The volcanic ash crisis between international and European law


American Society of International Law (ASIL) Insights

July 13 2010, vol. 14, n°21

Departments: Tax & Law, GREGHEC (CNRS)

Keywords: EU law, International Law, Risk Analysis, ICAO, Volcanic Ash

Following the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull on April 14, 2010, a cloud of ash, helped by winds, quickly spread across Europe. Since volcanic ash is a recognized threat to aircraft, most European civil aviation authorities, following well established and widely published international safety protocols issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), closed their airspace. The impact of the six-day closure was enormous: more than 100,000 flights were cancelled and about ten million passengers were unable to travel. In many cases, passengers were stranded in another country without any immediate possibility of going home. This situation not only placed the existing international framework for operational response to volcanic ash under a stress test, it also highlighted the limited level of integration achieved by the European Union (EU) in the civil aviation sector.