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French air traffic strikes begin

French air traffic controllers have begun a series of strikes against a European plan to overhaul their industry, forcing the country's main airports to halve their flights.

Around 1,800 flights were cancelled at Charles de Gaulle, Orly, Beauvais, Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux airports.

The strike was called to protest against a European Union plan to centralise control of airspace to eliminate duplication of work across the 27 countries.

Unions fear the plan will cost jobs and reduce pay for air traffic controllers. They have called more strikes in other countries throughout the EU on Wednesday.

EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas called for a speedy implementation of the centralisation plan as the current system's inefficiencies are costing airlines and customers some 5 billion euros (£4.3 billion) annually.

French transport minister Frederic Cuvillier said that France and Berlin are seeking a postponement of the plan. He said that he and his German colleague, Peter Ramsauer, asked the European Transport commissioner to formally "delay this type of liberalisation" at the European summit at the end of June.

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