The EESC opinion on the Commission package "Aviation: Open and Connected Europe" welcomes the European Commission's proposals as a step towards implementing the "Aviation Strategy for Europe" from December 2015. This is of key importance in light of multiple challenges faced by the stakeholders of the aviation sector, including the development of markets in multiple directions, growing pressure on people and companies, increasing competition inside and outside the EU, and new disruptive technologies and digitalisation. The package "Aviation: Open and Connected Europe" – with its one legislative and three non-legislative proposals – addresses some of these challenges.
In relation to the Commission's proposal to revise the Regulation on safeguarding competition in air transport (Regulation No 868/2004), the EESC stresses that a level playing field between EU and external competitors in the aviation field can only be secured sustainably if third countries respect basic principles of labour protection, as well as consumer protection and environmental standards. One of the consequences of this is the need to negotiate 'fair competition clauses' in international air service agreements, including the establishment of a functioning social dialogue.
In terms of the proposed Interpretative Guidelines on Ownership and Control, the EESC recommends that an impact assessment is drafted based on a number of scenarios to pave the way for an informed consideration of the question of ownership and control. In relation to the proposed Interpretative Guidelines on Public Service Obligation (PSO) rules, the Committee asks the Commission to propose – based on an in-depth economic and societal analysis of how to better provide sustainable connections to small domestic markets and peripheral destinations underpinned by a public consultation process – a revision of Regulation No 1008/2008. In terms of air traffic management (ATM) continuity, the EESC is of the view that at EU level the Network Manager (a directorate of EUROCONTROL) has already initiated the process to mitigate ATM disruptions. Moreover, the social partners already have mutually agreed tools to reduce any negative impact of industrial action. The EESC reaffirms that strikes are a fundamental workers' right and that the right to strike falls outside the scope of the EU treaties.
Overall, the EESC highlights that in order to provide for the efficient implementation of the EU Aviation Strategy, it is essential to inject into the political discussion the views of organised civil society concerning the political, social, economic and environmental consequences of these initiatives.