On 24 January 2007, the Commission issued an ‘Airport Package’ consisting of three documents: (i) a proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on airport charges; (ii) a report from the Commission on the application of Council Directive 96/67/EC of 15 October 1996 on access to the groundhandling market at Community airports, and (iii) a Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, entitled “An action plan for airport capacity, efficiency and safety in Europe”.

Proposal for a Directive on airport charges

With its proposal for a Directive, the Commission puts forward basic principles for the airport managing bodies when setting or amending airport charges:

* charging systems cannot discriminate among airport users or among air passengers;

* the air carriers must be consulted prior to any amendment to the airport charges;

* the air carriers must have access to an independent regulatory authority in case of disagreement; such authority must be set up if not yet existent;

* airport managing bodies and air carriers should exchange the relevant information once a year (e.g. traffic forecasts) and the air carriers must be informed in advance of planned infrastructure projects at the concerned airport;

* service level agreements will be imposed with regards to the services provided by the airport to the users and for which the airport charges are levied;

* Member States must take measures to allow the airport managing bodies to provide tailored services to air carriers with specific needs (e.g. low cost carriers requiring only minimal terminal services).

The proposal for a Directive would apply only to airports with an annual traffic of over 1 million passenger movements or 25,000 tonnes of cargo.

Noteworthy is that security charges (costs flowing from the application of inter alia Regulation 2320/2002 of 16 December 2002 establishing common rules in the field of aviation security; OJ L 355, 30.12.2002, p. 1–21) are not covered by this rulemaking initiative.

The text is now sent to both the Council and the European Parliament for a first reading.

Report on the application of the ‘Groundhandling Directive’

The Commission finds that Council Directive 96/67/EC of 15 October 1996 on access to the groundhandling market at Community airports (the ‘Groundhandling Directive’, OJ L 272, 25.10.1996, p.

36–45), in spite of slow implementation into national law in certain Member States, has introduced a certain degree of competition in the groundhandling sector at Community airports, leading to a downward pressure on prices. One of the open questions with regard to the Groundhandling Directive has been its possible revision: stakeholders have identified a need for simplification of the Groundhandling Directive and for clarification of certain of its provisions. Additionally, there would be a need to have other issues covered by regulation such as insurance requirements and quality standards. The status of the liberalisation of the groundhandling market will now be discussed in the Council and the European Parliament before new initiatives are taken by the Commission

Communication on airport capacity, efficiency and safety

The Commission analysed the need for initiatives in light of the expected airport congestion due to the expected traffic increase.

The Communication highlights five key actions to be developed urgently in order to accommodate future traffic levels. A timetable for the development of these actions is attached to the document.

These key actions consist of:

* making better use of existing airport capacity;

* provision of a coherent approach to air safety operations at airports; 

* promotion of co-modality of transport modes; 

* the improvement of environmental capacity of airports and improvement of the planning framework for new infrastructure; and 

* the development and implementation of new technology.