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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 16 April 2014

Single European Sky: Commission urges Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg to make a decisive move towards a common airspace

Today the Commission has formally requested Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg to improve their Functional Airspace Block (FAB), a common airspace arranged around traffic flows rather than state boundaries. FABs are a crucial step towards a more efficient, less costly and less polluting aviation system in Europe.

Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "we have to finally overcome national borders in the European airspace. FABs are a necessary, vital component of the Single European Sky. Right now these common airspaces exist only on paper; they are formally established but not yet functional. I urge Member States to step up their ambitions and push forward the implementation of the Single Sky"

All EU Member States should have implemented their FABs by 4 December 2012 according to Regulation (EC) No 550/2004. The FAB between Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland (FABEC) has been formally established through a State Agreement which came into force on 1 June 2013. However, progress on reorganisation of all the airspace involved has been slow, which causes delays, the consumption of more fuel and therefore more GHG emissions. Progress in the cost-effectiveness of air navigation services has been equally insufficient, which results in more money charged to airlines. Consequently, further work is required to ensure the optimization of the air navigation services and the use of airspace, regardless of national borders. Today's letters of formal notice ask those Member States to implement this further work.

The lack of progress on FABs is holding back the implementation of the EU's Single European Sky to a significant degree, which in turn generates inefficiencies in the entire European Air Traffic Management in the range of some 30 to 40 % of total air navigation costs and charges levied in Europe. This represents a loss of some 5 billion euros annually. Additionally, planned safety enhancements in the Single European Sky are negatively impacted.


Under the Single European Sky legislation, national air traffic control organisations should work together in nine regional airspace blocks (Functional Airspace Blocks) to gain efficiency, cut costs and reduce emissions. The set-up of these common airspace blocks is arranged around traffic flows rather than state boundaries, which leads to performance improvements.

The system of FABs is a cornerstone towards a single airspace that reduces the fragmentation along national borders in air traffic management. The benefits of a proper set-up of FABs are the following:

  • Higher safety standards: By enabling airplanes to fly without dealing with border crossings, FABs will remove the risk of border interference and national inconsistencies in safety procedures.

  • Reduced costs and fuel consumption: By enabling airplanes to fly straighter lines at better altitudes, FABs are expected to save fuel and reduce delays. This in turn will improve the service delivered to passengers, bring benefits to the environment both in terms of noise and emissions, and reduce the cost of flying, to the tune of billions of euros annually.

These benefits mean that FABs are absolutely essential to the success of the EU's Single European Sky and an important component of the single market, which allows citizens to freely travel, live and work anywhere in the EU.

Article 9a of Regulation (EC) No 550/2004 mandated the full implementation of FABs as defined in Article 2(25) of Regulation (EC) No 549/2004 by all EU Member States by 4 December 2012, with a regulatory obligation to enable optimum use of airspace in capacity and in flight efficiency, as well as an obligation to deliver optimised air navigation services across the EU.

Next steps

FABEC is the first FAB where Member States are receiving letters of formal notice from the Commission on these grounds. However, other FABs are not fully compliant with Regulation (EC) No 550/2004 (DANUBE, BLUEMED, FABCE, SOUTHWEST, UK-IRELAND, BALTIC) and active consideration is under way to letters of formal notice in respect of these FABs in the coming months.

After the release of letters of formal notice, Member States have two months to react and send their considerations. On this basis the European Commission may or may not issue a Reasoned Opinion in accordance with Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

For more information

On the April infringement package decisions, see MEMO/14/293

On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12

More information on infringement procedures

Follow Vice-President Kallas on Twitter

Contacts :

Helen Kearns (+32 2 298 76 38)

Dale Kidd (+32 2 295 74 61)

For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e­mail

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