Inland waterways transport

I mentioned back in October 2014 that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (whom god preserve, although I don’t know whether they have any connection with Utrecht) had applied its collective mind to COM (2014) 452. And I’m sure we were all very relieved at the news.

Regular readers, a well-informed lot, will not of course need to be told what  COM (2014) 452 is all about. However, in case you’re new here, perhaps I should explain that COM (2014) 452 is a proposal for a European Council directive implementing the European agreement concluded by the European Barge Union, EBU, the European Skippers Organisation, ESO, and the European Transport Workers Federation, ETF, concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time in inland waterway transport.

And rightly so, I hear you say. But the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation “agreed that this proposal warrants further scrutiny”, which is slightly odd given that (a) Ireland has no inland waterways transport and (b) the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation presumably have other things they could be doing with their time. However, I thought (after wading through the gobbledegook) that the proposal might affect hours of work on the half dozen or so trip-boats on Irish inland waterways.

Well, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has been giving the proposal more scrutiny. It — or at least its chair, one Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, a Fine Gael TD for Banagher (where there is a trip-boat) and some other places — recommended that

[…] the committee consider the merit of the submission of a political contribution on this proposal. The political contribution would focus on the following: the committee’s concern regarding the lack of clarity in the scope of the agreement from a sufficiently early stage; the fact that an exemption was not carved out for Ireland and other member states, as had been done previously; the issue of proportionality; and that the committee recommends in future proposals which relate to sector policy areas within which certain member states have traditionally been exempted should indicate clearly from the beginning the intended scope of application, and this would allow member states the full opportunity to scrutinise the proposal and submit a reasoned opinion within the allowed 56 day timeframe.

That seems to mean “we didn’t read the stuff properly when it came out”. But the other members agreed to the recommendation: in fact their combined contributions spent more time on wishing each other happy xmases than on debating the proposal. I hesitate to suggest that they hadn’t actually read it, but the report of proceedings provides no evidence that they had done so. Any members of the JOC who wish to prove their mastery of the issues are invited to leave Comments below.

The upshot is that Ireland, which has no inland waterways transport, is to submit an objection, on procedural but not on substantive grounds, to a proposal that seems to have emanated from countries where there are real inland waterways transport industries. It seems that Ireland is following the lead of Her Majesty’s Government across the water, which is always nice.

Of course, the United Kingdom has no serious inland waterways transport either. And, as far as I can see, neither Cyprus nor Malta, the other driving-on-the-left imperial remnants that joined the resistance movement, has any inland waterways, never mind any transport thereon. Checking on waterways in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece and Hungary, the other heroes of the people’s revolution, is left as an exercise for the reader.

So we have countries with no serious inland waterways transport objecting to arrangements made by and for those who have real waterways. That should make the remnants of empire popular.

No doubt the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation reached their decision on opposing the proposed EU directive after appropriate analysis and consideration. They have not, alas, revealed the results of either of those processes. It would be nice to know who in Ireland would be affected by the proposed directive and what representations such persons have made to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.



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