The strategic importance of the Motorways of the Sea (MoS) has been recognized and repeatedly highlighted by the major European institutions. Looking back at the main events that inspired the actual decisions related to the Trans-European Network – Transport (TEN-T), it is easy to understand the strategic role of the Motorways of the Sea within the Community policies on transport and logistics.
The Motorways of the Sea come as a result of the concept of Trans-European Network – Transport (TEN-T), introduced within the Maastricht Treaty discussions in 1992. The TEN-T aims to promote an integrated, intermodal new transport policy, capable of implementing and enhancing the maritime connections between the EU Member States.
With the Transport White Paper adopted by the European Commission in 2001, the general transport situation started to become clear, leading to an ambitious action plan that included the Motorways of the Sea, highlighting their strategic role in the development and implementation of intermodal transport between States. The same year, in line with the EU policies, Italy draws up a General Plan for Transport and Logistics, with the aim of analyzing the Italian transport network system and suggesting solutions to priority issues. The document specifically refers to the Motorways of the Sea Project (in line with the EU propositions of the time) and identifies the potentials of short-range sea transport in making people and freight transportation more efficient.
In February 2002 the Community establishes the High Level Group of the Trans-European Network – Transport, to help the Commission selecting the transport network projects scheduled until 2020, with the general aim of completing the internal market and strengthening the social and economical cohesion in Europe.
One of the main task of the Group held by Karel Van Miert, is to identify a close number of priority projects for the transport network system within the Enlarged Europe, by evaluating the single propositions brought up by the Member States and by the candidate Countries. The results of this selection has been published on June 30th 2003 in a report that includes the Motorways of the Sea as Priority Project 21 (PP21 “Motorways of the Sea”).
On October 1st 2003, the Commission, having considered the report by Van Miert, brings a proposition to review the selection of priority projects concerning the trans-European networks, and consider an enlarged Master Plan including the new EU Members. Afterwards, the European Ministers of Transport led by the Italian Presidency approve the list of 30 priority projects, based on a political agreement enabled under the procedure of co-decision by the European Parliament and Council on March 11th 2004 (decision No. 884, 2004, which had modified the previous No. 1692, 1996, concerning the guidelines for the development of the trans-European networks.)
In June 2006, the European Commission releases the Green Paper “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean”, that officially defines the European vision for future maritime related policies. Aim of the document is to open a debate on the EU maritime policy and, within the Lisbon strategy, seek to strike the right balance between the economic, social and environmental dimension of sustainable development.