The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications this afternoon (Thursday November 9) engaged in wide-ranging discussion with Siim Kallas, the European Commissioner for Transport on the priorities for the upcoming Irish Presidency of the European Union in the area of transport.
A former Prime Minister of Estonia, Commissioner Kallas discussed a range of live issues in transport policy, including the EU’s overall transport budget for the coming years, the integration of Europe’s national railway systems and moves towards a functioning common European airspace.
Chairman of the Committee, and South Tipperary FG TD, Tom Hayes says: “Ireland assumes the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in January and our Committee heard a detailed overview from Commissioner Kallas on the policy challenges in the area of transport for the coming six months. We heard that the transport sector contributes about 4 percent to European Union GDP, employing about eight million Europeans directly and a further 12 million in the car industry.
“Coming from Estonia where travel had been restricted in the past, the Commissioner spoke of the principle of free movement of people, goods, services and capital. The Committee agreed the imperative for an effective, efficient and sustainable pan-European transport network to bolster this core EU principle. We heard that a more efficient and flexible use of European airspace, incorporating reforms to existing air traffic control systems, has the potential to substantially reduce airline fuel emissions.
“The Commissioner praised Ireland for its recent record on road safety, though pointed out that progress in cutting the number of fatalities on European Union roads as a whole stalled in 2011. The Commissioner updated the Committee on an initiative to make it easier to curb traffic offences by foreign drivers with cross-border fines being introduced from 2013. EU-wide trends indicate that foreign drivers are more prone to dangerous driving than local drivers, partly due to difficulties in cross border prosecutions.
“Our Committee will play its part in a vibrant parliamentary dimension to the upcoming Irish Presidency, with a meeting of the Chairpersons of the Communications, Education and Transport Committees from across the Union scheduled to take place in June 2013.”