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6.8.  Trans-European Networks in the EU

    A common policy on infrastructure trans-European networks (TENs) is needed for the good functioning of the common market. Indeed, the integration of national markets through the completion of the internal market can only have full economic and social impact, if businesses and citizens enjoy trans-European transport, telecommunications and energy networks, which optimise the use of the various legal instruments governing the operation of this market. With a view to enabling citizens, economic operators and regional and local authorities to derive full benefit from the setting up of an area without internal frontiers, the European Union strives to promote the interconnection and inter-operability of national networks and access to these networks. It takes account in particular of the need to link island, landlocked and peripheral regions with the central regions of the Community (Article 170 TFEU, Article 154 TEC). To speed up the implementation of networks, and to encourage public-private partnerships, the complex national rules and procedures are streamlined in the case of TENs, by having one approval procedure instead of requiring a series of different approvals for each element of the project.

    Article 171 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (ex Article 155 TEC) provides that, in order to foster the completion of trans-European networks, the Union:

    ·         establishes a series of guidelines identifying projects of common interest and providing the objectives, the priorities, the general lines of Community action and coordination with national decisions;

    ·         adopts measures designed to harmonise technical standards;

    ·         supports the financial efforts made by the Member States for projects of common interest, by carrying out feasibility studies and granting loan guarantees or interest rate subsidies;

    ·         contributes to the financing of specific projects in the area of transport infrastructure through the Cohesion Fund.

    The financial instruments, which facilitate the realisation of these networks, are notably the Cohesion Fund [see section 12.1.2], certain actions provided for under the Structural Funds Regulations, the loans of the European Investment Bank and the loan guarantees of the European Investment Fund [see section 12.3]. A Council Regulation lays down the legal rules for the granting of Community financial assistance in the field of trans-European networks [Regulation 67/2010]. It defines the types of aid, the project selection criteria and the procedures for examining, assessing and monitoring applications for funding. It encourages public-private partnerships and risk-capital participation. The Community support to TENs can take the form of contributions to feasibility studies, interest-rate subsidies, loan guarantees and, in duly justified cases, direct grants to investments.

    For transport networks (TEN-T), the emphasis is placed on creating high-level service or utility networks alleviating congestion, namely motorways, high speed trains, the organisation of air space and combined forms of transport [see section 20.2.3]. New or better designed infrastructures should permit: better, safer travel at lower cost in order to improve competitiveness; effective regional planning in order to avoid a concentration of wealth and population; and bridge-building towards Eastern Europe. European guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network provide a general framework setting out objectives ensuring the sustainable mobility of persons and goods under the best possible social, environmental and safety conditions and integrating all modes of transport, taking account of their comparative advantages [Decision 661/2010]. According to the Commission, it is important developing public/private partnerships for the implementation of TEN transport projects [COM/97/0654].

    As regards telecommunications networks (eTEN), the priority objectives are the development of EU wideband networks - called "information highways" - and the creation of telematic networks between government departments - vital for the advancement of information society and for the running of the internal market - particularly in the fields of customs, indirect taxation, statistics and border checks. The Parliament and Council guidelines for trans­European telecommunication networks set up a mechanism by which the Commission, on the basis of a list of common interest projects, establishes a work programme and calls for proposals for individual projects, notably in the context of the eEurope initiative [Decision 1336/97, see section 17.3.5]. The Edicom (Electronic Data Interchange on Commerce) programme facilitates the interoperability at European level of inter-administration telematics networks for statistics on intra-European trade [Decision 96/715].

    For trans-European energy networks (TEN-E), the chief aim is the gradual integration of natural gas and electricity networks, heightening energy supply security of all regions of the Union and ensuring international competitiveness of European firms, which are big consumers of energy [see section 19.2.1]. European guidelines are designed to promote the development of trans-European energy networks and set out the broad lines of action by the enlarged Community in this area [Regulation 347/2013]. Community guidelines are designed to promote the development of trans-European energy networks and set out the broad lines of action by the EU in this area [Decision 1229/2003]. A Commission communication examines the problems of interconnecting natural gas and electricity networks with third countries of the European continent, the Mediterranean Basin, Central Asia and the Middle East [COM/97/0125].

    Joint environmental projects consist of joint action by Member States to devise projects of common interest for protecting or improving the environment, including waste management and water policy.

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