If the Single European Sky II package is not implemented quickly, the air traffic management system in the EU risks falling behind in the global market, undermining the very future of the European aviation industry in an increasingly competitive environment, said the European Economic and Social Committee in an opinion adopted at yesterday's plenary session.
The Single European Sky (SES) II package was adopted in 2009 as a recipe for greater flight safety and efficiency and greener flights with fewer delays. Two years later, the package is not yet implemented partly, the EESC feels, due to a low degree of commitment from Member States, but also because the European Commission has not shown sufficient leadership, assessed the EESC.
"Clutching at national borders in airspace is a misinterpretation of national sovereignty", said Jacek Krawczyk, EESC vice-President (Employers Group) and rapporteur on Single European Sky II. He went on to underline that "forecasts for air traffic in the next two decades are optimistic, but unless we manage airspace access more efficiently as envisaged by SES II, we will not be able to fully unlock this potential. Only the unquestioned leadership by the Commission is able to clear the political hurdles to achieve this".
The fragmentation of the European airspace and the subsequent inefficient air routing result in a yearly loss of nearly EUR 5 billion and prevent a 12% reduction in CO2 emissions from being realised, said the EESC. To remedy this, the package introduced Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) organised on the basis of performance targets regardless of state borders. Progress on these blocks has so far been patchy and slow due to inefficient cooperation between different national air navigation service providers, argued the EESC, calling on the Commission to monitor more closely the performance of the various FAB initiatives.
SESAR - a technological project for modernising air-traffic management in Europe - is of key importance as it is expected to enable a threefold rise in air traffic, reduce its carbon footprint, improve safety and lower flying costs. However, cooperation between the different industry players has not been efficient enough to ensure a synchronised refurbishment of airborne and ground infrastructure as provided for under SES II, said the EESC. As for the funding of the project, the EESC calls for active and significant support from public authorities and the European Investment Bank and other financial institutions. The cost of non-SESAR would be substantial: a 10-year delay in the implementation may translate into a negative GDP impact of EUR 150 billion for the EU-27 and a loss of energy efficiency of over 150 million tons of CO2.
"As the aviation business is global, the development of SESAR makes sense only if it is compatible with air traffic systems beyond the EU such as the US NextGen Initiative", underlined Mr Krawczyk. He called a recent memorandum of cooperation between the two systems "a step in the right direction".
Following an invitation by the Polish EU presidency, Mr Krawczyk will present and discuss the EESC opinion at a conference on the implementation of SES II in Warsaw on 28 November, which will link the SES II implementation to the EU neighbourhood policy and to the larger Pan-European dimension. The event is to be attended by Cezary Grabarczyk, Polish minister in charge of infrastructure, and Mr Siim Kallas, European commissioner for transport.
For further information, please contact:
Karin FÜSSL, Head of the EESC Press Unit
Tel.:+32 2 546 8722