When announcing this initiative, EU Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, recognised that European aviation is currently facing a number of challenges and stressed that the new strategy sets out an ambitious action-plan to ensure European companies remain competitive through new investment and business opportunities (for instance, through new external aviation agreements with key partners).
The novelty of the Strategy is that, for the first time, the Commission is taking an inclusive approach covering all areas of EU air transport policy.
In its Communication, the Commission identifies a number of challenges which, in certain cases, may be solved by different means, such as:
- the completion of ongoing legislative processes regarding proposals already submitted by the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council (most notably, the revision of the passenger rights regulation, the reform of the slot regulation and the revision of the Single European Sky framework (SES2+));
- the submission of new legislative proposals (e.g. the revision of the basic aviation safety regulation to include provisions on drones, and the adoption of measures to combat unfair practices);
- the implementation of existing legislation (such as the new EU Regulation on managing noise-related operating restrictions which will be applied throughout Europe from June 2016) and enforcement of existing rules by strengthening the Commission’s cooperation with national enforcement bodies of the EU Member States; and
- the adoption of guidelines (e.g. on passenger rights, on ownership and control, on public service obligations and best practices in minimum service levels in airspace management).
The main challenges for the growth of EU aviation are the capacity, efficiency and connectivity constraints. For this reason, the new Strategy highlights the importance of completing the Single European Sky initiative, optimising the use of Europe’s busiest airports and monitoring intra-EU and extra-EU connectivity to identify shortcomings.
Furthermore, as mentioned above the Commission is expected to publish interpretative guidelines on the application of Regulation 1008/2008 on the ownership and control of EU airlines to bring more legal certainty for investors and airlines alike. The Commission will also promote the exchange of best practices between Member States in the area of air traffic management.
An area of concern for the Commission is subsidies and unfair prices in connection with non-EU air carriers. The Strategy recognizes that stakeholders do not consider the existing EU legislation on this topic effective. The Commission is considering proposing new EU measures to address unfair practices as soon as possible in 2016. In addition, this issue should be addressed in the context of the negotiation of EU comprehensive air transport agreements with third countries.