The Coronavirus consists of many different elements: a deadly pandemic, global panic, military standoff, meditation time, social distancing, or, on the contrary, an exercise in solidarity.
However, for me, as EU Commissioner for Transport, it mainly represents a mobility crisis, threatens the intrinsic nature of the global economy.
The disruption caused by the various health restrictions put in place at borders within the European Union are already too well-known to need to go into detail, but what can be said is that it all started with unilaterally closing borders.
This was a natural reaction against a threat we knew little about, but restrictions harm the global economy. It is worth remembering that globalisation began with the Silk Road during the ‘Age of Exploration’ that lasted from the 16th to the 18th centuries.
This was essentially the birth of the business world as we know it. A century later, railroads were the lifelines of prosperity. Back to the present, what might have deteriorated during the last few weeks has actually turned out much better.
“Today, it is a sector that has been severely affected by the crisis. Of course, I, as a Commissioner for Transport, and we, at the European Commission, will use any available tool to help it”
The European Commission has both the prerogatives and the expertise to cope with the mobility crisis, and so we came up with ‘Green Lanes’ - a set of recommendations aimed at easing the circulation of goods across borders.
Much to our satisfaction, Member State governments accepted our initiative with remarkable openness and creativity. They started to implement the initiative as quickly as possible, although it was not, and it could never be, perfect.
However, borders began to reopen, and freight began to circulate again, in were closed. During the next stage, the feedback from national authorities and further innovations on our set of recommendations made it even more operational.
And we have more than one reason to be happy about that. A network of National Contact Points in every Ministry of Transport in each Member State quickly became operational. This could be a long-term project that helps to ensure coordination at EU level, even after the crisis.
We built Green Lanes on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). This is a long-term initiative, launched during normal times, to provide the EU with a vital network of ground, water, and air routes in two stages, until 2030 and 2050.
And even if we are in the middle of a crisis, now is the perfect time to project what can be accomplished when we return to some sort of normality.
“A network of National Contact Points in every ministry of transport in each Member State quickly became operational. This could be a long-term project that helps to ensure coordination at European level, even after the crisis”
Transport is the backbone of Europe’s economy, and restoring mobility will be, indeed, the end of the crisis.
From personal automobiles to urban buses, from cargo aircraft to high-speed trains, from charters taking holidaymakers to the southern islands, every vehicle contributes to a robust economy and a prosperous common market.
I wrote this editorial only a few hours after the European Commission issued its Coronavirus exit strategy. The transport industry used to be one of the most dynamic sectors in the European market. Today, it is a sector severely affected by the crisis.
Of course I, as a Commissioner for Transport, and we, at the European Commission will use every available tool to help the transport sector.
A combination of state aid money and other financial instruments provided to Member States to help support the affected industries will solve the short-term problems.
But for the long-term, the success of these companies will come from their DNA, which originally made them strive to be the best and to become globally prosperous. I think we are entitled to think about such a future.