EU must guarantee affordable transport to insular peripheral regions – Sant
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“The EU must guarantee affordable transport in all its regions, especially for the insular, peripheral and sparsely populated regions of the EU,” said Maltese MEP Alfred Sant.
He made the comments when submitting various amendments for the EP Annual Report on Competition Policy in his role as Shadow Rapporteur for the S&D.
Dr Sant, speaking at the European Parliament Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON), pointed out the issues of liberalisation in the transport sector, the issues of competition in the digital world and Google, freedom of online travel agents to sell flight tickets without imposed barriers to trade, transparent separation of powers within the Commission’s DG Competition, and competition in the food sector and agriculture.
He expressed his satisfaction that important sectors are clearly getting recognition, through both the text proposed by the Rapporteur ALDE MEP Ramon Tremosa, together with his tabled amendments.
The Report is expected to be voted in Plenary during the March session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Dr Sant remarked that, “transport remains vital for the economic survival of the different regions and communities in Europe. We should be wary of pursuing the opening up of the markets, just for the sake of liberalisation.
“Allowing private entries should not be an end in itself. We need to assure that this service of basic economic interest is guaranteed at affordable prices, in all the regions of the EU,” he added.
The MEP pointed out that “this applies especially for insular, peripheral, and sparsely populated regions of the EU, and is of course in my view being reflected in the compromises being drawn up by the Rapporteur.”
“When analysing liberalisation options, we need to make sure that all social standards are respected, for the sake of those working in the sector, as well as consumers. Sadly, there are experiences that have very often shown other results,” said MEP Sant.
Dr Sant said amendments regarding Google feature prominently. “We need to talk about it in a clear way, in a rational way. We cannot just ignore it because ignoring it would be ignoring the elephant in the room.”
He went on to say that online travel agencies are complaining of being ousted from the market. This is due to the imposition by certain airlines of surcharges or restricted access to information for those using booking channels other than their own.
“The current revision of the Regulation on safeguarding competition in air transport should also tackle this issue. Appropriate legislative vehicles should prevent anticompetitive behaviour in ticket distribution with the aim of having cheaper flights for air travellers in Europe,” he said.
Dr Sant referring to the issue of dedicating enough resources to the Commission’s DG Competition, said, “I agree that attention should be given to reallocate the needed resources to the European Commission on this point.
“I also believe that this should go hand-in-hand with a strict and transparent separation between the departments that draw up guidelines, and those that have the responsibility to apply those guidelines in specific cases. We need to avoid a situation in which the Competition DG acts as the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner.”
The Maltese MEP speaking on agriculture said,. “we are too often hearing of the huge discrepancy that exists, between the food prices being offered to the end consumer, and the price being offered to farmers for their products. I am glad that this is being tackled, both through my amendments and the compromises.”
“I support EU action that keeps in mind the survival of small-scale farmers and the welfare of end consumers alike. From my side and the side of the S&D, the most crucial point is to safeguard the weakest link in the competition chain. This is being reflected in our amendments to this Report.” remarked the Maltese MEP.