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Brussels, 20th December 2006

European Commission invokes safeguard clause against Bulgaria on aviation safety

The European Commission decided today to partially exclude Bulgaria from the benefit of the internal aviation market. Following an inspection performed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) earlier this month, the Commission considers that there is a considerable risk that Bulgaria will not be able to ensure full compliance with the Community rules on aviation safety and on the internal aviation market. Therefore a safeguard clause based on the Act of Accession is invoked, in order to ensure the proper functioning of the EU air transport market and to guarantee the highest level of safety to EU citizens.

Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission, said "It is essential for us to ensure that every aviation authority fulfils its safety oversight duties and that every airline operating freely in the European market is capable of doing so in full respect of our stringent safety laws. As things stand, we are not satisfied that Bulgaria meets the required standard. I have spoken to the Bulgarian Minister of Transport and he has assured me that efforts are being made to improve the situation. Our experts will keep Bulgaria's compliance with European standards under review, but only once they are satisfied will I recommend lifting the safeguard".

The deficiencies that have been identified by EASA concern important shortcomings in the administrative capacity of the Bulgarian Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA) in the field of safety oversight in general, and for the certification of airworthiness and maintenance of aircraft. The number of CAA staff is insufficient and their level of training is generally inadequate to perform their duties at the required level.

These problems did not arise recently. EASA had already identified serious deficiencies during earlier inspections in 2005 and 2006. The Commission's September 2006 monitoring report on the state of preparedness for EU membership of Bulgaria and Romania warned Bulgaria that a safeguard measure could be invoked if insufficient progress would be made prior to accession.

Bulgaria will remain excluded from full integration in the internal aviation market until a further EASA inspection will find the safety situation in Bulgaria satisfactory. In practice this will mean that airworthiness and maintenance certificates issued by the Bulgarian CAA will not be automatically recognised by other Member States, and that Bulgarian air carriers will not be granted unrestricted access to routes within the Community. The safeguard clause does not deny access of Bulgarian carriers to Community territory.

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