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Free & Fair

Free trade has been one of the good reasons leading to the creation of the European Union. The governments of the founding countries had the idea of free markets with common rules and fair competition. Boundaries had to be brought down and frontiers had to be crossed, which – in the end – worked. Of course it needs constant efforts to keep it free & fair, as we have just seen with the revised “Posted Workers Directive”, but common rules, tools and control bring common wealth.

Last week we have observed on the international scene that those, who make their supporters think that the easy answers are always the best, have now discovered free global trade as the evil in today’s global economy and want to protect their home markets from the negative aspects. One might simply call it the return of protectionism, but that might be too simple. Because at the same time as these populist steps are taken, those responsible aim for unfair advantages in other arenas.

Doors would be opened that we never want to see open!

Aviation has been a global industry from day one and it will always be. I think that there is no doubt that such an industry needs common rules & tools to control it, but also a common understanding of its importance & value. The European Union is currently negotiating an ultra-liberal deal on of wet-leasing, uniquely with the US at this time. The obvious threat is that this flexible wet-leasing regime sneaks into other Air Transport Agreements. Just imagine the negative consequences for jobs in Europe, if this tool gets in the hands of those who don’t care about social standards & labour rights. Doors would be opened that we never want to see open!

The US on their side have the tool of the “Public Interest Test”, meaning, if an operator’s business model & new set-up is not complying with the public interest, it can be prevented from happening. On our side we don’t have such a law, in fact we don’t even speak with one voice: while some countries would like to restrict traffic rights for companies that do not follow fair competition rules (like e. g. the Persian Gulf carriers), others would like to open their market to them completely, at once & forever.

Speaking of traffic rights and market access, an US cargo carrier – FedEx – is using a very questionable model for its business in Europe: US-pilots and US registered airplanes are carrying parcels within the EU network that used to be flown by EU pilots on EU registered airplanes – thus causing redundancy in the EU, something that – from our point of view – should not be permitted especially in the complete absence of reciprocity.

Free & fair global trade will only be possible with a fair aviation industry

The value of our aviation industry is constantly underestimated. Free & fair global trade will only be possible with a fair aviation industry that delivers connectivity not only to a few, but to all and which does so in a socially-sustainable manner. This requires common rules and constant effort. In the past years, we have fallen behind on this in Europe. We have not valued enough, what this industry has done for Europe & what it can do for the world. It is now time to close that gap & to make up our mind: should or shouldn’t the European aviation industry play a global role in the future?


by Capt. Dirk Polloczek, ECA President