Considerations on COM(2018)438 - Connecting Europe Facility - EU monitor

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Thursday, February 27, 2020

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dossier COM(2018)438 - Connecting Europe Facility.
document COM(2018)438 EN
date June  6, 2018
(1) In order to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and to stimulate job creation, the Union needs an up-to-date, high-performance infrastructure to help connect and integrate the Union and all its regions, in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors. Those connections should help to improve the free movement of persons, goods, capital and services. The trans-European networks should facilitate cross-border connections, foster greater economic, social and territorial cohesion and contribute to a more competitive social market economy and to combating climate change.

(2) The aim of the Connecting Europe Facility (the ‘Programme’) is to accelerate investment in the field of trans-European networks and to leverage funding from both the public and the private sectors, while increasing legal certainty and respecting the principle of technological neutrality. The Programme should enable synergies between the transport, energy and digital sectors to be harnessed to the full extent, thus enhancing the effectiveness of Union action and enabling implementing costs to be optimised.

(3) The Programme should aim at supporting climate change, environmentally and socially sustainable projects and, where appropriate, climate change mitigation and adaptation actions. In particular, the contribution of the Programme to achieving the goals and objectives of the Paris Agreement as well as the proposed 2030 climate and energy targets and long-term decarbonisation objective should be reinforced.

(4) Reflecting the importance of tackling climate change in line with Union’s commitments to implement the Paris Agreement, and the commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, this Regulation should therefore mainstream climate action and lead to the achievement of an overall target of 25% of the EU budget expenditures supporting climate objectives 18 . Actions under this Programme are expected to contribute 60% of the overall financial envelope of the Programme to climate objectives, based inter alia on the following Rio markers: i) 100% for the expenditures relating to railway infrastructure, alternative fuels, clean urban transport, electricity transmission, electricity storage, smart grids, CO2 transportation and renewable energy; ii) 40% for inland waterways and multimodal transport, and gas infrastructure - if enabling increased use of renewable hydrogen or bio-methane. Relevant actions will be identified during the Programme's preparation and implementation, and reassessed in the context of the relevant evaluations and review processes. In order to prevent that infrastructure is vulnerable to potential long term climate change impacts and to ensure that the cost of greenhouse gas emissions arising from the project is included in the project's economic evaluation, projects supported by the Programme should be subject to climate proofing in accordance with guidance that should be developed by the Commission coherently with the guidance developed for other programmes of the Union where relevant.

(5) In order to comply with the reporting obligations set in Article 11(c) of Directive 2016/2284/EU on the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants, amending Directive 2003/35/EC and repealing Directive 2001/81/EC, regarding the uptake of Union funds to support the measures taken with a view to complying with the objectives of this Directive, expenditure related to the reduction of emissions or air pollutants under this Directive shall be tracked.

(6) An important objective of this Programme is to deliver increased synergies between the transport, energy and digital sector. For that purpose, the Programme should provide for the adoption of cross-sectoral work programmes that could address specific intervention areas, for instance as regards connected and automated mobility or alternative fuels. In addition, the Programme should allow, within each sector, the possibility to consider eligible some ancillary components pertaining to another sector, where such an approach improves the socio-economic benefit of the investment. Synergies between sectors should be incentivized through the award criteria for the selection of actions.

(7) The trans-European transport network (TEN-T) guidelines as laid down in Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council 19 (hereafter ‘TEN-T guidelines) identify the infrastructure of the TEN-T, specify the requirements to be fulfilled by it and provide for measures for their implementation. Those guidelines envisage, in particular, the completion of the core network by 2030 through the creation of new infrastructure as well as the substantial upgrading and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure.

(8) In order to achieve the objectives laid down in the TEN-T guidelines, it is necessary to support with priority the cross-border links and the missing links and to ensure, where applicable, that the supported actions are consistent with the corridor work plans established pursuant to Article 47 of Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 and to the overall network development regarding performance and interoperability.

(9) In order to reflect growing transport flows and the evolution of the network, the alignment of the core network corridors and their pre-identified sections should be adapted. These adaptations should be proportionate in order to preserve the consistency and the efficiency of the corridor development and coordination. For that reason the length of the core network corridors should not increase by more than 15%.

(10) It is necessary to promote investments in favour of smart, sustainable, inclusive, safe and secure mobility throughout the Union. In 2017, the Commission presented 20 'Europe on the move', a wide-ranging set of initiatives to make traffic safer, encourage smart road charging, reduce CO2 emissions, air pollution and congestion, promote connected and autonomous mobility and ensure proper conditions and rest times for workers. These initiatives should be accompanied by Union financial support, where relevant through this Programme.

(11) The TEN-T guidelines require, with regard to new technologies and innovation, that the TEN-T enables the decarbonisation of all transport modes by stimulating energy efficiency as well as the use of alternative fuels. Directive 2014/94/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council 21 establishes a common framework of measures for the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure in the Union in order to minimise dependence on oil and to mitigate the environmental impact of transport and requires Member States to ensure that recharging or refuelling points accessible to the public are made available by 31 December 2025. As outlined in the Commission proposals 22 of November 2017, a comprehensive set of measures to promote low-emission mobility is necessary including financial support where the market conditions do not provide a sufficient incentive.

(12) In the context of its Communication 'Sustainable Mobility for Europe: safe, connected, and clean' 23 , the Commission highlighted that automated vehicles and advanced connectivity systems will make vehicles safer, easier to share and more accessible for all citizens, including those who may be cut-off from mobility services today, such as the elderly and disabled. In this context, the Commission also proposed an 'EU Strategic Action Plan on Road safety' and a revision of Directive 2008/096 on Road Safety infrastructure management.

(13) In order to improve the completion of transport projects in less developed parts of the network, a Cohesion Fund allocation should be transferred to the Programme to finance transport projects in the Member States eligible for financing from the Cohesion Fund. In an initial phase and within a limit of 70% of the transferred envelope, the selection of projects eligible for financing should respect the national allocations under the Cohesion Fund. The remaining 30% of the transferred envelope should be allocated on a competitive basis to projects located in the Member States eligible for financing from the Cohesion Fund with priority to cross-border links and missing links. The Commission should support Member States eligible for financing from the Cohesion Fund in their efforts to develop an appropriate pipeline of projects, in particular by strengthening the institutional capacity of the public administrations concerned.

(14) Following the Joint Communication on improving military mobility in the European Union of November 2017 24 , the Action Plan on Military Mobility adopted on 28 March 2018 by the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy 25 highlighted that transport infrastructure policy offers a clear opportunity to increase synergies between defence needs and TEN-T. The Action Plan indicates that by mid-2018, the Council is invited to consider and validate the military requirements in relation to transport infrastructure and that, by 2019 the Commission services will identify the parts of the trans-European transport network suitable for military transport, including necessary upgrades of existing infrastructure. Union funding for the implementation of the dual-use projects should be implemented through the Programme on the basis of specific work programmes specifying the applicable requirements as defined in the context of the Action Plan.

(15) In its Communication "A stronger and renewed strategic partnership with the EU's outermost regions" 26 , the Commission highlighted the outermost regions' specific transport needs and the necessity to provide Union funding to match these needs, including through the Programme.

(16) Considering the significant investment needs to progress towards completing the TEN-T core network by 2030 (estimated at EUR 350 billion during 2021-2027), the TEN-T comprehensive network by 2050 and decarbonisation-digitalisation-urban investments (estimated at EUR 700 billion during 2021-2027), it is appropriate to make the most efficient use of the various Union financing programmes and instruments and thus maximise the value-added of investments supported by the Union. This would be achieved via a streamlined investment process, enabling visibility on the transport pipeline and consistency across relevant Union programmes, notably the Connecting Europe Facility, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund and InvestEU. In particular, the enabling conditions as detailed under Annex IV of Regulation (EU) XXX [Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund Plus, the Cohesion Fund, and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and financial rules for those and for the Asylum and Migration Fund, the Internal Security Fund and the Border Management and Visa Instrument (‘CPR’)] should be taken into account where relevant.

(17) Regulation (EU) No 347/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council 27 identifies the trans-European energy infrastructure priorities which need to be implemented in order to meet the Union's energy and climate policy objectives, identifies projects of common interest necessary to implement those priorities, and lays down measures in the field of the granting of permits, public involvement and regulation to speed up and/or facilitate the implementation of those projects, including criteria for the eligibility of such projects for Union financial assistance.

(18) Directive [recast Renewables Directive] stresses the need to set up an enabling framework comprising the enhanced use of Union funds, with explicit reference to enabling actions to support cross-border cooperation in the field of renewable energy.

(19) While completion of network infrastructure remains the priority to achieve the development of renewable energy, integrating cross-border cooperation on renewable energy reflects the approach adopted under the Clean Energy for all Europeans initiative with a collective responsibility to reach an ambitious target for renewable energy in 2030 and the changed policy context with ambitious long-term decarbonisation objectives.

(20) Innovative infrastructure technologies that enable the transition to a low carbon energy and mobility systems and improve security of supply are essential in view of the Union's decarbonisation agenda. In particular, in its Communication of 23 November 2017 "Communication on strengthening Europe's energy networks" 28 , the Commission emphasised that the role of electricity, where renewable energy will constitute half of the electricity generation by 2030, will increasingly be driving the decarbonisation of sectors so far dominated by fossil fuels, such as transport, industry and heating and cooling and that accordingly, the focus under the trans-European energy infrastructure policy is increasingly on electricity interconnections, electricity storages and smart grids projects. To support the Union's decarbonisation objectives, due consideration and priority should be given to technologies and projects contributing to the transition to a low carbon economy. The Commission will aim at increasing the number of cross-border smart grid, innovative storage as well as carbon dioxide transportation projects to be supported under the Programme.

(21) The achievement of the digital single market relies on the underlying digital connectivity infrastructure. The digitalisation of European industry and the modernisation of sectors like transport, energy, healthcare and public administration depend on universal access to reliable, affordable, high and very high capacity networks. Digital connectivity has become one of the decisive factors to close economic, social and territorial divides, supporting the modernisation of local economies and underpinning the diversification of economic activities. The scope of intervention of the Programme in the area of digital connectivity infrastructure should be adjusted to reflect its increasing importance for the economy and the society at large. Therefore, it is necessary to set out the digital connectivity infrastructure projects of common interest needed to meet Union's digital single market objectives, and to repeal Regulation (EU) No 283/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council 29  

(22) The Communication on 'Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market - Towards a European Gigabit Society' 30 (the Gigabit Society Strategy) sets out strategic objectives for 2025, in view of optimising investment in digital connectivity infrastructure. Directive (EU) 2018/XXX [European Electronic Communications Code] aims inter alia at creating a regulatory environment which incentivises private investments in digital connectivity networks. It is nevertheless clear that network deployments will remain commercially non-viable in many areas throughout the Union, due to various factors such as remoteness and territorial or geographical specificities, low population density, various socio-economic factors. The Programme should therefore be adjusted to contribute to the achievement of these strategic objectives set out in the Gigabit Society Strategy, complementing the support provided for the deployment of very high capacity networks by other programmes, in particular the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Cohesion Fund and the InvestEU fund.

(23) While all digital connectivity networks which are connected to the Internet are intrinsically trans-European, due mainly to the functioning of the applications and services which they enable, priority for support via the Programme should be given to actions with the highest expected impact on the Digital Single Market, inter alia through their alignment with the objectives of the Gigabit Society Strategy Communication, as well as on the digital transformation of the economy and society, having regard to market failures and implementation obstacles observed. 

(24) Schools, universities, libraries, local, regional or national administrations, main providers of public services, hospitals and medical centres, transport hubs and digitally intensive enterprises are entities and places that can influence important socio-economic developments in the area where they are located. Such socio-economic drivers need to be at the cutting edge of Gigabit connectivity in order to provide access to the best services and applications for European citizens, business and local communities. The Programme should support access to Gigabit connectivity for these socio-economic drivers with a view to maximising their positive spill-over effects on the wider economy and society, including by generating wider demand for connectivity and services.

(25) In addition, building on the success of the WiFi4EU initiative, the Programme should continue to support the provision of free, high quality, local wireless connectivity in the centres of local public life, including entities with a public mission such as public authorities and providers of public services as well as outdoor spaces accessible to the general public, in order to promote the Union's digital vision in local communities.

(26) The viability of the anticipated next generation digital services, such as Internet of Things services and applications which are expected to bring significant benefits across various sectors and for society as a whole, will require uninterrupted cross-border coverage with 5G networks, in particular in view of allowing users and objects to remain connected while on the move. However, the cost sharing scenarios for 5G deployment across these sectors remain unclear and the perceived risks of commercial deployment in some key areas are very high. Road corridors and train connections are expected to be key areas for the first phase of new applications in the area of connected mobility and therefore constitute vital cross-border projects for funding under this Programme.

(27) Unconnected territories in all areas of the Union, including in central ones, represent bottlenecks and unexploited potential to the digital single market. In most rural and remote areas, high quality Internet connectivity can play an essential role in preventing digital divide, isolation and depopulation by reducing the costs of delivery of both goods and services and partially compensating for remoteness. High quality Internet connectivity is necessary for new economic opportunities such as precision farming or the development of a bio-economy in rural areas. The Programme should contribute to providing all European households, rural or urban, with very high capacity fixed or wireless connectivity, focusing on those deployments for which a degree of market failure is observed and which can be addressed using low intensity grants. In doing so, the Programme should aim at achieving a comprehensive coverage of households and territories, as gaps in an already covered area are uneconomic to address at a later stage.

(28) The deployment of backbone electronic communications networks, including with submarine cables connecting European territories to third countries on other continents or connecting European islands or overseas territories to the mainland, is needed in order to provide necessary redundancy for such vital infrastructure, and to increase the capacity and resilience of the Union's digital networks. However, such projects are often commercially non-viable without public support.

(29) Actions contributing to projects of common interest in the area of digital connectivity infrastructure shall deploy the technology best suited for the specific project, while proposing the best balance between state-of-the-art technologies in terms of data flow capacity, transmission security, network resilience and cost efficiency, and should be prioritised by way of work programmes taking into account criteria set out in this Regulation. Deployments of very high capacity networks can include passive infrastructure, in view of maximising socio-economic as well as environmental benefits. Finally, when prioritising actions, the potential positive spill-overs in terms of connectivity shall be taken into account, for example when a project deployed can improve the business case for future deployments leading to further coverage of territories and population in areas which have remained uncovered so far.

(30) The Union has developed its own satellite Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) technology (EGNOS/Galileo) and its own Earth observation system (Copernicus). Both EGNOS/Galileo and Copernicus offer advanced services which provide important economic benefits to public and private users. Therefore any transport, energy or digital infrastructure funded by the Programme - that makes use of PNT or Earth observations services - should be technically compatible with EGNOS/Galileo and Copernicus.

(31) The positive results of the first Blending Call for proposals launched under the current programme in 2017, confirmed the relevance and added value of using EU grants for blending with financing from the European Investment Bank or National Promotional Banks or other development and public financial institutions as well as from private-sector finance institutions and private-sector investors, including through public private partnerships. The Programme should therefore continue to provide for dedicated Calls enabling combination between EU grants and other sources of financing.

(32) The policy objectives of this Programme will be also addressed through financial instruments and budgetary guarantee under the policy window(s) [...] of the InvestEU Fund. The Programme's actions should be used to address market failures or sub-optimal investment situations, in a proportionate manner, without duplicating or crowding out private financing and have a clear European added value.

(33) In order to favour an integrated development of the innovation cycle, it is necessary to ensure complementarity between the innovative solutions developed in the context of the Union Research and Innovation framework programmes and the innovative solutions deployed with support from the Connecting Europe Facility. For this purpose, synergies with Horizon Europe will ensure that: (a) research and innovation needs in the areas of transport, energy and in the digital sector within the EU are identified and established during Horizon Europe’s strategic planning process; (b) the Connecting Europe Facility supports large-scale roll-out and deployment of innovative technologies and solutions in the fields of transport, energy and digital infrastructure, in particular those resulting from Horizon Europe; (c) the exchange of information and data between Horizon Europe and the Connecting Europe Facility will be facilitated, for example by highlighting technologies from Horizon Europe with a high market readiness that could be further deployed through the Connecting Europe Facility.

(34) This Regulation lays down a financial envelope for the entire period 2021-2027 which is to constitute the prime reference amount, within the meaning of [reference to be updated as appropriate according to the new inter-institutional agreement: point 17 of the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management 31 for the European Parliament and the Council during the annual budgetary procedure].

(35) At Union level, the European Semester of economic policy coordination is the framework to identify national reform priorities and monitor their implementation. Member States develop their own national multiannual investment strategies in support of these reform priorities. These strategies should be presented alongside the yearly National Reform Programmes as a way to outline and coordinate priority investment projects to be supported by national and/or Union funding. They should also serve to use Union funding in a coherent manner and to maximise the added value of the financial support to be received notably from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Cohesion Fund, the European Investment Stabilisation Function, InvestEU and the Connecting Europe Facility, where relevant. Financial support should also be used in a manner consistent with Union and national energy and climate plans where relevant.

(36) Horizontal financial rules adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on the basis of Article 322 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union apply to this Regulation. These rules are laid down in the Financial Regulation and determine in particular the procedure for establishing and implementing the budget through grants, procurement, prizes, indirect implementation, and provide for checks on the responsibility of financial actors. Rules adopted on the basis of Article 322 TFEU also concern the protection of the Union's budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States, as the respect for the rule of law is an essential precondition for sound financial management and effective EU funding.

(37) The types of financing and the methods of implementation under this Regulation should be chosen on the basis of their ability to achieve the specific objectives of the actions and to deliver results, taking into account, in particular, the costs of controls, the administrative burden, and the expected risk of non-compliance. This should include consideration of the use of lump sums, flat rates and unit costs, as well as financing not linked to costs as referred to in Article 125(1) of the Financial Regulation.

(38) Third countries which are members of the European Economic Area (EEA) may participate in Union programmes in the framework of the cooperation established under the EEA agreement, which provides for the implementation of the programmes by a decision under that agreement. Third countries may also participate on the basis of other legal instruments. A specific provision should be introduced in this Regulation to grant the necessary rights for and access to the authorizing officer responsible, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) as well as the European Court of Auditors to comprehensively exert their respective competences.

(39) The Financial Regulation establishes the rules concerning the award of grants. In order to take into account the specificity of the actions supported by the Programme and to ensure a consistent implementation among the sectors covered by the Programme, it is necessary to provide additional indications as regards eligibility and award criteria.

(40) In accordance with the Financial Regulation, Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 883/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council 32 , Council Regulation (Euratom, EC) No 2988/95 33 ,Council Regulation (Euratom, EC) No 2185/96 34 and Council Regulation (EU) 2017/193 35 , the financial interests of the Union are to be protected through proportionate measures, including the prevention, detection, correction and investigation of irregularities and fraud, the recovery of funds lost, wrongly paid or incorrectly used and, where appropriate, the imposition of administrative sanctions. In particular, in accordance with Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 883/2013 and Regulation (Euratom, EC) No 2185/96 the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) may carry out administrative investigations, including on-the-spot checks and inspections, with a view to establishing whether there has been fraud, corruption or any other illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the Union. In accordance with Regulation (EU) 2017/1939, the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) may investigate and prosecute fraud and other criminal offences affecting the financial interests of the Union as provided for in Directive (EU) 2017/1371 of the European Parliament and of the Council 36 . In accordance with the Financial Regulation, any person or entity receiving Union funds is to fully cooperate in the protection of the Union’s financial interests, to grant the necessary rights and access to the Commission, OLAF, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and the European Court of Auditors (ECA) and to ensure that any third parties involved in the implementation of Union funds grant equivalent rights.

(41) Pursuant to [reference to be updated as appropriate according to the new decision on OCTs: Article 94 of Council Decision 2013/755/EU 37 ] persons and entities established in overseas countries and Territories (OCTs) are eligible for funding subject to the rules and objectives of the Programme and possible arrangements applicable to the Member State to which the relevant overseas country or territory is linked.

(42) The Union should seek coherence and synergies with the Union programmes for external policies, including pre-accession assistance following the engagements taken in the context of the Communication 'A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans' 38 .

(43) When third countries or entities established in third countries participate in actions contributing to projects of common interest or to cross-border projects in the field of renewable energy, financial assistance should only be available if it is indispensable to the achievement of the objectives of these projects.

(44) Pursuant to paragraph 22 and 23 of the Inter-institutional agreement for Better Law-Making of 13 April 2016 39 , there is a need to evaluate this Programme on the basis of information collected through specific monitoring requirements, while avoiding overregulation and administrative burdens, in particular on Member States. Evaluations should be carried out by the Commission and communicated to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions in order to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the funding and its impact on the overall goals of the Programme.

(45) Adequate monitoring and reporting measures including indicators should be implemented in order to report the progress of the Programme towards the achievement of the general and specific objectives set out in this Regulation. This performance reporting system should ensure that data for monitoring implementation of the Programme and its results are collected efficiently, effectively and in a timely manner. It is necessary to impose proportionate reporting requirements on recipients of Union funds in order to collect relevant data for the Programme.

(46) In order to ensure uniform conditions for the implementation of this Regulation, implementing powers should be conferred on the Commission as regards adoption of work programmes. Those powers should be exercised in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council 40 .

(47) In order to adapt, where necessary, the indicators used for the monitoring of the Programme, the indicative percentages of budgetary resources allocated to each specific objective in the transport sector and the definition of the transport core network corridors, the power to adopt acts in accordance with Article 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union should be delegated to the Commission in respect of amendments to Parts I, II and III of the Annex to this Regulation. It is of particular importance that the Commission carry out appropriate consultations during its preparatory work, including at expert level, and that those consultations be conducted in accordance with the principles laid down in the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making of 13 April 2016. In particular, to ensure equal participation in the preparation of delegated acts, the European Parliament and the Council receive all documents at the same time as Member States' experts, and their experts systematically have access to meetings of Commission expert groups dealing with the preparation of delegated acts.

(48) Regulations (EU) No 1316/2013 and (EU) No 283/2014 should, for reasons of clarity, be repealed. However, the effects of Article 29 of Regulation (EU) No 1316/2013, which amends the Annex to Regulation (EU) No 913/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council 41 as regards the list of freight corridors, should be preserved.

(49) In order to allow for the timely adoption of the implementing acts provided for by this Regulation, it is necessary that it enters into force immediately upon its publication.