Rail freight - a common priority
One of the challenges Europe has been facing for the past few years is enhancing the competitiveness of its economy. To reach this goal, logistics and transport play a key role. Competitiveness is no longer understood without sustainability. This is why switching from road to rail transport is a key priority for many European regions. This is also why, today, the review of European transport axis is not only relevant, but urgent.
Catalan economic priorities are not different from those of Europe and making railways a priority is especially relevant for our economy. This is why Catalonia has been extremely active in recent debates on how to enhance rail freight across the European Union. In this respect, the inclusion of the so-called Mediterranean axis in the European Commission’s review of the trans-European transport network (probably during the first months of 2011) will be of crucial importance not only for Catalonia, but for the entire Spanish and French Mediterranean regions. From Algeciras to Lyon, the connexion between the south of Spain and France through Mediterranean ports needs to be prioritised. It will ensure the connection of our harbours and industrial centres and thus establish one of the most relevant axes for the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). Due to its political and financial implications, its recognition by the Parliament and the Council as a European priority rail freight corridor would also mean a big step towards the so-called "Great Rail Freight Axis Scandinavia-Rhine-Rhone-Western Mediterranean". This is crucial for a greater competitiveness of the European economy in the framework of the "2020 strategy".
One of the most interesting points of the demand for the inclusion of the Mediterranean coast railway corridor as a priority axis is that it is not only a political initiative, but almost on the contrary: it has been a long term claim from business organisations and civil society. In this sense, the exemplary work being done by the association FERRMED must be acknowledged. Only a quick look at the FERRMED member list makes one realise the importance of the Mediterranean axis: from ports such as Bejaia (Algeria), Rotterdam or Antwerp to companies of all sectors from Sweden to France, including the most relevant commercial and industrial associations throughout the axis.
The inclusion of the Mediterranean rail freight corridor in the European Transport Priority lines during 2011 is therefore a question of great relevance not only for the Catalan but also Spanish and European economies. It is also a great example of a project that unites the political class with civil society and economic stakeholders. It is a priority for Catalonia that I am convinced will be made European in the months to come.
Isabel Yglesias i Julià
Lawyer and officer at the European Commission
“The views expressed are purely those of the writer and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission."