A summary of the Committee’s consideration of draft report is available.
EP TRAN Committee Meeting – 11 January 2018
Safeguarding competition in air transport
·Consideration of draft report
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The Rapporteur, Markus Pieper (EPP, DE), made the following opening remarks
- the proposed regulation on safeguarding competition in air transport represented a strong instrument to tackle the remaining and future distortions of competition in the EU;
- the existing, uncontroversial problems were caused in regions with authoritarian regimes showing a high degree of state aid to airlines;
- the proposal had received a positive assessment in the last shadow rapporteur meeting and only 15 issues had been pointed out;
- with regards to concerns over restricted access to regions due to protectionist practices, pointed out the need for protective mechanisms to prevent the isolation of these regions;
- another issue to be included in the report was the need to prevent these competition instruments from disproportionally hampering the export of goods and economic growth in order to achieve a balanced approach;
- in addition, existing bilateral agreements were not to prevent the establishment of a level playing field and the application of a European instrument;
- the ambitious opinion from the ECON Committee had to be considered, but without re-writing the initial Commission proposal.
Gabriele Preuss (S&D, DE)
- welcomed the draft report’s objective of establishing an effective and proportionate competition instrument sending out the clear and deterring signal that the EU protected its airlines and employers;
- the Committee had to ensure that all initial Commission proposals, in particular on flying rights, were kept in the regulation;
- called on the Member States to enable the Commission to carry out independent investigations, while allowing airlines to challenge the decisions, and pointed out that a third countries refusal to participate was not to lead to the dropping of the investigation.
Jacqueline Foster (ECR, UK)
- on recital amendment 2 on article 7, in terms of the investigation process, asked for further clarification on the definition of ‘Union interest’;
- with regards to amendment 10, asked if the Rapporteur, Markus, Pieper, intended that the Commission had to ask for permission from the European Parliament in order to suspend investigations;
- on amendment 15, preferred to keep the original Commission provision;
- the ECR liked to see the scope of legislation limited in order to avoid ambiguity and called for the replacement of the wording ‘thread of injury’ caused by a company with ‘injury’, in order to base the Commission investigation on solid proof and not on mere speculation;
- the investigation procedure had to be finalised in six, maximum twelve months;
- on article 13 concerning redressive measures, the restriction of flying rights was not to be included, since most bilateral agreements already included dispute resolution mechanisms which should be included;
- underlined that any EU instrument had to ensure the free flow of goods and protect the EU’s competitiveness.
Pavel Telička (ALDE, CZ)
- in order to safeguard the original intent to tackle unfair competition, the time-tested EU approach, as used in trade defence instruments, had to be maintained;
- called for compatibility between bilateral aviation agreements and the proposed EU legislation;
- highlighted that the definition of ‘EU interest’ had to be inspired by existing EU legislation, without politicisation, as reflected in his amendments;
- with regards to the European Parliament’s role, proposed the process of annual reporting.
Michael Cramer (Greens/EFA, DE)
- pointed out that there was no level playing field in transport in the EU, since half of EU airports ran at a deficit;
- when launching a complaint against a third-country airline, receiving unfair subsidies, it had to be kept in mind that the same was done within the EU, despite the devastating ecological impact of air transport;
- although supporting the idea that certain peripheral regions connectivity had to be protected, this could not undermine the EU legislation.
Daniela Aiuto (EFDD, IT)
- welcomed the proposal, since the current EU legislation fell short of its original objective, due to a lack of checks and quality of penalties;
- explained that the biggest threat to EU airlines competitiveness came from within the EU due to low-cost airlines leaving aside passenger and workers safety and rights;
- with regards to the procedure of launching the investigation procedure, called for a strong role of the European Parliament as the representation of EU citizens.
Marie-Christine Arnautu (ENF, FR)
- the EU aviation industry was threatened by unfair competition practices from third-country airlines, enabled by loopholes in the EU legislation;
- therefore, the current proposal had to be strengthened with strong competition instruments.
Other MEPs made the following interventions
Wim van de Camp (EPP, NL)
- due to the complexity of the EU aviation market and the large number of third-country airline operators, the amendments had to respect the initial intention of the Commission proposal in order to allow for a clear and effective EU legislative framework preventing unfair competition;
- underlined that the length of investigation procedures had to be shortened in order to have a deterrent effect.
Christine Revault D’Allonnes Bonnefoy (S&D, FR)
- welcomed the long-due revision of regulation ‘868’ by a strong draft report as tabled by the Rapporteur;
- however, the idea of adding criteria on the connectivity of EU regions in terms of the evidence required to launch an investigation, or the idea of exhausting all instruments set out in bilateral agreements and finding a common Council position before launching an agreement, unnecessarily complicated the procedure and limited the EU’s ability to tackle unfair competition.
- due to the global nature of air transport, a globally effective EU instrument was necessary;
- in article 13, traffic restrictions and ownership control had to be excluded in order to not exceed the EU objective of fighting unfair competition and protect the connectivity of EU regions;
- the launch of an investigation procedure had to be based on solid evidence and bilateral agreements had to be protected by specific safeguards.
Deidre Clune (EPP, IE)
- called for the prior exhaustion of existing bilateral agreements before launching an investigation procedure and expressed concern about the measurement of the term ‘threat of insury’ and the protection of connectivity, as important for regions in Ireland.
Matthijs van Miltenburg (ALDE, NL)
- the proposal could be strengthened by shortening the current time limit of two years of investigation procedures and connectivity or bilateral agreements could not be exclusive for protecting competition;
- highlighted that the definition of ‘EU interest’ was not to be politicised in order to create solid legislation.
Dominique Riquet (ALDE, FR)
- underlined that the main objective of the regulation was deterrence and concise legislation to protect competition which is why all other interests were of secondary order.
The Representative from the Commission made the following remarks
- welcomed the cross-party political support for the Commission’s proposal and pointed out that the main objectives of the proposal were applicability and practicality;
- on the issue of compatibility between EU legislation and bilateral agreements, the latter were protected in the proposal in order to allow the Member States to fulfil their commitments. However, the Commission had to be able to start investigation procedures before the exhaustion of bilateral dispute settlement mechanisms in order to support them and to allow for effective deterrence;
- the preservation of connectivity was at the core of the proposal and was part of the ‘Union interest’, as unfair competition pushed disadvantaged airlines out of the market, having the opposite effect;
- the intention of amendments 5 and 8 to take connectivity into account before launching an investigation was too risky as the interpretation was ambiguous and should instead be made part of the decision at the end of the investigation;
- the duration of the investigation had to be long enough to allow for taking the complexity of some cases into account and enable legal certainty and adopt effective measures;
- the decision-making process had to be left in the hands of the Commission, as part of its independent, executive tasks;
- explained that the term ‘threat of injury’ was an effective instrument taken from other trade defence instruments which required a high level of evidence and allowed for recuperation in all cases of distortion of competition;
- called on all MEPs to respect the EU approach of following the example of trade defence instruments.
The Rapporteur, Markus Pieper (EPP, DE), made the following closing remarks
- summarised the debate by re-iterating the demands to not water down the scope of regulation, to respect the justified interests of airlines, airports and of the Member States and for a courageous regulation;
- highlighted the need for a concise report focussing on a limited number of amendments in order to allow for an effective instrument.
Source: One Policy Place