EU's new Transport Commissioner pledges action on delivering a Single European Sky
Antonio Tajani at the European Parliament Transport Committee hearing
Thu 19 June 2008 – Italian Antonio Tajani was yesterday confirmed as the EU’s new Transport Commissioner, succeeding Jacques Barrot, after a vote by MEPs. In a hearing organized by the European Parliament’s Transport Committee on Monday, Tajani told MEPs that a Single Sky initiative to be unveiled on June 25 will lead to reduced airline fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Welcoming the appointment, IATA’s Giovanni Bisignani urged Tajani to “weigh-in” on the ETS debate.
Tajani said that tools developed under the SESAR air traffic management research project would help end the fragmentation of air traffic control systems. “These tools will also boost Europe’s air transport competitiveness by cutting airlines’ fuel consumption and hence their CO2 emissions.”
Replying to a question from MEP Christine de Veyrac, Tajani stressed the vital need to modernize and rationalize an ATC system that currently relies on 27 national control centres.
“The Commission and Parliament must steer innovation, liberalization and development, otherwise we risk being defeated by those who don’t believe in Europe,” said Tajani, who also becomes a European Commission Vice-President.
Welcoming both the appointment and the comments, Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, said: “Vice President Tajani has picked the right priorities, starting with delivering a Single European Sky (SES). We’ve been talking about a SES for decades. Now is the time to make it a reality. An effective SES would help alleviate two critical issues related to fuel burn. First, with oil in the $135 a barrel range, the industry fuel bill will balloon to over $176 billion this year. Already we have seen 24 airlines go bust and thousands of layoffs. An effective SES would shave 5.5 billion euros ($8.5bn) off the fuel bill with more efficient air traffic management. And it would reduce carbon emissions from airlines by as much as 12 million tonnes.
“I am confident that Vice President Tajani will deliver the political will to turn the technical solutions into reality.
“Last year, IATA’s efforts delivered 10.5 million tonnes of CO2 savings. If Vice President Tajani is successful with SES, we will deliver much more.”
Bisignani encouraged Tajani to “weigh-in on Europe’s misguided debate” on bringing aviation into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), saying: “First, the timing is wrong. Bringing aviation into Europe’s ETS was conceived when oil was at $60 a barrel. Today, with the price more than doubled, it’s a completely different world. If oil stays at the current price level for the next 12 months, airlines will face $99 billion in extra fuel costs. Airlines have the biggest incentive of any industry to improve environmental performance. With jobs disappearing from the industry already, I hope that Vice President Tajani will bring a strong message that this is not the time for reckless decisions that could put more jobs at risk.
“All this effort at a time of crisis for something that is illegal makes no sense. Countries in the developed and developing world are opposed to Europe’s unilateral approach – and rightly so. What right does Europe have to charge non-European carriers for emissions outside European territory? I encourage Vice President Tajani to bring a strong reality check to his Commission colleagues: the best thing that Europe can do to tackle the important issue of aviation and the environment is to facilitate a global solution through the International Civil Aviation Organization – a UN body with a proven track record of promoting global standards.”
Questioned by an MEP on his ability to be independent from transport industry lobbyists, Tajani replied: “I’m not pocketable by any lobby.”
Tajani is a former journalist and was an MEP himself, and is said to be a close ally of new Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. One of his first tasks is to investigate whether loans provided to prop up ailing Italian flag carrier Alitalia infringe EU competition laws, another test of his independence.