Following weeks, during which containment measures rapidly succeeded each other, the focus of the EU institutions is now on shifting towards re-establishing transport services and connectivity in the EU. The relief measures of 8 May (more information below) and the package of guidelines of 13 May and recommendations are considered to be important milestones in the recovery of the sector.
Nonetheless, the recovery phase is far from crystallized. Important discussions are still taking place in various European Parliamentary committees and Council configurations, focusing amongst others on maintaining a level-playing field between the different modes of transport, safeguarding passenger rights (e.g. reimbursement of tickets) and aligning the recovery measures with the EU’s climate objectives.
The Commission is expected to present a new proposal on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2021-2027 on 20 May, although this is not a definitive date. The amount of the overall budget and the allocation of funds will provide more clarity about the financing of the recovery of the transport sector.
Herewith you can find an overview of recent contingency and recovery measures in the transport sector. For a detailed analysis of the developments below, please get in touch with us via our website.
Transport relief measures
The European Commission is working together with Member States on transport relief measures, covering all modes of transport, which the European Parliament is expected to approve during its extraordinary plenary session of 13-15 May. Among the measures are (1) an aviation relief package, (2) an omnibus legislative proposal for the extension of certificates and (driving) licenses, (3) the postponement of the transposition deadline of the Fourth Railway Package and (4) an amendment to the Port Services Regulation, which allows reduced infrastructure charges in the maritime sector.
Communication on lifting travel restrictions
On 13 May, the European Commission presented a package of guidelines and recommendations to advise Member States on gradually lifting travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen, after months of lockdown, while respecting necessary health precautions. The Commission’s communication consists of several documents, including:
- A common approach to restoring free movement and lifting restrictions at EU internal borders in a gradual and coordinated way;
- A framework to support the gradual re-establishment of transport whilst ensuring the safety of passenger and personnel;
- A recommendation which aims to make travel vouchers an attractive alternative to cash reimbursements for consumers;
- Criteria for restoring tourism activities safely and for developing health protocols for hospitality establishments.
These Commission guidelines are non-binding, as Member States can decide unilaterally on border controls and restrictions. However, the Commission aims to coordinate their efforts to achieve the freedom of movement as much as possible by facilitating cross-border coordination.
Commissioner Timmermans in TRAN Committee
On 11 May, an exchange of views was held in the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) with Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans on the future of the transport sector in the framework of the European Green Deal and in the context of economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Timmermans stated during the discussions that:
- Serious investments are needed to maintain a strong EU transport sector, including private investments, to save jobs and successfully achieve a zero-emission society by 2050;
- Actors in the transport sector receiving financial or state aid from Member States, should be compelled to ‘give back to society’ in return for this aid, such as increasing efforts in the field of sustainability;
- The European Commission will conduct an impact assessment in September 2020 to further analyze raising the emission reduction goal for 2030 from 50% to 55%.
Commissioner Vălean in ENVI Committee
The European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean exchanged views on 11 May with the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee of the European Parliament on sustainable transport after the COVID-19 pandemic. The main takeaways of the discussions were:
- The recovery phase will focus on making transport smarter and cleaner;
- The European Green Deal objectives must be sustained, Europe must stay ambitious;
- In the context of the debate on conditionality to receiving state aid, the Commission will introduce transparency requirements for large companies, to report how the aid helps to meet European ambitions on green and digital transitions;
- On passenger rights, right of reimbursement is still a primary right. A voucher system could be introduced, but the passenger will always have the right to be reimbursed.