Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I too would like, on behalf of the Group of the Party of European Socialists, to extend warm thanks to the rapporteur for her work. In many ways, it was easy from the start because the policy ideas were similar and ran in parallel, whereas in other aspects it was slightly more difficult, but if one is used to debating from different standpoints and if one is prepared for a compromise, then one will indeed find a good compromise.
Why do I think, as a Social Democrat, that this is a good compromise? It is because I am constantly telling my friends that in the last few years and decades, since there was no liberalisation or opening up of the market, the railways have lost market share. What happened was not liberalisation but scrapping. The fact is that, on the one hand, there are heavy goods vehicles, driven more or less the length and breadth of Europe without borders. Drivers do not have to change at the border, and the driving cabin is not changed at the border; there are, no doubt, various detailed provisions about traffic signs but they are relatively easily intelligible. On the other hand, unfortunately, there are still national railway systems, which are separate from each other, which involve obstacles and which of course also make the railway inflexible. For that reason, many companies which, whether we like it or not, have relied more and more on just-in-time production, have frequently found themselves forced to prefer the lorry over the railway. Coming as I do from a country which is burdened by a massive amount of lorry transit traffic, I can only hope that there are efficient, market-oriented but still, of course, environment-oriented means of transport and for me that certainly means the railway.
Mr Jarzembowski was right to say that railways must now do something about this. I have constantly criticised the fact that railways have taken a long time to start thinking in international and European terms. However, I believe that today – not least because of the work of this House – the railways, and even the representatives of the employees, the trade unions, have a European orientation. There are probably not many trade unions that are now as European-oriented as the railway unions, because they know that the future depends upon their being involved at European level. I believe that they are also to a large extent responsible for this evolution. The times when there were still firemen on English trains even though there were no fires left to stoke are, thank God, over and it is employee representatives who are now working, as we also see with the train drivers, very constructively on deliberately giving the railways a renaissance at European level and also enabling them to compete with the roads.
Of course, there is still much to be done. This very week, we voted on the Cocilovo report. It is not yet the optimum solution, but there has been some progress. Mr Jarzembowski does not regard it as progress, but the good thing is that he must also sometimes make compromises, even in Hamburg in Northern Germany he must be able to make compromises. So with any luck we will be able to find a good solution for the question of the offsetting of external costs. For I believe that any reasonable person, any reasonable traffic expert, would say that we need both rail and road. What is at issue is the appropriate balance. In this period, I believe that a good compromise has emerged. We will see what to do about passenger traffic. I agree with Mrs Ainardi that we need to review the steps that have been taken. Only so far, there has in fact not been much market opening, not much readiness on the part of the railway companies to accept the market. I hope that this will now be the case to a larger extent.
I would like to thank the rapporteur warmly for her work once again. I would also like to thank you, Mrs Cederschiöld, very much for the way in which you have chaired the conciliation committee in a purposeful and cautious manner. This made it possible to be on a level with the Council and the Commission. That itself, I think, is an important milestone in the development of the European railway system.