Category Archives: Transport

The EU Retail Market Monitoring Report

The Retail Market Monitoring Report is out now, published by the Commission. The report considers all economic, social, environmental and consumer impacts of the retail sector in the European Union by accounting for the linkages that the retail sector has with its upstream and downstream markets.

The main findings:

  • Malfunctioning of commercial property markets;
  • Limited take-off of e-commerce;
  • Insufficient development of commercial communications and independent services providing information on prices and quality;
  • The number of small local grocery shops fell by 3.7% between 2004 and 2009;
  • Lack of rules or insufficient enforcement addressing unfair commercial practices ;
  • Difficulties in their cross-border use because of varying rules;
  • Negative impact of the informal economy on working conditions;
  • Lack of information to consumers as regards social performance of businesses in the retail sector;
  • Mismatch between the needs of businesses and the skills of employees in the retail sector;
  • High energy consumption;
  • High production of waste;
  • Significant contribution to the volume of traffic and congestion due to transport of goods;
  • Insufficient account taken of environmental costs in the supply;
  • Lack of a common method to evaluate environmental impact of products and services.

Priorities of the Belgian Presidency of the Council 2010

The Belgian presidency of the Council has started, and it has published its six-month programme. The objectives and priorities are:

  • a return to maintained, sustainable and balanced growth throughout the European Union;
  • fulfilling the objectives of the EU 2020 strategy;
  • a new regulatory and supervisory structure for the financial sector;
  • green jobs and white jobs (health and social services jobs);
  • objectives and performance indicators for social protection, social inclusion, pensions and healthcare;
  • negotiations for a European patent;
  • guidelines for better coordination of Member States’ policy for research, development and innovation;
  • securing the energy supply;
  • agreement on European legislation which would allow Member States to recover the external costs generated by road transport from users;
  • establishing a single asylum procedure and a uniform international protection statute by 2012
  • fight against terrorism, organised crime, illegal immigration and human trafficking;
  • legal migration will also be a priority for the Presidency.

Interestingly, the program uses the motto “Let’s put Europe back into action!”. I wonder if this has anything to do with the outgoing Spanish presidency.

The Report of the Reflection Group for the Future of the EU

The European Council in December 2007 decided to establish a ‘reflection group’ of no more than nine people, selected from across the Union on the basis of merit, to identify the key issues which the European Union is likely to face in the future and how these might be addressed.

Now the group, led by Felipe González, has issued its report “PROJECT EUROPE 2030: Challenges and Opportunities” (via Ralph Grahn).

There are some concrete proposals that I find interesting:

Economy:

  • Further developing the internal market, e.g. in the area of services;
  • Social security rights should, once and for all, be readily transportable between Member States;
  • Extension of the availability of e-infrastructure to houses, schools and businesses;
  • Development of healthcare, well-being and age-related industries and services;
  • Giving leadership for economic coordination to the European Council;
  • Reinforcing procedures for supervision of national budgets to ensure transparency as well as the sustainability of public finances.

Education and Innovation:

  • Developing flexible and open curricula capable of nurturing curiosity and creativity among children;
  • Building a network of top-level higher education establishments able to rival the best in the world;
  • Ensuring that universities have greater exposure to the real economy in Europe and the rest of the world;
  • More funding is needed for applied research that would benefit SMEs.

Demographic Challenges:

  • Family-friendly policies aimed at stabilising or increasing fertility levels should be put in place;
  • Provide the conditions in which people, in particular women with young children, and older workers, can remain in the workforce;
  • Removing the legal, administrative and cultural barriers to promote greater intra-EU labour mobility;
  • Retirement should become an option for individuals rather than an obligation;
  • A common immigration policy for the EU should set out a specific medium- to long-term strategy for targeting skilled immigrants;
  • A common approach to irregular immigrants.

Energy Security and Climate Change:

  • The headline target for energy efficiency should be raised to 50 per cent by 2030, from the currently agreed 20 per cent by 2020;
  • Move away from oil as the primary source of fuel for transport by encouraging bio-fuel standards and electric and hybrid vehicles;
  • Develop intelligent energy networks (smart grids);
  • Recourse to nuclear energy;
  • Develop unconventional energy sources such as tight gas and shale oil.
  • Internal and External Security:
  • Increasing the powers of existing agencies and instruments, such as Europol, Eurojust, the Situation Centre, Frontex and the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator;
  • Create a European civil reserve team of specially trained units ready to be deployed at short notice;
  • Develop a more integrated external border management system;
  • Agree on a workable strategic concept for the EU defence.

Foreign Relations and Enlargement:

  • Build a global economic strategy that takes into account the euro as the world’s second reserve currency;
  • Stay open to potential new members from Europe;
  • Develop an enhanced role in stabilising its immediate surroundings by building on the existing ‘European Neighbourhood Policy’, ‘Eastern Partnership’ and ‘Union for the Mediterranean’;
  • Manage a strategic co-existence, modernisation and region-building policy with Russia;
  • Pull the EU’s diplomatic, military, trade, and development policies together with the external dimensions of its common economic policies;
  • Develop an EU approach to global governance reform.

The European Citizens:

  • More transparency and accuracy in the way we communicate EU policy-making;
  • Avoid rhetoric and explain in plain language how EU adds value to its citizens’ lives;
  • Encouraging Member States to grant voting rights in national elections to nationals of other Member States after a certain period of residence and tax payments;
  • “Europeanising” European Parliament elections through the introduction of cross-border lists;
  • Create a specific administrative instrument that would provide proof of European citizenship for individuals to use on a voluntary basis in order to access residence, employment and social security rights;
  • Establish a system for evaluating the impact of EU law.

The EU Reacts to the Volcano Situation

The consequences of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano are strongly felt throughout Europe, with most of the EU airspace still closed because of the volcanic ash in the atmosphere that can damage airplane engines.

The question now is what is the EU doing about it?

The Spanish Secretary of State , Diego López Garrido and the Vice-president of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, met on Sunday with Eurocontrol to find out first hand the evolution of the volcanic cloud that has forced the closure of most of the airports in Northern Europe.

More, the EU transport ministers will be meeting on video conference today to get a grip of the situation and to decide on common measures. The airline companies at the same time are demanding the lift of airspace restrictions after flight tests by Lufthansa, KLM and other airlines that conducted more than a dozen flights without any problems during the weekend. One airport company manager quoted by FT said that “the impact is already worse than 9/11”.

Meanwhile the airspace ban has delayed various EU meetings, including a the accession talks with Croatia, the meeting of the Fisheries Council. The plenary session of the European Parliament is also in doubt, since many MEPs may not be able to reach Strasbourg.

I’ll post an update when we have results from the meeting of transport ministers.

UPDATE: BBC reports that the body that represents the world’s airlines, IATA, has criticised Europe’s governments for the way they closed air space. British Airways demands compensation from the EU due to the accumulated loss.

Siim Kallas has issued a press statement, saying that there is a meeting going on of all Eurocontrol members, national civil aviation authorities, national air navigation providers, representatives of the airline and airport industry, as well as the Spanish Presidency. The aim is to agree technical solutions for stronger European co-operation to maximise available airspace. He says that they are working hard to agree technical solutions to do that today.

UPDATE2: EU transport ministers agreed to gradually lift airspace restrictions where possible.

Hedegaard: No Climate Deal before 2012

Climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard has said that a legally binding deal on climate change would not be achievable before the ‘Cop 17′ – the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is to take place in December 2011 in South Africa.

According to Mrs. Hedegaard he EU would have to take a “step-wise approach”, including different paths for influencing the international debate. The European Council’s meeting on 25-26 March 2010 will address primarily the climate change dossier.

The Blockade of the Greek Border Crossings Breaches EU Law

The blockade of the Bulgarian – Greek border crossings by Greek farmers is in stark violation of EU law. The blockade infringes the right of European citizens to move freely within the territory of the Member states (art. 21 TFEU) and hinders the free movement of goods and services (art. 26 TFEU).

More, the Bulgarian and Greek authorities have an obligation under Regulation (EC) 2679/98 on the functioning of the internal market in relation to the free movement of goods among the Member States to immediately inform the European Commission. The Greek authorities should also take all necessary and proportionate measures to remove the obstacles.

Russian Oil Pipeline to Asia: Reports

There are a two interesting analytical reports on the opening of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline that links Russian oil to Asian markets.

Euractiv has published an analysis by Wojciech Konończuk by Centre for Eastern Studies on the issue. Konończuk says that during the first few years ESPO will not operate at full capacity, and will have only a limited impact on the Russian oil sector. The author says that the ESPO pipeline is expected not only to stimulate the development of a new oil extraction centre in Russia and promote economic development in the Far East, but also to strengthen Russia’s position on the global raw materials market.

Platts has a technical report on the ESPO pipeline. The report says that the start of the ESPO crude exports will be a major step for Russia’s oil export infrastructure, which is currently heavily focused on moving oil west toward Europe. The report also says that ESPO can become a major price indicator of spot oil volumes in Asia.