Transport for EU Neighbours

The Commission wants to strengthen transport cooperation and further integrate transport market with neighbouring countries to the East and South of the EU.

Its Neighbourhood Transport Action Plan, published this past week, sets out 20 actions to ensure safe transport connections with neighbouring countries.

The new action plan will apply to countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

The Communication sets out actions in five areas: aviation, maritime and inland waterway transport, rail transport, and infrastructure connections.


In the aviation sector, the Communication aims at integrating neighbouring countries on its southern and eastern borders in the European Common Aviation Area, thus, covering 1 billion people. It particularly proposes that:

Negotiations with neighbours for air service agreements will take place, promoting the economic, trade and tourism relations. 

The air service agreements can be concluded provided that the neighbouring country understands the specific conditions and is ready to take over the agreement obligations.

Continuous efforts will be made to reach EU and international levels of aviation safety and security.

EU Member States and several neighbours are members of the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol). According to the Communication, the EU Members should work close with their neighbours in order to achieve common positions in accordance with the EU policy developed in the relevant area. Both parties should also collaborate to reach high aviation safety standards within the framework of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Neighbours will join the Single European Sky.

As part of their integration in the Single European Sky, the neighbouring countries should form or join functional airspace blocks with other EU Member States. By December 2012, EU Member States must have developed 9 functional airspace blocks, managing their air traffic systems in a more efficient way.

Air traffic management systems will be further promoted.

More particularly, the Communication suggests that EU should encourage neighbouring countries that are not currently members of the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research Programme (SESAR) to join in order to be able to modernise their air traffic management systems.

Maritime and inland waterway transport

The Communication points out that 90% of movements of goods between the EU and the rest of the world are going through the sea. It also highlights the fact that both EU and its neighbours acknowledge the importance of a competitive, quality shipping which is based on high level environmental, safety and performance criteria.  It further recommends that actions will be taken so that:

Flag State performance will be improved.

The Communication enumerates the countries that are on the black list of flag state performance and urges them to become Members of the International Maritime Organisation.  It also states that the EU counties will help their neighbours to improve their flag state performance and reach high safety standards.

Neighbouring countries can take part in the European SafeSeaNet and CleanSeaNet services.

SafeSeaNet is a European platform through which a Maritime Data Exchange takes place between Member States’ maritime authorities, while CleanSeaNet is a satellite-based system which monitors for marine oil spill in the European Waters.

Inland navigation will reach high EU and international standards

The Communication highlights that it is important that the EU´s neighbouring countries comply with relevant international conventions to ensure they apply the same levels as the inland navigation safety as well as environmental and social conditions.

Neighbouring countries can participate more actively in the “Blue Belt” of free maritime movement in and around Europe.

The ‘’Blue Belt’’ concept is a concept that was first introduced in 2010 and aims at making it easy to cross European maritime borders as road borders. The new Neighbourhood Transport Action Plan suggests that the administration procedures concerning the short sea shipping will become simpler and that a single administration window will be created to serve the port needs.

The "Motorways of the Seas" concept, which aims to bring a structural change in the organisation of transport, will be better applied.

According to the concept of the Motorways of the Sea, intermodal freight connections between the EU Member States and their neighbouring countries will be further developed.

Road Transport

The Communication underlines that the road transport plays a key role especially regarding trade relations with those neighbouring countries with which the EU shares land borders. However, it is pointed out that the major problems regarding road transport between EU and its neighbouring countries concern the different administrative procedures applied at borders as well as the low levels of road safety in neighbouring countries. It is recommended that the EU will:

Help the neighbouring countries to develop a digital tachograph deployment.

The digital tachograph deployment must comply with the requirements set in the UN Agreement on driving time and rest period rules in international road transport.

Help neighbouring countries to develop and implement actions that increase road safety.

The Communication proposes a number of methods with regard to this issue, such as training, sharing of best practices and promoting better road infrastructure.

Study the potential effect of gradual road market opening with selected neighbouring countries

EU is currently examining the possibility of opening the road market to other neighbouring countries by removing quantitative restrictions and ensuring at the same time high safety standards in road transport services.

Strengthen customs cooperation with Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine to facilitate border crossings

The enforced customs cooperation with these countries will facilitate trade and will ensure the protection of citizens at the EU´s Eastern border, while it will also promote the modernisation of customs infrastructure and procedures.

Enlarge the scope of the Interbus Agreement to include international regular carriage of passengers by coach and bus and extend it to countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy.

The Interbus agreement (Agreement on the international occasional carriage of passengers by coach and bus) cover only occasional carriage passengers. The Communication proposes that the agreement will also include regular passengers which will also come from the neighbouring countries.

Rail transport

According to the new Neighbouring Action plan, the most significant rail freight flows between the EU and its neighbours are East-West. The legal act states that the rail cooperation with neighbouring countries should be further enforced. To this end, the Action Pan suggests that:

The 1520/1524 mm track gauge system in the standards developed by the European Railway Agency (ERA) will be specified.

To reach this objective, the EU will promote technical cooperation with Organisation for the Collaboration of Railways (OSJD) countries through the ERA. Concerning the cooperation with the southern neighbourhood countries, ERA is involving independent experts from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to work on interoperability issues.

The deployment of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) in neighbouring countries will be promoted.

The Communication states that the ERTMS aims to lower the costs of rail traffic and to achieve a wider range of product suppliers.

Neighbouring countries will be encouraged to participate in the activities of the ERA

A study on trans-shipment (from 1520 mm to 1435 mm and vice versa) practices at connecting points with the aim of improving them, including via research activities, should take place.

The Communication highlights that a closer cooperation in this area between the EU and the countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy would be fruitful, ensuring a high safety level and preparing the ground for possible market opening in the future.

The possibility of an opening of the rail market with the ENP countries should be further explored.

So far, the EU shares a large rail market with Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. However, the action plan suggests that further liberalisation should be encouraged.

Infrastructure connections

In this area, the Commission intends to focus on three key elements: defining the networks, prioritising projects and mobilising financing. The proposed actions are the following:

Defining strategic transport networks in neighbouring regions connected to the revised Trans-European Transport network.

In this way, the current Trans-European Transport network (TEN-T) will be extended beyond the EU’s border and connect countries in a specific region. Those networks should promote the regional integration between the countries.

Preparing a potential pipeline of priority transport projects that connect the neighbouring countries with the EU.

In line with this objective, the EU together with the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will encourage the neighbouring countries to launch transport strategies.

Enforcing the Commission's transport cooperation with the International Financial Institutions.

This cooperation will include sharing of expertise and information on financial resources in the transport sector.

Next Steps

The Commission's Action plan will next be presented to the Council and the European Parliament. The Commission will review the implementation of the actions set in its Communication with the enlargement of the European Neighbourhood Policy countries. In October, the new Eastern Partnership Transport Panel will oversee the implementation of the measures to the East.