Frederic Versini, Deputy Head of Unit for the Trans European network at the European Commission DG MOVE visited Luleå November 7-8, 2018 at the invitation of the North Sweden European Office.
The purpose of the visit was to meet with key players from regional authorities and the industry for discussions on the needs and opportunities that are available for implementing priority infrastructure projects and to develop the transport system in the Arctic regions linked to the EU's future transport policy.
Transport policy is a high priority on the agenda for our regions, especially at current time as negotiations are ongoing and decisions pending in Brussels on the CEF Regulation which will apply for the budget period 2021-2027. Of equivalent importance is the revision of the TEN-T which will start during 2021/2022. When Frederic Versini, vice head of unit for the TEN-T at DG MOVE visited Luleå on 7-8 November back to back to the Logistics Summit North, key players from regional authorities and industry, and with participation from northern Norway and northern Finland, were mobilized to meet up.
The two-day visit started November 7 with a dinner meeting providing an opportunity for extensive discussions with a delegation consisting of Anders Öberg and Nils-Olov Lindfors from Region Norrbotten and the host, Norrbottens Kommuner, as well as representatives of the Port of Narvik, Kouvola terminal, the Logistics Council of Norrbotten and the Norrbotten Chamber of Commerce.
On November 8, Versini participated at the morning session of Logistics Summit North with an intervention titled "Towards 2030: delivering the Trans-European Network. What perspective for the Arctic Region?”. Other participants at the session were Per Bondemark, Chairman of the Shippers Association, SSAB giving a resumé on “Development and progress since the Logistics Summit North in 2017”, -and Robert Granström, Chairman of the Swedish Proving Ground Association, presenting the “Future electric roads and electric mobility”.
The discussions continued in meetings held with regional authorities with representatives of the Region Norrbotten, the Norrbotten Kommuner (The Association for the Municipalities in Norrbotten), the County Administrative Board of Norrbotten and the Port of Luleå, and with representatives of the heavy commodity-based industry in Norrbotten within the Logistics Council and with the Norrbotten Chamber of Commerce.
The discussions focused on the CEF proposal and the TEN-T revision linked to the needs in the region in the short and long term. The Connecting Europe Facility CEF is the EU funding instrument for implementing and developing EU transport policy for the trans-European networks in the areas of transport, energy and digital. On 6 June, the European Commission presented the proposal for a new CEF Regulation, which will apply for the budget period 2021-2027. The European Commission proposes an extension of the Corridor Network with an equivalence of up to 15% of the existing one. The extension including the question of upgrading the status of ports to cross-border is also linked to the budget proposed for CEF. On this basis, Versini said, the European Commission has not been able to accommodate all requests submitted by Member States. For Sweden, the European Commission has chosen to include an extension of the Corridor Network to the northern parts and further to Narvik in Norway and to Oulu in Finland. This is an enormous success for our Arctic regions and in line with the aspirations that our region has aimed for.
Another item was the upgrade of the status of ports to cross-border in CEF. This, Versini explained, is a matter of proportionality of the extension Corridor Network and also a matter of available budget and is not likely to be considered for CEF 2. Regarding Military mobility, the works are evolving in Brussels. Military Mobility is a new budget line in the CEF. It refers to the reinforcement of the infrastructure on the comprehensive network for dual-use i.e. for troop movements and civilian use.
Regarding Annex III of the CEF Regulation which lists several infrastructure projects at border crossings as pre-identified projects, i.e. Fehmarn Belt, Brenner Base and Rail Baltica, Versini pointed out that the list does not involve an automatic link to funding and that it is purely illustrative of ongoing major cross-border projects. Sweden has upon request from the Austrian Presidency submitted a request to complement the list with Icebreaking operations in the Baltic Sea, which is positive for our Arctic regions as ice-breaking is an important infrastructure.
When it comes to the TEN-T revision, the delegation gave a briefing on the preparatory work currently ongoing to develop a TEN-T story for the Arctic regions. The aim is to identify needs and priority objects in the transport system in the Arctic regions post 2030. An important part of the process is, inter alia, the ongoing update of the Barents Joint Transport Plan within BEATA, initiated by the Swedish Presidency for the Barents Co-operation. The work in BEATA is carried out in close cooperation with the County Administrative Board of Norrbotten and the County Administrative Board of Västerbotten, the Swedish Transport Administration and the Ministry with also the participation of the Region Norrbotten and the Region Västerbotten. Versini pointed out that the TEN-T revision will imply alignment of the network with necessary connections if also sufficient arguments are provided.
Industry representative drew attention to the abundancy of minerals and other raw materials in the Arctic regions highlighting the need and development potentials. The volume of goods is increasing but there are still many barriers in both regulatory and physical infrastructure. There is a need to develop new railway lines, including the Barents Corridor between Kolari in Finland via Pajala in Sweden and further to Svappavaara where it connects to the Iron Ore Line, double-track on the Iron Ore Line, and of new sections and other improvements on the railway system in north-south railway direction. Other barriers are insufficient harmonized procedures at border crossings and technical standards, the regulation on noise reduction etc. The importance of giving industry the opportunity to join the Corridor Forum to contribute with ideas of the industry on how the infrastructure can be improved was particularly highlighted.
The visit of Versini was concluded at the Port of Luleå onboard the Ice-breaking vessel Viscaria for a tour along the port area and the ongoing preparations for the Malmporten project, which includes dredging operations in the Port of Luleå and along a vast area in the Bothnian Gulf, discussing possibilities for co-funding solutions from CEF.
Versini visit to Luleå was planned back to back with the Logistics Summit North, organized annually by the Norrbotten Chamber of Commerce in close cooperation with the Norrbotten Logistics Council. The Logistics Summit North 2018 was launched November 7 with a seminar on the “Belt and Road Initiative – The Silk Road”. Versini who participated at the morning session November 8, also visited the exhibition area in connection with the Conference, for exchanges with project exhibitors from e.g. the North Bothnia Line, The Mid Nordic Corridor and the Port of Gothenburg.
North Sweden European Office planned the program for Frédéric Versini's visit in close co-operation with Norrbottens Kommuner, Region Norrbotten, Norrbotten Chamber of Commerce, the Port of Luleå and County Administrative Board in Norrbotten.