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Brussels, 10 October 2001

A single European sky in 2004: towards a more efficient and safer airspace

The European Commission today adopted a package of proposals on air traffic management designed to create a single European sky by 31 December 2004. This package sets out the objectives of the single European sky and its operating principles, based on six main lines of action: joint management of airspace; establishment of a strong Community regulator; gradual integration of civilian and military management; institutional synergy between the EU and Eurocontrol; introduction of appropriate modern technology; and better coordination of human resources policy in the air traffic control sector. In order to speed up its creation, the Commission also adopted three proposals concerning the first specific measures: provision of air navigation services, organisation and use of airspace and interoperability of equipment.

"Europe's citizens will at last be able to fly in a European sky unhampered by frontiers while enjoying the highest possible level of aviation safety" stated Loyola de Palacio, Commission Vice-President with special responsibility for transport and energy. "This is an extremely important step: having a single European sky will make for optimum use of European airspace, with beneficial consequences as regards air traffic delays and growth. Thanks to integrated management and closer coordination between operators, including military ones, it will also facilitate crisis management and increase flight safety and security" she added.

Europe enjoys a very high level of aviation safety(1). However, the constant increase in air traffic is putting pressure on safety, and this has consequences in terms of delays. The technical measures taken to improve the management of airspace in recent years have created additional capacity, but this is often rapidly outstripped by the growth in traffic. Europeans are now demanding a better quality of air transport service, especially in terms of punctuality given that it is no longer the exception that flights are over half an hour late.

What is more, the attacks of 11 September in the United States have demonstrated the need for better integration of security(2) aspects in air traffic management through better integration and harmonisation of procedures and technologies and better coordination between all stakeholders, including military ones. Implementing the single sky will make it possible to prevent and manage crises more effectively.

The Commission is today proposing a legislative package on air traffic management covering the regulatory, economic, safety, environmental, operational, technological and institutional aspects of aviation. The package covers all uses of airspace, both civilian and military, and also involves air traffic control stakeholders, including industry and air traffic controllers.

The package comprises the following proposals:

  • a proposal for a framework regulation aimed at creating a single European sky by 31 December 2004 and setting out its objectives and operating principles;

  • three other proposals for specific regulations concerning the provision of air navigation services, the organisation and use of airspace and the interoperability of equipment.

The proposed measures are based on the report by the High Level Group (consisting of civilian and military representatives of the Member States) on the Single European Sky, which was chaired by Loyola de Palacio.

These proposals are ultimately intended to set up a decision-making and regulatory framework more in line with the constraints of air traffic so as to make it possible to restructure the EU's airspace on the basis of traffic instead of national frontiers. The new organisational structure proposed by the Commission should make it possible to increase aviation safety while addressing structural air traffic control problems.

The objectives of the proposals in a nutshell

  • To improve safety

  • To create decision-making mechanisms in line with present air traffic constraints: synergy between Community regulation and technical expertise within Eurocontrol

    • taking the pan-European dimension into account;

    • integrating military operators;

    • platform for the rapid introduction of new technologies;

    • dialogue with the social partners.

  • To increase the efficiency of the system:

    • creation of a European upper airspace zone by merging the existing national regions;

    • uniform organisation of this area on the basis of the principle of flexible and efficient use, ultimately making it possible to do away with the system of airways;

    • provision in the upper airspace zone of air traffic control services subject to monopoly. Optimum air traffic control zones to be defined in terms of operational efficiency and not on the basis of national frontiers;

    • accelerated development and implementation of new technologies by strengthening the standardisation process and bringing it into line with Community principles;

    • provision of related services (e.g. meteorological services) open to competition;

    • monitoring of charges paid by airlines and their consistency with the principles of non-discrimination, cost-relatedness, transparency and efficiency;

    • more efficient, transparent and equitable traffic flow management.

The proposals are presented in greater detail in the annexes.

Annex I

Creating the Single European Sky

Proposal for a framework Regulation

    Main aspects of the proposal for a framework Regulation proposed by the Commission:

  • The framework Regulation proposes a new institutional organisational structure for airspace and new working methods:

  • Setting of a time limit for the Single Sky: 31 December 2004.

  • Establishment of a new institutional framework giving the European Community a regulatory role and Eurocontrol a complementary role in connection with the preparation and implementation of legislation. The national authorities will ensure the application of the rules. To this end, functional separation between national regulators and service providers is necessary. This framework will also serve to organise relations between the civilian and military authorities, the participation of non-European countries and industrial and social consultations.

  • Definition of the basic principles governing the organisation and use of airspace, the provision of services and interoperability.

    Features of the proposed organisational structure

    • 1. Equitable consideration for the needs of all users, both civilian and military

      • A Single Sky Committee. By virtue of its implementation powers, the Commission proposes to prepare and adopt the new regulatory provisions with the assistance of a single committee for all aspects of civil aviation. It recommends that this committee, consisting of representatives of the Member States, should have two members per Member State in order to give Member States the possibility of involving a representative of military users.

      • The mechanisms of the common defence policy could be used to allow military cooperation with a view to coordinating military aviation and defining and implementing the relevant military measures, e.g. coordination of operational rules.

    • 2. Organisation of an industrial and social dialogue

      • Setting up of a consultation body consisting of experts from all the European organisations involved in civil aviation. Following the positive experience of the High Level Group, this body would assist the Commission with the preparation of technical measures.

      • Extension of the social dialogue mechanisms to air traffic management, as applied in other sectors, e.g. air transport. This dialogue would make it possible in particular to examine the initiatives to be promoted regarding working conditions and the training of air traffic controllers. It is, for example, urgent to take initiatives to increase the number of air traffic controllers in response to the growth in traffic and the accelerated rate of retirements.

    • 3. An institutional framework incorporating the Community into the pan-European dimension

      • Eurocontrol, the European aviation safety organisation, would be closely involved. The Commission would extend its cooperation with it in the field of research in the regulatory field (preparation and implementation) in order to make the best possible use of Eurocontrol's expertise.

      • The Commission will continue its efforts to remove the obstacles to the accession of the EU to Eurocontrol. This would make it possible to guarantee consistency between the measures taken within the Community and those taken within Eurocontrol.

Annex II

Provision of navigation services in the Single European Sky

Proposal for a Regulation

The objective of the proposal for a Regulation is to define a Community framework for the provision of air navigation services. While the Member States would remain responsible for the status of air navigation service providers, the proposed Regulation would impose the same obligations and offer the same opportunities to all service providers in order to create a genuinely frontier-free airspace within the EU.

The services concerned are as follows:

  • air traffic control services

  • other services: meteorological services, search and rescue services, and aeronautical information services

  • ancillary services: communication, navigation and surveillance services.

    Introduction of a harmonised authorisation system

To ensure that the services proposed meet the objectives concerning the performance, safety and uniformity of the European airspace as a whole, the Commission is proposing the introduction of a harmonised system of authorisations according to precise specifications. The Member States will be responsible for implementing the system and mutually recognise their authorisations. This would also facilitate cooperation between service providers.

    Provision of services

  • Member States would continue to be able to designate air traffic control service providers operating subject to a monopoly on specific functional airspaces (see Annex III) ;

  • the provision of ancillary services would be open to competition;

  • the service providers would have to publish separate annual accounts for each type of service provided.

    Charging regime

Principles. Charges would have to be set in accordance with the principles of non-discrimination, transparency and cost-relatedness. They would also have to constitute incentives to achieve the policy objectives set.

Financing the increase in air traffic control system capacity. Part of the charges paid by the airlines could be used to finance improvements to the system. The Commission will explore this possibility by allocating part of these charges to actions to increase air traffic control system capacity in order to implement projects of common interest between 2002 and 2005.

Annex III

Organisation and use of airspace in the Single European Sky

Proposal for a Regulation

The objective of this proposal for a Regulation is to create an airspace without frontiers where the procedures for airspace design, planning and management ensure the efficient and safe performance of air traffic management. This entails organising the upper airspace for all Member States and ensuring consistency between the national organisations responsible for the lower airspace.

    Creation of a European upper airspace

This zone will merge the existing national zones. The organisation of this area will be uniform on the basis of the principle of flexible and efficient use, ultimately making it possible to do away with the system of airways. To this end, the Commission is proposing:

  • the creation of a single flight information region covering the upper airspace in which air traffic control services will be subject to the same rules;

  • reconfiguring this airspace into optimum control areas in terms of operational efficiency, without taking account of national frontiers. To ensure that the organisation of the upper airspace is consistent with that of the lower areas, the size and geographical location of these optimum transfrontier control areas will be proposed by the service providers in coordination with the Member States. In consultation with Eurocontrol, the Commission will then decide on the organisation of airspace into a minimum number of optimised transfrontier controlled areas;

  • harmonisation of airspace categories;

  • organisation and management of airspace with a view to allowing allocation of sectors to service providers and the transfer of sectors between service providers.

    Increased coordination between civilian and military authorities

  • 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 the Member States to request the suspension of the application of the Community rules in the event of conflict with national military requirements.

    Air traffic flow management

The Commission will adopt the rules and general conditions applicable to air traffic flow management in order to optimise capacity utilisation. These rules will be developed in collaboration with the service providers, airports and airspace users. They will cover:

  • flow management, including rules concerning planning, priority-setting in the event of congestion, relief routes and a crisis mechanism;

  • mechanisms for more disciplined use of airspace in order to integrate airports into airspace management and improve coordination between airport and airspace slots.

Annex IV

Interoperability of the European air traffic management network

Proposal for a Regulation

The objective of the proposal for a Regulation is to achieve interoperability within Community territory between the different systems and constituents of the air traffic management network, and make use of the possibilities offered by new technologies.

    Essential requirements, specific requirements, rules and standards

The approach pursued by the Commission is as follows:

  • establishment of essential requirements and specific requirements for all stakeholders engaged in the development, production and operation of systems (annexed to the proposal for a Regulation)

  • adoption of implementation rules to enforce these requirement. The objective is to secure compliance with these rules, in particular in the case of transfrontier and integrated operations, to ensure the performance and integration of the systems. The implementation rules may in particular impose on the operators concerned a target date for the entry into force of new concepts or technological advances. Cases of non-compliance with these rules will be referred to the Single Sky Committee (see Annex 1);

  • drafting of European standards entailing the consensual agreement of stakeholders, including on the conditions for their voluntary application.

    Procedures for the adoption and implementation of the rules and standards

  • Implementation rules: established on the basis of the Eurocontrol rules which will shortly enter into force.

  • Standards: established by consensus, following a public enquiry, and after approval by the recognised standardisation organisation such as Eurocae, the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment. These standards will have to be taken over unchanged in the national standards.

  • Products: manufacturers will be required to make a declaration of conformity with the essential requirements without additional certification by the authorities. To be able to make this declaration or depart from the standards, manufacturers will have to submit a dossier to a notified body which will certify the conformity of the product with the essential requirements. This approach will allow the free circulation of products within the EU and create the conditions for a genuinely competitive environment among manufacturers.

    Support and application of technological progress

It is important that the Community airspace should enjoy the benefit of the solutions which are best both technically and commercially and which are best suited to airspace users and passengers. To this end, the Commission proposes that:

  • the financial aid procedures for the Trans-European networks programme and the fifth programme for research and technological development (1998-2002) should be optimised.

A framework should be provided for projects of common interest through the new programme for research and technological development (2003-2006) under which aeronautical research is a priority.

(1) The term safety covers the prevention of occurrences which may affect equipment or people (aircraft design, maintenance, etc.).

(2) The term security covers the prevention of acts deliberately intended to affect aircraft or peole (hijacking, bombs, etc.).

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