The new president of the EESC's Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN), Baiba Miltoviča, met European Commission executive vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis and set out the section's 2020-2023 work programme, in which green is a priority.
The EU's transport and energy sectors will be vital in post-COVID-19 Europe and can be a driver of the green economic recovery. This common vision was outlined by Baiba Miltoviča, the new president of the Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN) of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice-president of the European Commission, at the inaugural TEN section meeting of 20 November 2020.
A green European recovery
Baiba Miltoviča, who took over as section president from Pierre Jean Coulon, announced the objectives for her new 2020-2023 term of office in forthright terms:
The Green Deal is a clear priority and the core of the Recovery Plan. Indeed, there are high-potential financing opportunities in sustainable projects, technologies and market solutions that can bring direct benefits to citizens and their local areas. Yet it is also true that markets are changing fast, driven by liberalisation, digitalisation and climate policy, and this creates societal concern. In this regard we need to safeguard consumers in energy poverty and vulnerable situations.
For his part, Mr Dombrovskis stressed that the Commission's priorities remained unchanged: to deal with the immediate health issues, to protect people's jobs and incomes and to keep companies afloat.
On the economic side, we urgently need to restore growth, he said,
but we need to be smart and strategic in how we go about it. What Europe needs right now is a sustainable economic recovery. It must be strong, fair and inclusive. And it must prepare us for the challenges of greening the economy and embracing digitalisation.
Referring to the Commission's green ambitions, he added:
Since the green transition lies at the core of our recovery strategy, we are backing it up with solid financial commitments to fight climate change. The EU's recovery package earmarks 30% of funds to support our climate objectives. It is the highest share of the largest European budget ever awarded.
Businesses and consumers, challenges and opportunities
Ms Miltoviča then referred to the market players, saying that businesses were facing financial and operational challenges, pressure on corporate environmental performance and innovations in energy technologies and business models. Meanwhile, consumers needed to navigate between new products and opportunities while handling a growing influx of information and the emergence of new sectors such as electric cars. Against this backdrop, markets looking for elusive profits may forget about the most vulnerable consumers, leaving them at the mercy of state intervention.
In this connection, Mr Dombrovskis called for more economic growth and a stronger single market, and highlighted the need to stay competitive, underlining that these principles fitted very well with the recovery plan and that, given today's crisis, they were more valid than ever.
Smart and sustainable EU transport and energy
As an example, Mr Dombrovskis mentioned the Trans-European Networks for transport (TEN-T), which set out to meet the challenges that Europe faces in smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and help to strengthen the EU's global competitiveness too.
This project aims to modernise and integrate a patchwork of national parts into a smooth-running network that connects the Baltics to the Iberian Peninsula, the Irish Sea to the Black Sea. Rail Baltica is a great example: this high-speed rail link project is important for the entire Baltic region and its largest infrastructure project for the last hundred years.
For her part, Ms Miltoviča pointed out that the TEN section would make a direct contribution, in the 2021 work programme, with an exploratory opinion on the Single European Railway Area and other initiatives to promote safe, innovative and connective transport, including alternative sustainable fuels as well as interoperability and sustainability of European connectivity through the TEN-T. The TEN section also looks forward to seeing the strategy for sustainable and smart mobility and is committed to starting work on key proposals as well as to addressing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the transport system, not least in the civil aviation sector.
She concluded by focusing on the importance of close and fruitful cooperation between the EESC and the Commission:
Our job is to continue the ongoing cooperation with the European Commission on the pillars of transport, energy, information society and services of general interest to ensure in-depth debate with civil society organisations. The active contribution of civil society actors provides invaluable expertise and examples of economic, social and civic situations on the ground.