Aviation 'major lever' for boosting real economy

EU regions have a lot to gain from the aviation sector, argues Franck Proust.

By Franck Proust

07 Jan 2015

It is with great satisfaction that I welcome the 'aviation package' proposal featured in the European commission's 2015 work programme. Last December, I had called upon president Jean-Claude Juncker, vice-president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness Jyrki Katainen and transport commissioner Violeta Bulc to set up a 'new deal for aviation'.

Now we await strong actions. Aviation is a crucial sector for our economy, for a simple reason - aviation is strategic for our regions. Yet the return of growth and sustainable recovery for our jobs and industries that we are all hoping for is entirely dependent on the real economy - that is to say, our regions' competitiveness.

This is the vision I defended for nearly two years as head of the movement against the reform of state aid for regional airports. The commission wanted to reduce regional governments' flexibility in managing local platform's finances, despite these being nearly endless sources of competitiveness and connectivity. We achieved a victory.

I truly believe aviation serves as a major lever for job creation and economy activity, both today and for the future.

"With 450 airports, hundreds of companies and more than 12 million jobs directly and indirectly linked to the sector, Europe is an aviation superpower"

For tomorrow, connectivity determines growth in our regions. The more an area develops its accessibility and connections, the more its economy develops. It's simple maths.

I am talking about all modes of transportation, as I am also favourable to the rise of high speed transport, especially in the Mediterranean regions. Yet sometimes, flying is the only quick way to get somewhere.

Too often, I have seen regions suffer from the closure of their local airport. Being accessible by air remains a great tool for regional development. Air connectivity in Europe is in decline - it has gone down by seven per cent since 2008 - so let's develop our platforms and air servicing.

Above all, for today, aviation reinforces local competitiveness, both for activities linked to the air sector - airport and airline personnel, ground handling services and maintenance - and for activities linked to passenger influx and cargo handling - tourism, industry and services.

Aviation is also aircraft manufacturing. This activity contributes positively to Europe's commercial balance, with the EU exporting three quarters of its production. It constitutes the economic core of dozens of regions in 17 member states.

In Germany - in Hamburg, Bremen and Lower Saxony - it represents nearly 35,000 jobs.

In my own constituency in south-west France, it represents over 100,000 jobs. It also helps spread the latest technologies over all sorts of industries, from universities to businesses, placing Europe and its regions in a position of strength.

With 450 airports, hundreds of companies and more than 12 million jobs directly and indirectly linked to the sector, Europe is an aviation superpower.

But the aviation sector faces tremendous challenges. There is increased competition from emerging economic powers and environmental, fiscal, social and technical overregulation that is destroying its competitiveness.

It is our duty to set aside pointless debate and act as responsible politicians by focusing on decisions that boost the economy. We must have faith in business savvy thinking. Aviation is one of the only sectors able to get our economy going again - the real economy.


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