Safety, rail and the Western Balkans will be the top three transport priorities in the course of the coming six months, under the Slovenian EU Presidency. There is also Galileo, of course, for which a financing solution was found in November 2007. The new Presidency will have to steer to adoption an EU regulation finalising the institutional framework to allow the European satellite-based navigation programme to be placed in orbit. It is hoped that the Transport Council will reach agreement no later than 7 April.

On safety issues, the maritime sector is at the top of the list. The aim is to wrap up the Erika III package presented by the European Commission in November 2005 to strengthen the legislative arsenal against maritime pollution and substandard vessels. Of the 27 proposals making up the Erika III package, five have already been agreed in Council. The Slovenian EU Presidency hopes to secure the Council's political agreement on the last two: the draft directive on compliance with flag state requirements and the draft directive on civil liability and financial guarantees of shipowners, even though debates on these two texts have barely begun. If this advance materialises, the European Parliament would be able to begin its second reading of Erika III.

Ambitions are also high for the rail sector. The Slovenians hope to work out an agreement with Parliament on the package covering the approval and cross-acceptance of rolling stock. Depending on the Commission's calendar (proposals are due in spring 2008), they will probably also initiate work on reducing noise from wagons.


The Presidency will work with the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo) on the integration of transport infrastructure, following the efforts of the High Level Group on extension of the Trans-European Transport Networks, chaired in 2004 and 2005 by former Commissioner Loyola de Palacio. The cooperation framework currently in place - a memorandum of understanding - could be reinforced by means of a treaty that would be binding on the different parties. The Commission could seek a negotiating brief during Slovenia's EU Presidency.

Also on the agenda for the next six months is the resumption of negotiations with the United States on a new Open Sky agreement, which European air carriers hope to be able to use to boost their presence on the American market. The agreement signed...

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