EU Aviation Package – greater efficiency and competitiveness for Europe

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Aviation means mobility for millions of people and is the backbone of the logistics industry in Europe. However, the issue now must be to face up to the competition from countries outside Europe and to establish fair competitive conditions and bring about greater efficiency. It is these goals amongst others that the EU Commission has set itself in its package on aviation strategy.

On 7 December 2015 the EU Commission presented its new aviation package. The strategy consists of a communication, a proposal for a revision of the EU regulations dealing with air safety (Regulation (EG) No. 216/2008) and several requests for authorization to negotiate comprehensive air transport agreements at EU level with important third countries.

The Commission focuses on the following main points:

1. Safeguarding a leading role for the EU in international air transport while at the same time preserving fair competitive conditions. In the view of the Commission, the EU’s aviation sector must have the opportunity to open up new growth markets. In this respect the EU Commission is planning new air transport agreements with third countries such as the Gulf States and other up-and-coming aviation countries. At the same time fair and transparent market conditions are to be guaranteed within a clear regulatory framework. In return, with the new agreements restrictions for investors from third countries could be dropped. Up to now they have not been permitted to acquire a majority control over European carriers.

2. The Commission intends to confront capacity bottlenecks at airports. One possibility is a reappraisal of the Airport Charges Directive. In addition, the strategy deals with the revision of the EASA basic regulation. In the view of the Commission, contributing factors which also hamper the development of European aviation are the fragmentation of European airspace and the inadequate implementation of the Single European Sky.

3. Retention of high EU standards. The strategy also comprises the issues of air safety, averting dangers, environmental protection, social policy aspects and air passenger rights. In particular, the strategy proposes updating the EU’s air safety regulations so that high safety standards are maintained despite the increasing volume of air traffic. Moreover, the social dialogue is to be strengthened and conditions of employment in the aviation sector are to be improved. There is also support for a global approach with a view to CO2-neutral growth from 2020 onwards.

4. The Commission also proposes to promote the commercial use of drones and to create a legal framework for it. The European Union is planning to invest 430 million euros annually in the research project on air traffic management in the Single European Sky (SESAR).

The Commission has deferred its examination of the issue of Regulation (EG) No. 868/2004 to 2016. This regulation stipulates a procedure for protection against subsidization and unfair pricing practices in the supply of air transport services by suppliers from countries which are not members of the European Community. It constitutes a trade policy instrument designed to protect against unfair competition which, however, owing to its design has so far never been applied, does not achieve its purpose and is therefore in need of reform. The BDI welcomes the aviation strategy for Europe. The EU Commission is here confronting the urgent problem of the distortion of competition for the European aviation industry. However, in addition to the measures proposed, there is a need for even more concrete endeavours in the area of the various European and national solo initiatives, such as the EU emissions trade, the aviation tax or restrictions on operating times at airports.