The idea of Trans-European Networks (TEN) emerged at the end of the 1980s in connection with the proposed integrated single market. European policymakers believed that it made little sense to talk about an integrated market, with freedom of movement for goods, persons and services, without providing transportation, energy and telecommunications networks that linked the regions making up that market. Furthermore, they believed that construction of these networks would help spur economic growth and employment.
The legal basis for establishing the TENs can be found in Chapter XV (Articles 154, 155 and 156) of the treaty establishing the European Union. The European Union aims to promote the development of trans-European Networks as a key element for the creation of the internal market and for reinforcing economic and social cohesion. This includes the interconnection and interoperability of national networks as well as access to such networks.
Moreover, the European Commission examined the possible synergies between the three categories of networks (transport, energy and telecommunications) along with methods of funding and potential distribution. The Commission's Communication [COM (2007) 135 final] of 21 March 2007 to the Council and the European Parliament, entitled "Trans-European Networks : Towards an integrated approach", highlighted the significant added-value of the combination of several infrastructures (more efficient use of space, reduced costs and environmental impact), as well as possible synergies between the three types of TENs. The Commission Communication also underlined the potential environmental benefits of integrating TENs.