"Better Airports" Package
Airport package – Speech to European Parliament Plenary debate
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to recall why the Commission presented the airport package in December last year.
Europe's airports are facing a capacity crunch. If business and the travelling public are to make the most of our air network, we have to act now. 70% of all delays to flights are caused by problems on the ground, not in the air. On present trends, nineteen key European airports will be full to bursting by 2030. The resulting congestion could mean delays for half of all flights across the network. Keeping the status quo is not an option for airports in Europe. Given the intense global competition, if we do not change the way we do business, we may not be doing business at all. As mentioned by the rapporteurs, it is difficult to build new airports, new runways in Europe today. At the same time the European airspace is saturated. The resulting congestion could mean delays for half of all flights across the network by 2030. The Commission has proposed some moderate changes in the existing regulations concerning airport services to ensure better use of existing airport capacities.
Let me start with groundhandling. I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Zasada, for all the work he has done over the last months - work which has not been easy by any means.
I am fully convinced that we have produced a balanced proposal. It marries the need for greater efficiency and higher quality at Europe's airports with advancing the protection of social rights.
The Commission is not proposing “wild liberalisation”. It is hardly wild liberalisation to move from today’s choice between two groundhandling service providers, to three at the larger airports for a restricted category of services. This is accompanied by a number of provisions introduced to strengthen worker's rights and safeguard quality.
Some have claimed that safety would be put at risk if Europe moved from two to three suppliers. This is just not true. We already have a situation in the great majority of Member States where at least three suppliers are allowed. Safety has not been compromised
The Commission proposal is a modest step towards more market opening while promoting social protection and ensuring that higher quality standards will be met.
Let me also remind you that in 2007, the European Parliament - by way of the Jensen Resolution - called on the Commission to review the existing situation in groundhandling. The Jensen report asked for an increase in the minimum number of suppliers to be considered. It called for action on quality criteria. The Commission has responded with a balanced proposal that can certainly be improved. I firmly believe that we should not miss this opportunity.
Let me now turn to slots and thank Mr Uggias for the work that has been done. The Commission supports many of the amendments put forward by the TRAN Committee.
Let me just briefly highlight the following points of particular importance.
Firstly, secondary trading. Market-based mechanisms can help to ensure that slots, an increasingly scarce resource, are used by those carriers able to make best use of them. Of course, we should make sure that regional air connections can be protected – so I fully understand the proposed amendments on the possible impact of secondary trading on such links.
But secondary trading should be accompanied by a tightening of the criteria for using slots. The complexities of the slot allocation process should not be used as an obstacle to market functioning.
I would to thank the TRAN committee and the rapporteur on this file, Mr Jörg Leichtfried, for all the work that has been done on this proposal. The rapporteur was able to trigger an interesting political debate.
Air traffic noise generates local political pressure. But any measure to mitigate the impact of noise affects a global industry. This is the heart of the problem. Air traffic noise is a local issue, while noise-mitigating measures affect a global industry. We are faced with a balancing act between local and global. The proposed Commission right of scrutinycan help to ensure this balance.
The Commission cannot accept the delayed introduction of the proposed definition of “marginally compliant aircraft”. To remind you, marginally compliant aircraft are the most noisy aircraft in the fleet and produce a disproportionate noise burden. Delaying the introduction of this definition with a step-wise implementation will simply deprive national authorities across Europe from a cost-effective measure.
Thank you for your attention.
Helen Kearns (+32 2 298 76 38)
Dale Kidd (+32 2 295 74 61)