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EU funding to modernise air traffic management 'largely unnecessary': auditors

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EU funding to modernise air traffic management 'largely unnecessary': auditors

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(LUXEMBOURG) - While the EU's regulation for the modernisation of air traffic management has added value, EU funding to support ATM projects was largely unnecessary, says the EU Court of Auditors in a report.

In their audit, the ECA reviewed the EU's intervention in the deployment phase of SESAR, the technological pillar of the EU's Single European Sky (SES) initiative.

SESAR, launched in 2005, seeks to harmonise and modernise Air Traffic Management across Europe.

Overall, the ECA concludes that the EU's regulatory intervention in the form of common projects has added value.

However, it also found that EU funding in support of ATM modernisation was 'largely unnecessary', and that the management of the funding was affected by 'some shortcomings'.

ATM systems have traditionally been developed at a national level. Overall, the EU has committed €3.8 billion to SESAR between 2005 and 2020, of which €2.5 billion was earmarked to support the deployment of such systems and procedures.

"With on average 30,000 flights per day, air traffic in Europe required a robust, harmonised and modern management system", said George Pufan, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. "However, the benefits from EU money spent in deploying SESAR are far from clear."

The auditors was EU funding for ATM modernisation was largely unnecessary beacuse a majority of projects would have been financed without EU support.

Other shortcomings in implementation reduced the effectiveness of EU funding, the ECA adds. A substantial amount of funding was awarded without adequate prioritisation and consideration of effectiveness. In addition, the auditors note that not enough was done to mitigate the potential risk of conflicts of interest resulting from the current funding mechanism, whereby some beneficiaries are involved in screening their own applications.

The auditors warn that, for some projects, implementation is not on track to meet the regulatory deadlines, with an increasing risk of delays. They also found a lack of measurement of results in an actual operational environment.

The auditors make several recommendations on how to achieve better results. In particular, they ask the European Commission to:

  • improve the focus of common projects and reinforce their effectiveness;
  • review the EU's financial support for modernising ATM;
  • review and formalise the preparation and submission of applications for funding;
  • ensure appropriate monitoring of performance benefits delivered by ATM modernisation;

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