As part of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Minister of Infrastructure, Jernej Vrtovec, chaired the meeting of the transport ministers. The meeting focused on all three key legislative proposals for transport under the "Fit for 55" legislative package: alternative fuels in aviation and in maritime transport, as well as alternative fuels infrastructure.
Minister Vrtovec welcomed the fact that the Slovenian Presidency was successful in reaching an agreement with the European Parliament on the directive on the use of hired vehicles. "Freer regulation will improve transport efficiency, contribute to the smooth functioning of the single market and give transport companies more flexibility at times of peak demand. In addition to the benefits for the European economy, the revised regulation also supports our common goal of encouraging more environmentally friendly economy. Hired vehicles tend to cause less pollution as they are usually newer, safer and more environmentally friendly," added Mr Vrtovec.
He also spoke about the Regulation on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure, stating that the Slovenian Presidency had put enormous efforts into this proposal and achieved progress on technical aspects and the level of ambition.
The transition to alternative fuels will greatly contribute to reducing our carbon footprint as fossil fuels will be replaced by alternative fuels from renewable sources with low or no net-greenhouse gas emissions. Nowadays, not enough people buy alternative fuel vehicles as the infrastructure for recharging or refuelling with alternative fuels is limited and very unevenly distributed across the EU. On the other hand, the construction of infrastructure for recharging or refuelling with alternative fuels has been progressing too slowly out of fear of stranded investments as this infrastructure has been used by very few vehicles.
Jernej VrtovecMinister of Infrastructure
Jernej VrtovecMinister of Infrastructure
The Regulation on sustainable air transport and the Regulation on the use of renewable and low-carbon fuels in maritime transport are also integral parts of the legislative package. On the heavily hit aviation industry, Minister Vrtovec emphasised that the recovery of this sector has to proceed in accordance with climate targets, while ensuring air connectivity for EU citizens and a competitive market. "We have to improve the air traffic management system, the implementation of emissions trading mechanisms and especially innovation regarding more environmentally friendly aircrafts and fuels. Sustainable aviation fuels are crucial for the green transition," added the Minister of Infrastructure.
The maritime sector could play a very important role in the EU achieving climate neutrality by 2050. The Chair of the EU transport ministers meeting believes that the main goal of the proposal for the Regulation on the use of renewable and low-carbon fuels in maritime transport is to increase demand for renewable and low-carbon fuels and to ensure their consistent application in the maritime sector, while providing uninterrupted maritime transport and preventing internal market distortions. "Maritime transport is crucial for external and internal trade and the connectivity of the EU. Even though this sector is an important driving force of economic growth and brings about substantial economic and social benefits to the EU, it also influences the environment and human health. Despite the progress made in recent years, the maritime sector is still almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels and is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollutants," Minister Vrtovec stated.
The debate revealed broad support for ambition in the transition to a zero-carbon society, as well as a commitment to fast-tracking the negotiations. In addition to ambitious targets, we also need realistic targets. This will require agreement on some important issues, such as the level of ambitions and targets, deadlines, flexibilities that take into account different starting positions and options, and the specificities of member states. Member states also drew attention to the cost aspects, the investments needed and the instruments for financial and public incentives, as well as to ensuring the competitiveness of the European transport sector in a global context," said Mr Vrtovec.
In the margins of the meeting, the Chair of the EU transport ministers handed over to the European Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, a letter of intent to establish a new Core Network Corridor of the trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) named the Alpine-South-East Corridor, which was signed on Slovenia's initiative by Austria, Croatia, Serbia, North Macedonia and Greece. We signed the letter with the aim of improving infrastructure connections, especially rail links, on the historic link between the Western Balkans and Central and Western Europe. The aim of the initiative is to strengthen cooperation in ensuring the full functionality of the corridor in transport terms, improving cross-border transport and the economic and social cohesion of the region. By putting rail at the forefront, we are pursuing environmental and climate objectives," said Minister Vrtovec.