On 5 December 2011 Siim Kallas Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport spoke at the Conference on the White Paper on Transport jointly organised by the European Economic and Social Committee and the European Commission.

In his speech Mr Kallas stressed once again the importance of the transport sector for national economies not only because it assures economic growth and creates employment but also because “it links people together and guarantees them their fundamental right to freedom of movement”.

The Commissioner highlighted that “transport is also vital for opening up markets developing trade and connecting businesses. Without solid and efficient transport connections we cannot prosper or remain competitive: economically speaking we would be going nowhere”.

Nevertheless he called for immediate actions in order to face the challenges of the future; according to him Europe depends “too much on oil as a fuel source particularly for road transport” and “given the likely difficulties in sourcing oil in the future the constant market volatility and sky-high prices it makes sense to research and develop innovative – and cleaner – alternatives”. He added that this dependence on fuel would make the EU “vulnerable in terms of fuel security and fail to do our part in limiting climate change” as well as augmenting congestion in European cities.

He reminded the audience that the European Union has to meet the ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 while “the overall demand for freight transport alone is forecast to increase by 80% by 2050”.

Research and innovation are essential to meet these objectives but alone they cannot solve the problems. Instead there is a necessity to improve transport efficiency also by changing “travel behaviour”.

Multimodal and integrated journeys are a key element of the White Paper; Mr Kallas stressed that Europe “must be pro-active in dealing with the challenges and not reactive when it may already be too late”.

The Commissioner concluded by affirming that these challenges are not only “about accepting the need to invest hard cash in the future of transport it is also about accepting a necessary change in emphasis and thinking about how we travel”.

Read the full speech here.

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Original Publication Date: Tue 06 Dec 2011