Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Tuesday, 11 December 2012

MEPs attack EU airport reform package

A new package of laws to reform the EU's airports has sparked opposition from a number of MEPs.

On 11 December 2012, MEPs debated the so-called airport package that covers groundhandling services, noise levels and the allocation of takeoff and landing slots.

The Commission wants to increase the minimum number of independent groundhandlers from two to three at EU airports that have more than five million passengers a year.

The parliament's negotiator on the grounhandling aspect of the package, Polish centre-right MEP Artur Zasada said he wanted the Commission to go further than the one additional groundhandler proposed.

But Austrian green Eva Lichtenberger said the Commission's proposals already went too far, saying they could lead to poor working conditions and "social dumping" due to increased competition in the groundhandling sector.

Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said it was "just not true" that safety would be compromised, and that some EU countries already had more than two independent groundhandlers.

"It's a modest step towards more market opening," he concluded.

Many MEPs also rejected the Commission's proposal to force airlines to use or lose at least 85% of their slots allowances at airports.

British Conservative MEP Jacqui Foster said it was an example of "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut", saying there should be more of a focus on building runways as a way of easing capacity issues.

The Commission claims that an extra 28 million passengers a year could use European airports if slots were allocated to airlines more efficiently.

On noise issues, the European Commission has put forward a regulation to ensure that local authorities will be obliged to notify the Commission of any new restrictions.

Mr Kallas admitted that noise was a "balancing act", noting that measures taken locally at a particular airport had a knock-on effect on the airline sector globally.

"Our right of scrutiny will help ensure this balance is maintained," he added.

The vote on the package took place during the daily voting session on 12 December 2012.

MEPs decided to postpone the vote on the groundhandling elements of the package, meaning there will now be further discussions with the Commission.

The noise and slots elements were both passed.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.


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