A brief report on the Spring Congress & General Assembly
On 22-23rd May 2014, ECG held its 19th Spring Congress & General Assembly in a spectacular seaside resort near Athens, chosen in recognition of the Hellenic Presidency of the EU. Over 100 member-company representatives and guests took part in the event held in the Astir Palace complex, where the first day traditionally comprised of a Board Meeting preceding the statutory General Assembly.
The ‘members only’ session of the General Assembly began with ECG President Costantino Baldissara’s opening speech, welcoming in particular 7 new members since last year, followed by the Treasurer’s report and votes to accept the accounts and the budget.
ECG’s Vice-President Wolfgang Göbel started the open session with his activity report of the past year’s achievements, followed by a series of detailed presentations from the Board Members in charge of the following ECG Working Groups: EU Affairs, Maritime & Ports, Land Transport, Eastern Region, Russia, UK & Ireland, which was followed by a report from the ECG Secretariat. The Board members reported on their activities of the last year and mentioned future projects, while members were queried on relevant issues via interactive questions after each presentation.
This year was the first time when a truly competitive Board election took place – 18 candidates were standing for the 15 Board seats – and the Main Delegates of Full Member companies cast their votes in a secret ballot. During the count of the votes a proposal for an ECG Code of Conduct was presented to the members who subsequently voted unanimously in favour of the proposal. As a result of the ballot two new Board members have been elected: Krzysztof Dakowicz (Adampol) and Christian Lang (DB Schenker Rail Automotive). Marek Nowicki, a Board member for 7 years, stepped down this year. His dedicated work and outstanding services for the Association were commemorated by the handing out of an ECG ‘Golden Pin’.
The day ended with a formal dinner followed by the graduation ceremony of the ECG Academy’s Course 8. During the dinner, a welcome address was delivered by Commodore Panagiotis Paraskevas of the Hellenic Coast Guard, representing the Greek Ministry of Shipping, Maritime Affairs & the Aegean, in which he spoke about the maritime economy, so important in Greek everyday life. At the graduation all 19 students were awarded the Certificate in Automobile Logistics Management by KPMG Education. The top student, Lukasz Szutenberg of Adampol, also received the Giovanni Paci Award which was presented by ECG President Costantino Baldissara.
The Spring Congress itself took place on the second day and was opened by President Baldissara, followed by Executive Director Mike Sturgeon with a selection of results from the latest ECG Confidence & Cost Trend Quarterly Survey. Justin Cox, Head of European Production at LMC Automotive concluded the first session with a presentation on current trends in the European automotive market. He outlined in his presentation that consumer confidence had started to show improvement during the last year and the momentum has lasted into this year so far as well. Cox further underlined that European light vehicle production is stabilising; however there is a discrepancy in the capacity utilisation rate of different carmakers. The European utilisation rate also suffers a threat from overseas capacity expansion. In his overview European output is only predicted to regain 2007 levels by 2017.
The second session of the Spring Congress started by a presentation of Miltiadis Provatas from the Greek Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks. He described Greece’s National Logistics Strategy and its relations to EU policies. Two of the main actions underscored in this strategy are the improvement and modernisation of transport infrastructure networks, with a focus on inter-modality, and the better utilisation of EU funds. Greece would also establish a National Committee on Logistics, an advisory body for the elaboration and proposal of policy measures.
Patrick Verhoeven, Secretary-General of ECSA (the European Community Shipowners’ Associations) introduced his association to the attendees of the Spring Congress. He presented the latest developments in maritime policy, both at EU and global level, which also affect ECG members active in sea shipping. A continued co-operation between the two associations to follow common interests therefore remains a priority for both ECSA and ECG.
Dimitris Spyrou, Head of TEN-T Projects at the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) was next on stage and he presented EU-funded projects on “Motorways of the Sea” in which the PPA participates. The B2MOS project (Business to Motorways of the Sea, www.b2mos.eu) is an innovative study which takes the form of pilot actions principally aimed at preparing and adapting business communities and port authorities’ systems to the requirements of Directive 2010/65/EU on reporting formalities for ships departing from or arriving at EU ports.
Szymon Oscislowski, Programme Manager within the Maritime Transport and Logistics Unit at the European Commission’s DG MOVE presented the EC’s vision on freight transport and its renewed Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) policy. According to him, the freight transport industry faces many challenges – staying competitive in a complex, global era, minimising its environmental footprint, etc. Public authorities should react to these challenges with an appropriate legal framework, with research and innovation funding as well as standards (both under the EU’s “Horizon 2020” calls for proposals) and they should boost infrastructure developments (via Trans-European Transport Networks and funding via the Connecting Europe Facility). Freight transport services – in the past funded through the now defunct Marco Polo programme – are also covered by the CEF, the funding instrument for the TEN-T policy, with the target of stimulating and deploying innovative, efficient and sustainable freight transport services, to which end €25m is earmarked for 2014. At the end of his presentation, Oscislowski highlighted that this year will also see the follow-up to the 2007 Freight Logistics Action Plan and that the Commission would soon launch a public consultation on Combined Transport which he encouraged ECG members to respond to.
Rounding up this final panel of speakers, ECG’s EU Affairs Adviser Tom Antonissen provided an overview of the current state of play regarding ECG’s main lobbying priority in Brussels: its longstanding campaign for an EU-wide harmonisation of loaded lengths for vehicle transporters to a minimum of 20.75m. He only gave a limited description of the background of the campaign, as ECG has been reporting extensively about it during the past months and years – within its Working Groups and Regional Meetings, via ECG News and the President’s Report etc. – though he warned that the campaign is now entering a critical phase which could lead to an “all or nothing” outcome by the end of the year. Whilst the European Parliament strongly supported ECG’s proposals during their last plenary voting session before the European elections, in April, the Council of (Transport) Ministers has not yet formally discussed them. Therefore it will remain of crucial importance that as many ECG members as possible start or maintain direct discussions with their national Transport Ministries to urge them individually to support ECG’s proposals within the Council, especially in the coming months since “trilogue” negotiations between the 3 main EU institutions (incl. the Commission) should start by September. Antonissen finished with a strong plea towards the audience that all ECG members wishing to become (more) involved are most welcome to contact the ECG Secretariat for more detailed guidelines and support.
Finally, in his closing speech ECG President Baldissara noted that for the first time in years there is “a fresh wind blowing”. He noted that aside from the excellent economic outlook for the automotive industry, the “relocation of car production to European countries will provide us with more work in terms of getting finished vehicles to end users.” He ended his speech and the event with a plea for ECG member-companies to communicate their views to the association so that a strong common position can be delivered in Brussels, and to continue their support to the ECG Board and Secretariat in doing so.