New Commission urged not to downgrade transport safety

New Commission urged not to downgrade transport safety

ETSC has written to the president-designate of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker following early indications that transport safety could be deprioritised by the new Commission.

The letter was a response to a six-page ‘mission letter’ sent by Mr Juncker to Maroš Šefčovič, who is set to become the new EU transport policy chief replacing Siim Kallas. In the mission letter, which was published on the Commission website, Mr Juncker only mentioned safety in passing, and only in very vague terms. The topic was not mentioned at all in a separate mission letter to Elżbieta Bieńkowska who, as Industry and Internal Market Commissioner, will be in charge of vehicle safety regulations. It was also absent from a letter to Jyrki Katainen, vice-president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness – who will have veto power over transport policy in the new Commission structure.

In its response, ETSC highlighted that transport accidents are still the number one non-health related cause of death in Europe and the number one killer of young people aged 15-29. “There is still a lot of work to do prevent 500 Europeans from dying every week on our roads,” it concludes.

Mr Šefčovič’s appointment is subject to a hearing in the European Parliament on 30 September when members of the transport committee will get to grill the candidate for his suitability for the post.

Mr Šefčovič, from Slovakia, is currently the European Commissioner in charge of inter-institutional relations and administration.

  • Šefčovič’s home country Slovakia was this year’s winner of the ETSC Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) Award having made the most progress in saving lives since an EU target to halve road deaths by 2020 was set four years ago.

Full text of the ETSC letter:

Dear President-Elect Juncker,

I am writing to you as Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) representing 47 organisations with expertise in transport safety from across the EU. This letter comes in response to your ‘mission letter’ to the commissioner-designate for Transport Maroš Šefčovič, published on 10 September.

While we welcome your efforts to reorganise the structure of the European Commission in order to facilitate better working relationships across the various services, we are seriously concerned that you appear to have deprioritised the important issue of transport safety.

In your six-page mission letter to Mr Šefčovič, safety is mentioned only in passing, and only in very vague terms.  The topic was not mentioned at all in your letter to Elżbieta Bieńkowska who, as Industry and Internal Market Commissioner, will be in charge of vehicle safety regulations. It was also absent from your letter to Jyrki Katainen, vice-president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness – who will, as we understand it, have a supervisory role.

Transport accidents are the number one non-health related cause of death in Europe and the number one killer of people aged 15-29.  26,025 were killed on Europe’s roads last year; and around 200,000 were seriously injured according to police records. Every case is a tragedy for the family and friends of the victims.

For the economy as a whole, avoiding a single death on the roads in Europe saves EUR 1.9 million according to our analysis. So given the financial difficulties that many EU countries face due to the economic slowdown, the value to society of improving road safety should also be taken into account.

Until now the European Commission has played an important role in the road safety success story. The 2010 and 2020 road death reduction targets have inspired action across the continent. But this work must not stop now.

EU vehicle safety standards have put life-saving technologies such as ABS and ESP into every new vehicle.  Those standards have not been updated since 2009; the ongoing review process should ensure that the latest life-saving technologies benefit the many, not the few.

The Commission has also promised a target and a strategy to reduce the number of serious injuries on Europe’s roads – that work must not be delayed.

So there is much to be proud of. But clearly there is still a lot of work to do prevent 500 Europeans from dying every single week on our roads.

We sincerely hope that you will take all necessary steps to maintain and strengthen the European Commission’s record on road safety policy.

 Yours sincerely,

 Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director, ETSC

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