Erasmus turns 25!

30 janvier 2012

The world’s most successful student exchange programme, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Nearly three million students have benefited from a study period or work placement abroad since the creation of the Erasmus programme in 1987. Under the slogan, ‘Erasmus: changing lives, opening minds for 25 years’, the silver anniversary celebrations will be launched today by Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. Erasmus mobility is at the heart of the Commission’s strategy to combat youth unemployment by focusing more on skills development – an issue which will be discussed by heads of state and government at today’s Informal European Council.

“The impact of Erasmus has been tremendous, not only for individual students, but for the European economy as a whole. Through its support for high-quality teaching and a modern higher education system, with closer links between academia and employers, it is helping us to tackle the skills mismatch. It also gives young people the confidence and ability to work in other countries, where the right jobs might be available, and not to be trapped by a geographic mismatch,” said President Barroso.

Commissioner Vassiliou added: “Erasmus is one of the great success stories of the European Union: it is our best known and most popular programme. Erasmus exchanges enable students to improve their knowledge of foreign languages and to develop skills such as adaptability which improve their job prospects. It also provides opportunities for teachers and other staff to see how higher education works in other countries and to bring the best ideas home. Demand for places strongly exceeds the resources available in many countries – one of the reasons why we plan to expand opportunities for study and training abroad under our proposed new education, training and youth programme, Erasmus for All.”

In the 2011/2012 academic year, more than 250 000 students will benefit from the Erasmus programme. The most popular destinations for students are expected to be Spain, France, United Kingdom, Germany and Italy, while the countries sending the most students abroad are expected to be Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Poland. The EU has allocated around € 3 billion for Erasmus for the period 2007-13.

Erasmus for All would bring together all the current EU and international schemes for education, training, youth and sport, replacing seven existing programmes1 with one. This will increase efficiency, make it easier to apply for grants, as well as reducing duplication and fragmentation. Under the new programme, the aim is for up to 5 million people, almost twice as many as now, to get the chance to study, train or teach abroad. The Commission’s proposal is currently being discussed by the Member States and the European Parliament, which decide the future budget.

Events marking the celebration
The celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the Erasmus programme will be launched in Brussels today with a conference which will evaluate the programme’s impact and discuss its future. Denmark, which holds the EU Presidency in the first half of 2012, together with the European Commission, will also organise a follow-up conference in Copenhagen on 9 May. The anniversary will also be celebrated at events organised in the Member States.

“Erasmus ambassadors” from the 33 countries participating in the scheme will be present at many of these events. The ambassadors, one student and one staff member, have been chosen to represent each country, based on the impact that Erasmus has had on their professional and private lives; their role is to encourage other students and staff to take advantage of the opportunities it offers to change lives and open minds. During the conference in Copenhagen in May, they will present the ‘Erasmus Manifesto’ which will set out their vision of how the scheme can develop in future.

Background
The Erasmus programme was launched in 1987 with 3 244 young, adventurous students who took part in learning experiences in one of the 11 countries which initially participated in the programme. Now, 33 countries take part in the scheme - the 27 EU member states, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

In the past 25 years, the programme has seen a constant rise in both the number of students and in the quality and diversity of the proposed activities. Teachers and other staff, such as university international relations officers who are often the first point of contact for potential Erasmus students, can also benefit from EU support to teach or train abroad – nearly 40 000 did so in 2010/2011.

Work placements in companies abroad have been supported through Erasmus since 2007 and are increasingly popular. Up to now, grants have already been awarded to nearly 150 000 students for this purpose. In 2009/10, 35 000 students (one in six of the total) chose a work placement, which was a 17% increase on the previous year.

What are the opportunities for European research?

30 janvier 2012

A consultation on the European research shows the ways to make Europe more attractive for researchers, but also increasing transnationally-coordinated research; achieving higher scientific excellence; moving, working and co-operating freely across borders or tackling global challenges.

These are some of the key themes resulting from a public consultation on the European Research Area (ERA), which ended on 30 November 2011. The Commission will now decide which issues should be addressed as priorities when finalising the ERA Framework, to be tabled in June 2012 with a view to completing ERA by 2014. The findings were presented today by Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn at the “ERA conference 2012, Fostering Efficiency, Excellence and Growth” in Brussels.

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “With Europe crying out for growth, ERA can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue with a situation where research funding is not always allocated competitively, where positions are not always filled on merit, where researchers can’t take their grants across borders, where large parts of Europe are not even in the game, where there is a scandalous waste of female talent and where our brightest and best are leaving never to return. I want an entirely new ERA-partnership, with stronger role for key stakeholders, and much tougher monitoring of Member States’ progress. I will not hesitate to “name and shame” those who perform badly against ERA objectives.”

The European Commission received 590 responses to the on-line questionnaire and 101 ad hoc position papers by national and European research organisations and governments. Respondents to the online survey indicated deficiencies in research careers and mobility as the most urgent priority. This was followed by problems relating to research infrastructures, knowledge transfer and cross-border collaboration. A broad majority of respondents also highlighted that a higher involvement of women in science will contribute to European socio-economic growth. In position papers, cross-border collaboration, international cooperation, as well as open access to publications and data were on a similar footing to researcher-related issues.

One of the main messages from the research community is the need to attract and retain more leading researchers in Europe and to provide researchers with better and especially business-relevant skills. The global attractiveness of Europe as a location for researchers and private R&D investment should also be increased by reducing the fragmentation of the European market, and by improving employment and career prospects for researchers. The lack of open and transparent recruitment procedures is regarded as one of the main barriers to internationally mobile researchers. It is also necessary to coordinate research at transnational level to raise research quality, reduce costs and tackle global challenges.

Background

The Commission is engaging with stakeholders to design an ambitious ERA Framework. At the European Council of 4 February 2011, EU heads of state and government endorsed the Commission’s proposal to create Innovation Union and called for the completion of the European Research Area by 2014 to create a genuine single market for knowledge research and innovation. The ERA Framework will focus on non-funding measures, while Horizon 2020 is the financial pillar of the Innovation Union.

Proposed in January 2000 by the European Commission in its communication “Towards a European Research Area” (COM(2000)6), and launched at the Lisbon European Council in March 2000, the creation of a European Research Area (ERA) was given new impetus in 2007 with the European Commission’s Green Paper on ERA (COM(2000)161), followed by the Ljubljana Process in 2008.

Hormone beef trade : Europe tries to calm the war

30 janvier 2012

The Committee on International Trade signed a regulation to calm the conflict with the United States and Canada.

The proposal, which would raise the EU import quota for beef from animals not treated with hormones, will be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole on 13 March.

“This will be a win-win resolution, as the EU keeps its ban on hormone treated beef imports without disadvantaging European agricultural products while the USA and Canada gain a very useful quota for their non-hormone treated beef” exports, said rapporteur Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl (EPP, DE), on the outcome of the vote.

If approved by the full Parliament, the regulation will allow third countries to sell the EU 48,200 tonnes of duty-free high-quality beef from animals not treated with growth-promoting hormones. The EU import quota increase was agreed in bilateral conciliation talks and memoranda of understanding already concluded with the US and Canada.

In exchange, the US and Canada have already suspended import duties, amounting to almost $130 million, imposed on “blacklisted” EU farm produce. Suspending these duties, which hit France, Germany, Denmark and Italy hardest, will enable these and other Member States to sell their chocolate, pork, Roquefort cheese, mustard, onions and truffles and other products to the USA and Canada at competitive prices.

The European Parliament regulates home loans

30 janvier 2012

The new regulations of the Internal Market Committee seeks to better protect the borrower.

To this end, the committee amended a draft directive which aims to curb irresponsible mortgage borrowing, and also tighten up the supervision of lenders, whilst respecting existing lending practices in EU Member States.

The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee’s opinion on the Commission proposal concerns consumer information requirements such as advertising and pre-contractual information. Other aspects, such as calculating annual charges and authorising and supervising credit intermediaries, will be handled by the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.

In 2008, outstanding residential mortgage lending in the EU27 represented about 50% of EU GDP. Household debts, of which mortgage debt is the largest component, accounted for some 70% of euro area households’ total financial liabilities at the end of 2008, says the committee’s report.

Borrower’s right to information

The choice of a mortgage is affected by many factors besides the borrower’s ability to repay the loan. These include the information provided by lenders, the borrower’s financial literacy, conflicts of interest and irresponsible behaviour by certain market players.

MEPs therefore backed a Commission proposal to ensure that mortgage lending is governed by general rules on marketing and advertising, and which would require prospective lenders to make available information such as annual percentage rates and total costs of credit before the borrower signs the contract.

This information should be tailored to the borrower’s knowledge of and previous experience with lending practices, and should enable him or her to take a reasoned decision on whether he or she wishes to conclude the credit agreement. The information on the proposed mortgage agreement should be always made available on paper, another durable medium or in electronic form, adds the text.

MEPs also amended the text to say that a warning that the buyer could lose the property if he or she defaults on the mortgage commitments should appear in the standard information provided, rather than in advertising, because a full explanation of this risk would be too long and too costly for smaller advertisers to provide, and requiring it would therefore hand a an unfair competitive advantage to larger ones.

Dispute resolution

To put borrowers and lenders on a more equal footing, the proposed legislation would require Member states to establish out-of-court redress bodies to resolve disputes. An amendment inserted by the committee would align the dispute resolution mechanism with the EU consumer credit directive, to prevent the proliferation of similar, but differing, rules.

Next steps

The proposed directive now goes to the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, which will endeavour to take account of the Internal Market Committee’s opinion, but reserves its right to a final say on those parts of the directive that fall within its sphere of competence.

The Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee will vote its amendments to the text on 28 or 29 February.

Cohesion spending increase

27 janvier 2012

The budgetary constraints currently faced by Member States mean that the EU’s structural funds are an ever more valuable source of growth-enhancing investment especially in the regions that need it most.

The effective use of these funds gathered pace in 2011, with payments to Member States from last year’s cohesion policy budget hitting a record €32.9 billion, an 8% increase on the €30.5 billion paid out in 2010. This higher payment rate from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Cohesion Fund for 2011 also reflects the fact that we are well into the second half of the 2007-2013 financial framework, which is when most invoices are submitted. EU structural funds in 2011 helped to further the Single Market through investments in a broad range of strategic and growth-enhancing areas, including broadband connections, research and development infrastructure, innovation projects, new Small- and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and education.

In addition, the European Commission has taken measures to prioritise growth-enhancing investments. For example, temporary “top-up” payments worth €374 million were made in 2011 to Greece and Romania, following the entry into force of new rules to support the economies of Member States experiencing difficulties in terms of financial stability.

In Greece, a total of €11.5 billion will be invested in around 180 priority projects, leading to the creation of between 90,000 and 108,000 jobs.

For Italy, an action plan for the southern or Mezzogiorno regions will enable €3.1 billion of EU and national funding to be invested rapidly in regional projects in education and school infrastructure, broadband, railways and supporting SMEs. This is the result of a reprogramming of funds, in cooperation with the national and regional authorities, to trigger much-needed growth in crucial sectors.

The Commission has also called on Member States to use €22bn of European Social Fund money not yet committed to projects to improve job opportunities for young people. Today one in five youngsters looking for work cannot find a job. The new ‘Youth Opportunities Initiative’ is pleading for Member State to work on preventing early school leaving; helping youngsters develop skills relevant to the labour market; ensuring work experience and on-the-job training and helping young people find a first good job. The European Commission has also set out concrete actions to be financed directly by EU funds.

Background

At the end of 2011, the average payment rate for all three funds (European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund and Cohesion Fund) in the EU was 33.4% of the amounts allocated for the 2007-2013 period. These rates vary significantly between countries, from 16.5% to 48.3%; while the analysis per fund reveals that the ERDF payments increased by 55% year-on-year from 22.3% at end 2010 to 34.3% at end 2011. For ESF, the payment rate has increased by 52%, from 23.25% at end 2010 to 35.43% at end 2011 (total advanced and interim payments). There are still differences between countries that vary from18.68% to 60.43%, but in all member states an improvement can be noticed.

The European Union believes in growth based on trade

27 janvier 2012

A range of proposals to make trade and development instruments work hand-in-hand to ensure real poverty reduction across the world are presented by the European Commission today.

The proposals aim at reinforcing the trade capacities of developing countries by making trade part of their development strategy. And to ensure we hit our target, the EU is currently looking into better ways of differentiating between developing countries to ensure the world’s poorest countries receive our biggest help. The role of trade is underlined in the proposal as one of the key drivers to support development, stimulate growth and to lift people out of poverty. Furthermore, today the EU calls for all developed economies to match its significant levels of market access to developing countries.

While the EU already provides more trade-related development assistance than the rest of the world put together, the Communication “Trade, growth and development” assesses the main next steps. For example: the traditional group of “developing countries” is outdated amid the rise of emerging economies. More tailor-made trade and development policies are needed that go beyond reducing customs duties at borders (tariff reductions), and tackle the major problem of improving the ‘business environment’.

To achieve this goal, the proposal underlines that developing countries’ leadership must also face up to their responsibilities. Developing countries need to undertake domestic reforms to ensure that the poor do indeed benefit from trade-led growth.

The Commission proposes a number of ways to improve the effectiveness of EU trade and development policy including:

reforming the EU’s preferential trade schemes to focus more on the poorest countries,
stepping up negotiations on free trade agreements with our developing country partners. These must look beyond tariffs to tackle the real barriers to trade,
increasing the use of EU instruments to promote foreign direct investment, including relevant provisions in free trade agreements to enhance legal certainty and combining EU grants with loans or risk capital to support the financial viability of strategic investments,
facilitating developing country exporters, especially small operators, to enter the EU,
assisting developing countries to improve their domestic business environment, meet international quality, labour and environmental standards and take better advantage of trade opportunities offered by open and integrated markets,
using trade measures to help mitigate the effects of natural disasters and tackle conflict catalysts, including in mining activities.
It also calls on emerging economies to assume more responsibility for opening their markets to LDCs through preferential schemes but also on a non-discriminatory basis towards the rest of the WTO membership, of which four-fifths are developing countries. At the same time, the EU offers emerging economies a more mature partnership that includes regulatory cooperation and engagement on global issues which are essential for development such as food security, sustainable use of natural resources, green growth and climate change.

Background
The EU leads the way in providing trade support to the developing countries:

- The EU imports more goods from developing countries than any other market. It is also the biggest market for developing world agricultural exports. Almost 70% of all agricultural imports to the EU comes from developing countries;
- developing countries benefit from EU preferences in the form of eliminated or significantly reduced tariffs for their goods (under the “General System of Preferences”);
- the Everything But Arms initiative offers duty free and quota free access to our markets for all Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and for all products except arms and is the most generous preferential import regime in the world;
the EU is leading world efforts for a package for LDCs in the multilateral trade talks;
- the EU supports the domestic reforms in developing countries needed for trade to fully contribute to development;
- The EU and its Member States are the world’s largest provider of Aid for Trade, which helps partners develop trade strategies, build trade-related infrastructure and improve productive capacity. The EU combined annual Aid for Trade reached €10.5 billion in 2009, maintaining the all-time high registered the year before;
- A substantial increase was also reported for EU Trade-Related Assistance (which is a sub-category of Aid for Trade that focuses on strategic trade issues such as policy development, regulation or regional integration). This brings the collective amount to nearly €3 billion, well above the target to spend €2 billion per year on Trade Related Assistance from 2010. Sub-Saharan Africa is the main beneficiary of EU Trade Related Assistance, with its share of collective EU Trade Related Assistance increasing from 15% to 28% between 2008 and 2009.

The Parlementarium celebrates 100 days successfully.

25 janvier 2012

Over 64,000 visitors interested in how the EU and Parliament work have experienced the Parlamentarium since Europe’s largest parliamentary visitors centre opened 100 days ago. The European Parliament’s visitors centre allows children and adults to discover Europe’s history and how the decisions that influence our daily lives are made in a modern and interactive way.

Parlamentarium opened to the public on 14 October and has gained popularity as a Brussels attraction. It is ranked among the top things to do in Brussels on the “Tripadvisor” travel information site.

The visit is accessible in the 23 official EU languages, with sign language in English, French, German and Dutch. Admission is free, it is open seven days a week and the centre is fully accessible to visitors with special needs. It also offers a role play game in which students can step into an MEP’s shoes.

Bill Gates calls for maintaining the budget for development aid

25 janvier 2012

Bill Gates calls for holding 0.7% of gross national income the budget of development aid for the next programming.

Mr Gates stressed that he cites the EU approach to development as an example when urging Chinese leaders or the US Congress to step up their development aid to the same level.

“Whether you like it or not, you are the leader in development aid and it is very unlikely we can do without this example if Europe does not continue its upward push. This is particularly important as you are looking at your 7-year budget. I know you have some difficult trade-offs to make because of the economic situation, but the money you devote to development will have a huge impact in the world”, said Mr Gates.

Speaking as co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Gates offered “living proof” that development aid “works” to save lives in the world’s poorest countries. “I think this picture is more beautiful than any European anthem”, he said, presenting a graph showing that child deaths have fallen from 20 million to under 8 million in the past 50 years.

Mr Gates also noted that vaccines are an inexpensive way to save millions of lives, citing a 99% reduction in polio cases since 1988.

MEPs were almost unanimous in their praise of this presentation, although some criticized the Gates Foundation’s links to Monsanto, a biotech company that is trying to introduce hybrid seeds in Africa.

Catherine Grèze (Greens, FR), asked “we know that the majority of African countries are against GMOs. Is it true that one of the objectives of research centre financed by foundation is to pave the way to change the laws so that cotton GMOs can be introduced in Kenya, even knowing that one of the major concerns of developing countries is losing control of their own seeds?”

Mr Gates replied that Monsanto was currently working on a project to develop royalty-free drought resistant maize, and that since all African leaders are certainly against starvation and malnutrition, it was about time that they looked into new tools. “Seeds that are dramatically more drought resistant will benefit thousands of lives”, he insisted.

Parliament’s President Martin Schulz said he was “deeply impressed and fascinated” by the work of the Gates Foundation and stressed that EU has a moral duty to show international solidarity, given that it accounts 8% of the global population, but 30% of global wealth.

“We have to deliver on our promises if we do not want to risk our credibility and I hope that, irrespective of political colours in this house, Parliament will stand shoulder to shoulder with the aims of Gates Foundation”, said Mr Schulz.

The European Commission wants to reform Data Protection

25 janvier 2012

The aim is the protection of users and reducing costs for professionals.

The European Commission has today proposed a comprehensive reform of the EU’s 1995 data protection rules to strengthen online privacy rights and boost Europe’s digital economy. Technological progress and globalisation have profoundly changed the way our data is collected, accessed and used. In addition, the 27 EU Member States have implemented the 1995 rules differently, resulting in divergences in enforcement. A single law will do away with the current fragmentation and costly administrative burdens, leading to savings for businesses of around €2.3 billion a year. The initiative will help reinforce consumer confidence in online services, providing a much needed boost to growth, jobs and innovation in Europe.

The Commission’s proposals update and modernise the principles enshrined in the 1995 Data Protection Directive to guarantee privacy rights in the future. They include a policy Communication setting out the Commission’s objectives and two legislative proposals: a Regulation setting out a general EU framework for data protection and a Directive on protecting personal data processed for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences and related judicial activities.

Key changes in the reform include:

- A single set of rules on data protection, valid across the EU. Unnecessary administrative requirements, such as notification requirements for companies, will be removed. This will save businesses around €2.3 billion a year.
- Instead of the current obligation of all companies to notify all data protection activities to data protection supervisors – a requirement that has led to unnecessary paperwork and costs businesses €130 million per year, the Regulation provides for increased responsibility and accountability for those processing personal data.
- For example, companies and organisations must notify the national supervisory authority of serious data breaches as soon as possible (if feasible within 24 hours).
- Organisations will only have to deal with a single national data protection authority in the EU country where they have their main establishment. Likewise, people can refer to the data protection authority in their country, even when their data is processed by a company based outside the EU. Wherever consent is required for data to be processed, it is clarified that it has to be given explicitly, rather than assumed.
- People will have easier access to their own data and be able to transfer personal data from one service provider to another more easily (right to data portability). This will improve competition among services.
- A ‘right to be forgotten’ will help people better manage data protection risks online: people will be able to delete their data if there are no legitimate grounds for retaining it.
- EU rules must apply if personal data is handled abroad by companies that are active in the EU market and offer their services to EU citizens.
- Independent national data protection authorities will be strengthened so they can better enforce the EU rules at home. They will be empowered to fine companies that violate EU data protection rules. This can lead to penalties of up to €1 million or up to 2% of the global annual turnover of a company.
- A new Directive will apply general data protection principles and rules for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. The rules will apply to both domestic and cross-border transfers of data.
The Commission’s proposals will now be passed on to the European Parliament and EU Member States (meeting in the Council of Ministers) for discussion. They will take effect two years after they have been adopted.

Background

Personal data is any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, your posts on social networking websites, your medical information, or your computer’s IP address. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights says that everyone has the right to personal data protection in all aspects of life: at home, at work, whilst shopping, when receiving medical treatment, at a police station or on the Internet.

In the digital age, the collection and storage of personal information are essential. Data is used by all businesses – from insurance firms and banks to social media sites and search engines. In a globalised world, the transfer of data to third countries has become an important factor in daily life. There are no borders online and cloud computing means data may be sent from Berlin to be processed in Boston and stored in Bangalore.

On 4 November 2010, the Commission set out a strategy to strengthen EU data protection rules (IP/10/1462 and MEMO/10/542). The goals were to protect individuals’ data in all policy areas, including law enforcement, while reducing red tape for business and guaranteeing the free circulation of data within the EU. The Commission invited reactions to its ideas and also carried out a separate public consultation to revise the EU’s 1995 Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC).

EU data protection rules aim to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, and in particular the right to data protection, as well as the free flow of data. This general Data Protection Directive has been complemented by other legal instruments, such as the e-Privacy Directive for the communications sector. There are also specific rules for the protection of personal data in police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA).

The right to the protection of personal data is explicitly recognised by Article 8 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and by the Lisbon Treaty. The Treaty provides a legal basis for rules on data protection for all activities within the scope of EU law under Article 16 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The European Commission encourages the interoperability of trains

25 janvier 2012

The Commission has adopted today measures to strengthen the European system of train control (ETCS).

ETCS is the European standard for train signalling and speed control. Deployment of ETCS across key freight and high speed corridors will greatly improve the competitiveness of European railways.

The ETCS concept is simple: information is transmitted from the ground to the train, where an on-board computer uses it to calculate the maximum authorised speed and then automatically slows down the train if necessary. ETCS is part of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS).

Currently, there are more than 20 different signalling systems in operation in Europe and their incompatibility is a major technical barrier to international traffic. For example, adding an additional national safety system in an existing locomotive, already authorised in different countries, and obtaining again all safety authorisations may cost more than €2 million and take more than two years. ETCS will eliminate these costs.

However, ETCS will only bear its fruits if products are fully compatible and conform to the European specifications. The decision adopted today strengthens the requirements regarding testing, in particular that on-board products are tested in accredited laboratories.

Technical background

The concept of European Train Control System (ETCS) is not new: there are over 20 national systems for automatically controlling the speed of trains. Unfortunately, these national systems are incompatible with one another. To be able to circulate on networks equipped with different systems, either the engines must be changed at the borders (which means a considerable amount of time is lost) or the engines must be equipped with different on-board systems compatible with the different track systems used by the different networks (which increases costs and the risks of breakdown). Either way, this creates a rift in the single market and an obstacle to free movement.

This has an especially adverse impact on goods transport. Although rail transport should be more competitive over long distances, each border adds significant extra costs and delays, translating into market losses and saturation of the road network.

The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) could significantly increase the competitiveness of rail transport. This is particularly true for freight when the system is deployed in a coordinated manner along a corridor and is accompanied by relevant measures, such as harmonisation of the operating rules or enhancement of the infrastructure if necessary. On the Rotterdam-Genova corridor, for example, the volume of goods transported could be doubled by 2020, which would be the equivalent of one more heavy goods vehicle passing along this route every 37 seconds.

The ERTMS is a major industrial success for Europe. Its performance and its cost mean that it has rapidly gained acceptance even beyond Europe and it is currently the global reference standard, used on all new lines.

Today, in Europe, more than 4000 km of lines are equipped with ETCS. Moreover, the equipment of more than 4000 additional kilometres has already been contracted, thus indicating that the length of ETCS equipped lines will more than double over the next two or three years and the equipment rate is expected to further increase over the coming years.