New transport ‘brooms’ in the EC

New transport ‘brooms’ in the EC – will they sweep away HS2? – By Madeleine Wahlberg

If you want to know something about the politics of HS2 at the European level, then here are some important things this week.

On Tuesday this week the European Parliament will be conducting the hearings to decide who the new European Commissioners will be. If you want background to this process, see here: http://www.elections2014.eu/en/new-commission

The candidate for the Transport and Space portfolio is Maroš Šefčovič and the live transmission of his hearing will be on Tuesday 30 September 2014 at 16:55 our time. You should be able to listen to his interview with MEPs live here: http://www.elections2014.eu/en/new-commission/hearing/20140917HEA64803

MEP’s from across Europe have submitted critical questions about high speed rail that they want him to answer. I hope that at least some of our MEPs will attend the meeting, and at least some of them will have submitted questions on HS2????

So who is this Maroš Šefčovič? Read his CV here: http://www.elections2014.eu/resources/library/media/20140922RES67544/20140922RES67544.pdf

You will note that his background is the Slovak diplomatic service with a particular interest in inter-institutional relations. He has worked in the European Commission (the EU’s ‘civil service’) since 2009 and in 2014 he was elected as an MEP in the Social Democrat group but did not take up his seat. (Presumably he had heard that he was likely to be appointed as a Commissioner instead.) It seems he has no Transport experience.

Maroš Šefčovič will be replacing Siim Kallas (Liberal, Estonian) in the sensitive area of Transport. As the EU pushes its wider transport agenda (such as the extension of EU control over ‘the last mile’ of HSR so that they can extend EU involvement over developments around stations), so relations between the EC and national governments will be critical. Similarly, he will be implementing the highly contested new project bonds as the way to finance transport.

Here is the letter from Junker (the new head of the EC) to Maroš Šefčovič, setting out his job as Commissioner for Transport and Space:
http://ec.europa.eu/about/juncker-commission/docs/sefcovic_en.pdf

And here is a link to the Fourth Railway Package, which gives the policy context for Maroš Šefčovič. It is mostly about expanding the privatisation of rail across all of the EU and it is this document that highlights the gap between what Labour and the rail Unions say they want for UK rail (including HS2) – and what HS2 as part of EU policy has been signed up to by the Government. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/content/20131217IPR31103/html/Fourth-Railway-Pack-lifting-market-entry-barriers-to-improve-passenger-services

Next blog will be on the Hungarian Péter Balázs who has recently been appointed as the Coordinator of the Core Corridor which HS2 forms a part of. He is also an ex-diplomat. Links to him here : http://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/infrastructure/ten-t-guidelines/european-coordinators/peter-balazs_en.htm

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