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Fri, Dec 22, 2006

Bulgaria To Remain Excluded From EU Aviation

Continuing Safety Oversight Problems Prompt EC Action

Concerns with the lack of improvement in Bulgaria's civil aviation oversight function has prompted the European Commission (EC) to exclude the country from joining the European Union (EU) aviation market. Bulgaria applied for membership in the EU in 1995 and the country is set to complete the process to become a full member next month.

As ANN reported, the EC warned Bulgaria in September of a possible aviation exclusion if it couldn't meet EU aviation safety goals.

A recent European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) inspection has apparently failed to allay those previously voiced fears. The EASA says there is still "considerable risk" Bulgaria won't fully comply with EU aviation safety rules in time.

In a statement, the EC said, "The deficiencies that have been identified by EASA concern important shortcomings in the administrative capacity of the Bulgarian CAA in the field of safety oversight in general, and for the certification of airworthiness and maintenance of aircraft. The number of CAA staff is insufficient and their level of training is generally inadequate to perform their duties at the required level."

Despite previous threats, none of Bulgaria's carriers will be fully blacklisted on the Continent; they are only excluded from full integration in EU's internal aviation market.

What this means is although Bulgaria will be a full member of the European Union, airworthiness and maintenance certifications issued in Bulgaria won't be automatically recognized by other member countries. Additionally, Bulgarian carriers won't have unrestricted access on EU routes.

Its airlines, however, will continue to serve the routes they already do -- as third-country operators.

The EC's statement did save a little warning for the end, however, concluding, "We are urgently assessing the situation of each Bulgarian carrier and we will draw our conclusion which will be forwarded to the EU Air Safety Committee in February."

A spokesman says EC officials have assurances from the Bulgarian transport minister that his country is taking steps to improve the situation.

FMI: http://ec.europa.eu

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