Violeta Bulc

Violeta Bulc

A record €13.1 billion investment plan for 276 transport projects, selected under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), has been revealed by the European Commission.

It said this investment would unlock additional public and private co-financing for a combined total of €28.8 billion.

Along with the future European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the CEF will play a major role in bridging the investment gap in Europe, which the Commission said was one of its top priorities. It added that beyond transport, the investment would benefit the European economy as a whole by creating more favourable conditions for growth and jobs.

EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said, “I am very pleased to propose the largest investment plan ever made by the EU in the transport area.

“The projects we selected will serve citizens and businesses alike, by upgrading infrastructure and removing existing bottlenecks. They will also promote sustainable and innovative mobility solutions.”

She said, “This unprecedented investment represents a major contribution to the Commission’s agenda of growth and job creations. Implementing the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) could create up to 10 million jobs and increase Europe’s GDP by 1.8% by 2030.”

Flagship initiatives

The selected projects are primarily located in the core TEN-T network. Among the beneficiaries are flagship initiatives such as Rail Baltica, linking Finland, the Baltic states and Poland; the Brenner Base Tunnel through the Alps; the Seine-Escaut waterway in France; the Caland Bridge in the Netherlands; and the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link between Germany and Denmark.

Smaller-scale initiatives include cross-border projects between Groningen in the Netherlands and Bremen in Germany; the Iron Rhine, a freight railway between the Belgian port of Antwerp and Mönchengladbach in Germany; LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) deployment plans, and projects enhancing the navigability of the Danube River.

Launched in September 2014, the CEF calls for proposals were said to have generated unprecedented interest. The Commission received 700 applications totalling €36 billion of requested funding – three times what was available.

The Commission said this allowed it to select the projects with “the highest European added value, while guaranteeing a balanced distribution geographically and between the transport modes”.

In particular, nearly €4.8 billion have been earmarked for Member States eligible for Cohesion Funds. Contribution to other Commission priority actions, such as the Energy Union or the Digital Single Market, was also evaluated during the selection process.

The EU’s financial contribution is made in the form of grants, the co-financing rate of which is between 20% and 85% of a given project, depending on its type

Formally adopted

The proposed funding decision has now to be formally adopted by the Connecting Europe Facility Committee, which will meet on 10 July.

The individual grant agreements will then be prepared by the Innovation & Networks Executive Agency (INEA) and signed with the project beneficiaries in the second half of 2015.

Under the CEF, €24.05 billion will be made available from the EU’s 2014 to 2020 budget to co-fund TEN-T projects in EU Member States. Of this amount, €11.31 billion will be available only for projects in Member States eligible for the Cohesion Fund.

Annual and multi-annual work programmes specify the set of priorities and the total amount of financial support to be committed for each of these priorities in a given year. Last year, 2014, was the first programming year under the CEF.

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