EU hushkits restrictions "will take effect"

De Palacio says no time to postpone first part of ban after failure of new talks with USA

European airlines will be banned from buying aeroplanes fitted with hushkit mufflers from 4 May, EU transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio said last week. The announcement came after negotiations with US transport secretary Rodney Slater failed to resolve a long-running dispute over the aircraft.

The ban is the first element of a two-part legal move to freeze the numbers of hushkitted aircraft in EU airspace. The second stage of the plan, a ban on American and other non-EU airlines adding the aircraft to their registers, is due to take effect in 2002. The EU says the ban is needed to curb increasing noise levels as air traffic soars. The USA has responded by filing an official complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

After repeatedly warning that time was running out to reach an agreement with the USA, the commissioner said it was now too late to submit a proposal to postpone the restrictions, which are due to come into force next month (ENDS Daily 14 March). She stressed, however, that the second part of the ban was still negotiable. Her position was backed by EU transport ministers on Tuesday and the European Parliament later in the week.

The chairman of the European Parliament's environment committee, Caroline Jackson, declared the move a victory for the EU. "The Americans have backed off. We [now] have two years to negotiate," she said. The EU wants the USA to sign a joint declaration to pursue higher noise standards in return for suspension of the ban. The USA previously called for withdrawal of the law, but now says it would settle for its suspension alone.

The US government has vigorously opposed both parts of the EU's ban, which it says discriminate against its used aircraft industry on the basis of design rather than noise criteria. Although the restrictions due to come into force in 2002 will be more damaging to its industry, the ban now announced for May will prevent it selling old aircraft to EU carriers. Mr Slater said last week he would " energetically pursue a solution" to the dispute.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111; see also note on hushkits from last week's transport ministers' meeting.


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