In June 2016, EU Transport Ministers gave green light to the European Commission to start negotiating on their behalf comprehensive air transport agreements with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)*, Turkey, Qatar and United Arab Emirates (UAE). The move is part of the EU Aviation Strategy published in December last year. Such agreements, now done on a bilateral EU-wide basis, will create a framework for where and how often foreign airlines could fly into the European Union, and vice versa. They also aim at replacing the existing patchwork of bilateral agreements between those countries and some EU Member States.
No details of the EU negotiations mandates have so far been released. But unofficial information has confirmed a number of points that could be part of a future deal:
- Liberalisation of traffic rights – full liberalization of 3rd & 4th freedom traffic rights for passengers and all cargo between Turkey and the EU , Intra-Europe 5th Freedom Right for passengers and cargo flights once they comply with EU aviation legislation and 5th Freedom Right from Turkey for EU carriers;
- Full liberalisation of 3rd & 4th Freedom Rights for passengers and cargo flights and a limited 5th Freedom Right for cargo operators from UAE and Qatar;
- Full liberalisation of ownership & control on reciprocal basis – Transport Commissioner Bulc is prepared to completely remove the EU’s current 49% limit on foreign ownership of airlines.
- Fair competition clause – In return for growth and wider market access, a commitment & requirement to compete ‘fairly’ will be part of the negotiations. What such a clause could specifically include, is not spelled out yet.
- ‘Sunset clause’ – For the first time, EU Member States insisted on limiting the duration of negotiations now set to 3 years for Qatar and UAE and 4 years for Turkey and ASEAN. However the Commission is expected to challenge a sunset clause at the EU’s top court, reports EurActiv.
- Social clause – protection of labour standards and adherence to International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions.
- Transparency – disclosure of relevant financial information and accounts to guarantee fair competition.
The Commission is ready to start the negotiations in the autumn. Turkey and ASEAN have already welcomed the mandate. However, Qatar and UAE have not made any official statement but have previously expressed concern with EU negotiations instead of bilateral ones (read more here).