The future of European air transport is being threatened by over-regulation and inefficiencies in the EU law-making system. Such inefficiencies are unacceptable in the current economic climate. This was the key message in a paper submitted by the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) to the European Commission's ‘Future of Transport' debate in Brussels today.
"Over-regulation is by far the biggest long-term threat to Europe's air transport industry," said ERA's Director General, Mike Ambrose. "The situation is made even worse by bureaucratic inefficiencies which create additional and unnecessary cost burdens at a time when the industry is fighting for survival."
ERA cites several examples of inefficient regulatory practices, including the failure to see new initiatives through. "The EC has published excellent principles and procedures for better regulation and is now accompanying more of its legislative proposals with an impact assessment. However, the impact is not re-assessed in the light of changes proposed or agreed by Parliament and Council. Thus the impact of the final version of any legislation is unknown," said Ambrose. "Furthermore, other bodies, such as EUROCONTROL and EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) do not follow these principles when imposing new rules and regulations."
The Association also points out that the European legislator does not make best use of the expertise that is available within the industry. This has led to rules and regulations being introduced which have less value than other initiatives. "For example," says Ambrose, "new rules governing computer reservation systems have been introduced, while the industry's call for regulation of de-icing activities at airports, which could have serious implications for air safety, has gone unanswered."
Where air safety is concerned, the use of industry expertise is vital, and ERA reiterates in its paper the need for a single EU air accident investigation bureau resourced by existing experts in member states. "The ability to pull experts together from across the EU to address an accident would achieve not only efficiency gains, but more importantly, potentially lead to faster safety recommendations thus improving air safety," Ambrose comments.
Perhaps the most obvious example of over-regulation and inefficiency combined is that of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Borne out of a regulation itself, EASA was formed with the objective "to promote cost efficiency in the regulatory and certification processes and to avoid duplication at national and European level". Since its inception in 2003, overall charges to industry have increased, mainly due to duplication of activities. In some cases, operators are now obliged to seek approval from both EASA and their National Aviation Authority, defeating the primary objective for which the Agency was set up in the first place.
"There is an urgent need for the European Commission to adopt a far more business-oriented approach to its Work Programme rather than continuing to pursue its ideals," Ambrose concluded.
The aim of today's High-Level Stakeholder conference, which has been organized by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy and Transport, is to look at the main challenges and opportunities for the transport sector over the next 20 to 40 years, and to allow stakeholders to express their views on European transport's future development. The Commission then aims to produce a Communication on the Future of Transport which it hopes to adopt in June of this year.
The full text of the paper submitted to the European Commission is available on the ERA website at the following link: www.eraa.org/intranet/documents/22/3747/090306_ERA_Submission_EC_Transport_Review.pdf