by ERN
European Rivers Network


International Conference on Waterways and sustainable Development, Bonn, June 13 -14, 2000

FACTSHEET TransEuropean Transportation Network

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Better known as TEN, this project is part of an European initiative to better link all means of transportation especially between West and Eastern Europe. Enlargement towards Central and Eastern Europe will require a substantial increase of the transport network linking the EU with accession countries and these countries with each other. This in turn will allow for increasing the efficiency of the Single Market and maximise the potential European trade. Since 1996, the European Commission has been working on the development of a coherent transport network. The main instrument for it has been the Transport Infrastructure Needs Assessment (TINA). A committee has been set up in Vienna (Austria) which mission is to ensure coherence with existing European networks.

The TINA process worked out a network proposal with 18,030 km of roads, 20,290 km of railway lines, 38 airports, 13 sea ports and 49 river ports.

Under the inland waterway scheme, the Danube-Oder-Elbe canal and the Oder-Warta-Vistula-Bug canal are two of the proposed projects. Not to forget the so called Project 17 in Germany, which connects the Rhine via Berlin up to the Oder. Further, these canals will be connected to the existing waterways, namely the Rhine through the Danube-Main-Rhine canal and the Danube. A special attention will be given to 4 cities which will be turned into major harbours : Stettin, Warsaw, Bratislava and Prag.

It is planned to bring all the waterways in a coherent size in order to have 185 m long, 11,40 large and 2,80 deep boats be able to navigate on these waters. That means that all rivers, including the Rhine (that has only a depth of 2.10 between Coblence and Cologne), will have to be developed in the increased norms.

At longer term it is foreseen that the European network will be connected to seas outside the Union (Black Sea, Bielorussia for ex.)

This network of waterways is part of a European Commission's strategy by which freight transport should be moved away from roads to both train and inland waterways. The reasons advanced for that are based on environmental considerations : road transport is a key player in air pollution, climate change, noise, nature degradation, security.

These environmental concerns put forward by the General Direction XI- Environment are reflected in the Community guidelines for the development of TEN-Transport (Decision N° 1692/96/EC) which govern all TEN-Transport projects and require that, when such projects are developed and carried out, environmental protection must be taken into account by the Member States. Furthermore, the guidelines precise that such protection has to be „implemented" through execution of an environmental impact assessment of the project pursuant to EIA legislation. It is also reflected in the Guidelines for Community Financial Aid in the field of the Trans-European Transport Network where all applicants must fulfill conditions of compatibility with EU environmental legislation.

According to the TINA Secretariat, socio-economic aspects are to be considered as well as environmental aspects. Thus, the TEN aims at environmental and social-friendly ways of combined transport. It is claimed that worries expressed by environmental movements are unfounded.

Nevertheless, a number of waterway projects are severely criticized. Although waterway transportation is certainly environmentally friendlier as road transportation, there are major concerns related to regulating rivers for navigation purposes and destroying adjoining wetlands, therefore putting biodiversity and freshwater resources at risk. The EU environmental policy (NATURA 2000 and the future Water Framework Directive) could then come across the TEN-Transport.

The global TEN infrastructure network budget is estimated at about 90 billions Euros. For accession countries, EU financial help will be provided through : Instrument for Pre-Accession Aid (ISPA) from January 2000. Similar to the Cohesion Fund and contributing about 500 millions annually, it should favour priority projects (those linking accession countries with existing EU-networks) which are fully developed.

TEN investment budget upon accession (from 2005 onwards) other sources like the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, etc.

But the bulk of the costs will have to be paid by the countries themselves so that carrying out these projects will certainly take some time. Considering the costs of constructing the network and the fact that in Europe river transportation went back from 12 % to 8% between 1970 and 1993, and given the high environmental costs, the final question about TEN-Waterways lies with the compared advantages of natural rivers and functional ecosystems and waterway transportation in view of the sustainable development of the whole region. In this prospect, it is certainly advisable to consider other options like rail transportation and, at a minimum, revise the concept in order to address ecological requirements and a long term sustainability for freshwater resources. Text by Edith Wenger, WWF Floodplain Institut, little changes.

Text by Dr. E. Wenger, Floodplain Institute Rastatt, Germany