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02/03/2006 15:52 Local Time 
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Transport, Telecommunications, Energy

Legal Basis
Policy instruments

The advent of the European single market marked a turning point in the common transport, energy and telecommunications policies. The abolition of frontiers and other liberalization measures allowed related European industries to keep pace with the growth in demand and tackle problems of congestion and saturation. More so, the harmonisation and linking of the Member States' infrastructures has emerged since as an essential condition for the unhindered physical movement of goods and persons and the consolidation of economic and social cohesion.

The Maastricht Treaty recognised the importance of setting up trans-European networks (TENs) in transport, energy and telecommunications, but the political impetus to create the TENs tangibly came from the Copenhagen European Council of 1993, which called on the Commission and the Council to speed up preparations in this area.

This political will was reinforced by the publication of the Commission's White Paper Growth, competitiveness and employment in 1993, which highlighted these networks' potential in increasing employment in terms of the work involved and indirectly by encouraging economic growth.

Legal Basis

Title XV of the Treaty (Articles 154 to 156) deals with the trans-European networks. It identifies their development as being crucial in terms of the dual objective of the smooth running of the single market and consolidation of economic and social cohesion. This title stipulates that it is essential for transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructures to be networked to allow everyone, including island, landlocked and peripheral regions, to benefit from an area without internal frontiers.


The strategic objectives of the EU in the areas of transport, telecommunications, and energy are to create modern and efficient systems which are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. EU policy places emphasis on the strengthening of competition, increasing safety and improving the environment.

Policy instruments

In each distinct area (transport, telecommunications, energy) many different methods exist by which the EU can achieve its objectives: in the form of legislation, regulation, economic support and exchange of experience. The most common form is by the adoption of legislative acts in the form of directives and regulations.

The European Union's total TEN budget for 1995-2000 was EUR 2.3 billion, and this was raised to EUR 4.6 billion for the period 2000-2006. The EIB (European Investment Bank) and the EIF (European Investment Fund) are also involved in funding for the TENs; the EIB issues low-interest loans and the EIF guarantees the loans. The European Union is trying to involve the private sector more in financing the networks by encouraging public/private partnerships (PPPs). The advantage of such a structure is that it must allow greater spreading of risks and a reduction in borrowing costs, particularly when the project is being launched.


More specifically, the transport industry occupies an important position in the Community, accounting for 7 % of its GNP, 7 % of total employment, 40 % of Member States' investment and 30 % of Community energy consumption. Measures on transport liberalization are sensitive and particularly designed in relation to the specific nature of each mode of transport. For each mode, the aim was to proceed from the provision of an international service (between two Member States) to cabotage (transport in another Member State).

The Action Programme of 1995-2000 proposed by the Commission set out initiatives along three directions:

  • developing integrated transport systems based on advanced technologies which also contribute to environmental and safety objectives;
  • improving the functioning of the single market in order to promote efficiency, choice and user-friendly provision of transport services while safeguarding social standards;
  • broadening the external dimension by improving transport links between the European Union and third countries.


In the area of telecommunications the EU aims to build a set of common rules for the sale of network and digital services within the internal market of the EU. The EU would like to ensure that all citizens are guaranteed a minimum selection of telecommunication services so that citizens or enterprises in remote areas are not cut off from the information society. Another objective is to promote the growing application of electronic communication for the transfer of personal and/or sensitive data by creating security for the best possible protection of such data.

The EU is also involved in developing the information society by means of the eEurope Programme. This project aims to speed up the implementation of digital technology in Europe and to ensure that all Europeans possess the skills necessary for making use of the technology. This initiative is connected to efforts of strengthening economic competitiveness and ensuring renewal within the EU.


Regarding the energy sector the Commission presented its strategic objectives for 2000-2005 in the Shaping a new Europe paper. Energy was acknowledged to be key factor for Europe's competitiveness and economic development. The prime aim of the European Community's energy policy is to ensure a supply of energy to all consumers at affordable prices while respecting the environment and promoting healthy competition on the European energy market. In the context of the Kyoto Protocol, improved energy efficiency has become even more than previously an important element of Community strategy. In April 2000, the Commission adopted an action plan to improve energy efficiency in the European Community. The SAVE programme encourages energy efficiency measures, and will be the main instrument for coordination of the plan.

The European Community is a signatory to the European Energy Charter, which promotes East-West cooperation on energy. The European Union plays an active role in initiatives in the Baltic Sea region, including the Northern dimension action plan. The European Union is also developing major links with other countries such as the Balkan States and China. It is also taking care to maintain its relationships with its industrialised partners in the OECD and with its EEA partners. Finally, its links with the Gulf States are important both in themselves and as part of the dialogue between energy producers and consumers which has recently been revived.
An important aspect of the EU’s energy policy concerns nuclear energy. In this area all responsibility lies with the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) set up in 1957 on the basis of a separate treaty to that of the European Community. EURATOM has a number of tasks including research into and development of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the drawing up of uniform safety standards, the creation of a common market for nuclear energy equipment and an adequate supply of nuclear energy. It is also responsible for ensuring that nuclear materials are not used for unlawful purposes such as the production of nuclear weapons.


Read also

Sustainable mobility : 2000-2004 Commission's action programme

Final report on the the Green Paper Towards a European strategy for the security of energy supply

White Paper European transport policy for 2010

Conclusions of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council meeting (Brussels, 25 November 2002)




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