Where to next for the EU’s policy makers? Henrik Hololei keynote


At CAPA's Qatar Aeropolitical & Regulatory Summit in Doha on 5/6-Feb-2020, Henrik Hololei, Director-General for Mobility and Transport of the European Commission delivered a Keynote Speech as an introduction to a panel discussion session of the same name. This report contains extracts from that speech.

Mr Hololei addressed issues relating to aviation liberalisation, safety, elaborating also on the EU's External Aviation Policy - and, of course, sustainability.

"We must maintain open and competitive markets in order to to develop the aviation sector and our economies." As the UK leaves the European Union, and the EU Commission prepares to negotiate a new regime, these issues become increasingly important.

  • Safety remains a top priority in the aviation industry, with a focus on improving and maintaining the highest levels of safety and security for passengers.
  • Competition is crucial for the aviation sector to promote efficiency, productivity, and faster response to market changes. Global carriers play a significant role in shaping the future of the industry.
  • The European Union is committed to building and fostering external aviation relations, exemplified by the forthcoming aviation agreement with Qatar. Similar agreements with other key partners have generated significant benefits.
  • Sustainability is a major challenge for the aviation sector, with increasing societal pressure for cleaner and more sustainable air transport. Effective action is needed to reduce the industry's carbon footprint, including improved fuel efficiency, operational efficiency, market-based measures, and increased use of sustainable aviation fuels.
  • The capacity challenge in air traffic management is a pressing issue, with the growth rate of air traffic putting strain on existing capacity. A fundamental change in airspace management is necessary to address capacity shortages and ensure efficient operations.
  • Brexit will have a significant impact on aviation, as the UK will no longer be part of the EU single aviation market. Open and competitive markets must be maintained to support the development of the aviation sector and economies.

Presentation by Henrik Hololei, Director-General for Mobility and Transport of the European Commission, Doha, 5-Feb-2020

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues and friends

  • It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you today. A year has passed since the first Aeropolitical & Regulatory Summit here in Qatar, and we can look back to an eventful past 12 months.
  • It is particularly special to be back in Qatar, as on the margins of this very event last February, the EU and Qatari negotiators reached a breakthrough in the EU-Qatar aviation negotiations, paving the way for the initialling of a draft comprehensive air transport agreement in early-March in Brussels.
  • The title of our panel is "Where to next for the EU's policy makers?"
    Obviously most of the challenges we are facing are the same as yours, and many of them require a global approach.

Aviation Safety

  • As always, safety remains our first and foremost priority. Our safety records are higher than ever and we benefit from a robust set of rules but there is, nevertheless, no room for complacency when it comes to safety.
  • This year has already started with new challenges. The escalation in Iraq and Iran that resulted in the tragic loss of 176 lives was a stark reminder of the threats we are facing and what civil aviation has to deal with. I am glad to see that the tension has eased, at least temporarily.
  • Now we all are faced with the fast spread of coronavirus that affects travel, aviation and sews fear around the world. These developments remind us of the vulnerability of civil aviation to events we cannot control.
  • But what we can control and what has been the priority for in the past and in the future is highest level of safety and security of passengers.
    And aviation is a frontrunner here as there is no other transport mode that is as safe and secure as aviation. This is a result of a century long focus on the key aspect - making sure it is safe to fly. And this message has been transformed to the trust of ca 4, 5 billion people who safely flew last year and will do so this year.
  • But unfortunately tragedies are not entirely avoided, even though we have had long periods with no casualties in civil aviation, it is important that we learn from tragic events, improve and regain the trust. And this is what aviation value network has been successfully doing whenever something has happened.
  • For 2020 and beyond, the aviation sector will continue to improve the safety and security but also focus more and more on the sustainability challenge. A major challenge that not only aviation but all our societies are facing
  • In safety as in other areas, operation and global partnership are essential in addressing the challenges.

    And we can ask ourselves: what is needed so that aviation can continue to underpin global prosperity while remaining socially acceptable?

Economic Benefits of Liberalisation

  • The answer, in my view, is competition. Let us not forget that this global sector continues to be governed by a myriad of bilateral agreements placing constraints on virtually every aspect of air transport.
  • It is very difficult to understand why we have these restrictions that are not present in any other industry!
  • Antitrust immunity, alliances and joint ventures may help working around the limitations to a certain extent, but in the end, they are only a proxy for a real open legal framework.
  • I believe in the potential of truly global carriers and, if I look at the possible challenges to the sector, then that might also be very important for the future of the industry.
  • Europe has demonstrated that a process of liberalisation and the setting of common rules promotes competition, provides airlines the freedom to operate on a fully commercial basis, capital is allocated more efficiently, productivity is improved and the response to market changes is faster.
  • Why are we not having this on a global level??

The EU's External Aviation Policy

  • The European Union is strongly committed to further build and foster our external aviation relations. Our forthcoming aviation agreement with Qatar is the best example!
  • Qatar was the first partner we started EU air transport negotiations with after adopting the Aviation Strategy for Europe in 2015.
    Qatar was open to sit down, discuss and build a relationship of trust. This takes courage and vision and I am therefore particularly happy that Qatar was also the first partner with whom we reached the finish line in the negotiations.
  • These were not easy negotiations but they were done in a good and constructive spirit from both sides that allowed us to reach this much appreciated outcome, setting a new global benchmark for international aviation agreements, including forward-looking provisions, such as on fair competition, social or environmental matters.
  • We are now approaching the signature of the agreement, and look forward to start implementing it as soon as possible.
  • In a similar vein, we are progressing successfully with negotiations for CATAs in Oman and the ASEAN bloc, and we hope to be able to move forward to concluding these agreements soon.
  • It is important to emphasise that EU CATAs go far beyond mere traffic rights and market access: They really are a tool to forge deep and all-encompassing aviation partnerships with key and like-minded partners.
    And Europe has a lot to offer: ATM modernisation, safety cooperation etc.
  • The EU has negotiated and implemented similar agreements with key partners, and they have generated very significant benefits.
    They also give necessary flexibility and provide opportunities for the industry and, most importantly, are truly win-win agreements, with benefits equally accruing to airlines of both sides
  • We must maintain open and competitive markets in order to to develop the aviation sector and our economies.
    Protectionism should not be an option - and that is why there is a clear case for pursuing this agenda of openness paired with an ambitious and forward-looking set of common rules fit for the 21st century.
  • This will also guide our future aviation relationship with the UK.
    As you all know, Brexit will have an important impact, since the UK will no longer be part of the EU single aviation market.
    All the achievements, which contributed to a normalisation of air transport, and which have benefitted the UK and the other Member States a lot, will no longer apply to the UK.

Sustainability and the European Green Deal - no silver bullet

  • Speaking about major global challenge, I come to sustainability and that of the aviation sector. The increasing societal pressure on aviation and the strong focus it is subject to, might not be proportionate to its contribution to global CO2 emissions but in Europe, we observe that public demand and societal expectations for cleaner and much more sustainable air transport will grow rapidly in the coming years and could even question the value of connectivity.
  • The new European Commission's key objective for the next five years is to achieve the European Green Deal.
    And aviation plays here an important role and needs effective action to reduce its carbon footprint at the time when according to forecasts the strong demand increases the number of flights.
  • There is no silver bullet for a simple solution, as restricting mobility and flying should not be viable options. Connectivity will continue to have an essential part in citizens' lives and will remain a driver of economic growth, trade enabler, creating new jobs, improving sustainable connectivity and fostering cultural and people exchanges.
  • So, to keep its licence to grow, global aviation industry collectively needs to bring emissions down - quickly and permanently. It also needs to implement a comprehensive basket of measures with improved fuel efficiency of aircraft, operational efficiency improvements, market based measures and an increased uptake of sustainable aviation fuels.

The Capacity Challenge and Air Traffic Management

  • The impressive growth rate of air traffic puts also a lot of pressure on ATM capacity - we are already feeling this in Europe. The impact of capacity shortages by 2035 is estimated at 1.5 million flights not accommodated, 160 million pax unable to fly, resulting in the potential loss of 800.000 jobs and annual loss of up to €50bn GDP (EU).
  • This capacity crunch affects not only Europe but also fast growing aviation markets such as the Gulf region and others as everything is interlinked.
  • We therefore have a joint interest to tackle capacity shortages. We need a fundamental change and rethink in the way we manage the airspace.
  • There are many more issues to cover but I hope my introductory words give you some idea where we are going in European policy-making

I would like to thank again our hosts CAPA and Qatar Airways for their hospitality but also for their support for the EU's aviation policy. Thank you again for organising this great event and I am looking forward to a lively discussion in our panel today!

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