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ASH CLOUD: EU looks to accelerate 'Single Sky' post-crisis

European Union officials are looking at accelerating introduction of specific 'Single European Sky' initiatives in order to centralise decision-making over airspace closure and avoid repetition of the chaos experienced during the Icelandic volcanic eruption.

Spanish transport minister Jose Blanco Lopez says that proposals to improve the response to a similar event should include the possibility of implementing these initiatives "sooner than planned", enabling Eurocontrol to become the "sole manager" of the European network.

European transport commissioner Siim Kallas is to present, on 27 April, a follow-up report on the crisis which will set out preliminary analysis and initial considerations over the threat, the economic impact, the response, and the regulatory framework.

But he adds that he wants to "fast-track" the 'Single European Sky' transition, rather than wait for a 2012 deadline for introducing certain packages of measures.

"The absence of a single European regulator for air traffic control made it very difficult to respond to this crisis," he says.

"We needed a fast, co-ordinated European response to a crisis. Instead, we had a fragmented patchwork of 27 national airspaces.

"Without a central regulator, Europe was operating with one hand tied behind its back. We need a single European regulator for a single European sky."

Kallas says he has discussed the situation with the Spanish transport minister and advised that the Commission is "ready to step up to fast-track most of its work this year". But he adds that the political support of European transport ministers is required "to make that a reality".

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