It is no exaggeration when I say the eyes of the aviation world will be fixed on this month’s Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal.

This meeting will set the stage for world aviation for years ahead and generate the economic conditions that are needed for this vital global industry to grow. It will tackle many challenges that should not be underestimated: in safety, security, air navigation, global competition, market access and of course, the environment.

In aviation, Europe has reaped enormous benefits from market opportunities and from open and fair competition. This is why I would like to see ICAO make further progress in this area on a wider, worldwide basis.

Global rules for a sector that is already highly internationalized and competitive need to catch up on issues such as common-competition principles and airline ownership and control. The adherence of different national practices, barriers and limitations is an anachronism for such a modern global business. They slow down its development and growth and are an impediment for carriers to important new sources of foreign capital. Competition must be open, fair and non-discriminatory in matters such as state subsidies, user charges, royalties and access to infrastructure.

The Assembly will likely be dominated by environmental issues, namely how to achieve aviation’s sustainable growth and how it can curb emissions. We cannot pretend otherwise. This is where a truly global deal is long overdue, and the world now justifiably expects an agreement.

In Europe, we have already shown flexibility when we made the difficult decision to stop the clock on our Emissions Trading System. By doing this, we averted a probable trade war. It also shows our determination to reach an agreement.

We will continue working hard to get all our partners onboard for the ambitious action that our planet demands. This is not only about finding a compromise. We want our aviation industry to grow and prosper, and improve its environmental footprint at the same time. For that to happen, the world needs to see the aviation industry as a responsible citizen.

The ICAO Assembly faces a huge responsibility to guarantee an ambitious and sustainable environment where such growth can take place, and aviation can continue to connect citizens and businesses worldwide. That means more opportunities for travel and trade. A stronger and more sustainable aviation sector provides a definite opportunity. Europe is ready to play its part in achieving and strengthening this vision in Montreal.

And Europe has a great deal to offer. While we have sometimes been alone in tackling some of the difficult regulatory challenges, we would—as always—prefer to see a multilateral way forward. As the largest event in global aviation, the ICAO Assembly is the obvious place to discuss and, hopefully, reach agreement on multilateral solutions to global challenges.

On security, along with many others, our strong focus has helped to stabilize public confidence after some major challenges, most notably the 9/11 attacks. I am encouraged to see a good deal of support elsewhere in ICAO for this because security is, after all, a matter for everyone. No country can tackle on its own the threat of terrorism to international aviation. We should keep working together in ICAO to find the right balance between keeping people safe and making life as manageable as possible for passengers and industry.

Last year’s ICAO High Level Conference on Aviation Security recommended reinforcing air cargo security and addressing the danger from liquid explosives, as well as insider threats. If these recommendations are followed in Montreal, then we will be stronger and more united in tackling the specter of air-travel terrorism.

On safety, there has been remarkable progress, both in Europe and worldwide. But we still need to reduce the risk of gaps in regulations, avoiding confused responsibilities and conflicting requirements. I would like to see ICAO give a big push toward this. It’s important to take action to improve before accidents happen, not just afterward.

As an international service industry, aviation has reached a level of structural maturity, which means we all need to meet global standards of safety, security and the environment. That means working together to modernize air traffic management, because global aviation needs efficient and advanced ATM systems that can provide fair value and seamless service to airlines as well as punctuality to passengers. These are needed especially now that air traffic growth is pushing the world’s transport systems to their limits. ICAO can play a vital role in helping to develop global ATM standards and interoperability. They would save vast amounts in ATM costs that are passed on to passengers.

So the importance of the forthcoming Assembly in Montreal cannot be underestimated. There is a lengthy and varied agenda in front of us. It will be a pivotal moment for the future of international aviation. Europe will be at the heart of the negotiations, not just on aviation emissions but in all areas. I plan to ensure the best possible outcomes for EU citizens and businesses, and to secure sustainable growth for this vital global industry.