New horizons for EU aviation
Global aviation is changing dramatically and Europe has been harder hit by the recession than many other regions. The European Commission has today set out an ambitious package of proposals to boost the international competitiveness of the EU's aviation industry by opening negotiations with key partners to access new business opportunities in the fast growing markets, developing new tools to fight unfair competition and creating the right regulatory conditions to stimulate investment.
Aviation makes a vital contribution to the European economy, in terms of jobs, trade and connecting millions of businesses and people to the rest of the world. But the competitive position of the EU aviation industry, particularly its international airlines, is under severe threat. The fastest growing markets are now outside Europe. The European aviation sector – not just the airlines but the entire aeronautical manufacturing industry, airports, air traffic management providers, and other service industries – faces low growth in the EU and intense competition internationally.
Vice-President Siim Kallas, European Commissioner responsible for transport said: "It is of strategic importance that Europe maintains a leading global aviation industry at the centre of a network that connects the EU with the rest of the world. We have created huge economic benefits over the last decade as a direct result of the new business opportunities from our EU external relations. But the current systems no longer deliver what is needed. We urgently need a step change. Faced with the dramatic changes in global aviation, Europe must respond and adapt rapidly or be left behind."
In particular, the European Commission is proposing to move ahead on three fronts:
1. New agreements with our neighbours and international partners
To give the EU aviation industry better access to business opportunities in new markets, the Commission is proposing to:
- conclude EU-level air transport agreements with key and increasingly important aviation partners such as China, Russia, the Gulf States, Japan, India and ASEAN countries in southeast Asia;
- complete, by 2015, EU-level aviation agreements with neighbouring countries such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt. To move this process more quickly, Member States should grant the Commission a general negotiating mandate for the remaining neighbourhood countries.
The total economic benefits of all these agreements are estimated at €12 billion per year. The Commission intends to put forward a list of priorities for EU negotiating mandates for these agreements to Member States in early 2013.
In addition, industrial and technological agreements should be signed with key partners and other countries in areas such as air traffic management (ATM) – including cooperation with the EU's SESAR programme – and safety, including the certification of aeronautical products.
2. Fair competition
The EU considers open markets as the best basis for developing international aviation relations and embraces competition. This has been a fundamental lesson from the success story of the EU internal aviation market. But competition has to be both open and fair.
In order to safeguard fair competition, the Commission is proposing to develop, following consultation with stakeholders, new and more effective EU instruments to protect European interests against unfair practices. The existing EU Regulation (Regulation 868/2004) in this respect has proven impracticable and a new instrument needs to be put in place that is better adapted to the realities of today's global aviation sector.
As an additional safeguard measure, the Commission is proposing to develop – most appropriately at EU-level – standard "fair competition clauses" to be agreed and included in existing bilateral air services agreements between EU Member States and non-EU countries.
Tackling archaic ownership and control restrictions
Current ownership and control restrictions, applied by most countries, deny carriers access to important sources of new capital. It is now time to address this issue more vigorously and to take the additional steps envisaged in the EU-US air transport agreement to liberalise airline ownership and control in order to allow airlines to consolidate and attract the investment they need. This should also be pursued at ICAO level, including at the March 2013 ICAO Air Traffic Conference.
What happens next?
Following consultation with Member States in the Transport Council in December this year, the Commission intends to move forward with these proposals, including bringing forward a list of priorities for EU negotiating mandates in early 2013.
Helen Kearns (+32 2 298 76 38)
Dale Kidd (+32 2 295 74 61)