The European Parliament adopted the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme by releasing new funds for cross-border transport, energy and digital projects for 2021-2027 worth €30 billion. The aim is to ensure that essential Trans-European Networks (TEN-T) projects, alternative fuels charging infrastructure and the roll-out of 5G coverage to important transport axes are finished on schedule by 2030.

The CEF has been structured around three pillars, with approximately €23 billion going to transport projects, €5 billion for energy projects and €2 billion for digital projects. About €10 billion allocated to cross-border transport projects will come from Cohesion Funds and help EU countries complete previously identified missing transport links. EUR 1.4 billion will be designated to fast track the completion of major missing cross-border railway projects, to be selected by the Commission on a competitive basis. MEPs succeeded in earmarking 60 per cent of CEF funds for projects that help achieve the EU’s climate objectives. In contrast, 15 per cent of the energy pillar funds will go to cross-border renewable energy projects.

CEF will support the development of projects of common interest in the digital sector, such as safe and secure, very high capacity digital networks and 5G systems, and the digitalisation of transport and energy networks. It will also make energy networks more interoperable and ensure that projects funded align with EU and national climate and energy plans.

Marian-Jean Marinescu, rapporteur of the Transport and Tourism Committee (EPP, RO) said: “The CEF will modernise transport connections all over the EU. It will help Europe cope with the sector’s decarbonisation challenges and contribute especially to making the ‘shift to rail’ slogan a reality. Filling in missing links will also encourage the movement of people and goods.”

His colleague and co-rapporteur on the Transport and Tourism Committee, Dominique Riquet (Renew, FR) added: “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.”

Expediting transport projects

Parliament also approved on Tuesday new TEN-T rules, agreed with the Council, which simplify the permit-granting procedures for TEN-T projects to facilitate their completion. Member States will have to designate a point of contact for each project’s promoter and ensure that getting a permit to launch a project should take no longer than four years.

Industry, Research and Energy Committee rapporteur Henna Virkkunen (EPP, FI) stressed: “Connecting Europe Facility finances key cross-border connectivity and renewable energy projects between Member States and will allow Europe to leap towards a digital and climate neutral economy. This is vital to ensure we stay competitive in the future.”

Next steps

The upgraded Connecting Europe Facility will enter into force once the new rules have been published in the EU Official Journal. They will apply retroactively as of 1 January 2021. MemberStates will have two years to prepare for the implementation of TEN-T streamlining rules.

Source: European Parliament