Speech by Commissioner Vălean
on Tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond
Plenary session, European Parliament
President, Honourable Members,
Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss our vision for the recovery of tourism and transport as we gradually emerge on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic. I am sincerely happy to be back with you!
As the summer holidays approach, it is clear that we need to consider transport and tourism together – how would we physically go on holiday if no trains, boats, planes or cars were moving, or indeed moving cross borders? However, getting the economy moving requires people moving too, and that requires trust and coordination. What we need to offer citizens is clarity, non-discrimination and seamless connectivity.
We all know too well that the transport and tourism sectors have been the hardest hit by the pandemic, and particularly passenger transport. Traffic across modes has been down by at least 80% compared to the previous year.
Transport is a vital enabler for many sectors, including tourism, and ensures the transport of goods that we all depend on. It is - in fact - the backbone of the single market and the economic activity as such. Restoring transport in the EU and beyond must therefore be accelerated, while keeping health requirements in mind.
Our guidelines of 13 May set out a common framework for the progressive and safe restoration of transport services and connectivity. They provide general principles applicable to all transport services, and specific recommendations for each transport mode. We have also proposed guidelines on the safe resumption of tourism services across the entire ecosystem, such as in hotels and restaurants or for tour operators. Additional guidelines were presented for restoring the free movement and for making vouchers more attractive. With these guidelines, we have all necessary tools at hand to restart this important part of our economy as of now, well ahead of the economically so important summer season 2020!
No endeavour can ever be risk-free. However, the EU guidelines, and the protocols developed by our agencies, take all precautionary measures and provide best available practices for reducing risks, all while making the resumption of passenger transport possible. These guidelines should be complemented by widespread information about the measures taken, so that each European can make responsible and well-informed decisions about how to limit health risks while travelling.
Any measures imposed in the transport sector have to be proportionate and risk-based. It is very important that Member States are leaving as of this week the general transport bans or internal border restrictions behind, and favour instead more targeted measures. This means increasing cleaning, using protective equipment, prioritising electronic ticketing, or avoiding crowding in hubs. Cumulatively, these targeted measures can provide the much-needed trust for people to restart travelling.
Because of the unique nature of aviation, the EU Aviation Safety Agency and the European Centre for Disease Control have published additional operational recommendations, based on the Commission’s general guidelines. It clarifies that a number of appropriate measures should be taken. These can, in conjunction with in-built features such as hospital grade filters on-board our European fleets, permit the reduction of risks to acceptable levels.
Acting together is key, since transport is by nature a cross-regional and cross-border activity. It goes without saying that restoring links must always be coordinated. In particular, we need to ensure that any measures applied at points of arrival and departure are mutually acceptable. Otherwise, travel will become prohibitively burdensome, expensive and – in some cases – impossible. In this regard, we will also continue our good cooperation with Member States though our network of transport contact points, established at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in the context of the Green Lanes guidelines.
Safety is not the only thing needed to inspire trust. Trust is also built on precedent, and the precedent we wanted to defend is that consumers shall be protected in the EU at all times. The Commission has been clear throughout the crisis that the right of passengers to reimbursement shall not be restricted. Consumers, especially those who have been hit economically by the crisis, will only get back to travelling for leisure and tourism if they can rest assured that their travel packages and flights are to be reimbursed if cancelled.
In addition to all that, resuming passenger transport and tourism requires business continuity for the sectors. Securing working capital, funding of operations, and public support for businesses to maintain investment pipelines are all vital economic prerequisites for regaining connectivity and building a transport system that is fit for the future. The Commission has therefore proposed a robust and comprehensive package for the recovery of the EU economy.
Although specific economic sectors do not have ring-fenced funding in the recovery package, it is clear that those economic ecosystems, such as transport and tourism will be able to benefit from several funding opportunities. I therefore seek your support in adopting this package swiftly. It provides a unique window of opportunity for funding in transport, tourism, automotive, aeronautics and ship manufacturing, as well as all other industries needed to ensure sustainable, resilient and affordable connectivity for 2020 and beyond. I will devote all my efforts in convincing Member States and private stakeholders in using the EU instruments available, to increase liquidity, and to get firmly on a recovery path.
The Commission’s proposed recovery package to kick-start the European economy contains an array of opportunities for transport under the €1 100 billion MFF, and the €750 billion Next Generation EU.
The Recovery Package includes a reinforced budget for the Connecting Europe Facility, with an additional €1.5 billion for the general envelope, to stimulate further infrastructure investment. It will accelerate the completion of the core TEN-T network, due by 2030. It will stimulate a digital and green transition, with clear priority given to the most de-carbonised modes, rail and inland navigation. And it will accelerate the deployment of clean technologies, such as alternative fuel infrastructure, in line with our Green Deal agenda.
We are also proposing an enhanced InvestEU with an increased budget of €31.6 billion. This will include a new ‘Strategic Investment Facility’ – InvestEU’s fifth window – to support critical infrastructure and the development of resilient value chains, including for new clean technologies that are essential for the transport sector. In addition, the ‘Sustainable Infrastructure Window’ has almost doubled in size, and now has a €20 billion guarantee, can stimulate private investment in sustainable transport infrastructure and fleet renewal.
With a total budget of €560 billion, the Recovery and Resilience Facility can benefit all sectors of the EU economy, including transport. Member States will submit ‘Recovery and Resilience Plans’, by April next year, in order to receive grants or loans. I am sure that investment in sustainable transport systems will be high on the recovery agenda of Member States, as this is mentioned in almost all country reports of the EU Semester, on which the national plans will have to be based.
The Solvency Support Instrument under the European Fund for Strategic Investments will have €26 billion and mobilise additional private capital to support eligible companies in the sectors most impacted by the coronavirus crisis. The Solvency Support Instrument will also offer support through equity funds to those companies in need of a capital increase, especially in those areas where Member State state aid support has not been available.
All of these instruments will continue to support our priorities of sustainability and digitalisation – the focus of our upcoming transport strategy communication. The coronavirus changed a lot, but not the need for smart and sustainable mobility!
80% of the CEF budget for transport is already contributing to climate action. For the entire MFF and Next Generation EU, we proposed an overall target of 25% climate mainstreaming. For transport, it could be even higher.
I would like to conclude by commending you on the European Parliament Resolution highlighting many of the challenges and solutions taken. As we look forward, we are, of course, learning lessons from our experiences over the last few months. The situation was unprecedented, and I would dare to say that we are now wiser and better prepared.