The European Union and Qatar sign a landmark aviation agreement
Qatar is an increasingly important aviation partner for the EU. It was the 15th largest extra-EU market in 2019 with 6.3 million passengers travelling between the EU and Qatar. Ensuring open and fair competition for air services between both is therefore crucial, also for routes between the EU and Asia.
Adina Vălean, Commissioner for mobility and transport, said: “This agreement, the first one between the EU and the Gulf region, is a global benchmark for forward-looking aviation agreements. It is testimony to our shared commitment to economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aviation, based on a modern framework covering fair competition and closer cooperation on social and environmental matters. This agreement will bring new opportunities, more choice and higher standards for passengers, industry and aviation workers.”
Today’s agreement creates a level playing field that is expected to result in new air transport opportunities and economic benefits for both sides:
- All EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights from any airport in the EU to Qatar and vice versa for Qatari airlines.
- EU airports in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands will be subject to a gradual build-up of capacity until 2024. For more details on this, see the Q&A.
- Strong provisions on open and fair competition will guarantee a level playing field.
- The parties recognised the importance of social matters, agreed to cooperate on these and to improve their respective social and labour laws and policies as per their international commitments.
The agreement will facilitate people-to-people contacts and expand commercial opportunities and trade. Going beyond traffic rights, the EU-Qatar agreement will provide a single set of rules, high standards and a platform for future cooperation on a wide range of aviation issues.
Qatar is a close aviation partner for the European Union; more than 6 million passengers travelled between the EU and Qatar per year under the existing 26 bilateral air transport agreements with EU Member States prior to the pandemic. While direct flights between most EU Member States and Qatar have already been liberalised by those bilateral agreements, none of them includes provisions on fair competition, or social and environmental issues, which the Commission considers essential for a modern aviation agreement.
In 2016, the European Commission obtained authorisation from the Council to negotiate an EU-level aviation agreement with Qatar, which started on 4 March 2019. While the agreement still needs to be ratified by the parties before formally entering into force, it will start being applied from today’s signature.
Similar EU comprehensive air transport agreements have been signed with other partner countries, namely the United States, Canada, the Western Balkans, Morocco, Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, Israel and Ukraine. Further air transport agreements with Armenia and Tunisia are expected to be signed in the coming weeks.
Luxembourg, 18 October 2021
Enforcement of the EU-Qatar Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement should deliver long-awaited financial transparency, says E4FC
On the occasion of the signature of the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (hereafter: “agreement”) between the EU and the State of Qatar, the Europeans for Fair Competition (E4FC) once again calls on the crucial importance of the enforcement and application of the provisions set out in the agreement.
E4FC believes that the signature of the agreement provides a unique opportunity to follow up on the cornerstones of this agreement, which – from now onwards – will be provisionally applied. In practice, the EU market will now be immediately and unilaterally opened to Qatar Airways, an airline that already claimed to be the largest in the world and – thanks to uncontrolled state support – chose to fly more routes than any other airline during the COVID-19 crisis, regardless of passenger demand. During the times when airlines globally were hit by the pandemic, financial transparency is more than ever important. The European Commission, therefore, must investigate and address any unfair practices that may impact fair competition in the EU market.
The agreement allows for regular consultation between the parties in the form of a Joint Committee, which is responsible for the proper implementation of the agreement. E4FC urges the European Commission to call for an immediate meeting of the Joint Committee that could start addressing competition matters as well as cooperation on environmental, social, safety and security issues.
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