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Document 52002AE0348

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of rules and procedures with regard to the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at Community airports" (COM(2001) 695 final — 2001/0282 (COD))

OJ C 125, 27.5.2002, p. 14–16 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)

52002AE0348

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of rules and procedures with regard to the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at Community airports" (COM(2001) 695 final — 2001/0282 (COD))

Official Journal C 125 , 27/05/2002 P. 0014 - 0016


Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of rules and procedures with regard to the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at Community airports"

(COM(2001) 695 final - 2001/0282 (COD))

(2002/C 125/05)

On 29 January 2002 the Council of the European Union decided to consult the Economic and Social Committee, under Article 80(2) of the Treaty establishing the European Union, on the above-mentioned proposal.

The Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its Opinion on 26 February 2002. The rapporteur was Mr Green.

At its 389th Plenary Session of 20 and 21 March 2002 (meeting of 20 March 2002), the Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 74 votes in favour with one abstention.

1. Background

1.1. At the Council meeting in Luxembourg on 16 October 2001 the Transport Ministers noted that the resolution on environmental protection adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)'s 33rd assembly (25 September - 5 October 2001) opens up a prospect of replacing the "Hushkits" Regulation in the near future.

1.2. To combat aircraft noise around airports, the EU proposed a Regulation in 1999, which would ban aircraft equipped with noise reduction devices ("Hushkits") from EU airports from 1 April 2002. Only hushkitted aircrafts registered outside the EU but operating there before 1 April 1999, would be allowed to continue.

1.3. In March 2000 the United States lodged a complaint in the ICAO Council against the fifteen EU Member States on the grounds that this Regulation was an infringement of the Chicago Convention and Annex 16 thereto.

1.4. The 1999 regulation was challenged by the United States, which claimed that it breached international agreements on aircraft noise and would disrupt the market for used aircraft.

1.5. The Council's conclusions also took note of the Commission's intention of presenting as speedily as possible a proposal which, in compliance with ICAO conditions, can establish a framework for operational restrictions in the Community, making full use of the flexibility provided by the ICAO, and which protects people living around airports.

1.6. The Council's conclusions presupposed that this matter was given sufficient priority to allow the adoption of a proposal by April 2002, when the existing Hushkit Regulation's provisions on halting operations take effect.

1.7. For many years the EU has urged the ICAO to update the Chapter 3 noise certification standard adopted in 1977.

1.8. In June 2001 the ICAO Council adopted a new noise certification standard, to become chapter 4 in Annex 16 volume 1 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

1.9. The market-induced introduction of Chapter 4 requires accompanying measures which will allow for harmonized application of operating restrictions, including withdrawal from operation of those aeroplanes that only marginally comply with Chapter 3 limits.

1.10. At the 33rd ICAO assembly a world-wide agreement was reached through the above Resolution A33/7 on how to frame such accompanying measures/operating restrictions within the concept of a balanced approach to noise management. This will allow EU Member States to progressively withdraw marginally compliant aeroplanes at noise sensitive EU airports.

1.11. With a view to reducing noise in the most cost effective manner, a balanced strategy generally consists of action on four fronts:

1. Reduction of noise at source;

2. Spatial use and management (land-use planning);

3. Noise abatement operational procedures;

4. Restrictions on air traffic operations.

1.12. Air traffic in the EU, as elsewhere in the world, is concentrated on a relatively small number of airports.

2. The Commission proposal

2.1. The Commission proposal contains a common set of rules and principles relating to noise-related operational restrictions as part of a balanced approach to noise management.

2.2. Only airports with over 50000 movements per year fall within the scope of the directive.

2.3. The proposed directive also covers "city airports", in the centre of large conurbations. An airport can only be defined as a "city airport" if there is an alternative airport also serving that city.

2.4. For the purposes of the proposed directive the environmental performance of aeroplanes is assessed on the basis of the Chapter 3 certification limits. Aeroplanes that have a cumulative margin of no more than 5 decibels in relation to the Chapter 3 certification limits are considered as being only marginally compliant. Airports with a problematic noise situation would be allowed to remove these aeroplanes gradually from operation after an assessment has been carried out. Other noise mitigation options remain available if the withdrawal of these aeroplanes is not sufficient to meet the directive's objectives.

2.5. Under certain specific conditions, aeroplanes from "developing nation" companies may be exempted from the directive's provisions.

2.6. The entry into force of the directive will result in the repeal of the Hushkit Regulation.

3. General comments

3.1. The ESC broadly supports the Commission's proposal for a directive which will assist in reducing aviation and airport-related noise.

3.2. The ESC points to the need for uniform legislation to regulate noise from other sources, including other modes of transport.

3.3. The proposed short timespan for adoption of the proposed directive, as soon as 1 April 2002, could result in inadequate and ill-judged legislation.

3.4. Correspondingly, adoption of the directive with effect from 1 January 2003 would mean postponing the reduction of aviation-related noise; the earlier regulation (EC) No 925/1999 bans the operation of aeroplanes fitted with hushkits within the EU from 1 April 2002 unless these aeroplanes were operational on Community territory before 1 April 1999. Adoption of the proposed directive will result in this regulation being superseded.

3.5. It should also be noted that the new draft directive will make it possible to phase out certain aeroplanes which would have been authorized under the Hushkit Regulation.

3.6. Transitional problems could arise prior to the introduction of the requisite procedures provided for in the directive.

3.7. Attention is drawn to the fact that the draft directive primarily addresses operational restrictions for aviation, which is only one facet of the balanced approach referred to in the ICAO resolution of September 2001.

3.8. The ESC stresses that the "interested parties" must include the population groups exposed to noise in the specific case concerned.

4. Specific comments

4.1. Though a cost/benefit assessment is a major component of the balanced approach, the draft directive only contains a general reference to this point (in annex 2).

The draft directive should preferably give a more precise description of the methodology to be followed for this assessment so as to avoid discrepancies in the Member States' implementation of the directive.

4.2. In the absence of an internationally agreed definition, the wording "light aircraft" in Article 2 (a), should be deleted from the directive in order to avoid any uncertainty about the nature of this aircraft and due to the need to pass this legislation swiftly.

4.3. The developing countries' participation should be limited to a specific period; it should at the same time be made clear that exemptions can only be made for flights covered by Chapter 3 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

4.4. On the definition of aeroplanes which only marginally comply with the certification limits laid down in Chapter 3 of Annex 16 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, by a margin of not more than 5 EPNdB (Effective Perceived Noise in Decibels), the ESC advocates a more stringent limit of 8 EPNdB instead. For practical reasons, the ESC recommends a certain transitional period.

4.5. Article 13 should therefore be amplified as follows: "Unless proposed otherwise by the Commission, the cumulative margin of 5 EPNdB will be increased to 8 EPNdB no later than 5 years after the entry into force of this directive".

5. Conclusion

5.1. The ESC wholeheartedly supports the Commission's proposal seeking to introduce noise-related operating restrictions at EU airports. Future growth in air travel, under growing environmental constraints, will depend exclusively on a progressive and credible reduction in aircraft noise at source.

5.2. The cumulative margin should be increased to 8 EPNdB no later than 5 years after the entry into force of this directive.

Brussels, 20 March 2002.

The President

of the Economic and Social Committee

Göke Frerichs

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