Europe's air traffic control systems should be urgently modernised and merged into a single European airspace in order to reduce congestion and flight delays as well as cut CO2 emissions, say MEPs in a resolution adopted on Tuesday 23 October. We talked to Jacqueline Foster, a British member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group who is responsible for drafting the resolution, about the importance of the Single European Sky initiative and the obstacles to its implementation.
Progress on integrating European airspace by December 2012 is very slow. Why?
Member states fully understand that this is the deadline. We in the UK have already created what is called a Functional Airspace Block (FAB). This block also includes Ireland. Denmark and Sweden have also created their FAB. Recently, Malta, Italy, Greece and Cyprus signed an agreement to establish theirs.
But unfortunately, the majority of FABs are not ready. Responsibility lies with the member states. The delays are costing Europe a huge amount of business and are having a negative impact on consumers and the environment. Therefore, it is vital that member states make a real effort to meet this deadline. The consequences of not complying with their commitments are extremely serious. It is just good business. We (in Europe) are world leaders in a global market, developing much needed 21st century aviation technology. We must make sure it is our companies that benefit.
Why has it proved so difficult? What are the main obstacles?
There is definitely a lack of political will. Of course, I understand that there are huge challenges across all member states in terms of the impact of recession. But I believe that this is the time to invest in the future. They cannot use this as an excuse.
Despite the fact that all member states signed up to the Single European Sky project, most of them are doing nothing. It is not acceptable.
Do you support the European Commission's plan to launch infringement procedures if member states fail to implement the legislation?
I do actually. I am not one of those MEPs who think that everything the Commission does is perfect. However there are certain projects such as this that are both wide ranging and have a huge global impact.
I fully support the hard line transport commissioner Siim Kallas is taking on this issue and I speak for my parliamentary colleagues as well. We have to move this forward. The time for procrastination is past.