Newsletter 23/2012 - Our South East Europe

Single European Sky on Western Balkans Horizon

An Agreement signed in Stockholm in April 2008 on the establishment of the Implementation of the Single European Sky in South East Europe (ISIS) Programme was the first step of an initiative funded by the European Commission’s (EC) Directorate General Mobility and Transport (DG-MOVE). It was developed in the framework of the extension of the Trans-European networks to South East Europe (SEE) and in support to the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) Agreement. It is intended to provide benefit to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo*.

As the principal support to the implementation of the Single European Sky (SES) in the region, the ISIS Programme is meant to:

  • enhance cooperation between beneficiaries and organisations in South East Europe but also between the European Union (EU) members and the region;
  • promote the SES in SEE, including possible  alignment of structures with those in place within the EU, and welcoming ISIS country representatives to participate as observers in the SES activities.[1]

This systematic approach from the ISIS programme has brought all Balkan countries into the implementation phase of the SES legislation, says Zoran Angelovski, Director of International and Legal Division at the Civil Aviation Agency in Skopje.

“Main requirements from the SES legislation, related to the separation of the provision of air navigation service (ANS) and regulatory functions, designation of the ANS providers, establishment of the National Supervisory Authorities (NSAs), setting up a Flexible Use of Airspace (FUA) and civil military cooperation, etc. are mostly finished.”

Widening the Single European Sky to SEE will, through harmonisation of rules and standards in this area, advance infrastructural connectivity and improve air-traffic services. Also, it will improve air safety, security, environment protection as well as protection of end users of services, adds Ambassador Aleksandar Andrija Pejovic, Montenegrin State Secretary for European Integration. 

“Common EU transport policy is devoted to a modernisation and adjustment of the infrastructure to the increasing number of passengers and to improvements of their rights. On the other hand, it contributes to simultaneous development of economy, stability of prices, improved passenger comfort and living standard of citizens.”

Pejovic stresses that, in order to become a part of ECAA, Montenegro has a responsibility to efficiently respond to the EU requirements in this area, i.e. to transpose the EU legislation into local air-traffic laws.

“Montenegro is committed to further improving security and competitiveness of domestic transport economy, and to connecting to European transport Network.”

The third Governing Body[2] meeting of the ISIS Programme in South East Europe, held in Ohrid, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in September 2012, recognised the positive results and progress achieved in all key SES domains in the framework of the second phase of the ISIS Programme.

Exploring the potential for further development of air services within the region, as well as possibilities for the reorganisation of the airspace structure in accordance with recommendations of the Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB), appeared to be a regional necessity in order to improve airspace structures as far as its quality, reliability, performance and connectivity are concerned. 

Angelovski claims that when it comes to the implementation of the interoperability and FAB requirements from the SES legislation there is still a lot to be done in the region.

“Another problem that is slowing down the implementation of the SES requirements is the fact that the Annex 1 of the ECAA Agreement has not been amended since 2008 and still refers to the SES 1 legislation. Therefore, the Balkan countries do not have a legal basis to start with the transposition and implementation phase of the SES 2 legislation.”

Over a year ago, the Members of the ISIS Governing Body at their meeting in Solin, Croatia discussed the possibility of a study on the air traffic flow in SEE, having in mind the creation of the Functional Airspace Blocks as a cornerstone of the SES initiative and consequently the reorganisation of the airspace as a pre-requisite for the associated process of creating such a FAB (as reflected in the ECAA Agreement). In the adopted conclusions it was declared that there was a need to undertake activities related to assessment of the current situation of the ISIS beneficiaries’ airspace in relation to the obligations stemming from the SES initiative.

The conclusions triggered work on the Study on the Importance of Air Transport Sector in Enhancing Economic and Social Development and Cooperation in SEE that was submitted as a grant application to the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) this September by the Secretariats of the ISIS Programme and the RCC.

“This study should be used as a demonstration of the benefits of organising the airspace in Functional Airspace Blocks, by pointing out to positive effects that such organisation of the airspace would have on the traffic flow in the region. Furthermore, the study should highlight the possibility of a significant increase in the regional air transport by implementing the FAB”, says Amna Redzepagic, Expert on Infrastructure at the RCC Secretariat.

According to Redzepagic, the study would prioritize the establishment of Functional Airspace Blocks in the region.

“A basic principle of the project is to involve key stakeholders as much as possible in the development of the study. For this reason, it is suggested to perform three stakeholders consultation meetings during the course of the study preparation.”

The European Commission and the Regional Cooperation Council expressed their commitment to providing political framework and the appropriate support to the continuation of the ISIS Programme beyond 2012, as a part of sustained efforts towards the implementation of the Single European Sky II legislation.  

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

[2] The governing body is the decision making body of the ISIS Programme and is composed of Director-General of ISIS Beneficiaries (could be represented by another high official), of the European Commission (DG-MOVE), of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC); and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to whom the status of observer has been granted.


The RCC works to transpose South East Europe’s regional needs into visible and viable infrastructure projects (Photo:

The RCC works to transpose South East Europe’s regional needs into visible and viable infrastructure projects (Photo: