In a speech on 11 October entitled “The Single European Sky: 10 years on and still not delivering”, Siim Kallas, the European Commissioner for Transport, lambasted EU Member States for failing to implement the Single European Sky measures (known as SES II), and threatened to introduce sanctions to enforce compliance by defaulting EU Member States with their agreed commitments.

By way of reminder, the Single European Sky initiative was launched in 2004 (then called SES I), and designed to reform the architecture of European air traffic management and increase its overall efficiency. It was not a huge success, so the European Commission launched a second package of legislation in 2009 called SES II. The objectives of SES II are to remove the fragmentation caused by the inefficient use of 27 national airspaces across the EU through the introduction of what are called Functional Airspace Blocks or FABs – just nine of them – which were supposed to be operational by the end of this year.

However, EU Member States have been slow to dismantle domestic air traffic monopolies in order to form these regional blocks, and the Commission has estimated that the cost of delaying the implementation of the FABs is nearly €5 billion annually. The Commission says that Europe’s air management inefficiencies caused by national airspace fragmentation add 42km to the average flight, waste fuel, and increase emissions. In contrast, if and when all the measures in SES II are implemented, the Commission says that safety will be improved by a factor of ten, airspace capacity will be tripled, the costs of air traffic management will be reduced by 50%, and the impact on the environment will be reduced by 10%.

Siim Kallas used his speech to announce his intention to present new legislative proposals in Spring 2013, which he called “SES II plus”. They will aim to accelerate implementation of the reforms in SES II, as well as taking any enforcement measures necessary against non-compliant EU Member States including infringement procedures – in other words, where EU Member States fail to implement EU laws in time, they can be taken to the Court of Justice of the European Union and fined.

SES II Plus

The legislative proposals in “SES II plus” will include measures to strengthen:

  •  the performance scheme i.e. targets to increase airspace capacity and cut costs the nine functional airspace blocks (FABs) so that they deliver real operational improvements swiftly
  •  the powers of the Network Manager for Europe, by taking in more centralised pan-European functions including route planning, and
  •  the further reform of air navigation service delivery.

All of these measures will also depend on the successful deployment phase of the SESAR programme, which is the technological arm of the Single European Sky initiative. The “SES II plus” legislative proposals will be brought forward in Spring 2013 and will need to be approved by Member States and the Parliament before they become law.