The European Barge Union (EBU) hosted an influential event in Brussels, bringing together over 100 participants from EU decision makers and stakeholders to discuss the strategic role of Inland Waterway Transport (IWT) in the EU’s Mobility and Supply Policy. The event was a hub for insightful dialogues, led by industry experts, policymakers, and key stakeholders.

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Phil­ip­pe Gru­lois, Pre­si­dent of EBU, initia­ted the dis­cus­sions with a com­pel­ling speech, empha­sis­ing the signi­fi­can­ce of IWT in enhan­cing Europe’s sus­tainable mobi­li­ty and sup­p­ly. High­light­ing the neces­si­ty of a robust and climate-adaptive infra­struc­tu­re, he addres­sed the sector’s chal­lenges faced during the low water sea­son of 2022 and the urgent need for respon­si­ve main­ten­an­ce and infra­struc­tu­re development.

The event’s dis­cus­sions del­ved into the chal­lenges faced by the IWT sec­tor, inclu­ding the pres­sing need for inno­va­ti­on and tran­si­tio­ning towards lower emis­si­ons. Ack­now­led­ging the sector’s long-standing posi­ti­ve envi­ron­men­tal record, Dr. Gru­lois under­li­ned the pivo­tal role of IWT in the EU’s Green Deal and Sus­tainable and Smart Mobi­li­ty Stra­tegy, not­ing the need for future-proof invest­ments and con­cer­ted actions from both public and pri­va­te stake­hol­ders. He rei­te­ra­ted the EBU’s com­mit­ment to fos­te­ring a sus­tainable, effi­ci­ent, and inno­va­ti­ve IWT sec­tor. He stres­sed the need for col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve efforts to ensu­re IWT’s inte­gra­ti­on into a mul­ti­mo­dal trans­port frame­work and its role in redu­cing green­house gas emis­si­ons, ulti­m­ate­ly con­tri­bu­ting to a gree­ner, more sus­tainable Europe.

Obvious­ly, the sec­tor is both offe­ring huge poten­ti­al and chan­ces  as well as facing huge chal­lenges in view of the over­ar­ching EU poli­cy goals”, Phil­ip­pe Gru­lois empha­si­zed in his statement. 

Mag­da Kop­c­zyns­ka, the Direc­tor Gene­ral of DG MOVE, in her address poin­ted to the important role IWT is play­ing in the Euro­pean sus­taina­bi­li­ty and mobi­li­ty poli­cy. She high­ligh­ted the pivo­tal role IWT is play­ing in sup­port­ing Ukrai­ne, allo­wing imports and exports through the Soli­da­ri­ty Lanes. The Commission’s goal is to reach a month­ly export volu­me of 4 mil­li­on ton­nes by the end of the year along the Danu­be cor­ri­dor. This will cover at least 60% of Ukraine’s export needs for the 2023–2024 har­ve­st season.

We are curr­ent­ly ente­ring a cru­cial stage – the midd­le of the 7‑year Nai­ades pro­gram­me – which also coin­ci­des with the Mul­ti­an­nu­al frame­work mid-term review. I’m plea­sed to say that we are on tar­get, with many initia­ti­ves alre­a­dy on track or well into the pre­pa­ra­ti­on pha­se, Mag­da Kopz­cyns­ka empha­si­zed in her key­note, focu­sing on the cur­rent achie­ve­ments and initiatives.

Lydia Pee­ters, Minis­ter of the Fle­mish Govern­ment in char­ge of Mobi­li­ty and Public Works, ope­ned her key­note with the meaningful Latin say­ing “navi­ga­re neces­se est, vive­re non est neces­se”, which cap­tu­red the over­ar­ching importance IWT is play­ing for many cen­tu­ries.  Repre­sen­ting one of the major IWT count­ries in Euro­pe, the Fle­mish govern­ment is sub­stan­ti­al­ly sup­port­ing the IWT sec­tor in its ener­gy tran­si­ti­on efforts and in doing so, set­ting high targets.

Panel ses­si­ons
In 2 panel ses­si­ons, the Modal shift poten­ti­al and the ener­gy tran­si­ti­on of the IWT sec­tor were dis­cus­sed with high-level repre­sen­ta­ti­ves from the public and pri­va­te sides.

About EBU

The Euro­pean Bar­ge Uni­on (EBU) repres­ents the inland navi­ga­ti­on indus­try in Euro­pe. Its mem­bers are the natio­nal asso­cia­ti­ons of bar­ge owners and bar­ge ope­ra­tors of 9 Euro­pean inland navi­ga­ti­on count­ries (Aus­tria, Bel­gi­um, Czech Repu­blic, France, Ger­ma­ny, Luxem­burg, Net­her­lands, Roma­nia and Switz­er­land). Bes­i­des it repres­ents the inte­rests of a num­ber of inter­na­tio­nal orga­ni­sa­ti­ons deal­ing with IWT and Short Sea Ship­ping.


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