Roberts Zile: CEF is an opportunity to really start connecting Europe

The European Parliament in a plenary vote – to coincide with the EU 2014-2020 multi-annual budget – adopted a new regulation on the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

The European Parliament in a plenary vote – to coincide with the EU 2014-2020 multi-annual budget – adopted a new regulation on the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). As the ECR Group Coordinator in Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee Roberts Zile pointed out, it is the first time in history for such a large amount of funding to be redirected for the EU’s common interest projects in transport, energy and telecommunications.

“It gives hope that the EU could really start to be connected, especially between its Eastern and Western parts”, said Mr. Zile.

CEF is a new EU level financing mechanism for transport, energy and digital networks which will come into force along with the next Multiannual Financial Framework for years 2014 – 2020. Its aim is to promote significant cross-border projects that might otherwise be delayed or not be implemented due to the limited financial resources of Member States. Of a total estimated 29,3 billion euros of funding, the transport sector will receive 23,2 billion euros, of which 10 billion will come from the Cohesion Fund. The energy sector will receive 5,12 billion euros and telecommunications (digital networks) – 1 billion. CEF investments will focus in particular on projects with high EU added value, such as building cross-border links and removing bottlenecks along main trans-European transport corridors.

Mr. Zile said: ”CEF is an important tool for the completion of the EU Single market and the creation of modern transport, energy and telecommunication connections between the EU Member States. The opportunities offered by this instrument are especially important for the Eastern European countries which historically lack connections to the Western part of the EU. I agree that in a time of a stringent budget cuts in some of the EU Member States such a new and relatively expensive financial mechanism could seem a bit inappropriate; however it is a far better way to spend money than to spend it for agricultural subsidies.”

Mr. Zile emphasizes that for the Baltic countries the CEF is an important geopolitical tool to diminish their economic dependence on Russia and to cease the Baltic “island” status towards the rest of the Europe in transport and energy.

“For my country, Latvia, CEF means the first opportunity to build the ”Rail Baltic” high-speed railway from Helsinki to Warszava. It is also possible to use its funding for the building of a liquefied natural gas terminal which could become an alternative source of gas besides the current Russian “Gazprom” monopoly in gas supply.

“For the new EU states in general a major role will be played by 10 billion euros ring fenced in the Cohesion Fund for the CEF projects. They will allow cohesion countries receive up to 85% of project funding as EU grants. Otherwise, it is clearly seen that many of CEF projects would never have been implemented in the cohesion countries due to their tiny government budgets.”

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