European Coordinator of the North Sea-Baltic Corridor,
Former Minister and Member of the European Parliament
During this year, the Covid-19 crisis has reminded us how vitally we depend on well-functioning transport systems on a daily basis. It has also given us a clear signal that we need to continue to work on the future of Europe’s transport system so that it can quickly recover from the impact of this crisis and be more modern, sustainable and smart. The EU needs to set out respective reforms, implement policies and actions to support the transport sector in the twin sustainable and digital transitions, while at the same time boosting its resilience against future shocks. The recovery from the crisis represents a major opportunity for shaping the Europe of the future.
The well-functioning Single Market is a crown jewel of the European Union that needs to be constantly developed and upgraded. We need to address the bottlenecks and missing links in our strategic transport network, the TEN-T, so that the full potential of this common space would be realised. To achieve this, the EU is providing innovative tools and extraordinary financial means to ‘react and recover’. Based on the Commission’s proposals, the European Council and Parliament agreed on an EU budget of historic nature and scale. It will be the primary tool at the European level to kick-start our economies and drive our recovery towards a more resilient, green and digital Europe through public investments. Member States are called upon to make wise use of this opportunity. Investments in a greener transport system and improved cross-border connectivity should be part of each national recovery plan.
Today the transport and mobility sector is responsible for around 25% of the GHG emissions and over the last years the numbers have rather increased than decreased due to strong demand. If the sector is to grow in the future, it needs to lower its environmental footprint.
Europe has a clear climate ambition and the transport and mobility sector needs to play a part in it. We need a clear path if we want the sector to achieve a 90% reduction in transport-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and help the EU become the first climate neutral continent.
The decarbonisation of transport will require a significant improvement in the efficiency of the overall transport system and a proactive promotion of sustainable alternative fuels as well as rapid uptake of zero- and low-emission vehicles. At the same time, we need to maintain and improve accessibility levels for all regions in Europe.
Infrastructure and mobility is of crucial importance for the wellbeing of societies in Europe and perhaps even more so in the Nordic area, bearing in mind its particular geographic and demographic situation. From the EU perspective, we have established a very clear European policy approach to connectivity in the region through the TEN-T core and comprehensive network, including its strategic core network corridors.
In 2018, the Commission proposed to extend the North Sea-Baltic Corridor and the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor so that they would meet at the end of the Bothnian gulf, as well as adding the connection from Luleå to Narvik to the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor, thereby providing access to the Arctic Ocean. This will become a reality as of 2021, upon final adoption of the new Connecting Europe Facility.
The Arctic region is growing in importance and there is a need to ensure efficient connections to develop the untapped economic potential of the North, in a responsible manner. Together, the planned investments in the Finnish rail network and their continuation with Rail Baltica in the Baltic States and Poland are paving the way for taking full advantage of the emerging Arctic Corridor.
The European Commission has also started looking at potential changes in transport and mobility patterns that should be reflected in the revised TEN-T policy, to be presented next summer. One of the main goals of the revision will be to bring the TEN-T guidelines in line with the goals of the European Green Deal – to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector by 90% by 2050.
Based on the Commission’s new Strategy for Smart and Sustainable Transport, the revision of the TEN-T guidelines needs to include ambitious measures aimed at significantly reducing CO2 and pollutant emissions across all modes. It will need to exploit digitalisation and automation, enhancing connectivity to the next level and last, but not least, ensure safety and accessibility.
The Core Network Corridors provide an ideal framework for cooperation on all of these topics across national borders and across the different modes of transport. The Corridors can act as test-beds for new technologies, connecting systems and services, as well as facilitating knowledge exchange and cooperation through living labs. This should be further embedded in the TEN-T policy, which needs to keep abreast with the fast pace of technological developments. In this way, we will be able to show the added value of European cooperation in the most concrete way to our citizens, and refuel their confidence in a better future.
Expert article 2804
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