Cyprus, as an island, depends on air transport both for connectivity with the outside world and its economic development and for this reason, efforts to restore its air connectivity should be intensified as they directly affect the tourist industry and the economy in general, Transport Minister, Yiannis Karousos told an informal video conference of EU Transport Ministers.
At their third informal video conference held on Thursday, EU transport Ministers discussed a sustainable and digital recovery of the transport sector after the COVID-19 outbreak, an official press release said.
The meeting was chaired by Oleg Butković, Croatian Minister for the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure. The Commission was represented by Commissioner Adina Vălean.
In the discussion, Ministers were invited to reflect on initiatives and investments which are the most urgent for a sustainable and digital recovery and which can make the sector more resilient, and the best short to medium-term and long-term tools to meet these objectives.
In the discussion, ministers reaffirmed the importance of a coordinated approach both in introducing measures to stop the spread of the virus and applying the exit strategy, and in securing the recovery.
They welcomed the tourism and transport package presented by the Commission in May, which includes useful guidelines for the transport sector. Ministers stressed the need for harmonised health protocols to ensure cross-border services.
Ministers confirmed the need for global outreach with a view to resolving crew change issues so that both EU and third-country seafarers can safely return home or embark on new voyages both in EU and non-EU ports.
In the video conference, Karousos underlined that in the context of the revised multiannual financial framework (MFF) and the recovery plan, factors such as the connectivity of Member States should be taken into account, in addition to sustainability and digitization, adding that the Commission should re-examine the possibility of providing targeted subsidies through the Public Service Obligation (PSO), so as to ensure minimum connectivity throughout the Union and in particular in the Member States, which rely solely on air transport and have no alternative to air transport.
Regarding the maritime sector, Karousos welcomed the guidelines of the Commission which aim at protecting the health, repatriation and travel regulations of seafarers.
He said Cyprus is facilitating the change of crews with the introduction of special provisions and has helped repatriate many seafarers who belong to companies from throughout the world.
As regards the implementation of environmentally friendly practices in the field of shipping, Karousos welcomed the continuation of cooperation between the EU and the International Maritime Organization, to achieve the global climate targets.
He urged the Commission to continue working on plans in such a way that will allow the economy to recover, including the digital transformation of the shipping sector, investment in alternative fuel plants, automation of port processes, and the promotion of sustainable fuels.
Regarding road transport and taking into account the loss of capacity of public transport, due to the measures taken to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, Karousos said that this sector should be supported to enable it increase the frequency of routes they run.
He also called for more projects that involve the construction of pavements and bicycle paths.
In view of the opening of EU member borders and efforts to stop the recurrence of COVID-19, Karousos also pointed out the need to create a platform which will indicate the epidemiological data of each member state.