ICAO leaders highlight strong European aviation performance and forecast growth challenges

Photo Expression/Marc Dossman

Accelerating traffic growth and emerging challenges on the safe integration of drones, commercial space flights, and artificial intelligence were some of the key points addressed in Strasbourg, France where ICAO’s Council President and Secretary General took part in the European Civil Aviation Conference’s (ECAC) 36th Plenary Session.

In his keynote address to the European government and industry air transport leaders in attendance, ICAO Council President Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu highlighted Europe’s status as one of the most liberalized and integrated air transport markets in the world.


Photo Expression/Marc Dossman

He praised the Region for its high levels of safety and security even as it carries half of the world’s international passengers, but stressed that forecast growth poses significant challenges in this regard, and that States and operators alike could benefit from ICAO’s global planning as they seek to optimize the socio-economic benefits of increasing flight volumes in finite air space.

“The most important step which governments seeking to modernize and expand their air transport systems today can undertake is to work closely through ICAO and strengthen their ICAO compliance,” President Aliu remarked. “We have global strategies, plans, programmes and agreements in place to ensure that new civil aviation standards are continuously developed to address emerging challenges, and in particular I would emphasize the importance of the ICAO Global Aviation Safety and Air Navigation Plans.”

The ICAO President also updated the European audience on the recent progress made by the ICAO Council on the standards for its CORSIA emissions offsetting programme, set to commence in 2021, and set the stage for what will be decided at ICAO’s 13th Air Navigation Conference this October.

“Today we are exploring new methods to enhance global harmonization and interoperability, researching new technologies and innovations to continuously make air transport operations more safe, secure, efficient and environmentally-friendly, and we continue to advocate for the more liberalized multilateral approaches and open skies which are so vital to a truly global and accessible network,” he said.

“Taken together, air transport’s many and diverse benefits are of critical importance today to every country’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but in order to realize them, and improve local prosperity for their citizens and businesses, States must make due commitments to modernize and expand capacity, and to effectively implement ICAO’s global standards and policies.”

Photo Expression/Marc Dossman

In her opening statement, ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu emphasized that the 27 percent of global traffic managed by Europe today corresponds to some 11.9 million jobs being generated in the Region, and a €735 billion impact on local GDP. “With low-cost carriers being responsible for over 40 percent of the seats available to passengers travelling in Europe today, we may also wish to recognize the synergies between air transport affordability and sustainability,” she highlighted.

Dr. Liu also underscored that safety performance has been a key contributing factor to Europe’s air transport growth and success, and how its improved coordination had helped its States achieve particularly admirable ICAO safety oversight audit results. “I appreciate the important contributions ICAO has received from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Eurocontrol toward these results, and how they represent such a positive example of enhanced pan-Regional coordination.”

Referring to the upcoming CORSIA capacity building being undertaken by the ICAO Secretariat, Dr. Liu noted that “States, industry and other stakeholders must commit to it together, to ensure that the CORSIA goals and objectives are met, and I would encourage European States to take a leadership role in these initiatives. One early assistance effort in need of your support will be the CORSIA implementation ‘Train the Trainer’ sessions ICAO will be conducting this autumn at our Headquarters.”

She also recognized and supported ECAC’s objective to achieve greater pan-European harmonization on air transport policy priorities, and strongly emphasized the importance of maintaining momentum on the Region’s implementation of the ICAO Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP).

“In light of how both aviation security threats and the methods to confront them are continuing to evolve, it is critical that your States plan and guide your cooperative progress on the basis of what the GASeP European and North Atlantic (EUR/NAT) Roadmap sets out, and to ensure that your national priorities continue to be aligned with the Plan’s provisions,” she remarked.

She concluded by noting that “as Europe has coalesced into a more unified region in the ensuing decades, we have also seen the role of ECAC, and its relationship with ICAO, evolving as well. I believe the current and admirable levels of coordination and partnership can be further enhanced, to the benefit of ICAO and ECAC and all States and Regions.”

During their stay in France, ICAO’s senior officials, accompanied by EUR/NAT Regional Director Mr. Luis Fonseca de Almeida, conducted bilateral meetings with Mr. Henrik Hololei, Director General, DG MOVE, European Commission, Mr. Volodymyr Omelyan, Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine, Mr. Sangdo Kim, Director General for Aviation Safety Policy, Republic of Korea, and Mr. Kevin Shum, Director General of Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.