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Budapest, 4 March 2011

Single European Sky accelerates following announcement of key implementation measures

Key measures to implement the Single European Sky (SES) have today been announced at a high-level conference in Budapest organised by the Hungarian Presidency and the European Commission. The SES initiative will increase the capacity of our skies by organising airspace and air navigation at a European rather than local level – cutting costs for passengers and companies while reducing aviation's impact on the environment. It will result in estimated annual savings of 500,000 tons of CO2, 150,000 tons of fuel and €200 million in fuel burn and flight time.

Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "The construction of a true single sky has entered a crucial phase. We must put in place the concrete mechanisms that will allow the SES package to be implemented in time. We must maintain the level of ambition that was set for us by the European institutions in establishing a long-term sustainable framework for air traffic management. This will not only give a boost to the industry; it will also make flights cheaper and reduce their impact on the environment. Our shared commitment to work quickly and constructively will determine the ultimate success of the Single European Sky."

The conference focused on identifying tangible measures to finalise implementation of the Single European Sky. Substantial benefits are expected from enhanced cooperation between the European bodies involved in air traffic management as well as from the extension of the Single European Sky to non-EU states.

The establishment of "functional airspace blocks" – or FABs – by which Member States collectively re-design and rationalise their airspace in order to better respond to airlines' needs will contribute to the defragmentation of airspace and should allow important economies of scale.

Finally the incorporation of all phases of flights, from airport to airport, in a global approach to air traffic management (the "gate-to-gate" approach), the centralisation of operational functions managed at European level and the deployment of new technologies will also bring major added value to SES.

The concrete measures emanating from the conference are collected and detailed in the "Budapest Charter" which will complement the SES implementation roadmap and will be used to monitor its progress.

In addition, three major steps towards achieving SES were announced at the conference:

  • For the first time, a timely coordination took place between the Commission and all partners involved in the provision of air navigation services to anticipate the impact of air traffic delays expected next summer. Short-term actions for the next six months were proposed to the conference, such as measures to enhance air traffic controllers' mobility or to increase controlled airspace capacity.

  • The European Union and Eurocontrol announced their intention to explore a possible high-level cooperation agreement, thus consolidating the reform process of Eurocontrol as well as the essential support provided by Eurocontrol to the implementation of SES, notably in its role as performance review body and network manager for the European Union.

  • The European Union and the United States signed an important Memorandum of Cooperation in the field of civil aviation research and development, as well as a first annex covering cooperative activities and interoperability aspects in the framework of their respective air traffic modernisation programmes: SESAR and NextGen.

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