New Commission plans talks with Russia and China and extension of air transport rules to neighbouring states

The new European Commission has signalled its intention to move external relations to the forefront of air transport policy, after criticism from airline groups about the amount of operational regulation.

Daniel Calleja, EC director for air transport, says there are four main challenges during the life of the 2005-2010 executive, with foreign affairs taking priority. Calleja tells Flight International that concluding open-skies deals, extending EU aviation rules to neighbouring states, and working on harmonised global safety standards have been outlined by transport commissioner Jacques Barrot as key strategic priorities.

The previous commission was responsible for the largest-ever amount of aviation legislation, and International Air Transport Association director general Giovanni Bisignani used a speech in Brussels recently to put an estimate of €5.9 billion ($7.8 billion) on the annual cost to airlines of all the new EC rules.

Several controversial proposals still await discussion, including ground handling, airport charges and slots reform, but Calleja says with so much already achieved, less internal regulation is likely. "We have created an internal market with internal rules. We now need an external dimension."

The EC has asked foreign ministers for the right to open bilateral talks with Russia and China, to run in parallel to stalled negotiations with the USA.

Calleja says pressing issues such as the estimated €250 million in Siberian overflight charges controversially paid to Aeroflot Russian Airlines, as well as safety and industrial co-operation, make talks with Russia "very important".

The EC also plans to extend its rules on safety, state aid and liberalisation to neighbouring states during the next five years; deals with Morocco and western Balkan states are already in place. The aim is to create a European Common Aviation Area extending deep into the former Soviet satellites.

Barrot was in Washington DC last week to meet US transportation secretary Norman Mineta in an attempt to kick-start the open-skies talks that broke down in June last year.

EC insiders say a year-end deadline may be too optimistic, and hope that a focus on other parts of the world could spur the USA into quicker reform of thorny issues such as cabotage.


Source: Flight International