AIR TRANSPORT : FLIGHT TIMES: MEPS TO VOTE ON 30 SEPTEMBER
6 September 2013
Finally, there will be a vote in the European Parliament's Committee on Transport (TRAN) on amending the rules on the flight times of aeroplane pilots. The Greens and GUE-NGL groups hope to have a resolution adopted on 30 September asking the European Commission to withdraw proposals tabled on 12 July (see Europolitics 4687). These proposals need to be adopted via a comitology procedure, which leaves the Council of Ministers and Parliament three months to oppose it. If they do not come up with any objection, the new rules will be deemed to have been adopted.
The issue was on the table of the meeting of coordinators of TRAN's political groups, on 5 September. If there had been agreement at that moment to support the new rules, there would no doubt be no more news about the file. But the Greens and the GUE have issued a draft resolution that calls for the rejection of the Commission's proposals. The particularly problematic aspects are flight times at night and the standby periods, waiting times during which the crew can be called on to work. The current rules (Regulation 1899/2006) limit the flight time, including a night-time period, to 11 hours 45 minutes and the Commission proposes bringing that down to 11 hours. Referring to scientific studies that advocate ten hours as a maximum, the representatives of pilots and the trade unions think that that is still one hour too much. They are also recommending that the flight time together with the standby period cannot exceed 18 hours, which the proposal allows.
These limits – ten hours and 18 hours – are the ones that can be seen in the draft resolution of the Greens and GUE. The two groups are calling on the Commission to present new legislative proposals, in a co-decision procedure and no longer in a comitology procedure, which take account of these limits.
It now remains to be seen what the other political groups are going to do. Even if it is likely that most will welcome flight time being limited to ten hours, it needs to be noted that their choice will be limited to accepting or rejecting the proposals as a whole (no possibility of amendments in comitology). In the case of a veto by the European Parliament, the current rules would continue to apply, which are less favourable than the proposals. This will no doubt make some hesitate before going down that route. A rejection of the draft resolution in TRAN would not exhaust all the possible ways to stop the Commission's proposals as it is still possible for the Greens and GUE, if they collect enough signatures, to lodge a draft resolution directly in plenary.
As for the procedure, the deadline for tabling amendments to the draft resolution is 19 September (they will need to be sent in in English due to a lack of time to have them translated).