Dear Minister Hofer, Dear Ministers, Distinguished Guests,

Thank you to my good friend Henrik for his kind introduction.

When I took office in 2014, I did so with a clear message from President Juncker. He asked me to ensure maximum connectivity for Europe’s travelling public, a fully functioning and efficient transport infrastructure, and the regulatory conditions needed to promote investment. He put an emphasis on the Single European Sky and SESAR, on standards for safety and security, and on a strong international role.

Here in Europe’s aviation family, I immediately found partners who were also eager to find solutions. Our partnership has proved productive. The resulting Aviation Strategy for Europe is as much yours as it is mine.

I’ll tell you why I think our partnership works well. It’s because we all understand that we are interdependent, and that only a mutually beneficial solution will work for the continent, its citizens and businesses.

Last year, we celebrated 25 years of the European Single Aviation Market, surpassing 1 billion passengers and running 10.6 million flights. Connectivity has soared during that quarter of a century, with the annual number of passengers tripling.

Profits have risen accordingly. Last year was the best for airports since 2004. 2017 also marked the safest year in global aviation, with zero accident deaths in commercial aviation.

But growth comes with obligations, and we are committed to monitoring any negative externalities.

The Aviation Strategy was the first tangible product that we started to shape following my appointment. Now is a good time to look back on what we have accomplished, but also forward, to what still needs to be done.

The first pillar of the Strategy enables Europe to tap into growing markets. As the economic centre of gravity shifts eastwards, Europe is both safeguarding and improving its air connectivity with destinations around the world.

Today there are almost eight times as many global routes as

there were in 1992; greater connectivity gives more choice to

consumers. A good example is Dublin Airport, where the number of intra-EU routes went from 36 in 1992 to 127 in 2016.

The EU air transport agreements signed to date – with the US, Canada, Morocco, the Western Balkans, Israel and others – have yielded significant benefits. Since their signature, there are:

  • more than 60 million additional seats per year between the EU and our partners;

  • more than 500 additional direct connections;

  • lower ticket prices for passengers.

In 2015 we proposed new EU air transport agreements and EU bilateral aviation safety agreements. Good progress has been achieved on both: negotiations are ongoing with ASEAN, Qatar, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Negotiations have been finalised with Armenia and Tunisia, and we have negotiating mandates for the UAE and Oman. On the safety front, negotiations are progressing well with China and Japan.

Henrik reminded us that capacity crunch is the biggest challenge facing aviation. If your plane here was delayed, you know what I'm talking about. In some parts of the EU network, delay has more than doubled since last year.

Europe is in desperate need of a modern and efficient air traffic infrastructure! SESAR is doing a stellar job, but providers do need to accelerate the deployment of capacity-boosting SESAR solutions. These include extended-arrival management, allowing the sequencing of arrival traffic much earlier than is currently the case. Another example is SESAR’s time-based separation, which replaces today’s distance separations with time intervals to adapt to weather conditions.

To date, 299 on-going and finished SESAR projects are creating

benefits worth an estimated €10 billion for the period 2014- 2030. In 2018 alone, these projects will generate €300 million for Europe. This is equivalent to saving 36 seconds of delay per flight, as well as 5kg of kerosene.

But the level of cooperation between Member States and air navigation service providers is still far from optimal, while current technology is neither harmonised nor state-of-the-art.

If we want to stop the fragmentation of the European sky and deliver the capacity needed to handle traffic efficiently, we need to act now. We can learn a lot from Central America: the region

functions as a block when it comes to air traffic management, 

which has reduced fragmentation and increased capacity and efficiency.

Capacity may be creaking under the strain, but we do still have good news on this front. In 2017, we served 7,812 city-pairs within Europe, which is almost triple the figure for 1992. Intra- EU routes with more than two carriers have increased more than eight-fold since 1992, and four-fold for extra-EU routes.

They may not be the most exhilarating aspect of aviation, nor the easiest to sell to the general public in terms of achievements, but all of us gathered here tonight understand the importance of standards for European aviation. The very recent adoption of the EASA New Basic Regulation gave us a modern and forward-looking piece of legislation – one we needed to respond to the challenges that European aviation is facing in maintaining high standards as air traffic grows.

EASA has always been a strong partner, and one that delivers. Since 2015 we've seen:

  • around 700 third country operations authorised;
  • six countries removed from the EU Air Safety list;
  • key planes certified, including the A350 and A320neo/A330neo with a Leap engine, which burns 15 % less fuel;
  • ongoing efforts to certify electric propulsion aircraft (like Pipistrel, Lilium Jet and Volocopter);
  • a revised certification process that shortens time-to- market;
  • new levels of cooperation between the EASA and FAA.

Linked to safety is of course security. It is vital that the EU and the US share the same standards for security. We need to step up cooperation to ensure this happens.

We are also paying close attention to cyber security. The EU is enhancing its cyber resilience with an EU-wide certification framework that will become increasingly relevant to transport as it is digitalised.

Thanks to new aircraft technologies, cleaner fuels and the renewal of the fleet over time, emissions today are 40 % lower per kilometre flown than they were in 1992.

I was privileged to be in Montreal when the Carbon Offsetting

and Reduction Scheme was negotiated. Today the European

Commission is fighting hard to maintain the environmental integrity of CORSIA. That's why we have put emphasis on financial and technical assistance to help countries implement the scheme. So far we have three projects, worth a total of €17 million. As of August, 73 States had agreed to participate in the pilot and first phase of CORSIA, representing approximately 76 % of international aviation activity. The first CORSIA commitments are also becoming EU law.

Industry commitment is key to lowering the environmental impact of aviation. A number of airports have set themselves carbon-neutral objectives, for example. The environment will thank us if others follow. I would also encourage industry to step up investment in hybrid propulsion systems and biofuels.

In his State of Union speech last month, President Juncker highlighted the need to do more to strengthen Europe's social dimension.

When talking about aviation, we cannot ignore the millions of people worldwide working hard to make your companies a success. People are at the heart of what the EU does, including on transport. The European Commission expects businesses to show solidarity with its staff – we expect you to be socially responsible.

The aviation sector provides jobs for nearly 2 million people, and more than 8 million others indirectly. Our mantra still stands: each euro spent in the aviation sector generates €3 for the overall economy; and every new job in aviation leads to three more elsewhere.

Some have concerns about the role of automation on jobs. We are currently examining this issues involved from a content standpoint. Those interested may wish to attend the conference, 'Automation in transport: how does it affect the labour force?', taking place in Brussels next month.

The aviation sector is adapting to broad developments: increased competition has put pressure on costs, and we can expect this trend to gain pace as a result of automation and digitalisation. I know it's tough.

Aviation employees should of course benefit from the EU's judicial, employment and social protection. But neither the interests of employees – nor their employers I might add –

should undermine the interests of passengers, without whom the industry could not grow.

Innovation is a catalyst. In transport as in the world at large, it is today a catalyst for digitalisation. The modernisation that comes with digitalisation is vital for aviation.

One of the many products flying high as a result of innovation is drones. The opportunities they have opened up are amazing – from search & rescue to security and deliveries. Airbus forecasts that in 2035, 19,000 drone operations will take place every hour over Paris alone. Today, around 28,000 commercial air operations take place every day across Europe.

But with opportunities comes responsibility. European citizens expect regulations that promote innovative drone services, while keeping drone flights safe, secure and green.

We have responded. We have laid the building blocks for a European drone market, and we now need a European U- space to this market a reality. We're getting there. A first wave of U-space R&D projects has been completed through the SESAR 2020 programme, including €10 million for demonstrator

projects, and €500,000 for geo-fencing. In the coming days, we will launch an EU network of U-space demonstrators.

But digitalisation does not stop at drones. The fourth industrial revolution means that we are surrounded by digitalisation every second of our lives. We need to take advantage of this – together – it will help us meet the Single European Sky and Aviation Strategy objectives.

Innovation is also helping us find new ways to reduce harmful emissions from transport. Alternative jet fuels, wind propulsion for passenger ships and a particle-capturing system for brakes are the topics of just three recent EU-funded research projects.

We're in Vienna to talk about aviation. But please allow me to take this opportunity to remind everyone that other transport modes do exist and can help with decarbonisation! We have made 2018 the Year of Multimodality, which is allowing us to identify the barriers to multimodality. We want to make it easier for passengers to get from A to B, which may mean taking a plane for part of the journey, but then a train, boat or bus for the rest.

Dear colleagues,
There are of course challenges ahead. Brexit is one of those, both in the EU and globally. The Commission is currently taking the necessary steps to prepare for all scenarios. We have published a number of notices for stakeholders, and I invite you to take all the steps necessary.

Our achievements to date demonstrate that unity, solidarity, collaboration at EU-level – rather than national fragmentation – can deliver solutions to international challenges. United, we stand taller!

For investment, I am looking to you to do your bit, as we are doing ours. Discussions between the EU institutions on the budget from 2021 are ongoing. The Commission has proposed renewing the Connecting Europe Facility, with a budget of €42.3 billion for investments in European infrastructure networks, energy and digital. For the EU's next research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe, we are proposing €100 billion. You can be sure that there will be funding available for aviation within both programmes.

The last three years have been challenging, but always extremely fulfilling. I very much look forward to continuing the work we have started until the last days of my mandate!

Do us all proud!