OPP Meeting Summary: EP CONT Committee – Single European Sky: a changed culture but not a single sky (7 December 2017)

A summary of the presentation of the report is now available.

EP CONT Committee – 7 December 2017
ECA Special Report 18/2017 (2016 Discharge): Single European Sky: a changed culture but not a single sky
·Presentation by the ECA Member responsible, George Pufan
View the report

George Pufan, European Court of Auditors presented the report

  • aviation was a key part of the single market in the EU because it encouraged mobility for people and goods. Safe and efficient flow of such traffic required the intervention of Air Traffic Management (‘ATM’), which comprised three essential functions: ensuring separation between aircraft, balancing supply (of air traffic control) and demand (flights), and providing aeronautical information to airspace users;
  • air traffic was usually managed at national level in a fragmented way. In every country, a single service provider would be allocated. Competition was either inexistent or weak. In ATM this had led to a situation which led to delays and an increase in cost which ended up being borne by passengers;
  • the Single European Sky (‘SES’) was put in place to improve the overall efficiency of air traffic, allocating some member states (‘MS’) competences to the framework of the EU;
  • the SES was launched in 2004 and gradually established a regulatory framework, comprising a set of EU-wide common binding rules on ATM safety, on the provision of ATM services, on airspace management and on interoperability within the network. That framework was coupled with SESAR, financially supported;
  • from 2004-2009 received 3.8 million € aimed at the development phase;
  • the audit looked at how effective the individual components were at managing the air space blocks. SESAR’s audit would start in 2018;
  • Spain, France, Hungary, Sweden and the UK were key stakeholders in the process;
  • the SES initiative was justified because air traffic transport was destabilised by the national approach;
  • now, the various elements of the policy were moving towards coherence and some faults were corrected. The high-level targets set in 2005 were now unrealisable in practice, i.e. the reduction in half of the costs of ATM. This target had lost its raison d’être due to a general lack of capacity;
  • they had identified that the performance system put in place in the framework of the initiative had fostered a culture of transparency with regard to the service providers;
  • nevertheless, not all of the elements had met expectations;
  • one of the adaptions to the performance processes was their length and complexity. The surveillance systems did not have the necessary resources and they were not always fully independent of the service providers;
  • when it came to SESAR, they had identified that the main stakeholders were encouraged to come forward with technological plans. This led to a more positive research environment;
  • the Commission ought to assess whether the current objectives with regard to functional airspaces brought added value to resolve fragmentation;
  • MS had to ensure the independence of surveillance bodies and their access to all resources;
  • the Commission was intending to continue its financing, but it had to justify it. The long-term road had to be looked at before future commitments could be set.

A representative from the European Commission made the following remarks

  • the Commission welcomed this report, and saw that the conclusions of the ECA was positive, i.e. with regard to SESAR and the instruments which were put in place formed a coherent set of instrument to promote more efficient ATM;
  • they noted that the shortcomings were already known by the Commission and they were working on them. They were identified in 2013 when the Commission made a proposal for SES 2+, which was subject to debate in the Council and the EP. It was currently blocked due to the question of Gibraltar which has not been resolved;
  • they would continue to work within the existing framework to address the concerns;
  • the Commission knew the level goals were no longer relevant, and intended to make the best use of a pilot project;
  • they were aware of the fragmentation problem. They were revising the performance charging scheme and working together with Eurocontrol to remove fragmentation across cross-border services;
  • with regard to the inspection of the charges scheme and the cost of the system, the Commission was aware that more action was necessary from national regulators. The Commission intended to audit Bulgaria, Poland, Greece and Romania this year;
  • in relation to the SESAR project, the Commission understood that the existing framework needed to be improved. To do this, the priorities had to be clearly defined and the deadlines. The system should be more integrated.

Marian-Jean Marinescu (EPP, RO)

  • the SES was not in place because of 14.000 controllers all over Europe. The ministers could immediately solve the problem. Everybody was afraid of a strike of controllers, so they were not doing anything;
  • each MS had sovereignty in their airspace, and there were borders;
  • the calculation done by different evaluations were saying that 5 bio. € were lost due a non-existence of the SES. He thought this was a “ridiculous situation”;
  • the SES could reduce emission aviations by 10% but there was no political will to do it;
  • he thought the Commission should look more carefully at the results of SESAR;
  • the systems were not interoperable;
  • the conclusions of the special report were good. One had to look at the contract between Eurocontrol and the Commission. The EP should have a look at these contracts, to see how much money was paid, which tasks it was meant to perform. Eurocontrol was a “black hole”  when it came to money;
  • NSA independence was good and necessary but it was not implemented. The Commission should start the infringement procedure for France;
  • a pilot project that was voted on by the EP to bring up the new architecture of the European air space would save money from national budget;
  • one should see whether jobs were lost with his proposal.

Source: One Policy Place

The simultaneous interpretation of debates provided by the European Parliament serves only to facilitate communication amongst the participants in the meeting. It does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. One Policy Place uses these translations so this text is only a guide and should not be relied on as an official account of the meeting. Only the original speech or the revised written translation of that speech is authentic.

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