The European Union's plans to speed up the consolidation of its airspace are prompting a continentwide strike of air traffic controllers.

Controllers say the plan is unsafe for passengers and could cost jobs. The EU, meanwhile, says having separate national air control systems is costly and inefficient, adding an average of 42 kilometers (26 miles) to each flight.

The plans, announced by the EU on Tuesday, would speed up a process in the works for more than a decade to pull together the bloc's 27 different air traffic control systems.

In France, workers kicked off the strike on Tuesday, forcing the cancellation of 1,800 flights — about half of the timetable in major cities.

The main union says workers in 11 countries will take part beginning Tuesday evening.