In December 2015 the European Commission adopted an Aviation Strategy for Europe, a milestone initiative to boost Europe's economy, strengthen its industrial base and reinforce its global leadership position. A strong and outward-looking aviation sector will not only benefit businesses, but also European citizens by offering more connections to the rest of the world at lower prices.
The aviation market was gradually liberalised through three successive packages of measures adopted at EU level which covered air carrier licensing, market access and fares. So, decades of restrictions that had limited air transport markets in Europe and prevented cross-border investment by European airlines have been removed.
The gradual development of a more coordinated EU external aviation policy over the past decade has been the logical consequence of the creation of the EU internal market and associated common rules. This has generated significant economic benefits. But the Commission has now come with fresh ideas to move forward.
Single European Sky
Something needs to be done about the heavy airspace congestion causing lengthy delays on many European flights, and the strain on airport capacity due to the projected increase in traffic. This is the aim of the ambitious initiative for a Single European Sky (SES), launched in 2004. A second package of measures, known as SES II, followed in 2009 and had a greater emphasis on environment and cost efficiency. We are now looking at whether further measures are necessary.
The technology required for the future Single Sky is provided through the air traffic management research programme SESAR, which aims to modernise infrastructure and raise efficiency by optimising capacity - and so enable the SES to become a reality.