Thursday 24 April 2014

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The latest contributions on Transport policy in Europe.

 

Stientje van Veldhoven: EU should free up public transport data for development of EU-wide travel planning app

Posted by on 21/04/14

Dutch MP Stientje van Veldhoven has urged the European Commission to make the data of Europe’s railway companies freely available (“open data”) so that app developers can start creating a Europe-wide travel planning app. “A European-wide travel app will make international travel by rail more accessible and customer-friendly,” she told the Dutch lower house of parliament on Tuesday (15 April 2014). “At present, you cannot plan your onward connection to Paris while on the train to Brussels,” Van Veldhoven, a member of the “Democrats 66” party (the Dutch “LibDems”), said. The EU comprises some 2700 destinations which can be reached by rail but anyone who’s ever tried knows from experience that planning a railway trip is far from easy, she said, noting available websites are complicated and anything but user-friendly.

Source: https://www.d66.nl/actueel/europese-commissie-moet-werk-maken-van-eu-reisplanner/

 

Electromobilité : le plan d’action berlinois

Posted by on 07/04/14

Le 26 mars dernier s’est tenue la seconde conférence sur l’électromobilité dans la ville de Berlin. Les deux autorités en charge, l’agence s’occupant du programme et le Sénat de Berlin, ont ainsi révélé leur plan d’action. Locations de voitures et vélos électriques, production d’énergies renouvelables décentralisées, développement des smart grids…  Alors que de nombreuses stratégies sont déjà mises en place depuis plusieurs mois, voire années, les projets de la ville sont aujourd’hui encore ambitieux.

Alors que Paris vient à peine de réussir à sortir du niveau d’alerte maximum en termes de pollution aux particules fines, une ville comme Berlin surprend par son engagement et montre sans nul doute l’exemple que la capitale française devrait suivre depuis déjà de longues années. Preuve qu’il est possible aujourd’hui de réduire les émissions dans une grande ville sans en faire pâtir les habitants, la ville s’est dotée, ces dernières années, de pas moins de 5 plans d’action : le Plan cadre Berlin Ville d’industries 2010-2020, le Plan de développement urbain Transport, le Plan d’action ProIndustrie, la Stratégie énergétique 2030 et la Stratégie commune d’innovation Verlin-Brandebourg. Une totalité de cinq plans réunis plus  globalement sous l’appellation « Plan d’action 2020 ».

L’enjeu est de taille pour la ville : être reconnue dans le monde entier comme un modèle de l’électromobilité en instaurant une économie forte afin de créer une nouvelle chaîne de valeur. Les transports sont bien évidemment au centre de ce plan d’action, sous toutes leurs formes. La ville développe aujourd’hui un réseau de voitures et de vélos électriques pour les déplacements individuels, mais réfléchis également à développer d’autres modèles de transports personnels comme l’auto-partage. Pour les transports de fret, extrêmement polluants, deux axes sont envisagés. Il serait d’abord possible de remplacer les propulsions habituelles par des propulsions électriques. L’électrification du dernier kilomètre des livraisons ou encore la micro-mobilité électrique pour les livraisons de courte distance, d’autres solutions innovantes existent.

Vous l’aurez compris, Berlin mise sur l’énergie électrique pour réduire au maximum ses émissions. Celle-ci n’est cependant pas infinie et pour mener à bien ces projets, la ville doit également réfléchir à une meilleure gestion de son réseau ainsi qu’à l’intégration de plus d’énergies renouvelables dans celui-ci. Pour cela, personne n’a douté un seul instant : les smart grids constituent la piste la plus intéressante. Capables d’intégrer à un réseau électrique conventionnel de l’électricité provenant de sources d’énergie renouvelable, les réseaux électriques intelligents peuvent également aider la ville à adapter l’offre en électricité à la demande et ainsi éviter les pics de consommation ou les gaspillages.

Les infrastructures de rechargement seront également prochainement repensées. Outre les smart grids, la ville pourrait également faire le choix de décentraliser sa production d’énergies renouvelables à Brandebourg. L’augmentation du nombre de vélos et de voitures électriques en location s’accompagnera du développement de nouveaux types de batteries basés sur l’hydrogène et l’induction. Enfin, la dernière étape de la transformation de Berlin en une capitale mondiale de l’électromobilité passera par une large stratégie de communication. Évènements, salons, et coopérations internationales seront les pendants de cette révolution énergétique berlinoise. Paris n’a plus qu’à en prendre de la graine.

More money

Posted by on 02/04/14

While pilots are still in labor dispute and causing significant obstructions of traffic, the public service has increased the wages for its public servants. With retrospective effect from March, 1st the salaries increase by 3 percent. It has been agreed that in the upcoming year the wages increase by 2.4 percent furthermore. In the low income groups the wages raise by the fixed amount of 90 euros which means in the maximum an increase by 7.6 percent. These decisions will have its effects also on negotiations in other sectors. Pilots from „Lufthansa“ are again on strike from today on for the next three days. 400.000 passengers are expected to be affected. People in Germany are questioning if a small minority (of well payed employees like Lufthansa-pilots) should be enabled to take hostages in such a large scale. There is indeed a huge gap between a low income public servant and a pilot which should limit comparability.

Major countries tackle C02 emissions from trucks

Posted by on 13/03/14

When talking about climate change we usually think of electricity, passenger cars, airplanes, but hardly ever of heavy-duty trucks. That is a mistake, for heavy-duty trucks account for a substantial share of C02 emissions from the transport sector, which is second among the key emitters after electricity.

So far only Japan has introduced heavy-duty truck fuel consumption standards that are in force since 2005.

This is bound to change in the near future. USA, China, Canada and EU are in the process of adopting, implementing or reinforcing fuel-efficiency standards.

The US has adopted such standards for the first time in 2011, and President Obama has just announced a more stringent set of standards applicable for 2014-18.

Canada will apply standards based on the American ones as of model year 2014. China has also adopted fuel efficiency standards and start implementing them in 2015. So will the EU, based on C02 emissions.

Major automotive countries are thus tackling the most important source of C02 emissions after electricity, industry and passenger cars.

They do so in the interest of the users and their truck industries, which have to compete internationally and are therefore willing to support their governments` approach. Obama has been careful to emphasise the advantages of tougher standards for innovation and lower fuel cost and has earned more praise than complaint when presenting his latest proposals, which cost the industry $ 8 billion but save truck users $ 50 billion during the life time of the trucks through improved fuel efficiency.

The EU has not been on the forefront in this sector, probably because its trucks enjoy already high fuel efficiency. But this should not impede it from inviting major producing countries in view of harmonising standards internationally. After all, this should be an important aspect for the forthcoming negotiations on the international climate agreement to be concluded in the autumn of 2015.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 7/3/2014

 

Humanity must invest heavily in Mass Transit Systems

Posted by on 26/02/14

In 2013 the London Subway, with 402 km the second longest subway system on earth after Shanghai, celebrated its 150th anniversary without being widely celebrated as a ground-breaking engineering event

Today, mass transit systems like subways have become indispensable for urban passenger transport. Their numbers have risen continuously since 1863, from Istanbul to Paris, Berlin, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, Moscow etc.

It is impossible to imagine how modern cities, suffering from chronic traffic congestion, would be able to function without subways. Today, 190 subway systems of different size operate in 54 countries.

These numbers are bound to grow in the coming decades to meet rapidly expanding traffic in growing urban areas where more than two thirds of global population – some six billion people (!)- will live by the middle of the century.

Every day some six billion people will then need to travel from their homes to their workplaces, compared to less than four billion today. Buses, let alone cars, alone cannot do that job, considering the sheer volumes of human masses to be moved and the lack of urban space. In the absence of well-functioning mass transit systems, very frequent traffic breakdowns will be the inevitable consequence. The bigger the cities the more pressing the problems. Mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants that already today house 10 per cent of the global population will be the worst hit.

One can take a look as of today what it means for a multimillion city like Dhaka, which devotes only 7 per cent of its surface to roads (25 per cent being the standard), to function without effective mass transport systems: intolerable traffic jams and dis-functioning of the economic urban life.

Future prospects will be particularly bleak in emerging countries, most of which already lack functioning urban infrastructure.

Singapore and Hong Kong as well as European cities like Stockholm, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna, Paris, Zurich, London, Munich, Berlin and Stuttgart, which have invested a lot of efforts in developing efficient systems, are among the positive examples from which to take lessons.

All developing countries will have to pay infinitely more attention to long-term urban planning. Many cities, having missed the optimal timing, will have to tear down large urban areas, build more roads to complement mass transit systems, put up more sky-scrapers or even put a brake on further population growth.

The amount of investments necessary will be colossal, easily € 50 billion for a five-million city needing a 100 km rail-system. Most cities will be unable to finance such gigantic projects on their own. Central governments and international finance institutions will have to offer long-term loans; and governments will have no choice but to impose heavy taxes on motor vehicles.

It is urgent to wake up to the huge traffic challenges of an urban global society. Too much time has been lost by negligent governments, with far too much public money wasted on subsidies, corruption and armies. To meet the mobility challenge countries and cities will have to establish much closer cooperation.

Developed countries and cities will have to help. But the sheer volume of the global financial needs exceeds by far the financial capacities of the shrinking populations in the affluent regions of the world.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 30/1/2014

Suppression de l’obligation de visa pour les ressortissantes moldaves

Posted by on 20/01/14

Lors de la séance du LIBE, qui a eu lieu le 9 janvier dernier, le débat en salle c’est concentré sur la situation actuelle de la Moldavie en matière de libéralisation des visas. La volonté d’ exonérer les ressortissants moldaves de l’obligation de visa dans l’espace Schengen a été réaffirmée à plusieurs repris par les eurodéputés. Le dialogue entre l’UE et la Moldavie est toujours très cohérent et productif et amènera à des avantages tangibles pour les citoyens moldaves. En matière de coopération transfrontalière il faut assurer un exercice de la justice équitable ainsi que le respect des droits fondamentaux et c’est donc dans ce but que le rapport Fajon est consacré. Enfin, la commission LIBE a remarqué la volonté de finaliser le projet du rapport Fajon avant la fin de la législature, car notamment le partenariat oriental est un thème politique très sensible et à haute priorité.

 L’objectif de la proposition, objet du rapport Fajon, est de modifier les annexes au règlement (CE) n° 539/2001 fixant la liste des pays tiers dont les ressortissants sont soumis à l’obligation de visa pour franchir les frontières extérieures des États membres et la liste de ceux dont les ressortissants sont exemptés de cette obligation afin de transférer la République de Moldavie de la liste négative (annexe I) à la liste positive (annexe II). La base juridique de la politique commune en matière de visas est l’article 77, paragraphe 2, du traité sur le fonctionnement de l’Union européenne. Lors de la séance de LIBE, les interventions se sont concentrées sur le chemin fait par la Moldavie vers la libéralisation du régime des visas en tant que bon  exemple pour les autres pays tiers qui aspirent à la liste positive.

 Les listes annexées au règlement susmentionné doivent être régulièrement révisées et examinées au cas par cas au regard de divers critères liés notamment à l’immigration clandestine, à l’ordre public et à la sécurité ainsi qu’aux relations extérieures de l’Union avec les pays tiers, tout en tenant compte également des implications de la cohérence régionale et de la réciprocité.

 La situation actuelle de la Moldavie. La proposition de la Commission de dispenser les citoyens de la Moldavie de l’obligation de visa découle des progrès considérables réalisés par la Moldavie durant les trois ans et demi de dialogue sur la libéralisation du régime des visas. Lors du sommet du partenariat oriental, qui a eu lieu à Vilnius en novembre 2013, la Moldavie a paraphé son accord d’association avec l’Union européenne en tant que premier pays du partenariat oriental à satisfaire l’ensemble des exigences mises en place par son plan d’action concernant la libéralisation du régime des visas, ce qui a permis de consolider ladite libéralisation.

 «Un effort assez important a été fait par la Moldavie ces dernières années en ce qui concerne la mise en œuvre de réformes importantes et dans le processus de construction des institutions» a commenté Mme Fajon. La Moldavie a suivi une perspective européenne claire, comme définie par son plan d’action de libéralisation des visas, et en tant qu’ un des éléments les plus cohérents des relations entre la Moldavie et l’UE.

 L’importance de la libéralisation du régime de visas pour tout un chacun est considérable, puisqu’elle présente des avantages concrets pour les citoyens moldaves, dont beaucoup détiennent déjà un passeport roumain. Malgré la situation géopolitique de la Moldavie, les difficultés internes importantes, les récentes évolutions dans son voisinage, l’Union européenne reste une alternative attractive pour ce pays. Par ailleurs, l’Union européenne a la possibilité réelle d’envoyer un signal politique fort à la Moldavie et d’aider à transformer la vie de millions de personnes, et outre à indiquer aux autres pays tiers la voie vers le régime de libéralisation de visas. La Moldavie se consacre à exemple pour les autres pays du partenariat oriental. 

 La suppression de l’obligation de visa réduira le temps d’attente devant les consulats et les coûts associés à un déplacement dans l’espace Schengen. Elle facilitera les contacts entre les peuples, condition essentielle au développement régulier de liens économiques, culturels, scientifiques et autres et intensifiera les contacts entre les peuples. Le déplacement sans visa incarne en lui-même la liberté de mouvement, qui constitue l’un des principes fondamentaux de l’Union européenne. Dans ce contexte, le processus d’approfondissement des relations entre l’Union européenne et la Moldavie contribuera assurément à l’exercice de la justice et au respect des libertés fondamentales.

 Sans aucun préjudice pour ce qui concerne la situation de facto de l’État séparatiste de Transnistrie, Mme Fajon a souligné que le règlement de la question de la Transnistrie ne constitue pas une condition à la libéralisation du régime de visas, cette dernière bénéficiera aux citoyens qui sont titulaires d’un passeport biométrique de la République de Moldavie, et la perspective européenne de ce pays contribuera au règlement pacifique de la question de la Transnistrie.

 Par conséquent, compte tenu des relations de plus en plus étroites entre l’Union européenne et la Moldavie, qui vont au-delà d’un simple partenariat et s’acheminent vers une intégration économique progressive et un approfondissement des relations commerciales, compte tenu du renforcement de la coopération politique par le biais de l’accord d’association, de l’accord actualisé visant à faciliter la délivrance de visas, accord qui a été correctement mis en œuvre par la République de Moldavie, étant donné aussi les résultats positifs du dialogue en matière de visas, et compte tenu de la récente adoption de la clause de suspension via la modification du règlement (CE) n° 539/2001, et étant donné que la Moldavie a supprimé l’obligation de visa pour l’ensemble des citoyens de l’Union européenne en 2007, Mme Fajon a accueilli favorablement la proposition de la Commission visant notamment à transférer la République de Moldavie de la liste négative à la liste positive du règlement ci-dessus.

 En ce qui concerne le domaine du passeport biométrique, lors la dernière séance du LIBE, Carlos. Coelho a souligné l’effort fait par la Moldavie dans les derniers trois ans et demi, en réaffirmant que le passeport biométrique ne doit plus être objet d’application pour la Moldavie dans tous les États membres. L’accord, mentionné ci-dessus, a été respecté dans tous ces points et l’examen des droits humains et de l’état de droit a donné un résultat satisfaisant.

 «La volonté générale est cele-ci :élargir le plan pour la libéralisation des visas à tous les pays du partenariat oriental. Cependant, la politique de visa ne peut pas être suffisante à garantir un dialogue ouvert et continu avec ces pays. Il faudrait donc avancer vers une vraie politique d’exonération des visas. En ce qui concerne les citoyens moldaves on trouve certaines difficultés face à la double citoyenneté (beaucoup de moldaves ont en effet déjà pris, il y a quelques années, la citoyenneté roumaine). Il faut donc progresser vers une politique de plus en plus harmonisée dans ce domaine» a dit Mme Jaroka.

 La Commission européenne a souligné de son coté, les efforts faits par la Moldavie et le constant dialogue avec l’UE qui a amené à parler de régime d’exonération de visa. Il faut donc respecter ses engagements en assurant un processus d’adoption rapide au PE. En outre, la Commission a considéré  que la Moldavie respecte tous les 4 blocs du plan d’action pour la libéralisation des visas. Cependant, certains États membres ont exprimé leurs préoccupations pour ce qui concerne les passeports biométriques de troisième génération. Il s’agit en tout cas d’une préoccupation infondée car la Moldavie adoptera prochainement des passeports biométriques de quatrième génération. Enfin il faut spécifier que la technologie des passeports biométriques n’est pas une condition préalable au régime de libéralisation de visa.

 La nouvelle présidence grecque du Conseil s’est limité a souligner les pas en avant faits par la Moldavie à cela s’ajoute l’importance de faire aboutir le dossier dans un bref délai (avant la fin de la législature).

 De son côté  Mme Lunacek a souligné l’importance d’ élargir le plan pour la libéralisation des visas aux pays des Balkans occidentaux, question très sensible et soumise à un calendrier plus long par rapport aux pays du partenariat oriental. Enfin en partant de cet exemple positif donné par la Moldavie on peut élargir le régime de facilitation à tous les pays vertueux.  

 Prochaines étapes.

 Mme Fajon estime qu’il n’est pas nécessaire de présenter des amendements, afin de faciliter un processus rapide et sans heurt d’adoption au Parlement. Elle espère que tout sera mis en œuvre à cet effet, et que le Conseil vise lui aussi le même objectif. La proposition de la Commission devrait donc être adoptée par le Parlement européen et le Conseil avant les élections européennes de mai 2014.

 

 Cesare Tanda

 Pour en savoir plus:

       -. Draft report FAJON on Third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement: (EN) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/libe/pr/1013/1013437/1013437en.pdfFR) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/libe/pr/1013/1013437/1013437fr.pdf

       -. Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement:(EN) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/com/com_com(2013)0853_/com_com(2013)0853_en.pdf (FR)  ttp://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/com/com_com(2013)0853_/com_com(2013)0853_fr.pdf

       -. COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 539/2001 of 15 March 2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement: (EN)  http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2001:081:0001:0007:EN:PDF (FR)  http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2001:081:0001:0007:FR:PDF

 

      -. Article de Nea Say “Moldavie: libéralisation des visas pour 2014? La Moldavie entend rester, après le sommet de Vilnius, le bon élève du partenariat oriental”:

http://europe-liberte-securite-justice.org/2013/12/06/moldavie-liberalisation-des-visas-pour-2014-la-moldavie-entend-rester-apres-le-sommet-de-vilnius-le-bon-eleve-du-partenariat-oriental/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Classé dans:LIBRE CIRCULATION DES PERSONNES, Questions institutionnelles

Funny funds business in the Czech Republic: Prague metro project

Posted by on 13/11/13
By Petr Hlobil of BankWatch The manipulation of a tender for a metro line extension in Prague – financially supported via EU funds and the European Investment Bank (EIB) has not only resulted in a huge EU funds fine, but also raises questions about the EIB’s ability to identify and avoid mismanagement in the infrastructure projects it finances.

EU plans for energy efficiency in urban areas – Transitioning from Concerto to Smart Cities

Posted by on 12/11/13

In my previous post, I have tried to look at means of improving community life by explaining the difference between Norwegian Grants and EU funds, as well as how they can complement each other for a common ideal. For the present one, I’ve decided to continue on the same note and present what those interested in society issues – and energy efficiency specifically – can expect of Smart Cities, EU’s new co-financing initiative for intelligent urban development. For a bit of flavor, I will also give you an update of the general vibe on the CONCERTO conference in Brussels which I have just returned from.

Smart Cities (http://www.eu-smartcities.eu/ ) represents the EU’s support for regions and cities who wish to develop in a sustainable and community-friendly manner. In a sort of indirect way, it is an answer to the fact that cities are responsible for 70% of the EU’s energy consumption as well as to the fact that most Europeans now live in urban areas. In line with the union’s aims on energy and climate change, the Smart Cities Initiative will provide support (both financial and know-how) to three interconnected pillars – buildings, energy networks and transport. So, by combining new building construction ideas with utilizing renewable energy  and low carbon public transport – to name just a few -, the initiative’s planners hope to achieve a 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as to put together the basis of smart management.

Still, Smart Cities is not entirely new as it is a continuation – and, arguably, an upgrade – to the CONCERTO Initiative (http://concerto.eu/concerto/ ) which is now coming to an end. With Concerto, 22 projects in 58 cities were implemented, providing a starting point for the endeavors which are foreseen for Smart Cities. What the EU hopes to do next is to take these projects and multiply them – preferably on a larger scale – drawing more and more partners into cooperation. To support this upgrade, a new Strategic Implementation Plan defining the core activities for the integration of Transport, ICT and Energy technologies – will make it easier for cities to apply for EU instruments.

 

Sometimes the best way to get the pulse of things and get an idea about how things work beyond the EU talk is to be around those who are involved in this business. For this purpose, the CONCERTO Conference on Energy solutions for Smart Cities and Communities which I have just attended in Brussels on the 22nd of October was very interesting for me as a project manager, for several reasons.

First of all, the event was a great opportunity to see what happened with CONCERTO projects and what project managers and EU people alike expect from the recently-started Smart Cities initiative. Albeit delays and other managerial issues, most projects which sought to find really innovative solutions to the way we as communities consume energy, have been completed and people are now hoping to do even more. From my personal observation, at least on the declarative level, the bar has been raised; through its new financial framework, the Commission wishes to see concrete results, which will work not just in small villages, but can be replicated on a large, potentially national scale. To illustrate this, Ireland is a great example. Under Concerto II, the small European country developed a project – Holistic (http://www.concerto-holistic.eu/ ) – whose aim was to showcase how to employ different energy technologies in a smart and integrated manner.  Since its completion, the results demonstrated locally by the project have now become national standards and I personally believe that this is the way to go. What Europe needs now is to move from these small scale projects to something which has regional or national application. If we look at China, for instance, they are doing much better than us exactly because they do things on big scale.

Another great thing about the conference was the fact that it brought together managers from three different project generations – Concerto I, Concerto II and Smart Cities (which only began in 2012). In practice, this meant that all of us could just sit down at the round table and discuss any concern about whichever moment of the project life-cycle. Before meeting the Concerto and EU representatives, we had enough time to discuss financial issues, protocols as well as little issues pertaining to daily management.

 

Overall, the advantages for those who participate in a Smart Cities project are many fold. For a municipality, the key gain would be the chance to have access to cutting-edge technology and infrastructure. Basically, you work with the best people for the best possible outcome. Moreover, half the project’s expenses are paid by the Commission. So, instead of worrying about the limitations of your own budget, you have the possibility to pay less for something which is many times better. This is why initiatives like CONCERTO and Smart Cities are beneficial for society as a whole – they help authorities and people alike.

It would only be fair, of course, to highlight that, as with any other initiative or funding source, there are some less than great aspects which need to be considered.  Smart Cities is an EU initiative which means it will bear the same general administration procedures i.e. bureaucracy. Secondly, and perhaps the first thing that we need to really consider, either CONCERTO or Smart Cities initiatives imply bringing together many stakeholders whose different needs mean putting significant strains on the management process. It can happen that some people would not give their permission to alter their building or some designer will clash with an engineer. It will take a lot of persuasion, diplomacy and patience to make sure everybody is on board for the same goal.

On top of this, problems may arise when, let’s say, a municipality has elections and someone new comes in charge. That person may not know much about the project or may not be interested in the same way. And let’s not forget the economic crisis, which affected the construction segment really badly and caused significant delays with CONCERTO planning. In some cases, like the Stacato project, for instance, delays meant years.

To conclude, I think it is safe to say that, as we move from Concerto to Smart Cities, we are now transitioning to a new stage of EU programmes. Things are not perfect just yet, but there is visible evidence that the direction the EU has taken is generally good and quite a few projects have had results which can be further replicated in less developed areas of the continent. Overall, the efforts to increase participation and dissemination are welcome, but it is time we start thinking big.

Russia continues the ‘trade war’ with Ukraine: problems for transporters

Posted by on 05/11/13

Unfortunately, the failure of the “chocolate war” with Ukraine taught Russia nothing. Now it started a new round of “military operations”: it put forward claims to execution of cargo which crosses the border of Russia by trucks. Although the management of the customs service of Russia is trying to explain the problems on border with Russia by purely technical reasons, the handwriting reveals methods of conducting “operations”. Without the formal notice the Russian side has once again changed requirements to the cargo execution on border and also introduced obligatory cargo insurance – at consciously artificially high and non-market price. As a result, many trucks, loaded with goods for Russia from Ukraine have stopped on border. To renew documents according to far-fetched requirements of the customs service of Russia, they will need time, which will definitely lead to the failure of deliveries of goods to Russia. Already now many Russian distribution networks have started having problems with the range of goods. They counted on goods from Ukraine as their closest partner, but the authorities of Russia thought in a different way. Crazy ideas of “collection of Russian lands” are more important to them than the economic welfare of their population.

The problem is also aggravated by the fact that, unfortunately, not only inhabitants of Russia suffer from this, but Kazakhstan and other CIS countries also go through this. Because cargo from Ukraine got stuck on border with Russia and can’t get to these countries. Such non-friendly steps on the side of Russia once again show that despite all statements and promises the leadership of Russia doesn’t keep its word. It is trying to find new and new barriers to mutually advantageous trade between Ukraine and Russia.

It is easy to guess that all these Russia’s intrigues on the border are the reaction of Kremlin to Ukraine’s desire to independently make decisions about its destiny and move in the direction of the EU.  At present Russia itself is directly linked with the EU countries, as about 57% of all Russia’s export falls within these countries. But at the same time, Russia has got a very negative attitude towards the desire of Ukraine to develop cooperation with the EU. And in hope of disrupting the signing of the Association Agreement of Ukraine with the EU it uses various means, and such illegal ones as well.

The Ukrainian side is trying to quickly solve problems with execution of  Ukrainian cargo on border with Russia.  To solve this problem both the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and customs services of Ukraine, and other competent authorities joined the process. Therefore, there is hope that we’ll manage to solve this far-fetched problem on border more or less quickly.  But there is no guarantee that Russia won’t make up new barriers for the Ukrainian goods.  From the beginning of the trade war between Russia and Ukraine the commodity turnover between the countries has already decreased by 25%. Thus, not only Ukraine suffers, but the Russian side as well. Many Russian companies worked and were focused only on work with Ukraine. Now they are trying to find reserve options, but it is difficult to do it quickly, and often it is connected with new expenses.

Ukraine doesn’t want to tear links with Russia, because current business connections were being acquired over decades, and separate connections remained inherited since the USSR times. And now the policy of the Russia’s leadership, directed at the destruction of these business connections, looks rather weird and illogical. If there is so great a desire to revive a mythical idea of Slavic unity and the Great Slavic Empire with the center in Moscow, then, no problems. But let these geopolitical myths not prevent the economies of Russia and Ukraine from normal functioning. Because Russia obviously forgets that quarrels and creation of artificial barriers on border can push Russia to self-isolation. When even its biggest adherents, like Belarus and Kazakhstan, after observing these non-market actions, will strive not for integration, but for the desire to get rid of such business partner. And then only Russia and Tajikistan, as the country which can hardly live without Russia’s money, will stay in the Customs Union. But this already won’t be a real union any more.

 

Commission unveils key transport corridors

Posted by on 04/11/13

The European Commission recently unveiled its new infrastructure policy, which includes nine key transport corridors connecting key European economic centres and improve east-west connections across the bloc. The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) will connect key airports, seaports, roads and railways to increase productivity and environmental sustainability.

Aviation will play a key role in TEN-T, as 38 key European airports will be integrated into the network with fast rail links to major cities and intermodal freight connections. TEN-T will improve sustainability by ensuring that travelers and shippers can use the most efficient blend of transport modes to reach their destinations. Meanwhile, reducing congestion across the continent will optimise fuel economy.

“Transport is vital to the European economy,” said Commissioner Siim Kallas. “Without good connections Europe will not grow or prosper. This new EU infrastructure policy will put in place a powerful European transport network across 28 member states to promote growth and competitiveness. It will connect East with West and replace today’s transport patchwork with a network that is genuinely European.”

Rail Baltica: What keeps it back?

Posted by on 22/10/13

Will it ever end?

 

The Rail Baltica Project is one of the core projects of the European Union, being part of the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T), and aimed to link Finland with the Baltic States (i.e. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), Poland and Germany. The project has been prepared and developed since 1994, but still the opportunity to get it on track seems uncertain. What are the reasons for such an enduring standstill?

The Rail Baltica project has been recently re-triggered after the initiative and the strong interest of the European Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, an Estonian himself, counting on the benefits that such a plan could not only bring for the the region, but for the European Union altogether. Eurocrats are reckoning for the economic prospects of the railway that is expected to link Norther, Western, and Eastern Europe through the transport of goods, people, and merchandises, thus facilitating exchanges and transactions in the European single market. In addition, and given that the Baltic states are still mantled commercially on Russia, the railway could liberate additional routes of transport and bring the periphery closer to the center.

What is more, the construction plan is expected to boost growth and create thousand jobs, with a considerable number of them taking a permanent character, whereas it can also establish ties and make profits for the European Union through the transit of freight between the Baltic ports, Russia, Central Asia, and China. Above all, behind the idea of the railway, lies a wider perspective for a closer and more competitive market, aligning with the principle of federalism towards a hyperstate Union and a lesser centralized nation-state mindset.

The answer for such a long-lasting standstill can be explained through various prisms. The most important one is that such a railway would dissociate Russia from the Baltic states, still considered to be commercially and economically dependent to Kremlin. Electricity grids are synchronized with the big neighbor whereas gas supply is unilaterally provided by Gazprom. Furthermore, Russia has already discouraged the recaption prospect of the railway by taking preventive measures, as for instance in Lithuania, which has just had its dairy products banned by Russia. Who wouldn’t wage for Russia’s tenuous policy against its neighbors, especially in a period of deep geostrategic divisions and concerns in its backyard? It is certain that Kremlin will not allow the development of Rail Baltica unless the European Union finds a way to compromise with the cost of such a development and, at least, split benefits in both sides.

Another issue of big concern is the efficiency of such a project, given that the existing railways in all three Baltic states are mainly freight-oriented with little passenger traffic. This argument can hardly justify a railway network with advanced speed lines and trains travelling at more than 240 km per hour, especially when the paying-off standard is currently low. In this respect, and considering that the European Union is proposing to fund up to 85% of the estimated cost of 3.7 billion euro, doubts are additionally growing.

All things considered, it goes without saying that apart from the financial cost, the geostrategic balance with Russia, and the concerns over the paying-off, the European Union and the Commission should think broader. The transport demand inside the European Union borders is getting more and more crumbled, as the flight cost increases significantly. The Rail Baltica, as well as the other nine pan-European corridors that are projected should be further developed, as it is certain that they will give a viable alternative for the citizens of Europe to travel in lower cost, but in relatively higher frequency long-term.

ICAO reaches historic global emissions agreement

Posted by on 10/10/13

At its just-completed triennial general assembly, the International Civil Aviation Organization on October 4 reached agreement on a multilateral, global plan to reduce aviation’s impact on climate change. ICAO member states agreed to develop a market-based measure that would apply to aviation by 2020. ICAO will review governments’ plans and approve them at the next assembly in 2016.

The 36-country ICAO council will still have to flesh out the technical details of what such a programme would look like, including monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions.

“This is clearly an historic resolution, showing the leadership of both developed and developing country governments meeting at ICAO in driving to the first comprehensive agreement on climate change for any global sector,” said Paul Steele, Executive Director of the Air Transport Action Group. “It represents significant progress. The aviation industry has been advocating for such a scheme since we developed the first global industry targets five years ago. We now have agreement on a global scheme and a timeline and the building blocks to deliver it.”

The ICAO decision — the first time a sectoral approach to limiting emissions has been agreed — came after the European Union suspended plans to include international flights in its own Emissions Trading Scheme. Other governments, as well as the aviation industry, preferred to operate from a global standard rather than under competing regional carbon regimes, and the European Parliament agreed as long as progress was made at ICAO.

Click here to view more industry resources on market-based emissions measures.

European Parliament narrowly adopts ILUC proposal

Posted by on 01/10/13

The European Parliament narrowly voted on 11 September to cap the use of first-generation biofuels with negative indirect land use change, or ILUC effects. According to the Parliament, first-generation biofuels should account for no more than 6% of the 10% target for renewable energy use in transport by 2020 under the EU Renewable Energy Directive. This vote is expected to speed Europe’s transition to biofuels produced from sources that do not disrupt current land use patterns, such as algae and waste.

By a close 356-327-14 vote, the Parliament advanced a proposal to ensure that advanced biofuels with low ILUC effects account for at least 2.5 per cent of energy consumption in transport by 2020. The Parliament first-reading position also recognizes under the Renewable Energy Directive biofuels derived from bacteria and Carbon Capture Utilisation for transport purposes, which will benefit the aviation sector as well.

The Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (or SAFUG, a consortium of airlines and aerospace firms of which Boeing is a part) has called for policymakers to consider mechanisms to lower the contribution of high ILUC risk biofuels and create incentives for sustainable fuels that have been certified as low risk of ILUC. SAFUG members made a public pledge to promote robust standards for sustainable aviation fuels.

The aviation industry is committed to developing high-efficiency, sustainable advanced biofuels. These fuels can reduce the sector’s carbon footprint, provide a more diverse (and thus resilient) supply of energy, and develop a new, environmentally progressive industry. And as the industry develops these fuels, it is working to ensure they avoid ILUC effects.

On 11 September, the Parliament vote fell two short of providing a mandate to the Rapporteur to negotiate with EU member states, which means that the member states must seek a common position on their own that will need to be reconciled with the Parliament vote if different.

Electric cars will slowly replace internal combustion engine

Posted by on 19/09/13

This year’s Frankfurt Automobile Show has been marked by an impressive presentation of electric cars. New manufacturers like BMW and Volkswagen have entered the fray, with considerable delay, to contest the dominant position of incumbents like Nissan/Renault, Daimler and GM. No major manufacturer can any longer afford not to offer a range of electric cars.

There is still no reason for euphoria, though global sales of electric cars have exploded during the last two years, from 45,000 units in 2011 to 113,000 units in 2012. By the end of 2012 the stock of electric car was no more than a minuscule 0.02%of all cars in circulation on earth, two thirds of which in the US and Japan.

According to the ‘Electric Vehicles Initiative’, which groups the major manufacturers, in 2020, the number of electric cars might reach 20 million units, two per cent of the global stock of passenger vehicles. China, USA, Japan and Europe are expected to be the forerunners.

To reach these numbers:

  • The performance of batteries in terms of weight, cost and range must improve substantially.
  • The charging time must fall much below 4-12 hours for slow charges and 0.5-2 hours for fast charges projected for 2020.
  • The number of charging stations must increase dramatically and; plug-in charging at home and the work place become much easier.
  • The price differential between electrical cars and fuel efficient gasoline cars must shrink substantially.

As long as these conditions are not met, electrical cars will remain a niche market for well-to buyers who can afford an extra city car. But electric cars cannot offer suitable solutions for the crowding/parking problems of modern cities; these must be addressed by public transport, bicycles and e-bikes.

From an environmental perspective, there is no need for an ultra-rapid replacement of the internal combustion engine. Of course, electric cars are more energy-efficient. But as long as electricity is not fully provided from wind or solar sources their impact on C02 emissions will be negligible. Tougher emission and fuel-efficiency standards are far more effective to cope with C02 emissions than a rush towards electric cars.

It is therefore difficult to make an environmental case for purchase subsidies on electrical cars that countries like France and UK offer. It is much more important to invest in the development of batteries with low weight and short charging time.

The trend towards e-mobility will largely depend on the pace towards more expensive gasoline prices, in the wake of rising production costs or much higher gasoline excise taxes in all countries. These perspectives seem far away.

We should be content to see half of the global vehicle stock made up of electric vehicles by the middle of the century. Even that would require extraordinary transformations in the global car industry.

For climate policy, the promotion of electric vehicles should remain a marginal issue. It should focus on raising energy efficiency and generating power from renewable sources.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 15/9/2013

 

L’Italie s’engage à réduire le voitures officielles

Posted by on 04/09/13

Adieu aux Mercedes, aux Audi, aux Jaguar. C’est difficile pour un Italien de renoncer à sa voiture, surtout si ce n’est pas lui a payer de sa poche. Seulement dans l’année 2012, l’Administration publique italienne a depensé pour son parc automobile 1.050 millions d’euro. C’est beaucoup, mais c’est quand même moins qu’en 2011 (-12%).

Mais c’est encore trop, selon le Président du Conseil Enrico Letta, qui a décidé d’interdir soit les nouvaux achats, soit les nouvelles locations.
Les grands commis Italiens seront-ils capables de rénoncer définitivement à la voiture officielle?

Aux administrations publiques il est maintenant interdit d’acheter ou bien de louer pour une année entière de nouvelles voitures. Cela vaut aussi pour les autorités indépendentes (y comprise l’autorité pour la Bourse).

En plus, les administrations devront rester au dessous du 80% de la limite établie l’année dernière: il s’agit, par exemple, des dépenses pour l’achat, l’entretien, l’essence et la location, mais aussi pour les salaires des chauffeurs.

Toute dépense doive être communiquée au Département de l’administration publique de la Présidence du conseil de ministres, qui réalise le recensement des voitures possédées par les ministères, les régions, le provinces, par les universités et cetera.

Le recensement finalisé à la réduction des flottes officielles a été inauguré en 2010 par l’ancient ministre de la Fonction publique, Renato Brunetta (pendant le dernier gouvernement Berlusconi) et a été continué par le ministre Filippo Patroni Griffi pendant le gouvernement technique de Mario Monti. La majorité présidée par Enrico Letta a décidé de suivre cette direction.

Néanmoins, les administrations sont encouragées à abandonner les véhicules, à faire du car sharing ou à prendre l’autobus pour se balader d’un bureau à l’autre.

Autrefois les voitures officielles représentaient pour les dirigeants et pour les hommes politiques Italiens un vrai status symbol. Il y avait aussi ceux qui les utilisaient pour aller voir le match de football. Face à la crise économique, tout a changé et les abus de “la Casta” ont déchaîné l’indignation publique nationale.

Mais il y a aussi des exceptions, comme le nouveau Maire de Rome, Ignazio Marino qu’on peut voir se déplacer exclusivement en vélo entre les rues de la ville éternelle.

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