FIA: In your opinion, what is today’s most pressing mobility issue in Europe?
Martin Schulz (MS): The most pressing challenge is the implementation of a real sustainable transport system. We have got the main instruments with the new TEN-T guidelines and the Connecting Europe Facility, but the idea is to improve links between different parts of the EU, solving bottlenecks and building missing links, to facilitate the transportation of people to exchange goods with each other in the different countries, while at the same time prioritising innovation for a sustainable and safer mobility throughout the main European transport routes and in the urban area.
FIA: Today, the Transport Commissioner is also Vice-President of the Commission; will you give transport the same importance in the next Commission?
MS: Transportation is at the heart of the European Single Market, ensuring the free movement of people and goods. For the next Commission it should be even more important. In the current economic situation, it is essential to make the necessary investment to furnish the European transport system and its infrastructures adequately for the achievement of mobility into the single market area and to boost growth and employment. Transport is also essential to ensure the cohesion between Member States and regions.
FIA: How do you think transport and mobility can contribute to the economic recovery of Europe?
MS: As I said, we all agree that transport is an area with a high growth potential and it is a fundamental pillar to boost jobs and innovation. To work for a better transport system ensures sustainability, social mobility and safety for all citizens and passengers. Investing in better infrastructure, safer and cleaner transportation is the only way to build our future.
FIA: What are the main transport challenges the next Commission will have to address?
MS: Improve a sustainable mobility and a strong European safety policy on reducing road fatalities are my priorities. The main challenge is how to implement a better transportation system in and between our cities and to reduce the number of fatalities. We have already achieved good results, but implementing new efficient initiatives in the field of road safety to reach Vision Zero targets has to be one of the main tasks of the new Commission.
FIA: Very soon, cars will be online and transferring data about consumers and their car usage. Mandatory introduction of 112 eCall will accelerate the penetration of telematics technologies, bringing about a number of additional services that can improve efficiency and safety. Keeping the consumer at the centre of the discussion is paramount. What will you do as President of the Commission to ensure that connectivity is deployed in a manner that is beneficial to consumers?
MS: European policies shall always have citizens, consumers and users, at the heart of their implementation. We cannot forget that politics serves only if they are beneficial to our citizens. Consumer Protection is a core issue for my group and me. Concerning mobility and transportation, we have pushed for a passengers’ rights chart in every transport mode, also when travelling by bus and coach.
The deployment of a public and interoperable EU-wide emergency call system represents a very important achievement for the safety of European road users. About 2,500 lives could be saved every year in Europe, in addition to a considerable reduction of tens of thousands of severe injuries The EP has ensured the full compatibility and interoperability of the eCall service throughout the Union with the aim to reduce the cost of its implementation, while at the same time guaranteeing that the handling of the eCall will be free of charge, for the benefit of any driver in Europe. Finally Member States need to ensure that the privacy of data is protected. Another goal will be the introduction of an awareness-raising campaign which will be supported by the Commission to explain to the citizens the new system. As we have achieved with the mandatory eCall system deployment, our aim is to safeguard future ITS deployment in a similar manner: ensuring efficiency, data protection, fair competition and best consumer’s choices. The Commission should help in the deployment of interoperable intelligent communication infrastructure and should continue the work in the standardisation while ensuring technological neutrality to boost progressive innovation in this area.
Cleaner car technologies
FIA: The lack of accessible and consistent information on the capabilities and benefits of alternatively fuelled vehicles is a major barrier for consumer uptake. How will you champion the cause of more sustainable vehicles and encourage consumer uptake of more sustainable vehicles?
MS: Our political family, represented in the European Parliament by the S&D group has been at the forefront of the fight for cleaner, more sustainable vehicles already since 2008 when the first EU regulation on CO2 emissions from cars was introduced. We supported an ambitious, but also achievable CO2 target of 95 grCO2/km for 2020 and will continue fighting for long- term targets until 2025 and beyond. We have also supported stricter emissions reward schemes for ultra-low emitting (electric) cars in order to encourage companies to keep investing in innovative technologies, but also increase consumer acceptance. I believe that reducing CO2 emissions from cars is a win-win for both consumers and the environment. It reduces fuel consumption while at the same time helping to maintain the competitive advantage of the European automotive industry in the global market.
Key to consumer acceptance remains of course the quick deployment of alternative fuel stations across Europe so that the European Union moves from highly fossil-energy dependent transport to clean power. Here I would like to see a quicker deployment on the infrastructure and concrete and mandatory targets. Anyhow, the Parliament has ensured that Member States have to fix an appropriate number of recharging points accessible to the public in their National Plans and put it into place for 2020, in particular on strategic networks, urban agglomerations and densely populated areas.
The S&D group has insisted to ask the next Commission to draft an Action Plan on sustainable mobility, in particular in electro mobility, to facilitate consumers’ awareness information and the shift to more sustainable and affordable vehicles that we all are expecting.
Improved driver training
FIA: Novice drivers have been proven to be one of the biggest hazards on the roads today. As such, traffic education should be provided from a young age, to ensure that, even new drivers, have advanced knowledge of safe driving, road rules and defensive tactics. What are the next challenges in terms of road safety? What could be done in your view to diminish the fatalities among young road users?
MS: Road accidents are a major burden with enormous socio-economics cost. There are three main actions which have to be taken in order to improve road safety: better infrastructures, periodic car tests and drivers attitude. All together they are important to reduce the number of road fatalities and we will continue looking forward to obtaining the “zero vision”, zero road fatalities.
Our group in the European Parliament and I have already been active on all the fields. On infrastructure, we will support further development of ITS, such as the eCall, and will continue improving road infrastructure and communications.
The approval of the periodic car test legislation within the roadworthiness package which focuses on the maintenance of the vehicles to be properly fit to be used on EU roads ensuring safety conditions and affordability.
Another issue of interest our Group has worked on was the Directive facilitating cross-border enforcement, in order to act against the impunity of non-resident drivers that commit traffic offences in another Member State. Now drivers do know they must respect speed limits in all Europe!
We also support a stronger focus on a serious injuries strategy with the establishment of concrete targets; special protection measures for most vulnerable road users; improving first aid and emergency services and including post-accident care and long-term rehabilitation into the road safety strategy.
Every year, we have also been reminding the Commission of the need for a strong EU budget to support road safety measures and for young users, we have been asking in particular, for the implementation of Pilots Projects for the education and training of our young and most vulnerable road users.
In conclusion, road safety is one of our political priorities on Transportation and I will consider supporting any action that would improve road safety, including support to the Make Roads Safe campaign.
A fully functional aftermarket
FIA: Tampering with odometers is a common fraud, which has important, detrimental consequences on European motorists and affects up to 40% of used cars. Not only does this result in higher repair bills, motorists are often unaware of the correct maintenance needed for their vehicle. Do you support a stronger legislative response to mileage fraud?
MS: Of course, we are against any fraud and we support strong legislation and regulation to avoid it. The approval of the roadworthiness legislation, as I mentioned is the first step in this direction. But, we are very conscious of this problem and we should continue promoting improved technical solutions to fight mileage fraud. Some Member States are starting to act against it and we will follow carefully its development to choose the best practices and solutions.
FIA: The current taxation burden is already high on European motorists. Motorists deserve better information on how their taxes (circulation and registration taxes, fuel duties, etc.) are spent and earmarking to secure sufficient funding is dedicated to maintaining and developing road infrastructure. This will in return have positive impact on society as a whole through safety and economic gains. Will you support the earmarking of taxes for the upkeep and improvement of European roads? When do you think this can be placed on the European agenda?
MS: Within the amendment of the Directive on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures, we have managed to secure major achievements including an acceptable wording on earmarking and the introduction of the polluter pays principle, in particular in road transport.
Linked to this directive, my Group has a strong interest on the improvement of all the measures related to the internalisation of external costs, including climate change and road safety, and we are very aware that a coherent and integrated approach is necessary on new proposals coming from the Commission.
FIA: Are there any other thoughts or issues that you have to add on the subject of mobility?
MS: Well, our political Group in the European Parliament and I we want to improve sustainable urban mobility. I believe it is time to come up with a comprehensive EU approach towards urban mobility. We want to reduce congestion and improve mobility through intelligent, cleaner and connected cars; It will combat pollution, greenhouse gas emission, noise and other environmental problems caused by urban traffic; It will improve road safety and prevent fatalities (2 of every 3 accidents are in urban area) and it will improve mobility for more vulnerable people and improve quality of life for city dwellers.
And as important as all the above, with a sustainable urban mobility we will foster growth and qualified jobs in Europe. That’s our main task for the next years.
FIA: Thank you very much for your time.