Malta, along with Slovakia and Greece, has been referred to the European Court of Justice for failing to provide data link services to aircraft operators.
Data link systems are the information networks used for communication between landing aircraft and air traffic control towers – in 2009, the EU passed regulations obliging both member states and aircraft operators to use such data link systems.
“Deploying this interoperable technology in Europe is essential to improve the efficiency of communications between pilots and controllers, thereby increasing air traffic control capacity and security,” the Commission said in a statement.
The infringement procedures against the three EU member states in breach of the data link regulations were instituted in May 2020, with reasoned opinions issued in July 2021. Since those Member States are yet to comply with the regulation, the Commission has now decided to refer the cases to the Court of Justice.
The Commission opens infringement procedures against a member state by first sending a formal notice letter allowing the member state a two-month window to submit replies. This is usually carried out when a member state is known or suspected of breaking EU laws.
Following the formal letter, the Commission then escalates its concerns by sending a reasoned opinion and, if deemed necessary, taking the errant member state to the European Court of Justice.
“The deadline for the air traffic service providers to operate data link services has expired, and a lack of equipment in certain control centres is effectively preventing aircraft operators, which were also required to equip themselves with the technology, from using data link services,” the statement adds.
The need for data link services across the EU derives from the Single European Sky initiative, which aims to increase coordination in Europe’s shared air spaces.
Malta is currently facing infringement procedures at the European Court of Justice over other breaches of EU law that include Malta’s failure to comply with urban wastewater treatment protocols, an annual circulation tax that discriminates against cars registered in other member states before January 2009, and the ‘research derogation’ that allows the trapping of finches in Malta.