Brussels up close – transport investments of the future
What MFF do we need? This was the key question in a debate on future EU-wide transport investments, which should be taken into account in the adoption of the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Our colleague Naida Sivsic, who will be working for the Community of European Railways in Brussels until the end of March, was there.
The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) sets the maximum expenditure ceilings for the annual general budgets of the European Union and thus, as a rule, determines for the next seven years how much the EU can spend each year on its various activities. That MFF has recently been at the center of an evening debate organized by the Community of European Railways (CER) and the Bulgarian EU Presidency. Our colleague Naida, currently stationed in Brussels, was there.
The representatives of all EU institutions met at the Brussels Hotel Renaissance and discussed the future financial conditions for EU-wide transport services, in particular for rail freight transport. In her speech, Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport, repeated her request from earlier speeches that the rail sector needs to deliver on its promise to increase its modal share. For the theme of the next MFF – the current financial framework is from 2014 to 2021 – she highlighted four essential elements: EU-added value, the corridor approach including multimodality and collaboration, synergies between the transport, energy and digital sector, and the streamlining of investment to maximize efficiency. Velik Zanchev, vice-Minister of Transport of the Bulgarian government, expressed himself similarly. In his speech, he made it clear that while rail is a top priority for Bulgarian transport policy and is considered a prerequisite for economic growth, environmental protection and social cohesion, many measures still need to be taken to increase the competitiveness of the rail system.
Finally, the panel discussion moderated by CER Executive Director Libor Lochman revealed a common understanding among EU representatives: despite the budgetary constraints that will be imposed on the next MFF, the need to continue investment in rail is crucial for optimal and sustainable mobility in the EU. The discussion also led to the consensus that innovations in the railway sector should also be a priority for the next MFF. These include projects to support digitization and the use of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), as well as research and innovation projects such as Shift2Rail, whose declared goal is to safeguard and strengthen the competitiveness of the European railway industry. Those measures to support rail freight transport are essential as they provide the basis for efficient logistics services, thus ensuring the supply of goods to both businesses and citizens of the EU.