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European Parliament gives boost to the Single European Sky

12 March 2014

Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "The Single European Sky initiative is crucial to boost competitiveness in the aviation sector, create jobs, and contribute to the European economy's growth. Today's vote in the Parliament gives a boost to the entire project. It is now up to the Member States to take this important issue forward, and deliver a truly efficient air traffic system in Europe".

The SES2+ initiative looks to head off a capacity crunch as the number of flights is forecast to increase by 50% over the next 20 years. Inefficiencies in Europe's fragmented airspace bring extra costs of close to 5 billion Euros each year to airlines and their customers. They add 42 kilometres to the distance of an average flight forcing aircraft to burn more fuel, generate more emissions, pay more in costly user charges and suffer greater delays. The United States controls the same amount of airspace, with more traffic, at almost half the cost.

With full implementation of the SES potential annual savings are calculated to be in the order of €2.9 billion per year for airlines, with a reduction of emissions by 2.4 million tonnes of CO2. This will boost competitiveness and growth in the sector.

With the SES2+ the Commission proposed to update the four regulations creating the Single European Sky (SES), and amend rules governing the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Key elements of the proposal include:

  • Better safety and oversight: Safety remains the first priority for aviation. EASA audits have shown great deficiencies in the oversight of air traffic control organisations in the Member States. The Commission proposed full organisational and budgetary separation of national supervisory authorities from the air traffic control organisations whom they oversee, while at the same time ensuring sufficient resources are given to the National Supervisory Authorities to do their tasks.
  • Better Air Traffic Management Performance: The reform of Europe's air traffic management system is driven by four key performance targets: safety, cost-efficiency, capacity and environment. These targets go to the heart of the reform process as they require air traffic control organisations to change and provide better services at lower cost. The Commission proposed to set targets in a more independent manner.
  • New business opportunities in support services: The Commission proposed to open up new business opportunities for companies to provide support services to air traffic control organisations.
  • Enabling industrial partnerships: Functional Airspace blocks (FABs) are intended to replace the current patchwork of 27 national air traffic blocks with a network of larger, regional blocks to gain efficiency, cut costs and reduce emissions. The Commission proposed to build upon industry's initiatives to support the creation of FABs.

Next steps

Member States will have to agree on their positions vis-à-vis the Commission proposal and the Parliament amendments.