Nepal makes diplomatic efforts to remove EC’s flight ban

Kathmandu, Dec 11: Nepal is making diplomatic efforts to persuade the European Commission to revoke its recent decision to ban all Nepali airlines from entering the European airspace, government officials said Tuesday.

“The EC’s recent decision could damage Nepal’s aviation sector and this is the reason (why) we are using our diplomatic tools within this week to woo EC to roll back its decision,” Xinhua quoted aviation ministry spokesperson Mohan Krishna Sapkota as saying.

In a statement last Thursday, the EC had put all of Nepali air carriers on the EU air-safety list — a move that will effectively bar Nepali planes from flying into European countries.

“Surprisingly, we have neither received confirmation from the EC so far nor have been informed as to on what basis our aircraft has been put on the air-safety list,” the spokesperson added.

Ministry officials said it would be wise to use diplomatic channels to persuade the EC to reconsider or withdraw its decision before it sends the formal confirmation to the Nepali government.

“We will first discuss with our foreign ministry about the sensitivity of the issue and ask it to mobilise its Brussels-based embassy to take care of the issue,” Sapkota said.

Ministry officials claimed that it was unfair for the EC to blacklist Nepal’s air carriers unilaterally without evaluating the country’s air safety state shown by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit.

Nepal’s non-compliance rate under the ICAO standards declined by 12 percentage points to 45 percent, while the global figure dropped to 39 percent last year.

“While the IACO audit report is yet to come for this year, the EC has hastened to blacklist Nepal’s aircrafts,” said a ministry official who declined to be named. “The reason behind this is something else rather than the core safety issue.”

Meanwhile, the ministry said the EC’s decision would not affect Nepal’s decision to purchase Airbus planes. In April this year, Nepal’s national flag carrier paid $500,000 to Airbus as the earnest money to buy two A320-200 aircraft.

IANS