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EU And US Open Talks On Second Stage Of Open Skies Pact

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

19 May 2008

The European Union and the United States on Thursday opened the second phase of negotiations on the ‘Open Skies Agreement,’ an agreement liberalising air traffic between the EU and the US.

In addition to Slovenian Transport Minister Radovan Zerjav, the current President of the EU Transport Council, the opening of the event was also attended by Zoltan Kazatsay, the Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s DG Energy and Transport, Clayland Boyden Gray, the Special Envoy of the US to the EU, more than 90 representatives of EU Member States, the European Commission, and the United States, as well as representatives of the European and US aviation industries.

During the two-day meeting, which began on 15th May, the American and European negotiators attempted to agree upon the course of the second-phase negotiations, and discussed some unresolved issues, such as continued liberalisation of the market, investment opportunities and environmental policy.

As the Slovenian Minister of Transport and current President of the EU Transport Council, Zerjav commented in his opening address that the Aviation Agreement, which was signed last year and provisionally entered into force just over a month ago, was an important milestone in the development of good relations between the United States of America and Europe.

“Today’s event gives new impetus to this Agreement and enables us to find solutions to all the issues that remained outstanding after the first phase,” he stressed.

The Council President said that he continues to be optimistic about future results. He expects both delegations to make their best efforts, in negotiations, to identify mutually acceptable solutions, taking account of the interests of both airlines and passengers.

The common objective of the signatories to the EU-US Agreement is to further open market access and increase benefits for consumers, airlines, the workforce and communities on both sides of the Atlantic.

In order to continue this process, the contracting parties will develop a plan which will also include the determination of priority interests for each contracting party.

In the negotiation process, the delegates will focus on searching for joint solutions on further liberalisation of traffic rights, additional opportunities for foreign investment, the impact of environmental measures and infrastructure restrictions on the exercise of traffic rights, further access to air transport financed by the State and the provision of aircraft with flight crew.

The first Open Skies agreement between the US and the EU, which went into effect on 30th March, is set to radically shake-up the transatlantic air travel market. Under the agreement, for the first time, European airlines can fly without restrictions from any point in the EU to any point in the US.

The agreement, the most ambitious air services deal ever negotiated, will see the two biggest aviation markets, encompassing 60% of world traffic, cooperate more closely in all fields of aviation policy.

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