A provisional agreement between Parliament and Council reached on Thursday evening sets the framework for how the €30 billion deal for the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) will be used from 2021 to 2027. The programme will fund transport, energy and digital projects, and ensure that essential Trans-European projects, such as Rail Baltica, alternative fuels charging infrastructure and the roll-out of 5G coverage to important transport axes are finished on time by 2030.
Industry, Research and Energy rapporteur Henna Virkkunen (EPP, FI) stressed: “The programme finances key cross-border connectivity and renewable energy projects between member states, and will allow Europe to take a leap towards a digital and climate-neutral economy. This is vital to ensure we stay competitive in the future”.
With an overall budget of about €30 billion (in 2018 constant prices), CEF will fund projects to modernise transport infrastructure and cross-border projects with an EU added value. Around €10 billion allocated to cross-border transport projects will come from Cohesion Funds and will help EU countries complete missing transport links. A share of €1.4 billion will be designated to fast track the completion of major missing cross border railway projects, to be selected by the Commission on a competitiveness basis.
In the digital sector, CEF will support the development of projects of common interest on safe and secure very high capacity digital networks and 5G systems, as well as the digitalisation of transport and energy networks. The programme will finally aim to make energy networks more interoperable and ensure that projects funded are in line with EU and national climate and energy plans.
Co-rapporteur on the Transport and Tourism Committee, Dominique Riquet (Renew, FR) added: “This financing tool is needed more than ever. We need to develop further and faster transport projects to stimulate growth, be more competitive and strengthen cohesion across Europe. Achieving the Green Deal will not be possible if we do not upgrade our infrastructure for the digital and environmental transition. The CEF is a necessity for Europe to achieve those goals”.
The informal deal on the Connecting Europe Facility programme still needs to be approved by the Council’s Committee of Permanent Representatives and Parliament’s Transport and Industry committees. It then needs to be approved by the Council and Parliament as a whole. If approved, the funding could provide a plethora of opportunity for many industries including Automation, Machine Vision and Robotics.