Julian Moxon/PARIS

THE EUROPEAN Commission (EC) will adopt its mandate for open-skies deals with the USA by the end of April, according to a senior Transport Directorate source.

"We're not going for protection, or restrictive agreements," says the EC. "These are very liberal open-skies proposals." The next hurdle will be the European Council of Ministers' meeting in June, which will review the deal. Final agreement from the Council is not expected until late this year at the earliest.

Transport commissioner Neil Kinnock is backing away from the idea of taking legal action against individual countries which are making their own deals with the USA. The USA is near to concluding final agreements with Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

The EC's threat to take the case to the European Court of Justice to try to force a reversal is now considered counter-productive. "It would not be politically wise to use the law," says the EC source. Such action would also take at least 30 months to pass through the courts.

Instead, the EC is likely to ask those countries already in the process of negotiating open-skies deals "...to discuss the alternatives...after that, it's a political game", says the source.

Source: Flight International