European Union regulators have signed a pact with the United Arab Emirates removing nationality restrictions in bilateral air services agreements.

The pact enables European Union carriers to operate flights between any EU member state and points in the UAE. Similar horizontal agreements have been negotiated with 29 countries but the UAE is the first in the Gulf region to sign.

“This agreement recognises that airlines in the EU are not any longer national airlines but Community airlines,” says European transport commissioner Jacques Barrot.

While the agreement does not replace bilateral air services agreements between EU states and the UAE, it brings them into line with EU law by lifting nationality restrictions.

“All EU airlines now have non-discriminatory access to the air transport market between the EU and the UAE,” says Barrot.