Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 40 - 46)



  40.  I understand that. If I may develop that point. What would be the first three incremental steps you would propose.
  (Sir Michael Bishop)  I think first of all in geographical Europe, that is European countries not presently within the European Union, and adjacent countries who may or may not in the future come into the European Union. I think if the European Community developed specifically more experience and more administrative knowledge in that area that would be a good start.

  41.  For our neighbours?
  (Sir Michael Bishop)  For neighbour states in geographical Europe and possibly adjacent countries like Turkey and possibly some of the former CIS states. I think if as a first stage the European Community took more and more responsibility within geographical Europe that probably would be the first incremental stage and one could see how that developed and what the difficulties were. Perhaps at a much later stage when their abilities were tested in that area it then possibly would be the moment to approach the much wider issue of dealing with relations outside geographical Europe.

  42.  I understand that. Would there be any other incremental programme that you would think appropriate?
  (Sir Michael Bishop)  Possibly greater consultation between Member States than there is at the moment would be helpful. Everybody is retreating to their castle at the moment and trying to repel the border and I think the Government's case in fairness is probably very similar to documents which are circulating in other European countries. I do not think this is a unique view we are taking here. I think greater acceptances of the European Union role in this area would be helpful.

  43.  You are talking about inter-government not inter-carrier?
  (Sir Michael Bishop)  Yes.


  44.  Do you see an inevitable conflict between the two Directorates-General, between DGIV and DGVII?
  (Sir Michael Bishop)  They are giving a very good impression of it at the moment, I have to say, in the issue of the Slots Directive which we have been waiting for now for very nearly two years which has been held up entirely because of a difference of view between the Directorates. My understanding of Brussels is that this is not an unusual scenario. It is not confined to our industry. I believe there are differences in opinions in the Commission in every department but this is one particular issue which has affected badly the airline industry because we need the Slots Directive urgently and it has been unnecessarily delayed because of differences between the two Directorates.
  (Sir Lenox Hewitt)  It is a reflection of the normal inter-departmental processes of discussions and conference and even civil wars that go on.

Chairman]  Sir Michael, I am very conscious of the time; you have given us a lot of it. I know Lord Marsh has one more point and I have one more point and then we must close.

Lord Marsh

  45.  I know we have attributed this to the administrative inexperience of the staff but the staff of the Commission are highly qualified people, whatever one thinks. I am struck by the fact when we have had different reports, for example on a freight railway through Europe, a much bigger problem seems to me to be the fundamental position of, say, the French government because if it is a question of inexperience I would have thought that would take far less than 20 years to overcome. It seems to me it is much more a fact it is the built in fundamental policy of some governments within Europe.
  (Sir Michael Bishop)  If I may first of all say that there is a big difference between the description of "highly qualified people" and practical experience. These two have to be matched on the software and I think that is one of the problems. I also should say our experience has been, and we have probably run more cases through Brussels than any airline, from the outside even compared to national governments' workloads and departmental workloads, that the workload of the Commission is enormous and they have to have an almost random selection of the cases they want to pursue with vigour. One of the problems is you have to persuade them that your case is one they should take their time on. In many senses in national governments all cases are reviewed more carefully and they pay more individual attention to your case and they have more time and more people to do it. In particular the DGIV workload seems to be enormous. It is quite difficult to attract the Commission's high profile attention to a particular subject and that is why cases take so long to progress to the Commission and often by the time they are resolved a person who is complaining has been irreparably damaged and you cannot recover the situation even if you get a favourable ruling from the Commission. The speed of investigation needs to be accelerated considerably.


  46.  Sir Michael, the impression that I have got certainly from your very good answers and the very good answers from your colleagues is that the Regulations as they stand are too wide when they simply refer to "third countries" and the position that you would prefer is that they should refer to those third countries within geographical Europe and adjacent to the European Union but not beyond. Would that be fair?
  (Sir Michael Bishop)  Yes.

Chairman]  Thank you very much indeed. We are extremely grateful to you and to your colleagues.

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