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6 July 2021

SES – An interview with Finland’s Transport Minister

Timo Harakka Finland MoT

Timo Harakka, Finland's Transport Minister

 

Despite the air transport industry’s dire need for modernized airspace, especially to meet ambitious environmental targets, the reboot of the Single European Sky (SES2+) has disappointingly been watered down by some EU Member States. However, there are still some nations who understand the importance of this issue. Finland is a notable example, and their Minister of Transport, Timo Harakka, agreed to answer our questions.

  • Thank you, Minister Harakka, for taking time to answer our questions. What is your feeling after 6 months of working with the Council (i.e. Member States) and the European Parliament on the SES2+ Commission’s proposal, and the adoption of the Council General Approach, on 3 June?

We welcomed the adoption of the General Approach, as it is very important to make progress in this file. Having said that, the level of ambition in the outcome is not at the level we hoped for. Still, I remain positive: as the negotiations with the European parliament begin, there will be opportunities to improve the situation. Our common view together with Spain, Ireland, and Malta that can be read from our joint statement reflects this positive outlook for the future.

 

  • Although the European Parliament’s position is yet to be adopted, it seems that MEPs have in general showed more ambition on the SES2+ file. How do you see the upcoming trilogue negotiation between the Council and the European Parliament? Where do you see possible compromises? 

We hope that in the trilogue negotiations, more ambitious results can be achieved to make sure that the more ambitious environmental objectives can be acquired later on in the future and to make sure that the European Air Navigation system works as united as possible to achieve sufficient capacity and thus, fewer delays. We also find it essential that the role of the Performance Review Body (PRB) will be strengthened by issuing sufficient powers to it. Also, the Network Manager should have adequate powers to make sure the network is functioning well.

 

  • Shortly after the Council adopted its position, Finland, Spain, Malta and Ireland published a joint statement on the SES2+ showing openness and willingness to make some concrete progress when negotiations start at trilogue level. What is Finland’s view on the idea of having a strong European Economic regulator? What in your view could be a good compromise/a hybrid solution? 

We in Finland believe that the best solution would be to place PRB as an independent body to EASA. If that is not an option, it would be essential to ensure that PRB will have adequate resources and powers.

 

  • The last sentence of the joint statement says that “if history teaches us anything, the time to address these matters is not when the system is near to collapse or when the environmental situation deteriorates further, but now”. How can airlines, who have been calling for an ambitious SES implementation for over 15 years, help you achieve this objective?

Everyone’s effort is needed to reach the objectives and benefits of SES. To succeed, we need to embrace a network-oriented holistic view where all the stakeholders have a role. Airlines also need to support States and ANSPs in the development of long-term industry solutions which demonstrate that a collegiate approach can reap long-term dividends for all parties, particularly in the area of the Environment. For example, IATA should encourage its members to use alternative fuels as much as possible. The time to act is now. The EC proposals, while moving in the right direction, need a significant push to make them a reality. We count on IATA and their members to continue our collective efforts to realize a true SES.

 

  • How do you see the value of cooperation with IATA? And how do you see it expanding in the future?

IATA is a key player and present in many important forums. We appreciate the good cooperation and open discussions with IATA and are always happy to engage in fruitful discussions. It is crucial that aviation and its structures are observed in a holistic way. We have a common aim: a well-functioning system with as few delays as possible to serve the customers in the best possible way.

 

 

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