Greening of transport must provide realistic alternatives

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In an opinion adopted at its June plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) says that the energy transition must – without denying its objectives – consider the economic and social characteristics of all parts of Europe and be open to an ongoing dialogue with civil society organisations.

The EESC supports the greening of transport, but stresses that the energy transition must be fair and provide viable and realistic alternatives that take account of the specific economic and social territorial features and needs of all parts of Europe, including rural areas.

This is the main message of the opinion drafted by Pierre Jean Coulon and Lidija Pavić-Rogošić and adopted at the Committee's June plenary session. In its assessment of the 2011 White Paper on Transport, which aims to break the transport system's dependence on oil without sacrificing its efficiency and compromising mobility, the EESC takes a firm stand.

Limiting modes of transport is not an option: the aim should be co-modality, not modal shift. In addition, the ecological transition must both be socially fair and preserve the competitiveness of European transport, with full implementation of the European Transport Area, as part of the full implementation of the Single Market. Delays in this respect are regrettable.

Commenting on the adoption of the opinion on the sidelines of the plenary, Mr Coulon said: Curbing mobility is not an alternative. We support any measures aimed at making transport more energy efficient and reducing emissions. Europe is going through a period of headwinds, but this should not lead to changes of course in terms of social and environmental expectations of the various European initiatives.

Continuous consultation of civil society organisations

The EESC encourages an open, continuous and transparent exchange of views on the implementation of the White Paper between civil society, the Commission and other relevant players such as national authorities at different levels, stressing that this will improve civil society buy-in and understanding, as will useful feedback to policy makers and those carrying out implementation.

The Committee draws attention to the importance of securing the support of civil society and stakeholders, including through participatory dialogue, as suggested in our previous opinions on this matter, added Ms Pavić-Rogošić. A good understanding and broad acceptance of strategic goals will be extremely helpful in achieving results.

The EESC also highlights the need for more robust social evaluation and reiterates the statement made in its 2011 opinion on the Social aspects of EU transport policy, urging the European Commission to put in place the necessary measures to ensure the harmonisation of social standards for intra-EU traffic, bearing in mind that an international level playing field is also needed in this respect. Establishing an EU Social, Employment and Training Observatory in the transport sector is a priority.

Monitoring progress in a timely and effective manner

With reference to the evaluation process for the 2011 White Paper, the EESC points out that the procedure was launched late and that the Committee was only involved because it expressly asked to be.

The Commission should have a clear plan for monitoring its strategic documents from the beginning and publish progress reports on their implementation on a regular basis, so that it is possible to assess in a timely manner what has been achieved and what has not and why, and to act accordingly.

In the future, the EESC wishes to continue to benefit from regular progress reports on the implementation of Commission strategies and to contribute effectively to transport policy.

Background

The 2011 White Paper Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system set the paramount objective of European transport policy: establishing a transport system that underpins European economic progress, enhances competitiveness and offers high-quality mobility services while using resources more efficiently.

The Commission has acted on almost all of the policy initiatives planned in the White Paper. However, the oil dependency of the EU transport sector, although clearly decreasing, is still high. Progress has also been limited in addressing the problem of road congestion, which persists in Europe.

Several initiatives in the context of the White Paper have improved the social protection of transport workers, but civil society and research organisations still fear that developments like automation and digitalisation could negatively affect future working conditions in transport.

The needs of EU transport policy are therefore largely still relevant today, in particular in terms of increasing the environmental performance and competitiveness of the sector, modernising it, improving its safety and deepening the single market.

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