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EC: Single European Sky ‘crucial’ to ATM in Europe

ATW Daily News by Cathy Buyck 16 Dec.10

European Commission VP-Transport Siim Kallas, who is highly critical of the recent air traffic controller strikes in several European countries—specifically in Spain, believes that the Single European Sky will eliminate these kinds of disruptions. Speaking to the European Aviation Club in Brussels on Wednesday, Kallas said, “I consider these strikes totally unacceptable. These are a defense of privileges. They are clearly disproportionate: A small group is shutting down a big part of the economy. If we deliver the Single European Sky project, these problems will be solved.”

Kallas reiterated that the accelerated implementation of the SES is “crucial” for the European air transport system and its competiveness. “The fragmentation of the airspace costs the sector €3 billion ($4 billion). Inefficiencies of the air traffic management system in Europe are responsible for 16 million tonnes of unnecessary CO2 emissions. The implementation of the Single European Sky is therefore not an option—it is an essential requirement for an efficient and sustainable air transport system in Europe,” he said.

Yet, when asked by ATW if he is optimistic the SES will be implemented in 2012, as planned by the SES II legislative package, he cautioned that timeline “was maybe too optimistic” and pointed out that it is “up to the member states” to implement the SES. “There still is a lot of opposition from the unions, specifically in France and Spain, to the SES project.”

The Estonian commissioner did not shy away from mentioning that there would have been another possibility to achieve the SES. “There are lots of empty buildings in Brussels; put them full of computer equipment and install a satellite link. This is a technical feasible solution that would deliver an efficient SES,” he told ATW, adding that however “the members states decided to reform the existing system and to reduce the number of ANSPs into [nine] FABs [Functional Airspace Blocks], it was a political decision,” he said. “Today, there is no indication that the FABs will not function. We have achieved a lot of progress in the past few weeks, with the establishment of FABEC and the European-wide performance targets (ATW Daily News, Dec. 3).”

Concerning the inclusion of aviation in the EU ETS as of 2012, Kallas admitted there is a lot of legal and political opposition. “I know the arguments also,” he said, “but the process of making this kind of decision was complex. What has been done cannot be turned back. But, we’ll have to negotiate with a number of key partners on their equitable measures.”

Under the EU ETS legislation, non-EU carriers can be exempt of the inclusion in the EU ETS if their countries have “equivalent measures” in place. It is, however, not defined what these equivalent measures are and how the EU will assess them. Kallas did not specify with which key countries the EU would partner with, but a source close to EC told ATW it does include the US, India and China.

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