Electronic road toll systems
Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I too would like to start by congratulating Mrs Sommer on her very thorough and in-depth work, although I admit that I would have preferred a report that stuck closer to what the Commission had proposed.
I believe that the Commission proposal was – or is – bolder and more forward-looking, albeit somewhat more risky. Unfortunately, I have to add, the Commission´s staff have perhaps been insufficiently energetic or enthusiastic in pleading the technical merits of this proposal. We can certainly live with what Mrs Sommer has put together and the Committee have adopted, but I would like to point out that it would actually do the European´s image some good if it were to move towards the most modern technology, not just because the technology is the most up-to-date, but because it is highly flexible. Advocates of a toll system, at any rate, know how important tolls can be in regulating traffic flow and diverting traffic from overstretched or environmentally vulnerable areas to other routes. They know that a high degree of flexibility is needed, one that can be achieved only by means of satellite technology, which requires less in the way of infrastructure than if a toll system uses microwave technology. I will concede that the bad experiences that the Germans are currently having have not been much help in achieving acceptance of this principle. That is one reason why Mrs Sommer, who may indeed have been more in favour of such a system, could not plead its cause, as she always had one eye on the press reports from Germany and could not go any further.
I will address my concluding remarks to the Commission, which will perhaps report to one of the forthcoming meetings of the Committee on Regional Policy Transport and Tourism on what is happening about Galileo and the satellite system. I started by describing the Commission proposal as bolder but rather more risky – the latter insofar as we are dependent on a satellite system, Galileo in particular. It appears to me that there will be major problems with using the satellite-based system in Europe, for I hear that the Americans are bringing certain pressure to bear – we are having separate and specific talks with them – concerning the American influence on the system, which is being made somewhat less precise, and can, if it comes to that, even be switched off. I do not know whether the Commissioner wants to say something about this at the end of this debate or whether she will be able, when next the opportunity arises, to report to the committee on the actual state of play in this area.