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International relations

The Lisbon Treaty has assigned a stronger role to the EU Commission as regards external representation in matters of shared EU/national competence like transport. As set out in the White Paper on transport of 28 March 2011, the EU will reinforce its international transport cooperation on railway policy. The EU seeks to extend external market rules to its neighbours. To this end, it acceded to the Organization for International Transport by Rail OTIF as of 1 July 2011. The successfully completed negotiation of a West Balkan Transport Treaty will prepare this region for integrating their railways in to that of the EU on the basis of fair competition and mutual access to infrastructure. The EU also promotes its approach globally, including the opening of transport service and product markets, which features in all relevant international negotiations.

The Commission set out its strategies for international relation in its Communication of 7 July 2011 'The EU and its neighbouring regions: A renewed approach to transport cooperation': On the short term, the EU seeks to specify the 1520/1524 mm track gauge system in the standards (technical specifications for interoperability) developed by the European Railway Agency. It will promote the deployment of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) in neighbouring countries as well as the foster the participation of enlargement and neighbouring countries in the activities of the ERA. On the long run, the Commission intends to study trans-shipment (from 1520 mm to 1435 mm and vice versa) practices at connecting points and try to improve them, including via research activities and explore the possibility of an opening of the rail market with the ENP countries. Most importantly the Commission strives to get signed the Transport Community Treaty with the partners of the West Balkans.

Railway policy features prominently in the EU's enlargement policy. By means of the South East European Transport Observatory based in Belgrade, seven regional partners cooperate in the transport domain to prepare for accession to the EU. One of them, Croatia, becomes a EU Member State on 1 July 2013. The Commission adopts progress reports showing the state of integration in the rail policy domain on an annual basis for each candidate and potential candidate country.

The EU represents its Member States on all matters of rail transport policy at UNECE. 37 UNECE Members States signed a Joint Declaration at the ministerial meeting in February 2013. This declaration aims at General Terms and Conditions for Euro-Asian rail freight transport.  Moreover, the Joint Declaration invites to integrate the two European rail transport law systems of OTIF and OSJD.