EU aviation strategy - can Europe stop quarrelling?

The common European interest should inform any attempts to boost the competitiveness of the EU's aviation sector, argues Jacek P. Krawczyk.

By Jacek P. Krawczyk

01 Jul 2015

The EU aviation industry is struggling to remain globally competitive. The traditional business models of players across the value chain - manufacturers, airport operators, airlines, air traffic control - are under growing pressure from their competitors.

The newly appointed European commission has recognised the challenges facing aviation and is examining ways to boost its competitiveness. The sector needs greater coordination throughout the entire value chain and across all the member states. This is easier said than done.

The EESC is currently working on an opinion on the European integrated aviation strategy. As the rapporteur, I believe that the EU needs to focus on three levels of integration. First is the political - to increase the efficiency of the aviation sector within Europe, and to increase negotiation leverage internationally.


This requires political will, vision and courage to balance the requirements of sovereignty with the need for compromise, as well as readiness to entrust the EU with effective governance capacity.

Second is economic integration - the creation of an efficient aviation value chain, which will drive economic prosperity and growth across Europe.

Finally there is the legal element - to focus all stakeholders on the need to contribute to the development and implementation of a robust regulatory framework at macro level and thereby provide planning stability at micro-level.

To address these challenges, we consider that a further six areas need to be examined. In terms of safety, the EU should reflect on, among others, strengthening the European aviation safety agency's (EASA) role as the central agency for safety management.

In order to promote connectivity, we must evaluate regulatory tools and market mechanisms. Specific ramifications for each type of connectivity are needed to provide a level-playing field for all parts of the value chain. The EU has to better coordinate investments in aviation, both at European and national level.

Boosting competitiveness through innovation. Effective deployment of single European sky ATM research (SESAR) is of utmost importance. Increasing competitiveness through innovation must be complemented by other measures to balance subsidies granted to the entire aviation value chain by non-EU countries.

In order to secure economic sustainability, rules and regulatory tools are required at national and EU level in case the market fails to deliver the required sustainability without distorting competition. Finally, we must implement the SES and urgently address the forthcoming airport capacity crunch.

We also have to address global competition. It is crucial that an international EU aviation policy identifies the parameters of 'fair competition', achieves buy-in from all stakeholders for such principles and seeks to ensure adherence to such principles internationally.

Personally, I would opt for closer cooperation with the US aviation industry. Both the EU and the US should join forces to expand their position in global market.

Recently, the CEOs of five major airline groups in Europe jointly appealed to the commission to provide an integrated aviation strategy that guarantees a pro-competitive environment and proposes a set of measures to improve the position of airlines.

Airport council international did not respond so positively, blaming airlines for not even covering all their costs. We all remember the tone of 'discussions' between airlines and air navigation service providers concerning the SES and its performance target. It was indeed a hot debate.

If we are to win this battle for European aviation, we first have to stop quarrelling and start defending our common interest. Otherwise somebody else will come and clean up this mess for us.

On 2 July, the EESC is organising a public hearing on the integrated European aviation Strategy that will gather representatives of all the major stakeholders in the aviation sector, including transport commissioner Violeta Bulc. We are looking forward to a constructive debate on the new aviation strategy and on what the common European interest actually is.


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