The Committee of the Regions' plenary session has adopted an opinion on the common framework for the development of the inland waterway transport sector during the period 2014-2020 (Naiades II). The opinion drafted by Brian Meaney (IE/EA), calls on the European Commission (EC) to be clearer on the roadmap for implementation, to set environmental targets and to specify which financial resources will be available for the sector. A concern shared by the European Parliament, which will address the issue during its plenary session this week.
The inland waterway transport sector has been affected by the crisis and is suffering key infrastructure gaps and bottlenecks. Local and regional authorities bear significant costs to develop the needed infrastructures and are committed to maximise the use of inland waterways. Besides, the greening of the sector and its full integration with the other EU transport networks will require greater investment. All these factors make it necessary to support its development at the European level by including it effectively in the EU transport policy and making funds available for the sector's operators, mostly small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
EU regions and cities adopted an opinion on 31 January, which supports the EC's proposal to develop the functioning conditions of the sector and consider it essential to improve the intermodality between inland waterways and other transport modes. For this reason, the CoR welcomes the inclusion of this type of transport in six of the nine main corridors of the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T).
Presenting the opinion at the Plenary, rapporteur Brian Meaney, from Clare County Council and Mid-West Regional Authority, highlighted that "inland waterways not only serve transport needs; but are also significant regional assets in terms of water supply, energy generation, recreation and tourism and ecosystems. So unlike other modes, inland waterways transport must ensure the sustainable balance between its activities and other uses of the water." He also referred to the important role played by regional and local governments "in land-use and transportation policy" and added that "waterways and inland ports are key infrastructures for regional economic development."
In order to improve the Naiades II package, the CoR urges the EC to clearly develop a roadmap for implementation, clarifying how this will be financially supported. More precisely, EU local and regional representatives request the EC to produce a Staff Working Document on NAIADES financing as a matter of urgency and to provide clear guidance to the sector on accessing funding. The CoR also regrets that the core indicators to measure the impact of structural funds, in particular ERDF and Cohesion Fund, only relate to road and rail infrastructure. This could mean that investment on inland waterways would not be included among key investment priorities.
In that sense, Brian Simpson, UK Labour MEP and member of the EP's Committee on Transport and Tourism, will address at the EP's plenary session on Thursday 6 February an oral question to the EC on what concrete measures and actions are foreseen to help the inland waterway transport sector in its integration, innovation and green restructuring; and how the Commission will facilitate access for SMEs to the various financing instruments.
The new EU strategy for the inland waterway transport policy and the revised action programme for the period 2014-2020 was presented by the European Commission in September 2013. Naiades II package includes a Communication on quality inland waterway transport, a staff working document on greening the fleet in inland waterway transport, a proposal for a regulation on a Community-fleet capacity policy and a proposal for a directive on requirements for inland waterway vessels. The dossier has a great relevance in terms of environmental developments and transport policies for Local and Regional Authorities. The strategy focuses on actions to be taken to improve the infrastructure and make it greener by investing in new technologies. The better integration of inland waterway transport in the EU inter-modal logistic chain is also foreseen by the EC as well as the improvement of the employment conditions in the sector, the setting up of a level-playing field for operators and the harmonisation of technical standards.
For more information, please contact:
Nieves Tejada CastroTel. +32 282 2239
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