The Meaning of Airspace Sovereignty Today – A Case Study on Demilitarisation and Functional Airspace Blocks

Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark
  • Nordic Journal of International Law, March 2017, Brill
  • DOI: 10.1163/15718107-08601003

The Meaning of Airspace Sovereignty Today

What is it about?

What is the price of 'seamless skies'? This article discusses the recent creation of functional airspace blocks as part of the effort for seamless skies in Europe. While the core rationale is that of increased safety in the air as well as economic savings, I argue that we are faced with structural and lasting changes resulting in the increased fusion of civil and military spheres as well as private and public actors. In Europe, including in Finland, this trend is slow but clear at least since the mid-1990s. By looking at the development of the North European Functional Airspace Block (NEFAB) we can see how such efforts are difficult to handle both in terms of democratic legitimacy and decision-making as well as in their relation to prior international legal commitments.

Why is it important?

Transnational issues require new transnational responses. Yes, but how? In addition to areas such as climate change, organised crime, global public health, or terrorism, we have the management of airspace which is a natural resource, a space of many kinds of activity and a platform for control. Airspace is traditionally understood as falling within the exclusive sovereignity of states. We are then posed with the challenge of creating normative frameworks able to handle such transnational issues, We need appropriate methods of rule-making and appropriate institutions. This effort requires essentially new forms of politics, while retaining the ambition of democratic legitimacy and legality.


Associate Professor, Jur. dr., Head of Research Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark (Author)
The Åland Islands Peace Institute (Finland)

Spatial as well as temporal perceptions are changing under the influence of social and technological developments around the world and in Europe in particular. In these shifts are incorporated possibilities of enhanced democratic involvement, openness and emancipation but also a great potential for new forms of imperial sovereignties and undemocratic decision-making.

The following have contributed to this page: Associate Professor, Jur. dr., Head of Research Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark