A European safety authority could be set up within 18 months following an agreement by 15 European Union transport ministers on 18 June to establish a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Membership of the agency will initially be open to all 27 members of the European Joint Aviation Authorities.

The new authority will take on the certification responsibilities of the JAA - but, unlike the present arrangement, it will be backed by a legal framework. Membership will include all current EU members. Also eligible will be any others who are JAA members when a diplomatic conference is held to complete the international treaty to set up the pan-European concern. Other nations will also eventually be able to join. The founding treaty will "establish a transparent rule-making procedure "that will draw on the existing expertise of member states. It will have the power to react "immediately" to a safety problem.

The agreement specifies that the EASA will "develop, adapt and, if necessary, publish rules relating to the design, certification, manufacture, continuing airworthiness, maintenance and operation of civil aircraft and the certification of personnel engaged in those activities".

It will "develop appropriate rules on the safety regulation of air traffic management and airports" and be responsible for environmental rule-making and encouraging research into safety-related areas.

Source: Flight International