In December 2015, the European Commission adopted its Aviation Strategy for Europe, an ambitious plan which tackles the issues affecting the air transport sector, such as the international framework, investments, connectivity, etc.

On 8 June 2017, the Commission presented several initiatives aimed at implementing the fundamental priorities of its strategy in order to maintain its leading position in the international aviation sector and to eliminate all barriers to growth in European airspace.

In this context, the Commission published the following regulatory documents:

  1. a legislative proposal for a regulation on safeguarding competition in air transport, which must be formally adopted by the European Council and the European Parliament. This regulation aims at allowing the European Commission to investigate anti-competitive measures such as abuses of a dominant position or dumping from a third country;
  2. interpretative guidelines on ownership and control of EU airlines, which must retain at least 50% of their capital and be effectively controlled by Member States and/or citizens of Member States. The interpretative guidelines aim at establishing criteria to assess ownership and control without modifying the rules set out in Regulation 1008/2008, which currently applies;
  3. interpretative guidelines on public services obligations that can be entrusted to airlines for the operation of non-viable routes. The guidelines will guarantee the continuity of existing rules provided by Regulation 1008/2008, rules that will soon be assessed to ensure that they are still relevant and efficient, given the continual and rapid change occurring in this sector;
  4. documents setting out practices facilitating continuity of air traffic management. According to the European Commission, those practices will not limit the right to strike but intend to help Member States to respond more efficiently to this type of disturbance and to preserve the connectivity of the European Union with a series of practical measures, such as improved social dialogues, the early announcement of strikes by unions, individual notification of staff members, the protection of the right to strike, the protection of overflights, the protection of peak air traffic periods, etc.

With the exception of the legislative proposal of regulation, which will have to be debated before the European Parliament and within the Council and which will be subject to their formal approval, the guidelines and practices have been adopted and published in the Official Journal of the EU. They do not replace the applicable regulations and therefore do not reverse the constant position of the Commission on those issues but aim to formalize its interpretation in order to guarantee a harmonized approach. Therefore, they are welcomed in a continually evolving sector.