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Source: Fotolia / Jens Hilberger

The air transport sector is characterized by a high level of cooperation at the international level. The Federal Republic of Germany is involved in the most important global and European organisations. It is a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and participates in the relevant bodies of the European Union (EU). In addition, it is represented in the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) and participates in the activities of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL).

Global level

At the global level, international cooperation takes place in ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations. The ICAO - the International Civil Aviation Organization was founded in 1944 by the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).

The main task of ICAO is to develop and evolve uniform rules for the safety, regularity and efficiency of international air transport. In addition, it is responsible for planning the development of ground installations and services in the nine global regions of air transport.

The Federal Republic of Germany has been a member of the Organization - which in the meantime has 191 Member States - since 1956 and is represented by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) with its own division in Montréal (Canada), the official seat of the Organization. On the Council of ICAO, the executive body of the Organization, Germany is represented by a permanent representative. The Federal Republic of Germany is an active member of various Council Committees and the Air Navigation Commission, which comprises 19 experts. The main task of this Commission is the conception and optimization of the technical rules and the elaboration of uniform safety standards governing international civil aviation.

Air transport is an international mode of transport. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure therefore also supports endeavours to ensure the competitiveness of the German aviation industry not only at European level but globally, and to eliminate, in the long run, distortions of competition worldwide. What is important in this context are, among other things, legal parameters ("level playing field") which lead to equal opportunities and fair conditions of competition in international competition.

European level

At this level, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure represents German interests especially in the in EU bodies. The major subject areas are:

  • enhancing aviation safety and security,
  • dealing with economic questions in aviation,
  • contributing to the shaping of external aviation relations and
  • improving the consumer rights of air passengers.

Aviation safety means ensuring the technical safety of aircraft, whereas aviation security focuses on safeguarding aviation against acts of unlawful interference. At European level Germany is also active in ECAC (the European Civil Aviation Conference), EASA (the European Aviation Safety Agency) and EUROCONTROL.

The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure supports the establishment of uniform parameters also at European level which lead to equal opportunities and fair conditions of competition of the European compared to the non-European aviation industry ("level playing field").

European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC)

The European Civil Aviation Conference was founded in 1955 on the recommendation of the Council of Europe as the permanent organisation of the European aviation authorities. Today, 44 administrations are members of the Conference, which has its headquarters in Paris. Its aims are to promote international cooperation and to make better use of and ensure the orderly development of civil aviation in Europe.

The European Civil Aviation Conference coordinates the European positions in matters of ICAO and makes recommendations on fundamental issues of commercial aviation. In particular, it discusses subjects in the following fields:

  • environmental protection,
  • security,
  • economic issues,
  • air transport operations and
  • integration of new members.

European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is at the heart of the European Union’s air transport policy. Its aim is to promote the highest possible common safety and environmental standards in civil aviation.

The Agency started work in September 2003, initially in Brussels, before moving to its permanent base in Cologne in November 2004. It is headed by an executive director and controlled by a management board, on which all Member States and the European Commission are represented. The Agency’s main responsibilities are:

  • developing draft regulations and draft bilateral airworthiness agreements and publishing technical specifications,
  • certification in the field of airworthiness,
  • providing support and advice to the Commission on aviation issues,
  • conducting studies and research to improve air safety and environmental protection in aviation,
  • monitoring the uniform application of rules by Member States and reviewing the efficiency and quality of these rules.

Development Regulation (EC) No 1592/2002, replaced by Regulation 216/2008, laid the foundation for a new EU aviation law and at the same time established the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The principal objectives of this Regulation are to establish a high uniform level of safety and environmental protection in civil aviation in Europe, more efficient certification procedures and the worldwide promotion of European aviation standards. At the beginning the activities were focussed on regulations on certification and maintenance of aircraft, in the meantime the functions of EASA were extended and completed: in a first phase by the areas flight operations, licencing of aircrews and safety of aircraft from third countries, and in a second phase by the areas aviation safety at airports and in air traffic management. In addition the European Aviation Safety Agency EASA supports, on behalf of the Commission, third countries in improving their aviation administrations and safety standards.

The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL)

EUROCONTROL is a civil-military organization and was founded in 1960 with its headquarters in Brussels. In 1963 after completion of the ratification the agreement entered into force. The founding states were the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), Germany, France and the United Kingdom. EUROCONTROL does not only act for its now 40 members but for all the 44 ECAC states.

The primary objective of EUROCONTROL is to develop a seamless, pan-European air traffic management system. This is necessary in order to meet the challenges presented by the expected continuous growth in air traffic while maintaining a high level of safety. At the same time, the system is designed to reduce costs and ensure maximum environmental compatibility. Furthermore EUROCONTROL extensively supports the implementation of the initiative for the establishment of a Single European Sky (SES) of the EU.

In addition, EUROCONTROL operates other facilities that are important for air transport, including Brussels, at four European locations. They include the network management which emerged from the Central Flow Management Unit (CFMU) which coordinates all European flights, or the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre which is responsible for air traffic control in the upper airspace of the Benelux countries and North-West Germany.