I attended the first Transport Council of the Lithuanian Presidency (the Presidency) in Luxembourg on Thursday 10 October.
The Council held an orientation debate on the proposal amending Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights and Regulation (EC) No 2027/97 on air carrier liability in respect of the carriage of passengers and their baggage. The presidency invited responses to questions posed on compensation for missed connections and whether compensation should be time/distance based or linked to the price of the ticket. I expressed concern that the inclusion of connecting flights in the text would impact negatively upon interlining agreements, reduce regional connectivity, increase capacity problems at airports and place the EU sector at a competitive disadvantage. I stated that the priority should be to agree the 5, 9 and 12 hour trigger points for when compensation is due. The time and distance based approach to compensation should be maintained. I also took the opportunity to make some other points on the proposal – I stressed that extraordinary circumstances should not be limited to 2 flights, and that the provisions should not cover other transport modes.
The Council agreed to the proposed extension until 2024 on the regulation establishing a joint undertaking to develop the new generation European air traffic management system (SESAR).
The Council agreed 3 general approaches on: railway safety; multi annual funding in respect of the European Maritime Safety Agency; and the Galileo GNSS Agency.
On the proposal for a recast directive on railway safety (part of the 4th Railway package), the Commission had originally proposed that the European Railway Agency should undertake all approvals, but the presidency’s compromise proposal included a similar model to the general approach on the recast directive on railway interoperability agreed at the June Transport Council for the issue of the single safety certificate. This included the UK’s proposal to give applicants a choice to use national safety authorities where operations would be restricted to one member state.
The proposal for a directive on multi-annual funding for the action of the European Maritime Safety Agency was agreed following the withdrawal of the remaining reservations.
The proposal for a regulation setting up the European GNSS Agency which will play a central role in improving the governance and management of the EU’s satellite navigations systems, Galileo and EGNOS, was also agreed.
Under any other business, the Commission reported on the outcome of the International Civil Aviation Organisation Assembly in relation to the aviation emissions trading scheme. The Commission noted that the commitment to the development of a global market based measure for agreement by 2016, to be implemented by 2020, was a major success for the EU. I strongly welcomed the commitment to a global market based measure. However, I pointed out that the EU needed to consider next steps in light of the outcome of the ICAO Assembly, and in particular the need to avoid hostile reactions from third countries.
The Commission updated ministers on a developing situation where Russia is likely to commence requesting passenger data from EU airlines from 1 December 2013, and reported on the system for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of greenhouse gas emissions from international maritime transport.
Spain reported on the recent train accident at Santiago de Compostela and will be focusing on the overhaul of standards and technical improvements, as well as assistance to those affected by the accident. Investigation into the accident is currently ongoing.