Frustrated at having observer status at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the European Union (EU) is preparing its case for full membership to halt what it calls "a paradoxical situation".

ICAO says, however, that "the Convention on International Civil Aviation is open to adherence by sovereign states only, not groups of states or international organisations", and says it has not received an application from the EU.

The EU's claim is based on the clout it has in international aviation through the harmonisation of pan-European airworthiness and operations standards and recommended practices (SARPs). At present, however, although the EU states have harmonised their aviation regulations through the Joint Aviation Authorities, the JAA is not yet a statutory body. When the JAA is replaced by the European Aviation Safety Authority - within two years if targets are met - it will effectively become part of the EU's executive, the European Commission (EC). The EU can then claim to influence world aviation SARPs directly.

Meanwhile, the EC's accession to European air navigation organisation Eurocontrol is progressing, with the Commission about to seek authorisation from the EU to complete the membership process.

ICAO preliminary estimates of airline safety show that, apart from 11 September, aviation had its lowest- ever accident rate in 2001. There were 13 fatal accidents to aircraft weighing more than 2,250kg (4,955lb) flying scheduled passenger air services, down from 18 in 2000, and fatalities in 2001 were 577 compared with 757 in 2000. Accident rates for 2000 and 2001 were 0.025 and 0.02 per 100 million passenger kilometres respectively.

Source: Flight International