EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 10 July 2002

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PARLIAMENT MOVES SINGLE SKY FORWARD

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 10 July 2002

The European Parliament’s transport committee has allowed the attempts to create a single sky over Europe move ahead with its vote today adopting two reports on the European Commission proposals to establish a more unified system by 2004. But the debate was complex, with more than 200 amendments tabled, most of them technical.

One report, by Giovanni Fava, covered the framework for the Single European Sky. The other, by Marieke Sanders-Ten Holte, covered three technical regulations regarding the provision of air navigation services, the organisation and use of airspace and the operability of the European Air Traffic Management network.

The committee agreed that a Single Sky is essential to optimise the use of Europe’s airspace, to make it safe, to cope with projected increases in traffic and to allow European airlines to compete with non-European ones. But it stressed that cooperation between the EU and Eurocontrol was crucial, and that their respective powers needed to be clearly defined: the committee insisted that EU member states should ratify the revised Eurocontrol Convention and back EU accession to the Convention.

It also urged including provisions in the regulation on co-operation between civil and military authorities within a Single Sky Committee. On Air Traffic Management services (the source of recent protest from air traffic managers, particularly in France), a majority of the committee said that opening of air navigation services to private operators would change neither the nature of the general interest service nor the obligations arising from it. But in response to the anxieties raised by the prospect of privatisation – anxieties shared by many members of the committee, too – the committee asked that the Commission should place particular emphasis on economic and social aspects, not least the impact on employment, in its first assessment report on the implementation of the Single Sky.

Commenting after the vote, Sanders said: "We have made an important step forward today. I believe, contrary to the views of certain air traffic control unions, that last week’s tragic air accident in Germany only serves to reinforce the arguments in favour of a Single European Sky. I remain confident that the project will deliver dividends in terms of efficiency, but even more importantly, in terms of safety improvements, via a concerted process of consolidation of air traffic management services across Europe."

Sanders’ proposals approved by the committee include stronger measures to address the current shortage in air traffic controllers and air traffic management personnel, consultation of industry on the introduction of new technologies, and systematic analysis of detected incidents, with a view to improving safety over time. Now the committee has completed its work on this first examination of the Commission proposals, the Parliament will look at the subject in its plenary session in Strasbourg in September.

NON-EU PLANES TO FACE TOUGHER CONTROLS

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 10 July 2002

Non-EU air carriers wanting to use EU airports are scheduled to face tougher controls over their planes – and the legislation in the EU pipeline received strong support from the European Parliament’s committee on transport today. It endorsed plans for tighter aircraft safety rules – particularly since the committee acknowledges that airlines from Africa, Asia, South and Central America and Eastern Europe have higher accident rates than planes from Western Europe. Under the proposed new EU rule, which will formalise an existing arrangement under the aegis of the European Civil Aviation Conference, their planes will be grounded and their crews will face inspections when there is reason to suspect that they do not comply with international safety standards. A process of information exchanges and inspections should make it easier to identify potential aircraft defects at an earlier stage, thus boosting safety and also counteracting distortions of competition. The committee adopted amendments aimed at improving the supply of information to members of the public and consumer organisations, and at improving safety for those living in the vicinity of airports and flight paths. This report will be debated at the September plenary session in Strasbourg.

PILOTS NEED MORE REST, SAYS PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 10 July 2002

The maximum daily flight duty for airline pilots and cabin crew should be limited to 13 hours, and to 11 hours 45 minutes when the duty period is between 22.00hrs and 04.59hrs, according to the European Parliament’s transport committee. It voted today for a more vigorous approach to imposing limits on flying time than the European Commission has taken in its current proposals for stricter safety measures in civil aviation. The committee backed enthusiastically the view of its rapporteur, Brian Simpson, who insisted that it was time for the EU to break through a longstanding taboo on fixing maximum hours and minimum standards for flight duty and rest times for pilots and other cabin crew. The Association of European Airlines, European regional airlines, and many charter operators support this approach, too. However, some charter airlines and the European Cockpit Association have said they disagree with this proposal. The Parliament will debate the proposal in plenary in September.

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