Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Auditors: 'Single European Sky' failed to meet main objectives

  • An EU target on flight delays 'has never been reached' (Photo: EUobserver)

The Single European Sky (SES) has failed to meet its main goals concerning reducing air traffic delays, fragmentation of the air space, and costs, the EU Court of Auditors said on Thursday (30 November).

The guardians of EU finances said the policy as a "concept" has not yet been realised, even if the program is overall "justified" as a tool against national monopolies and fragmentation.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The SES project was created in 2004 with the aim of reducing fragmentation, inefficiencies and the high costs of air traffic management across the EU, by a progressive shift of its management from a national to a European level.

Air traffic management is the set of services, on the ground and onboard, required to ensure an aircraft operates safely during all phases of its operations.

It includes the management of the airspace, air traffic services and air traffic flow management.

In their report, the Luxembourg-based auditors found that delays in air traffic have actually increased in recent years.

Delays are better than in 2008, but have been growing since 2013, the report states, but the EU target of 0.5 minute (of delay) per flight "has never been reached".

One of the key points of the SES was the creation of so-called functional airspace blocks, nine areas dividing airspace, regardless of state boundaries, with the purpose of managing that airspace according to operational requirements of flights and not national borders.

The idea was proposed by the European Commission in 2012 but never implemented.

The auditors noted that there was "no substantial defragmentation" of airspace management. As a result, each time a plane enters the airspace of a member state, it is serviced by a different air navigation provider (ANSP) on the basis of different rules and requirements, with extra costs and time.

This, the auditors said, was due to a "lack of commitment on the part of the member states", which want to "preserve sovereignty, the legacy of national air navigation service providers", revenues and workforce.

The report also found that national supervisory authorities are not always "fully independent from air navigation services".

"Air transport is an important component of the EU internal market but the single market in Europe clearly does not enjoy the benefits of a single sky," said George Pufan, the member of the court responsible for the report.

The Court of Auditors conducted its analysis for the period 2004-2016, by visiting the European Commission, Eurocontrol (the European organisation for the safety of air navigation), the European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) - an EU agency with regulatory and executive tasks in the field of civilian aviation safety - government departments, air navigation service providers and national supervisors in Spain, France, Hungary, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Countries were chosen as a sample, trying "to address small and large member states representative of different geographical blocks", auditors say.

EU funding for technological elements of the Single European Sky has so far reached €730 million and is expected to grow to €3.8 billion by 2020.

Brexit unknowns

The auditors also looked at the situation of air navigation service providers and national supervisors in the United Kingdom.

The ongoing Brexit negotiations pose an issue also concerning the future of Single European Sky.

The impact of a UK divorce from the EU is "unknown", auditors said, but could affect the "supply side of air navigation service in the UK" or the demand.

In case of a no deal, EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said in October, the UK would need to "leave the the single European sky agreement, and no longer being able to mutually recognise pilot qualifications or get take off or landing clearance".

Maurizio Castelletti, the head of the Single European Sky unit at the commission, told EUobserver in Tallinn that "it will depend on the negotiation between EU and UK", which are still ongoing.

"In the light of the United Kingdom outside of the European Union we must reconstruct the conditions that will allow us to secure a single sky as we have it now," he said.

The SES, he added, "is a network that doesn't have borders" although "there are national borders".

Focus

EU ministers agree to fast-track 'Single Sky'

EU transport ministers have agreed to fast-track "Single European Sky" measures aimed at a greater integration of the national airspaces, following the recent disruption of air traffic due to the Icelandic ash cloud.

EU issues single skies warning

The European Commission has threatened to take legal action against countries that respond to a US initiative to "fix" the troubled "open skies" aviation deal, reports the Financial Times.

EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law

The European Parliament backed a law on copyrighted content online. Defenders says it will safeguard right holders from being exploited by big tech firms. Critics say it spells the end of internet freedoms and curtails expression.

EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants

After marathon talks, EU negotiators agree on provisional copyright reform, requiring companies to filter content to prevent unauthorized work on their platform. Online platforms and open-internet advocates warn it will hurt the free flow of information.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us