The Council reached a general approach on new guidelines defining a long-term strategy for the development of a complete trans-European transport network (TEN-T), consisting of infrastructure for railways, maritime and air transport, roads and inland waterways. The general approach will be the basis for the discussions between the Council and the European Parliament, whose approval is also required for the adoption of the guidelines and which has not yet determined its position at first reading.

Following a discussion of the outstanding issues, the majority of delegations, in the spirit of compromise, could accept the general approach as set out in the presidency’s proposal with a few changes. A recital will be added to stress that the Commission take into account national implementation plans and future enlargement when reviewing the implementation of the core network in 2023.

The definition of “projects of common interest” has been slightly modified so as to cover any project complying with the requirements for the comprehensive or the core network. The maps  setting out the transport arteries of the comprehensive and core networks have been modified as concerns Italy, Poland and Romania.

However, some member states, while not opposing the text, would have wished further parts of their national infrastructure to be included in the maps or still have some concern in particular about financial issues. Another delegation stressed that its demands for additional inclusions in the maps had not been sufficiently honoured. That delegation and some other delegations expressed their hope that their concerns would be addressed in the future negotiations with the European Parliament on the guidelines proposal.

The general approach adopted by the Council amends the Commission’s initial proposal in order to accommodate member states’ concerns, in particular as regards the budgetary consequences of the proposal and the safeguarding of member states’ right to decide on projects to be carried out on their territory.

The text agreed upon makes it possible for member states not to implement certain projects if the financial resources required are not available or if the projects are not mature enough. Moreover, an amended review clause stipulates that the Commission will take into account the economic and budgetary situation in the EU and in individual member states when evaluating progress made in the implementation of the guidelines by the end of 2023.

While the proposed new double-layer structure distinguishing between a core network to be put into place as a priority and a comprehensive network to be completed later on has been accepted by member states, the core network corridor concept, intended to facilitate implementation of the core network, has been reviewed in order to cut the administrative burden and guarantee national sovereignty rights. The governance of the corridors will be ensured by European Coordinators for each corridor, who will be responsible for assisting member states and drawing up a single work plan, instead of the more complex planning and management provisions proposed by the Commission.

In addition, the notion of corridors has been defined more loosely, dropping the precise numbers of member states and transport modes to be covered by a corridor, and a stronger  focus has been put on interoperability and cross-border links.

The Council introduced a number of exemptions from the requirements for core network  infrastructure. Isolated rail networks will be exempted. Exemptions can also be granted for road infrastructure and – with respect to specific technical details – for railway infrastructure in duly justified cases, including where infrastructure investment cannot be justified in economic cost benefit terms. Exemptions also apply where physical constraints prevent rail and road connections to airports and maritime ports.