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EU Signs Aviation Agreements With Armenia And Israel

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

16 December 2008

The European Union (EU) has signed two separate aviation agreements with the governments of Armenia and Israel, it has been announced.

The EU's agreement with Armenia – which has been under negotiation for the past three years – will allow all European airlines to fly between Armenia and any EU member state.

The agreement was signed by Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, responsible for external relations, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, Secretary of State for European Affairs for the French Presidency, and Eduard Nalbandyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia in the framework of the EU-Armenia Cooperation Council.

“The agreement recognises that airlines in the EU are not any longer national airlines, and all of them will thus have non-discriminatory access to the air transport market between the EU and Armenia. This is an important step in our external aviation policy and a further building block in our policy towards neighbouring countries,” Commission Vice-President, Antonio Tajani, explained.

Ferrero-Waldner added:

"Facilitating transport links between the European Union and Armenia is a crucial and very visible component in our policy to enhance people-to-people contacts and improve business links between the EU and Armenia. Thus this agreement fits into the logic of our ambitious recent proposal for an Eastern Partnership and contributes to promoting Armenia's rapprochement to the European Union."

The EU has negotiated 35 such horizontal agreements with partner countries and thereby brought more than 600 bilateral air services agreements in compliance with Community law.

Passenger numbers between the EU and Armenia increased from almost 166,000 in 2006 to 204,000 in 2007 the main markets being France, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. The agreement will contribute to the further development of EU-Armenia aviation relations.

The EU's aviation agreement with Israel will remove nationality restrictions in the bilateral air services agreements between EU member states and Israel.

This agreement will allow any EU airline to operate flights between any EU member state and Israel where a bilateral agreement with Israel exists and traffic rights are available. In parallel, the EU and Israel have announced they've also started negotiations on a comprehensive aviation agreement.

"The agreement that's been signed is good news for Israeli and European airlines and passengers, as it remove the legal uncertainty from the bilateral air services agreements”, Tajani declared.

This so-called "horizontal" aviation agreement does not replace the bilateral agreements in place between the Israel and 27 EU member states, but brings these in line with European law.

Horizontal agreements have been negotiated with 38 countries worldwide. Nearly 800 bilateral air services agreements have already been modified by the joint efforts of the European Commission and member states to replace nationality rules with the principle of EU airline designation.

According to the Commission, the agreement is an important step towards further strengthening the EU-Israel aviation relations and will encourage traffic between the EU and Israel.

Air transport is also seen by the Commission as crucial for the relations between the EU and Israel, linking people, cultures and businesses. The parties also started negotiations on a comprehensive aviation agreement with a view to establishing a Common Aviation Area between the EU and Israel.

This aviation agreement will gradually open up the air transport market and provide for regulatory co-operation in the fields of aviation safety, security, air traffic management, technology, research and industrial co-operation, consumer and environmental protection and competition.

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