Air Transport World

Liberalization on pace: single market now, cabotage later - EC Transport Commissioner Karl Van Miert pleased with progress. (European Community)

Liberalization of civil aviation in Europe is "a real revolution" that is changing the face of the sector in a profound way, Karel Van Miert, the European Community Transport Commissioner, told ATW.

Sitting in his office in the massive Berlamont EC headquarters building here, he said: "By the end of 1992, the major pieces of the liberalization jigsaw puzzle will be fully in place. I am happy with the pace of things. Remember that it was only five years ago that we still had the old situation.

"The airline industry had been functioning for a long time on the classical basis of the Chicago Convention. Inside the EC, it is changing completely. The old system is being replaced by a big, single market-with much more competition. Flag carriers will have to adapt, as private companies, to a completely different environment. I appreciate that it will be painful for many of them."

Van Miert, a multilingual 50-year-old Belgian, began his career as an academic after graduating in diplomatic sciences from the University of Ghent. In 1977, he became an aide to the Beigian Minister for Economic Affairs and in the same year was elected co-chairman of the Belgian Socialist Party. He became a Euro Member of Parliament in 1979 and an MP in the Belgian Parliament in 1979. The following year, he became vice chairman of Socialist International.

What expertise in the civil aviation industry does his department have as it grapples with the massive task of changing the entire structure of the industry in Europe? "We have people in our service but it is a very limited service," Van Miert said. "But once such responsibility is given us, we win have the involvement of national administrations who are used to this kind of negotiation. This will be not only on behalf of the 12 individual member states but on behalf of the Community as a whole."

The commissioner said he believes progress toward liberalization is satisfactory, although a gap exists between decisions already taken and implementation in the field. The second package of measures, adopted in 1990, is progressing and is being translated into policies. …

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