One could hardly argue with Nick Clegg’s (MEP) comment that there are many legitimate criticisms to be made of the European Parliament, but irrelevance or lack of importance should certainly not be among those. In the past year only, the European Parliament has adopted important legislation, such as the Flight Time Limitations rules, the Occurrence Reporting Regulation, and recently the Posted Workers Directive. These three pieces of legislation affect almost every aspect of the everyday life for pilots – how long they work, where they pay their taxes and how to maintain aviation safe. That alone is a solid reason for all pilots to cast a vote on 22-25 May at the next European Parliament Elections. Left, right, Eurosceptic or not, for the next Parliament to be successful it will need strong leadership, ability to see the “bigger picture” and to learn from its past mistakes.
Strong leadership would allow the next European Parliament to look beyond the surface and take informed decisions, even on (seemingly) technical issues. A good test case will be the ability of the next Parliament to stop the watering down of pilot training standards. Putting a halt to reduced flying hours, greater reliance on simulators and aircraft automation, and new inventive types of licenses is an area which needs attention today.
The future 751 Member of the European Parliament (MEPs) should also be able to “see the bigger picture” and not fall in the traps of buzz words such as “cheap” airline tickets and “competition”. Competition among airlines is good. But it has started turning into a “race to the bottom” with more and more companies pursuing social dumping and “forum shopping” to benefit from light regulation and favourable taxation in countries that serve them as “flag of convenience”. The abuse of highly complex “innovative” business models and the use of fake self-employment distort the level playing field and put European jobs at risk.
Hopefully, the next Parliament will learn from past mistakes, such as the financial crisis in 2008. If the same principles of ‘light touch’, ‘performance-based’ and ‘self-regulation’ are applied to air travel, the consequences would be alarming. This trend can only be countered by strengthening the EU’s air safety legislation, and by providing effective safety oversight (by skilled safety professionals) and by a well-resourced European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).