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
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."
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
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
While normalisation of upper air space has already been achieved,
Duburg said the goal is to expand that normalisation to intermediate
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."
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