In November 2005 the EU and USA concluded a draft Air Services Agreement between the two largest "open" aviation markets in the world. Subsequently, however, one of the pieces of the jigsaw did not fall into place. As a prerequisite to ratifying the agreement, the EU had made plain to the American negotiators the need for a change to US rules on actual control of US airlines. This was designed to improve access for EU airlines to the US domestic market. However, the proposed change ran into opposition from the US Congress and following the elections last November, was formally abandoned by the US Administration.
Last month, the US negotiating team were invited by the EU Commission to meet in Brussels with a view to developing a way forward. The initial problem was the legal uncertainty in the industry following the 2002 European Court of Justice rulings that a number of Air Services Agreements between EU Member States and the USA were incompatible with the EU Treaties. A Member State of the EU cannot enter into an agreement with a third country which gives privileged access to routes for its domestic airlines over other EU countries' airlines. Since 2002, the EU Commission has made extensive efforts to resolve the legal issue by agreeing a much wider, comprehensive package between the USA and the EU. The stakes are high - safety, security and jobs are all greatly affected by any agreement between the most influential aviation markets in the world. At stake is whether the EU gives the US Airlines some access to the EU market whilst not obtaining any access for EU airlines to the US market. ECA has always called for fair and reciprocal access, along with guarantees for strong safety oversight, and safeguards for employment.
The negotiations are continuing this week in Washington. ECA is there, and will continue to lobby strongly on our members' behalf.