Trans-European transport network: Council gives the greenlight for quicker permit-granting procedures

The EU is speeding up the completion of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) by streamlining its permit-granting processes. The new ‘smart TEN-T’ rules adopted by the Council today also clarify the procedures which project promoters need to follow as regards permit granting and public procurement for cross-border projects. Adoption by the European Parliament is to follow.

The trans-European transport network is the cornerstone of the EU’s transport policy and is key to the functioning of the internal market. These more efficient procedures will accelerate its development and ensure smoother and more sustainable mobility for people and companies across Europe. The adoption by the Council under the Portuguese presidency means that we are now very close to starting to reap the benefits of this directive, which will make a significant contribution to the completion of the core and comprehensive TEN-T networks, by 2030 and 2050 respectively.

Pedro Nuno Santos, Portuguese Minister for Infrastructure and Housing, President of the Council

The new rules

The directive will cover projects that are part of pre-identified sections of the TEN-T core network. It will also cover other projects on the core network corridors, the total cost of which is in excess of €300 million. Projects exclusively related to telematics and other new technologies will not be covered by the directive, as their deployment is not limited to the TEN-T core network. However, member states may apply the directive to other projects on the core and comprehensive TEN-T network as part of a broader, more harmonised approach to transport infrastructure projects.

Projects covered by the directive will be given priority treatment by member states’ authorities where such treatment is provided for in their national legal frameworks.

To make the procedures more efficient and transparent, member states will designate an authority to act as the point of contact for each project’s promoter. The authority will provide the project promoter with guidance on the submission of documents and other information. Member states may choose to designate the same authority for all projects, or have different authorities as the designated authority depending on the category of projects, mode of transport or geographical area.

A maximum time limit of four years will apply to the entire permit-granting process. This period can be extended twice in duly justified cases.

As regards the legal format of the text, the co-legislators agreed that it should be a directive, rather than a regulation as proposed by the Commission. This will give member states the necessary flexibility to take advantage of their existing permit-granting procedures.

Procedure and next steps

The ‘smart TEN-T’ directive was provisionally agreed by the Council presidency and the European Parliament on 8 June 2020, and endorsed by member states’ ambassadors on 17 June 2020. It could not, however, be adopted before the adoption of the Connecting Europe Facility programme (CEF 2.0), as the annex to the smart TEN-T directive listing the pre-identified sections of the TEN-T core network is linked to the corresponding annex to CEF 2.0.

Today’s vote on the smart TEN-T directive means that the Council has adopted its position at first reading. The legal act now needs to be adopted by the European Parliament at second reading before being published in the EU Official Journal. The directive will enter into force twenty days after its publication.

Member states will have two years from the directive’s entry into force to incorporate its provisions into national law.

TEN-T structure and deadlines

The TEN-T network has two layers: a comprehensive network, which ensures connectivity for all EU regions, and a core network, which consists of those elements of the comprehensive network which are of the highest strategic importance for the EU. The core network is to be completed by 2030 and the comprehensive network by 2050.

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