This week, the European Parliament approved the Europe Facility (CEF) until 2027. The funding programme amounts to €33.7 billion earmarked for transport, energy and digital projects, including, for example, the Rail Baltica project, alternative fuels infrastructure such as EV charging points, and 5G coverage. Around €25.8 billion are earmarked for the transport sector, €5.8 billion will be allocated to energy projects, while the remaining €2.1 billion will go to digital projects. Meanwhile, €10 billion euros of the fund are reserved for projects in “cohesion countries” where economic power is below a certain threshold.
“The CEF will modernise transport connections all over Europe and contribute especially to make the ‘shift to rail’ slogan finally happen. Stronger, more resilient and sustainable transport networks will help reduce CO2 emissions, make Europe more competitive, and above all, will create jobs, jobs, jobs”, said Jean-Marie Marinescu (EPP), who was a key contributor to the CEF Regulation as Rapporteur.
The CEF also wants to contribute to climate protection, with Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean saying that at least 70% of CEF transport spending must contribute to climate protection. For example, through the expansion and electrification of railway lines, the promotion of refuelling and charging infrastructure for alternative fuels of inland waterways, short sea shipping and multimodal trans-shipment terminals. CEF should also support the equipping of ports with shore-side power supply or their connection to offshore wind farms.
The Greens in the European Parliament, however, considered these efforts insufficient and put forward a proposal to reject the fund’s approval, which was clearly rejected by 518 votes against 114 by MEPs. From the Greens’ point of view, the fund does not go far enough, as it is not in line with the EU’s climate ambitions and does not take into account the climatic emergency. “Achieving the Green Deal will not be possible if we do not upgrade our infrastructure for the coming digital and environmental transitions. The next generation Connecting Europe Facility kicks in at just the right time to ensure this transition”, Renew Europe MEP Dominique Riquet replied in a statement.
During the fund’s negotiations, the European Parliament strongly opposed Member States’ intention to reserve €1.4 billion from the CEF budget available to all Member States for Rail Baltica. It has now been agreed to earmark the money for “important cross-border rail projects in cohesion countries”. The adoption of the CEF budget ensures that important European infrastructure projects will be completed by 2030 as planned, MEPs stress. This also applies to the Rail Baltica project.
The money from the fund should be available after the summer break. The first distribution of funds from the new seven-year funding period is planned for September, Commissioner Vălean announced in the European Parliament.
In addition to the CEF, the European Parliament also approved a directive to accelerate projects in the €300 million trans-European transport network (TEN-T). It is intended to simplify the permit-granting procedures for TEN-T to speed up their completion. Member States must designate a contact person for each project promoter and ensure that approval procedures do not take longer than four years.