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Single European airspace: now or never

12 Jun 2013
Ref: 45/2013

The European Commission has finally realised that there can be no single market without a single European sky, said the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in its reaction to the Single European Sky II+ project which was unveiled today.

"The Single European Sky has been lagging for way too long and we are glad to see that the European Commission has finally decided to support the enforcement of its own legislation, using a method which has proven successful for many years in obliging EU Member States to respect the four basic freedoms of the European market: i.e. referring them to the Court", said Jacek Krawczyk, President of the EESC Employers Group and rapporteur for a number of opinions related to aviation.

The Single European Sky package was agreed almost a decade ago and yet it has not been fully implemented. Plans to create a single airspace have reached a deadlock, having been held hostage by narrow interest groups making profits from air traffic.

The cost of inefficiency due to non-implementation of the package amounted to EUR 3.7 billion in 2011, resulted in a dozen million minutes of delay, too much CO2 pumped into the atmosphere and higher prices for passengers. Status quo or further delays will result in further losses for both society and the aviation industry.

The EESC supports better enforcement of timely and substantial SES implementation through penalties for non-compliance, unbundling of ancillary Air Traffic Management services, opening them up to greater competition and market forces, and greater involvement of airspace users.

Unleashing the full potential of the project can be seen as an anti-crisis measure. Improving the efficiency, performance, safety and environment indicators of European Air Traffic Management and bringing them into line with global best practices is essential if European airlines are to compete effectively with key players from the United States and emerging markets.

It is vital to remember that SES is not only a technical regulation. It is a crucial part of the single market that directly concerns individuals, workers and industry alike. The first way to strengthen passenger rights is to give them access to an efficiently and sustainably managed modern air transport market.

Referring to the stalemate in negotiations between employers and trade unions within the aviation industry, the EESC suggests opening up discussions by bringing all relevant actors to the table. The strong leadership of the European Commission in the implementation of the SES package is the key to its success.

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