Commission expected to get mandate to deal with bilateral air services agreements between members and USA

The European Commission says it is now confident of being handed full aviation bilateral negotiation rights for all European Union countries following a positive report from the UK parliament earlier this month. The UK is the final "key player" to give tacit approval to the EC taking control of open skies talks with the USA, and the EC is concluding negotiations with several other member states over the future of other bilateral air services agreements (ASAs).

The UK's parliamentary committee concluded that the EC should be given two mandates: one to correct any illegal aspects of existing ASAs and another to "address the imbalance in the existing ASA system" between the USA and the EU, by renegotiating on behalf of all states. The EC originally forecast being given a mandate to negotiate at meetings of transport ministers earlier this year, but several smaller countries had been waiting for the UK's detailed analysis.

The EC says "the majority" of countries have now indicated their approval, and are set to give the EC formal consent in June, but that several "technical issues" are still being negotiated. The UK's civil aviation authority added its voice, saying that issues such as US bans on wet-leased aircraft, cabotage and foreign ownership were more likely to be overturned by a joint EU position. The US Department of Transportation did not include the UK CAA in several recent secret talks with EU member states offering small amendments to existing open skies deals.

Several other countries are said to be worried about transferring negotiating powers to Brussels for bilaterals with former colonial nations. The EC says that, although an open skies agreement with the USA is its key priority, ASAs with Japan, Russia and other nations will follow. France, along with several other countries, is examining the possibility of restricting the mandate to transatlantic talks.

The EC says it will open negotiations with the USA "within days" of receiving the mandate in June.

Source: Flight International