Eyjafjallajokull - MEPs on whether closing airspace was right call

 Glaciers of Iceland: Langjökull, Vatnajökull, Hofsjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Glaciers of Iceland, Öræfajökull, Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull
The political fallout from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland continues as people around Europe ponder whether the closure of so much of the continent's airspace was the right thing. Following a Parliamentary debate on 20 April we spoke to a few MEPs to ask them what they thought about Europe's response. All agreed that safety must be paramount, but others called for more investment in other forms of transport.

Mathieu Grosch is a Belgian Christian Democrat and a member of Parliament's Transport Committee. "Member States did not deal with the volcano crisis very efficiently, due to the fact that 27 different air traffic authorities are responsible for European airspace," he said.

Mr Grosch backed the "Single European Sky" (SES) initiative which aims to standardise air traffic controls across Europe. He said it could include a crisis management aspect and could come on stream within 2-4 years.

"A lack of information"

Romanian Socialist Silvia Adriana Ţicău, Vice-chair of the Transport Committee, said, "trapped passengers were often confronted with the lack of information and they didn’t know about their rights".

She also backed the Single European Sky and said that If Trans-European Transport Networks provided more modes of transport, passengers could have been re-directed to their destinations by other transport means such as rail or boat.

"All these developments need huge investment, but the cost of not having these projects in place proved to be unaffordable, as we saw," she said.

"In terms of safety, the precautionary principle was applied," French Liberal Corinne Lepage said. "Faced with such a natural event...the implementation of the precautionary action was consistent with procedure and the best course of action".

Call for more investment in rail

Michael Cramer, a Green member of the Transport Committee welcomed the safety first approach. "The responsibility for the safety must not be transferred to the airlines." He also said there should be more investment in railways in future.

Even Tošenovský, a Czech MEP for the Europe of Conservatives and Reformists and Vice-Chair of the Industry Committee said, "the closure of air space was necessary and it seems to have been coordinated based on passenger safety". He said there is a need to analyse whether the extent of the measures taken was necessary.

French Christian Democrat Christine De Veyrac applauded the decision by most governments for targeted closures with the emphasis on safety first. "What I would like most is for the SES to be speeded up. Our aim now must be to consolidate it as soon as possible. Progress is slow".

Source: European Parliament

PT Comment
Now that Eyjafjallajokull has simmered somewhat and the dust has settled, it makes all of us as Travellers realize how vulnerable we actually are and how fragile the Aviation Industry is. The events caused by Eyjafjallajokull is a wake up call and we its pleasing to see this issue is being taken seriously. We urge more action on the trans continent high speed train front and more passenger shipping routes. The HQ of PT is on the Island of Cyprus and until recently there was no Ferry option off the Island. The Volcanic Dust situation made all Islands appreciate how utterly stranded we could be without air travel. Thankfully the Government is now finally pushing for a Ferry line from Cyprus to Athens area in Greece.