THE ROW THAT has erupted suddenly between France and the USA over traffic rights demonstrates yet again the weakness of individual countries when they attempt to negotiate balanced agreements with the world's most powerful air-transport nation.

The USA has concluded individual "open-skies" agreements with eight other European countries, and hopes to force others into accepting similar deals. France, however, abrogated its agreement in 1992, and now the USA has rejected an application for extra flights from France this summer, hoping to force the pace in the forthcoming bilateral negotiations between the two countries.

Never has the case been stronger for giving the European Commission (EC) a mandate to negotiate air-traffic rights with the USA on behalf of all European Union (EU) countries. It is unfortunate that the snail-like pace of the EU decision-making process means that little will be achieved before total European air-transport liberalisation in April 1997.

It is also clear that the sooner Europe gives the EC its mandate the sooner the USA will be forced to accept the idea of a common aviation area covering both sides of the Atlantic which will benefit the passengers, rather than the politicians.

Source: Flight International