EU funding given to "SEA MOTORWAYS"

May, 26 2004

The European Parliament has adopted new guidelines for the trans-European transport network that include the "Motorways of the Sea" idea, one week after their adoption by the Council of Ministers and some six months after the Commission made its proposal. The new guidelines include a list of 30 priority projects that are declared to be of European interest and are set to receive € 225 bn (US$266 bn) in EU cash. A new mechanism for supporting Motorways of the Sea is one of the new priority projects aiming at concentrating freight flows on a limited number of sea connections to ensure their financial viability while reducing road traffic. The Motorways of the Sea aim to ensure that maritime links between countries isolated for geographical reasons, or affected by road congestion, will be treated with the same importance as land links. However, the UK government is thought to be worried that the initiative is unnecessary and could distort competition in that the project appears aimed at subsidising a limited number of favoured ports. An EC statement says: "The objective is to concentrate freight transport for some key links on a limited number of ports to increase the viability of these links. Member states will be encouraged to jointly to establish trans-national maritime links through tendering procedures to avoid distortion of competition". "The new decision will also allow community financial support through start-up aid. The Motorways of the Sea provide an alternative route to existing bottlenecks such as the congested Pyrenean crossing, and will connect Europe with peripheral countries and island regions and states eg. those in the Baltic Sea region".