A new controversy between Moscow and Brussels on validation matters in air freight further shades the already clouded relationship. While the Russian aviation authorities consider all cargo processes conducted by local operators and airports as being in full accordance with international security standards the EU insists in sending validators to carry out on-the-spot verifications. But the Russian government remains unrelenting and says “njet”.
A new episode in finger wrestling between Brussels and Moscow has begun, with the EU obviously holding the better cards. The quarrel was triggered by an EU decision to include Russia into their
so called ACC3 program. The acronym stands for 'Air Cargo or Mail Carrier operating into the Union from a Third Country Airport' (see CFG 3 June issue). Once identified as ACC3 candidate by the
EU watchdogs, on-the-spot inspections of cargo security processes become mandatory. Should a carrier, airport or an entire state reject the program and deny any cooperation, no more cargo can be
flown from there into the EU since EU validators were unable to execute any direct security controls.
While almost all participants in the global supply chain have meanwhile given in and allowed validators to achieve an accurate picture to license actors, Russia keeps sticking to its rejectionist stance. This so, because the Transport Ministry is convinced that all security processes in air freight are in full accord with the standards set by the EU and Washington’s TSA and meet the low risk requirements.
Instead, Moscow’s government demands the country’s name to be scratched from a “red list” und be put on a “green list”, similar to the U.S., Japan and about ten more non-EU states which process their air freight according to a similar security framework that’s standard within the EU. These green listed states are exempt from the ACC3 requirements.
How to overcome the stalemate
That’s the decisive question asking for a rapid and hopefully smooth solution. If not, the Russian side risks an embargo of cargo shipments transported on board their national carriers, flown from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk or other domestic airports to any EU destination, be it scheduled or charter traffic. Although not very likely, this could, however, kick-off a new trade war between those two economic blocks despite Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organization.
Obviously, this gloomy scenario neither side wants to risk. Or else Brussels should have blocked all packages and boxes transported on board of Russian airlines into the EU beginning this month. This so, because that day the ACC3 EU security validation program came into full effect.
Face saving compromise
Meanwhile, a noiseless solution without political eruptions is looming on the horizon. As first step, Brussels offered Russia-based carriers to postpone the practical application of the ACC3 program until further notice. The approach to ease tensions and to enable uninterrupted cargo traffic includes the provision to Russian airlines to take individual steps for undergoing the validation process on their own, without asking for any allowance by their government. A loophole within the ACC3 framework enables carriers explicitly doing this. The EU resolution says: “An EU aviation security validation consists at least of an evaluation of security relevant documentation, such as a security program, and a verification of the implementation of aviation security measures.” The text further states that “this verification is to be carried out on-site.” This passage might be a trail-blazer, paving the way for individual solutions between Russian carriers and EU demanded inspections. Practically demonstrated by major airlines like Transaero, Aeroflot or AirBridge Cargo’s subsidiary Atran Cargo Airlines that submitted the necessary data and documents to be evaluated by EU validators. In a second step the inspectors must carry out on-site controls, to compare documentation and practical handling processes of cargo shipments. This could be done without a formal consent by Moscow’s Transport Ministry. This way, both sides would safe their faces, with cargo operations continuing without any interference.