Address on the occasion of the photo exhibition ‘Travel' Air - Air Travel’ in presence of the Lithuanian Vice Minister of Transport and Communication, Mr Arijandras Šliupas

by Frank Brenner on 21 October 2013, EUROCONTROL's headquarters Brussels (BE)

Dear Vice-Minister,
Dear Members of the Permanent Representation,
Dear Colleagues,

It is for me both a privilege and a great pleasure to welcome you today to EUROCONTROL for a quite unique event in cooperation with the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Lithuania has been a European Union Member State since 2004.  It has also been a EUROCONTROL State since 2006, and as President of the Council of the EU, has been leading complex and important discussions over the future of aviation on our continent.

I am therefore grateful and happy for the opportunity that is given to me today to welcome the Vice-Minister for transport and a delegation of Lithuania’s permanent representation to EUROCONTROL for a very different kind of event from those where we usually meet.

A few months ago we discovered the existence and quality of the Air Travel part of the work of the artist Mindaugas Kavaliauskas.   We saw a link between his photographs, the Lithuanian Presidency, EUROCONTROL and its 40 Member States mission in aviation and the Brussels Photography Art Fair, and for the first time, we decided to welcome an exhibition of an external artist in our premises.

We, as aviation professionals, take pride in having collectively made flying the safest of all transport modes. We also try to make it greener and more efficient. This task is difficult and requires skills, enthusiasm and energy. Doing this, we may sometimes lose sight of the purpose of the job we are so passionate about. In the end, behind the word “passenger” that we use in our statistics and day to day work, there are men and women, kids; older people and babies.  Their life is literally in our hands through the provision of safe air traffic control and management services, but we are also part of their life and their memories – whether their trip is about joining their loved ones abroad, starting a new job, going in mission to secure a deal, or simply going on holidays.

Mindaugas, your photographs remind us of this noble mission; they hint at passengers’ stories and give insight into aviation’s complex world. In your pictures, the magic of flying is there: the big birds are waiting at the gate, ready to take their passengers to the other side of the world. Kids drag their teddy bears in the terminal, business men or women call their offices, teenagers dream or what teenagers today most of the time seem to do, sending text messages. The aviation machine is constantly at work, safely carrying millions of passengers to their destination every day of the year. We still cherish the old dream of flying and these photographs are a powerful reminder to us of its appeal.

I am happy that we were able to invite hundreds of European aviation professionals to enjoy, and discover the work of Mindaugas during the three weeks of the exhibition as these regular visitors of EUROCONTROL from stakeholders from our membership States have participated in meetings in one of the rooms alongside where we display the photos. To my knowledge this work has never been shown before to the public, though some are available on the internet. With this exhibition EUROCONTROL is moving a bit out of its usual sphere and putting itself on the cutting edge of Brussels cultural life - a premiere for us! 

I am finally very happy to see that, with the help of the Lithuanian cultural institutions, our exhibition served as a catalyst for the printing of a book “Travel’Air”, which will allow us to broaden the reach of the event and, I hope, both allow Mindaugas to be better known in the aviation world and EUROCONTROL’s name to appear in the artistic sphere for the first, and I hope not the last, time!

I now invite you to share a friendly drink and enjoy the exhibition.