Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report


Letter from John Spellar, Minister of State, Director of Transport to the Chairman

  As you will recall, the House of Commons debated the Single European Sky initiative on the floor of the House on 24 June 2002. In the intervening period, the negotiations on this package have continued and there is a chance that my fellow transport ministers and I will be able to secure political agreement at the December Transport Council. I want to take this opportunity of bringing you up to date with the progress that has been made.

  Single Sky is an important project that the UK has supported since its inception as we feel that it offers the potential for genuine benefits to airspace users, air navigation service providers and the travelling public. Securing these benefits has not been easy—and there is still some way to go before there is an agreement—but there is a growing consensus among Member States that we need to secure progress quickly and most Member States have shown some flexibility in their approach to Single Sky.

  Throughout the negotiations our main concern has been the potential inclusion of the military authorities within the scope of the Single Sky legislation. Indeed, when the House of Commons debated this issue in June, it moved that "military authorities should not be bound by these regulations". I am pleased to say that the UK has found significant support for our position among other Member States, and we are now confident that the regulations will only apply to civil aviation. Such an outcome would represent a considerable achievement given the Commission's original idea of a first pillar option that included some regulation of the military authorities.

  Our position has always recognised that there is a need to involve the military in Single Sky, and you will recall that our favoured approach was through the use of an intergovernmental treaty arrangement (IGA). My officials have worked with their colleagues in the MOD and FCO to draw up a draft arrangement which was presented to other Member States last month. Unfortunately, our proposal—whilst the concept of an IGA was well received—was seen as being too inflexible. We have accepted this view, and we are now considering other ways of securing civil/military co-operation. After careful consideration, we are particularly attracted to the idea raised by several Member States of a statement in the Council minutes to the effect that Member States will work towards enhancing civil/military co-operation. In addition, as part of our negotiation package, we are pushing for the exclusion of the military from the scope of the legislation and for securing a robust safeguard clause (approved by COLA) to protect our military interests. Thus the civil aspects of Single Sky would be addressed by the regulations, while the Council minute statement would cover the commitment of Member States to secure enhanced co-operation with the military. This approach is consistent with that agreed during the debate on Single Sky last June, and appears likely to command support from other Member States. With this package, we believe we can achieve a consensus among Member States which will resolve one of the key outstanding issues on the Single Sky proposals and pave the way for progress at the December Council.

22 November 2002

Letter from the Chairman to John Spellar MP

  Thank you for your letter dated 22 November which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 2 December.

  You may recall that in our Report Reducing air Traffic Delays: Civil and Military management of Airspace in Europe (Fourteenth Report, Session 2000-01, HL Paper 79) we focused on the same problem as that covered in your letter, namely how to link the military to civilian regulation. Our preferred option was via EUROCONTROL and the Single Sky Committee. We recognise, however, that this was merely one possibility in a range of choices, and that none would necessarily provide a neat, elegant solution to the problem.

  We note that the Government's favoured approach through an inter-governmental treaty arrangement has failed to attract sufficient support. This is a pity. It is not possible for us to comment on the proposed compromise of a statement in the Council minutes to the effect that Member States would work towards enhancing civil/military co-operation, because we do not know how Member States will respond to this admonition. Will it, for example, help the French resolve their internal differences between civil and military air transport management?

4 December 2002

Letter from John Spellar MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 4 December 2002 concerning the Single European Sky initiative. As you will know, I was able to agree the Single Sky package at last month's Transport Council. I am sure that you and your Committee will agree with me that this was a good result for the United Kingdom, particularly as we have campaigned for this for some time.

  Turning to your point regarding civil/military co-operation, our preferred option of an inter-governmental treaty arrangement was not, as I indicated in my letter, judged by other Member States as a suitable way forward. Instead, Transport Ministers were able to agree a Council minute statement to the effect that their military authorities will involve themselves in the work of Single Sky and will ensure greater co-operation with their civil counterparts.

  It remains to be seen how other Member States will react to carrying out the agreed Council minute statement. All Member States, including France, were content to sign the agreement, and we shall press for the agreement to be implemented fully. Moreover, the European Commission and the Single Sky Committee will, of course, monitor the progress on implementation.

  In the meantime, I recently sent your Committee a further EM on Single Sky (Number 14964/02, dated 6 January) explaining the European Parliament's first reading amendments. The European Parliament's second reading is scheduled to take place in the spring, and I will, of course, provide you and your Committee with details on the outcome in due course.

17 January 2003

Letter from the Chairman to John Spellar MP

  Thank you for your letter dated 17 January 2003 which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 27 January 2003.

  Thank you very much for your gloss on the agreed Council Minutes Statement. As you rightly say, it remains to be seen how other Member States will react.

  We have, of course, already dealt with your Explanatory Memorandum 14964/04 and lifted the Scrutiny reserve on it as you will have seen from my letter of 23 January 2003.

29 January 2003

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