The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Stephen Hammond): I attended the final Transport Council of the Irish presidency in Luxembourg on Monday 10 June.
Transport Council agreed general approaches on five proposals: the interoperability of the rail system; roadworthiness roadside inspection and the associated vehicle registration measure; occurrence reporting in civil aviation and marine equipment.
The Commission had originally proposed that the European Rail Agency should undertake all vehicle authorisations on the proposal on the interoperability of the rail system (part of the fourth railway package). The presidency’s compromise text discussed in Council took on board the UK’s suggestion to give operators the choice to use national safety authorities where rolling stock would only be used domestically. I was therefore able to fully support this proposal.
The Council considered the proposal for a regulation on the technical roadside inspection of the roadworthiness of commercial vehicles and a proposal for a directive on the registration documents of vehicles (the last two parts of the roadworthiness package—the Council had agreed its position on the proposal to change the periodic testing regime in December 2012). The Council agreed its position on the registration documents without discussion, while the roadside inspection proposal prompted a round table discussion. The most contentious issue was whether to exclude the N1 category of vehicles (vans and smaller lorries not exceeding 3.5 tonnes) from the scope of the proposal. I was able to support the presidency’s text, and in particular the exclusion of N1 vehicles.
I was also able to fully support the general approach on the proposal on occurrence reporting in civil aviation amending regulation (EU) No 996/2010 and repealing directive 2003/42/EC, Commission regulation (EC) No 1321/2007 and Commission regulation (EC) No 1330/ 2007. This proposal will update the rules requiring member states to establish reporting systems for aviation safety incidents.
I was able to support the presidency’s text on the proposal for a directive on marine equipment, having previously secured concessions, including on the use of delegated acts.
The presidency reported on the progress that had been achieved in negotiation with the European Parliament on the proposal for a regulation establishing the connecting Europe facility. The proposal will provide the legal base to give funding support to trans-European networks projects. The presidency hoped the file could be concluded soon.
Under any other business, the Commission reported on the latest developments on the aviation emissions trading scheme in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). I stressed the importance of achieving a positive outcome at the ICAO Assembly in September and the need for the Commission to develop a comprehensive engagement and negotiating strategy.
The Commission also introduced its recently issued proposal to revise the 2004 rules on air passenger rights which it hoped would bring clarity following the ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in relation to denied boarding, and liabilities for airlines as a result of a number of extraordinary events in aviation since 2010. While welcoming the proposal, I noted that the UK would only be able to accept the regulation if it applied in full to Gibraltar airport.
The Commission introduced its new proposal on ports. I made the case strongly that there is no need for the proposal. I explained that there were significant new investments already going into ports, and that while transparency for public funding should be generally welcomed, for self-financing private ports they should remain subject to normal business accounting rules.
The Commission provided an update on its work on passenger ship safety which looks at measures to improve the safety of passenger ships, especially following the Costa Concordia disaster. The Commission did not currently foresee any legislative proposals, as much of the detail focussed on work that could be done within the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The Commission said that it considered the IMO the best avenue to secure any changes.
Lithuania will take over the EU presidency from 1 July, and outlined their transport agenda. They would be seeking an agreement with the European Parliament on all elements of the roadworthiness package, occurrence reporting in Civil Aviation and on the marine equipment directive. They would also finalise agreement with the European Parliament on the European Marine Safety Agency funding regulation. for outstanding legislation, Lithuania would advance technical discussions on the fourth railway package and seek a general approach on air passenger rights.
Finally, I participated in the signing of a comprehensive air services agreement between the EU and Israel.