Suddenly Karel de Gucht is the most talked-about figure in Brussels. The Belgian trade commissioner is very busy. He is trying to finish a free trade deal with Canada; his boss and Obama are pressing for a deal with the US to be next. And then there is China – where the direction is towards less, not more, free trade. The EU has just imposed an anti-dumping 12% tariff on Chinese solar panels, with a threat to go to 47%. In its response, China is trying to play the usual divide-and-rule tactic by threatening tariffs on wine (annoying for the French), and luxury cars (annoying for the Germans).
The European Commission has gone back on a series of commitments to reduce the environmental impacts of road vehicles. T&E says the climbdown carries the fingerprints of lobbying by the automotive industry, but will not help Europe’s car makers in the long term.
EU transport ministers have discussed revisions to the guidelines that govern spending on trans-European transport networks infrastructure projects (TEN-T, soon to be renamed the Connecting Europe Facility), but T&E says concerns remain about how the money will be spent and how the environmental impact of projects co-funded by EU money is accounted for.
T&E has called for the EU to adopt a ‘climate rating’ scheme that would assess all transport infrastructure projects for their contribution to climate change before they are given EU funding. The call comes in the run-up to the review of guidelines for the EU to part-fund transport projects, and has involved T&E commissioning a study that provides the outline of a climate rating system.
Portugal has included the last 600 kilometres of motorways in its toll system, which means that all the country’s motorways are now tolled for all vehicles.
Freight carried by rail is up, in particular in eastern Europe. The figures, from the European railway companies’ umbrella organisation CER, coincide with a report highlighting ‘significant potential’ for a shift to rail to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Voters in central Switzerland have rejected a proposal for a second road tunnel through the Gotthard mountain.