The creation of a unified European airspace is seriously off track, potentially requiring the EU to use sanctions to force compliance from member states.

The warning came this morning from European transport commissioner Siim Kallas.

“We have fallen seriously behind in our original ambitions. After more than 10 years, the core problems remain the same,” he told a conference in Limassol, Cyprus.

“At this stage, it looks like infringements may well be necessary.”

The European Commission can force member states to follow EU law through a procedure known as infringement, which begins with a formal demand and can escalate into EU court action and fines.

The Single European Sky II package is an EU plan to scale down from 27 national airspaces to nine regional blocks by December, with the ultimate aim of one single air control system.

But countries have been slow to dismantle domestic air traffic monopolies in order to form the regional blocks, and the EU may launch investigations into sanctioning countries who won’t make good on the agreement, Reuters reported.

The European Commission estimates that the patchwork control of Europe’s airspace leads to more than €5 billion in extra costs per year that gets passed on to passengers.

Air traffic control costs make up 6-12% of the cost of an airline ticket.

Kallas said the price paid in the EU for using antiquated 1950s-era systems makes the bloc uncompetitive.

The EU was “a long way off the price in the United States … which already controls the same airspace area with more traffic at half the cost,” he said.

Full implementation of the EU single sky plan would triple the amount of capacity for flights and improve safety tenfold, the Commission said.