Meanwhile, new aircraft safety directive to be hammered out by civil aviation authorities

The European Commission is set to unveil its 2005 agenda for transport next week and, after a packed schedule last year, experts predict fewer but better researched regulatory proposals this year.

Transport commissioner Jacques Barrot will publish the legislative work programme on 26 January. Towards the end of her tenure, Barrot's predecessor Loyola de Palacio was keen to push through reforms in such areas as the Single Sky, passenger rights and air traffic management, but many of the rules were criticised for being drafted in haste. The new Commission is expected to enter into more analysis and dialogue before launching proposals, but Barrot has already indicated a desire to reform air transport further.

Head of unit for air transport safety and environment Roberto Salvarani indicates several areas where the EC can expect to be active over the next year. "We have environmental sustainability as our number one priority," he says. In addition to monitoring compliance of the aircraft noise directive, the EC will launch a study this year into charging mechanisms for emissions. Current indications point away from a straightforward tax on carbon dioxide discharge and towards including aircraft in the EU emissions trading scheme that started on 1 January.

Meanwhile, aircraft safety regulations will be the focus of a new directive on harmonisation this year. All national civil aviation authorities will have to hammer out the details, with the EC's European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) taking responsibility for drafting the final rules. EASA will also extend its remit this year, seeking power over flight crew licensing, en route to total assumption of all national CAA roles, scheduled for 2007.

Officials within the air transport unit say work on passenger rights will continue. The controversial passenger compensation and assistance bill will enter into force in February, before airlines' legal challenge can be heard, probably around August. Crucially, however, the EC will extend the passenger protection laws to other modes of cross-border travel this year, a key demand of airline groups angered by apparent discrimination.

However, more red tape for smaller airlines could be on its way: final touches are being put to a proposal to mandate minimum standards for passengers with reduced mobility.


Source: Flight International