In December 2015 the European Commission finally launched its reforms for the aviation sector within Europe.
According to the Commission the industry supports 5.1 million jobs and contributes €365bn to Europe's GDP.
Despite the current economic crisis, global air transport over the long term is expected to grow by around five per cent annually until 2030.
Given the importance of the aviation industry, the launch of the Commission's new package was greatly anticipated by both MEPs and industry.
European transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said at the launch, "European aviation is facing a number of challenges and today's strategy sets out a comprehensive and ambitious action-plan to keep the sector ahead of the curve."
Bulc was also keen to highlight how it will help EU travellers, seeing as, "European citizens will also benefit from more choice, cheaper prices and the highest levels of safety and security."
EPP MEP Franck Proust, a Vice Chair of Parliament's sky and space intergroup, praised Bulc's saying he 'saluted' the work she had done, and that, the "new aviation strategy clearly shows ambition."
For Proust, the "focus of the (new proposals) must be on tackling the air transport sector's loss of competiveness - you could even call it a crisis."
Proust also welcomed the Commission's willingness to open up negotiations with the Gulf countries, Turkey, China and Japan on aviation security issues, and also its plans to strengthen EU market rules against outside operators.
However, he was "dubious" about some aspects of the package, in particular the "lack of some announcements" relating to information concerning possible costs that "may harm" the competitiveness of European airlines and airports.
ECR MEP Jacqueline Foster and fellow Vice Chair of the sky and space intergroup believed the package should look at revising the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) regulation, in particular how to best regulate the use of drones, in order to "create a framework that will support manufacturers and end users. This would include non-aviation companies looking to incorporate drones into their activities for the first time."
She also believed Discussions on air service agreements with countries outside Europe were taking too long "and the danger is that carriers based in the EU will be left behind."
However with growing global competition to Europe's aviation section, the MEP warned against "putting up barriers which would prevent third country airlines accessing European markets and vice versa."
She added, "to take a protectionist stance would jeopardise our world class aeronautics manufacturers who sell billions of Euros of aircraft to airlines around the world."
The Commission's new aviation package was welcomed by the Association of European Airlines (AEA).
They told this magazine "the strategy properly identifies some of the significant challenges Europe's aviation sector is currently facing." But the association warned the new plan, "stops short in proposing concrete measures to address these."
While International Airline Group (IAG) also welcomed the new package, they wanted the EU to address problems of "unnecessary high charges at large scale airport monopolies and inefficiencies in the aviation supply chain mainly driven by the lack of genuine liberalisation." IAG also agreed with Foster, calling "for an open and liberalised global market for aviation."
The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), an environmental aviation group, backed further development of the EU's plans for a single European sky (SES) initiative including the implementation of SESAR, the technological dimension of SES.
They were also encouraged by the "the recognition of the need to develop further green technologies, including sustainable alternative fuels, which will play a pivotal role in cutting aviation emissions in the long term."
President of the Airport Regions Conference (ARC) Sergi Alegre Calero said he was "heavily worried about the lack of vision when it comes to the environmental capacity,” of European airports. He cautioned that not addressing this aspect in the package will "be a handicap for airports in the long term."
He added, "meeting the resident's concerns and preventing conflicts is clearly not a priority in the document presented by the Commission."
He wanted the EU to have more 'direct competences' relating to the decision making process for expanding airports.
The Aero-Space and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) Secretary General Jan Pie said the new plans were a 'step in the right direction.'
In particular they welcomed a bigger budget and increased staffing levels for the EASA. "This is essential to avoid costly delays to industry certification projects."
The ASD called on the Commission to make further improvements to their proposals, in particular to strengthen the European aviation sector against international competition and for the EU to continue funding its Clean Sky and SESAR initiatives.
Green MEP Keith Taylor described the new strategy paper as "myopic" in its focus on promoting growth in the aviation sector. "We should be looking to reducing the climate change impact, pollution (…) and health problems linked with the sector."
He was also scathing in the timing of the plans, "Given air transport is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, it is both ironic and cynical the Commission presented these proposals during the COP21 UN climate change talks."
About the author
Rajnish Singh is commissioning editor for the Parliament Magazine
Article available here.