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Executive Development Partner
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Haydar Yalcin President Provisional Council, EUROCONTROL
» Interview

ATN: Could you tell us how you got involved with EUROCONTROL and how you were elected as the President of its Provisional Council?

HY: I should begin by telling you a little about EUROCONTROL’s history to explain why Turkey decided to join this Organisation in the first place, and why I became personally involved.    

EUROCONTROL is an intergovernmental organisation which was established in December 1960 by eight European States for the purpose of establishing a European system – organised jointly by the Member States – to control general air traffic in the upper airspace. It was entrusted with the task of developing, together with the Member States, common long-term objectives and medium-term plans in consultation with the air navigation service providers (ANSPs), in order to ensure that air traffic services were provided with maximum efficiency at minimum cost. In particular, it proved possible to improve the efficiency of the network by allowing EUROCONTROL to coordinate traffic flows and flight plans. At the same time, 11 States decided in 1960 to accede to the Multilateral Agreement relating to Route Charges, which offered these States a uniform European route charges system accessible to as many European States as possible, and offering this service to the Contracting Parties in the most cost-efficient and legally sound manner.

By 1997, EUROCONTROL had expanded to include 27 Member States, including Turkey which acceded to the EUROCONTROL Convention and Multilateral Agreement in March 1989.

After Turkey had confirmed its full membership, it was invited to attend the EUROCONTROL Organisation’s main deliberating bodies. These bodies include the Provisional Council (PC), the Permanent Commission (CN), and their supporting groups.
In view of Turkey’s active involvement in EUROCONTROL’s activities and the experience I had acquired during my time in the Provisional Council and other international fora, I was first elected PC Vice-President for the years 2011 and 2012 by the EUROCONTROL Member States, and was subsequently re-elected for a further two years.
In December 2013, I was elected PC President for the years 2014 and 2015. The Member States must have been satisfied with my performance as PC President and I was re-elected PC President for 2016 and 2017.

ATN:When you were elected Provisional Council President for the first time, what were your priorities?

HY:When I took up my mandate as PC President in 2014, air traffic was slowly recovering from a serious decline, owing to the difficult economic situation in Europe and many other parts of the world in previous years. My aim was therefore to try, together with the EUROCONTROL Agency, its Director General, Frank Brenner, and the Member States, to keep up with the increasing traffic demand and to meet the required network capacity. EUROCONTROL’s Network Manager has played a key role in this important task.

During my first year as PC President, I was confronted with the dramatic developments in Ukraine and the resulting closure of much of the airspace of eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea area following the tragic loss of MH17. This had a major impact not only on the traffic crossing Ukraine’s airspace, but also on traffic flows in the entire region, including Turkey. In this regard EUROCONTROL as the Network Manager (NM), the Member States and ICAO are unfortunately still having to work towards finding solutions, but I would like to single out these particular joint efforts for especial praise The proactive attitude which EUROCONTROL as the NM has adopted by promoting and facilitating the sharing of information and risk assessment, and EUROCONTROL’s active involvement in the ICAO task force on conflict zones has been crucial over the past years. The aim of these initiatives is to ensure that Europe speaks with one clear voice at a global level.

My second priority was to ensure that the ongoing work on the modernisation of the EUROCONTROL Organisation and its future governance structure not only are aligned with the European Union’s SES2+ initiative, but also take full account of the pan-European scope of the work at EUROCONTROL, which entails involving all Member States and in particular the States situated on the boundaries of Europe. I would like to underline that the EUROCONTROL intergovernmental model ensures reliability, impartiality and continuity in performance, which EUROCONTROL has achieved very successfully, not only because of its unique civil-military dimension and its far-reaching geographical coverage, but also because it provides a much-needed forum for countries outside the European Union to participate in European ATM developments.

My third priority was to seek – in close coordination with the Member States and the Director General – to facilitate the expansion of the Organisation’s membership.

ATN:How has EUROCONTROL evolved during your four year presidency?

During my first year as PC President, in 2014, Georgia joined EUROCONTROL, followed by Estonia in 2015, thus ensuring that all 28 members of the European Union are now also members of EUROCONTROL.
More ECAC States are on the waiting list to become Member States of the EUROCONTROL Organisation, and they will be most welcome, but EUROCONTROL first of all needs to agree on the modernisation of its legal framework and its financing before the Organisation can be further expanded.

Also important to mention are the negotiations which started in 2014 with the Kingdom of Morocco and the State of Israel and which resulted in the conclusion in 2016 of comprehensive agreements with these two countries, situated as they are on the borders of European (ECAC) airspace.

I am particularly proud of the valuable assistance provided by EUROCONTROL to the ICAO AFI (Africa) region. EUROCONTROL agreed in 2015 to provide support to IATA in the coordination, planning and overseeing of aeronautical information services, training services and the connection to the European aeronautical information systems database, and this support continues to be provided.

Also, I would like to mention EUROCONTROL’s active support for ICAO’s “No country left behind” initiative launched in 2015, as part of which EUROCONTROL is providing support to ICAO through the Global Aviation Safety Plan and the Global Air Navigation Plan. Regional and global cooperation in ATM safety and security matters are both of the utmost importance for the global aviation community, and will thus require our continued attention.

ATN:You mentioned the European Union and its SES2+ initiative. How do you see the current status of cooperation between EUROCONTROL and the EU, and how would you like to see it evolve in the future?

HY: The relationship with the EU, and more particularly with the European Commission, DG-MOVE, has developed positively over the last years, following some years in which both organisations seemed to have different priorities and objectives in their work programmes and strategic plans. After EUROCONTROL was nominated by the European Commission as NM in 2011, the joint focus of the two organisations has seemed increasingly to be oriented in the same direction, which has ensured that the pan-European scope of SES implementation is sufficiently reflected.

The first designation of EUROCONTROL as NM will come to an end in December 2018, which is the end of the SES2+ Reporting Period 2. Here, discussions for EUROCONTROL’s re-nomination as NM are ongoing with the European Commission (DG-MOVE) and the Member States in order to secure this by mid-2018, and at least for the next two reporting periods RP3 and RP4. There have been extensive discussions between the parties concerned on how the European Commission’s proposals, for example on governance and autonomy, can best be addressed in order to be re-appointed. Personally, I think that EUROCONTROL has taken all the necessary steps to secure this re-nomination.

Good progress has also been made in the last few years, during my presidency, towards defining the roles of the EUROCONTROL Performance Review commission (PRC) and its complementary role vis-à-vis the EU, and of the EU’s Performance Review Body (PRB). This should ensure the complementary role which the PRC will play vis-à-vis the PRB, and will enable the two organisations to maintain their comprehensive pan-European approach to implementing SES/SESAR and even to present its achievements outside Europe.

As regards cooperation between EUROCONTROL and EASA, also some good progress has been made. After some difficult years of cooperation between EUROCONTROL, the EU and EASA, I can now confirm that, following a so-called High-Level Agreement which was signed some years ago between the two organisations providing a general framework for enhanced cooperation between the EU/EASA and EUROCONTROL on safety-related ATM matters, a Roadmap has now been developed and agreed between the parties concerned which will in more practical terms define the cooperation between the organisations. This will no doubt considerably improve matters, and is in the interests of the wider aviation community.

Furthermore, I should mention EUROCONTROL’s extensive civil-military expertise and role, which was recognised in an agreement with the European Defence Agency (EDA) on SESAR cooperation. I can confirm that good progress has been made in the last few years in developing a joint agreement with the EU/SESAR Deployment Manager, which was concluded last year, and which has enabled EUROCONTROL to contribute to the European ATM Master Plan, as part of SESAR 2020.

ATN:Has EUROCONTROL been able to deliver on the SES2+ network performance targets and priorities under your presidency?

HY: As I mentioned earlier, when I was appointed PC President, aviation was still suffering from economic constraints and a subsequent traffic decline, but this all changed in 2014, when we saw a return to traffic growth, initially at a slower rate of 1.5%, then increasing to 2.5% in 2016 and even higher today. This obliged EUROCONTROL and its Member States, the Network Manager and the ANSPs to expedite their joint efforts. Unfortunately, these joint efforts to increase network capacity were not sufficient to meet the increased demand.

Traffic delays at both Istanbul airports have increased in parallel with growing traffic demand, and it will continue to be a priority for EUROCONTROL to resolve this problem, given that Istanbul Atatürk Airport is now listed as the fifth busiest airport in the network, just behind London-Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Amsterdam-Schiphol and Frankfurt. By actively managing the actions required to improve local/regional network capacity, network performance will consistently but slowly be increased to meet finally the Single European Sky network performance target of an average en-route delay of 0.5 minutes per flight.

ATN:How do you see EUROCONTROL in, say, 10 years from now? What should it be focusing on?

HY: About two and a half years ago, the EUROCONTROL Member States in the Permanent Commission established a dedicated group which was assigned the task of identifying the Organisation’s key roles, services and tasks, and to examine whether the Organisation’s legal framework needed to be amended in order to allow the modernisation of the Organisation, as well as to make specific recommendations as to how the proposed modernisation could be implemented.

In December 2016 the Member States adopted this group’s report and the recommendations contained therein, and agreed to take final decisions on the requisite amendments to the Organisation’s legal framework in December 2017. A number of Member State volunteers have, with the assistance of the Agency, worked together to prepare specific proposals which will ensure a more efficient, modernised governance of the EUROCONTROL Organisation.

 I would like to emphasise that the EUROCONTROL Member States see these proposals as an intermediate step towards the final ratification of the EUROCONTROL Revised Convention, adopted in 1997, which has always been the ultimate goal of the Member States, although at this juncture not all the EUROCONTROL Member State parliaments have been able to ratify this Revised Convention. This discussion is highly political, and it is difficult for me at this juncture to predict what the future outcome may be.
With a modernised legal and governance set-up, I believe EUROCONTROL will be much better equipped to respond to questions from its Member States, its stakeholders and other international partner organisations, such as ICAO.

EUROCONTROL could offer unique expertise to countries outside Europe, in close coordination with its Member States in the PC/CN, with the European Commission and via the NM. An early example of the sharing of experience and best practice on ATCO shift-rostering and on the provision of co-located civil and military air traffic control services is the recent conclusion of agreements with the ANSPs of Singapore and Brazil. This will also facilitate EUROCONTROL in establishing closer ties with the European Union.

ATN:Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what motivated you to accept the responsibility that comes with the position of PC President in the EUROCONTROL Organisation?

HY: The reason for this ambition lies in my education as an aeronautical engineer and in the further opportunities I was given by my State, which enabled me to complete a career of 28 years in civil aviation, of which almost 14 years have been exercising the function of Deputy DGCA responsible for ATM/CNS.

My State asked me in 2008 to join the EUROCONTROL State delegation in the PC/CN and this led to me exercising the role as PC President for over four years. My particular interest in aviation safety and airworthiness stems from my earlier career in the Turkish DGCA, where I was able to share the experience I gained during my employment with the Turkish DGCA outside Turkey with international organisations such as ICAO and ECAC, for instance through my participation in the ECAC Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft group, and in the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme.

I have participated on behalf of Turkey in many ICAO Assemblies and High-Level Safety Conferences in addition to several safety and security-related activities organised by ICAO and other international organisations. This work made me the person I am today, and it is with regret that I will complete my second and last term of office as President of EUROCONTROL’s Provisional Council.

I was most honoured to receive earlier this year from the Managing Director of ATN the 2017 Air Transport Award – editor’s choice – for “my individual achievements”. Looking at the Members of the Jury who decided to recognise my contribution to European ATM in this way, I see this in particular as the confirmation of the aviation industry’s support for my efforts to help steer global aviation towards a more safe, harmonised and cost-efficient future.

I have no idea yet what lies ahead, but aviation is, as you know, a small and highly specialised business with a global scope, and new challenges will doubtless arise.

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