The beginnings

Events which led to the creation of ECAC

A European air transport body was first envisaged when the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe considered, in 1951, certain proposals(1) submitted to it with a view to achieving the greatest possible degree of coordination in inter-European air transport. The Consultative Assembly at that time recommended to its Committee of Ministers that a conference of governmental experts and of representatives of the various European air companies be immediately convened in order:

  • to examine the possibility of setting up, under conditions to be laid down and approved, an association of airline companies to take charge of air communications between Member States, or
  • to report on other possible methods of achieving closer collaboration in order to secure the economic and efficient operation of European air transport.

The Committee of Ministers, however, decided not to convene such a conference, but instead agreed that ICAO, as the most appropriate body, should be invited to undertake the task. This decision was embodied in a resolution(2) adopted on 19 March 1953, inviting ICAO to convene a European conference to debate the following agenda:

  • Methods of improving commercial and technical cooperation between the airlines of the countries participating in the conference.
  • The possibility of securing closer cooperation by the exchange of commercial rights between these European countries.

The Council of ICAO, in response to the invitation of the Council of Europe, adopted in May 1953 a resolution(3) expressing ICAO's desire to cooperate with the Council of Europe to the fullest extent practicable, but suggesting that, before a full-scale conference was actually convened, a preparatory committee should be established in order to ensure that ICAO's role would be clear and effective and to determine clearly the issues involved. This preparatory committee would be charged with the study of the agenda proposed for the conference and any other material referred to it, would give preliminary consideration to the problems arising under the proposed agenda, and would report its findings to the Council of ICAO.

The Preparatory Committee consisting of nine States met in Paris in November 1953 and, having carried out the tasks assigned to it by its terms of reference, reported to ICAO that it had reached unanimous agreement on an agenda for the plenary conference, which, it suggested, should be convened in the spring of 1954(4). The proposed agenda was drawn up to allow the widest latitude in debate and ranged from a general examination of the possible expansion of air transport in Europe (including the exchange of commercial rights), to the measures necessary to achieve the maximum degree of facilitation within the territories of Member States. The matters covered by it thus formed a framework from within which the work programme of ECAC was subsequently developed.

(1) Including:

  • a French proposal (the "Bonnefous" Plan) to create a European high authority for transport;
  • an Italian proposal (the "Sforza" Plan) for a joint European airspace, a supra-national air authority and a European air syndicate to conduct all operations in the European airspace;
  • a Council of Europe report, prepared by its Committee on Economic Questions, recommending a conference to examine the possibility of establishing a single European body to assume, under certain conditions, the operation of air routes between Member States.

(2) Resolution (53) 2. Reproduced in full in ICAO Doc 7447-C/868 entitled "Resolutions of the Council of ICAO and the Council of Europe Relative to the Convening of a Conference on the Co-ordination of Air Transport in Europe".

(3) See ICAO Doc 7447-C/868.

(4) cf. the Preparatory Committee's Report, CATE/P-23.


Conference on the Co-ordination of Air Transport in Europe

The Conference on Co-ordination of Air Transport in Europe (CATE), formally constituted by ICAO in December 1953(5) met in Strasbourg in April 1954. As many of the recommendations being adopted at the meeting would require follow-up action by some duly authorised and competent body operating in close liaison with ICAO, the meeting proposed the establishment of a permanent European organisation of high-level aviation authorities to implement its recommendations and to carry out the work it had initiated. This proposal envisaged a body that would meet periodically and that would at least at the outset, be serviced by the ICAO Secretariat. It went on to recommend that this body which, it suggested, might be named the "European Civil Aviation Conference", should maintain the closest liaison with ICAO as well as with other interested organisations, and that its objectives should be:

  • to continue the work of this Conference, as set forth in its agenda and the records of its proceedings;
  • generally to review the development of intra-European air transport with the object of promoting the coordination, the better utilisation and the orderly development of such air transport;
  • to consider any special problem that may arise in this field(6).

A number of other CATE recommendations called upon ICAO to assume the responsibility of initiating studies on certain problems. These recommendations were considered by the ICAO Council which agreed to call the first meeting of the proposed European Civil Aviation Conference and to provide the necessary secretariat services for it (a decision to provide such services on a continuing basis, as requested in CATE Recommendation No. 28, was deferred pending a specific request by ECAC for them).

(5) cf. Doc 7447-C/868. The Council resolution was endorsed by the Seventh Session of the ICAO Assembly in Resolution A7-15.
(6) CATE Recommendation No. 28 (Doc 7575-CATE/1)