A senior European Commission (EC) official has conceded that it is unlikely to meet its objective of defining an emissions policy for aviation during the EC's current term. The executive body believes that proposed legislation that could inflict financial penalties on airlines is likely to be re-examined due to the current economic crisis in the industry.

Speaking last week about the EC's environmental policy plans at the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) conference in Stuttgart, Eckhard Seebohm - the EC's head of unit, in the Directorate General for Air Transport and Energy - faced a barrage of criticism from the industry's senior executives over the commission's perceived discrimination against aviation compared with other modes of transport.

The EU is under fire for proposing new legislation which threatens to inflict financial penalties on airlines, but not all surface transports, such as the Passenger Compensation and Assistance ruling requiring large payouts in the event of long delays.

Although Seebohm says suggestions that environmental policies discriminate disproportionately against aviation are "more myth than reality", he expects that given the "present economic environment, there will be a re-reflection on a number of policiesÉcertain measures that imply extra costs for airlines cannot be pushed forward at the present time".

According to Seebohm, the EC had been planning to formulate aviation's contribution to the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions.

"This won't now happen this year," he says, adding that he does not expect that this will be defined before the current commission term ends in 2004.

Source: Flight International