Air navigation service providers (ANSPs) from 10 Eastern and Central European countries signed a cooperation agreement earlier this month to create a regional entity with a stronger voice in Europe’s air traffic management decision-making process. The association covers airspace managed by three smaller groupings of adjoining countries known as functional airspace blocks (FABs), in this case the Baltic, Danube and Central Europe FABs.
The so-called “Gate One” agreement was signed in Sofia, Bulgaria, on November 6 by the chief executives of ANSPs representing Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The parties agreed that Bosnia-Herzegovina’s ANSP will join the grouping in January.
Initially, the respective FABs started collaborating as the Central European ANS Provider Partnership. But the parties decided to modify the name because the area covered by the grouping, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, is larger than Central Europe. They named the new agreement after the NH Gate One Hotel in Bratislava, Slovakia, where the first preparatory meeting took place.
In announcing the agreement, the parties said its purpose is to “ensure a more powerful and coordinated advocacy of the countries of the region” in the European ATM decision-making process. They express support for the implementation of the Single European Sky (SES), which is comparable to NextGen in the U.S., but call for changes to proposed “SES2+” reforms the European Commission announced in June to expedite the SES effort.
The SES2+ reforms are controversial; in October they nearly caused a widespread strike by air traffic controllers represented by the Air Traffic Controllers European Unions Coordination. In a joint statement on October 23, the trade unions association, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization and the European Transport Workers Federation said they “see a high-level risk of micromanagement at Commission/central level through the current SES2+ proposal which cannot sufficiently satisfy different local needs. There is currently too much regulation.”
Similarly, the signatories to the Gate One agreement note, “Overregulation and unnecessary bureaucratic burden imposed on the service providers of the industry shall be avoided in the course of air traffic control reform. [T]he signatories to the agreement pointed out in regard to the draft regulation on SES2+ that in its present form it does not constitute the content for new legislative steps. It needs in a number of its provisions further refinement and detailed evaluation and justification of its elements before it can be put into effect.”