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BRUSSELS: December 07, 2015. The European Commission (EC) says the main challenge to the growth of European aviation is the fragmentation of its airspace that costs "at least" €5 billion a year and produces up to 50 million tonnes of CO2; and capacity constraints at EU airports that could cost up to 818,000 jobs by 2035.

In publishing its new aviation strategy the EC says it notes the importance of completing the Single European Sky project, optimizing the use of its busiest airports, and monitoring intra-EU and extra-EU connectivity to identify shortcomings.

The plan coincides with an announcement by Britain's Conservative government to delay any decision until mid-2016 on building a third runway at Heathrow until completion of another environmental impact study.

AN225 LeipzigThis provoked the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce John Longworth to describe the move as "gutless" before adding: "Business will question whether ministers are delaying critical upgrades to our national infrastructure for legitimate reasons, or to satisfy short-term political interests.

"Businesses across Britain will be asking whether there is any point in setting up an Airports Commission – or the recently-announced National Infrastructure Commission – if political considerations are always going to trump big decisions in the national interest."

The EC says it has earmarked €430 million a year until 2020 to implement a single air traffic management system in Europe – a goal older than the European Union itself due to a lack of political will as EU commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc noted: "European aviation is facing a number of challenges."

According to the new aviation policy, innovation and digitalization would act as a catalyst for a sector that employs almost two million people and contributes €110 billion to Europe's economy. Apparently one solution would be to "unleash the full potential of drones".

Simon McNamara, director general of the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) said his association doesn't believe the EC's plan will increase the long-term competitiveness of the industry: "Many of the strategy's action points lack substance and will not tackle some of the underlying weaknesses of the industry. For example, the imminent lack of hub airport capacity in Europe threatens ERA's members' access to Europe's largest airports and risks a loss of connectivity to Europe's regions."

BCC's Longworth echoed this view, saying: "Expansion at other (UK) airports is needed too. Ministers need to stop prevaricating and get on with doing what the country sorely needs."

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