Documents considered by the Committee on 16 September 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


5 International Rail Transport

Committee's assessment Legally and politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; but conditional scrutiny waiver granted
Document detailsProposal for a Council Decision concerning amendments to the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail and to its Appendices.
Legal baseArticles 91 and 218(9) TFEU, —, QMV
DepartmentTransport
Document Numbers(37011), 11154/15 + ADD 1, COM(15) 389

Summary and Committee's conclusions

5.1 This proposed Council Decision would establish the position to be adopted on behalf of the EU and its Member States on some of the items that the forthcoming 12th General Assembly (29-30 September) of the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail will vote on. These items include election of a Secretary-General and amendments to the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail, as amended in 1999.

5.2 The Government tells us that, while it is generally supportive of the proposed Council Decision, it has reservations, shared by other Member States, about the extent of EU external competence in relation to some of the items to be discussed at the General Assembly. Accordingly, if this issue is not resolved satisfactorily, the Government proposes to abstain in the vote on the proposed Council Decision.

5.3 We note that the generality of the proposed Council Directive is acceptable. But we do not wish to clear it from scrutiny while the issue related to EU external competence is unresolved. However, given the forthcoming Conference Recess, during which the Council will need to come to a decision on the proposal, we grant the Government a scrutiny waiver so that it may support the Council Decision if the competence issue is satisfactorily resolved.

Full details of the documents: Proposal for a Council Decision establishing the position to be adopted by the Union at the 12th General Assembly of OTIF as regards certain amendments to the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) and to its Appendices: (37011), 11154/15 + ADD 1, COM(15) 389.

Background

5.4 The Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail of 9 May 1980 (COTIF), as amended by the Vilnius Protocol of 3 June 1999, (COTIF 1999) is a mixed agreement, to which both the EU and the 26 Member States which have railway networks are contracting parties. When the EU acceded to COTIF 1999 in 2011, it made a declaration concerning the exercise of competence and agreed internal arrangements for the Council, the Member States and the Commission in proceedings under OTIF. In areas where the EU has exclusive competence, the EU votes with the number of votes of all Member States which are parties to COTIF 1999. In other areas, where EU rules exist but are not affected by COTIF 1999 or legal instruments adopted pursuant to it, the EU shares external competence with the Member States and either the EU or the Member States may choose to act.

The document

5.5 This proposed Council Decision, possibly to be considered by the Council on 18 September, would establish the position to be adopted on behalf of the EU and its Member States on some of the items that the forthcoming 12th General Assembly (29-30 September) of the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF) will vote on. These items include election of a Secretary-General, proposed amendments to the COTIF 1999 Basic Convention and to the following Appendices:

·  D — Uniform Rules concerning Contracts of Use of Vehicles in International Rail Traffic;

·  F — Uniform Rules concerning the Validation of Technical Standards and the Adoption of Uniform Technical Prescriptions applicable to Railway Material intended to be used in International Traffic; and

·  G — Uniform Rules concerning Technical Admission of Railway Material used in International Traffic.

5.6 The amendments to Appendix D clarify the roles of the "keeper" and the "entity in charge of maintenance" (both concepts from EU law) in the contracts of use of vehicles in international rail traffic. The amendments to Appendices F and G clarify their scope by the deletion of the reference to "other railway material". The amendments to the Basic Convention update the tasks of the Committee of Technical Experts in line with EU law, amend the definition of "keeper" in line with the amendments to Appendix D and modify certain rules concerning the financing of OTIF, its auditing and reporting.

The Government's view

5.7 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 7 September 2015 the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Claire Perry) tells us that, in line with a request from the Commission, and together with most other Member States, the UK has recently lifted the declaration it made on ratification of COTIF 1999 that it would not apply Appendices F and G on the basis that they conflicted with EU law at the time. She says that the UK vote will now, therefore, be included when the EU votes on the amendments to Appendices F and G at the General Assembly. The Minister continues that the General Assembly agenda items of most interest to the UK are:

·  Item 5: Election of a Secretary General — there are two candidates: the incumbent Francois Davenne from France and challenger Sylvia Leodolter from Austria. The Government has been content with the work of the current incumbent;

·  Item 8: Partial revision of the Basic Convention; and

·  Item 10: Partial revision of Appendix D (Contracts of Use of Vehicles in International Traffic).

5.8 The Minister then explains a partial reservation the Government has about the proposed EU position. She says that:

·  updating the definition of "keeper" in Article 12 of the Basic Convention (part of Agenda Item 8) and the amendments to Appendix D (Agenda Item 10) are currently the subject of EU litigation in Case C -600/14 Germany v the Council, where Germany seeks the partial annulment of Council Decision 2014/699/EU establishing the EU coordination position on these amendments at the OTIF Revision Committee;

·  while the Government has no concerns with the substance of these amendments, it has intervened in support of parts of Germany's case because it thinks the Council has gone further than it should in asserting that the EU has exclusive external competence when in the UK's view it only shares competence with the Member States;

·  the Government is lobbying with other Member States to secure changes that make clear that the EU shares competence with the Member States as regards this amendment, which is consistent with the UK position in the litigation;

·  the Presidency has put forward a suggested compromise text which was to be discussed in a working group on 8 September which, however, does not yet go far enough to meet the UK objectives; and

·  if the Government is unable to achieve the revisions it is looking for, it is proposing to abstain on the proposed Council Decision.

Previous Committee Reports

None.


 
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