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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Address by Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc before the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)

Montreal, 29 February 2016

Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, President of the ICAO Council,

Dr. Fang Liu, Secretary General of ICAO,

Distinguished Members of the Council,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and indeed a pleasure to be with you in Montreal, on my first visit to ICAO headquarters. I hope it is the first of many visits. I believe cooperation, collaboration and partnership in the global aviation community is key to addressing common challenges, such as in the areas of:

  • safety,
  • security,
  • competitiveness & connectivity, and
  • The environment.


Role of the EU

With 42 per cent of all flights worldwide either landing or taking off in the EU, Europe has a strong role in the sector internationally.  We therefore must confront these challenges head-on. The European Commission adopted a new Aviation Strategy for Europe, in December 2015. This is a milestone initiative to boost Europe's economy, strengthen its industrial base and reinforce its presence in international aviation. The Commission's goal is to shape a comprehensive strategy for the whole EU aviation ecosystem. An integral part of the new strategy will be to further reinforce our ties with new regions and countries, through new aviation agreements.

As recognized in this strategy document, ICAO plays a critical role in the development of global solutions. We are also committed to working with our aviation partners and ICAO through our Memorandum of Cooperation to address many issues of common concern.

The significance of this commitment is not merely visible through financial contributions and expert advice but also through our contribution to a number of technical assistance programmes. Indicatively we can speak of an annual contribution of 10 to 15 million dollars at EU level. And of course several EU Member States have their own bilateral programmes as well. However, it is not just about numbers, but also the quality of cooperation: we try to ensure that technical cooperation is demand-driven and based on dialogue, as well as true stakeholder involvement on both sides.

Let me also reassure you that despite the perception of complex EU Decision making - with EASA, Sesar Joint Undertaking, Eurocontrol, the Member States and a host of other institutions and organisations – the EU (and its Member States) are ready to co-operate with ICAO.

The EU has successfully pooled European expertise and has demonstrated its added-value. In many ways ICAO does the same by pooling the expertise of the world. It is my hope that we can continue to build on our close ties long into the future, as we tackle upcoming challenges.


Progress to date

Of course, I want to thank you for very good cooperation and acknowledge the significant work that is already being accomplished in and by ICAO. Further integration, close cooperation, international standards, and mutual recognition are important factors in this success.

When developing improvements to our own aviation system, the EU will also continue looking to strengthen its role and responsibilities as a partner in the global aviation community. I am pleased, for instance, with our efforts to work with countries around the world in removing them from the Safety List. It is also encouraging how we have been able to mirror the EU legislative process with ICAO developments on flight tracking.

I would like to express my full support to President Aliu on his view that effective implementation of existing standards is a key for the future sustainable success of the sector. This is also ICAO's core business in delivering the "No Country Left Behind" initiative.

I am particularly inspired by this overarching initiative. Indeed, this spirit of cooperation and collaboration, and leaving no country behind is the very essence of the European project. Let me state that the European Union is ready to work with you, so that indeed no-one is left behind. Ladies and Gentlemen, the ONLY thing we should be leaving behind is a planet fit for the next generation, and beyond. This leads me to the important issue of climate change.


Climate

You will not be surprised that I want to focus a little on ICAO's work in this area. For international aviation to work successfully and safely, we have built relationships of close trust and cooperation in many areas. We should do the same to tackle climate change.

These past months have been a busy time for setting goals to protect and preserve our planet. Paris COP 21 has provided a great momentum and I hope we all agree that we can continue to build on this. I congratulate ICAO in the progress made in setting new aircraft emissions standards. I am hopeful that ICAO members will endorse these goals very soon. It is also great to see that at his last visit, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, commended the strong links between ICAO's five strategic objectives and the 17 Sustainable Development goals.

Indeed, the expansion of the aviation sector has brought people and families together, created jobs for entire communities and delivered prosperity to many remote and developing regions. Aviation can, and has, bridged development gaps. The number of flights is expected to double in the next 15 years, unleashing even further this potential.

However, these gains cannot be realised if we do not, in parallel, find solutions for significant emission reductions. The last Assembly was able to reach an agreement on the development of a global MBM scheme for international aviation. And we know that the aviation industry itself is looking for a common, global solution.

Since then a lot of technical work has been done, which has provided a firm basis for us to build upon. Now we need to muster the political will for reaching a suitable and balanced agreement.

I would like to express my appreciation to President Aliu for his leadership in taking the process forward. The text which the President has tabled has received support in many parts of the world. Of course the discussions are not over, and I want to assure that the European Union is ready to engage in constructive negotiations to reach a global agreement that delivers on the last Assembly Resolution.

Moreover, I stand ready to cooperate with ICAO to support these efforts via concrete efforts to ensure emissions from the growing aviation sector are addressed. These are not just words. I am pleased that in collaboration with ICAO, the EU is assisting States in the environmental field through the CO2 mitigation project. I would invite you to work with me in finding the best way of assisting states also in the future, notably in the implementation of a Global Market Based Mechanism.

For climate action, technology development will also be important. I note with interest general aviation initiatives to work with sustainable alternative fuels, including by one EU airline to being the trial use of hybrid powered planes. I would also like to compliment those airports that use more and more alternative energy to decarbonise airports. Electrification, based on renewable and clean power sources may hold on of the keys to truly tackling climate change while allowing for growth in aviation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, after Paris the eyes of the world are watching us. The time for action is now. I am confident that later this year ICAO member states will be able to reach agreement on GMBM to ensure carbon neutral growth after 2020.


In closing, allow me to share a final thought. In my role as European Transport Commissioner, I have been trying to build and strengthen relationships across the world. Earlier this month, I addressed the ASEAN countries in Singapore. That was on the back of a visit to the Gulf States. Tomorrow I will be in Washington D.C. My message today is clear – it is only by continuing to build relationships, pooling knowledge resources and working together on common standards and goals that we can hope to overcome the challenges we face. The EU is a ready and willing partner. Collaboration and cooperation is not the main show in town. I would like to propose that it is the only show in town, particularly as we prepare for the ICAO's 39th Assembly.  

It is our responsibility to take part, and make it work. ICAO provides a framework and I pledge my support to work with ICAO and you in taking our efforts forward.

Thank you.

SPEECH/16/461


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