Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/8283
The creation of a single European sky. Currrent goals, trends and challenges ahead
While the European Union (EU) is working on a daily basis to bring its citizens and territories closer together, in the sky each member state has retained full sovereignty over its airspace. The airspace is one of the areas in which European integration has been slow to keep up the pace. Presently, European skies are the most congested skies in the world. With the aim of reforming the architecture of the European air traffic management system, the single European sky initiative was launched in 1999 by the Commission of the European Union.
EU’s internal competences in the field of air traffic management first materialised with the first single sky Regulation package, adopted in 2004. The Regulation package puts forward a legislative approach with the main objective to break down the artificial barriers in European skies and create a uniform gate-to-gate system for European citizens.
A key tool in this process is the establishment of so-called ‘functional airspace blocks’. Within functional airspace blocks’ two or more countries cooperate to integrate their airspace and designate a single service provider to control air traffic in the block.
The European Union has emphasised that in order for the single sky to become a reality it must have powers over the airspace. However, the problem was that most of the EU countries had already delegated their powers in nearly all aspects of air traffic management to EUROCONTROL. To solve this problem the European Union joined EUROCONTROL. As a result, EUROCONTROL is identified as one of the key players in the implementation of the single sky. The first single European sky legislative package did not deliver the expected results in important areas. Consequently, a second Regulation package was adopted in 2008.
European Union member states have recognised the creation of single European sky as a real challenge. Some states have argued that by handing over the control of their airspace they are losing a part of sovereignty and that such loss cannot be adjusted for in EU Treaty provisions.
Iceland is bound to incorporate the single European sky legislation adopted into the EEA Agreement. Because of its geographical location Iceland is in a special position. A large part of the airspace under its responsibility is over the high seas and, accordingly, under the domain of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. This raises number of issues that need to be dealt with in order for Iceland to participate fully in the single European sky.
Much work needs to be done before a full integration of European airspace will be achieved. As to whether the single sky project achieves its lofty objectives is, therefore, still a matter of speculation.