Kevin O'Toole/Brussels

THE EUROPEAN Commission (EC) says that it is supporting a compromise deal to establish the region's Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) and Eurocontrol as official international bodies, but which stops short of creating single European authorities.

Proposals for a reformed JAA are due to be "-put on the table" before the end of November, according to Philip Lowe, Chef de Cabinet of EC Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock.

Under this new "convention", the EC would take a seat on the JAA board alongside other member states, but the aviation authority would still not become an official European body, as many within the airline and aerospace industry had hoped.

A similar settlement is proposed for Eurocontrol, the body which co-ordinates European Air Traffic Management , but which also lacks official power within the EU.

The EC itself, backed by the European Parliament, had been pushing for a single European aviation authority to replace the JAA, which is essentially an informal grouping of national authorities without any legislative power within the European Union (EU). Membership of the JAA extends to 24 states, many of which are outside the EU.

Moves to establish a unified European authority ran into political opposition from member states such as France and the UK, which are reluctant to cede sovereignty over their national airspace.

"It's a halfway house between what we and the European Parliament want and what the national governments would allow," admits Lowe. "Going for the most ambitious solution seemed not to be the best answer in terms of efficiency and pragmatism," he says, adding that the Commission's aim is now to establish the new body "as quickly as possible".

Speaking at a debate on the future of the European aerospace industry, held at the European Parliament buildings in brussels on 5 November, Lowe was upbeat about the prospects for the compromise. He says that, through having a say on the board of the new organisations, the EC will find it easier to draw up rules based on these decisions. At the Brussels conference, key European aviation executives gave voice to their views on the subject of alignment of the two European bodies.

Sir Richard Evans, British Aerospace chief executive and the new chairman of the European Association of Aerospace Industries, believes that such a new body should follow the US Federal Aviation Administration in providing its services free of charge and "-be mandated to support the competitiveness of the European aircraft industry".

Lufthansa's operations chief executive Klaus Nittinger voiced the growing anger of the region's airlines at the lack of a single European authority. "An effective Europe-wide air-traffic planning mechanism is still missing. The existing Eurocontrol organisation lacks the institutional clout to solve the problems," he says.

Source: Flight International