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The European Union is a political and economic union comprising 27 states located primarily in Europe. The EU collectively represents the world's largest economy, with a GDP of USD15 trillion (2009), and counts some 500 million people within its borders. The EU operates as a single market, with a common system of laws and trade policies, with 16 states have forming a monetary union, adopting a common currency - the euro. The single market is based on the four freedoms of the EU: the free movement of labour, capital, goods and services. 22 member states have agreed to abolish passport controls between them, under an agreement known as the Schengen Agreement. Major institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, the European Court of Justice and the European Central Bank.
The European Union was established in the aftermath of World War Two to bring peace, stability and prosperity to Europe. Key developments in its history include:
- 1951: The European Coal and Steel Community is established by the six founding members
- 1957: The Treaty of Rome establishes a common market
- 1973: The Community expands to nine member states and develops its common policies
- 1979: The first direct elections to the European Parliament
- 1981: The first Mediterranean enlargement
- 1993: Completion of the single market
- 1993: The Treaty of Maastricht establishes the European Union
- 1995: The EU expands to 15 members
- 2002: Euro notes and coins are introduced
- 2004: Ten more countries join the Union, establishment of the European Constitution
- 2007: Two more countries Join EU, member states sign Treaty of Lisbon.
- 2014: EU elects Jean-Claude Juncker as President for five-year term.
- 2015: Lithuania adopts the Euro as its currency, becoming 19th member of the euro area.
European Commission Vice-President, Siim Kallas, is responsible for Transport.
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(This unamended CAPA report was first published on 22-Jan-2016.) Opinion polls are notoriously volatile and unreliable predictors. Nevertheless, a recent opinion poll* in the UK has indicated that voters favouring a British exit from the European Union now number more than those favouring the status quo. Whether or not the poll is totally accurate, it indicates that a so-called "Brexit" is a serious possibility.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative government has promised UK citizens a referendum on this before the end of 2017. Meanwhile, he is attempting to renegotiate the UK's membership, so that he can then back a campaign to stay in the EU. He is now hopeful of securing a deal with the UK's European partners at EU summits in Feb-2016 or Mar-2016. This could pave the way for a referendum as soon as Jun-2016.
This Jan-2016 report considered the possible implications of a Brexit on the aviation industry in the UK and Europe, with a particular focus on airline traffic rights. Much will depend on how, and to what extent, a post-EU Britain chooses to replicate its existing access to the EU single market in aviation (and in other sectors). Suffice it to say - the situation is uncertain.
All objections and further comments on the tentative grant of a US foreign air carrier permit to Norwegian's Irish subsidiary Norwegian Air International (NAI) by the Department of Transportation (DoT), on 15-Apr-2015, have now been made. Not surprisingly, a number of labour organisations and some US senators filed to reiterate their opposition. Many supportive comments were also received.
The opponents' central contention is that NAI's business model contravenes the US-EU open skies agreement's Article 17 bis, aimed at upholding labour standards. This is merely a retread of the argument rejected by the legal counsels of the DoT and the US State Department, and by the Office of Legal Counsel. Some also repeat the unfounded claim that NAI poses a threat to safety. Both positions forget that NAI's employment and safety regulations are those of Ireland, an EU nation. They also forget that NAI will create new jobs in the US and EU.
It would be remarkable if the DoT were to reverse its tentative approval, reached after more than two years of deliberation. The US-EU agreement was designed to stimulate competition, to the benefit of consumers. Approval for NAI is essential to its ongoing credibility. A final decision now awaits.
It is more than a year since Delta, United and American Airlines published their 'White Paper' alleging state subsidies to Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad. CAPA's Airlines in Transition (AIT) event in Dublin assembled a panel of senior industry figures moderated by John Byerly, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation at the US State Department, to review the arguments.
The US big three claimed that subsidies to the Gulf three distorted the market. They called on the US government to open consultations under the relevant bilateral air services agreements and, in the meantime, to freeze new passenger services. A ponderous bureaucratic process to examine whether action should be taken is still under way. European airlines have also been dragged into the debate.
At the same time, the Gulf airlines have continued to add and announce new routes to the US. Ultimately, the US big three's aims contemplate the termination, or modification, of the relevant 'open skies' bilaterals, which allow the Gulf airlines unlimited capacity on routes to the US (the bilaterals reciprocally offer the same to the US airlines). From airlines faced with unexpectedly effective competition this cynical approach was little more than an attempt to further distort an already protective bilateral system.
Aviation connectivity is a qualitative assessment and a function of many things. Broadly, and over the longer term, connectivity at a point grows as air traffic grows. This means that connectivity is closely related to economic wealth; each drives the other. But connectivity is also subject to other factors that can both constrain and stimulate it.
In the fragile economic world of airlines economics these include aviation infrastructure, taxation, regulations on market access and airport charges, all of which are influenced by governments. Geography and geopolitical issues also play a part. Related to all of these factors, but also having a separate existence, are airline network strategies.
According to a 2015 ACI report, total airport connectivity in Europe increased by 39% from 2005 to 2015, but this relied more on indirect connectivity (up 51%) than on direct connectivity (up 18%). Indirect connectivity through the Gulf and Turkey has been responsible for much of this growth. Authorities and airlines in the EU have much to learn from the supportive aviation policies and ambitious strategies of airlines in those countries. Instead, there is often a reflex that seeks restraint of more effective models.
Norwegian Air has attempted again to gain DoT approval. Norwegian Air Shuttle's long haul operations, which were launched in 2013 and struggled through 2014, are now flourishing. Routes to the US from London Gatwick, outside the airline's home market, have been added to its Scandinavian-based long haul operation.
However, the long haul network is lopsided, with Bangkok the only destination that is not across the Atlantic. The background is complicated, but this is in large measure due to the imbalance in traffic rights available to it as a Norwegian operator in an EU country. It has waited for more than two years to receive a US foreign carrier permit for its Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, but has been met with intransigence from the US Department of Transportation.
Ever innovative, Norwegian is now having another go, making an application for a US permit with another new subsidiary, Norwegian Air UK, in Dec-2015. Predictably, labour organisations and Norwegian's main Scandinavian competitor SAS have already raised objections to this latest (inevitably legitimate) attempt to operate within the EU-US open skies agreement. The Department of Transportation must not allow itself again to be hijacked by anti-competitive factions.
Europe is still an important aviation region. But it is diminishing in importance and its position as one of the two leading world regions (with North America) has been surpassed by Asia Pacific. Moreover, it is clear from orders for widebody aircraft, the main agent of competition between the regions, that the future belongs to Asia Pacific and the Middle East. In this respect, Europe and North America are becoming 'also rans'.
That said, Europe is home to globally significant airlines and other aviation companies, and these players are anxious to participate in the growth offered by aviation markets to the east. The European Union's new Aviation Strategy document, published on 7-Dec-2015, recognises this: "The EU aviation sector must be allowed to tap into the new growth markets where significant economic opportunities will be generated in the decades to come".
However, all six associations representing Europe's aircraft operators issued a joint response calling for more specific and far-reaching remedies. In a rare display of unity, AEA, EBAA, EEA, ELFAA, ERA and IACA* said that that the strategy "lacks ambition". It certainly seems to duck some key issues.
* AEA (Association of European Airlines), EBAA (European Business Aviation Association), EEA (European Express Association) ELFAA (European Low Fares Airline Association), ERA (European Regions Airline Assocation), IACA (International Air Carrier Association)