Although no immediate decisions were taken on the key issues of noise, climate-related emissions and emission-related aviation levies, the official said, the EU was pleased with the progress that had been made.
A formal report on the week-long meeting was released by ICAO yesterday. Of particular interest to a number of European countries, the assembly called for continued work on emission-related levies with a view to preparing framework guidelines in time for the next assembly meeting, due in 2001.
The assembly also called for a report to be made on policy options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from civil aviation by the same time. However, this fell short of a call by the EU that the next assembly should be asked now to consider not only policy options but also recommendations on how to allocate aircraft greenhouse gas emissions to different countries.
European countries have been at the forefront of moves to introduce emission-related levies on civil aviation, but are opposed in the ICAO by a larger number of other states. The ICAO, which is the world's main body setting global rules on civil aviation, is keen to avoid the development of different national or regional approaches. According to an ICAO spokesperson, the organisation recognises that it needs to develop rules in this area urgently to avoid European countries going it alone. "The clock is ticking," the spokesperson said.
The general assembly reiterated the ICAO's opposition to the introduction of new taxes on civil aviation, including proposals - again mainly from European countries - to start taxing aviation fuel. Under virtually all bilateral air service agreements, the assembly noted, fuel is exempted from taxation. The assembly did not agree to a proposal made jointly by Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and Switzerland that the ICAO should develop guidelines on the application of fuel charges by 2001.
While European countries such as Germany are strongly in favour of developing global or regional systems of emission-related charges, the EU position presented at the ICAO conference was more muted, reflecting internal differences of opinion. Countries like Greece and Spain, in particular, oppose the prospect as a threat to their large foreign tourism industries.
The subject could come to the fore in EU policy making when Germany takes over the EU presidency in the first six months of next year, since Germany's new Red/Green government has already indicated an enthusiasm for environmental taxation. Some time during the presidency, the European Commission is due publish a report on implications of a possible EU-wide aviation fuel tax.
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