Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 26 September 2012

Transport: 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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Investment

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.

For more information see: MEMO/12/714

See external aviation relations:

Key facts and figures

  • Aviation matters. Aviation supports 5.1 million jobs and contributes €365 billion or 2.4% to European GDP (1). It makes a vital contribution to economic growth, employment, tourism, people-to-people contacts as well as the regional and social cohesion of the Union. Connectivity is key to competitiveness.

  • European carriers have been particularly hard hit by the recession. IATA predicts that net profits of European commercial airlines will fall from $0.5 billion in 2011 to a net loss of $1.1 billion in 2012.

  • The European aviation industry as a whole is still a world leader. It comprises global leaders in aviation manufacturing, airlines, airport hubs as well as for air traffic management research and technology (including the SESAR programme). But these positions are under threat from a number of new challenges, intense international competition and new entrants into the markets.

  • Despite the current economic crisis, global air transport over the long term is expected to grow by around 5% annually until 2030 (2), a compound increase of more than 150%.

  • Global aviation is changing dramatically. Demand for air transport is primarily driven by economic growth and prosperity. With an expected average annual GDP growth rate for Europe of 1.9%3 between 2011 and 2030 – compared, for example, with growth rates for India and China of 7.5% and 7.2% respectively – aviation growth will see a relative shift to areas outside the EU with Asia and the Middle East in particular expected to become the focus of international air traffic flows.

  • Half of the world's new traffic added during the next 20 years will be to, from, or within the Asia-Pacific region, which will thereby overtake the US as leader in world traffic by 2030, reaching a market share of 38%.

  • Due to below-average growth rates, EU carriers will be losing market share to non-EU airlines in most regions. In 2003, EU carriers had a market share of 29% of all inter-continental capacity in the world. By 2025, this share is expected to have fallen to 20%. This trend means that, if nothing is done, European airlines will be less able to generate growth for the European economy.

  • At the same time, non-EU carriers are reinforcing their global position. For example, the fastest regional traffic growth in the world is expected to be in the Middle East, where by 2030 the region's airlines will represent 11% of world traffic, up from 7% in 2010.

Contacts :

Helen Kearns (+32 2 298 76 38)

Dale Kidd (+32 2 295 74 61)

1 :

"Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders", Report prepared by Oxford Economics for ATAG, March 2012

2 :

Airbus: "Delivering the Future: Global Market Forecast 2011-2030"

3 :

Bombardier/Global Insight

Side Bar