Editorial: Will the new European Commission connect the dots?

Olivier Jankovec

By Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI EUROPE

For many airports across Europe, the summer has been pretty good – with demand for air transport   significantly outperforming wider economic activity and employment with deflation risks increasing. With GDP growth expected to only marginally improve in 2015, it is unclear whether air traffic will be able to keep defying economic gravity in the months ahead. What’s more, geopolitical risks have become quite prominent with conflicts both within Europe – Ukraine and in its immediate neighbourhood – the Near East.

When the ACI EUROPE Board met with the Administrator of the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in September, one of the messages that came across was indeed that the terrorist threat has significantly increased both in intensity and complexity. The meeting allowed us to better understand the threat environment, as well as the rationale behind the additional airport security checks that have been required over the past months. It also gave to the US TSA more insight as to the operational implications that these measures can have for European airports. Effective cooperation between the EU, its international partners and the airport industry has probably never been more important – for ACI EUROPE, it is a clear priority.

This autumn also sees us very much focused on the big institutional shake-up of a new European Commission (EC). It’s (almost) all new women and men in charge, tasked with charting a new course for Europe under the leadership of EC President Jean-Claude Juncker. Besides bold changes in the structure and functioning of the EC – which many agree are much needed to ensure more policy alignment and delivery – the number one priority will sound familiar to many of you: jobs, growth and investments.

For ACI EUROPE, air connectivity must be part of this renewed policy for jobs, growth and investment – for which Juncker announced new policy proposals within the next three months.

In this regard, the Airport Industry Connectivity Report, which we released last June at our 24th Annual Congress & General Assembly in Frankfurt, could not be more timely. It shows that Europe is falling behind, with direct connectivity at EU airports down by -7% since 2008. This report also shows that regional airports in particular have felt the impact, and that the relevance of the top European hubs in terms of intercontinental connectivity has considerably diminished – especially to the benefit of the mega-hubs located in the Gulf.

These findings are not only a cause for concern for European aviation, but also for the competitive position of the European economy. With the shift in the global economy, Europe is becoming ever dependent on external trade – with aviation as a key enabler. This calls for a new and wider strategic vision about our sector and its strategic relevance for economic growth and job creation. Many countries outside Europe have fully understood this relevance – it is high time that Europe also comes to terms with it.

You can read more about the new EC and our Airport Industry Connectivity Report in the following pages, as well as about the CEO of an airport that has actually increased its connectivity more than ten-fold over the past 10 years: Gökhan Buğday from Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport. We also provide you with an insight on airports’ role in the face of the ongoing Ebola outbreak, the latest about the growth and success of Airport Carbon Accreditation, the latest innovations being embraced by European airports – and much more.

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