Council agrees on key positions in transportation and telecommunications, but negotiations with the Parliament on AI continue

December 2023
By Editorial Staff

The Transport, Telecommunications, and Energy Council met for a two-day meeting in Transport and Telecommunications configurations. With the end of the Spanish presidency around the corner and the one of legislative term approaching, the Council achieved significant milestones, adopting crucial positions on legislative packages that address road safety, maritime safety, environmental sustainability, and advancements in digital infrastructure and cybersecurity.

The first day of the Council’s meeting showcased a series of impactful decisions aimed at bolstering road safety across the European Union.

The Council adopted a general approach on the fourth reform of the driving licenses legislation, whose key components included updating driving tests, introducing of an EU-wide scheme for accompanied driving, and provisions for digital driving licenses. Measures to reduce dangerous behavior, such as updated rules on physical and mental fitness, were also introduced.

Ministers also adopted their position on a revised directive concerning rest periods and breaks for drivers in the occasional passenger transport sector. Recognizing the unique work patterns and pressures in this sector, they aimed to ensure that the new rules provide flexibility without compromising the minimum guaranteed rest times or driving time limits.

A general approach was also agreed on cross-border exchange of information on traffic offenses, which aims to ensure non-resident drivers’ adherence to traffic rules in other member states, and on the accounting of greenhouse gas emissions of transport services.

Council’s position was then finalised on four proposals concerning port state control, ship-source pollution, compliance with flag state requirements, and the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector. These proposals seek to modernize EU rules on maritime safety, align with international standards, and enhance the independence of accident investigation bodies.

On its second day, the Council meeting focused on critical aspects of the telecommunications sector, cybersecurity, and the digital transformation of Europe.

The Council agreed on its position regarding the Gigabit Infrastructure Act, aiming to reduce the cost of deploying gigabit electronic communications networks. This proposal addresses the complexities and delays caused by permit-granting procedures and seeks to accelerate the deployment of high-speed networks.

Telecommunications ministers took note of a progress report on a regulation laying down measures to strengthen solidarity and capacities in the EU to detect, prepare for, and respond to cybersecurity threats and incidents. Later, upon the initiative of the Presidency, they engaged in a policy debate on technological leadership and competitiveness, focusing on investments in digital networks and infrastructures. Ministers acknowledged the challenges and opportunities in the telecommunications sector, emphasizing the need to adapt EU regulations to the rapidly evolving technological landscape.

The Council, then, discussed a range of legislative proposals, including the artificial intelligence act, the revision of the regulation on a European digital identity (eIDAS), the interoperable Europe act, the cyber resilience act, and the draft regulation on a targeted amendment of the cyber security act. Particularly, while Commissioner Breton pushed for an agreement on the AI act to be reached already during todays’ trilogue, the discussion among Ministers hinted that common ground with the European Parliament might still need some time. In conclusion, this Council meeting marked the last time Transport and Telecommunications Ministers met under the Spanish Presidency. The positions approved will serve as mandates for the trilogues taking place in the next semester, where the Belgian Presidency will lead the negotiations on these important pieces of legislation.