In September 2015, the European Economic and Social Committee adopted an opinion on Integrated EU Aviation Policy. The document, requested by the European Commission as an exploratory opinion, was based on inclusive consultations with numerous stakeholders representing all segments of the aviation value network. Six factors determining the competitiveness of European aviation were underlined: safety, connectivity, sustainability, innovation, operational excellence and the international dimension. The full version of the document can be downloaded here.

In December 2015, the European Commission presented the long-awaited communication An Aviation Strategy for Europe. The document identifies a number of actions to be taken in order to address both intra-EU challenges and global competition. These include: EU-level agreements with several countries and regions in the world to improve market access, completion of the Single European Sky initiative, efficiency improvements, actions to tackle the upcoming capacity crunch, providing a level-playing field for competition between airlines internationally, and revising basic air safety, as well as air passenger rights rules.

But does aviation consist exclusively of airlines, airports and air traffic management? And if so, what would be the ultimate goal of a strategy promoting these stakeholders? Certainly, it would be to make European airlines, airports and air traffic control management more competitive and efficient, less costly and, possibly, more attractive to European private investors. But could such a strategy win enough political support to ensure proper and prompt implementation?

The European Economic and Social Committee is hosting this public hearing to discuss the merits of the Commission's approach. The EU economy is a thriving, highly-developed first world market with over 500 million inhabitants and significant potential for innovation and growth. The aviation industry consists of a great number of interdependent mobility service providers. Manufacturers of aircraft, engines and other highly sophisticated equipment have invested significant sums in Europe to promote innovation, research and development. By taking a holistic view of aviation, it becomes apparent that all stakeholders in the aviation value network are key when it comes to improving Europe's mobility and overall competitiveness.

The complexity of the task ahead must be discussed openly. The hearing will provide an opportunity for stakeholders and civil society representatives to voice their interests and concerns. Participants will discuss a broader context in order to assess the conditions under which the Commission's Aviation Strategy can deliver growth and more jobs.

The Commission will only be able to implement its Aviation Strategy successfully if all stakeholders buy into the concept. It will take time to develop a jointly-shared appreciation of the challenges that the implementation of such an ambitious strategy faces, to overcome those obstacles and deliver the desired benefits for Europe, its economy, the sector's employees and passengers. The European Economic and Social Committee considers this hearing to be only the beginning of a constructive and on-going dialogue on the way to implement the integrated EU aviation strategy it has been recommending for so long.