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Brussels, 4 May 2010

Background note on the Extraordinary Transport Council, 4 May

Today, EU transport ministers were able to agree on a single EU immediate response to the ash cloud crisis: this is a strong message given to the air transport sector. They supported the Commission's approach on the need for flexibility to ease the pressure on airlines: this is a clear signal to the sector which gives the necessary certainty. The key outcomes of the meeting are summarised below.

Air passenger rights regulation

  • It is of utmost importance to recall that the regulations on air passenger rights remain fully applicable.

  • Ministers have confirmed the commitment of all relevant national authorities to guarantee the full respect of these rights.

  • Experience shows that there is a need for further co-ordination to ensure their uniform application: the Commission will continue to monitor the situation and favour a harmonised application by the Member States.

  • This being said, we will draw the lessons of such a crisis in the framework of the review of the legislation scheduled for later this year.

State aid

  • The exceptional circumstances may also justify support measures to offset losses incurred by the closure of the EU airspace.

  • Member States have agreed that such measures should preserve as much as possible a level-playing field and avoid undue distortions of competition.

  • The Commission has made clear that it could examine favourably such measures. If needed, the Commission could present a communication establishing clear and precise guidelines.

Revision of risk management planning for any future disruption caused by volcanic activity

  • Member States have welcomed the Commission proposal to take immediate action to create an expert group of all stakeholders (including Eurocontrol, EASA, the Member States) in order to develop a new European methodology for safety risks and risk management.

  • On this basis, they have also supported the aim for the EU to submit a proposal for a new regulatory framework to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) General Assembly in September 2010.

Fast-track the Single European Sky package

  • The acceleration of Single European Sky has been given the highest political priority.

  • The ministers have agreed on seven concrete actions to be taken in the coming weeks: this is crucial for unifying our sky and have the most appropriate tools to manage our airspace in a fully coordinated manner.

  • In particular, the nomination of the network manager, the acceleration of the development of the functional airspace blocks, and the implementation of the performance scheme are key to our success and will help to avoid such crises in the future.

A mobility plan for Europe

  • Ministers have acknowledged that we need to address pan-European crisis planning for transport in case of major disruptions.

  • Efforts should be dedicated to ensure that, if one mode of transport can not deliver, other transport modes can quickly substitute in the interest of passengers.

  • Member States have welcomed the Commission’s intention to start working to identify the main obstacles and determine the solutions in case of a sudden crisis.

Bring all actors together

  • Ministers considered positively the intention to create an Aviation Platform at EU level.

  • The Aviation Platform can be the appropriate tool to co-ordinate aviation policy better, to assess the actions needed, and to reflect on the future of air transport in the EU.

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