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Last week the EU transport ministers held a virtual meeting. Organized by Federal Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) as part of the German EU Council Presidency, Europe was invited to Scheuer’s home town of Passau on this day, at least virtually, with input from Passau politicians and astronaut Alexander Gerst. The most important event took place behind closed doors: The discussion of the transport ministers with respect to the next steps and their contribution to the EU Green Deal and the New Mobility Approach within the framework of the EU Council Presidency. The result is the so-called “Passau Declaration - Smart Deal for Mobility”.
The 31 transport ministers of the EU and EFTA states have agreed on five key aspects that will ensure a “sustainable, safe and efficient” future for mobility in Europe:
On the one hand, people are to be placed at the center of new mobility in the future by making the process more participatory. The exchange with operators and mobility service providers is to take place closely and on a more regular basis. Similarly employees, especially in the municipalities, are to be further educated or retrained. It shows the realization that municipalities can be involved in the change.
Furthermore, the campaign is promoting a “smart” infrastructure: It is becoming clear that mobile communications coverage throughout Europe is still inadequate and needs to be expanded with the help of nationwide fiber-optic connections. In addition, there is a lack of a modern infrastructure equipped with digital sensor technology. However, in order to enable the use of digital connectivity, the ministers have agreed on a far-reaching expansion.
At the same time, the focus was placed on the automation of all modes of transport. This will be treated as a priority in the future and will be additionally supported by the use of real laboratories and research centers. Germany is already a pioneer in this area and is currently working on a draft of the Autonomous Driving Act. However, an important line of action in the future will be standardization in the European internal market in order to be competitive internationally.
As a fourth point, it was decided to establish a European “data room mobility” in order to create an integrated and multimodal transport system. In Germany, the provision of mobility data is currently being discussed as part of the amendment to the Passenger Transportation Act; other countries, such as Finland, have implemented similar concepts. In the future, data exchange on a European level would be based on voluntariness, trust, and innovative cooperation
Last but not least, the transport ministers are focusing on promoting innovation as such in the mobility sector. In addition to the provision of funding, e.g. from the Digital Europe Program (DEP), exchange formats and platforms will also contribute to this. Cooperation and the exchange of best practices between public authorities across Europe are gaining in importance and relevance for successful change in mobility.
Even if these five points, elaborated with many more details on an eight-page paper, at first seem more like a declaration of intent, which is not subject to any legal obligation, the “Passau Declaration” is nevertheless decisive for future steps.
It reflects the preliminary vote of the transport ministers and shows which decisions and issues are likely to gain majority support in the future.
Although the initiative for legislative projects at the EU level must ultimately come from the European Commission, the paper adopted last week is a type of catalog of topics on which the Commission can formally build. It is thus ensured that the Council, which is always involved in principle, has already reached agreements in the course of a procedure and can adopt decisions more quickly if necessary. For decision-makers in the Member States and mobility providers, it is thus possible to anticipate which strands will come their way in the future, and at the same time, on which basis they can advocate their interests.