Transport and the Polish Presidency
It is expected by some that Poland’s presidency will be the tenure that is most influential in shaping a post-Lisbon treaty presidency model. Where Spain, Belgium and Hungary have had various problems in setting an agenda that defines the role of the presidency due to various internal issues, it is hoped that Poland will take the reigns and find a new working model. Naturally, finding the path to making a post-Lisbon presidency work involves balancing the priorities of the EU as a whole and the priorities and rights of individual member states. One policy area where this negotiation will be crucial is transport; an area that Poland has already said will be one of the main priorities of its presidency.
One transport policy priority that Poland has suggested that it will focus on is improving TEN-T (transport infrastructure) for freight in the EU. In February 2011 EU transport ministers met to discuss TEN-T and their priorities for its future, particularly in regard to the Lisbon Strategy for Growth, Competitiveness and Employment. According to the Polish delegation, investment in TEN-T will unlock problems associated with regional disparity by helping integration, particularly amongst those countries that joined in 2004. Due to the growth in traffic between Member States being expected to double by 2020, the investment required to complete and modernise a true trans-European network in the enlarged EU amounts to some € 500 billion from 2007 to 2020, out of which € 270 billion would be earmarked for the priority axis and projects.
Improvement to TEN-T will be focused on links between ports, railways and roads for more efficient and productive transportation of freight. Specific projects to improve these links have yet to be announced. This priority is not only focused on EU member states but is also extended to the Eastern Partnership. A hint of things to come is Poland’s recent agreement with Georgia pledging to cooperate in the development of maritime transport, giving each other unlimited access to sea freight services.
Other, more specific, initiatives include targeted improvements to rail services. Poland’s Infrastructure Ministry has hinted that improvements to rail will focus on common signalling problems, missing border crossings and areas where rail demand outstretches rail capacity. The Alps and Pyrenees will both be subject to improvements in rail services. Outside of rail priorities, the Polish presidency will retain its commitment to decarbonisation of European transport. Polish Minister for Infrastructure C. Grabarczyk has also stated that long term transport networks need to be improved whilst minding the infrastructures of each of the member states. For example, a new motorway is to be constructed between Bohimin in the Czech Republic and Gliwize in southern Poland, the first connection between the Polish and Czech motorways.
Poland regards its presidency as an opportunity for greater cohesion in Europe as a whole, often turning its eye towards the Eastern Partnership states. Indeed, improved transport networks is a major component of Poland’s Eastern Partnership Policy. By building better infrastructure between the member states and the Eastern Partnership countries, Poland hopes for greater integration between these states, not only in terms of improvements for passengers but in regard to freight infrastructure, something that will undoubtedly stimulate greater cohesion and economic growth.