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        The  Commission  has  decided  to  initiate  proceedings  against
        Belgium for infringement of Community rules on the limitation  of
        noise from subsonic aircraft.  The Belgian authorities have
        three weeks in which to reply.
   Within   the   framework   of   environmental   protection   and    noise
   prevention,  the permissible levels of noise from subsonic  jet  aircraft
   have  been laid down in a Council Directive of 20 December 1979, as  last
   amended in April 1983,(1) in accordance with the standards defined in the
   convention  on  international  civil  aviation.  Since  21  April   1984,
   compliance  with  these limits has been compulsory in all of  the  Member
   States,  which  are required to prohibit the movement and  use  in  their
   territory  of  aircraft which do not meet the  standards.  The  Directive
   does,  however, enable derogations to be granted on a case-to-case  basis
   for  economic reasons, but not after 31 December 1989 on which this  must
   cease.
   The  Commission has been informed that since 1 January 1990  Belgium  has
   continued to allow aircraft which do not meet the international standards
   and which are therefore excessively noisy to land in its  territory.  The
   Royal Decree of 10 April 1990 expressly authorizes an extension until  31
   December  1990 of the possibility of a derogation for airlines using  the
   regional  Belgian  airports.  These are in particular  freight  companies
   operating Boeing 707 cargo aircraft.
   An  extension of the derogations solely on the grounds of the  short-term
   economic advantage of the regional Belgian airports gives them an  unfair
   competitive advantage, especially in terms of landing fees collected,  to
   the  detriment  of other Community airports and in contravention  of  the
   environmental protection regulations.
   __________
   (1)  Council  Directives  80/51/EEC  of  20.12.1979  and  83/206/EEC   of
   21.4.1983.
                                     - 2 -
   The Commission takes the view that this situation is sufficiently serious
   to  warrant  the  initiation of an emergency procedure  under  which  the
   Belgian authorities have 21 days to reply to the letter of formal  notice
   opening  the infringement proceedings. After this period and if it  fails
   to receive a satisfactory reply, the Commission will immediately  deliver
   a  reasoned opinion, the last stage before the matter is referred to  the
   Court of Justice.
   At  the  same time, the Commission departments, to whose  attention  this
   matter  has  been drawn, will tighten checks on the  application  of  the
   Directive  by  the other Member States, in particular  at  the  secondary
   regional Community airports.
   Infringement proceedings:
   The Commission is responsible for monitoring the application of Community
   Law  by the Member States.  It is assigned this task of "guardian of  the
   Treaties"  by  the Treaty of Rome.  In this connection,  Article  169/EEC
   enables an action to be brought before the Court of Justice in Luxembourg
   for "failure to fulfil an obligation" if an infringement of Community law
   is observed.
   The  Commission  is  generally alerted by  complaints  from  citizens  or
   undertakings  whose  activities  are hindered  by  national  measures  or
   practices which they believe are not in conformity with Community law and
   be questions and petitions from the European Parliament.
   After a preliminary enquiry, infringement proceedings take place in three
   stages.  Infringement proceedings are formally opened by the despatch  of
   a  letter  of formal notice setting out the grounds on which  the  Member
   State is presumed to have failed to comply with Community law and calling
   for its observations within in principle one month.  In the absence of  a
   reply  or if the reply is not convincing, the Commission moves on to  the
   second stage and adopts a reasoned opinion calling on the Member State to
   put  an  end to the infringement within a period of  one  month.  Failing
   this,  the  matter  is  brought  before  the  Court  of  Justice  of  the
   Communities  and, if the dispute is settled in favour of the  Commission,
   the Member States have to comply with the Court's judgment.
   It should, however, be noted that the aim of infringement proceedings  is
   to  eliminate  the  infringement as soon as possible  and  without  legal
   action.  In  actual  fact, the vast majority of such  cases  are  settled
   during  the  proceedings  and it is quite exceptional for  action  to  be
brought before the Court of Justice.

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