4th Jun 2023

MEP no-show scuppers liberalised railway package

The European Parliament has failed to inject competition into national rail networks across Europe as 200 parliamentarians did not show up for a Thursday (18 January) vote in the plenary.

With 358 MEPs in favour and 195 against, the proposal to liberalize domestic railways from 2017 did not gain a required qualified majority of 393 votes and therefore will be put on ice for an indefinite period of time.

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"Some MEPs do not consider their presence during the vote seriously enough", centre-right German MEPs Georg Jarzembowski, in charge of the dossier, told EUobserver, adding that the result "is a blow to competition, better services and better fares for citizens".

Mr Jarzembowski also complained about the fact that some MEPs from France and the Netherlands - mainly socialists - did not vote in favour of the liberalization deadline, although "the proposal was based on a compromise between the conservatives and the socialists".

"It is disappointing that some member states are afraid to welcome competition in ten years from now", he said, underlining that "France and the Netherlands protect their state-owned operators and favour market shares over citizens' interests".

The parliament's transport committee gave its blessing to Mr Jarzembowski's report last December, with 30 votes in favour, 10 against and 5 abstentions.

According to a parliament's insider yesterday's incident gives rise to moral issues about MEPs' not being present for important votes, as some blamed the bad weather for leaving Strasbourg early.

Deadly storms swept northern Europe yesterday and rail and air passengers were warned to expect delays and cancellations.

"But their job is to vote," said the parliament official not seeing that as a sufficient excuse.

Parliament to clash with EU states on railways

The European Parliament and member states are likely to clash over a package of railway reforms, as the assembly gets set to inject more competition into Europe's rail networks rejecting many of member states' common proposals.

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