Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2003-10-08-Speech-3-132"

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". Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, although tunnels are among the safest parts of the European road network, accidents in tunnels often result in grave consequences, among which the psychological effects are not to be ignored. In tunnels, people feel shut in. The three major accidents in the Tauern, Mont Blanc and St Gotthard tunnels – to which the Commissioner has already referred – made the peculiar characteristics of accidents in tunnels tragically apparent. When these accidents occurred, Parliament pressed the Commission to initiate action on tunnel safety. Some time elapsed before the Commission, at the beginning of this year, submitted its proposal for a directive on minimum requirements for the safety of tunnels in the trans-European road network. Let it be emphasised from the outset that this proposal by the Commission is a good one. Our amendments were an attempt at making it even better, and I believe that we succeeded in doing so by dint of cooperation with the Commission and good dialogue with the Council, which, working in parallel with us, agreed a few days ago on the content of its Common Position, which it is – or so I hear – keen to complete tomorrow. We can expect, at second reading, to come to very quick agreement on a common directive, aiming to make European road transport safer, and in the hope that we will do so as soon as possible. In the longer term, though, we cannot be satisfied with this outcome. Our joint proposal – as I would like to call it – still has an array of cosmetic blemishes and real defects. Let me start by pointing them out. Our text focuses on one partial aspect of the issue of tunnel safety. In essence, we are demanding high standards in building work and elsewhere, but it is equally important to make improvements to the way in which people use tunnels. There needs to be better general training of drivers, and there is a particular need for better-trained drivers of passenger and freight vehicles. Nor can we be content with improving the safety of tunnels that are part of the TENs, while taking no account of the other road tunnels. We must act as quickly as possible to incorporate into our system the candidate countries and the others that intend to join us, and, as there is more to Europe than the EU, countries such as Switzerland, Norway and others as well. The Commission has held out to us the prospect of certain things being done in response to these points. To some extent, though, it is the jurisdiction situation that prevents us from using legislation to work towards what we need, so, together, we have a certain amount of persuading to do. The candidate countries and those Europeans who are not yet in the EU have already, this time round, participated very actively in our work, and we hope they will continue to do so. I will take it as read that our proposal’s good points largely speak for themselves, but there are a number of details to which I would nevertheless like to give special mention. We tried very hard to lay down clear lines of responsibility. We worked hard to achieve flexibility, so that the users of tunnels can enjoy a properly high level of safety without delay, particularly where tunnels are old and in need of repair. We also attached particular importance to the practicability of what we were proposing in very many individual cases, of which the particular problems of tunnels in cities may be taken as representative. One issue whose importance has been particularly stressed to me back home has to do with the safety of disabled people. I hope that we have come to the right conclusion as to what they need, and we have made constructive efforts to ensure that they too, in the event of a calamity, can expect a minimum standard of safety. My final task as rapporteur is a thankful one. I would like to thank the many people who have helped to achieve this outcome in which we all share: the Commission and its staff; the various partners in dialogue from the Member States, but also – even though I am repeating myself – from Switzerland and Norway, and the Members of all the groups in this House and their assistants. Last but not least, I would like to express my personal gratitude to the member of the Committee secretariat, Mr Haug, for his many hours of dedicated work. I hope that, at second reading, he will support us as efficiently as he has done to date, and that things will work together so that we have, as soon as possible, better laws on safety in European tunnels."@en1

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