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Commission White Paper on air traffic control - "Freeing Europe's Airspace"

The European Commission has issued a White Paper on air traffic control entitled "Freeing Europe's Airspace". Adopted at the initiative of Mr. Neil Kinnock, Commissioner responsible for transport policy, the White Paper proposes a reorganization of Europe's air traffic managem...
The European Commission has issued a White Paper on air traffic control entitled "Freeing Europe's Airspace". Adopted at the initiative of Mr. Neil Kinnock, Commissioner responsible for transport policy, the White Paper proposes a reorganization of Europe's air traffic management systems to ease air congestion.

The incompatibility of national air traffic control (ATC) systems is a major factor in flights being delayed. This is not only a gross inconvenience for travellers but also affects the competitiveness of European airlines. The cost of ATC delays to airlines in Europe is estimated at between ECUS 1.5 and 2 billion per year.

A number of measures have already been taken to improve the situation, notably through the centralization of ATC management and the adoption of a work programme designed to fix the rules, procedures and regulations so as to ensure the interoperability of different national ATC systems. The continuing growth in air traffic has, however, made it necessary to review the issue once again.

The Commission analysis of the present situation is that the problem is more one of general policy than of day-to-day operations. The Commission White Paper stresses the need for a proper separation between regulator and service provider and makes a strong case for the creation of a single regulatory authority, while leaving the existing ATC mechanisms largely unchanged, and in Member States' hands.

Following analysis of the options available, the White Paper proposes the development of EUROCONTROL, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation, of which all Community Member States except Finland and Spain are members, as the new regulatory authority. At present, EUROCONTROL takes decisions by consensus, and has no ability to act in cases of non-implementation of its decisions. The Commission has therefore proposed a stronger, more democratic and transparent EUROCONTROL, of which the Community would be a full member, with powers of implementation, and the necessary support mechanisms to carry out its tasks effectively.

The responsibilities of this "new-look" EUROCONTROL would include:

- Safety levels, including definition of requirements and certification procedures for ATC equipment and services;
- Quantitative and qualitative objectives for services;
- Joint procedures and specifications to ensure interoperability and interconnection;
- Collective management of scarce resources;
- Preparation and implementation of joint investment policy;
- Human resources policy to develop uniform levels of service throughout Europe;
- Better cooperation in RTD.

The Commission is also investigating, in work being undertaken separately, the possibility of setting up a European Aviation Safety Authority which would independently address issues relating to aviation safety as a whole.
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