INTERNATIONAL: On July 1 the European Union and Armenia acceded to the COTIF convention, which sets out a legal framework for international rail transport. Both automatically joined OTIF, the intergovernmental organisation which manages the convention.

The European Commission said accession as the first supranational body will provide legal security for OTIF states which are not EU members. The EU has begun to legislate on rail matters covered by COTIF, and as result EU member states may no longer individually exercise rights or assume obligations with third countries on matters where the EU as a whole is the competent party.

'This is a landmark event for the EU and marks a new impetus for the railway sector', said European Commission Vice-President for Transport Siim Kallas. 'The EU will now be a member of OTIF in its own right, enabling it to speak with one voice on a wide range of rail matters.' The EU anticipates that its legal and technical regimes will gradually converge with those of OTIF.

OTIF was established in 1985, succeeding the Central Office for International Carriage by Rail dating from 1893. It now has 47 members in Europe, north Africa and western Asia. Jordan is an associate member, and accession of Georgia and Azerbaijan is imminent.