Mr João Aguiar Machado is the Director-General at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport. He is in charge of developing an EU transport policy that ensures sustainable mobility of people and goods in a single European transport area. Previously he worked mostly on trade matters, including as Deputy Director-General for Trade and for External Relations. Mr Aguiar Machado studied economics in Lisbon and Bruges.
What do you identify as key priorities for aviation after your first 6 months as Director General?
The EU single aviation market was completed in 1997 and is one of the success stories of the European Union. It has brought significant benefits to EU citizens, with greater connectivity, lower costs and more choice. In the EU we have nearly 10 million flights and more than 800 million passengers every year, which is almost one third of the total number of passengers travelling by air worldwide. Europe is a key player in international aviation, well-connected internally and with the world. It is a connecting place thanks to its geographical position, its history and the creation of a single aviation market that replaced 28 separate national markets.
Despite these stunning numbers, the economic crisis and the need to re-boost growth and create jobs makes a strong case to work towards more efficient markets, technological leadership and quality investment in infrastructures. Also, Europe faces competition from new players such as the Gulf countries or Turkey. They also enjoy strategic geographical positions and can connect passengers from different world regions through strong airlines and large airports. This, together with the fact that the growth is taking place mainly in the Asia-Pacific region, means that Europe's competitive position is being challenged.
We want to keep Europe as a key player in international aviation to ensure EU's connectivity. This means that competitiveness, employment, environment and safety will be the aviation sector's core priorities. We will focus on the capacity challenges both on the ground and in the sky with the crucial implementation of Single European Sky initiative and its technological pillar, SESAR, on better implementation of existing legislation, and on the application of the fair competition principles in both internal and external markets.
With the ongoing work on the revision of EASA’s basic regulation, how do you see the responsibilities of the Agency evolve in the future?
Over the last 10 years EASA has been central in building an EU aviation safety system. The revision of the EASA Basic Regulation provides us with an opportunity to consolidate this system and prepare it for the challenges ahead.
In particular the risk and performance based approach to aviation safety, on which the Agency has already embarked to some extent, will need to be further developed. This approach requires a sound evidence to allow decisions to be taken based on the best information available. EASA should play a decisive role in facilitating the collection and exchange of data and in assuring its analysis. In addition, a closer cooperation between Member States and EASA, but also among Member States themselves, should allow for a better use of expertise in a situation with limited resources.
In order to work as a truly single aviation safety system in Europe, we should continue to improve cooperation based on a close partnership between National Aviation Authorities and EASA.
How do you think this will support the European aviation industry?
An excellent safety record is one of the best assets for industry. We have to work on maintaining or even improving this safety record. Rendering the regulatory system more proportional and performance based will be an important step in this direction.
However, the industry keeps pointing out that too many rules hamper innovation, and this concern should be taken seriously. Aeronautics is one of the strategic sectors of European economy, creating high value-jobs and driving technological innovation, to the benefit of other industries too.
By focussing on a close partnership between National Aviation Authorities and EASA, we hope to achieve a more uniform implementation of the regulatory system, which will help to assure a genuine level playing field within Europe. But we are not only acting within a European system. Promoting the European approach to safety at international level, be it in ICAO or through bilateral agreements, will also open further possibilities for Europe's aviation industry on the global market.
The mission of the Directorate-General for mobility and transport states "ensure efficient mobility within a single European transport area". What needs to be improved in European air transport domain?
To creation of a Single Market for Transport needs two main actions in order to be effective and contribute to the overall economic growth of Europe: the elimination of cross-border barriers, and the integration of national markets. Existing EU legislation goes in this direction by aiming at opening market access, achieving technical compatibility, and remove administrative barriers. All of it while ensuring high level of safety.
The aviation sector is fully part of this overall transport picture, but much work can be done to improve it, with the objective of ensuring maximum connectivity and allow maintaining and creating high-value jobs. The reform of Europe's air traffic control system, outlined in the SES initiatives, will certainly have a central role for the years to come. The Commission is looking to head off a capacity crunch expected in the next 10-20 years, and to tackle the costly inefficiencies of the fragmented EU airspace. As for safety, we have to improve our ability to identify risks, addressing proportionality of rules and making better use of the limited resources available.