NATO helps to boost civilian air traffic across the Western Balkans

  • 24 Jan. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 24 Jan. 2024 17:24

New civilian air routes were established across Albanian airspace on 24 January 2024 to facilitate flights to and from Pristina airport. This new development is the result of efforts carried out under a NATO-led process aimed at normalising civil aviation traffic across the Western Balkans. The new routes will positively affect civil aviation and provide significant benefits, including shorter flight times, lower fuel consumption, and reduced pollution.

NATO has been supporting the process of normalising the use of the airspace over Kosovo since 1999, by leading consultations known as “Balkans Aviation Normalization Meetings”. These meetings are regularly attended by representatives of Allied countries, air navigation authorities, national military authorities and relevant international organizations, including the International Civil Aviation Organization, the European Aviation Safety Agency, and EUROCONTROL, among others.

In 2014, the upper airspace over Kosovo was reopened. This was made possible by the contributions provided by Hungary and the role performed by its Air Navigation Service Provider (HUNGAROCONTROL), which undertook the responsibility to control flights above 21,000 feet. In recent years, through the Balkans Aviation Normalization Meetings, NATO facilitated the formalisation of a Framework Agreement between KFOR and Iceland. Iceland’s Transport Safety Authority (ICETRA) is now acting as a Safety Oversight Function in support to the KFOR Commander, who retains primary authority for the use of the lower airspace over Kosovo, as per the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999. ICETRA performs the scrutiny of all the technical solutions that allow for the establishment of new direct routes, in the lower airspace, between Pristina and other cities.