I attended the final formal Transport Council meeting under the Luxembourg Presidency (The Presidency) on Thursday 10 December 2015.
The council held a policy debate on social aspects in road transport, which also covered broader market objectives. Several member states made it clear that they could not support further market liberalisation without a greater harmonisation of social conditions, however I joined others in calling for a more balanced framework to ensure that social measures do not create barriers to the freedom to provide services. During the debate 2 member states called for an extension of existing licensing rules to bring vehicles below 3.5 tonnes into scope, in order to ensure fair competition. I flagged significant reservations on any such extension due to our concerns over the likely rise in enforcement costs and potential negative impact on road safety.
Under any other business, there were several aviation items, including: a presentation from the commission on its proposed aviation package, published on 7 December, which aims to enhance competitiveness, improve growth and maintain high EU standards in safety, security, environment, social provisions and passenger rights; a presentation from the Netherlands on the investigation into the crash of flight MH17; and information from Bulgaria, together with other member states in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Central European Rotation Group, on the 2016 election to the ICAO Council.
The commission also gave a brief presentation on its State of the Energy Union report encouraging further member state action, in particular calling on member states to start drafting their national energy and climate plans, and updated member states on transport security following recent tragic events. The Presidency encouraged member states to ratify the Luxembourg Protocol, relating to the financing and purchasing of rail rolling stock, and finally, the Netherlands outlined their transport priorities for their upcoming Presidency which include taking forward negotiations on aviation proposals, opening trilogue discussions with the European Parliament on the ports services regulation and completing them on the fourth railway package, and promoting developments in innovative technology.
Following formal council business I attended the lunchtime debate on road safety, which discussed ways in which to reduce fatalities and serious injuries across the EU, and held bilateral meetings with my French and Polish counterparts, as well as thanking the Luxembourg minister for their very competent presidency.