Europe prepares to open 'fair flying' talks with Gulf carriers

Dublin // The European Commission could start talks over aviation policy with the UAE and Qatar this autumn, as the debate over “fair competition” of Arabian Gulf carriers lingers.

In December, the EC raised concerns over the way that Gulf carriers operate in Europe and published a new aviation strategy.

It called for comprehensive agreements between the European Union (EU) and GCC states based on common rules and transparency. In a memo, the EC revealed that the UAE had more direct traffic with the EU than China, India and Japan combined.

It also said that the total number of seats available on scheduled flights between the EU and the six GCC states had increased to 39 million this year from 12 million in 2005.

European Union transport ministers will meet next week to grant the EC a mandate to negotiate aviation agreements with Qatar and the UAE, Henrik Hololei, the director general of the European Commission, told reporters in Dublin yesterday during the annual Iata meeting. “Next week I would expect a development. I hope that the ministers would decide that the mandate would be given. If we get the mandate next week, on Tuesday, I think we will be ready to start negotiating this autumn,” said Mr Hololei.

The outcome of the talks will determine the future expansion of Gulf airlines into the continent as some European airlines such as Air France-KLM and Lufthansa had previously accused their Gulf rivals of benefiting from unfair state subsidies.

“What we aim for is good and balanced outcomes taking into account the concerns and interests of both sides,” Mr Hololei.

Mr Hololei did not give a timeline for the negotiations. “The aviation negotiations take a long time. It can be years and it can be faster,” he said.

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Shereen El Gazzar

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