Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


INTERNAL MARKET (SUB-COMMITTEE B)

AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, SESAR (15143/05)


Letter from the Chairman to Karen Buck MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Department for Transport

  Sub-Committee B considered your Explanatory Memorandum at its meeting on 16 January 2006.

  We noted, from paragraph 27 of your Explanatory Memorandum, that the Commission is hoping to secure agreement by May 2006 and that the co-decision process will not be used. Will this course of action nonetheless allow for full consultation ahead of the deadline? We are concerned that the May deadline might be hopelessly optimistic if full consultation is to be carried out.

  Members were also somewhat confused as to the role the United Kingdom Government envisages for Eurocontrol in this project: your Explanatory Memorandum seemed to be self-contradictory on this point. In paragraph 21vi you suggest that alternatives to the Joint Undertaking exist, for instance using Eurocontrol. In paragraph 21ix you suggest that, due to a lack of industry confidence in it, Eurocontrol should have no voting powers on the Joint Undertaking. This latter point also seems somewhat odd in light of your expectation, expressed in paragraph 24 of your Explanatory Memorandum, that Eurocontrol should contribute money to this project.

  I trust that you will ensure that the Sub-Committee will be notified of the outcome of the forthcoming negotiations on SESAR. We are maintaining scrutiny pending receipt of a Regulatory Impact Assessment on these documents and answers to the queries explained in this letter.

18 January 2006

Letter from Karen Buck MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 18 January in which you asked for clarification on two points arising from your Committee's consideration of my Explanatory Memorandum (15143/05) on the proposal for the establishment of a Joint Undertaking to develop the new generation European air traffic management system (SESAR) which I submitted to Parliament in December 2005.

  Your first point concerned the ability to carry out full consultation ahead of the Commission's estimated deadline for reaching agreement on this proposal. At the first Working Group discussion of the dossier, my officials sought clarification from the Commission as to the likely timetable for progressing it. The Commission recognise that SESAR is a complex project and, while Member States are generally supportive of the project, it is clear that there are a number of issues which will need to be resolved before agreement can be reached. The current view of the Commission and Member States is that agreement should be possible by the end of this year. This more relaxed timetable will provide ample time to conduct a consultation on the proposal and you will wish to know that a formal consultation on SESAR will be launched on 13 February with a closing date of 8 May. A copy of the partial Regulatory Impact Assessment that will accompany this exercise is attached.

  Your second point concerned an apparent confusion over the role the Government envisages for Eurocontrol in this project. As I said in the EM, the Government considers that Eurocontrol should play an important role in SESAR, but the exact terms of its participation need to be considered carefully. The Government considers that the role of Eurocontrol is not adequately defined in the draft regulation which may lead to conflicts of interest, for example when the Administrative Board votes on the work programme. It is for this reason that we have suggested that the voting rights need to be adjusted to better reflect the role of industry in this project. The precise role of Eurocontrol is still being discussed and will inevitably be influenced by the outcome of the current negotiations in the Aviation Working Group, but it is likely to be some time before we have a definitive view on the role of this organisation.

  I will, of course, keep you updated as the negotiations progress.

14 February 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Karen Buck MP

  Thank you for your letter of 14 February 2006, including a partial Regulatory Impact Assessment on the establishment of SESAR, which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 6 March 2006.

  We are satisfied that the more relaxed timetable of the end of 2006 rather than May of this year will allow for proper consultation. However as the role of Eurocontrol is not yet clear, and this is an area of apparent concern to UK industry, we will maintain scrutiny on the proposal for SESAR, until a definitive view is available.

  Sub-Committee B appreciates the Government's continuing work on this issue, and looks forward to hearing of any developments in negotiations in the coming months.

8 March 2006

Letter from Derek Twigg MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 8 March to Karen Buck, in which you maintained the scrutiny reserve, while stating that you are satisfied with the more relaxed timetable for the joint undertaking.

  I will write to the Committee again following the completion of our formal consultation in May, and once the negotiations have made further progress and the terms of Eurocontrol's involvement in SESAR become clearer, I will be in a position to provide your Committee with further information on this issue also.

7 April 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Derek Twigg MP

  Thank you for your letter of 7 April 2006 replying, to my letter of 8 March 2006, which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 24 April 2006.

  We look forward to receiving an update from you on the Government's consultation process and the ongoing negotiations over SESAR. We will continue to maintain scrutiny on the proposal.

25 April 2006

Letter from Gillian Merron MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport to the Chairman

  I am writing to you to bring your Committee up to date with progress that has been made in the negotiation of the draft Regulation establishing the SESAR Joint Undertaking (JU). A copy of the most recent draft of the Regulation is attached for your information, (not printed).

  The Government's eight week consultation exercise closed on 15 May. Although we have not yet had time to analyse the responses in depth they appear to reveal broad support for the over-riding principle of the SESAR project. A general consensus that the creation of a Joint Undertaking is appropriate as the governance structure also seems to have emerged, although a number of respondents queried whether the Commission had given proper consideration to any other options.

  Negotiations in Council Working Group have progressed since Karen Buck wrote to you in February and I am pleased to be able to report that we have managed to secure a number of improvements to the text, in particular concerning the role of Member States in the Joint Undertaking. Article 5 of the draft Regulation now affords Member States some influence over the Commission's role on the Administrative Board through the Single Sky Committee. The Commission has circulated a unilateral Statement which sets out how this would work. It envisages SESAR being discussed at meetings of the Single Sky Committee and the Commission taking account of the opinions delivered by the Committee ahead of any decisions taken in the Administrative Board of the JU. This is a welcome development, although we and other Member States would prefer for it to be formalised in the text of the Regulation and its Recitals.

  There has also been some progress on the issue of Eurocontrol's role in SESAR. You will recall that, whilst we recognise that Eurocontrol should play a significant role in the SESAR project, we felt strongly that the terms of its participation as set out in the Commission's original draft needed to be considered. We were also of the opinion that allowing it 30 per cent of the voting rights on the JU Administrative Board was excessive and would significantly minimise the voting powers of other JU Members. The Regulation as currently drafted reduces Eurocontrol's share of the vote to 25 per cent. Whilst this is still higher than we would have liked there was strong opposition to reducing its share still further from a number of other Member States.

  The Presidency has also sought to address concerns over the conflict of interest that could have arisen from Eurocontrol being both a contractor and the contract manager for SESAR's research and development activities by introducing a new provision (in Article 5bis of the Statutes) on the avoidance of conflicts of interest. This is a positive development, but we would like to see more detail in the text setting out the exact nature of Eurocontrol's role so as to prevent such conflicts of interest from arising.

  The draft Regulation will be discussed at the forthcoming Transport Council on 8 June when the Presidency will be seeking a General Approach. To this end, the Presidency has circulated a draft Council Statement on the general principles of SESAR which it will ask Ministers to endorse. A copy of this draft statement is attached.

  We understand that the European Parliament will consider the proposal in October, and that agreement on the text of the draft Regulation will be sought later in the year. I will, of course, write to your Committee ahead of that meeting to ensure you are kept up to date.

22 May 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Gillian Merron MP

  Thank you for your letter of 22 May. Sub-Committee B considered your letter at its meeting on 12 June.

  We welcome the progress made in achieving consensus on this project. We nevertheless share your desire for more detail in the text of the role of Eurocontrol, and will maintain scrutiny on the proposal as some uncertainty still remains. We look forward to receiving an update from you before the European Parliament considers the proposal.

15 June 2006

Letter from Gillian Merron MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 15 June in response to mine of 22 May. As expected the SESAR proposal was discussed at the Transport Council on 9 June and a General Approach was reached on the text. The UK supported the General Approach, but set out our concerns about the need for Air Navigation Service Providers to be given specified voting rights in the Administrative Board. This was supported by Portugal and it was agreed that the Council would return to this issue in the review of the Joint Undertaking that will be carried out in accordance with Article 1 of the Regulation.

  I will of course continue to keep your Committee informed as negotiations progress and will be happy to write to you again ahead of the European Parliament's consideration of the SESAR proposal. I understand that this is not expected to take place until October 2006 at the earliest.

12 July 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Gillian Merron MP

  Thank you for your letter of 12 July, replying to my letter of 15 June. Sub-Committee B considered your letter at its meeting on 24 July.

  We are grateful to you for your update following the Transport Council on 9 June, and look forward to receiving a further update from you ahead of the European Parliament's consideration of the proposal in the Autumn.

  We will maintain the scrutiny reserve at this stage.

25 July 2006



 
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