The shortest connection from Europe to Asia is flight from Helsinki to various capitals in Asia. This is due to Helsinki location in the North that enables northern route as well as the right to the use of Russian airspace. The situation has partly changed now since on 28 February the European Union Council approved a ban on the overflight of EU airspace and on access to EU airports by Russian carriers of all kinds, and consequently Russia closed its own airspace from 36 countries, including Finland. While the very northernmost route still exists, the non-availability of Russian airspace makes the route longer and similar to the time preceding open sky era in Russia. The EU’s decision to close its airspace from Russia is not only a political decision but has also legal aspects to consider. How is air space and aviation governed internationally and within the EU?
Overall, states enjoy sovereignty over their territory, including airspace. However, there is some common standards set in international treaties and EU law. 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) is the key international treaty regulating aviation and airspace. The Chicago Convention was a result of the need for re-establishing cooperation and friendship after dark times of the Second World War which had also been a catalyst for technical development of the aeroplane. The Convention established the core principles permitting international transport by air and created the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which’s aim is to establish standards and regulation for aviation safety, economic growth and environmental sustainability. ICAO also serves as a forum of cooperation of the 192 member states.
Since 2004, the EU received competence in air traffic management and the decision-making. The idea of Single European Sky, on the other hand, accompanied by legal framework of 4 basic regulations, cover the provision of air navigation services (ANS), the organization and use of airspace as well as the interoperability of the European Air Traffic Management Network (EATMN). The EU instruments that assure the safety and seamless functioning of air traffic management are the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Even though the use of air space by defense forces is affected by the regulations, Member States have the right of sovereignty of their airspace and can organize military operations as they are not covered by the EU legal framework.
Find out more:
Convention on International Civil Aviation – Doc 7300 (icao.int)
Air transport: Single European Sky | Fact Sheets on the European Union | European Parliament (europa.eu)