In the light of the upcoming German Presidency in the Council of the European Union, the ETF has addressed a letter to Andreas Scheuer, Germany’s Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. We pinpoint the issues in the transport sector that are currently of the utmost urgency in the context of the COVID-19 crisis as well as outline our priorities for the future EU transport policy. Together with our German affiliates ver.di and EVG, we are looking forward to cooperating with Germany’s Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure in view of Germany’s presidency.
General Transport Policy
During the German Presidency of the EU, the Commission will present the new sustainable and smart mobility strategy. While we are awaiting a decision from the Commission on whether the schedule for this policy will be kept as planned for the third quarter of 2020, we believe that the main concern at this stage should be to allow the necessary time for a thorough consultation of stakeholders and the Member States.
As the COVID-19 crisis is showing, there are deep cracks in the foundations of the transport sector, and the new EU transport strategy should be able to repair them. The ETF has been advocating for years the need for fairer transport that internalises both environmental and social costs. Acting to establish a fair price for transport is a key element to deter social dumping practices, to set a level playing field between transport modes, and possibly a move towards increased environmental sustainability.
We believe that acting on pricing in transport and focussing on the social dimension rather than pushing for the increased competition should be the founding pillars of the new EU transport policy, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.
In this respect, a robust strategy to boost railways and public transport will be more important than ever. The implications that social distancing policies may have on these sectors must be addressed also at this stage. We have already expressed our appreciation for the Commission’s proposal to make 2021 the European year of rail, which will hopefully be adopted by the Council and the Parliament. Workers and working conditions will have to be at the heart of this initiative.
The effects of COVID-19 crisis on aviation require a united answer at EU and global level. As outlined in a previous statement, these measures should focus on health & safety in the short term and the protection of salaries and jobs in the medium term. The aviation infrastructure, including workers, remains in place until the moment where operations restart after the crisis. To this end, the ETF has called upon the EU institutions to put in place a rescue plan specific to aviation, consisting of direct support for workers as well as conditional financial aid to aviation-sector companies. In this plan, any assistance to companies would be conditional upon adequate protection of their workforce.
COVID-19 crisis has proved that air traffic management services are a critical part of the aviation infrastructure. As such, they cannot be operated on a ‘market-based for-profit model’, as they will unlikely be able to withstand crises such as these without state intervention. Due to the approximate 90% drop in air traffic, ANSPs are also facing a severe cashflow problem. While we support the Eurocontrol initiative to advance some of the air navigation service charges, we are concerned that this is not enough as those loans will need to be reimbursed in the future. At the same time, we need emergency measures with regards to the performance scheme that governs navigation charges because it was never designed to deal with a crisis such as this.
Regarding, Single European Sky (SES), ETF believes that neither institutional actors nor stakeholders have the capacity to deal with such a complex file properly, and we are therefore calling for the postponement of the discussion until after the crisis.
We are calling for a concrete proposal is put forth to the Transport Council for political agreement regarding the designation of ports for safe and fast-track crew disembarkation and crew changes. A proposal is needed to ensure that maritime transport workers (including seafarers, fishers and inland waterways crewmembers) can be relieved and repatriated.
The Mobility Package must be adopted as soon as possible as the new rules guaranteed by this package will allow thousands of lorry drivers to see their families more often and will help restrain unfair competition that brings social dumping. Many drivers, employed via letterbox companies in one country and performing services in another, are left in the dark regarding applicable rules to their employment status. This is addressed by the package.
To view the priorities that we have outlined in full, you may download the letter at your right.