Recent finding by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) confirm the continued high risk in Nicosia Flight Information Region (FIR), due to the operation of the illegal airport in Tymbou, the European Commission has said.
European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, on behalf of the Commission, outlined this position in a replying to a question by Cyprus MEP Costas Mavrides, as regards the operation of the illegal airport in Tymbou (Ercan) and the risks and dangers it entails for the lives of the passengers.
The Cypriot MEP had asked the EC to intervene in view of the negotiations underway between the EU and Turkey on new aviation agreements.
In her reply, dated August 17, Commissioner Bulc said the Commission was aware of concerns about the safety of aviation in the Nicosia FIR.
In a decision taken in 2008 on the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the Accession Partnership with the Republic of Turkey, it indicated, among other priorities, that Turkey shall “in the field of aviation, work towards a technical solution to ensure the necessary communication in order to guarantee the appropriate level of air safety in the South Mediterranean region”.
This was a short-term priority and showed the importance that the Commission gave to finding a solution to this safety deficiency, the Council decision says.
The Commissioner also said that more recently, the Commission had asked the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to analyse these air traffic management concerns and the Agency`s findings confirmed the continued high risk degree in the region.
Bulc, in her reply, also points out that although the operational measures taken had reduced the danger, the situation, in the long-term was not viable. She said the Commission would continue to facilitate discussions between the relevant authorities, with a view to ensuring operational solutions to address these security issues.
More generally, the Commission noted that all air transport agreements between the EU and third countries are based on the recognition, on behalf of the third country, of the obligation for equal treatment of all Member States in the implementation of the Agreement. Any future agreement with Turkey will not be different in this case, she noted.
In the Council Decision it is stated that the Commission could not exercise any direct legal recourse on behalf of the EU and its Member States against Turkey.
The only available legal course of action could be taken by the Republic of Cyprus, as a member of ICAO under the International Air Services Transit Agreement, to which both Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus, but not the EU, are members.
The ban on Cypriot flights over Turkey as well as the lack of communication between air traffic control centres in Turkey and the Republic, are indicated in Turkey`s Progress report as part of the reasons for keeping the transport policy chapter frozen.
Tymbou airport has been used as the north’s only civilian airport since 1974.
In December 2009, the Commission, with the assistance of Eurocontrol, proposed to the parties concerned, a technical solution to the lack of communication in the Nicosia FIR between the internationally recognised air control centres of Nicosia and Ankara. This was intended to address safety issues in the area while waiting for a comprehensive Cyprus solution in the framework of United Nations.