Major European TEN-T transport networks: Italy penalised by new strategies

Eurispes – Observatory on Infrastructure, Transport and Logistics


Major European TEN-T transport networks: Italy penalised by new strategies

A foreword. Back in 2004 the European Union, on the initiative of Romano Prodi, President of the Commission, imagined strengthening the process of integration and enlargement to include countries from the former Soviet Union with a major innovative project in the land, river and shipping transport system. Thus the Wider Europe project was born, drawn up by a High Level Group chaired by Commissioner Van Miert. The project, which identified five strategic axes of European transport networks – within the EU, towards Eastern Europe and towards the Mediterranean – was divided into thirty investment projects – defined as top priorities – and approved in 2005. Thus the large-scale TEN-T (Trans-European Transport Network-Transport) programme was born, aimed at enhancing and optimising the mobility of people and goods, a prerequisite for better economic development and more intensive social and cultural exchange.

As expected for such a complex and important project, numerous revisions and modifications have been made over the years since the initial design, both in the planning scheme as well as in the budget choices to support investments. The most important of these revisions dates back in 2013 when the EU articulated the interventions on two distinct levels:

a) the so-called core network, i.e. the projects of nine corridors defined as being of primary strategic interest for the EU;

b) the comprehensive network concerning the corridors of predominant interest to the member states.

The new scheme was accompanied by the establishment of a special fund for project financing, the Connecting Europe Facility-CEF (Connecting Europe Facility) with which, for example, in the period 2014-2020 the EU made available for network connectivity a sum of EUR 26,360 billion. (currently, for the period 2021-2027, this sum has been increased to EUR 33,710 billion).

The key point to focus on is that, in identifying the nine strategic corridors, the EU was very careful in 2013 on drawing a scheme of transport networks that was balanced in its projections, internal and external, both along the North-South axis and along the East-West axis; but that in 2022, with the latest revision promoted last summer between June and July, this overall balance has been significantly altered, practically broken. The core of the major European transport networks has been significantly shifted towards Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the eastern Mediterranean. Needless to say, the tragic events of the war in Ukraine and the need to help facilitate the EU integration process of the states in these geographical areas had an impact on this decision, which was codified in Commission proposal no. 384 of 27 July 2022.

However, as a matter of fact, if we look at Italy’s interest, Italy is strongly penalised. It had already happened with the Brexit decision and the change in the relevant corridor with the UK, which had a negative impact on the transport of goods between Genoa, Rotterdam and the UK. A similar impact is easy to imagine, for example for southern Italian ports such as Naples, Gioia Tauro, Palermo with the shift of interests and investments towards the East foreshadowed by the EU. The European Commission’s only grant to Italy concerns the extension of the Baltic and Adriatic shipping lanes from Ravenna to Bari.

What remains surprising and a veritable question mark is the unanimous consensus, including on the Italian side, that the European Commission received before proceeding with the aforementioned changes and outlining the new strategies. As we read verbatim in the Community document on the new European network of transport corridors of 27 July 2022 no. 384, the proposal was drawn up after a broad and in-depth interinstitutional and bilateral interlocution with the EU member states and the main stakeholders, recording a green light to proceed with the revision (meetings of 8, 10, 29 June, consultation from 6 to 22 July).

On the one hand, we ask ourselves: who participated for Italy? What positions and demands did it express on these occasions? On the other hand, we wonder whether and how it is possible to change this penalising proposal for Italy. Is it possible to amend it so that the European strategy would be more balanced towards the Western and Eastern Mediterranean shores? Moreover, it is possible to amend it as the Mediterranean’s southern shore is more integrated? An urgent initiative aimed at this objective would certainly be beneficial for Italy, but also for the European Union itself. Eurispes presents some proposals.


Contribution for an action to relaunch the Italian position

Note by Gianpaolo Basoli, Luca Danese, Marco Ricceri


The full document can be downloaded at the following link



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