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European Ports Policy Review

Over the past ten years, the EU Commission envisaged on two occasions the opportunity to develop secondary legislation implementing the EU Treaty rules on the freedom to provide services in the port sector. The most recent Commission’s Communication on Ports Policy, from 2007, was based on the promotion of soft law measures in the form of guidelines (state aids, environment), best practices (benchmarking, indicators) and close cooperation and dialogue with stakeholders.

Since then the economic context has changed dramatically, urging the Commission services to reconsider a review of the EU ports policy covering both seaports and inland ports. The objective of such a review is to make sure that the ports of tomorrow are well integrated in the European Transport system (TEN-T), ready to deal with growing numbers of traffic and passengers and to assure that the ports can serve as an engine for growth fully supporting the EU 2020 Strategy.

To this end, the EU Commission organised in 2012 a stakeholders’ consultation which addressed three main issues, i.e. quality of the ports services, efficiency of the port system and transparency of port organisation. Unistock members proactively participated to this consultation process in order to reflect the views and concerns of terminal operators in Europe. The results and conclusions of this survey were presented at the EU Port Policy Conference held in Brussels in September 2012 together with policy options to respond to the future challenges of EU ports.

The outcome of this in-depth consultation process is currently being used by the Commission services as a working basis for the development of proposal of a new legal framework on ports policy. The adoption of the Commission’s proposal is expected by the summer break before transmission to the other EU institutions for discussion, amendment and final adoption. Unistock and its members will carefully follow these upcoming developments in order to ascertain that the final text is well balanced and responds to the needs identified by terminal operators.