Varadkar tells MEPs of need for urgent action on transport agenda
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar kicked off four days of special hearings at the European Parliament on Ireland’s EU presidency with a warning that time is short as he seeks to advance key projects.
Mr Varadkar was the first of 20 Ministers and Ministers of State to present his presidency programme to the relevant committee of MEPs.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney rank among the Government figures going before the parliament today. Further hearings take place tomorrow and on Thursday.
Mr Varadkar said legislation on air passenger rights plan had the potential to be as significant as previous European measures to curb mobile phone roaming charges.
“We expect these proposals to clarify issues such as the rights of passengers, particularly in cases of flight cancellations, delays and denied boarding,” he said.
Also on the way is a reform of the way Europe’s rail networks operate and a new plan for clean power for transport.
While each of these initiatives presented complex challenges, Mr Varadkar noted that the Irish presidency was the third-last before the mandates of current parliament and European Commission expire next year.
“To be frank, time is against us. The European legislative process is painstakingly slow. The implications for us are that any new proposals that come our way from here on in have an ever-narrowing window of opportunity for successful conclusion,” he said.
MEPs repeatedly urged Mr Varadkar to protect expenditure on transport projects.
“I’m also realistic that those decisions aren’t going to be made by me. They’re going to be made at the higher level. But I’ll certainly be fighting the good fight.”
He rejected criticism of Ryanair by a committee member. “I’ve had my run-ins with Ryanair, as every Minister does. But if you look at the facts – they’re a massive airline flying huge numbers of planes and huge numbers of passengers every day and their safety record to date has been exemplary and the safety standards that are enforced by the Irish Aviation Authority are enforced very strictly.”