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26-06-2019 10:19

Speech by the Minister of Transport, Ms Vassiliki Anastassiadou, at the 29th ACI Europe Annual Assembly and Congress, Cyprus

"Transform or Die-Airports and the Sustainability Challenge"

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to Cyprus and to the 29TH ACI Europe Annual Assembly and Congress. I am sure that this meeting will be useful and will provide us all with valuable information.

Aviation is an industry of national strategic importance for the Republic of Cyprus. Being an island, air transport services are vital in order to connect us to the rest of the world. A safe, secure and efficient aviation industry underpins a range of business, trade and tourism activities that contribute significantly to the economic prosperity of the island.

The Republic of Cyprus as a member of the EU, the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the European Civil Aviation Conference supports the on-going efforts to address the actions that must be taken to meet the challenges posed by climate change and support the sustainable development of international air transport.

Although, currently, overall connectivity has reached a sufficient level for most aviation markets, space is still available for improvement, not only by attracting new markets but also by strengthening markets with great potential such as Germany, France, Ireland and Italy. In co-operation with Hermes Airports Ltd, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus has adopted incentive schemes for airlines which have been successful in improving connectivity as well as the economic development of the country.

Air transport in Cyprus has shown steady and continuous growth in recent years. Larnaka and Pafos International Airports handled almost 11 million passengers in 2018. Contributing factors to this growth are the regulatory framework implemented within the European Union and the “Open Skies” policy implemented by the Government of Cyprus in its relation to third countries. Recent examples are the concluded Agreements with Egypt, Lebanon, Australia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, in our negotiations with third countries, we seek the inclusion of the standard clauses of the European Union which allow for the designation by Cyprus, of European Airlines established in Cyprus, to operate agreed routes. Cypriot air carriers contribute to the increase in the number of seats offered to Cyprus from the main tourist markets as well as to the creation of new job opportunities.

At the same time, we have to note that eligible european airlines have also been granted commercial rights from Cyprus on routes to/from third countries such as Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It must be noted however, that the decision of launching flight programmes resides with the airlines, which operate their fleet on an economic criteria basis.

The air travel industry is now at a critical junction between sustainability and growth and the issue of climate change is therefore of strategic importance to the aviation sector. Τhe contribution of the EU is vital with regard to measures to combat emissions on a global scale and it is imperative that discussions for any additional taxing in aviation must be carefully assessed.

The economics of air connectivity are fragile and are subject to continuously changing market dynamics. For Cyprus, a peripheral EU member state, any additional costs to the price of air tickets will negatively impact connectivity, which is a major enabler to develop tourism. Furthermore, all European citizens need affordable ticket prices.  However, Cypriots need it more than anyone else, as air transport is the only available mode for connection with other countries. It is therefore important to ensure the viability of international competition in the EU aviation sector and at the same time take into consideration the peculiarities of member states.

At this point, I would like to congratulate Hermes Airports Ltd for their remarkable work in reducing the environmental impact and using resources in a sustainable manner. Larnaka and Pafos International Airports have earned the ACI Level 3 plus accreditation, in recognition of both airports’ exemplary work in managing and reducing their carbon dioxide emissions and engaging other stakeholders to do the same, as part of the global airport industry’s response to the challenge of climate change.

European skies and airports are becoming more congested, causing delays and cancellations, in particular during the peak seasons of the year. Whatever decisions are taken for the future of European Air Traffic Management, the real commitment of the member states and all the stakeholders (including airports) must be better performance. Without the engagement of all stakeholders, the vision of a Single European Sky (SES) that started 20 years ago will not be fully realised. Now is the time to act, to make the Single European Sky fit for the future.

It is for these reasons that Cyprus welcomes the recent report of the Wise Persons Group on the Single European Sky. In the long term, more structural changes are required, through new technologies and innovative Air Traffic Management solutions from definition, development and deployment, to operations based on SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research Program) solutions and building on the reorganisation of European airspace.

Cyprus is working hard to cope with all the necessary changes. I am particularly pleased because as I am informed, our Parliament is taking soon before plenary for voting into new law the bill concerning the establishment of a State-Owned-Entity to provide Air Navigation Services within the Nicosia FIR and at the airports of Larnaka and Pafos.  This new entity will have the financial viability and flexibility to effectively deliver the required contributions to the Single European Sky performance targets for the benefit of safety, capacity, cost-efficiency and the environment.

Dear Friends, may I once again take this opportunity to thank the ACI for its invitation to address this event. I wish you every success over the next couple of days and also hope that you will have the time to enjoy our beautiful island whilst you are here.

Thank you for your attention.