The European Union will join its first international organisation for transport after signing an agreement on the accession by the EU to the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) on 23 June 2011 in Bern, Switzerland. By acceding to the convention, the EU automatically also joins the intergovernmental organisation (OTIF) managing that convention. The accession agreement will enter into force on 1 July 2011 and will help to develop the EU's influence on international rail matters.
The establishment and development of a common rail policy has led the EU to legislate on various rail transport matters which are also covered by COTIF. The accession of the EU to COTIF is therefore necessary to enable the EU to exercise its competence in international rail relations where its internal competence has been established. Accession was not only a legal obligation for the EU; but it was also done in the interest of the promotion of rail transport worldwide.
EU accession will provide legal security for other OTIF members entering into rail relations with EU Member States, since the latter may no longer enjoy rights or assume obligations individually vis-à-vis third countries on matters where the EU as a whole is competent.
In practice, EU accession to COTIF will facilitate the development of a uniform legal system applicable to the international carriage of passengers and freight by rail across all the OTIF member countries: the EU, Russia, Ukraine, the Western Balkans, Turkey, and some Middle East and North African countries. All will now benefit from consistent measures and have easier access to EU and OTIF member state markets. By acceding to COTIF, it is anticipated that the respective EU and OTIF legal and technical regimes will gradually converge, benefiting EU and OTIF Member States.