Minister for Tourism Edward Zammit Lewis participated in the EU high-level conference in Brussels on Improving the Regional Air Connectivity – a Precondition for Sustainable Economic Growth. The Minister said that the Regional Air Connectivity improvement is an essential topic to discuss, as it, directly or indirectly, corresponds with two main priorities, namely security and Europe’s neighbourhood. ‘‘Focusing on Europe’s regional connectivity in the context of implementing the Aviation Strategy, we need to identify both the advantages that create opportunities and the challenges faced, whilst pursuing a sustainable regional connectivity’’, said the Minister for Tourism.
Minister Zammit Lewis affirmed that the aviation sector is a fundamental industry for economic growth, job creation and mobility within the Union. It is also the pathway that connects the European Union as a global player to other countries and continents.
The Minister mentioned three main objectives identified by the Commission: the first objective being the need to tap into growth markets by improving services and accessibility. ‘‘Accessibility into new growth markets is a significant opportunity for the EU to invest in the opportunities that will arise in the decades to come’’, said Minister Zammit Lewis.
“The Commission’s second main objective is to tackle the limits imposed on growth of air and ground domain’’, continued the Minister. Moreover, Europe has a rather fragmented market when it comes to private aircraft operators and their respective fleets. The unnecessary fragmentation along with the prolonged implementation of the Single European Sky translates into higher costs for airlines, directly diminishing European competitiveness.
“It is in this light that we must all strive to complete the Single European Sky framework, undertake capacity constraints, remodel the management of airports to increase the efficiency in their services and finally to establish a better and an increased connectivity within Europe itself, but most importantly, with third countries’’, highlighted Minister Zammit Lewis.
With respect to the upcoming proposal on the regulation concerning protection against subsidization and unfair pricing practices, the Maltese Presidency also seeks to initiate negotiations with the intention to make as much progress as possible. “We strongly believe that the new proposal should aim to facilitate the development of a more appropriate and effective instrument to safeguard fair competition in EU external aviation relations’’, according to the Tourism Minister.
The third main aim of the Commission is to create a more competitive European aviation sector, which ultimately depends on safety and security standards that air transport has to offer, especially to tourists. It is essential to keep the current high safety standards within the growing air traffic as first priority. “However, safety and aviation security must not be taken in isolation. The regulatory framework must look at the picture as a whole, and whilst it has to account for security and safety, it should not neglect the competitiveness of the aviation sector in the global market’’, said the Minister for Tourism.
The Maltese Presidency considers the revision of the Regulation of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) a priority. Such an agreement would be an important milestone for the EU aviation sector aiming above all at the highest level of protection of European citizens. The threat of terrorism will most likely remain high in the near future and citizens or tourists are currently losing faith in the performance of security systems. “We must strive to alleviate the unnecessary burden to passengers by grasping the opportunities offered by new technology and applying procedures in line with the rights of tourists’’, said Minister Zammit Lewis.
With the implementation of the Aviation Strategy, the EU will surely be positioned at the forefront in the global market. The EU will manage to reinforce the social agenda and offer its citizens high-quality jobs in aviation. “Tourists would have their minds assured that their rights are being protected, while feeling safe and secure. Member states would have tools to embrace all the opportunities granted through innovation and digital technologies, and finally, contributing to a resilient Energy Union and a forward-looking Climate Change Policy’’, added Minister Zammit Lewis.
Minister Zammit Lewis established three points for participants to embark on in order to improve the regional air connectivity for Europe: a holistic approach is needed to achieve a better connectivity and competitiveness at a global level; more investment by the EU is a must given that development and rise in innovation are achieved through research; with the EU pursuing on improving the regulatory framework, connectivity would be optimised whilst safeguarding the high standards of safety and security, the environment and mostly importantly the citizens.
Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) Chief Executive Officer Paul Bugeja and Consultant to the Ministry for Tourism Josef Formosa Gauci also participated during different panels at the EU high-level conference. Permanent Secretary Vincent Muscat accompanied the Minister for Tourism.