Viewpoint: The Importance Of The ICAO Assembly Cannot Be Understated

By Siim Kallas, transport commissioner and vice president of the European Commission.
Source: AWIN First
September 19, 2013

It is no exaggeration when I say the eyes of the aviation world will be fixed on this month’s Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal.

This meeting will set the stage for world aviation for years ahead and generate the economic conditions that are needed for this vital global industry to grow. It will tackle many challenges that should not be underestimated: in safety, security, air navigation, global competition, market access and of course, the environment.

In aviation, Europe has reaped enormous benefits from market opportunities and from open and fair competition. This is why I would like to see ICAO make further progress in this area on a wider, worldwide basis.

Global rules for a sector that is already highly internationalized and competitive need to catch up on issues such as common-competition principles and airline ownership and control. The adherence of different national practices, barriers and limitations is an anachronism for such a modern global business. They slow down its development and growth and are an impediment for carriers to important new sources of foreign capital. Competition must be open, fair and non-discriminatory in matters such as state subsidies, user charges, royalties and access to infrastructure.

The Assembly will likely be dominated by environmental issues, namely how to achieve aviation’s sustainable growth and how it can curb emissions. We cannot pretend otherwise. This is where a truly global deal is long overdue, and the world now justifiably expects an agreement.

In Europe, we have already shown flexibility when we made the difficult decision to stop the clock on our Emissions Trading System. By doing this, we averted a probable trade war. It also shows our determination to reach an agreement.

We will continue working hard to get all our partners onboard for the ambitious action that our planet demands. This is not only about finding a compromise. We want our aviation industry to grow and prosper, and improve its environmental footprint at the same time. For that to happen, the world needs to see the aviation industry as a responsible citizen.

The ICAO Assembly faces a huge responsibility to guarantee an ambitious and sustainable environment where such growth can take place, and aviation can continue to connect citizens and businesses worldwide. That means more opportunities for travel and trade. A stronger and more sustainable aviation sector provides a definite opportunity. Europe is ready to play its part in achieving and strengthening this vision in Montreal.

And Europe has a great deal to offer. While we have sometimes been alone in tackling some of the difficult regulatory challenges, we would—as always—prefer to see a multilateral way forward. As the largest event in global aviation, the ICAO Assembly is the obvious place to discuss and, hopefully, reach agreement on multilateral solutions to global challenges.

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