For me it has always been absolutely essential to actively engage with ICAO and to build a strong and solid partnership between the EU and ICAO. Aviation is a global industry and Europe is committed to supporting the development of a global air transport system that is safe, secure, efficient, economically viable and environmentally sound. In order to achieve this, international cooperation is the key and ICAO the partner with whom to pursue this around the globe.
ICAO, under the leadership of its President Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu and Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu, plays a vital role in the development of a safe, secure and sustainable international civil aviation and interoperable air transport systems.
The European Commission has enjoyed a long-standing cooperation with ICAO in many areas. Let me firstly underline the active European contribution to the development of international standards. Over the last decades, Europe has supported ICAO in the adoption of a strong set of global rules, notably in the area of safety and air navigation. Europe has also been very proactive in ensuring that aviation contributes to the fight against climate change, notably through the landmark agreement reached at the last ICAO Assembly on the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and through the adoption of a new aircraft CO2 emission certification standard. We want aviation to continue its predicted growth and to attract more people to flying but for that we need sustainability as only this gives us the licence to grow.
We want aviation to continue its predicted growth and to attract more people to flying but for that we need sustainability as only this gives us the licence to grow.
Secondly, let me mention that we have cooperated closely with ICAO in addressing the challenge of keeping global aviation secure, a challenge that is today perhaps more important than ever before. The European Commission is actively engaging in the development, revision and implementation of the Global ICAO Plans: the Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP) in particular through the technological pillar of the EU Single European Sky (SESAR), the Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP) and the Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP). For us this is a very high priority.
In addition to that, we carry out many capacity-building and cooperation activities in the international framework. Over the past years, the European Commission has developed an active strategy, with the support of its European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), in the area of technical assistance which covers all aviation areas (economic regulation, safety, security, air navigation and environment). These projects contribute to the achievement of the ICAO No Country Left Behind Initiative and support the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. With this strategy it aims to support States, inside and outside Europe, in developing safe, secure and reliable air transport which brings economic benefits whilst having a limited impact on the environment.
Supporting the No Country Left Behind initiative is an absolute must for us and we strongly support this.
This strong cooperation is also illustrated with the opening of a Representation of the European Union to ICAO in 2007 and the conclusion of a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) between the EU and ICAO in 2011. This MoC strengthens our cooperation with ICAO, notably on safety, security, air traffic management and environmental protection. It establishes a permanent framework for enhancing our partnership with relations and supports arrangements to offer expertise and resources to ICAO, such as the three European experts who are currently seconded to the ICAO Secretariat. The Commission also supports the proper implementation of ICAO Standards in the European Region. The ICAO Regional Safety Management Symposium that is co-hosted by the Commission and the Estonian Presidency of the EU this October is a good example of our actions.
The above mentioned activities of cooperation make up only part of the wide ranging support mechanisms and the resources mobilized by all the members of the European Union to provide technical assistance and cooperation, both bilaterally as well as on a regional level, to ICAO, in the interest of the international aviation community.
It is essential that the regional cooperation and the specificities of regional systems such as the EU are fully embedded and recognised in the international framework.
Over the past decades, the European Union’s competence in the field of air transport has expanded significantly and led to a unique example of a regional system. European aviation rules are largely implementing international standards developed by ICAO. The oversight, notably performed by EASA in a number of domains, greatly contributes to the success of the ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) in the European Region. The Single European Aviation Market, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, has generated considerable benefits for people, regions and businesses. To allow the European aviation sector to remain competitive and reap the benefits of a fast-changing and developing global economy, the European Commission adopted an Aviation Strategy for Europe in December 2015 that sets the direction and framework for the coming years. The European regional cooperation, in which the European Commission has a central role, broadly contributes to achieving ICAO’s objectives in the European region. ICAO Regional Offices are equally essential in the realisation of these objectives all around the world.
Regional cooperation is a strong driver for enhancing compliance with international standards and contributes to the development of a safe, secure, efficient, economically viable and environmentally sound global aviation system. It is essential that the regional cooperation and the specificities of regional systems such as the EU are fully embedded and recognised in the international framework. The European Commission welcomes the Resolution adopted by the 39th ICAO Assembly in that sense.
Looking at current and future development of aviation, it is obvious that there are vast challenges to overcome. To name just a few – the significant growth forecast, security threats (including cyber security), big data opportunities, the emergence of drones, ATM modernisation – the task ahead of us is important. The concepts of mobility and connectivity are evolving. Digitalisation fosters the emergence of new business models and so does the overall technological development.
Cooperation at a global level will be more than ever fundamental for the development of global interoperable solutions based on common standards. I commit for the European Commission to remain a reliable partner to ICAO in order to address current and future challenges and to continue supporting the development in all ICAO States of an air transport system that is safe, secure, efficient, economically viable and environmentally sound.
Mr. Henrik Hololei has been the Director-General for Mobility and Transport at the European Commission since 2015. Formerly, he was Deputy Secretary-General of the European Commission (2013-2015), Head of Cabinet of Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas (2004-2013) and held various senior positions in the Estonian Government Office (including Minister of Economic Affairs).
This article was originally written for the ICAO EUR/NAT Office’s Newsletter (Issue 2) on October 2017. A full list of their newsletters can be found here.