The strategy in based on a long-term vision for the air transport sector, with a primary focus on improved connectivity, enhanced competitiveness and effective sustainability, according to ACI Europe.
It believes that it includes a set of actions aimed at opening up access to key external markets and addressing capacity problems in the air and at airports, all while maintaining the highest levels of safety and security.
Olivier Jankovec, director General of ACI Europe, says: “The Commission has gotten it right – taking stock of the increasing strategic relevance of air connectivity for our economy.
"What it has put on the table today is a commendably pragmatic approach – one that recognises aviation growth as a key enabler of the EU’s wider growth and jobs agenda.”
Consumers & Open Skies
With this new aviation strategy, says ACI Europe, the Commission is also moving towards a less airline-centric and more consumer-centric aviation policy.
It is a move which it fully supports as well as "the ambitious plan" to negotiate aviation agreements with the EU’s main trading partners to secure additional market access opportunities under conditions ensuring fair competition.
Jankovec comments: “We need more open skies agreements beyond Europe. This is essential for airports to attract more air services, develop their route network and improve the connectivity of the communities they serve.
"Ultimately, this is also about avoiding the marginalisation of Europe and supporting its global hub positioning. Closing markets and resisting change has never been a successful business strategy - and it rarely does any good for consumers.”
Airport capacity and SES
While Europe’s airports support the on-going efforts of the Commission to tackle congestion and capacity constraints both in the air and on the ground, ACI Europe notes that decisive action on these issues rests with Member States.
In this regard, Europe’s airports share the frustrations of their airline partners over the lack of progress in the implementation of the Single European Sky.
And, according to ACI Europe, they are also "deeply concerned" by the lack of proper long-term national strategies to address the looming airport capacity crunch.
While Europe’s airports are still waiting for the adoption by the Council of Transport Ministers of a revised Slot Regulation, this can only be a short-term fix - as it is about managing congestion, not addressing it, the organisation notes.
It says: "Therefore, ACI Europe calls on the Commission to develop a more ambitious EU strategy on airport capacity - including the adoption of airport capacity targets for Europe aligned with the Single European Sky.
Airport charges and competition
ACI Europe also notes that the Commission has resisted calls by some airlines for even tighter regulation of airport charges, preferring instead to focus on the implementation of the current EU Directive on airport charges and will assess at a later stage whether a review is needed.
The organisation maintains that it stands ready to assist the Commission in this task.
Jankovec says: “The EU Directive on airport charges is essentially based on the unquestioned premise that airports are monopolies. That is no longer the case.
"The Commission has already acknowledged that airports compete in the State aid guidelines it adopted last year, which actually restrict the public financing of airports because of effective and growing competition among them. It will have to acknowledge the same for airport charges. This is about coherent policy alignment.”
Safety and security
ACI Europe also stresses the need for keeping regulatory driven costs in check – especially as regards safety and security, which it claims is an essential part of improving European aviation’s competitive position.
Accordingly, Europe’s airports support the move of EASA towards a performance-based approach to aviation safety, as well as increased efficiency through better integration between the agency and Member States.
But ACI Europe, reaffirms its opposition for now, to EASA’s extension of competences in the fields of security and the environment.
Jankovec concludes: “On security, the Commission needs to push for real progress towards a truly risk-based system across the board.
"We need to move from systematic and undifferentiated security checks at airports towards more targeted security checks that focus our resources where the risk is. This means not relying only on technology – which will take time to develop – but increasingly on effective sharing of intelligence and data.
"This is the only way to deliver both security and cost efficiencies. We urge the Commission to look at how we could introduce in Europe a pre-check system similar to the one successfully deployed by the US TSA at more than 150 airports.”
What others have to say
The European airspace user associations (AEA, EBAA, EEA, ELFAA, ERA and IACA) today issued a statement welcoming the European Commission's initiative to develop and implement an 'Aviation Strategy for Europe'.
The associations contributed to this exercise by responding to the public consultation, drafting position papers and holding face-to-face meetings with EU regulators, in the expectation that the strategy would address the challenges that the EU's aviation sector is currently facing.
The long-awaited strategy, which was presented earlier today, is the result of a year's work by the Commission.
In response, the associations say: "To its credit, the Commission openly acknowledges that aviation is a key driver of economic growth, jobs, trade mobility and connectivity. However, the strategy lacks ambition and does not propose adequate measures to bolster the competitiveness of air operators - a vital sector in Europe."
In a joint reaction to the strategy, the associations welcome the deserved focus on the indispensable contribution of aviation to Europe's economy and mobility but stress that there is an urgent need for the Commission to now propose more specific and far-reaching remedies.
They add: “While the strategy review correctly identifies some of the significant challenges that Europe's aviation sector is currently facing in terms of the cost and provision of infrastructure (both on the ground and in the air), the integrity of the market, inefficiencies in the value chain and a burdensome regulatory framework (e.g. national and local aviation taxes, the intra-EU ETS), it stops short of proposing concrete measures to address these.”
The associations claim that they will further engage with the Commission and the European decision makers to request immediate actions.
The European air operators’ associations AEA, EBAA, EEA, ELFAA, ERA and IACA unanimously conclude that "addressing these issues is of crucial importance in order to ensure that aviation becomes a priority sector in Europe. The associations and their members stand ready to assist with the urgently required follow-up work."
On its website, the European Commission, says: "Aviation is a strong driver of economic growth, jobs, trade and mobility for the European Union and plays a crucial role in the EU economy.
"The sector employs almost two million people in the EU and is worth €110 billion to Europe's economy. The aviation traffic in Europe is predicted to reach 14.4 million flights in 2035, 50% more than in 2012.
"The priorities of the new Aviation Strategy adopted by the Commission are to place the EU as a leading player in international aviation, whilst guaranteeing a level playing field.
"The EU aviation sector must be allowed to tap into the new growth markets. This can be achieved through new external aviation agreements with key countries and regions in the world.
"The Strategy also stresses the importance of completing the Single European Sky project, optimising the use of the busiest airports, and monitoring intra-EU and extra-EU connectivity to identify shortcomings."
It adds: "Additionally, the Strategy proposes important measures, with an update of the EU's safety rules in order to maintain high safety standards alongside growing air traffic.
"The Commission will also seek ways to reduce the burden of security checks and costs, through the use of new technology and a risk-based approach.
"A catalyst for the development of aviation, and its function as an enabler of growth, will be innovation and digitalisation. Europe must in particular unleash the full potential of drones.
"That is why the Strategy proposes a legal framework to ensure their safe use, legal certainty for industry and addresses concerns related to privacy and data protection, security and the environment."
According to president, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s new Aviation Strategy is a “milestone initiative” to boost Europe's economy, strengthen its industrial base and reinforce its global leadership position.
The Commission insists that it will deliver by ensuring that the European aviation sector remains competitive and reaps the benefits of a fast changing and developing global economy.
Vice-president for the energy-union, Maroš Šefčovič, says: "Competitive and efficient aviation is central to Europe's growth.
“This new Aviation Strategy creates a framework that will enable European aviation to maintain its global leadership. It also confirms the pioneering commitment of Europe to sustainable aviation, a highly topical issue as the world has its eyes on Paris for the COP21".
EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc adds: “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.
“It will keep European companies competitive, through new investment and business opportunities, allowing them to grow in a sustainable manner.
“European citizens will also benefit from more choice, cheaper prices and the highest levels of safety and security."
The Commission's goal is to shape a comprehensive strategy for the whole EU aviation eco-system.
In this context, it claims that the EU aviation sector must be allowed to tap into the new growth markets, which it says can be achieved through newexternal aviation agreements with key countries and regions in the world.
The new strategy also stresses the importance of completing the Single European Sky project, optimising the use of our busiest airports, and monitoring intra-EU and extra-EU connectivity to identify shortcomings.