Innovative financing opportunities for transport and reforming the European rail sector - EU monitor

EU monitor
Thursday, November 21, 2019
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Source: V. (Violeta) Bulc i, published on Friday, April 29 2016.

Last week I took part in a regional conference on the investment plan for Europe in Ljubljana. Together with the Vice-President of the European Investment Bank Pim van Ballekom we presented the opportunities offered by the 315 billion Euro investment plan.

In particular, we focused on the possibilities for financing transport projects within the European Fund for Strategic Investment. The first day of the conference focused on the cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkans in promoting transport cooperation and discussing the challenges and opportunities for financing of transport infrastructure. The second day was dedicated to the European Found for Strategic Investment, which provides powerful tools for facilitating the mobilisation of public and private financing for infrastructure projects. If Europe wants to remain competitive on a global scale, we should not only focus on the public funds, but we need more investment and partnerships with private investors. With events like this we want to give the ministers and states much needed information on how to properly access such funds. In the last 8 months, we have seen 80 billion Euros worth of investments in Europe, of which 5 billion was in the area of transport. These funds were mainly invested in Italy, Spain, UK, France and Germany, leading to the creation of 68.000 new jobs in Western Europe. However, in Central and Eastern European region, such projects are almost non-existing. We need to develop the abilities to attract these new financing mechanisms in this part of Europe as well. They should be used not to further deepen the gap between Western and Eastern Europe, but to bridge it. The capital is available, however Central Europe and Western Balkan is facing a big lack of well-prepared projects to attract these funds. We need to combine different financing instruments and, besides exploiting public funds, focus on attracting private investors. I hope that we will start to see this potential and learn to use the available financing instruments to further develop the region.

This week, the European Parliament adopted technical provisions on the 4th Railway Package, a set of measures to deliver better quality and more choice in railway services in Europe. The technical pillar will promote common EU rail standards and approvals, contributing to a fairer and deeper internal market. The European Railway Agency will now be one stop for issuing vehicles authorisation and safety certificates, which means 20% shorter procedures leading to a 500 million € savings by 2025. The new rules will replace a large number of redundant national rules - currently there are over 11.000 national rules concerning the railway sector in the EU. 4th railway package is designed to revitalise the rail sector and deliver better quality service and more choice to passengers. This agreement opens a new chapter for European railways. For too long, the rail sector had no incentives to adapt to consumer demand. The gradual opening of the market will force the rail companies to become more competitive and offer new services. Citizens will reap the benefits of more efficient, user-friendly and cost-effective railways. More frequent service and new business models such as 'low-cost rail' should allow people to travel at affordable prices. It will also create new investment opportunities and foster job creation in the sector. Besides convenience for passengers, this also means less pollution and CO2 emissions. When railways become more attractive, everybody wins.

Prior to the 4th Railway Package vote in the European parliament I also met with the US Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx. We spoke about smart cities, connected and automated vehicles, aviation and decarbonisation.

Inovativne priložnosti za financiranje prometnih projektov, prenova evropskega železniškega sistema in srečanje z ameriškim prometnim ministrom

Minuli teden sem se v Ljubljani udeležila regijske konference o naložbenem načrtu za Evropo. Na njej sva skupaj s podpredsednikom Evropske investicijske banke Pimom van Ballekomom predstavila delovanje Junckerjevega investicijskega načrta, vrednega 315 milijard evrov. Posvetila sva se predvsem možnostim financiranja prometnih projektov v okviru Evropskega sklada za strateške naložbe (EFSI). Prvi dan konference smo namenili sodelovanju med EU in Zahodnim Balkanom, predvsem investicijskim priložnostim, ki se v tej regiji pojavljajo. S prometnimi ministri Zahodnega Balkana smo se pogovarjali o čezmejnih prometnih projektih in načinih ter novih priložnostih za njihovo financiranje. Drugi dan pa smo posvetili predstavitvi evropskega sklada za strateške naložbe, ki v kombinaciji z zasebnimi vlagatelji ponuja veliko priložnost za financiranje projektov prometne infrastrukture. Če se želi Evropa v svetovnem merilu konkurenčno razvijati, so potrebne naložbe in partnerstva z zasebnimi investitorji, ne samo zanašanje na javna sredstva. Zato poskušamo s podobnimi dogodki in angažiranjem dati ministrom in državam vse potrebne informacije, kako do teh sredstev dostopati. V zadnjih osmih mesecih je bilo v EU zbranih novih 80 milijard evrov, od tega 5 milijard za področje prometa, investirani pa so bili v Italiji, Španiji, Angliji, Franciji in Nemčiji. S tem je bilo v zahodni Evropi ustvarjenih 68000 novih delovnih mest, v naši regiji pa takšnih projektov skorajda ni. Tudi v tem delu Evrope bomo morali razviti sposobnosti za uporabo novih mehanizmov za financiranje. Začelo me je skrbeti, da se bo zaradi tega razvojni razkorak z zahodom še povečal. Z novimi sredstvi ne bi smeli povečevati razlik med državami, ampak jih manjšati. Kapital za financiranje je na voljo, toda v Srednji Evropi in na Zahodnem Balkanu primanjkuje dobro pripravljenih projektov, ki bi ga pritegnili. Potrebno je kombiniranje instrumentov, zato moramo poleg dobrega izkoriščanja javnih sredstev pritegniti tudi več zasebnih naložb. Upam, da bomo spregledali ta potencial ter inovativne načine financiranja, ki so na voljo, znali izkoristiti za razvoj regije.

Evropski parlament je ta teden potrdil tehnična določila za četrti železniški paket, sklop ukrepov za boljšo kvaliteto storitev in več izbire na evropskih železnicah. Določila bodo oblikovala skupne evropske železniške standarde, kar bo pripomoglo k bolj poštenemu in povezanemu skupnemu trgu. Za varnostne certifikate in avtorizacijo nove opreme bo sedaj skrbela evropska agencija za železniški promet (ERA), kar pomeni 20% hitrejše postopke in 500 milijonov € prihrankov do leta 2025. Nova pravila bodo zamenjala veliko število nacionalnih pravil, ki zadevajo železniški sektor - trenutno jih je v EU več kot 11.000 - kar bo močno olajšalo poslovanje. Četrti železniški paket odpira novo poglavje za evropske železnice. Železniški sektor predolgo ni imel spodbude za prilagajanje na povpraševanje potrošnikov. Konkurenčni pritisk novih udeležencev na trgu bo uveljavljene prevoznike prisilil, da se prilagodijo in se bolj posvetijo potrebam potrošnikov. Koristi teh novosti pa bodo želi potniki. Pogostejši vlaki in novi poslovni modeli, kot na primer nizkocenovni prevozniki, bodo ljudem omogočili cenejša potovanja. Sporazum bo prav tako ustvaril nove priložnosti za naložbe in spodbujal ustvarjanje delovnih mest v tem sektorju. Nazadnje pa je treba Evropejce spodbuditi, da pogosteje uporabljajo železnico in tako prispevajo k čistejšemu okolju. Privlačnejše železnice bodo v korist vsem.

Pred glasovanjem o četrtem železniškem paketu v Evropskem parlamentu pa sem se sestala tudi z Anthonyijem Foxxom, ameriškim ministrom za promet. Pogovarjala sva se o pametnih mestih, povezanih in avtomatiziranih avtomobilih in razogljičenju.