, frankly speaking, the Council needs more time to discuss further the various important aspects of this proposal. Due to its undeniable political relevance for the EU as whole as well as the importance to effectively protect the interest of air passengers whilst taking into account the financial implications for the air transport sector, I think we should strive to get it right from the outset. We presented a progress report on this file at the December Transport Council and the work on this file will be continued at Council's expert level.

Subsequently, it’s hard not to mention an agreement reached with you on the regulation on occurrence reporting in civil aviation. We are very happy with this result as we understand fully the importance of enhancing air travel safety. Once again I would like to underline the first class cooperation on this matter with Rapporteur Ms Christine de Veyrac and her respective shadow.

I would like to mention that while the consultation procedure with the European Parliament is pending, the Council have agreed on a Council position regarding the prolongation of the SESAR Joint Undertaking's mandate. Beyond question, we will carefully consider the Parliament's amendments before adopting the final Council Decision.

In addition, I would like to highlight that the Council, in order to reach a second - reading agreement with the European Parliament and with its consent to examine separately one of the Regulations of the package, started working more actively on one of the airport package issues i.e. a regulation on noise. This working document, prepared by working group, presents compromise proposals. Further work on this issue will be continued by Greece that will hold the Presidency and we hope that an agreement with the European Parliament will be reached before the end of its term.

Correspondingly in maritime transport, we reached a general approach on the regulation on funding for the action of the European Maritime Safety Agency. Negotiations with the European Parliament were fruitful on most issues where an agreement could be reached quickly. I am grateful for the co-operation of Mr Keith Taylor, the Rapporteur on this issue...

Dear Chairman, I would like to take the advantage of being here and inform you about some momentous events that Lithuania organized while holding the Presidency.

On 16th September an Informal EU Transport ministers meeting entitled Single European Sky. Delivering the future: Vision 20XX was held in Vilnius. The high – level debates were set to discuss the progress in strengthening the Single European Sky with special emphasis put on further action plans. In addition, the EU Transport ministers, European Parliament, air carriers and civil aviation air navigation service providers discussed the achievements reached in creating a single European sky and stressed the need to accelerate the modernization of EU air traffic management. In support of single European air transport initiative, the ministers agreed that the most important goals of the SES initiative remain unchanged: it is necessary to improve the air safety, increase the capacity of air space, and reduce the cost of travelling, as well as the negative environmental effect of aviation emissions

As a contribution to the Open Europe and its objectives as well as seeking to improve the interaction between the EU transport networks and third countries, Lithuania held a meeting of the Eastern Partnership Transport Ministers on 9 October 2013 in Luxembourg. Here the ministers expressed their support for a Joint Declaration on Future of Eastern Partnership transport cooperation. Moreover, the Eastern Partnership Transport Infrastructure network, connecting the EU and its neighbours, was also approved. Europe could not have a long – term and consistent transport policy regarding Eastern neighbours without this network. Together with the regional transport network, the ministers approved the priority infrastructure project list of the six partners. In the future, these projects may be supported by EU funding and loans of international financial institutions. The Ministerial Declaration adopted the recommendations to the European Commission requesting to include the Regional Eastern Partnership Transport network in the Regulation establishing trans–European network (TEN-T) and, therefore, to extend the TEN-T network to the EU Eastern neighbours.

The achievements reached in regard Eastern Partnership transport sector at the Eastern Partnership Summit held on 28th November in Vilnius were seen as an important step towards closer improved cooperation between the EU and its neighbours.

Mr Chairman, the Presidency of the Council was a new challenge for us especially with so much on the table and with our ambitions and expectations so high for real change in the Transport sector.

I have to say that I am here before you with the good feeling that Lithuania did its best to make all the files progress swiftly whilst striving to keep a wide consensus among all the stakeholders.

In conclusion, once again I would like to express my personal gratitude to the committee and you, dear Brian, for constructive and fruitful cooperation that led to mutually beneficial outcomes.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Chairman, I am happy to take any questions you might have.




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