European Parliament specifies framework for negotiations, with USA main priority

The European Parliament has laid down a three-stage framework for the European Commission's open skies negotiations with third countries. The Strasbourg, France-based parliament has granted approval for the EC to open talks with the US Department of Transportation - scheduled for 1 October - but has applied conditions.

The EC says that with more than 2,100 air-service agreements in force between European Union member states and third countries, it would be impossible for the EC to conduct all talks. It says individual European countries should conduct bilateral talks with third countries, although the EC would retain audit powers.

Under the parliament's three-step approach, the USA is the first priority and will serve as a "template" for future talks. The second stage is to deal with countries with fully liberalised air transport markets, followed by all other states.

European Parliament air service agreements committee member Brian Simpson says countries such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore are waiting for agreements and Europe should not "become obsessed with an agreement with the USA to the detriment of others". The parliament instructed the EC to conduct EU-USA negotiations ahead of others to avoid letting the USA "cherry-pick the best routes into Europe and leave European carriers with the crumbs".

The parliament has also added two conditions to the EC's negotiating mandate that could delay talks. Negotiations must include an assessment of emissions, which is likely to discriminate against older US fleets, and a demand to eliminate or redress about $11 billion in indirect subsidies given to US airlines will be greeted with hostility by Washington. The parliament says the industry protection measures, combined with the Fly American policy and commercial reserve air fleet, "distort competition and are incompatible with existing bilateral regimes".

Source: Flight International