Transport, telecommunications and energy are EU policies of key importance, which aim to promote long-term economic growth, increase employment and improve the quality of life of consumers. Often these have a direct impact on the life of European Union citizens, when it comes to public road safety, traveller rights, international mobile roaming fees, e-public administration or energy security. The EU strives to promote harmonious and sustainable development of infrastructures since this is crucial to the smooth functioning of the internal market and to the Union's economic and social cohesion.
The Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council usually assembles the Ministers of Transport, Telecommunications or Energy every two months and the formation depends on the items on the agenda of the Council. The Council passes legislation in an ordinary legislative procedure together with the European Parliament.
The European Single Market cannot function without efficient transportation flows. The transport policy of the EU contributes to the free movement of persons and goods by road, rail, air, inland waterways and sea. The objective of European regulations is to abolish the barriers of international transport in the EU. The EU transport policy defines the rules of competition in the different transport segments in order to secure an equitable Single Market, offering equal opportunities for all. However due to the reluctance of the Member States, this can only be realized gradually and with compromises. By today, it has been possible to define the fundamental rights of travellers at the European level in all the four large transportation segments (air, inland waterways and maritime, rail, and bus), which protect their interests in case of cancellation, delays, and accidents with special regard to persons with reduced mobility. Besides completing the work of establishing a single transport market, the future transport policy also focuses on issues related to sustainable mobility. The Council wishes to provide a European transportation framework that optimizes energy consumption, travel time, routes and conditions. The objective is a viable and innovative transport system that is economic, sustainable and safe.
Telecommunications and information society
The development of the information society has definitive importance for sustainable economic growth. Therefore the EU places the emphasis on opening national telecommunications markets and removing differences that hinder the competition between Member States. Research and investment necessary for new information and communication technologies require substantial financing. The EU has set a few priorities in the field of telecommunications: a Europe-wide integrated telecommunications network, abolition of regulatory inconsistencies among the Member State concerning tariffs, standards and market access conditions, as well as the defragmentation of national markets. The latest relevant comprehensive strategy of the EU is the European Digital Agenda, which has set the objective of providing benefits to every citizen of the EU by assisting them in using more efficiently the IT and communication tools that shape our everyday lives. The objective of this horizontal action plan, which covers other sectors also, is – among others –for everyone to have high-speed internet access and to acquire the digital knowledge and skills required. The EU also plans to create a digital single market, where – regardless of national borders – every commercial and cultural service could be accessible. Beyond this the Council also pays attention to affordable prices, the protection of personal information, mobile and internet network security and also the fight against illegal activities.
A new EU competence in the area of energy
One of the preconditions for sustainable European economic development is the security of energy supply. In the case of energy issues the EU was for a long time only able to act in the framework of market liberalization measures, even then on very fragile legal foundations. The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty has now created a new EU competence. The objective of the EU energy policy is to ensure the functioning of the energy market, to guarantee the security of supply within the Union, to promote energy efficiency and energy saving, to develop new and renewable energy sources and to interconnect energy networks.
PRIORITIES OF THE HUNGARIAN PRESIDENCY
During the Hungarian Presidency several strategic issues will be at the centre of attention that will define the directions of the European energy policy for the next decade: prominent among them is the Energy 2020 medium-term energy strategy for the period 2011-2020, the blueprint of the integrated European energy network (energy infrastructure priorities until 2020 and after) and the Energy Efficiency Plan 2020.
One of the prominent events of the Hungarian Presidency will be the thematic energy meeting of the European Council on 4th February 2011 in Brussels. The Hungarian Presidency will endeavour to have the summit to concentrate on energy security which is important for the entire Union from an economic, social and political point of view. Agreeing with the position of the President of the European Council, the Hungarian Presidency will aspire to ensure that the European Council provides firm political guidance on the promotion of pan-European interests, urgent infrastructure investments and the abolishment of technical obstacles that still exist in national regulations. Guidance issued at the Energy Summit can give a decisive impetus to future development of green technologies and can lay down new and efficient frameworks for reliable, transparent and suitable regulated partner cooperation with the most important producer and transit countries.
Energy 2020 Strategy
As a result of the second strategic energy policy overview, the European Commission has adopted the ten-year Energy 2020 Strategy, the main objective of which is to create an energy efficient Europe, an integrated pan-European energy market, to strengthen consumer protection aspects and to provide the highest level of security possible. It also aims to extend the leading international role of Europe in the field of energy technology and innovation, as well as reinforcing the external dimensions of the EU energy market. The Energy 2020 fits well into the framework of the long-term strategy adopted earlier by the European Council, which aims to establish a low carbon-dioxide intensity Union, by setting the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050. The so-called interim document published by the Commission in May 2010 envisages that the fossil energy import dependency of the EU will remain constant, energy use and prices will increase after the passing of the crisis, therefore it wishes to encourage energy investments. At the centre of the energy strategy will be the definition of tangible – internal and external - energy policy measures aimed at implementing the 20-20-20 integrated energy-climate strategy.
Infrastructure priorities and energy efficiency
The blueprint of the integrated European energy network identifying energy infrastructure priorities with the aim of building a single electricity and gas market wishes to continue network and infrastructure development and to eliminate network bottlenecks. During the course of this, the European Commission will build on the experience of the Trans-European Energy Networks policy (TEN-E) and the European Economic Recovery Plan. The review of the TEN-E policy and financial regulations and the publication of new legislative proposals setting forth tangible financial funds are expected in the second half of 2011. The Hungarian Presidency would like the Council to discuss the blueprint on infrastructure priorities in an integrated manner with other energy policies in order to define the guidelines of future project financing.
In relation to energy efficiency the Commission is expected to submit a proposal on the future directions of the EU’s energy efficiency policy and will later submit concrete legislative proposals (directives on directive on energy end-use efficiency and energy services, as well as cogeneration support). It is the objective of the Hungarian Presidency to start the negotiations on the Action Plan for European Energy Efficiency.
Trans-European transport networks
Debate on the most important principles of EU transport policy for the next ten years will commence during the Hungarian Presidency based on the comprehensive policy proposals of the White Paper of the European Commission. It is the objective of the Hungarian Presidency to ensure that enough emphasis is given to efficiency, environment protection, cohesion and that financial considerations are taken into account in the strategy for the next ten years and during the review of the directive on trans-European transport networks (TEN-T). An informal Ministerial Council will be held in February 2011 to discuss the issue of the TEN-T, which is closely related to the future of European transport. Hungary would like to initiate a preliminary debate for guidance before the proposals of the European Commission are published in June.
Single European railway area
The Hungarian Presidency will pay particular attention to the directive on a single European railway area and will do everything it can to take the negotiations on the directive further, since the measures to be introduced can strengthen the role of environment friendly railways in transportation through increasing competition and efficiency. Hungary plans to adopt Council conclusions on the midterm review of the NAIADES program aimed at promoting inland waterway transport. The topic is linked to the envisaged Danube-region Strategy, one of the priorities of which is to develop environment friendly inland waterway transport.
The Hungarian Presidency will make efforts to ensure that the Council comes to an agreement with the European Parliament during the second reading to amend the directive on charges for heavy goods trucks using the road network (the “Eurovignette” directive). The regulation could make it possible for some of the negative environmental impacts caused by heavy trucks to be compensated in the road charges by integrating the 'external costs' of road transport into toll prices.
European Digital Agenda and network security
IT and communication technologies play a more and more important role in our everyday lives. Reflecting on this the European Commission issued the European Digital Agenda as part of the EU 2020 strategy, which supports economic recovery and increased competitiveness with horizontal measures and a comprehensive action plan that spans across sectors. The Hungarian Presidency will continue to be committed in implementing the strategy; the so-called Digital Assembly will be organized for the first time in June 2011 to discuss the implementation of the action plan with all the interested stakeholders. Apart from this, the European Commission is expected to prepare the first digital scoreboard on the implementation of the European Digital Agenda, which will provide an overview about the results achieved during the first year and the main performance objectives.
The other slogan for Hungary in the field of info-communication is security. More and more attention has to be paid to network security in order to prevent attacks that threaten the operation of the info-communication networks. The Hungarian Presidency will work to successfully conclude the talks on the modernization of the European Network and Information Security Agency. Hungary will organize a Ministerial conference in April 2011 on issues related to the critical information infrastructure protection.
The third priority area beside strategy and security is spectrum. There are only limited radio frequencies available, yet there is more and more need for them, when we use mobile telephones or mobile internet. Therefore it is very important that we make efficient and forward-looking use of them in a world where mobile communication and frequencies in general have great significance. The Hungarian Presidency wishes to continue the talks on the first European Radio Spectrum Policy Program and will attempt to achieve political agreement. The other important element in this field is global spectrum harmonization. Therefore the Hungarian Presidency plans to start preparatory work on the 2012 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-12) in order to present common European interests.