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Vice-President of the Commission, responsible for Transport

Welcoming address – Opening session of the European Aviation Summit

European Aviation Summit

Bruges, 26th October 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to open this Aviation Summit together with my friend Etienne Schouppe.

The freedom of mobility is one of the biggest achievements of the European Union. In many cases, there is no alternative to air transport. Therefore, our freedom of mobility depends on a safe, efficient, reliable and competitive air transport system.

We are facing major challenges and I welcome the initiative of the Belgian Presidency to organise this Aviation Summit bringing together high-level representatives from authorities and industry to discuss these challenges.

Reducing mobility is not an option. Just a few weeks after becoming Commissioner for transport, Europe faced an extraordinary crisis with the volcanic ash disruption. The volcanic ash crisis showed how much our mobility depends on air transport. And it showed that we need more Europe to address the challenges of aviation, not less.

For air transport to be able to grow we need to address the environmental impact. A couple of weeks ago, I was together with Etienne Schouppe at the ICAO Assembly and we had very difficult discussions on climate change with developing countries. I am very satisfied that ICAO adopted a Resolution on International Aviation and Climate Change. It is a major achievement to have 190 countries adopt a Resolution on such a sensitive issue. It is the first mode of transport to succeed. Aviation will go to Cancun with its homework done!

In the context of the EU 2020 objectives, sustainability goes hand in hand with competitiveness. Europe has a geographic position that enables the European aviation system to connect the world. An efficient, safe and reliable air transport system connecting European regions with each other and with the rest of the world has a broader importance for the European economy.

My impression is that the European air transport sector comes from a strong position. The internal market has allowed European airlines to engage in a process of cross-border consolidation. European airports have been converted from infrastructure providers to commercial businesses. However, Europe is the only region worldwide where the airline sector will remain unprofitable this year. IATA expects a global profit for the airline industry of $ 2.5 billion in 2010, but the European airline industry is expected to lose $ 2.8 billion this year.

Some governments in other regions have invested a lot in aircraft of their state-owned airlines and in the expansion of airport capacity. Is there a risk for Europe to lose in the global competition? And what can policy-makers do about it?

Last week, I met with fifteen leading personalities from all aviation sectors – airlines, airports, air navigation service providers, aeronautical manufacturers, pilots and transport workers – in the Aviation Platform. This was an excellent forum to discuss what EU policy can do to address the challenges of the aviation sector and to ensure a strong and competitive air transport industry in Europe.

In the last ten years we have witnessed the development from flag carriers to European carriers. Europe has led the process of consolidation in the world. The next years will probably lead towards the development of global carriers. Europe should be a leader and not a follower in that process. This Aviation Summit is a good opportunity to discuss what Europe can do to preserve its leadership and to enhance its competitiveness.

One clear conclusion from the discussions in the Aviation Platform was that we need more European action to address the challenges the sector faces today and will face in the future. In order to have a strong position, I am convinced that we have to remove barriers and extend the EU market. If we remove barriers to our neighbouring countries, we can create a common market of 58 countries and 1 billion inhabitants. This is a big priority because with such a common market we would achieve a critical mass comparable to our competitors. Furthermore, it will offer additional market opportunities to our industry in order to overcome the crisis.

And we need to cooperate and engage with key partners. Before going to the ICAO Assembly, I met my counterparts in the US. The EU-US Air Transport Agreement is an excellent framework to develop the transatlantic partnership further in all fields of aviation. I intend to pursue actively the deepening of the transatlantic cooperation to develop traffic and regulatory convergence. We should also increase our cooperation with third countries in all areas, including on safety and security.

Another big challenge and one of my key priorities is to achieve the Single European Sky during my mandate. This Aviation Summit dedicates two sessions on this topic and we also dedicated quite some time last week in my meeting with the Aviation Platform on the Single European Sky. From these discussions, I have drawn some concrete conclusions:

The accelerated implementation of the Single European Sky is crucial for the European air transport system. Inefficiencies of the Air Traffic Management system in Europe are responsible for 16 million tonnes of unnecessary CO2 emissions. The fragmentation of the airspace costs the sector €3 billion. The implementation of the Single European Sky is therefore not an option – it is an essential requirement for an efficient and sustainable air transport system in Europe.

News on SES implementation:

Now I have to draw your attention to some very worrying developments that took place yesterday in Brussels, that could create some serious delays in delivering the SES:

Yesterday 25th October the Single Sky Committee met with the aim to vote on European Union wide performance targets on environment, capacity and cost-efficiency, and to reiterate the commitment to monitor the performance of safety.

The Commission proposed targets based on the extensive expert work and consultation process carried out by the independent Performance Review Body.

Even if these targets only related to the European network level and only served as reference for the future setting up of national plans and targets, and in spite of a Commission’s attempt to propose a last but credible compromise on cost efficiency targets, to take into account the crisis of the last two years, the Committee could not accept the Commission’s proposal.

As a result the Commission had to withdraw its amended proposal instead of proposing the vote.

Coupled with worrying feedback on the development of FABs, this negative outcome shows that the implementation of the Single European Sky is at risk.

In these circumstances, I intend to approach very quickly my colleagues Transport Ministers to determine a new way ahead. Similarly, I will report to the European Parliament.

  • SESAR as the technological dimension of the Single European Sky will need an effective governance and innovative funding for the deployment phase.

  • We can not stop with the Single European Sky at the EU borders. We need to extend the Single European Sky principles to our neighbours and we need to cooperate closely with the US' NextGen system and with strategic markets in Asia to maintain a leadership with SESAR.

Finally, more international action and an accelerated implementation of the Single European Sky can improve the framework for a competitive and sustainable air transport system in Europe, but the European air transport system will not maintain its leading position without the necessary infrastructure and the most efficient use of the existing infrastructure. Therefore, the Commission is going to present next year an airport package to the Council and the Parliament.

I am sure this Aviation Summit will give us additional ideas on what needs to be done to maintain and improve the competitiveness of the European air transport industry, to ensure the highest levels of safety and security and to implement as fast as possible the Single European Sky. We look forward to your contributions.

I wish you very good discussion rounds at this Aviation Summit!

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