EU: Social Mobility Within Its Borders

Topics: Social Mobility

The European Union’s transport policy is part of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU – Title VI – Articles 90 to 100, regulating the movement of people and goods throughout the EU member states. The integrated infrastructure uses all modes of transport – road, rail, air and water. Within the EU Transportation Policy there are regulations on customs, fuel consumption, climate change, passenger rights etc.

In the last three decades, the transport policy has been one of the EU’s common policies, issuing regulations on the opening-up of transport markets and the creation of the Trans-European Transport Network.

Today, the EU has worked on the new ‘sustainable mobility’ model, addressing topics of even greater importance – particularly in view of the constant rise in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector, which threatens to jeopardise the European Union’s efforts to achieve its climate goals.

The legal basis for the Transportation Policy is the Article 4(2)(g) and Title VI of the TFEU. From the beginning of the European Union, all member states have been underlining the importance of the transportation of passengers and goods, and they have devoted consistent time and work towards issuing a common policy on this subject.

They have prioritized the creation of the common transport market, allowing member states to provide services across borders, and to enter intercommunity markets.

As a consequence, the EU has to develop regulations on fair competition and market access for each mode of transportation – air, water, road, rail. This harmonization of the laws across the EU covers, at this very moment, national laws, regulations and administrative provisions, as well as the development of technological, social and tax environments for the provision of the transportation services.

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The open market has brought many advantages to the EU transportation industry, the latter experiencing volume and value-added growth, becoming also internationally competitive. The abolition of internal borders, the drop n transport prices as a result of the liberalization of the transport markets, and the changes followed in the manufacturing industry have determined a huge economic success for the given industry, and it changed the internal dynamics of the transportation within the EU.

Today, the EU is facing yet another milestone, with the challenge of creating a sustainable environment and mobility within its borders, remaining also competitive on the international market, and innovating alongside. Apparently, the transport sector accounts for roughly a quarter of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by human activity in the EU. Furthermore, transport is the only sector in the EU whose GHG emissions have risen since 1990.

Consequently, the EU has drafted another policy, entitled ‘Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system’ (COM(2011)0144), with the general recommendation of a 20% reduction of the emissions from transport (except from the international maritime transport) until 2030, and a reduction of 60% of the emissions until 2050. The international maritime transport was recommended a 40% reduction of gas emissions until 2050. This can be achieved with the use of low-carbon fuels as follows: reduction to 40% usage in aviation until 2050, reduction of 50% of conventional-fuelled passenger cars in urban transport until 2030 (and complete elimination until 2050).

The 2015 Climate Conference in Paris discussed a set of goals to be implemented/achieved between 2021 and 2030. Among those, the GHG emissions is supposed to be less by at least 20% of the values registered in 2015. Nevertheless, realism hits hard, and even though it is important to be ambitious in facing environmental and economic challenges in the transportation industry, it is of paramount importance to be sincere. The goal set in Paris in 2015 regarding the drop in GHG emissions is quite difficult to be achieved, and if they is was eventually achieved, it would mean that in 2030 emissions from transport (excluding international waterborne transport) would still be 4.5% above 1990 levels, and emissions from international waterborne transport would only be 9.5% below their 1990 level in 2050. The transport sector therefore has to use, initially, less energy, and, ultimately, cleaner energy, to be able to exploit the modern infrastructure effectively, and reduce its impact on the environment.

All those objectives are achievable with the use of general policy guidelines, which the Commission has successfully adopted since 1992, for the development of the common transport policy (COM(1992)0494). The latter facilitated and regulated the opening of the common transport market, it guided the development of the Trans-European Transport Network, it provided with social safety, and it directed towards an integrated, intermodal approach for sustainable principles. Moreover, the subsequent White Paper of July, 22nd 1998, entitled ‘Fair payment for infrastructure use: a phased approach to a common transport infrastructure charging framework in the EU’ (COM(1998)0466), drew attention to the significant differences between Member States in charging for transport services, which was leading to distortions of competition in intra-modal and intermodal transport.

The ‘European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to decide’ (COM(2001)0370) has previsioned the transformation of the transportation market in the EU with the enlargement of the Union. The East-European countries determined a massive growth of the traffic volume, increasing also the traffic congestions, especially for road and air transport, as well as the costs on health and environment. Within the policy, the European Commission has included 60 measures that would diminish the correlation between economic growth and traffic intensification, also promoting a even growth in the different transportation modes. Further on, the paper was to bring light on the stabilization of traffic share among the different transportation modes, with the focus on reviving the rail transport, and the promoting of the sea and inland transport. The main scope of the regulation was that to create an interlinked infrastructure in transportation, determining the revision of the Trans-European Networks’ guidelines.

The latter had to be updated in line with the new additions to the EU, so that it would create an easy flow of transportation across the borders of the newly added Eastern member states. Moreover, the guidelines were both facilitating and regulatory, including the rights and obligations of transport users and providers, underlining the importance of road safety, and price transparency. The EU also launched some ambitious technological projects, such as the European satellite navigation system Galileo, the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), and the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research programme (SESAR) to improve air traffic control infrastructure. 2006 was the year when the Commission has added to the 2001 White Paper the ‘Keep Europe moving – Sustainable mobility for our continent’ directive, which introduced new instruments to achieve the proposed goals, namely action plans for goods transport logistics, for the deployment of intelligent transport systems in Europe, and for urban mobility; Naiades and Naiades II, an integrated European action programme for inland waterway transport; strategic goals and recommendations for the EU’s maritime transport policy up to 2018.

From 2008, the Commission was focused on the harmonization of the transportation policies and legislation. The ‘Greening Transport’ Package was another strategy to internalise the external costs of transport, and it consisted of three Commission communications and a proposal for the revision of Directive 1999/62/EC, also known as the ‘Eurovignette’ Directive. Moreover, the EU was keen on looking further into the future of the community, launching also the Commission communication entitled ‘A sustainable future for transport: Towards an integrated, technology-led and user-friendly system’ (COM(2009)0279). In 2011, the European Commission published the strategy until 2050 – ‘Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system’ (COM(2011)0144).

The Commission described the old and new challenges for transport, and outlined ways of meeting them, by following 10 objectives: the establishment of a Single European Transport Area by doing away with all remaining barriers between modes and national systems, easing the process of integration, and facilitating the emergence of multinational and multimodal operators, a higher degree of convergence and enforcement of social, safety, security and environmental rules, minimum service standards and users’ rights to avoid tensions and distortions. Complementary, the EU has published, in 2016, ‘A European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility’ (COM(2016)0501), in which it proposed measures to accelerate the decarbonisation of European transport. The strategy pursuits the development of a community with zero emissions from transportation activities, in agreement with the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 Paris goals.

In all of these activities and guidelines developed and implemented, the European Parliament has played a major role, providing active support for the liberalisation of transport markets and the ‘sustainable mobility’ model, and stressing the need to combine this with comprehensive harmonisation of the social, tax and technological environment and of safety standards. With the ‘European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to decide’ (COM(2001)0370) resolution, the European Parliament stressed that sustainability represents the foundation and standard for European transport policy, and the importance of creating an integrated global transport system. The competitiveness of the road transport and the fair charging for the usage of the infrastructure (including external costs for each transportation mode) have been part of the specific proposals covering each individual mode of transport, transport safety, the timetable for completing and funding for the TEN-T, more effective coordination with other EU policy areas, and other transport-related topics.

Moreover, when the Green Paper entitled ‘Towards a new culture for urban mobility’ (COM(2007)0551) was published in 2007 by the Commission, the European Parliament followed up by adopting a resolution on July, 9th 2008 under the same title. Parliament also adopted another resolution in 2009 entitled ‘an action plan on urban mobility’. Among other things, Parliament called for an integrated European approach to urban mobility which should serve as a common frame of reference for European, national, regional and local actors. The Commission responded to this demand shortly afterwards with a number of communications including: ‘Action plan on urban mobility’ (COM(2009)0490), published on September, 20th 2009, ‘Together towards competitive and resource-efficient urban mobility’ (COM(2013)0913), published on December, 17th 2013. Consequently, the European Parliament also adopted a resolution on ‘Sustainable urban mobility’ on December, 2nd 2015, encouraging the member states to draw up sustainable urban mobility plans which give priority to low-emission modes of transport, alternative fuel vehicles and intelligent transport systems. The Commission and the Member States were urged to establish exchange of best practices in spatial planning and space use, with relevance to the establishment of a sustainable mobility network, as well as to launch public awareness campaigns that promote sustainable mobility. Cities were also encouraged to take part in a ‘Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership’.

In 2010, the European Parliament adopted a resolution for sustainable future in transportation, covering a wide-range of demands from the spectrum of EU transport policy. Following the publication of the White Paper, in 2011, the European Parliament has adopted two resolutions – ‘Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system’, and ‘Taking stock and the way forward towards sustainable mobility’. The first resolution was referring to the insufficiently explored potential of transport in many areas, and emphasised the importance of a system that focuses on interconnection and interoperability. Parliament approved the 10 objectives for a competitive and resource-efficient transport system and the goals set in the White Paper for 2030 and 2050. The second resolution referred to the achievement and challenges of the implementation of the White Paper’s objectives, and it demonstrated that the original goals were not necessarily met.

The Parliament suggested to the European Commission to draft on additional legislative measures and on comprehensive strategies for the development of low-carbon transport so that the objective of a minimum 60% reduction in GHG emissions from transport could be achieved by 2050. Parliament made a series of recommendations seeking to integrate all transport modes in order to create a more efficient, sustainable, competitive, accessible and user-friendly transport system. The main points included modal shift and co-modality, modern infrastructure and smart funding, urban mobility, placing people at the heart of transport policy, and the global dimension of transport. Moreover, the Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies within the European Parliament published a study entitled ‘Modal shift in European transport: a way forward‘, to support the low-emission mobility adopted in December 2017, and to highlight the need for the transport sector to make a greater contribution to climate goals.

The study included the following recommendations: investment in multimodality and public transport; clearer price signals across all transport modes in order to better reflect the polluter pays and user pays principles; and the digitalisation in sustainable mobility. Furthermore, the Parliament worked on an even more grand approach to renewables in transport (Renewable Energy Directive), and the creation of incentives for the deployment of sustainable alternative fuels for transport modes that currently have no alternatives to liquid fuel. Following a Commission communication entitled ‘Towards the broadest use of alternative fuels – an Action Plan on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure’ (COM(2017)0652), Parliament adopted a resolution in October 2018 calling on the Commission to bring forward a revision of Directive 2014/94/EU on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure, and to focus on its proper implementation. Always looking towards the high-tech future, the Parliament also stressed that European actors must join forces to take on a role as world leaders in autonomous transport 2018/2089(INI).

The Transport Policy is, as observed, broad and complex, and includes also the Transport Community legislation. The latter aims at creating a transport community with the six Western Balkan countries, namely the Republic of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and the Republic of Serbia, by permitting access to railway companies operating international passenger and freight services, by facilitating the administrative procedures between one jurisdiction and another, by agreeing to refer to the Court of Justice of the EU in case of legal disputes, by transferring funds for the development of the relationships, and by instituting international organisations on transport issues and regional initiatives. Moreover, the six Balkan countries are to abide to the European social, environmental and public policies, to promote and develop efficient traffic-management systems, and safe and secure transport, and to insure fair competition.

The Transport Community has the role of promoting the social dialogue, the principles of fundamental rights of workers, labour laws, health and safety at work, equal opportunities, as well as supporting the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). Within the treaty, there are directives towards establishing a ministerial council to provide policy guidelines and to review the progress, a secretariat based in Belgrade for administrative support, and transport observatory, and a 5 years review. This treaty entered in force on the May, 1st, 2019.

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EU: Social Mobility Within Its Borders. (2021, Dec 31). Retrieved from

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