Clear sky for aviation

By Marian-Jean Marinescu (Romania), Speaker of EPP Group in TRAN Committee, (pictured)
Spring 2022

Marian-Jean Marinescu (Romania), Speaker of EPP Group in TRAN CommitteeThe tragedy in Ukraine is a European one, as in one way or another, it affects us all.

I would like to express once more my solidarity with the Ukrainian people and with the symbolism of their struggle, which is nothing but FREEDOM. Russia's criminal actions shocked us all so I was among those who advocated a ban on the sale of aircraft, spare parts and equipment to Russian airlines, as well as a ban on flights to, from or above the European airspace of Aeroflot aircraft and any aircraft owned, leased or operated by a person related to Russia.

While Ukrainians give their lives for freedom, as many peoples have done throughout history, and we hoped would never see it again, the rest of Europe learn an important lesson: never depend on Russia! Russia's disaster in Ukraine shows us once again that independence from Russia's energy resources is an emergency, that Europe needs to become self-sufficient and rely as much as possible on its own resources. We have to keep the final targets from Green Deal and Fit for 55 but we need to find more realistic ways to reach these targets.

One of the files we are currently working within the EP is the aviation emissions trading scheme (part of Fit for 55 package). Decarbonisation in aviation is much more complicated than in other areas, because there is only one alternative: alternative fuels. Yes, hopefully in the future, hydrogen could be used or small electric motor planes could be produced. But for now, we're just relying on alternative fuels. So the question is: is less air transport a good idea? Would that work? My answer is: no. I can’t understand those who propose all flights less than 500 km away to be banned. And to be replaced with what? Train? This is far from a realistic scenario. Even for countries, like France, where a TGV is available. There are few EU countries that have a TGV available.

Tourism, business life but also personal life of ordinary citizens would be affected if the air mobility would be limited. So the key now is, from my point of view, setting measures that will encourage the production of alternative fuels. Otherwise, the reduction of emissions will be done by reducing mobility, ie by reducing the number of flights, as prices will go so high that the shrink in passengers numbers will force the companies to cancel many flights.

While working at the FF55 files we introduced bonuses for those who use alternative fuels, and proposed the setting up of a fund for aviation, so that the money goes back into the industry and is used for alternative fuels. Now, with the proposals we have made, 100% of this money will be returned to the industry and directed to the development of technologies, but also to other measures, which will lead to a reduction in emissions.

Another issue is social. How will these measures impact the jobs? Reducing emissions is necessary, but it must be done with preserving jobs. In the EPP we have set a strategy to jointly table the same set of amendments in #TRAN, #ITRE and #ENVI committees for all legislative files.

The question of impact of these measures is one of highly importance to me. Therefore I have asked the Commission a written question regarding the cumulative impact assessment of the combined effects of the "Fit for 55" legislative package. I explained that industry plays a key role in the decarbonisation process and that the EU's climate goals cannot be achieved without its participation, highlighting the huge challenges the EU industry is facing, especially in terms of competitiveness and possible job losses. In his reply, the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr Frans Timmermans, underlined that "the additional investment needed to meet the 2030 climate and energy targets could have a positive impact on the economy and employment. However, the impact will be different depending on the sector: fossil fuel mining industries will be adversely affected, some sectors will have to transform and emerging ones will grow rapidly."

The answer of the Commission was unconvincing and vague. In my view, the European Commission, has an unrealistic approach, which we try to fix within the Parliament through our amendments.

Fit for 55 is proving to be a battle of excesses in the European Parliament. The EPP strives to remain balanced and, as always, to impose the middle way. In the age of decarbonisation, we do not want a weak aviation that has been brought down by unrealistic legislative requirements.

We, EPP, we wish a clear sky for aviation.