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Commissioner Kinnock calls for increased action on the trans-European networks

In a press conference held on 21 November 1995, Neil Kinnock, European Commissioner responsible for transport policy, presented the Commission's latest progress report on the trans-European energy, telecoms and transport networks. The Commissioner took this opportunity to urge...

In a press conference held on 21 November 1995, Neil Kinnock, European Commissioner responsible for transport policy, presented the Commission's latest progress report on the trans-European energy, telecoms and transport networks. The Commissioner took this opportunity to urge European governments to increase their financial commitment to the development of the trans-European networks (TENs) and warned Member States that without new formulas for extra financing the trans-European transport, telecoms and energy links would never become a reality. Mr. Kinnock pointed out that new research has shown that the socio-economic benefits of the TENs projects are even greater than previously calculated. A study of the Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam-London (PBKAL) high speed rail project has shown that Member States are seriously underestimating the international socio-economic benefits of the TENs projects. Early results of analysis of other projects show a similar under-evaluation. With regard to funding, Mr. Kinnock urged national governments to consider: - The encouragement of public/private partnerships; - The creation of project authorities; - Public equity investment through the European Investment Fund. He also stressed that "a combined and coordinated effort to build the TENs networks will produce greater benefits than the fragmented, traditional approach". Traditionally, the public and private sectors have not worked together on infrastructure projects. Their cooperation is crucial now because such projects cannot be funded from the public purse alone and the Community budget earmarked by Member States is not big enough. Already, Member States have put in requests for almost six times the available funds to finance more than 500 projects. The Commission has drawn up a multi-annual framework for the financing of the 14 priority projects covering public, private and Community funding. Analysis of this, based on figures provided by the Member States, shows severe financing problems for two projects in particular: - The Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam-London high speed train; - The high speed train between Paris, Strasbourg and Germany (HST-Est). Since 1993, the Community has spent more than ECU 5 billion on the trans-European transport network, including ECU 182 million from the Cohesion and Structural Funds in 1995, ECU 6.4 billion lent by the European Investment Bank, and ECU 160 million guaranteed by the European Investment Fund. This has contributed to adding or upgrading 2,000 kms of railways and 2,500 kms of road. Out of the 10 energy priority projects being financed by the Community (ECU 4.35 billion), five natural gas projects are presently under construction, as is one electricity project. In 1995, particular progress has been achieved on the natural gas projects in Spain and Portugal. Since 1993, the Community has contributed ECU 775 million in grants, almost ECU 1.4 billion in Community loans, as well as guarantees for ECU 380 million from the European Investment Fund. A number of connections with third countries have also been developed. The CENTREL electricity grid involving Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary will be linked up to the UCPTE grid (the main European electricity grid) this year. Community-funded studies are now looking at extending this grid to the Balkan countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In telecommunications, spending from the Community budget, since 1993, has amounted to more than ECU 300 million, of which a substantial part has gone to TENs projects. Preparatory action is underway in the form of feasibility studies and pilot projects, costing ECU 22 million, in the areas of EURO-ISDN (Integrated Service Digital Network), health care, teleworking, education, applications for small and medium-sized enterprises and desktop/multimedia services.

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