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Air Transport: European Parliament with its back to the wall

Naïveté ou souveraineté?

Sometimes I have been criticised for not giving enough examples to illustrate my train of thought, which is however drawn from experience. Here is one that summarises perfectly my calls to provide the European Union with the attributes of its power in the world arena.

Air transport is not governed by the World Trade Organisation. The States regulate their overflight conditions and access to their airports. Europeans were clever enough to pool these in a regulation as of 2004. The connectivity of Europe with the rest of the world depends on this, likewise the mobility of its citizens, the organised single market and fair competition, which themselves depend on competitive, robust airlines functioning in a safe, reliable context.

New players are now emerging in a fast-changing world market. With a new regulation the European Commission is proposing the reform of its internal rules, to provide the European Union with trade defence tools that will help prevent the distorsion of competition, to respond to dumping and the strategies of States that tend rather to consider Europe as a grand sell-off, where it is easy to do business. This is simply one more example of the Europe throwing off its supposed naivety. The American president has just reminded us of the imperative necessity of this as he triggers what might very well become another trade war.

This legislative proposal is being examined at present by the European Parliament. The hand of its rapporteur already trembled some as he explained what "Europe that protects" without being protectionist really means. Many of his colleagues showed their reticence of giving up out-of-date, blissful liberalism that is no longer practiced anywhere else but which they echo, illustrating pressure from the outside which prefers Europe to be delivered on a plate.

Often, just as it is starting to exist Europe is betrayed, weakened and impeded by the very people who maintain that they are promoting it. As if "a little bit of Europe" was the condition for its success in the world! Yet this is not about behaving badly or contributing to the new brutality in international relations. It means existing, with the attributes of shared sovereignty, of simply taking responsibility with all of the prerogatives used by other world players.

The European Parliament therefore finds itself with its back to the wall. If it chooses to approve a weak text made up of complicated compromises once more it will give the Member States, which will also have to decide, the worst example of an indecisive Europe. If however it is wise enough to assume and boost the asset, which the successful aviation sector is for the continent, with airlines that have their representatives' backing, market rules which are respected, it will show its citizens that it is useful and this will possibly herald the awakening of a continent, whilst remaining open, must defend itself. The lesson, we shall understand, is not just about our lovely airplanes!