HL Deb 10 December 1992 vol 541 cc11-3WA
Lord Brabazon of Tara

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the result of the Transport Council held in Brussels on 7th and 8th December.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)

The Transport Council met in Brussels on 7th and 8th December. There was constructive discussion of a very full agenda on aviation, maritime and inland transport issues. On the outstanding measures needed for completion of the Single Market in transport, full agreement was reached on the regulation on airport slot allocation, thus completing the Single Market in aviation; and good progress was made on the liberalisation of road haulage cabotage. This will be discussed further at an additional special Transport Council on 21st December. There was also unanimous agreement on a directive to ensure better information when dangerous and polluting goods are carried into and out of Community sea ports.

Airport slot allocation

The Council agreed a Regulation on airport slot allocation to come into force early in 1993. It will put into place a fair and uniform system for allocating slots at Community airports. The regulation will provide preferential treatment for new entrants on intra Community routes, and also introduces stricter penalties on airlines that fail to use their slots. The Council will review the operation of the regulation after three years. The completion of the Single Market in aviation will assist air travellers across Europe by promoting competition and choice.

Aviation external relations

Useful preliminary discussions took place on the Commission's Communication on Aviation External Relations. There was general agreement that a case-by-case examination will be needed before the Community negotiates collectively with any third country. The forthcoming Danish Presidency agreed to take this forward.

Air traffic control issues

The Council emphasised the importance of co-operation by the Commission with Eurocontrol and the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC). It called for the adoption as soon as possible of the Commission's proposal for a directive on standards for air traffic management (ATM) equipment and systems. It encouraged the Commission to ensure the continuation of the EURET research programme and to make provisions for research to support the development of the future ATM system for Europe, in close co-operation with ECAC and Eurocontrol.

State aids resolution

The Presidency proposed a draft resolution urging tighter control of State Aids in the single market for transport, to which we have attached great importance. This is a matter which lies within the Commission's competence, and the resolution was supported by the Commission. There was support from most member states. But there were objections in principle from certain member states so it was not possible to adopt the resolution. We are hopeful that the matter will be pursued by the Danish Presidency.

Road haulage fiscal harmonisation and cabotage

Further discussions took place on these linked and difficult issues. Good progress was made, but without conclusion. In view of the importance and urgency of these items the Council agreed to adjourn and resume discussions at a further meeting on 21st December, in order to reach agreement before the end of the year because the current transitional scheme runs out on 1st January 1993.

Inland waterways

Agreement was reached on a Commission mandate on the opening of negotations with Danubian countries on inland waterways.

Transit with Slovenia

The Commission reported on the negotiations for a Community transit agreement with Slovenia. The Council was not satisfied that an agreement could yet be initialled.

EC transport infrastructure funding

The draft regulation to succeed the current infrastructure funding regulation had already received political agreement at the October Council. The December Council confirmed this and agreed to re-consult the European Parliament given the considerable differences between this text and the Commission's original proposal.

Dangerous goods at sea

We succeeded in getting unanimous agreement, after three years of Council deliberation, for a directive concerning the carriage of dangerous or polluting goods at sea. This will allow the Community to set in hand a practical scheme compatible with international law, to achieve a better flow of information about the carriage of dangerous and polluting goods into and out of Community ports.

Positive measures for shipping

The Council discussed ways of improving the competitiveness of Community fleets to guide the Commission's future work in this area. Three points were made in particular; state aids should not be mandatory; there was widespread concern that aids distort competition, especially in some countries which could not afford to grant them, and that manning arrangements should be kept as flexible as possible.

Maritime external relations

The Council agreed the Presidency paper which encourages the Commission to produce a strategy and working arrangements for Community action on external relations for shipping.

Maritime safety

There was a useful general discussion on the Community's approach to maritime safety during which the United Kingdom emphasised the importance of achieving the right standards on ferry stability.

Shipping liberalisation

The Commission presented a report which shows that some member states are not complying fully with their obligation under the regulation liberalising shipping between member states and third countries.

White Paper

Commissioner Van Miert presented the wide-ranging Commission White Paper on The Future Development of the Common Transport Policy. The Danish Presidency will take forward discussion of the paper.