Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2007-05-09-Speech-3-129"

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". Mr President, public transport is indispensable when it comes to limiting the space taken up by transport vehicles, to protect the environment against cars and to enable everyone to reach places of work and amenities that these days, are often located at some distance from their homes. Finally, I should like to point out that this compromise package does not provide for the obligation that Member States, in the case of contracts being switched to other companies, should protect employees against dismissal or a drop in salary. What is also missing is a ban on destructively low payments made to government companies for services rendered by them, or adequate measures to protect against poor performance on the part of contract companies. I know that at least my group will be backing proposals to this effect. Although I do not expect the Council to veto in this respect, I doubt whether the same can be said of the fair majority requirement to limit sub-tendering to half of a contract. We will see tomorrow. This scenario could not be more different from the initial days, when inventors and speculators tried to entice those customers with the greatest purchasing power to buy their new means of transport. Since the introduction of the car, this mode of transport has largely become loss-making, which is why many private entrepreneurs have since pulled out. Rather than a commercial activity, public transport has now become a core task of governments. In many cases, transport companies are owned by the state, region or municipality, and in other cases, external enterprises are compensated for their services with taxpayers' money. Seven years ago, the Commission moved to lay down the allocation of transport zones and contracts in new Regulations. What was new was not that the European Union would be imposing rules, because that had been going on for more than 30 years, but rather that a radical measure, that had been heralded for many years, the opening up of the market, would actually be taken. All public transport for which government money is made available would need to be put out to tender for five-year periods. Interested enterprises would have to compete in order to secure such temporary contracts and the associated payment of government compensation. Three arguments played an important role in this. The first one was the expected drop in costs, for example as a result of the drop in salary, since staff would no longer have job security. The second was that new, up-and-coming, large international enterprises would offer to take over the organisation of public transport against payment by the government. The third was the prevention of nepotism and legal cases. As a fledgling rapporteur, I was told in 2000 that the existing situation had been at odds with the European Treaties for a long time, that all effects had been studied at great length and that this reform had to be carried out as a matter of the greatest urgency. My talks with large city councils, national associations of municipalities, trade unions, user organisations and environmental organisations produced an entirely different picture. Small companies, including all municipal companies, were at risk of going under following a number of award rounds. As a result, small-scale public monopolies would have to make way for large-scale private monopolies, as a result of which in time, the government and user would need to pay more for less, whilst steps towards introducing free public transport and rebuilding urban tram networks could come under fire. After a year of talks with all parties involved, I suggested to this House on 14 November 2001 that alongside the award of public service contracts to be regulated at European level, governments should remain free to organise their own public transport. This freedom of choice is the best way of getting public transport to win the battle in its competition with the motor car. This House backed me at first reading with 317 against 224 votes. After more than five years of internal discussions, the Council of Transport Ministers laid down a common position on 11 December 2006 that is in keeping with this first reading. Seeing as the Commission adapted its original proposal, consensus was reached among the three EU institutions, which, alongside public service contracts, also leaves room for government companies and for involving third parties without the need to issue calls for tender. Needless to say, the text that has now been proposed is meeting with objections among some of this House which in 2001, gave its support to maximum market forces and minimum government service. This has led to amendment proposals relegating the alternatives ‘in-house production’ and ‘direct award’ to exceptions that are only permitted in limited cases. I have noticed that these limitations do not form part of the informal compromise at second reading, something which was the subject of negotiation involving the German Presidency of the Council in April. This compromise is reflected in the 17 amendments largely tabled jointly by six groups to replace the 42 amendments that were previously adopted by the Committee on Transport and Tourism. This broad consensus obviates the need for a third reading. I am indebted to the shadow rapporteurs, the Commission and the Council, not least the German Presidency, for their contribution to bringing about this agreement that is very different from the proposal from 2000."@en1

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