Members' Research Service By / December 17, 2013

Time to deliver the Single European Sky: SES 2+

Updated on 11th July 2014 The liberalisation of the EU’s aviation market in 1993 has made air transport more accessible…

© willypd / Fotolia

Updated on 11th July 2014

Single European Sky II
© willypd / Fotolia

The liberalisation of the EU’s aviation market in 1993 has made air transport more accessible and affordable, with an obvious impact on growth in air services. Since then, air traffic in the EU has already increased by 54%, and according to recent figures, it is expected to grow 50% by 2030. In order to improve the overall efficiency of the way in which European airspace is organised and managed, the European Commission launched in 2004 the Single European Sky I (SES I) package, followed in 2009 by the Single European Sky II (SES II). Nevertheless, the initiative is currently experiencing significant delays in its implementation, notably the insufficient efficiency of Air Navigation and the EU Air Traffic Management (ATM) system still fragmented. In the US, for example, the en-route airspace is controlled by a single service provider as opposed to 38 en-route service providers in Europe. The lack of efficient SES creates extra costs of around €5 billion a year and has a negative impact on aviation’s carbon emissions. To tackle these difficulties and speed up the implementation of SES II, on 11 June 2013 the European Commission has launched the updating of the SES legal framework, known under the abbreviation of SES 2+ package. The package proposes to merge the four SES regulations into a single one (Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the implementation of the Single European Sky (recast) /* COM/2013/0410), structured into relevant key areas: National authorities; Performance and charging schemes: Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB); Support services; and Network Management. The ultimate objective of the recast is the improvement of air traffic services efficiency and of air traffic management capacity. Once fully implemented, the Single European Sky will ensure a seamless, safe and modern air transport system, with benefits for environment, aviation industry and passengers.

This dossier provides recent documentation on state of play and ongoing issues concerning the achievement of the Single European Sky.


Brussels loses patience over Single Sky delays / Euractiv, 11 July 2014

Le ciel unique européen, un projet controversé / Toute l´Europe, August 2013
A short summary, in French, describing main steps, ongoing and future challenges towards the full implementation of SES.

Single Sky: Commission acts to unblock congestion in Europe’s airspace / European Commission Press release, June 2013

Citizens’ summary- Modernising air traffic management / European Commission, 2013
A 2 page infosheet covering the key points of the SES recast.

Library briefing Single European Sky: state of play / European Parliament Library, January 2013


Organization and Innovation in Air Traffic Control / Reason Foundation, 2014, 59 p.
This report presents a brief introduction to air traffic control procedures and technologies, followed by an overview of how advanced ATM would improve the current control system. The analysis is completed by seven case studies of air traffic innovations that have been implemented, with varying degrees of success, in the United States and abroad.

A Blueprint for the Single European Sky / ERA, 2013, 24 p.
This report published by ERA, along with the International Air Transport Association and the Association of European Airlines, outlines a roadmap for achieving the Single European Sky goals and highlights the role that Air Traffic Management system has to play in working towards them.

Single European Sky (SES II+) / cepPolicyBrief No. 2013-48, November 2013,  4 p.
The CEP analisys concludes that the creation of the Single European Sky (SES) will reduce the price of air traffic services and that the extension of the Network Manager’s duties is essential for the creation of the SES. Furthermore, in view of the requirement for legal certainty, it suggests to clarify the concept of an “integrated” provision of air traffic services.

Report on the SES Legislation Implementation / EUROCONTROL, 2012, 208 p.
This report has been produced by EUROCONTROL upon the request of the European Commission’s DG-MOVE. It provides a comprehensive overview on the level of compliance with the SES legislation in the 27 EU Member States plus Switzerland and Norway (referred to as the “29 States”), Iceland and five of the ECAA parties (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia). It also includes 113 recommendations. The vast majority are aimed at specific States and relate to actions that have already been successfully achieved by the majority of reporting States.

Stakeholder views

European Commission views

Executive summary of the impact assessment accompanying the document legislative proposals to update the regulations on the Single European Sky — SES2+
Press release Commission urges Italy, Cyprus and Greece to implement EU rules to unblock congestion in Europe’s airspace, September 2013

European Parliament views

Single Sky rapporteur rejects functional blocks
Marian-Jean Marinescu (EPP, Romania), the EP’s rapporteur on the Single European Sky 2 + recommends removing the idea of functional airspace blocks (FABS).

Single European Sky must be implemented without further delay, urge MEPs
Press release on the adoption of European Parliament resolution of 23 October 2012 on the Implementation of the Single European Sky Legislation

Parliamentary questions

Parliamentary question on Single European Sky II, Ramon Tremosa i Balcells (ALDE), 23 July 2013

Parliamentary question on Measures proposed by the Commission in the SES 2+ (Single European Sky) package, João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), 19 June 2013

Parliamentary question on Single European Sky SES 2+ package , João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), 19 June 2013

European Economic and Social Committee views

Opinion on Single European Sky II +, 17 April 2013

International organisations’ views

Association of European Airlines (AEA)

AEA calls on the European Parliament to push for the implementation of Single European Sky, as they are negatively impacted by the lack of SES achievements, October 2013

Air Traffic Controllers European Unions Coordination (ATCEUC)

Press release Action Day has been set up for January 29!

European Regions Airline Association (ERA)

European airspace users support the European Commission’s move to break the deadlock of Single European Sky and strongly condemn the industrial actions of air traffic controllers, June 2013

International Air Transport Association (IATA)

A Step Toward the Single European Sky, June 2013
IATA raised three main concerns on the new performance review body; the clearer role definition and enhanced capabilities of aviation authorities; and the changing of the definition of Functional Airspace Block (FAB) to ‘an industrial partnership’.

European Transport Workers´ Federation (ETF)

ETF demands a social dimension inside the Single European Sky, October 2013
The organisation calls on the European Parliament to block the liberalisation of the ATM industry.

European Unions Rekindle ATC Strike Plans over ‘Single Sky’ , January 2014
“The trade unions association that planned and then called off a Europe-wide ATC strike last October has scheduled a new job action on January 29 to express its displeasure with proposed amendments to Single European Sky (SES) legislation. The new strike planned by the Air Traffic Controllers European Unions Coordination (ATCEUC) will dovetail with another job action the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) plans the following day”.

National views

Functional Airspace Block (FAB) initiatives

UK-Ireland FAB : estabilished

Danish-Swedish FAB : estabilished

Baltic FAB (Lithuania, Poland)

BLUE MED FAB (Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta)

Danube FAB (Bulgaria, Romania): first step implemented

FAB CE (Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovak Republic, Slovenia)

FABEC (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland)

North European FAB (Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Norway)

South West FAB (Portugal, Spain)

Unites States

Next Generation Air Transportation System initiative (NextGen)
This initiative managed by the Federal Aviation Administration aims at tranforming the National Airspace System (NAS). At its most basic level, NextGen representsan evolution from a ground-based system of air traffic control to a satellite-based system of air traffic management.


Air passenger transport in the EU27 / Eurostat , 2013
According to this Eurostat press release, in 2012, 827 million passengers travelled by air in the EU27, a rise of 0.7% compared with 2011. Looking back over a longer period, air passenger transport has increased by 10.0% compared with 2009, the low point following the financial crisis, but only by 3.6% compared with 2008.

European Air Traffic in 2035 / EUROCONTROL, 2013, 64 p.
This study explores the traffic development in Europe over the next 20 years. This document is completed by other reports of the Series “Challenges of Growth 2013“.

EU programmes and projects

SESAR (Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research system) programme aims at researching the technology required for the future Single Sky. On July 2013 the European Commission announced €600 million of new funding from the Horizon 2020 programme; SESAR is also co-funded by the European Eurocontrol and the aviation industry. The SESAR Joint Undertaking is the legal entity responsible for the programme management.

Related legislative procedure

2013/0186(COD) Implementation of the Single European Sky. Recast

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  • Time to deliver the Single European Sky, well yes its long over due. Its been dragging on for years, someone please explain that to the Spanish and French air traffic controllers who oppose and obstruct changes in European integrated air travel.

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