§ Dr. Strang
The Transport Council met in Luxembourg on 17 and 18 June. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and I represented the United Kingdom.
My right hon. Friend made a statement emphasising the importance the Government attaches to Europe and stressing the constructive approach the United Kingdom would seek to take.
The Council reached political agreement on a Directive to co-ordinate and improve Member States' arrangements for safety inspection of third country aircraft using EU airports. The United Kingdom, supported by Germany, asked for a statement to be entered in the Council minutes making clear that we would have preferred the Directive to apply also to EU aircraft.
The Council agreed conclusions on Community involvement in the EUROCONTROL organisation, which co-ordinates air traffic management arrangements within Europe, and on work towards the creation of a new European aviation safety organisation.
The Council held a further discussion on a draft directive on the levels of heavy goods vehicle taxation and of road user charges for those Member States which levy a specific charge for the use of their motorways. By qualified majority (with Germany opposing) the Council agreed a Regulation which will require new commercial vehicles to be fitted with electronic tachographs when such instruments have been type approved. This was the only item on which the Council took a vote. The United Kingdom secured an amendment intended to ensure that the security of new electronic tachograph products will be properly tested before they are approved for use.
The Council debated road safety, and agreed conclusions which, in particular, encouraged the Commission to take forward ideas on exchange of best practice. The Council also agreed conclusions endorsing a Commission report by the Commission on road transport telematics and inviting further work in this area.
The Council agreed conclusions welcoming a Commission communication on trans-European rail freight freeways, whose aim is to encourage the transfer of freight from road to rail by allowing greater freedom of access by train operators to the Community's rail network.
The Council reached political agreement on a Directive requiring counting of passengers on all sea voyages and the registration of the name, gender and other details of passengers on voyages over 20 miles, subject to certain exemptions and derogations. The Council also reached political agreement on a Directive bringing Community rules on seafarer training into line with the 1995 revision of International Maritime Organisation Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.
The Council held a general debate on a Commission communication on maritime external relations, and agreed conclusions welcoming a Commission report on short sea shipping.
Among other issues raised at the Council were the growth of weekend lorry bans, the Community's aviation negotiations with the US and with central and Eastern European countries, and duty-free sales on travel with in 522W the European Union. On this a number of Member States sought an independent study of the effects of abolition: no undertaking was, however, given by the Commission.