Europe poised to publish blacklist

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Suspect airlines identified, but legislators fear retaliation from nations with proscribed carriers

European legislators will this week meet to decide on a definitive “blacklist” of suspect carriers preparing the way for a comprehensive ban from the end of March.

Each of the 25 European Union member states have told the European Commission the identity of carriers that are subject to an operating ban on their respective territory, allowing the EC to draw up a blacklist based on a set of common criteria.

This will form the basis of a comprehensive list detailing the identity of airlines that will be published on the internet and in the EU’s official record in April, effectively banning from Europe any carrier falling short of international safety standards.

A senior source in the EC says an EC-chaired air safety committee will this week hold a four-day series of meetings to assess the blacklist dossier, which has been the subject of intense and “delicate” processing and organising.

“There is a possibility of variation at this stage, but in that case we would need to submit our modification of the proposal – which could relate to a specific airline or procedure – to the Council of Ministers,” says the source.

“There will be a real right to defence for airlines. They can be represented by a lawyer and can also request to be assisted by the national aviation authorities of the country where they are certificated.” The imminent publication of the European blacklist has provoked a spate of recent retaliatory moves. An SN Brussels Airbus A330-300 grounded by Rwandan authorities in Kigali on 21 February was only allowed to return to Brussels following intervention from the Belgian prime minister, who accused Rwanda of reacting to the ban on Silverback Cargo Freighters from Belgian airspace.

Cameroon authorities on 19 February also grounded an Air France Airbus A340-300 after an incident at Douala. France last year blacklisted flag carrier Cameroon Airlines for nearly two months.

The European Aviation Safety Agency, civil aviation authorities, air ticket sellers and the air transport industry will be responsible for promoting the blacklist.

AIMEE TURNER / LONDON