Aviation authority seeks ordinance route to pass two crucial billsWithout the two laws, Nepal will remain on the European Union blacklist, officials say.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has urged the Civil Aviation Ministry to pass two long-stalled aviation bills through the ordinance route amid deepening political uncertainty.
The two key pieces of legislation are currently stuck at the upper house. They are needed to break up the aviation body to comply with European Union requirements so that Nepal can be removed from its Air Safety List, officials said.
Nepali carriers are banned from Europe over safety issues, and a prerequisite to getting Nepal back in the good books is splitting the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal into two entities to facilitate stringent enforcement of safety measures.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal Bill and the Air Service Authority of Nepal Bill were stranded after President Bidya Devi Bhandari prorogued the seventh session of the National Assembly at the recommendation of the KP Sharma Oli government on January 10.
With the lower house dissolved and mid-term elections declared, political uncertainty looms in the country, which means the proposed laws could be shelved indefinitely. And Nepali carriers could be left waiting forever to fly to Europe, insiders say.
“We don’t see the political situation improving anytime soon. So we have recommended to the Civil Aviation Ministry to withdraw the bills from the upper house and pass it through an ordinance,” said Rajan Pokhrel, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the country’s civil aviation regulator.
“As the civil aviation bill is not a political issue, I don’t think there will be a problem to have it passed through an ordinance,” he said. “It may take years if we wait for the political environment to improve.”
Tourism Secretary Yadav Prasad Koirala told a recent press meet that the ministry was considering whether the bills could be withdrawn. “We are consulting with legal advisors.”
The civil aviation body had hoped that the upper house would pass the bills permitting the creation of two civil aviation entities—service provider and regulator—even though the lower house had been dissolved.
Aviation experts said that based on the current 'fluid political situation', work to get Nepal removed from the EU Air Safety List, better known as the EU blacklist, may take another four to five years.
Tourism Minister Bhanubhakta Dhakal recently told a press meet that the ministry was planning to write to the EU regarding the improvements made by Nepal with regard to air safety, and the existing political situation. But several officials at the ministry and civil aviation authority said that written or verbal commitments had no space in the European Commission.
The European Commission, the lawmaking body of the EU, had asked that Nepal’s civil aviation body be fragmented with a clear demarcation of its powers and responsibilities because its dual functions gave rise to a conflict of interest.
The European Commission continued its ban on Nepali airlines for eight consecutive years through an updated EU Air Safety List published on December 2.
On December 5, 2013, the European Commission had imposed a blanket ban on all airlines from Nepal from flying into the EU. Nepal has yet to fulfil its pledge to break up the civil aviation body into two entities in order to be delisted.
Sanjiv Gautam, former director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, told the Post that based on the current situation, it may take another four years for Nepal to get removed from the EU’s bad books.
Gautam said as the bills had been tabled in the upper house, they have been immobilised following the decision to prorogue it. “No one is sure when the house will resume. Everything is uncertain.”
He said that the government had an option to take the ordinance route to pass important pieces of legislation when there is no house session.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal Bill and the Air Service Authority of Nepal Bill were at the final stages of being passed by the National Assembly during the budget session of the federal Parliament that ended on July 2 last year.
But the Oli administration had abruptly decided to prorogue Parliament, which was largely guided by internal problems in the ruling Nepal Communist Party. The two pieces of legislation will become law after they are signed by the president.
The government has been working on the proposed legislation for the last 10 years, and it has been held up by the bureaucracy at every step.
Following pressure from a number of global aviation watchdog groups, the cabinet had given the go-ahead to the Civil Aviation Ministry in July last year to draft two separate bills to split the Civil Aviation Authority.