ESPO welcomes European Parliament’s recognition of and support for the strategic and comprehensive role of Europe’s ports

ESPO welcomes European Parliament’s recognition of and support for the strategic and comprehensive role of Europe’s ports

ESPO — 2024-01-17

News from Brussels

On Wednesday 17 January, the European Parliament officially adopted the Berendsen report, an own-initiative report on “building a comprehensive European Port Strategy” (585 in favour, 21 against, 26 abstentions).

The European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) highly welcomes Parliament’s recognition of and support for the strategic and vital role that Europe’s ports play for European society and economy. The voted text also demonstrates a good understanding of the challenges ports are facing and the high investment needs ports have to be able to play the more comprehensive and critical role they have nowadays.

On top of being the Union’s gateways to the world, logistic nodes and industrial clusters, Europe’s ports are hubs of energy. As has been demonstrated over the last two years, ports play a critical role in ensuring Europe’s energy security and are at the same time facilitators, and even accelerators of the energy transition. Ports need large public and private investments to take on all these responsibilities and to continue to develop.

In today's geo-economic and geopolitical context, it is clear that the strategic role of ports is gaining in importance. Europe needs strong ports and solid supply chains at its core. ESPO therefore supports the Parliament’s plea to further harmonise the measures to strengthen the resilience and protection of Europe’s critical infrastructure, including ports. Ports look forward in that respect to the proposal to review the current Foreign Direct Investment Regulation, which is due to be released next week. For ESPO, this review should oblige all EU Member States to implement a foreign direct investment screening system and carry out screenings in a more harmonised manner. This must enhance the necessary level playing field within Europe, and contribute to more legal certainty for potential investors aiming to invest in European ports. ESPO highly welcomes that the report underlines the importance of a more stable investment climate and predictability in investment assessments.

ESPO further welcomes Parliament’s focus on putting the competitiveness of Europe’s ports to the forefront, which comes with some important messages. The Parliament is asking for support for the role of ports in the energy transition, in particular in terms of developing hydrogen infrastructure in ports as well as speeding up the permitting procedures. It further calls for avoiding carbon and business leakage, avoiding excessive administrative burden, boosting of hinterland connections to and from ports, as well as for providing dedicated port envelopes under the Connecting Europe Facility.

Overall, ESPO believes that this report should pave the way for an approach ensuring a fair balance between strengthening Europe’s security and competitiveness on the one hand and safeguarding an open trade and attractive investment environment and the resilience of strong supply chains that are vital for Europe’s society and economy on the other.

Isabelle Ryckbost, ESPO Secretary General: “This Parliament report is a strong document. It comes at a right time. Ports in Europe are in transition. Both in their traditional role as gateways to trade and hubs in the supply chains, as well as in their new roles as enablers of Europe’s important transitions, ports are playing an increasingly strategic and critical role. This can only be sustainable if there is a supporting policy in place that is stable, provides certainty and supports ports in remaining competitive, including towards ports outside Europe. For us, supporting and enabling ports to maintain their important role, to prepare and ‘build’ for their new roles in achieving Europe’s ambitions is the best possible port strategy.”

ESPO finally stresses the importance of implementation of the legislation that has been put in place over the last years. Ports in Europe have been working with many new (European) legislative initiatives, specifically since 2017, ranging from the Port Services Regulation and the revised General Block Exemption Regulation, to the Foreign Direct Investment Regulation, the Distortive Foreign Subsidies Regulation, the Network and Information Security Directive, the Critical Entities Regulation and the relevant pillars of the Fit for 55 Package. For ESPO, it is now important to see that these rules are being adequately implemented, progress is being made in reaching the ambitions, before launching reviews and taking additional measures. There is no time to lose.