The six countries signed a treaty last week (2 December) establishing a 'Functional Airspace Block: Europe Central' (FABEC), which was hailed as a major step towards the establishment of a 'Single European Sky'.
At the heart of Europe, FABEC countries currently handle over half (55%) of all flights in the continent and cover "the most complex traffic areas between the busiest airports".
The initiative aims to organise air traffic management irrespective of national borders to improve air traffic control in terms of safety, environmental sustainability, capacity, cost-efficiency, flight efficiency and military mission effectiveness.
The move comes after a major aviation crisis in April and May when Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, spewing vast clouds of ash around Europe, bringing air traffic to a standstill (EurActiv 20/04/10).
A FABEC Council composed of civilian and military representatives will be set up to govern harmonisation of rules and procedures, provision of air navigation services, civilian-military cooperation, charging, supervision and performance. Based on its decisions, the contracting states will establish the necessary national rules and procedures.
The six countries have already started to study the institutional and legal basis of the venture and are aiming to complete negotiations on this by July 2011.
All FABs to be signed by 2013
Yesterday's agreement represents the third functional airspace block to be established and follows in the footsteps of UK–Ireland and Denmark–Sweden FABs.
Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said he hopes the FABEC signature will be "an inspiration for the other member states in their efforts to have all the functional airspace blocks in place by the deadline of 4 December 2012".
Six more FABs are still under negotiation and expected to be signed between other EU member states and, for some, with associated third countries – such as the Blue Med Mediterranean FAB, which will gather Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta along with associates Tunisia, Egypt and Albania as well as Jordan and Lebanon as observers.
Kallas also noted that the FABs will be instrumental in satisfying "the growing capacity requirements of all airspace users with a minimum of delays" by managing air traffic more dynamically.
Indeed, despite the current financial crisis, air traffic in Europe is expected to double by 2030, increasing from the current level of 10 million flights to 20.4 million flights per year.