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Air traffic management: Organisation and use of airspace in the Single European Sky

Despite the disappearance of land frontiers, airspace frontiers nevertheless still exist. For this reason, the European Commission adopted, on 10 October 2001, a package of measures on air traffic management with a view to establishing the single European sky by the end of 2004. The objective is to put an end to the fragmentation of European Union (EU) airspace and to create an efficient and safe airspace without frontiers. In order to ensure that the Single European Sky is an airspace without frontiers, the Commission proposes in the regulation on the organisation and management of airspace to set up a unique flight information region by merging all the national regions into a single portion of airspace within which air traffic services will be provided according to the same rules and procedures.


Regulation (EC) No 551/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 March 2004 on the organisation and use of the airspace in the single European sky (the airspace Regulation) [See amending act(s)].


The regulation is part of a package of legislation on air traffic management to establish the single European sky as of 31 December 2004. This objective will help to optimise the use of European airspace, reducing delays and promoting the growth of air transport.

The creation of the Single Sky seeks to:

  • increase air traffic control capacity: until 2000 air traffic increased at a rate of approximately 5% per year. Although the growth rate has slowed in the last two years, the medium-term forecasts are for a significant increase in traffic.
  • improve safety: The same levels of discipline are not observed in air traffic control in all EU countries with regard to the systems and procedures used to guarantee safety levels or ensuring that such measures are applied;
  • reduce the fragmentation of air traffic control: Differences in rules and organisation and varying national approaches to air traffic management lead to inconsistencies and shortcomings which have an adverse effect on the efficient running of the internal air transport market;
  • improve the integration of military systems into the organisation of air traffic control;
  • facilitate the introduction of new technology.

The ultimate objective is to enable Europeans to make journeys in a single European sky without frontiers, while maintaining the highest levels of air safety.

European upper flight information region (EUIR)

Under the Chicago Convention, the concept of Flight Information regions (FIRs) defines homogenous regions of airspace, which should efficiently cover air route structures. Up to now, air frontiers have been fixed by reference to land and sea frontiers. Against this background, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) recommends that the delineation of internal airspace should be related to the need for efficient service rather than to national boundaries.

Accordingly, the Single European Sky arrangements provide for a single European upper flight information region (EUIR). The EUIR encompasses the upper airspace falling under the responsibility of the EU countries and, where appropriate, will include adjacent airspace of European countries that are not EU members.

The creation of a single flight information region in upper airspace will enable this space to be reconfigured into delimited control areas without regard to national frontiers, thereby ensuring the more efficient use of airspace, systems and personnel.

To harmonise aeronautical information within the area of the EUIR, steps will be taken to ensure the creation of a single source for the publication of such information, taking account of relevant ICAO requirements. The Commission is responsible for ensuring the development of an aeronautical information infrastructure in the form of an electronic integrated briefing portal with unrestricted access to interested stakeholders.

Network management and design

In order to support initiatives both on a national level and on the level of functional airspace blocks, the air traffic management network functions will allow optimum use of airspace and ensure that airspace users can operate preferred trajectories, while permitting maximum access to airspace and air navigation services.

Flexible use of airspace

As regards the use of airspace for military purposes, the Commission recommends the adoption of criteria permitting the application, first of all in upper airspace and then in lower airspace, of the concept of flexible use of airspace, as devised by Eurocontrol. The Commission urges EU countries and Eurocontrol to take appropriate measures to ensure uniform application of the provisions governing civil-military air traffic service provision.

Coordination will be increased between the civilian and military authorities, in particular for the allocation and efficient use of airspace for military purposes, including the criteria and principles which should govern allocation and use, and in particular access for civilian flights.

A safeguard clause will enable EU countries to request the suspension of the application of the Community rules in the event of conflict with national military requirements.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EC) No 551/2004



O J L 96 of 31.3.2004

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1070/2009



OJ L 300 of 14.11.2009

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 551/2004 have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.


Commission Regulation (EU) No 255/2010 of 25 March 2010 laying down common rules on air traffic flow management [Official Journal L 80 of 26.3.2010].

Communication from the Commission of 20 December 2007 - First Report on the implementation of the Single Sky Legislation: achievements and the way forward. [COM(2007) 845 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Commission Regulation (EC) No 730/2006 of 11 May 2006 on airspace classification and access of flights operated under visual flight rules above flight level 195 [Official Journal L 128 of 16.5.2006].

Commission Regulation (EC) No 2150/2005 of 23 December 2005 laying down common rules for the flexible use of airspace [Official Journal L 342 of 24.12.2005].

Regulation (EC) No 549/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 March 2004 laying down the framework for the creation of the single European sky (the framework Regulation) [Official Journal L 96 of 31.3.2004].

Regulation (EC) No 550/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 March 2004 on the provision of air navigation services in the single European sky (the service provision Regulation) [Official Journal L 96 of 31.3.2004].

Regulation (EC) No 552/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 March 2004 on the interoperability of the European Air Traffic Management network (the interoperability Regulation) [Official Journal L 96 of 31.3.2004].

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 1 December 1999: The creation of the single European sky [COM(1999) 614 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 29.06.2010
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