Brussels, 21 September 2010
Commission welcomes European Parliament vote endorsing new rules for investigation and prevention of air accidents
The European Commission welcomes today's vote supporting a new regulation on investigation and prevention of accidents in civil aviation which paves the way to a first reading agreement between Parliament and Council. The new legislation will strengthen the independence and effectiveness of air accident investigations in the EU, promote cooperation between the accident investigation authorities, and ensure better follow-up of safety recommendations. In addition, the new regulation significantly reinforces the rights of victims of air accidents and their relatives.
Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "While aviation is one of the safest modes of transport in the EU, accidents may happen despite the aviation regulators and the industry's best efforts, leaving passenger victims and their relatives in distress. We have to be prepared. Efficient and independent investigations of civil aircraft accidents are crucial for aviation safety. New rules will allow us to improve investigations, but most importantly, better prevent accidents from happening. They will also establish uniform rules for assisting victims of air accidents and their relatives. The Parliament came to an agreement in less than a year after the Commission's proposal was presented. The Commission is now looking forward to a swift adoption of this new legislation by the Council".
Building on more than a decade of experience
The new regulation builds on the current Directive 94/56/EC establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of civil aviation accidents and incidents, adopted already in 1994. The wealth of experience brought by these principles can now be used to improve and modernise the EU system. Today's air accident investigations require more specialised expertise than a decade ago, and in this respect, better sharing of investigating resources between Member States is essential. To this end, the new regulation establishes a European Network of Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authorities, a natural continuation of the existing informal cooperation between air accident investigation bodies of Member States. The network will coordinate cooperation between national authorities, advise EU institutions on air safety matters and implement an annual work programme covering activities such as the training of investigators or developing a system for sharing investigation resources.
Concrete measures to further improve investigation and prevention of air accidents
Most accident investigations result in safety recommendations which aim at the improvement of aviation safety and ensuring that similar accidents do not re-occur. Each of these safety recommendations will have to be assessed by its addressee and replied to within a 90-day deadline. In addition, it will facilitate the monitoring of the implementation of follow-up measures.
The regulation re-confirms the principle that the sole objective of accident investigation is to prevent future accidents without attributing blame or liability. To this end, the regulation implements international standards on the protection of sensitive air safety information. In addition, while the regulation will not affect the prerogatives of the national courts and competent judicial authorities of Member States, it will ensure that accident investigators have immediate access to evidence material and information which may be relevant for the improvement of aviation safety. Finally, it will require that Member States guarantee coordination between accident investigations and judicial proceedings.
Assisting victims of air accidents and their relatives
It is essential that beyond investigating an accident, effective and immediate measures are in place to help them cope with such traumas. The new regulation will give passengers the possibility, when booking a flight, to indicate who should be contacted in case of an emergency. It will also require that airlines set up a system to establish a list of all persons on board involved in an aircraft accident, within a maximum of two hours following notification of the accident. Finally, Member States and airlines will have to ensure assistance plans for victims of civil aviation accidents and their relatives.
Background – aviation safety in the European Union
The new regulation takes into account the legal and institutional changes which took place in the EU since 1994. In particular, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), established in 2002, will be entitled, under strict conditions ensuring the absence of any conflict of interest, to participate as a technical advisor in accident investigations in order to ensure the safety of aircraft design.
The aviation safety system in the EU is based on close collaboration between the Commission, EASA, Eurocontrol, aviation authorities of Member States, aircraft manufacturers, airlines and other aviation undertakings. Over the years, the EU's air safety policy has been strengthened. Common safety rules for all European operators – the establishment of EASA and a common list of unsafe airlines whose operations are either forbidden or restricted in the EU – are among its key achievements. The Commission also works actively with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and foreign aviation authorities to improve air safety worldwide.
More information on the EU air safety policy can be found at: