OPP Meeting Summary: EP TRAN Committee – Presentation of Austrian Presidency priorities by Austrian Federal Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology, Mr Norbert Hofer (10 July 2018)

A summary of the presentation of the priorities is now available.

EP TRAN Committee – 10 July 2018
Presentation of Austrian Presidency priorities by Austrian Federal Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology, Mr Norbert Hofer

Chair, Karima Delli (Greens/EFA, FR) made the following opening remarks:

  • she raised the issue of digitisation. It was very topical, especially as the transport sector was undergoing major changes;
  • she stated that the Committee was ready to help the Austrian Presidency in its work.

Mr Norbert Hofer, Austrian Federal Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology, made the following remarks:

  • he described the Austrian Presidency as “energetic”. Austria had taken over the Presidency at a crucial time as the EU was faced with major challenges;
  • effective measures for sustainable mobility were needed;
  • the Presidency’s motto was ‘Europe that protects’. He stated that this also applied to transport, especially making it safer and reduce the number of deaths on the roads;
  • the Presidency wanted to progress with creating transport systems that would help innovation in the different modes of transport, create a high level of social and working conditions in the sector, improve safety and contribute to sustainable transport;
  • there were several proposals that needed progress, but it was also important to prioritise those on which agreement was close;
  • regarding Mobility Package I, Austria had analysed the progress made under the Bulgarian Presidency on the proposals on access to the profession of the transport market, driving and rest times, tachographs, enforcement of social provisions and the lex specialis on the posting of drivers;
  • Austria was also carefully analysing the positions of the Member States (MS) on critical issues in these proposals to find out where compromises could be made;
  • the Presidency was also involved in dialogues with all stakeholders. He specifically mentioned the position of the Parliament regarding several proposals, even if they had not reached the trilogue stage yet;
  •  during the previous Plenary session, the Parliament had “unambiguously” returned several reports to the TRAN Committee. He stated that it was evidence of how politically sensitive the issues were. The Presidency hoped to reach a general approach at the December TTE Council meeting;
  • he stated that there were differences of opinion in the Council on issues such as whether passenger vehicles should be included in the Eurovignette and if a distance-based approach was necessary instead of a time-based approach. Several MS felt that this was problematic from a subsidiarity point of view;
  • he stated that the Presidency needed to act as a “honest broker” and that Austria’s own position would not stand in the way on trying to find a solution;
  • regarding Mobility Package II, he stated that the proposal for an overhaul of the combined transport Directive was an important step for fostering environmentally friendly transport modes. Negotiations had been controversial, and the Presidency was currently analysing the Parliament’s position;
  • he hoped that a general approach could be reached in the December Council meeting in order to begin trilogue negotiations which would hopefully conclude under the Romanian Presidency;
  • on the issue of clean vehicles, he stated that the Presidency wanted to make a lot of progress but acknowledged that this was not “necessarily realistic”;
  • regarding Mobility Package III, he stated that Austria would give priority to the proposals increasing road safety, especially in light of developments in automated and connected driving;
  • negotiations on road safety had begun in the Council Working Party and the Presidency hoped to reach a general approach;
  • he stated that the Presidency would also pay particular attention to the CEF Regulation and the TEN-T proposal;
  • on the issue of air transport, the Presidency would try to make a significant contribution to increasing Europe’s competitiveness. The proposal on safeguarding competition was key in this;
  • the Presidency would also continue to work on agreements with third countries;
  • on the issue of maritime transport, he stated that although Austria did not have a coast the Presidency would concentrate on inland navigation and hoped to adopt Council Conclusions to promote inland navigation;
  • he also mentioned negotiations on port reception facilities, and the Presidency hoped to find an agreement with the Parliament on this proposal by the end of the year;
  • the Presidency also wanted to reach a general approach on the single window, as well as make progress on the minimum requirements for the training of seafarers;
  • regarding tourism, he stated that although tourism was a national competence, it had many impacts at the European level and the Presidency hoped to make contributions to this.

Wim van de Camp (EPP, NL)

  • it was true that “European was a weak player” in comparison to US, China and Russia;
  • he was surprised by the Minister’s remarks on the CEF and the importance of a strong budget, as the Austrian Chancellor had indicated that he wanted to make savings;
  • regarding tourism, he raised the issue of motor bikers who travelled as tourists.

Karoline Graswander-Hainz (S&D, AT)

  • she stated that she had examined the Austrian Presidency’s programme, and described the transport section as “modest” because it was only half a page long;
  • she raised the issue of the draft proposal by the two governing Austrian parties to raise the working week to 60 hours without any involvement of the social stakeholders. With regard to the social Mobility Package proposals, she asked if the Minister was in favour of an exemption of international transport or if he was in favour of the options presented by the Austrian OVP party;
  • her group wanted to see more action on social dumping;
  • she also asked about the establishment of the Labour Authority and if Austria was willing to give up any national competences in this regard;
  • she also raised the issue of the Brenner Pass and what actions would be taken there.

Roberts Zīle (ECR, LV)

  • he stated that introducing new legislation in the transport sector regarding social conditions ran the risk of becoming too protectionist and fragmenting the single market;
  • he pointed out that the Parliament did not have a position on Mobility Package I, as the TRAN Committee position had been defeated in Plenary. The Committee would “try to do something about this in the autumn”;
  • regarding Mobility Package II, he asked if the Presidency was planning to hold a debate on the buses and coaches proposal (of which he was the lead Rapporteur);
  • he wanted to hear more about the spending of CEF funds for transport. Military mobility was also an important issue in CEF, and he stated that military was the only sector in which Russia was growing.

Pavel Telička (ALDE, CZ)

  • regarding Mobility Package I, he stated that he wanted to cooperate with the Presidency on the areas that could be improved in the proposals.

Michael Cramer (Greens/EFA, DE)

  • decarbonisation of the transport sector was an important issues. Regarding charging, he hoped that Austria would stick to its position;
  • fair competition in tolls was necessary. Modes of transport that harmed the environment should not be rewarded;
  • several companies, including Deutsche Post, had refitted their lorries. New rules on refitting were necessary;
  • regarding the financing of CEF, he believed that there were sufficient resources;
  • he stated that the problem was that the EU rail system was a “patchwork”;
  • equal pay for equal work was a EU principle. This should apply to lorry drivers too.

Georg Mayer (ENF, AT)

  • the Austrian Presidency wanted a ‘European that protects’. He asked how it would achieve this in the transport sector;
  • he asked how road safety could be improved in Europe in order to ensure that the number of casualties and deaths in the EU would decrease;
  • he also asked what the Presidency would be doing in the area of automated and connected driving;
  • on the issue of the transfer from road to rail, he stated that 32% of freight transport is by rail in Austria and the average was 20%. He hoped that there could be lessons learned from this in the area of combined transport.

Daniela Aiuto (EFDD, IT)

  • she was the Rapporteur for combined transport and was pleased to hear that this was one of the priorities. The Parliament was ready for the negotiations and it was a crucial file;
  • she also mentioned the Brenner Pass area, as it was an important area for Italian SMEs;
  • regarding Mobility Package I, she stated that progress could still be made in the negotiations because the basic legislation was there.

Claudia Schmidt (EPP, AT)

  • she stated that the relationship between the Council and the Commission was good, although there were some weaknesses. She pointed out the long wait for the Mobility Package proposals as an example. She also mentioned Brexit;
  • regarding combined transport, she stated that the economy was dependent on cheap transport but there were clear effects on the environment and local people;
  • she asked if the Austrian Presidency would continue work on the social pillar;
  • she also asked what the Presidency would do regarding the implications of automated driving on privacy.

Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska (EPP, PL)

  • she asked what the Presidency intended to do to eliminate administrative burdens and unnecessary costs for the consumers in the Mobility Package proposals;
  • she asked for the Presidency’s view on the role of the European Labour Authority.

Dieter-Lebrecht Koch (EPP, DE)

  • he asked for the Presidency’s view on sustainability and decarbonisation. He mentioned eco-liners;
  • he raised the issue of passenger rights in the air and rail transport sectors and how progress could be made in those areas.

Isabella De Monte (S&D, IT)

  • each Presidency also put forward national issues. The Austrian Presidency’s programme had addressed issues such as terrorism, clandestine immigration, smuggling, money laundering and drugs. This suggested that the situation in Austria was “out of control”;
  • she asked what would be done about the situation about the Italy-Austria border situation, and if the Brenner Pass would be closed. She asked what effects this would have on transport and tourism.

Marian-Jean Marinescu (EPP, RO)

  • the Danube Strategy was a very important topic. Member States did not have the same level of interest in providing the funds for ensuring the navigability of the Danube. He asked the Presidency to take up this issue.

Lucy Anderson (S&D, UK)

  • she asked what the Presidency was going to specifically do to progress the work on the European Labour Authority;
  • precarious working conditions needed to be tackled in the transport sector and she wanted to know what the Presidency would be doing on the precarious working conditions Directive;
  • she also raised the issue of the rail passenger rights proposal.

Kosma Złotowski (ECR, PL)

  • he raised the issue of social dumping and stated that the definition needed to be improved. Equal pay for equal work under the same employer also needed to be discussed.

Marie-Christine Arnautu (ENF, FR)

  • she asked what issues the Austrian Presidency would be defending in the airline sector.

Mr Norbert Hofer, Austrian Federal Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology, made the following remarks:

  • regarding Mobility Package I and II, he stated that there were big differences of opinion. The Presidency had the idea to bring together a representative from each MS whose positions were furthest apart and help them to understand the opposite points of view;
  • responding to Wim van de Camp (EPP, NL),  he stated that the EU needed to be confident and work together vis-a-vis developments in China and the US;
  • on the issue of tolls, he stated that MS had their own different systems. For example, the Netherlands had fuel taxes. He stressed that Austria wanted to be a “honest broker” and not impose its own views;
  • regarding CEF, he stated that it was the competence of the Finance Ministry;
  • in response to Karoline Graswander-Hainz (S&D, AT), he stated that the Presidency wanted to move forward as much as it could. The Presidency would chair around 150 meetings;
  • he stated that a compromise on driving times was possible; 
  • the Austrian proposal for 12 hour working day was not a topic for the Council Presidency; 
  • the Brenner Pass was an important subject with major challenge. There were problems with the approach route;
  • concerning the questions on the European Labour Authority, he stated that transport rules would have to be a part of it. He stated that the Presidency did not play a big role in the creation of the Authority;
  • responding to Roberts Zīle (ECR, LV), he stated that priority would be given to the social pillar of the Mobility Package;
  • work had also begun in the Council on the proposal on busies and coaches. It was clear that there were fundamental differences in approach in MS, and it seemed “improbable that the proposal would prosper” during the Austrian Presidency;
  • regarding military mobility, he stated that it was not his competence. The implementation of the Action Plan was a joint effort with other stakeholders and ministries, especially on compatible infrastructure;
  • concerning combined transport and the Brenner Pass, he stated that there needed to be a shift to rail and that Austria was “doing everything” that it could to reduce pressure on the Brenner Pass;
  • responding to Claudia Schmidt (EPP, AT), he stated that the UK needed to continue to be a partner for the EU in the area of transport;
  • concerning data protection, he stated that automated driving would become increasingly challenging and it was crucial to ensure that the data remained in the hands of the vehicle owner;
  • replying to Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska (EPP, PL), he stated that it was the general goal of the Austrian Presidency to ensure that all Mobility Package proposals avoided becoming too bureaucratic and burdensome;
  • in response to Dieter-Lebrecht Koch (EPP, DE), he stated eco-liners were a great concept but he was more interested in getting as much as possible on rail;
  • he stated that he understood the reasons behind the German tolling system, but he disputed the model;
  • the Danube was extremely important. If there was a problem in one country, it affected all other countries too;
  • he concluded that cooperation with the Parliament and the Committees was very important to him.

Source: One Policy Place

The simultaneous interpretation of debates provided by the European Parliament serves only to facilitate communication amongst the participants in the meeting. It does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. One Policy Place uses these translations so this text is only a guide and should not be relied on as an official account of the meeting. Only the original speech or the revised written translation of that speech is authentic.

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