Balkans put greater emphasis on NATO, EU air traffic regulations

20/08/2014

Regional countries try to avoid confusion over Russia's attempt to create a new flight region including Crimea and parts of Ukraine.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 20/08/14

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NATO air traffic regulations for the Balkans are often amended to maximise air safety. [AFP]

Balkan aviation authorities are following NATO and EU air traffic regulations more cautiously after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine, officials said.

NATO regulations regulate the airspace over Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.

Balkan civil aviation authority officials said they communicate daily with NATO.

"Everything that is undertaken is done with a unique goal to improve security, and the main focus is on the responsibility of states to provide reports of potential risks in some of the conflict areas," Dejan Mojsovski, director of the Macedonian Civil Aviation Agency, told SETimes.

The US Federal Aviation Administration issued a special note on the potentially dangerous situation in Ukrainian airspace, particularly over Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

"[There is a] potential for conflicting air-traffic control instructions from Ukrainian and Russian authorities, and the potential for misidentification of civil aircraft," it said.

Russia is trying to establish a new flight information region that includes airspace over Crimea and the international airspace now managed from Ukraine, resulting in conflicting instructions to pilots.

"Air carriers are required to follow instructions, but deal with other issues with the relevant air traffic control authorities," Eduard Sostaric, spokesman for the Croatian Civil Aviation Agency, told SETimes.

Croatia's civil aviation agency announced it is closing part of routes as a result of the Malaysia Airlines incident.

NATO first issued regulations for civil air traffic in the Balkan Joint Operation Area -- known as "spins" -- in 2000, but amends them repeatedly to factor in operational changes.

NATO made the latest changes in April when it opened the upper airspace over Kosovo for commercial flights under control of the Hungarian aviation authority.

"The change reflects the progress achieved so far in aviation matters in the region, and aims to fully normalise the airspace over the Balkans," Dritan Gjonbalaj, general director of the Kosovo Civilian Authority Control, told SETimes.

Croatia and Macedonia officials reported the number of flights and passengers have increased.

Passengers welcomed the NATO air traffic regulations as well as tougher security measures at airports.

"What is important is to fly safe. After what happened with the airplane that crashed in Ukraine, the more security measures the better," Vjollca Nikolla of Pristina told SETimes.

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While the perception is that aviation travel is safer, governments should be more vigilant, said Irena Seneva of Skopje.

"I like the measures instituted at the airports that surely go in that direction," Seneva told SETimes.

Correspondents Miki Trajkovski in Skopje and Kruno Kartus in Zagreb contributed to this report.

What can the Balkan countries do to improve air safety? Share your opinion in the comment section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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