EC wants transparency in aviation security financing

European Commission (EC) regulators have adopted a report outlining their position on financing aviation security measures, calling for greater transparency and commonality in applying security charges to limit the risk of competitive distortion.

Significantly, the report also affirms that public funding of security measures in the aviation sector, in general, does not constitute state aid.

EC transport commissioner Jacques Barrot says: “The protection of citizens against terrorist attacks must remain a top priority. Security measures in aviation and maritime transport are also to be financed by public authorities, but without distortion of competition.”

The EC report, requested by the European Parliament and Council, is based on two studies covering the financing of security measures in the aviation and maritime industries. The EC civil aviation security financing study, on which today’s adopted report is based, was concluded in late 2004.

The EC estimates security charges on intra-European flights comprise up to 2% of the average air fare and notes two basic models of financing security charges exist within Europe: a centralized scheme where state bodies provide the main security activities and a decentralized scheme where airport authorities provide the service.

“However, in both models the passenger is ultimately the main financer of security through taxes or airline security charges,” the EC says, although it does note that, in the majority of countries, passenger funding in 2002 did not cover the full security costs, with a majority of states leaving the burden of financing such deficits on airports.

It concludes increased transparency relating to security taxes and charges would give users better information and provide a clearer insight into possible effects on competition.

“The current lack of transparency increases the difficulty to identify potential distortions,” the EC report says, noting the differing approaches means there is the possibility of some distortion in competition. “This is particularly relevant in cases where member states require additional, more stringent measures than those imposed by Community legislation.”

It also point