Spain signals solution to Gibraltar airport spat

Spain may be willing to treat the political spat over Gibraltar as a separate issue, offering the prospect of both an open skies deal between the European Union (EU) and Ukraine and long awaited legislation designed to help speed up ATM modernisation efforts.
Speaking this week in Ukraine Spain’s ambassador to the country Gerardo Angel Bugallo Ottone proposed excluding the Gibraltar dossier from any proposed agreement on common airspace between Ukraine and the EU- a move which could also unblock planned legislative measures called ‘SES2+’ designed to accelerate the delivery of the Single European Sky objectives.
A Common Aviation Area agreement between Ukraine and the EU was initialed in Vilnius in November 2013 and was scheduled to complete in March 2014, although was never signed. The official reason for the delay in signing was the failure to agree the positions of Spain and the United Kingdom on the dispute over sovereignty over the territory in which Gibraltar’s airport is situated.
Ottone said the Gibraltar dossier was not only delaying Ukraine but also countries such as Brazil which has been prevented from signing an open skies agreement for the same reason.
“The fact is that Spain and Britain have an unresolved judicial dispute concerning Gibraltar, and when it will be resolved is unknown,” Ottone said. “But Spain offers a very simple way, which will help resolve the issue for Ukraine and other countries that want to sign an open skies agreement with the EU – to make it a separate item, which discounts the issue of the airport until the resolution of litigation between Spain and the United Kingdom.”
Ottone noted that the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the EU – termed Brexit – could possibly resolve the issue anyway as the nation would no longer be a signatory state of the EU agreement. “But it is unknown when this process will be completed – if ever – as currently there is no procedure that has been identified,” Ottone noted.
EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc told an aviation summit last year that completing the Single European Sky remained central to guaranteeing the sustainable future of the industry both domestically within the EU in addition to its performance in international markets.

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“Delivering on the SES 2+ regulation in 2016 is vital,” she said. “This is the single biggest issue to be resolved in making our EU aviation market more efficient and competitive.”
Writing in the latest issue of Air Traffic Management magazine Maurizio Castelletti who is head of Single European Sky unit at the European Commission, said while the original aim of the Single European Sky is still valid, gains in efficiency, safety and environmental sustainability were happening more slowly than was hoped for.
“While SES is starting to deliver, however, much more remains to be done to further improve the performance of air navigation services. The challenges are still the same as at the start of the SES initiative.
“They relate to the fragmentation of airspace, service provision and infrastructure; the near-absence of competition; and the lack of flexibility in a labour-intensive industry.”