Brussels, 24 May 2011
Statement to the press by Vice-President Kallas on Grimsvötn volcanic ash
After one year, Europe is faced with a volcano again.
But this time things are different.
- The volcano is different;
- The ash is different;
- The weather is different;
- And most importantly, the European response is different.
Volcanic ash still remains a real safety risk to aviation. And the final decision to open or close airspace still remains with national authorities. But one year on, lessons have been learnt.
Whilst fully respecting the imperative of safety, Europe is now equipped to respond with graduated response rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. This should avoid blanket closure of our airspace.
And we have seen in the first 48 hours that the new EU procedures are working.
The crisis cell met swiftly yesterday and again this morning bringing all the major actors together.
We have issued, at European level, formal guidance to Member States and airlines to respond to this crisis. There is strong support from Member States for this approach.
We are still looking at a very challenging week for passengers and for the airlines.
Although we are partly dependent on the weather and the pattern of ash dispersion, we do not at this stage anticipate the widespread airspace closures and the prolonged disruption we saw last year.
Following contacts with the Hungarian presidency, we stand ready to call a transport ministerial meeting should there be a need.