null Regulatory proposals from the Commission for the transport sector

Regulatory proposals from the Commission for the transport sector

Press release 14.05.2020 14.14 fi sv en

Cars on the road (Photo: Juha Tuomi/Rodeo)

On 29 April 2020, the European Commission issued four regulatory proposals for the transport sector with the aim of providing relief to the sector during the COVID-19 epidemic. The proposals will increase flexibility and remove administrative obstacles in road, rail, air, inland waterway and maritime transport.

The Government submitted its communication concerning the proposals to Parliament on 14 May 2020. Due to the urgency of the amending statutes, the Government first submitted a report on the proposals to Parliament on 7 May 2020.

The Government states that Finland considers the EU’s joint measures and the efforts made by Member States to respond to and exit from the COVID-19 crisis necessary.

Regulation on port services

The European Commission proposes a temporary regulation to amend the Port Services Regulation so as to allow the managing body of a port or the competent authority not to levy the port infrastructure charge or to suspend or reduce it or to defer a payment of the port infrastructure charge due. The changes in the port infrastructure charge should be transparent, objective and nondiscriminatory to all port users. The amendment would not concern the arrangement of national port services.

The temporary regulation would remain in force from 1 March to 31 October 2020. The Commission proposal would not require amendments to Finland’s national legislation

The Government emphasises that the Commission proposal differs from the principles of the port services regulation according to which the ports must be financially independent in terms of port infrastructure charges and treat all port users on equal terms. Deviating from the principles may cause market disturbances in the pricing of charges, distort competition between ports and weaken the financial sustainability of ports. However, due to the short-term nature of the measure, the Government can support a model in which ports can voluntarily decide on temporary changes in pricing without interference from the public authorities. The Government can adopt the Commission’s proposal for a temporary amendment of the Regulation.

Maritime and inland waterway transport

The Commission proposes to derogate from the obligation laid down in Council Directive 96/50/EC on professional qualifications in inland waterway transport, which requires the holder of a certificate to pass a medical examination in the following three months after reaching the age of 65 and subsequently every year. The Commission proposes that the obligation to undergo a medical examination be postponed by six months in cases where the obligation should, under normal conditions, be met on or after 1 March 2020, but no later than 31 August 2020. The certificate would remain valid despite this derogation.

As a rule, the Government supports the Commission’s objective of increasing flexibility in the exceptional situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic regarding the certificate requirements in inland waterway transport in terms of medical examinations for persons aged 65 and over.

As a rule, Finland has used the opt-out in terms of EU regulation on professional qualifications in inland navigation and the proposal concerning the Directive 96/50/EC has no direct impact on Finnish legislation or its application. Finland does not apply the Directive 2016/1629/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on technical requirements for inland waterway vessels.

The Commission also proposes extensions to the validity dates in the regulatory package regarding maritime security. According to the proposal, the time limits of certain port security inspections and exercises would be extended, if the inspection or exercise had to be carried out or should have been carried out between 1 March and 31 August 2020. In addition, the proposal provides for a procedure relating to the extension of the time limits.

As regards the extension of the time limits in securing maritime transport, the Government supports the proposal that is necessary in order to ensure the functioning of the transport sector and the continuity of transport services.

Vehicle roadworthiness testing

The Commission proposes derogations from the time limits for periodic roadworthiness tests and the validity of the roadworthiness certificate.

The Government does not consider it appropriate that the time limits for periodic roadworthiness tests and the validity of roadworthiness certificates be automatically extended in all Member States according to the proposal by the Commission. There are considerable differences in the epidemic between Member States and not all Member States have introduced measures on requiring people to stay at home, for example, or other measures that would effectively prevent periodic roadworthiness tests from being carried out. In addition, periodic roadworthiness tests are an important part of ensuring that vehicles are fit for the road and of maintaining road safety. The postponement of the tests has a negative effect on the business activities and employment in the sector.

The possibility of driving vehicles in poor condition also slows down the renewal of the vehicle fleet, which has a negative impact on the achievement of the climate objectives. For these reasons, derogations from the provisions on roadworthiness test deadlines should be possible in an individual Member State only to the extent necessary. Considering the circumstances in each Member State, they should have discretion on the application of the derogation and the opportunity of not applying the Regulation (the so-called opt-out). In this respect, the Government welcomes the Presidency’s trilogue mandate adopted in Coreper, as it includes the use of the opt-out.

Professional qualifications in road transport and driving licences

The Commission proposes temporary changes to the professional qualifications in road transport. The periodic training requirement for professional drivers in road transport could be carried out with a delay of six months, if the expiry date was between 1 March and 31 August 2020. In this case, the validity of certificates of professional competence shall be extended accordingly.

Driving licences that would expire between 1 March and 31 August 2020 would continue to be valid for six months from the expiry date indicated on the driving licence.

The Government is in favour of the Commission proposal for a regulation on professional qualifications and driving licences in road transport. Initially, the Government would have preferred national flexibility in laying down provisions on the derogations, but can accept the Commission’s proposal, taking into account the fact that swift consideration and adoption of the proposal in the EU seems likely. The Government considers the trilogue mandate adopted in Coreper good, as it includes the possibility for national discretion on driving licences.

The Government supports the proposals and considers it important that the regulations enter into force as soon as possible, because in the current COVID-19 pandemic administrative flexibility is necessary to ensure the functioning of the transport sector and continuity of transport services.

Railway transport

The Commission proposes that the timetable for the implementation of the directives in the technical part of the fourth EU railway package be postponed by three months (until 16 September 2020). In addition, Member States have proposed that the implementation schedule be postponed until the end of 2020. As of 16 June 2019, Finland has already nationally implemented the directives included in the fourth EU railway package. So in this respect, Finland does not need the proposed additional period of three months or longer.

The Commission also proposes that the validity of safety certificates of railway operators, safety authorisations of infrastructure managers, licencea required from railway undertakings and licences and complementary certificates of train drivers operating locomotives be extended by six months, if the licences, authorisations and certificates are due to be renewed or their validity is to expire between 1 March and 31 August 2020. Flexibility is also proposed for the provisions concerning financial stability of the operator which is a licence requirement.

Air transport licences

In order to ease the administrative burden, the Commission proposes more flexibility in extending certain licences, bans and agreements concerning air transport and ground handling when these are due to the COVID-19 crisis. The aim is to ensure continuity of activities.

Relationship between the Commission’s proposals and the proposed temporary amendments to national legislation

In terms of the proposals, it should be noted that a government proposal has been issued to Parliament suggesting, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, exemptions to the professional qualifications in road and railway transport and to medical certificates to be presented in connection with the renewal of the driving licence. The derogations in the Commission’s regulatory proposal differ to some extent from those presented in the Government proposal.

In order to avoid conflict and interpretation problems, the Ministry of Transport and Communications has submitted to the Parliament Committee a supplementary response proposing rejection of the legislative proposal amending the Driving Licence Act and deletion of three sections from the legislative proposal on transport services. The Transport and Communications Committee has adopted the report on the government proposal.

What are the next steps?

On 5 May 2020, the working groups of the Council of the European Union started to discuss the European Commission’s proposals.

The aim is that the proposals be approved by the European Parliament and the Council as soon as possible.

The negotiating mandates of the Council for negotiations with the European Parliament were confirmed at Coreper on 8 May 2020. The negotiating mandate allows a Member State not to apply the derogations concerning driving licences, roadworthiness tests, tachographs and transport licences, if it considers that the national situation does not require the application of the derogations.

A vote on the proposals is scheduled for the plenary session of the European Parliament on 14 May 2020, after which the EU Council is to adopt the regulations by written procedure.

Inquiries:

Maija Mansikkaniemi, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 34 2016

Professional qualifications and driving licences: Sini Wirén, Director of Unit, tel. +358 295 34 2532

Roadworthiness testing: Elina Immonen, Director of Unit, tel. +358 295 34 2126

Port Services Regulation: Juha Tervonen, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 34 2070

Railway transport: Risto Saari, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 34 2311

Air transport: Päivi Jämsä, Chief Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 34 2138

Maritime safety: Antti-Jussi Lankinen, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 34 2759