Air controllers go on strike over single EU sky

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The European Commission on Tuesday presented proposals to speed up plans to centralise Europe’s air traffic controls.
The so-called Single European Sky hopes to merge Europe’s fragmented airspace into 9 functional blocs, which would be supervised by only one European air-control traffic.

But 10 years after the original legislation was presented, and with most of the EU member states having missed their targets, Brussels wants to strengthen the rules. Under the revised legislative proposal, the Commission would have the power to launch legal action against countries that do not cooperate in creating one EU sky.

‘The practise shows that implementation of the reform based on this performance targets: four targets: safety, environment, capacity and costs is not enough, so our proposal develops and strengthen the process of setting these targets and also create possible enforcement when the targets are not respected. This will keep the concept of the single European sky as it is and only actually enforce members States and relevant bodies to do what they have promised’, said EU Commissioner for Transport Siim Kallas.

With EU airspace currently divided into over 600 sections and managed by 27 national systems, aircrafts are forced to take longer routs. According to the Commission, cetralising airspace control could reduce delays for passangers, airline ticket prices and emissions.

The Commission estimates that this fragmentation amounts to around 5 billion euros a year of extra costs. Air traffic control currently represents between six and 12 percent of the price of a plane ticket.

‘The Commission is proposing to open up new business opportunities for companies to provide support services for air traffic control organisations. So you will have air traffic control as a natural monopoly and they have now the possibilities to have services from other providers. This has nothing to do with privatisation; this is a question of opening up of air support services for competition which opens business opportunities and also it gives opportunities to use new technologies and innovation’, said EU Commissioner for Transport Siim Kallas.

Meanwhile, air-traffic controllers in France are not happy with the new EU proposal as they began a 3 day strike on Wednesday. The French controllers argue that the new plans will affect not only their working conditions, but also public safety.

The strike is expected to spread across Europe.

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