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The European Union at ICAO

In September 2005, the European Commission established an Office in Montreal and appointed its Representative to ICAO. The office was officially inaugurated by Vice-President Jacques Barrot on 21 June 2007.

The Head of Office, Mr Christopher Ross, reports to the Air Transport Directorate, Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) and he and the Office are accredited to the Canadian Government through the administrative relationship with the Delegation of the European Union to Canada in Ottawa.

For all enquiries and further information regarding ICAO and the European Union, you are welcome to contact the Office directly.

Contact Details:

Mr. Christopher Ross
Head of Office

Ms. Rima Ghanem
Administrative Assistant

Office of the European Union in Montréal - Relations with ICAO
Bureau de l'Union européenne à Montréal - Relations avec l'OACI
700 de la Gauchetière Ouest, Bureau 24.70
Montréal (Québec) H3B 5M2
Tel : 514-393-3220
Fax : 514-393-1656


The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was founded in 1944 by the original 54 Contracting States who signed the Convention on International Civil Aviation ("The Chicago Convention of 1944 pdf - 8 MB [8 MB] "). Today, there are 189 Contracting States in ICAO. The permanent seat and headquarters of ICAO is in Montréal, Canada. ICAO has 7 regional offices, including the European and North Atlantic (EUR/NAT) Office , which is in Paris, France.

According to the Convention, ICAO comprises an Assembly, a Council of limited membership with various subordinate bodies (including the Air Navigation Commission, ANC) and a Secretariat.  The chief officers are the President of the Council and the Secretary General. 

The Assembly, composed of representatives from all Contracting States is the sovereign body of ICAO. It meets every three years, reviewing in detail the work of the Organization and setting policy for the coming years. It also votes a triennial budget.

The Council, the governing body which is elected by the Assembly for a three-year term, is composed of 36 States, including currently 8 Member States of the European Union (Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Finland, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom).  Greece and Cyprus attend the Council sessions as observers.  As the governing body, the Council gives continuing direction to the work of ICAO. It is in the Council that Standards and Recommended Practices are adopted and incorporated as Annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation. The Council is assisted by the Air Navigation Commission (technical matters), the Air Transport Committee (economic matters), the Committee on Joint Support of Air Navigation Services and the Finance Committee.  The Council has also established (in 1983) the Committee for Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) to assist it in matters relating to the impact of international civil aviation on the environment (noise and engine emissions).

The Secretariat, headed by a Secretary General, is divided into five main divisions: the Air Navigation Bureau, the Air Transport Bureau, the Technical Co-operation Bureau, the Legal Bureau, and the Bureau of Administration and Services.

The Status of the EC at ICAO

According to Article 302 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, “it shall be for the Commission to ensure the maintenance of all appropriate relations with the organs of the United Nations and its specialised agencies (…)”.  The European Commission has Delegations to the UN both at its headquarters in New York , and in Geneva. 

ICAO is a specialised agency of the United Nations whose role as a technical body within the UN system is to adopt international standards and recommended practices relating to international civil aviation in fields in particular safety, security, and environmental protection.

All EU Member States are members of the UN in their own right, while the European Community has had permanent observer status at the UN since 1974.  The European Community is a full member of one UN specialised agency, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), reflecting the Community’s extensive responsibilities in the sectors covered by the FAO.

However, in spite of ICAO being a specialised agency of the UN (like the FAO) and the European Community today having extensive powers and responsibilities in the field of air transport, notably in virtually all areas within ICAO’s remit, as well as being a major financial contributor to ICAO technical cooperation programmes (since 2001, the European Commission has allocated 3.7 million euros to ICAO-led Cooperative development of Operational Safety and continuing Airworthiness Programmes – COSCAPs), the status of the European Community at ICAO is still in question. 

Since 1989, following a Decision of the ICAO Council, the European Community (EC) has been included in the list of organisations that may be invited to attend suitable ICAO meetings. Ever since, the Community, represented by the Commission, has been invited by ICAO to participate as observer in the ICAO Assembly, as well as in committees (e.g. CAEP), technical panels (e.g. the Aviation Security Panel), and study groups.  The European Community is also a party to the ICAO “Montreal Convention” of 1999 for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, which introduces a uniform legal framework to govern air carrier liability in the event of damage caused to passengers, baggage or goods during international journeys.

However, for the ICAO Council special rules apply to “Observers”, who on invitation by the Council are able to participate on an ad hoc basis in Council meetings in areas where they have a special interest and where consequently it is of interest to the Council to consider their views.  Observer participation in the Council therefore also implies the right to speak.  In theory, the Community, represented by the Commission, could take advantage of this possibility to present the Community’s position on a specific topic.  This would allow the Community to speak with a single voice on matters of special interest for which the main legislative and policy responsibility lies at EU level.

Observers are able to attend meetings of the Council when it is in open session, but without taking the floor. This is the situation that applies today to the European Commission’s representative in Montreal.

In the light of the ever-increasing scope of areas for which the Community is responsible (“Community competence”) and for which Community legislation has been passed, in 2002 the European Commission proposed to the EU Council of Ministers to formally start negotiations on Community membership of ICAO (Recommendation from the Commission to the Council of 9 April 2002 in order to authorize the Commission to open and conduct negotiations with the International Civil Aviation Organization, SEC(2002)381 final ), with a view to ensuring a single representation of the European Union within this important organisation.

However, according to Article 92 of the Chicago Convention, adherence to ICAO is only open to States.  Membership of a regional integration organisation (RIO) such as the European Community would therefore require an amendment of the Convention, which requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Assembly to be adopted (Article 94).  Article 65 of the Convention does, however, allow the Council, with the approval of the Assembly, to enter into “arrangements” which may facilitate the work of ICAO.

Whilst the EU Member States have not yet taken any action on the recommendation of 2002, there is a consensus among them that the Community’s role within ICAO should be enhanced.  In particular, informal arrangements are now in place to facilitate coordination between the EU Member States in advance of, and during each ICAO Council session.  An important coordination role is played on-the-spot in Montreal by the Representative of the Member State holding the EU Presidency and the Representative of the European Commission.  Indeed, it was in this context that the European Commission decided to appoint a Representative and establish an Office in Montreal.

The Activities and Role of the EC at ICAO

The main role of the Representative of the European Commission is:

  • to follow the work of ICAO;
  • to increase awareness at ICAO of relevant Community policies and to increase awareness at the Community of relevant developments in ICAO, with a view to promoting a consistent development of activities in the two organisations;
  • to foster the influence and effectiveness of the Community in the policies of ICAO;
  • to strengthen the cooperation  between EU Member States in ICAO;
  • to support the Presidency to develop common EU positions.

 His day-to-day activities therefore include:

  • Attending relevant ICAO meetings, including meetings of the Council
  • Assisting with coordination between the EU representatives on the Council
  • Informing and briefing EU representatives and all members of the Council on EU policy and legislative developments in the field of air transport
  • Maintaining a working relationship on technical matters with the ICAO Secretariat and fostering cooperation between the European Commission and ICAO
  • Acting as a liaison office to ICAO for EASA and Eurocontrol
  • Promoting EC participation in ICAO activities

Related documents

Events presentations

8- 9 July 2009:

12 March 2009: Presentation by the Directorate-General for Energy and Transport to ICAO on the Galileo and EGNOS programmes

20 February 2009: Presentation by Mr. Jules Kneepkens, Director of Rulemaking of EASA

10-11 April 2008:

  • EC-ICAO Symposium on Regional Organisations

18-28 September 2007:

  • The 36th triennial ICAO Assembly

24 October 2007: The future of ICAO: Airneth Seminar, The Hague

21 June 2007:

Picture gallery

Inauguration of the Office of the EC, 21 October 2007 zip - 2 MB [2 MB]