This week in Europe – 28-31 January(ish)

Attempt to introduce the British model to European railways fails

Virgin trainGermany has succeeded in changing the content of a European Commission proposal on the liberalisation of railways before the proposal was even published. The intention, to introduce greater competition in rail passenger services by separating infrastructure owners from passenger service operators failed after stiff resistance from Deutsche Bahn and SNCF.

Ironically, SNCF is run as a separate entity already but it is intended to merge the two companies once more. Instead, vertically integrated rail companies will have to erect firewalls between their business units before they can compete for passengers in other member states. It is thought that the proposals could yield savings of €500 million per annum by 2025.

Ludford: EU court misses major opportunity for European Arrest Warrant reform

Commenting on Tuesday’s judgement by the European Court of Justice in the Radu case on the European Arrest Warrant, Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman, Sarah Ludford MEP said:

It is deeply regrettable that the Court has missed a major opportunity to reform the operation of the EAW. In sticking to technicalities, they failed to endorse the need for proportionality and the possibility of a refusal to extradite on human rights grounds.

The EAW is an essential tool in fighting cross-border crime and achieving justice for victims like Rob Hughes. But reform is necessary to maintain public confidence, in recognition that criminal justice standards are not uniformly high across Europe.

Slovene liberals withdraw from ruling coalition

Gregor Virant, leader of the Civic List, speaks at the ALDE Party Congress in Dublin, Ireland (9 November 2012)

Gregor Virant, leader of the Civic List

Last Thursday, Civic List (Slovenia) leader, Gregor Virant, withdrew his party from the ruling coalition following to the refusal of Prime Minister Janez Janša to resign in light of corruption allegations. Commenting on the developments, Sir Graham Watson, President of the ALDE Party said:

I hope that Prime Minister Janša does the right thing and either stands down or heeds to the call for new parliamentary elections in the near future. In the meantime I trust the Civic List will act as a constructive opposition and support any measures which will be in the interest of the citizens.

Slovenia cannot afford to be preoccupied by a political crisis but it cannot afford to lose the citizens’ trust either. This situation should be resolved immediately so that the country can implement the political and economic reforms needed to manage the difficult economic times it is facing.

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  • Paul Holmes 1st Feb '13 - 9:53pm

    Perhaps Germany’s right of centre Coalition Government noticed what a ‘roaring success’ the British model has proved to be?

  • Indeed. Splitting infrastructure a la UK has proven to be a roaring success. Not.

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Feb '13 - 8:43am

    Whatever the flaws of the British model for passenger rail services, it does at least have a national rail network with a common ticketing structure for all domestic train services. With certain exceptions, the passenger who turns up and buys a ticket on the day of travel need neither know nor care who runs the trains he is going to use. And that is a good thing.

    Unfortunately, the European Commission may be focusing too much on promoting “competition” on the rail network at the expense of integration. Already booking for European rail journeys is very fragmented, as it is not possible to buy through tickets from UK to mainland Europe any more; you have to buy separate tickets for different segments, but you cannot buy them all from the same retailer and get the best value tickets. Encouraging further EU-wide rail “liberalisation” without the sort of provisions that make the UK rail fare system work (after a fashion), such as the requirement for impartial selling, and the availability of through tickets throughout the network, will only make this situation worse.

  • andrew purches 2nd Feb '13 - 9:33am

    Sarah Ludford’s comment on the ECJ is well made: I wish though that our leaders in this country would wake up to the fact that the basic difference that stymies our relationship with Europe is that our legal system is based upon Common Law and that of Europe largely on Roman Law – a hangover from the Holy Roman Empire that in many ways caused all the centuries of War and associated nastiness on the Continent.

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Feb '13 - 12:05pm

    @Mark: the reason the railways in the UK were privatised as they were is that passenger groups wanted to retain a national rail network with integrated ticketing etc. So we got franchises. Left to their own devices, the Tories would probably have done it according to a more pure free-market model, with no integration between operators, and booking as fragmented as it is now for international European rail journeys.
    Also passenger rail is mostly a natural monopoly. The New Zealand experiment in privatising rail according to a free-market model was a failure, and the railways there were taken back into public ownershiop.

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