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European railways: Commission promotes interoperability and competitiveness

railway tracks

The European Commission adopted on 25 January a decision strengthening the certification and authorisation process of lines and trains equipped with the European Train Control System (ETCS). ETCS is the European standard for train signalling and speed control. Deployment of ETCS across key freight and high speed corridors will greatly improve the competitiveness of European railways.

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Costa Concordia: Statement on EU passenger ship safety review

Golden Princess

Siim Kallas, Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport, European Parliament, Brussels, 24 January 2012:

Exchanging our views on maritime safety, following the Costa Concordia accident, our first thoughts are with the victims and I have written to the Italian Transport Minister Corrado Passera to express our condolences about the tragic accident and loss of life.

I also offered the support of the Commission and EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency) to follow and accompany as necessary the rescue, salvage and investigation operations.

While the search and rescue operation continues, we are closely following the preparations to remove the more than 2300 tons of fuel oil on board of the ship and reduce the risk of an oil spill. EMSA has facilitated the use of one of its specialised oil spill response ships, contracted as a stand-by by the specialised salvage company in charge of the fuel removal. The ship has in the meantime arrived on site.

What about us? What about the European Union? What about the European Commission? What about the European Parliament?

First, no panic! We are vigilant, attentive to all weaknesses in our regulations. We are also balanced and reasonable. But safety always comes first.

Second, we have two parallel processes going on. One is the Costa Concordia accident investigation. We are in regular close contact with the Italian authorities and I would like to thank them for the excellent cooperation. When the investigation is completed, we will assess the conclusions and decide what lessons from this concrete case should be learned. The second process is our regular work in updating safety rules in maritime transport including passenger ships.

Passenger ship safety and pollution prevention and control are regulated by a considerably body of international and European legislation. As appropriate for a global activity such as shipping, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) plays a lead role for safety standards. The EU constantly contributes to the regulatory process and transposes, enforces and tops up rules as necessary and possible.

We are not waiting for an accident but independently initiated major policy reviews and updating of safety regulation as precautionary measure; we are doing our job.

Since 2010 the Commission is engaged in a comprehensive review of passenger ship safety legislation: evaluation of the existing legal framework, large scale technical studies, as well as a safety gap analysis.

Our aim is to increase the effectiveness of the safety rules for passenger vessels in domestic voyages and the operational standards of all passenger ships coming to or leaving EU ports. We consider rules improving the stability of passenger ships after damage or collision. We look at registration of passengers and evacuation procedures. In parallel, the Commission will bring forward appropriate proposals to IMO to improve passenger ships standards at international level.

They will cover any lessons we learn from the present accident and I asked, wherever possible, to accelerate work.

This spring, we will start public stakeholder consultations to test findings and possible options. Legislative proposals and accompanying measures are then planned to follow as from after the summer.

The tragic accident of the Costa Concordia sadly illustrates that safety is the first concern in transport. Shipping has an impressive safety track record over the past years, despite intense traffic and fast technological and operational development. But it is this fast development that also requires constant attention from safety experts and regulators.

I sincerely hope we will have your support, as well as that of the Member States, when we will table these forthcoming initiatives, to make shipping even safer.

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Background

Siim Kallas

EU law: Commission acts to ensure that European legislation is fully and properly implemented

In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the European Commission is pursuing legal action against 27 Member States for failing to comply properly with their obligations under EU law. These decisions covering many sectors aim at ensuring proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses. The Commission has taken today 288 decisions, including 9 complaints taking 6 Member States before the European Union's Court of Justice.

What are the different steps in the infringements procedure?

Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE) gives the Commission, acting as Guardian of the Treaties, the power to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations under EU law.

The infringement procedure begins with a request for information (a "Letter of Formal Notice") to the Member State concerned, which must be answered within a specified period, usually two months.

If the Commission is not satisfied with the information and concludes that the Member State in question is failing to fulfil its obligations under EU law, the Commission may then send a formal request to comply with EU law (a "Reasoned Opinion"), calling on the Member State to inform the Commission of the measures taken to comply within a specified period, usually two months.

If a Member State fails to ensure compliance with EU law, the Commission may then decide to refer the Member State to the Court of Justice. However, in around 95% of infringement cases, Member States comply with their obligations under EU law before they are referred to the Court. If the Court rules against a Member State, the Member State must then take the necessary measures to comply with the judgment.

In the specific case of Member States that have failed to implement Directives within the deadline agreed by the EU's Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, the Commission may request the Court to impose a financial penalty on the Member State concerned the first time the Court rules on such a case. This possibility, introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, is laid down in Article 260 (3) of the TFEU.

What happens if a Member State does not comply with Court's ruling?

If, despite the first ruling, a Member State still fails to act, the Commission may open another infringement case under Article 260 of the TFEU, with only one written warning before referring the Member State back to the Court.

If the Commission does refer a Member State back to the Court, it can propose that the Court imposes financial penalties on the Member State concerned based on the duration and severity on the infringement and the size of the Member State. There are two elements:

  • A lump sum depending on the time elapsed since the original Court ruling,
  • And a daily penalty payment for each day after a second Court ruling until the infringement ends.

Who decides on penalties in the end?

Financial penalties are proposed by the Commission and the Court may modify these amounts in its ruling.

What is the Commission's role?

The Commission is the guardian of the treaties. It is his role and obligation to ensure the protection of the public interest. The procedure is governed by the Treaty (steps, time limits). This may involve taking Member States to the European Court of Justice.

The decision to open infringement proceedings against a Member State is taken by the College. This decision is based on accurate and unbiased legal analysis conducted by the Commission services on the documents and information submitted by the parties and on any complaints.

The decisions of the Commission on infringements are collected once a month in an overall process involving different policies. These decisions are made public. For current statistics on infringements in general, see: 

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Commission takes legal action against Bulgaria for failing to fully implement the first railway package

high speed trains

The European Commission decided on 26 January to refer Bulgaria to the European Court of Justice for having failed to implement correctly different parts of the legislation known as the first railway package. This concerns the implementation of the provisions on charges which railway undertakings have to pay for access to the infrastructure.

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Rail: Commission requests Netherlands to completely implement railway interoperability directive

train

The European Commission asked the Netherlands on 26 January to fully implement a directive concerning railway interoperability, which is aimed at enabling the rail sector to compete more effectively with other transport modes. The Netherlands have so far failed to notify the Commission of all measures taken to fully implement directive 2008/57/EC into national law. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If the Netherlands fails to inform the Commission within two months of the measures it has taken to ensure full compliance with EU law, the Commission could refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

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Driving licences: Commission requests Denmark, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and Portugal to adopt measures on driving licences

old driving licenses

The European Commission asked on 26 January Denmark, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and Portugal to adapt their national legislation on driving licences so as to ensure that EU rules can be applicable as of January 2013. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If the four countries fail to inform the Commission within two months of measures taken to ensure full compliance with the Directive, the Commission could refer the case to the European Court of Justices.

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Driving licences: Commission requests Finland and Portugal to adopt measures on driving licences

empty bottle on crashed wind screen

The European Commission decided on 26 January to refer Finland and Portugal to the EU's Court of Justice over their failure to adopt national legislation updating requirements for physical and mental fitness to drive.

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Maritime Safety: Commission requests the United Kingdom to comply with new safety rules and standards for passenger ships engaged in domestic voyages

River passenger boat

The European Commission asked on 26 January the United Kingdom to adopt national legislation to implement the new safety rules and standards for passenger ships to comply with European Union law. If this Member State fails to inform the Commission within two months of the measures it has taken to ensure full compliance with EU law, the Commission could refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

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International meeting discusses how to make European tunnels safer

tunnel safety

Tunnel safety officers from 18 European countries met in Brussels on 18 January to find out how to make road tunnels safer across the European Union. Under EU legislation Member States are required to appoint a tunnel safety officer for each tunnel covered by the directive. These officers are in charge of coordinating all preventive and safeguard measures to ensure the safety of tunnel users and the operational staff. More than forty of them today took part in the second European Forum of Road Tunnel Safety Officers to discuss key priorities, lessons learnt and technical details on carrying out their duties. Participants expressed their whish to continue and to strengthen this fruitful cooperation with the support of the European Commission

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