David Learmount/RIO DE JANEIRO Julian Moxon/PARIS

The creation of a European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) has virtually been put on hold after a European Commission (EC) working party, looking at the issue, uncovered constitutional problems involving individual member states giving up their aviation rulemaking powers.

Its findings have resulted in a freeze on moves to create an EASA while what an EC source describes as a need for a "totally new approach" is looked at.

In June, European Transport ministers gave the EC a mandate to negotiate an EASA convention. A draft convention was completed in August and sent to national aviation authorities for comment.

"We are getting feedback that there are enormous problems with the constitutional changes that states would have to introduce to allow EASA to take over their powers for certification and rulemaking", says the EC source. The ratification process creating EASA would also be likely to take a "very long time", he says.

The new EC transport Commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, confirmed the need to create the EASA early on in her tenure, but has become frustrated with the lack of progress. The issue is likely to be raised at the Council of Ministers meeting on 10 December. "We need to reflect on a more efficient way of doing this", says the source.

One option being looked at is turning EASA into an EC department, although this approach is not viewed with enthusiasm by people like European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) head Klaus Koplin. He argues that aviation safety should be independent and unaffected by politics.

The problem is that the EC needs unanimous approval from member states to create a body such as EASA with the legal powers to take over the certification and rulemaking activities now performed nationally. The 27-member JAA is responsible for aviation standards - but has no legally-backed enforcement powers.

Under the original EASA timescale, the aim was to win the political blessing of member states by year-end, clearing the way to a diplomatic conference next year, to which non-EC member states would have been invited. This is now unlikely to happen. "We have to take a step back and review the situation", says the EC.

Source: Flight International