The EESC backs the European Commission's proposal on the long-awaited revision of the regulation on safeguarding competition in air transport. In an opinion adopted at the EESC January plenary session, the Committee urges the European Parliament and the Council to promptly approve the revised regulation in order to effectively address distortions in international competition.
The EESC supports the Commission's dual approach to safeguarding fair international competition and has taken a stand by adopting, on 17 January 2018, the opinion drafted by Jacek Krawczyk. On the one hand, the proposal gives teeth to existing legislation and equips the Commission with an efficient tool to counteract and prevent distortions of fair competition in aviation. On the other hand, the EU aviation agreements work as an incentive for third countries to comply with EU legislation in exchange for access to the EU market.
"This proposal is yet another important step in the implementation of the EU Aviation Strategy, announced over two years ago. The future success of EU aviation depends on how effectively the strategy is implemented," said Mr Krawczyk. "Taking into account the importance of aviation for the EU economy, all stakeholders must be even more involved in the implementation of the strategy," he added.
The EESC points out that a level playing field between EU and external competitors in the aviation sector is possible only if third countries also respect basic principles of labour and consumer protection as well as environmental standards. It is therefore important to negotiate "fair competition clauses" in international air service agreements and establish a functioning social dialogue.
The proposed approach is also expected to bring economic benefits, as it will allow EU airlines to compete fairly with third country air carriers, increasing traffic in EU airports and choice for passengers.
The revision of the regulation on safeguarding competition in air transport (Regulation 868/2004) is part of a larger package entitled "Aviation: Open and Connected Europe", which also contains guidelines in the following areas:
- Ownership and control of EU air carriers
The Committee recommends that an impact assessment based on a number of scenarios be carried out to determine whether and how to revise the present regulation.
- Public Service Obligation (PSO)
In the EESC's view, the PSO guidelines will contribute to more transparent and consistent implementation and enforcement of the existing legislation. The Committee also calls for a less burdensome requirement on national and local governments when complying with and reporting on their PSO awards.
The EESC underlines the need for broader debate on how to ensure sufficient air connectivity not only for peripheral destinations in Europe: it recognises that EU Member States with small domestic markets also experience difficulties in securing connections between their main airports and key destinations in the EU and beyond.
- Air Traffic Management (ATM) continuity
The Committee highlights that at EU level the Eurocontrol Network Manager has already initiated the process of mitigating disruptions in air traffic management and that the social partners have already mutually agreed on tools to reduce any negative impact of industrial action. The EESC also stresses that strikes are a fundamental workers' right and that the right to strike falls outside the scope of the EU treaties.