EU strategic infrastructure projects must be simplified and stepped up, especially in border regions, but not at the expense of subsidiarity and proportionality
Heavy administrative procedures and regulatory uncertainty are leading to delays and increased costs in the implementation of TEN-T projects. EU's regions and cities back the European Commission's proposals to fast-track permit-granting and regulative processes but demand full respect for the competences of local and regional authorities and stress the strategic role of early consultations and consensus-building.
The completion of the Trans-European Network for Transport (TEN-T) is expected to generate an additional EUR 4,500 billion or 1.8% of EU Gross Domestic Product and accounts for 13 million job-years until 2030. It is of crucial importance for the EU's territorial, economic and social cohesion as well as for the fight against climate change.
For these reasons, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) – by adopting on 7 February the opinion drawn up by Michiel Scheffer (NL/ALDE) – expressed full support for the simplification proposals tabled by the European Commission in May 2018 to speed up the implementation of projects, harmonise procedure and technical standards and increase interoperability. The Committee welcomes in particular the intention of the proposal to facilitate cross-border cooperation for the development of transport links.
At the same time, the EU's assembly of local and regional authorities highlights that the administrative burden must not be simplified and reduced at the expense of subsidiarity and proportionality, as the development of transport infrastructure is often a competence of regional authorities and permit-granting is mostly managed by national administrations with due respect for requirements set both at Member State and EU level. This makes a one-size-fits-all approach to simplification ineffective and requires tailor-made measures.
With adequate flexibility and the involvement of all levels of government, the new provisions should help coordinate procedures both within and between Member States, harmonise legal requirements related to relevant EU directives on environment, water and biodiversity and maintain and improve public participation. The Committee also suggests that instead of applying the proposed procedure to all TEN-T projects, Member States should be given the opportunity to identify what projects come under the regulation.
After the CoR has delivered its proposals, the European Parliament is expected to adopt its position before the European elections in May. At the same time, the discussion among Member States is also raising some concerns related to subsidiarity and the need for a more specific scope of action.
Pierluigi Boda (IT, EN)
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