Given the likelihood that the Covid-19 crisis will still be ongoing in October, the National Economic and Social Council and the Board of the EEAC Network have now decided to opt for a virtual conference format. This format will ensure, regardless of possible public health restrictions, that the 2020 Annual Conference will go ahead. This is important since the crisis has made this conference more important.
The public health crisis is transforming economies, societies, and the environment in ways that cannot yet be fully understood. In the face of what is unprecedented change and uncertainty we believe that Just Transition can, and indeed must, provide guidance and practical support to policy makers across Europe.
By going online, the conference will be held over the three days, from Tuesday 27 October to Thursday 29 October. In this short video address, Dr Larry O’Connell, Director of NESC, shares further details of the online conference. More information about the conference can be found here
Germany started its Presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1st 2020. Rarely have there been so many sustainability related topics on the agenda – plus the opportunity to put the billions of euros earmarked for the coronavirus recovery to transformative use. Therefore, expectations seem high.
However, due to the Covid19 crisis Germany will not be able to execute its previously stipulated Presidency agenda. This raises the question what changes the Covid19 crisis might bring to the agenda, and what the possible risks and opportunities of these changes are. Furthermore, the focus will be on the Presidency’s ambitions regarding issues such as climate change, digitalization, environmental policies and the complex Multi Annual Financial Framework negotiations.
Karsten Sach, Director General International and European Policy at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety provided insight into the Presidency’s agenda during an EEAC exclusive policy briefing. The briefing aimed to inform EEAC members about the focus of the German Presidency of the European Council, with special emphasis on issues related to climate change and environmental and sustainable development policies.
1 July 2020 – Europe can and must do more to improve international passenger travel by rail. This will contribute towards the EU’s environmental goals, will enhance the economic competitiveness of agglomerations and stimulate sustainable tourism. Moreover, the transport sector will need support from the EU to prevent decline in the wake of the current COVID-19-crisis. This support can be used as an incentive for a post-pandemic shift to a more sustainable and efficient mobility system throughout the European Union. Now is the time to support a shift from aviation to trains, specifically for short-haul flights. A European consortium of governmental advisory councils therefore urges the European Commission to take this opportunity to boost international passenger rail.
Lack of international cooperation due to focus on domestic needs
Up until now, the international rail network consists primarily of interlinked national systems which are optimised to meet domestic needs. This pushes the needs of the international traveller to the background. The councils conclude that the lack of international cooperation persists because public authorities, rail carriers and infrastructure managers are primarily held to account for their performance in providing domestic services and to a lesser degree for international services.
Travel info, ticketing and passenger rights
The quality of international travel information and ticketing is below par. Travelers want a single service point and a single ticket for their international train journey. In a short space of time, much can be achieved by providing adequate travel information, simplifying ticketing, and improving passenger rights. To that end, there is urgent need for better EU regulation on travel information and ticketing and the ongoing revision of the EU Regulation on passengers’ rights presents an opportunity to improve just that.
Need for a corridor authority
The councils see a need for an improved international coordination on the main rail links between the major urban centres in Europe. The councils are in favour of an EU regulation establishing an European governance structure for the rail network, as better coordination on this level is essential for improving international rail connectivity. This pan-European initiative could start with international coordination along separate core corridors for passenger transport within Europe: Rail Passenger Corridors. Ultimately, a European corridor authority should be able to supervise and monitor international rail traffic. This authority should also be able to coordinate between public and private rail parties concerned, to accommodate with international rail services in the interests of international rail passengers.
Call for a major boost
The councils call upon the European Commission to give priority to further improvement of international passenger transport by rail. So far the European approach has leaned heavily on stimulating market mechanisms, harmonising regulations and technical standardisation. This has not yet brought about the development of a thriving international rail market. The major boost that is needed implies an increase in political attention, speeding up policy effort and stimulating all parties concerned to improve international passenger rail even further. Better coordination across the European rail network should provide easy accessibility to excellent railservices for international travellers and bring about a huge improvement. However improvements to the speed and connectedness of the network itself are also fundamental. Read More