While the airlines operate within a largely unified internal market, there is still significant progress to be made to ensure harmonised safety standards and regulations and their uniform implementation within Europe. To achieve this, a strong single safety authority in Europe is needed.
Regulation 1592 set up EASA - the European Aviation Safety Agency - in 2002, with the principal objective of "establishing and maintaining a high, uniform level of civil aviation safety in Europe" and "providing a level playing field for the Community air operators".
When EASA was created, it was already foreseen that its objectives would not be achieved if EASA's scope were not extended further to Air Operations, Pilot Licensing and Third-country Aircraft. Thus, the European Commission was tasked with the revision of the Regulation and has tabled its proposal for extending EASA's scope at the end of 2005.
ECA welcomed this proposal as a milestone in making EASA the strong and independent safety authority that Europe needs and is closely following the legislative process that is now under way.
By mid-2007, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of Ministers are to carry out their respective first readings, to make changes to the Commission proposal. In the course of amending the Commission text, ECA is keen to see improvements from a safety perspective. Our key concerns are to ensure that the achievements on EU-OPS so far would not be lost once EASA takes over Air Operations and that the new rules on Pilot Licensing would not lead to the watering-down of safety standards. Moreover, extending EASA's scope to impose common rules to third country aircraft could have distinct safety benefits, as long as ICAO standards are respected and risk of retaliation is minimised. Also, EASA must have stronger enforcement mechanisms to ensure that safety standards are not compromised and are applied uniformly across Europe.