On Thursday, MEPs on Transport and Tourism committee called for a European Port Summit, that could address EU ports security, competiveness and foreign influence issues.
The draft resolution on building a comprehensive European port strategy, which was prepared by EP rapporteur Tom Berendsen (EPP, NL), stresses that ports play a crucial role in economy, provide jobs, facilitate external trade, energy transition and decarbonisation. They also played an important role in EU crisis management, by establishing short-term alternative routes for the provision of LNG and helping to increase Europe’s gas storage, Transport MEPs add.
Warnings on China
They recall the intelligence agencies warnings about the risk the economic presence of non-EU countries in European ports could have on their economic dependence, espionage or sabotage. MEPs on Transport and Tourism Committee want to limit foreign influence in EU ports and call on the Commission and EU governments to urgently carry out a risk assessment of China’s and other non-EU countries involvement in maritime infrastructure, its impact on labour and the environment.
MEPs are worried that current EU measures, such as, voluntary screening of foreign direct investments and competition rules, are not sufficient to protect EU ports against increasing economic strength of external powers. Therefore, they want a mandatory screening of foreign direct investments and more cooperation between EU countries in blocking suspicious investments in critical infrastructure.
Transport MEPs note that strengthening the economic position of EU ports is crucial for limiting foreign influence and security risks. They are concerned that due to attempts to evade the implementation of EU rules on emission trading system and on sustainable maritime fuels, container transhipment activities could shift to non-EU ports. This behaviour should be detected and prohibited, they stress.
MEPs also point to the fact that China forbids EU shipping companies to carry out cabotage operations between Chinese ports, while this is not the case for Chinese companies operating at EU ports. The draft resolution calls on the Commission to ensure reciprocity in this case.
European Port Summit
In order to foster the cooperation between EU ports and address the aforementioned issues Transport MEPs call for European Port Summit and urge the Commission to present a European Port Strategy before the end of 2024.
The draft resolution on building a comprehensive European port strategy was adopted unanimously by 39 votes in favour. It now needs to be voted by the full house of the Parliament, possibly during the January 2024 session.