EU aims to finalise open skies deal with Israel in Q2

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The European Union hopes to finalise an open skies agreement with Israel in the second quarter, following a delay to the formal signing of the deal in recent months.

"We hope we can sign the agreement with Israel in the second quarter, perhaps at the next [EU] Transport Council meeting in June," says Klaus Geil, the head of sector for external aviation policy in the European Commission's directorate-general for mobility and transport.

The agreement between the EU and Israel was initialled in July 2012 and Israel had been expected to formally sign it in December 2012. However, it held off on finalising the deal until after the Israeli elections in January 2013.

The EU is also seeking to finalise an open skies agreement with Brazil, which Brazil has not yet signed in an impasse that Geil calls frustrating.

"Brazil has unfortunately not been in a position to sign the agreement yet, which has frustrated us since it is now two years since we finalised negotiations and initialled the agreement. Brazil has come back with requests for renegotiation, including fifth freedom rights for passenger services," Geil tells Flightglobal on the sidelines of the 6th ICAO Air Transport Conference in Montreal.

The request for fifth freedom rights failed to win a nod from the EU member states when it was first put to a mandate, but Geil says the EU plans to seek approval from its members again on awarding Brazil fifth freedom rights.

"This remains an important agreement for both sides and we hope to finalise it soon," he adds.

Separately, the EU is looking ahead to an upcoming EU-Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) aviation summit in November, where the two blocs hope to start talks on an EU-Asean open skies deal.

"We hope it will create more momentum for our cooperation with ASEAN which is creating a single ASEAN aviation market and allow us to discuss the mutual benefits of a possible EU-Asean comprehensive air transport agreement," says Geil.

If there is clear interest from both blocs, the European Commission will take the process a step forward and request a mandate from EU member states.

"The earliest that we might be in a position to present such a mandate would not be before next year," says Geil.