The Slovenia Times

Bulc takes stock of outgoing term in an interview for STA


The Slovenian member of the European Commission has dealt with a number of important topics, with the Germanwings air disaster and the Dieselgate scandal marking the start of her five-year term.

According to Bulc, the key priorities of her term were the vision of zero casualties on the European roads and zero emissions from transport by 2050.

Asked about the Germanwings accident, in which the German co-pilot deliberately crashed the aircraft into the French Alps to kill all 150 people on board, she said it was a horrific tragedy, after which some measures were introduced immediately.

The EU has introduced psychological testing of aircraft crew and introduced the rule that at least two persons must be present in the cockpit at all times.

According to Bulc, the EU is very proud of its statistics on air traffic safety. "Unfortunately, we learn the most about traffic from tragic accidents."

She believes that the vision of zero casualties on the European roads by 2050 is feasible, as in 92% of traffic accidents, the reason is human error due to late response or inappropriate behaviour, which could be improved by technology.

Bulc stressed that the number of accidents was decreasing while the volume of traffic was increasing drastically due to the higher social standard, which was causing an increasing number of traffic jams.

The European Commission is working on improving public infrastructure, especially railways, so that they could take over a large part of road transport. The plan is to move cargo from the road to rivers, railways and motorways of the sea, she added

The Slovenian EU commissioner believes that the EU has forgotten about railways and neglected them, which is why they are not efficient, digitally equipped and reliable enough for the current needs in the EU.

In the next financial perspective (2021-2027), railways will still be one of the priorities, with 60% to 70% of total investments going into this direction, said Bulc.

One of the concepts of future is micromobility. "What represents a great challenge are e-scooters, which exceptionally effectively address the needs at the micromobility level, but there is no room for them on the physical infrastructure."

For the time being, this is a challenge at the national level, because it concerns urban mobility, but the EU is also trying to find an answer at the level of the union. "There is still a lot of confusion and the first victims are the warning that this debate needs to be continued."

In addition to e-scooters, also coming are drones and flying cars, Bulc said, noting that one of the biggest steps in the outgoing term was the legislative framework for drones. First services intended for rescue teams could be launched next year.

Bulc has also pursued the zero vision in the field of pollution, which she believes will be one of the main jobs for the new line-up of the European Commission. "We were first to start talking about the vision zero in transport by 2050."

She believes that clear commitments are important so that it is easier to decide on investments, including in the already confirmed legislative proposal on a 30% reduction in emissions from new cars by 2030 and the clear commitments regarding the reduction of emissions for heavy cargo vehicles and in air and maritime transport.

Related to the efforts to reduce emissions was Dieselgate, the scandal that broke out at the start of Bulc's term. "This scandal surprised us very much, and it undermined the trust in the work of institutions and industry," she said.

The EU has introduced new measures, which was difficult because there were many major investments, jobs and market shares at stake. Bulc is happy that there has been finally an end to the "psychosis that the entire Europe will go bust if we go in the direction of green technologies."

The commissioner said that it had been established at the start of her term that there were many anomalies in the EU when it came to road tolling, which is why a uniform legislation was in the works so that "we can travel across the entire Europe with one small box."

Such legislation is already in force for cargo vehicles, and Bulc hopes that it will soon be also applied for cars. What needs to be done is to introduce the principle of tolling based on distance travelled and the polluter pays principle.

Bulc said that she was very proud of all international agreements, especially the transport agreement with the Western Balkan countries, which has brought first concrete investments.

The seat of the secretariat of the transport community will be opened in Serbia's Belgrade on 13 September, which is the biggest achievement in the relations between the EU and the Western Balkans in the outgoing term, she added.

Bulc also responded to the criticism of her for not doing enough to protest Slovenia's interests, which is something her predecessor Janez Potočnik had also faced, by offering criticism of her own, which she says is constructive.

"It's unfair from Slovenian politicians to try to put the blame for an unfavourable result of projects which are dragging on for several terms on someone who came at the end of the process." Politicians who attacked the commission and her personally during the EU elections are taking pictures with her today, she added.

Bulc said she had not decided to run in the EU elections because she wanted to finish her commissioner term, and is not disappointed that she will not stay for another term. "This is political reality. It was clear very early that this government is not interested in cooperation."

She had a meeting with Slovenia's ambassador to the EU, Janez Lenarčič, who is Slovenia's candidate for the next European Commission. "I want to help Janez, if he wants me to, so that he finds his place as soon as possible and carry out the term excellently."

Bulc described Lenarčič as an experienced diplomat who is familiar with the EU and with whom she has cooperated very well.


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