Alan George/BRUSSELS

New European aviation initiatives have been put on hold following the mass resignation of top officials at the European Commission (EC) in the wake of a damning report into fraud and cronyism at the Brussels headquarters of the European Union.

Despite the chaos caused by the resignations of the president of the EC and his 19 commissioners, measures already agreed will go ahead as scheduled, including restrictions on hushkitted aircraft and the ending of duty-free sales.

Although Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock and his Competition counterpart Karel Van Miert were not implicated in the report, both have resigned, but remain in office temporarily.

Van Miert was planning to leave the EC at the end of the year, when the commissioners were due for reappointment anyway, but the UK has said it will back Kinnock's return to office for a further term.

EC officials say legislation covering flight duty time for pilots and the transparency of the secondary market in take-off and landing slots is likely to be delayed until a new Commission is appointed.

The EC had been planning to issue a new flight duty time regulation by the end of next month, and a proposal for slot legislation was expected by the end of the year. However, initiatives such as development of air transport environment and passenger protection policy and talks with eastern Europe on open skies continue.

A meeting of EU transport ministers will go ahead on 29 March. The ministers are expected to approve a regulation banning the entry into Europe of any further hushkitted aircraft after 1 April.

This proposal has angered the USA, which has threatened retaliation, and the issue will be high on the agenda of a 24 March visit to Brussels by US transport secretary Rodney Slater. "'We shall explain our view but there is no reason to think that the legislation will not be endorsed by the Transport Council," says Kinnock's office.

Source: Flight International