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International community to hand over
BiH air space

By Sgt. Kerensa Hardy
First published in
SFOR Informer#111, April 18, 2001

Sarajevo - Several international organisations are making preparations to hand over yet another big responsibility to the BiH government - air space.
SFOR has been in charge of BiH air space since 1996, in accordance with the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP). Implementation of a specific plan that outlines the transition process is now underway.
"The Air Normalisation Plan is designed to hand over to BiH authorities the control and management of their own air space," said French Maj. Gen. Roger Duburg, deputy commander of SFOR (DCOMSFOR). "All civilian traffic - planes landing or taking off from BiH - are controlled by NATO for free. We are controlling the military flights and civilian flights."
"We are going to hand over these responsibilities consistent with the operational requirements and operational needs of SFOR and NATO," Duburg said. He acknowledged that airspace is only a small part of the overall plan to return all aspects of control and ownership to BiH.
According to the GFAP, SFOR needs to be certain that safe and professional standards will continue to be met before the final handover can be made. SFOR also possesses the right to take back control if COMSFOR deems such action appropriate.
DCOMSFOR said that he expects, as soon as possible, to transfer authority and responsibility to the BiH civilian aviation department, air traffic controllers, airport firemen and experts.
"This requires not only an immense effort and a joint effort by SFOR, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation), OHR, but also a financial effort," Duburg said. "EU (European Union) is very helpful in that regard by providing financial assistance to this major transition plan."
The target date for the final handover for control of civilian flights is January 2002. Before this can be done, SFOR, NATO, OHR and civilian aviation authorities must be confident that proper equipment and a well-trained staff are in place for continued operations. BiH also needs to select an air traffic service provider for a two- to five-year period.
"This can only be achieved through a common, concerted, co-ordinated effort - a joint effort - through ICAO, SFOR and OHR," Duburg said.
A meeting is held every three months with all the key "actors" involved in this process: BiH authorities, ICAO, EuroControl, European Union, OHR, SFOR and European Civil Aviation Conference.
"Unfortunately, after five years here almost nothing has been done," he added. Although there have been efforts, those efforts yielded poor results. "In a simple manner, this is a problem which is easy to solve as long as we deal with professionals."
"It becomes difficult when political agendas are interfering with good common sense," Duburg said. "But now we think that the conditions are good to go ahead and we are confident, especially with the present Counsel of Ministry (at the State level) which has shown its commitment to overcome political situations and to go ahead for the benefit of all the citizens of BiH.
"Our position, more or less, is to transfer the responsibilities from military to civilian, from NATO to BiH, from foreigners to BiH citizens."
While normalisation of upper air space has already been achieved, Duburg said the goal is to expand that normalisation to intermediate air space.
The upper air space is used by aircraft when in transit all over BiH and is controlled by civilian air traffic from Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The intermediate air space is used for NATO operations and by commercial air traffic when ascending or descending.
"We are trying to set up an agreement with OHR and ICAO to gradually replace SFOR and NATO expert soldiers in charge of managing incoming or outgoing flights in this country," Duburg said. "This does not mean we are going to leave Sarajevo, Tuzla and Mostar airports.
"The present military detachments will carry on their duties within SFORS's mission to control military flights as long as SFOR is deployed in this country."

Related link: SFOR at Work