Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Second Report


16. AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT AND AVIATION SAFETY


(a)

(23533)

COM(02) 292

(b)

(23466)

COM(02) 241



Draft Council Decision on the signature by the European Community to the Protocol of accession of the European Community to the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL) and its provisional application.

Opinion of the Commission on the European Parliament's amendments to the common position for a regulation on establishing common rules in the field of civil aviation and creating a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Legal base:(a) Article 80(2) EC and 300 (2); qualified majority voting

(b)Article 80(2) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting

Document originated:(a) 6 June 2002

(b) 7 May 2002

Deposited in Parliament:(a) 12 June 2002

(b) 16 May 2002

Department:Transport
Basis of consideration:(a) EM of 10 June 2002

(b) EM of 23 May 2002

Previous Committee Report:None; but see paragraph 16.2 below
To be discussed in Council:June 2002
Committee's assessment:Legally and politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared, but document (a) relevant to the debate on the Single Sky proposals


Background

  16.1  The incidence of major air traffic delays in Europe has highlighted the need to address the fragmentation of the Air Traffic Management (ATM) system. At present, airspace management is constrained by national boundaries, with an inflexible allocation of airspace between the military and civilian sectors.

  16.2  We and the previous Committee have reported on a number of occasions on proposals relating to ATM. Most recently we reported on the package of measures relating to a Single European Sky[34]. A debate on the Single European Sky is expected to be held shortly.

  16.3  It has long been recognised that improvements in ATM within the EU should not unnecessarily duplicate the activities of Eurocontrol (European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation). Eurocontrol, which is based in Brussels with a staff of some 1,000,[35] is an international organisation comprising 31 Members States, including the 15 Community Member States. It is responsible for co-operation in air traffic management in order to create a seamless European ATM system in and around airports. In short, Eurocontrol acts as a regulator, making decisions about air traffic arrangements throughout Europe, but also acts as a provider of navigation services, for example in the Maastricht upper control area. The UK was one of the six founding members in 1960.

  16.4  In June 1998 the Transport Council, under UK Presidency, agreed a mandate for the Commission to negotiate Community accession to Eurocontrol. EU Member States agreed that effective development of air traffic management policies in the Community would be impeded by having two separate bodies with competence in this area. It was agreed that the best way for the Community to exercise its competence and bring its resources to bear in Eurocontrol would be through accession. Accession, however, was blocked until recently by a dispute between the UK and Spain over Gibraltar.

  16.5  The Regulation to which Document (b) relates, on establishment of the EASA, the European Aviation Safety Authority was debated on 25 April 2001 in European Standing Committee A[36].

Documents

  16.6  Document (a) relates to the proposed accession to Eurocontrol. The main elements of the Protocol are outlined by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr David Jamieson), as follows:

"—  the Community will be entitled to be represented and involved in the work of virtually all bodies of Eurocontrol;  

  • the Community will have a voting strength equal to the aggregate votes of its Member States. The Commission will vote on behalf of the Community on issues subject to exclusive Community competence, of which there are currently very few. When the Commission votes in these circumstances, Member States will not vote. Member States will vote on issues subject to national competence. On issues of shared competence, Member States will vote in line with any common position which has been agreed among Community Members.

  • to protect the interests of non­EU members of Eurocontrol, they may request a postponement for up to six months of any decision on which the Community will vote en bloc;

  • the Community will not contribute to the budget of Eurocontrol; and

  • the scope of the competence transferred to the Community will be indicated in general terms in a written declaration made by the Community at the time of signature of the Protocol."

  16.7  The Minister notes that the terms of the Protocol were effectively agreed by the end of 1999 but owing to the disagreement between the UK and Spain over Gibraltar's inclusion in the territorial scope of the Protocol, the proposal has been delayed.

  16.8  Document (b) is the Commission's opinion on the European Parliament's amendments to the common position for a regulation establishing a European aviation safety authority, or EASA. The Council adopted the common position on 19 December 2001 and the European Parliament adopted a resolution on second reading containing 28 amendments to the common position on 9 April 2002. The Commission accepts all the European Parliament's amendments.

The Government's view

  16.9  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 10 June 2002, the Minister says:

"The Government believes that Community membership of Eurocontrol will provide renewed impetus for both the long overdue reform of the Eurocontrol organisation, and to compel States to make collective commitments and to implement decisions on measures to improve the European air traffic management System.

"The Commission is committed to the reform of air traffic management in Europe. This is demonstrated by its determination to proceed with its Single European Sky initiative — in which Community accession will form an important element as it will provide a mechanism to reflect Community rules across the wider Eurocontrol membership and enable greater synergies between the two organisations. It is likely therefore that if the Commission were unable to secure Community membership of Eurocontrol, it might try and develop the Single Sky further and quicker with consequences the UK may find difficult to accept."

  16.10  Overall, the Government concludes that ratification of the revised Eurocontrol Convention and Community Accession to Eurocontrol combined with the Single European Sky will offer a real opportunity to provide a pan-European regulatory structure capable of delivering long-term improvements in the ATM system.

  16.11  As regards the European Parliament's amendments to the Common Position on the creation of EASA, the Government generally supports these. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 23 May 2002, the Minister comments:

"The Government was satisfied that the text agreed at Common Position had been improved in ways that met the Government's objectives as set out in EM 14329/00. In particular, the independence of the Agency had been strengthened and provisions made to ensure the calibre of its staff. These improvements are further reinforced by a number of the European Parliament's second reading amendments, grouped in the Commission's opinion under the headings Appointment and strengthening of the powers of the Executive Director of the Agency and Strengthening of the Agency's autonomy. These amendments are particularly welcomed.

"The other categories of amendments and the Government's views on them are as follows:

  • Extending the scope of the Regulation: the Government has consistently supported the extension of the EASA system, on a step­by­step basis, into other areas of aviation safety.

  • Setting­up of Agencies: the Government recognises that local offices of the Agency are likely to be required and agrees with the Commission that advisability of proposing common rules for the setting up of such offices by all Agencies is for the Commission to decide.

  • Removal of the reference to commercial interests: the Government welcomes these amendments which ensure that decisions which should only be taken on the basis of safety and environmental compatibility considerations will not be influenced by commercial considerations.

  • Transition: the Government accepts that a transition period of 42 months is a reasonable balance between the time needed to meet the practical demands of moving to the new system and the interests of the industry that dual systems do not continue longer than necessary.

  • Drafting amendments: these are acceptable."

Conclusion

  16.12  We note the Minister's observation that Community accession to Eurocontrol is not expected to have much immediate effect on air traffic delays. However, it is widely accepted that the Community's accession is a necessary first step if far-reaching improvements are to be achieved. The Civil Aviation Authority, National Air Traffic Services Ltd and the UK-based airlines all recognise that Community membership of Eurocontrol is an important part of a long overdue programme of institutional and structural reform in air traffic management and that it is a major component of the Single European Sky. We note that airlines strongly support moves to streamline air traffic services across Europe. We understand that the Eurocontrol Accession protocol may be adopted at the Transport Council on 17 June.

  16.13  Advice is being sought regarding the legal basis for the decision not to undertake consultation with the European Parliament on accession to Eurocontrol. We ask the Minister to share with us that advice and to keep us informed of developments on this portfolio generally.

  16.14  A debate on the Single European Sky initiative is expected to take place shortly. We clear both documents, but document (a) is relevant to that debate.


34   (20813) 13735/99; see HC 23-viii (1999-2000), paragraph 2 (9 February 2000), HC 23-xxiv (1999-2000), paragraph 2 (12 July 2000); (22802) 12692/01 (22804) 12693/01; see HC 152-vii (2001-02), paragraph 1 (21 November 2001); and (23132) 12692/1/01 (23149) 12693/1/01; see HC 152-xx (2001-02), paragraph 4 (6 March 2002).  Back

35  Gross expenditure for all of the Agency's activities in 2000 was _509 million, an increase of 3% on 1999.  Back

36   Official Report, European Standing Committee A, 25 April 2001. Back


 
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