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Challenges and opportunities in aviation, maritime and public transport sectors in Cyprus,

Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean referred to the challenges but also opportunities that new EU sanctions on Russia bring to the maritime sector in Cyprus, the future of air transport amidst the green transition, and talked about how the EU can contribute to increasing Cyprus’s air connectivity, in a interview to the Cyprus News Agency.

Responding to written questions on the occasion of her visit to Cyprus to participate in the “Maritime Cyprus” conference, Vălean also talked about the prospects of public transport and maritime passenger lines in Cyprus.

Among other issues, Vălean said that Cyprus has made a good start in improving its public transport after years of being a champion in car ownership and usage, while also pointing out that plans to establish a tram line in Nicosia could be the first step towards the return of rail to the country.

She also said that the return of a maritime passenger line with Greece is a milestone that can also be a model for connectivity with other EU and non-EU countries.

Responding to a question on whether the efforts to decarbonise aviation and maritime transport in the context of the FitFor55 package could negatively affect the mobility of an island state such as Cyprus, Vălean outlined the proposals which she contributed in the package.

“One for maritime – decarbonisation through the gradual uptake of cleaner fuels, one for aviation – a step-by-step approach to blending sustainable aviation fuels with kerosene, and one for infrastructure – to ensure, for example, that electric car users in Europe have enough recharging stations across the continent. All these initiatives are market-based with a strong industrial angle,” she said.

“Yes, it is true, we need to invest in new technologies, and we need to invest in the deployment of the new infrastructure, but if we push the market to produce more, we will see a return on this investment,” she pointed out.

According to the European Commissioner, “our calculations show that hundreds of thousands of new jobs will be created only in Europe in the alternative fuels industry. Many others will be created across the globe. The frontrunners will make profits – and we are, and we need to remain frontrunners in maritime and aviation.”

And beyond the economic calculation, she added, “there are more and more good reasons to end our dependency on fossil fuels and move to a more resilient, self-sufficient energy system.”

“The transition is not easy, and it is not overnight – it is a gradual process with pragmatic targets and a stable regulatory framework allowing the industry to adapt and invest,” she underlined.

Regarding prices and costs, she gave an example saying that “our new proposal on aviation fuels, ReFuel Aviation, will determine in the first phase an 8 euro increase per ticket costs on a long-haul flight – like Paris-NY and a 1.7 euro increase for a short-haul flight, let’s say, Athens-Larnaca. But, as for any market, if the available quantities of alternative fuels grow, the prices will go down”.

New sanctions a challenge but also an opportunity for maritime sector

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Asked to comment how she assesses the prospects of the Cypriot maritime sector, especially given the possible effects that EU sanctions on Russia, the Commissioner pointed out that “if there is a country in the all EU which understands truly what an illegal and unjustified invasion is, Cyprus is that one. We cannot have ‘business as usual’ while Ukraine is being illegally occupied”.

“The sanctions will present challenges for the maritime sector in Cyprus as in other EU seafaring nations. But it’s not all bad news for Cyprus. One impact of our ban on Russian vessels from EU ports has been Greek and Cypriot shipping companies taking over the market share previously held by Russian oil tankers,” she added.

“Last week, the EU adopted the 8th package of sanctions targeting Russia’s oil revenue. They forbid EU operators from providing maritime services and oil transport between Russia and third countries, unless the transported oil complies with the price cap set at the G7 level,” she explained.

“This means that Cypriot operators wishing to carry Russian oil by sea to third countries must request proof from the seller and ultimate buyer that the oil is purchased at or below the price cap,” she said.

“Given that the USA, UK, and Japan will also comply with the cap, there are no major registries or non-EU operators that could take competitive advantage of the situation. I am, therefore, very confident that the EU fleet, including that of Cyprus, cannot be replaced by any third-country fleet, even combined” she added.

EU supports grants for airlines flying to and from Cyprus

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Asked how the EU can contribute to solving Cyprus’ air connectivity problems, Commissioner Vălean recalled that “this summer was an exceptionally busy season for the European aviation” and added that “while the demand was high, the preparedness of the sector was low. Companies had capacity problems because of the lack of personnel in airlines and airports and the prices went up because of the high demand and high prices of fuel.”

Indeed, she acknowledged, “for Cyprus, given the geography, the problems were even more profound.”

According to Vălean “we need a more efficient aviation system. For example, we need to implement a genuine Single European Sky. By modernising the overall management of European airspace, we will automatically increase capacity.”

“I fully understand the frustration felt by passengers. Passengers must always be the top priority. I have called on airlines to inform passengers of any changes to their flights in good time, and to make sure that they are aware of their rights,” she said.

“The issues affect the entire aviation sector, so all aviation stakeholders need to work together to solve them,” she noted.

There is a limit, she added, “to what the Commission can do to help.”

“It is primarily for the aviation sector to offer attractive working conditions and ensure that social dialogue is in place. What we have done, however, is to bring together the different parts of the industry, representatives of both business and employees, to identify practical solutions,” she pointed out.

“For Cyprus, particularly because it is in the Eastern extremity of the EU, the Commission supported and approved Public Service Obligation schemes for air routes and approved awarding grants to all interested airlines flying to/from Cyprus. This program is still ongoing,” she explained.

Cyprus is a champion in car ownership, but a good start made on mobility

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Asked how the EU can contribute to promoting sustainable public transport, Vălean pointed out that “Cyprus’ mobility system depends heavily on road transport. You are European champions in owning and using personal cars. But, not even car owners love the congestion. The European Commission encourages the member states to invest in good public transportation, as citizens really to have a choice.”

“Cyprus has already made a good start. In recent years, major cities like Larnaca, Limassol, Pafos and Nicosia have developed or are finalising Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs). An EU concept, the SUMP is intended to make mobility in and around the cities more sustainable, and to help it better serve the needs of citizens and businesses,” she pointed out.

“I was pleased to see Cyprus being so active during this year’s European Mobility Week. Six cities participated, including by holding car-free days. Cypriot cities are also active and appreciated members of the urban mobility community. They are involved in several research projects supported by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme. These include the DESTINATIONS project, which is evaluating the effectiveness of innovative sustainable mobility solutions that serve both residents and tourists in six cities,” she said.

“Reorganising urban mobility does take time and money, and I would not suggest otherwise. But the EU has various funding programmes to support moves in this direction,” she continued.

Cyprus’ Recovery and Resilience Programme, she noted, “indicated that it will invest in public transport, as well as a network of bus lanes, complemented by cycle paths and park-and-ride facilities.”

The plan, she added, “also foresees safety improvements at certain road junctions, and the roll-out of infrastructure to support intelligent transport systems. The EU will support this investment through its Recovery and Resilience Facility.”

“Cohesion policy funding will complement this, helping Cyprus to purchase zero-emission buses, upgrade bus stops and ticketing systems, as well as cycling and walking infrastructure,” she explained.

“And I heard of your Nicosia tram project – I think it is good idea to make a first step towards the re-birth of rail tracks in Cyprus,” she underlined.

Resumption of maritime connection a milestone

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Commenting on the resumption of a maritime connection with Greece and asked about the prospects of expanding this model, Commissioner Vălean said that “19 June was a special day. I was very happy to see the Cyprus-flagged Daleela ferry setting sail from Limassol, raising the curtain once again – after 21 years – on a maritime connection between Greece and Cyprus.”

“This really is a milestone. It will definitely strengthen maritime tourism, and will provide a welcome boost for the national economy. I know that maritime connectivity is a reoccurring topic of discussion for Cyprus, and I’ve paid close attention to the importance that Cyprus attaches to maintaining public service obligations between Cyprus and Greece” she added.

“I hope that this new ferry link is just the start. Cyprus has committed to building a strong relationship with the rest of the Mediterranean and Europe, and I hope that the long-term maritime strategy in which the government is currently working will set out concrete actions in this direction,” she continued.

“The fact that three candidates responded to the tender for the passenger link between Cyprus and Greece shows how interest is increasing. It bodes well, and could certainly be used as a model to increase connectivity with other European countries, as well as those in the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood” she underlined.

Source: Parikiaki.com

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