Trans-European transport network could create up to 10 million jobs
EU funding for transport projects will help better connect cities and regions and boost job creation, growth and sustainability, writes Violeta Bulc.
One of the EU's objectives is the creation of a trans-European transport network (TEN-T), enabling citizens and businesses to make the most of a borderless Union.
To achieve this, the EU provides financial assistance to projects across the TEN-T network, through the connecting Europe facility (CEF). Over €24bn are available for such projects throughout the 2014-2020 period, compared to around €8bn for 2007-2013.
On 29 June, I had the honour of announcing the largest investment plan ever implemented by the EU for transport, allocating €13.1bn to 276 projects under the CEF. It will then unlock additional public and private co-financing, amounting to a total of over €28bn. This came after evaluating over 700 funding applications, requesting €36bn.
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This unprecedented level of interest allowed us to select the best and most mature projects; it also proved that European Commission President Jean- Claude Juncker was right in saying that investment is lacking in Europe. Through the European fund for strategic investments - better known as the 'Juncker plan' - and other instruments such as the CEF, the EU is working hard to bridge this gap.
As European transport Commissioner, I am delighted to see that my portfolio is delivering on one of the Commission' top priorities: boosting investment to generate favourable conditions for the creation of jobs and growth. A recent Commission study suggested that completing the TEN-T could create up to 10 million jobs by 2030.
Let me now turn to the projects. When evaluating the 700 applications we received, we submitted them to a set of four broad criteria: relevance, maturity, impact and quality.
This was done so that we could select those with the highest European added value. We also assessed the need to overcome financial obstacles.
At the end of the process, we retained some 'landmark' projects, such as Rail Baltica (€442m), the Fehmarnbelt rail link between Denmark and Germany (€589m), the Brenner base tunnel (€1b) and the Seine-Nord waterway (€979m).
Beyond these projects, the CEF's rationale is also to fund smaller actions that directly benefit people's daily lives.
Studies on enhanced integration of urban transport into the TEN-T in Paris, the completion of the Greek rail network and the construction of an expressway linking Poland to Lithuania will all receive CEF funding. Regardless of their size, all of these projects are essential to completing the TEN-T network and reaping its full economic benefits.
By filling in the missing links and removing bottlenecks, the projects we selected will allow alternative modes to better compete with road when it comes to transporting passengers and goods. Intelligent transport systems and alternative fuels also contribute to our sustainability agenda. For this reason, funding has also been allocated to projects implementing these two horizontal priorities.
For example, around €43.5m has been allocated to actions promoting liquefied natural gas (LNG) deployment in the maritime sector. With UN climate change summit COP21 just months away, the EU is demonstrating that through targeted investments, transport can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The CEF is also an instrument of solidarity. As suggested by the Commission's transport scoreboard, some member states - mainly in central and eastern Europe - are still lagging behind in terms of infrastructure quality.
The CEF aims to close this gap. To do so, more than €11bn out of the €24bn available for 2014-2020 have been earmarked for countries eligible to the cohesion fund.
These countries will also benefit from a higher EU co-financing rate - up to 85 per cent - meaning that national governments only need to finance a residual share of the projects to unlock EU funding.
The list I presented on 29 June has now been approved by member states and officially adopted. Individual grant agreements will now be signed with each project promoter.
Effective implementation is crucial - we cannot afford to waste any more time. In parallel, we will soon launch a new CEF call for proposals, with another €8bn available.
This money will not simply be about rail tracks or new waterways. It will also be about growth, job creation, solidarity and sustainability.
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