|Author (Person)||Frost, Laurence|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.13, 29.3.01, p22|
TRANSPORT ministers will take a step closer to resolving the simmering 'hushkits' row with the US next week when they agree on a common EU approach to international negotiations on aircraft noise.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is due to rule later this year on a US complaint against the Union's ban on older aircraft fitted with hushkits, or engine mufflers, to bring them into line with current noise limits.
The EU says the technology increases pollution and is ineffective in reducing noise. Under 1999 legislation, hushkitted aircraft registered after May 2000 are set to be banned from Union airspace from April next year.
But there are signs that member states could be softening their stance on the ban which the US says has already cost more than €2 billion . Conciliatory language in Brussels is also being echoed by the US.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," said one US official. "The Commission has certainly been looking for ways to bridge the gap."
Transport ministers meeting in Luxembourg next Wednesday and Thursday (4-5 April) will agree on a text referring to the EU's "willingness" to seek an agreementallowing "states or regions with pressing environmental needs" to restrict flights by noisy aircraft.
The ministers will conclude that the deal would allow for further "development ofaviation at the most noise-impacted airports" - seen by some observers as a sign that the Union may be preparing to move towards a compromise on a partial ban.
"If it's on an airport-by-airport basis we've always said it's not impossible," the US official said. "If you take care of just a dozen airports you take care of 80% of the noise problem in Europe. They may be coming round to that."
But any deal hammered out in time for May's meeting of the ICAO council of permanent members would have to be approved by the European Parliament, which voted to support the hushkits ban last year.
Environmentalists warn that a selective ban in sensitive areas would be unpopular, since it would work in favour of other airports. "What's proposed is certainly better than nothing," said Tim Johnson of the Aviation Environment Federation, "but it would be more advantageous both environmentally and competitively to see it across the board."
Johnson said the ministers' wording, which refers to all planes falling just within current noise limits, could also be seen as lining-up for a longer dispute. The original EU ban targeting aircraft with hushkits has been condemned by the US as discriminatory.
Any deal struck within the framework of ICAO will have to be endorsed by its full assembly in September.
Transport ministers are due to take a step closer to resolving the simmering 'hushkits' row with the US when they agree on a common EU approach to international negotiations on aircraft noise.
|Subject Categories||Mobility and Transport|
|Countries / Regions||United States|