Statement from the Minister for Transport, Séamus Brennan, President in Office of the Council of EU Transport Ministers, announcing the agreement between Council and the European Parliament on a Directive on the safety of non-EU aircraft using Community airports.
I warmly welcome the agreement reached late last night (27th January 2004) at the Conciliation negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council on the Directive on the safety of non-EU aircraft using Community airports.
The overall aim of this Directive is to establish and maintain a high uniform level of civil aviation safety in Europe and to provide further reassurance to airline passengers that the planes that they are boarding or arriving on in Europe comply with safety standards. Member States, including Ireland, already carry out regular inspections of foreign aircraft. In Ireland this work is carried out by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). The new Directive extends this practice to the whole community territory and provides a legal framework for the introduction and operation of a safety assessment of non-EU aircraft.
The Directive provides for a harmonised approach across the Community for checking that non-EU aircraft using Community airports comply fully with internationally agreed safety standards. Any suspect aircraft can be checked, as well as other aircraft on a random basis.
One of the key provisions requires that information obtained from those checks be shared with the European Commission, with Member States, and with the European Aviation Safety Agency. Any measures taken by one Member State, such as flying restrictions or the imposition of conditions on operation, may be extended across the European Community.
In addition, the European Commission will publish an annual report analysing the information received and indicating where there is an increased safety risk to air travellers. This report will be available to both the public and to stakeholders.
In agreeing this Directive, both the European Parliament and the Council recognise that every effort must be made to assure air passengers in Europe that the highest safety standards are being enforced. All European aircraft are already subject to stringent EU wide safety standards, which are rigorously applied - this Directive will harmonise and improve existing procedures on checking and sharing of information procedures for foreign aircraft.
The negotiations between Council and European Parliament were conducted against the backdrop of the tragic aviation accident early this month at Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt involving Flash Air. 148 persons perished in this accident -135 passengers and 13 crew members; we all share in the grief of their families.
In view of this accident, the Council and the European Parliament doubled their efforts to come to an early agreement on this important file. The accident highlighted the need for clear and commonly agreed procedures for checking aircraft and sharing information. It is sincerely hoped that the Directive will contribute to the avoidance of such tragic accidents in the future.
I would like to underline that the effectiveness of any Directive depends to a very large extent on its full legal implementation by the Member States.This Directive must be implemented within two years after formal approval by the Council and by the European Parliament. I cannot overstate the importance of this Directive and I would urge the Member States to take all necessary measures to ensure its full implementation within this deadline or even sooner.
There will be ongoing monitoring of the effectiveness of the Directive. As part of this process the Commission will submit a Report to the European Parliament and to the Council after four years of its operation. If the Directive needs to be amended, the Commission will make recommendations at that time.
Finally I would like to thank the European Parliament, in particular Rapporteur Mrs Maes, for the very good co-operation, which has, lead to this excellent result. I sincerely hope that this example will set the tone for further co-operation with the European Parliament during the whole Irish Presidency.
28 January 2004.
Tom Rowley (01) 6041089 087 8124723
Veronica Scanlan (01) 6041087 087 6430622