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Bulgaria aviation fate clear by end-month

Date: 30.01.2008

Bulgaria expects to receive by the end of the month the European Aviation Safety Agency report, which is hoped to clear the way for lifting the safeguard clause against the Balkan country aviation, officials said.

"The report will make it clear whether Brussels will scrap the safeguard clause by March," Zahari Alexiev, head of the Civil Aviation Administration directorate with the Transport Ministry.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) renewed its inspections in Bulgaria at the end of November and its report will have the final say on whether to lift the restrictions on Bulgaria's airlines, which the European Union introduced shortly before the country's accession on January 1, 2007 over "grave deficiencies" in safety procedures.

Bulgaria received cautious indications that the outcome of the report may be positive during the visit of European Commission Vice President and Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot at the beginning of December.

"Bulgaria's aviation has made a huge progress in comparison with last year, when the European Commission imposed on it a safeguard clause on safety concerns," Commissioner Jacques Barrot said during his visit to Sofia.

The transport commissioner was cautious in giving guarantees that as of 2008 Bulgaria's aviation will work on a par with European air companies, but generously praised the construction of the Air Traffic Control Center in the capital Sofia.

Bulgaria's commitment to step up control over flights and pilots was also singled out by Commissioner Barrot as a sign of improved aviation safety.

The safeguard clause excluded local air carriers from the benefit of being considered a Community carrier and they continued to operate as "third country operators" to and from member states in accordance with existing bilateral agreements. Five local cargo airlines were stripped of licence.

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