Noise restrictions on NATO aircraft: 'Unacceptable' SP proposal accepted!

11 December 2007

Noise restrictions on NATO aircraft: 'Unacceptable' SP proposal accepted!

The government must close Dutch airspace to AWACS radar aircraft if NATO continues to refuse to update the planes involved by replacing their outmoded, noisy engines. Such was the gist of the proposal brought before parliament on Tuesday by the SP. Despite fierce opposition from the cabinet, parliament agreed. Outgoing Secretary of State for Defence Cees Van der Knaap, replaced in the recent cabinet reshuffle, had called the proposal "unacceptable", although Premier Jan Peter Balkenende's statement on Tuesday that it was "greatly inadvisable" was somewhat weaker.

Inhabitants of the South Limburg region have suffered from the unbearable noise and stink of AWACS aircraft flying over their homes for decades. The aircraft come from the nearby German air force base at Geilenkirchen, flying their rounds day and night, even during the weekend. The planes are fitted with 1970s engines which are now so outmoded that they are banned for civilian flights in the United States itself.

SP Member of Parliament Jan de Wit's proposal demands that NATO take a decision by March of next year at the latest regarding the replacement of the outmoded engines with quieter, modern models. Otherwise, it states, the flights should not be allowed over the Netherlands. His proposal now having been approved by a majority in parliament, De Wit is requesting the cabinet to write a response clearly setting out how it intends to carry out parliament's wishes.

Minister of Defence Eimert van Middelkoop said on Tuesday that he would disregard the motion, arguing that the proposal could not in practice be carried out. NATO member states would, he said, in reality be far less willing to listen to arguments that the engines should be replaced should Dutch airspace be closed to the planes. He would prefer, by what he referred to as "political means", to increase support for quieter engines within NATO.

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