EU legislation & policies

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Urban Mobility

Cities are home to almost three-quarters of the EU population and account for 85% of GDP. However, in many urban areas increasing demand for urban mobility has created a situation that is not sustainable, including issues relating to severe congestion and parking difficulties, long commuting times, inadequacy of public transport systems, pollution and noise.

Urban focused regulation such as Urban Vehicle Access Regulations (UVAR), attempts to address these issues in cities.

There are a number of European actions to support sustainable urban mobility:

Road Safety

Despite huge improvements in road safety in recent decades, there is a trend towards stagnating road safety figures and the number of fatalities and serious injuries remains too high. This is why the EU has adopted the Vision Zero and Safe System approach, to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on European roads. The EU Strategic Action Plan on Road Safety outlines specific actions envisaged under the Commission mandate.

For more information on legislation and policy in the field of Road Safety, see the following pages:

Environment and Health

The transport sector contributes to over 20% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions, of which over 70% is from road transport. In urban areas, transport contributes significantly to air quality problems, often with pollutant concentrations well above the limits set by EU legislation for health protection. Despite substantial emissions reductions over the last decade, more than 400 000 premature deaths in Europe each year can be attributed to air pollution.

There are a number of key pieces of policy and legislation addressing environmental and health issues relating to transport, including the important activity of internalising transport external costs.

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS)

ITS apply information and communication technologies to enable users to be informed when using transport systems. This can result in improvements in the safety, efficiency and overall sustainability of transport. The European Commission also works to set the ground for the next generation of ITS solutions, through the deployment of Cooperative-ITS, paving the way for automation in the transport sector. By generating new services, ITS are key to supporting jobs and growth in the transport sector.

In order to be effective, the roll-out of ITS needs to be coherent and properly coordinated across the EU. The Digital Single Market Strategy sets out the EC’s aim to make more use of ITS solutions and this is supported by documents such as the ITS Action Plan, and activities like the coordinating action such as the C-Roads Platform.

For more information on legislation and policy in the field of ITS, see the following pages:

Clean Vehicles and Alternative Low-Carbon Fuels

A key political objective is to enhance mobility, while concurrently reducing pollution as we look to address global issues such as climate change and air quality. Energy efficient vehicles and alternative fuels have a fundamental role to play in this transition and the reliance of the transport sector on oil for 94% of its energy needs represents a significant opportunity.

The market will drive this change but requires supporting policy action. The Clean Power for Transport package aims to facilitate the development of a single market for alternative fuels for transport in Europe, while the Directive on the Promotion of Clean and Energy Efficient Road Transport Vehicles aims at a broad market introduction of environmentally-friendly vehicles.

For more information on legislation and policy in the field of Green Vehicle and Fuels, see the following pages:

Walking and Cycling

Cycling can address many important issues faced by cities, including congestion, air pollution and health problems. It is an efficient way of using increasingly expensive and scarce space in urban areas and many cities are investing more time and money into the promotion of cycling. In 2015, EU ministers adopted a Declaration on Cycling and as a result, the Commission is working to further integrate cycling into the multimodal transport policy.

For more information on legislation and policy in the field of cycling, see the following pages:


EU Legislation and Policy are implemented and supported by a range of official documents. Some are legislative and introduce an obligation for the Member States, while others set out recommendations and are not binding. 

  • A Regulation is a binding legislative act. It must be applied in its entirety across the EU.
  • A Directive is a legislative act that sets out a goal that all EU countries must achieve. However, it is up to the individual countries to decide how.
  • A Decision is binding on those to whom it is addressed (e.g. an EU country or an individual company).
  • A Green Paper is a document published by the European Commission to stimulate discussion on given topics at European level. It invites the relevant parties (bodies or individuals) to participate in a consultation process and to debate on the basis of the proposals they put forward. Green Papers may give rise to legislative developments that are then outlined in White Papers.
  • A White Paper is a document containing proposals for community action in a specific area. In some cases it follows a Green Paper published to launch a consultation process at European level. When a White Paper is favourably received by the Council, it can lead to an action programme for the Union in the area concerned.
  • A Communication is a policy document with no mandatory authority. The Commission takes the initiative of publishing a Communication when it wishes to set out its own thinking on a topical issue. A Communication has no legal effect.
  • A Staff Working Document usually accompanies a Communication to dig deeper in a specific topic. Like a Communication, it has no legal effect.
  • A Recommendation is not binding. A Recommendation allows the institutions to make their views known and to suggest a line of action without imposing any legal obligation on those to whom it is addressed.
  • An Opinion is also not binding. It allows the institutions to make a statement without imposing any legal obligation on those to whom it is addressed.
  • A Non-Paper is a discussion document designed to stimulate debate on a particular issue without representing the official position of the institution which drafted them.