European Transport Policy White Paper 2006: a balanced proposal - but a challenging follow-up


Against the backdrop of increasing global and regional challenges, the European Commission 2006 White Paper Mid-term Review proposes a balanced framework for policy-making in the European Union. However, the debate that will follow must respond to the many unanswered questions.

Today, the European Commission published its proposal for a modified transport policy toolbox entitled “Keep Europe Moving – Sustainable Mobility for the European Continent”.

MEP Ari Vatanen, Chairman of the transport policy association Mobility for Prosperity in Europe, welcomes a more pragmatic and balanced framework, which opens new avenues for policy making and public-private partnerships in Europe. Ari Vatanen shares the Commission’s analysis of the need for transport policy adjustments to reflect the competitive pressures of the global economic environment. For the EU to live up to the ambitions of its Lisbon agenda, it will need a modern transport policy giving individual transport modes the freedom to develop their inherent capacities and strengths. Transport operators from each mode would be obliged to compete for customers and to improve their service level. This ensures that citizens reap the benefits of a cost-efficient society.

Ari Vatanen comments: “I welcome this fresh and realistic stance taken by the European Commission. Unlike the 2001 White Paper, with today’s proposal our means are much closer to our noble intentions of simultaneously promoting mobility for citizens and businesses, ensuring a clean environment and achieving a prosperous EU. For this to happen, we must acknowledge the role of road and air transport which, due to their flexibility and cost-efficiency, mostly do not have realistic substitutes.
However, I do regret the existence of some inconsistencies and a lack of clarity in the mid-term review. For instance, modal shift still manages to remain part of official policy - while a serious analysis in the Mid-term review shows it is not possible. Instead, let every transport mode stand on its merits and compete in a non-biased setting. Unjustified favouring of certain modes only leads to inefficiency and massive losses to the taxpayer.
The Commission should also have been much bolder concerning the essential role of road infrastructure, and its financing, including for Member States, thus making clearer that EU taxpayers’ money is invested where promised by the decision-makers. But only the follow-up debate and subsequent implementation will show whether Europe finally puts the money where its mouth is."

The proposals of the European Commission should be boosted by the modern and dynamic approach of the incoming Finnish Presidency, which has already recognised logistics as its top policy priority and as the most competitive, creative and innovative part of the transport profession. The fair and objective treatment of all transport modes could be elevated as the guiding principle for EU transport policy.

To promote taboo-breaking debate, Ari Vatanen is holding a dinner-debate in the European Parliament on July 11th
. Key-note speakers include Mr Matthias RUETE, Director General at the European Commission, as well as Mr Perttu PURO, Finnish Secretary of State for Transport. The media is welcome to take part.