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Vice-President and Commissioner for transport
The Single Sky: the way forward for European civil aviation
European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC)/Paris
13 December 2012
Distinguished directors-general, ladies and gentlemen
I am delighted to have the opportunity to address so many directors-general from the world of European aviation. It is indeed a pleasure to be here.
Let me start today with a pan-European project that is vitally important to us all.
A little more than a week ago, we passed a critical deadline in the timetable to complete the Single European Sky, the logical partner to Europe's single transport market on the ground.
This project has consistently been my top aviation priority. As I said at the recent Single European Sky conference in Limassol, I am determined to advance it within the term of this European Commission. It is simply too important for Europe and its competitiveness to be allowed to fail.
Functional Airspace Blocks are one of the cornerstones of the entire project, along with the performance scheme that is so vital for the Single Sky to become a reality and success.
It is now very clear that the FABs are not yet genuinely functional. They either still follow national borders or have not yet optimised their air navigation services - or both.
There is absolutely no point in having ‘empty’ FABs that only exist on paper. They must deliver added value, improve performance and promote optimum use of airspace. That is what I expect, and what the project’s success hinges upon: it remains the original ambition from more than 10 years ago.
But we are still a long way from reaching our goal.
We need FABs that bring benefit to people and industry, and contribute to an integrated and defragmented airspace. My Commission services are analysing the FABs situation and we will now launch infringement proceedings against Member States if they are not fully compliant with EU law.
At the same time, what we really want to achieve is better performance and real delivery of the Single European Sky. I believe that we can still reach this goal. The FABs can, and must, still deliver.
Accelerated implementation of the Single European Sky is crucial for the competitiveness, cost-effectiveness, growth and sustainability of Europe's entire air transport system.
It is also probably the best example of how Europe can make a direct and significant difference to aviation, for the benefit of business and citizens.
This is a hugely important project where ECAC is uniquely placed to make a significant contribution – to assist, develop and enhance pan-European aviation.
We need to start doing more to ensure that the Single Sky is delivered. Member State civil aviation directors-general are uniquely placed to drive the project forward in a balanced way, given your responsibilities.
Nevertheless, I would like to see you now take more ownership of what is, after all, our common project. And I know you are up to the challenge.
The Single European Sky is also a pan-European sky, for which you, the DGCAs, can act as ambassadors, playing a coordinating role for the different approaches we see across Europe’s Member States.
For industry, business and citizens to reap the benefits of the Single Sky, we first need to be empowered with the full support of Member States. Of course, once this is working smoothly, the non-EU members of ECAC – several of which are already part of Europe's common aviation area – will enjoy the same benefits.
As you know, next year is crucial for the Single Sky – and we need ECAC’s engagement in this.
In the first half of 2013, we will present proposals for what we call "SES 2+" to accelerate implementation of the project, complement some initiatives which are not yet complete and strengthen the existing legislation.
Last July, we accepted performance plans for the first reference period, but noticed clearly that some Member States made greater efforts than others to make sure the agreed EU targets are met. Member States now need to be made accountable if they do not meet their targets.
But the first reference period is only the starting point.
Far more needs to be done to achieve our goal, which is to provide efficient, safe and sustainable air traffic management. As DGCAs, you have a major role to play in driving ambitious target setting by the Member States.
Ladies and gentlemen
In the past, ECAC used to focus on drawing up policy. It is thanks to initiatives first launched within ECAC that we now have some of the most important elements in European air transport regulation, starting with the European Union’s comprehensive aviation security system.
But I think we now all agree that the main framework for policy formulation, and the adoption of rules that stem from it, is that of the European Union. This is why we believe that one should avoid using ECAC as an alternative for the EU.
At the same time, there is ample opportunity here to work together on a positive agenda. There are huge advantages for both sides that can be gained from good cooperation – if both sides respect each other's specific roles and specificities.
For us, one of ECAC’s greatest values is its facility to align and link its 44 EU and non-EU member countries. Working as an 'international bridge', it coordinates their participation in international bodies dealing with aviation – ICAO, Eurocontrol, and of course, the EU institutions.
ECAC’s wide membership allows for a truly pan-European approach to aviation issues that are relevant for all of Europe. Eventually, ECAC members should be fully integrated into the Single European Sky. They should become part of the common aviation area as soon as possible.
Our cooperation allows air transport to be secure, safe and efficient over a vast territory - with aligned conditions for a huge number of passengers and with considerable benefits for industry.
One of the areas where this pan-European element is very important is in our cooperation in international organisations – at ICAO, specifically, where we can be proud of what we have achieved at recent major conferences and Assemblies.
Thanks to good cooperation between ECAC and the European Commission, we managed to systematically bring the weight of 44 states to bear on the ICAO table on each of the many issues that we wanted to defend.
This allows Europe to present a very powerful policy message - a solid and coherent European position - to the rest of the world.
I am delighted that ECAC and the Commission are raising their cooperation on aviation security to a new level today by agreeing a Memorandum of Cooperation, with annexes and work programme.
This agreement will allow each side to make best use of the other’s expertise by making our efforts complementary, while reinforcing each other in our respective areas of competence.
We need to work more closely together in this area for two main reasons.
Firstly, to create synergies between us, such as creating technical standards for detection equipment. Secondly, to avoid overlaps in areas of high political priorities and urgent intervention where the Commission needs to have full flexibility to develop new standards with EU Member States.
One area where we would very much welcome ECAC's active involvement concerns certifications of aviation security equipment.
ECAC standards and testing are voluntary. This is why I believe that we now need to progress to full legal mutual recognition throughout the EU Single Market with an EU-wide harmonised and binding certification system.
Such a system can be built onto what already exists and benefit from the valuable work already done by ECAC, which would in any case retain an important role with its technical expertise.
Ladies and gentlemen
The glass is more than half-full. ECAC already does some excellent work: it is a highly valuable forum for ideas, an organiser of technical advice, and a bridge between the European Union and ECAC’s non-EU members.
But I believe there is even more we can do to build on our successful relationship of cooperation – in particular by accelerating progress with the Single European Sky, as I mentioned earlier.
After all, we are all working towards the same objective: to develop an air transport system for Europe which is safe, efficient and sustainable. A high quality of service for passengers; a competitive and open business environment.
Let us keep up the good work and partnership to keep Europe's aviation industry at the global forefront.
Thank you for your attention.