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Brussels, 20th December 2006
The answer is no.
Its main effect is to exclude BG air carriers from the benefit of being considered a "Community carrier". BG carriers may continue to operate as "third country operators" to and from Member States in accordance with existing bilateral agreements. However they will have to comply with EU safety rules and might be grounded by Member States if found seriously defective during a ramp inspection.
It is clear that the situation identified raises concerns about the safety of operations. Therefore, the safeguard clause is without prejudice of further measures that could be taken by the Member States or the Commission vis-à-vis the BG carriers.
The Commission is not targeting a particular company. We are urgently assessing the situation of each BG carrier and we will draw our conclusions which will be forwarded to the EU Air Safety Committee in February.
Deficiencies concerning the capacity of the BG CAA to exercise correctly the oversight of aircraft personnel and maintenance organisations have been highlighted by the EASA report. These deficiencies are considered by the Commission serious enough to adopt the safeguard clause.
These difficulties have been identified last year already. In 2005, a joint EASA Member States inspection already identified several deficiencies and an action plan was elaborated by the BG authorities to solve the problems. However, faced by lack of implementation of the plan, a warning signal was given by the Commission in its latest Report of the 26 September 2006 on the Enlargement process, stating that improvements were urgently needed and the Bulgarian authorities were supposed to fulfil their obligations regarding this assessment. The attention of the Prime Minister and of the Transport Minister was repeatedly drawn to this situation. A new visit was performed by EASA before the date of accession. Unfortunately, it proved that the situation remains unsatisfactory.