16 December 2009

Relations of the Union and the member states 6 – Transport

A federation connects states, transport connects people. But it is valid also on the contrary – a federation connects people and transport connects states.

Not even sovereign European states could live beside one another without effective transport, much less a European federation. Good working transport is a condition for existence of a single market in the federation but it is not its only importance.

Transport transfers not only freights but also connects people and it is equal important in a federation – for the project of a European federation even eminently important. The present European Union is an international organization in its essence and the member states governments take care of not changing it and that nobody other than themselves get to power ever. The European Union is a project of elites and its inhabitants are only few identified with it. If the Union was threatened with disintegration, only few inhabitants of its member states would fight for its existence. In order that the European Union's inhabitants identify themselves with it and that they perceive it as something which they cannot be without, they have to become its citizens and to obtain a share of decision-making in it (which is naturally impossible in an international organization based on cooperation of governments), but transport can and must play very important part too because it enables people from various member states to overcome a feeling of isolation of their member states and easily to get contacts with people from other states. Only that way Europeans will get a feeling that they are at home not only in their home (birth) state but in all Europe (the Union).

Nowadays, transport among individual European states is very difficult sometimes and it rather puts obstacles to free movement of persons often than makes it easy. It is especially a case of rail transport. In every state the railway has been run in other technical conditions and so new vehicles (especially locomotives) has to obtain a licence separately in every state, somewhere locomotives has to be changed in state boundaries because of difference of technical conditions in every state. Isolation of railway networks in different states makes railway transport in Europe heavier and slower. But it is not sole obstacle.

Also charges for international transport play their part, the cause that a short journey across a state boundary is more expensive than a comparable journey in a state inland. In international transport, railway makes an impression of luxurious option of bus transport. Financing rail transport is peculiar at all, a journey between two places is usually more advantageous taken by bus and too often also faster. A passenger has an impression sometimes that he uses services of a museum, not of a modern carrier (it concerns speeds, for example) and face to face with this feeling, a resolution of the European Union sounds almost absurdly that railway should be a backbone of terrestrial transport through Europe in medium range routes and should replace airplanes in them in future. It looks amazing in paper, but it will be scarcely realized in environment of tens of national railways (as well as other ambitious decisions of the European Union dependent on good will of its member states). On example of railway – when (almost) every state protects monopolist position of its principal railway transporter – it can be seen that a rise of a European federation will be painful in some spheres and railway is one of reasons why it is so difficult to establish it (the main reason is however self-centeredness and appetite for might of national politicians which we could see also observing the selection of first two lasting representatives of the Council of the European Union). There is really no other choice for a European federation than that transit railways pass to federation's competence because only that way, it is possible to ensure speeding up the railway transport among the member states and making it easier. A provision on railway is not unusual in federal constitutions in Europe, the constitution of Germany can serve as an example.

A necessity to connect a future European federation through concerns also air transport. In this case too, obstacles caused by existence of national sovereignty have been working. It is the most visible in existence of independent air traffic control in every individual state. It follows that if a plane crosses a state boundary, its fly over the territory of given state is managed just from this state. This changes with crossing every other boundary. For example, a fly from Rome to Brussels has to change its air traffic control nine times. It is similar in all Europe, because European states are small from the point of view of air transport and so planes weave in and out inside the boundaries instead of they fly directly. Frequent handover of control over fly's course slows down the fly, lengthen its route (and so cause needless fuel consumption), reduces security and makes not possible to use efficiently capacity of air space. But amount of air traffic controls is not an only obstacle, also different national methods of air control stand against air transport in a future federation. To establish a uniform air space in a future European federation is necessity which also a project of so called united European heaven certifies in present international environment of sovereign European states (at the same time however unwilling approach of the member states to this project certifies how little has been achieved since 1952, in spite of many solemn statements and optimistic advertising booklets).

In road transport, obstacles caused by European states' boundaries are not as visible as in air and rail transport. In spite of that, there are matters which are not being solved best by isolated member states. It concerns either vehicles themselves and the road network. Every state can have its own requirements (especially technical) on operation of the vehicles by which it can jeopardize free movement of persons and goods among member states at any rate. This actually touchs parameters of products in the single market which I wrote in previous post about. Also a power over the roads network is important for the federation because route location of the network exceeds boundaries of every individual member state, if a working all-European network should be established. The power of the federation over the road network along with the power over the road vehicles' parameters in interstate transport will make possible to regulate road transport so that it is used adequately and not displace other kinds of transport whose support after all the present EU has in its program.

I will not mention water transport more detailed, its importance is only marginal and so much coordination in a lever higher than of member states is not highly necessary here, however also this kind of transport cannot be out of federation's attention. On the contrary – pipeline transport has very great importance because it serves to transferring raw materials at great distances and over boundaries of individual states. Considering all-European importance of networks of this kind of transport, it cannot be in doubt that pipeline transport has to be in power of a European federation.

Because this post too is a commentary on the constitution's reading, I have to express to that how what I have described above will be formulated in the constitution's text. The question is what concerning transport should be in power of the European federation. The present European Union concerns itself for example also with city transport in its common transport policy, however it is a matter not exceeding borders of whatever member state with its importance and therefore it needs not to be solved at the all-European level. There must be a division of competences between the federation and the member states in the European federation and the federation has to have only it in its power what is essentially necessary for the federation as a whole. In this issue of transport, only transport across Europe, that is interstate transport, can be a matter of the federation. In what way individual member states will organize their internal transport, it will not be a matter of the federation. So it should be written in the European federation's constitution that transport among the member states will be in power of the federation without to be specificated how the federation will realize its power to regulate the interstate transport – it will be dependent on concrete circumstances. Kinds of interstate transport being in power of the federation should be enumerated, namely river, overground and pipeline transport. I do not name air transport because it should be in federation's competence wholly (not only in interstate traffic). As I have written above, European states are small from the point of view of air transport and difference between domestic and interstate traffic is not so distinct here is in other kinds of transport. Besides of that, it is not unusually also in other federations that air transport is in exclusive power of a federation – in Europe, it is for example a case of German, Austrian or Swiss federation.