Airport noise: Member States support revision of EU rules

  Siim Kallas, European Commission Vice-President in charge of transport, thanked the Danish Presidency for its energetic management of the Better Airports proposals, which has now seen agreement reached by the Council both for groundhandling (on 22 March) and today for noise. He said: “Transport ministers have been able to reach a general approach on this politically sensitive issue which is an important step. Decisions on noise restrictions will remain clearly for Member States, but I am also conscious of the impact of restrictions on the aviation network. So we have to ensure a process which is fair and which respects international rules.” 

The initial Commission proposal 

On 1 December 2011 the Commission adopted a proposal for a regulation on noise-related operating restrictions, in the context of the “Better airports package”, together with proposals on groundhandling and airport slots (see IP/11/1484 and MEMO/11/857). On noise-related operating restrictions, the Commission proposed to repeal Directive 2002/30/EC and to replace it by a new regulation. 

Air traffic noise is affecting the quality of life of citizens in the vicinity of airports. At the same time, the travelling public wants to maintain a large choice of air services and aviation is a regional engine for growth. The challenge is to strike the balance between these two objectives and take more evidence-based decisions, with due respect for the global character of aviation. The proposal also makes it possible to phase out the noisiest aircraft of the fleet, which contribute in a disproportionate way to air traffic noise. 

What were the main issues at stake? 

The transport ministers endorsed the main thrust of the Commission proposal: 

The new rules will more clearly identify all actors in the noise assessment process with their respective rights and obligations. Citizens living in the vicinity of an airport will become involved in the noise assessment process and will be formally consulted before an authority decides on an operating restriction. 

Competent authorities should be able to focus on the noisiest aircraft of the fleet (the so-called ‘marginally compliant aircraft’) and phase them out first, instead of introducing general night flight bans, which would also affect aircraft operators which have been investing in quieter aircraft. The transport ministers have accepted a more stringent definition of such ‘marginally compliant aircraft’, with step-by-step implementation towards greater stringency. 

The Commission will have a right to review the quality of the decision-making process to ensure that all steps in the process have been respected, in line with international commitments. 

The Commission will be empowered to update the noise standards in view of international developments within the International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN body for international civil aviation responsible for setting noise standards for aircraft. 

In all, this agreement would establish a European framework under which citizens have a visible process in which to make their views known; national authorities would be required to follow clear parameters in taking decisions; operators should get more predictability and legal certainty as a result; the Commission, if required, performs a quality check on the process in line with international commitments; decisions on the substance remain firmly in the hands of Member States. 

Next steps 

The proposal must still be voted by the European Parliament in first reading. The proposed regulation on noise-related operating restrictions is the second of three legislative proposals of the “Better airports package”. Further to today’s discussion the Commission expects the Council to work on the third element, slots, under CY Presidency. 

For more information please see the Transport and Telecommunications Council memo: MEMO/12/409 

Source: European Commission

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