European transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio has warned the UK government that no new open skies deal should be struck in advance of the imminent European Court of Justice (ECJ) verdict on whether nationally based bilateral aviation treaties are illegal for EU member states. The warning follows the recent re-start of open skies talks between the USA and UK.

In a letter to the UK Department for Transport (DfT), de Palacio argues that any such US/UK agreement would harm the EU's credibility as the future negotiating agency for all member states.

The DfT says that there are no full-scale negotiations going on, but that the USA - which walked away from the last round of talks in August - has asked whether there is any common ground for new negotiations, and the DfT says: "We are discussing this with them."

De Palacio's office argues that it is becoming progressively more important for the European Commission (EC) to have an external negotiating mandate to be able to take up issues such as the post-11 September subsidies to US carriers that the EC says give them a competitive advantage over EU airlines.

The ECJ is expected to rule before the end of the year on whether bilateral aviation treaties between individual EU states and external ones are illegal according to the European Treaty, on the grounds that they exclude operations by airlines from other EU states. If the court rules individual bilaterals illegal, the EC says it will immediately push the EU Council to grant it a negotiating mandate.

Source: Flight International