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 bebrought before the Court of Justice.