Video of the week – Initialisation of new EU-Qatar traffic agreement opens the door to liberal regime

A new transport agreement between Europe and Qatar will “allow for the liberalisation of the fundamental mobility rights between Qatar and European Union (EU) markets”, which will “contribute to increasing the mobility, tourism and trade exchange between Doha and EU capital cities”. The first of a new level of agreements being discussed by the European Commission, it goes far beyond traditional bilateral trade partnerships and will develop into what is expected to be an open skies arrangement by the middle of the next decade.

The initialisation of the agreement marks an important step in the implementation of the EU Aviation Strategy and signals that Europe remains committed to delivering a liberal and open aviation policy with consumer interest and wider economic benefits at the forefront.

It may be a little time before the agreement is formally presented to each of the European Union member states for approval and that will only follow a long period of consultation with legal advisors on both sides over the final wording of the contract. It has been suggested that it could generate economic benefits of EUR3 billion over the period 2019 to 2025 and create approximately 2000 jobs by 2025.

Full terms are still to be confirmed but will include a gradual market opening over a period of five years to EU member states that have not fully liberalised direct connections for passengers and provisions introduced on fair competition with enforcement mechanisms to avoid distortions of competition and abuses that negatively affect the operations of EU airlines in the EU or in third countries.

But, these new transport agreements that the European Union is now negotiating go far beyond traditional traffic right allocation and will include provisions on social matters committing the parties to improve social and labour policies and transparency provisions in line with international reporting and accounting standards to ensure obligations are fully respected.

The agreement has been a long time coming – around eight years of talks have already taken place, and these have intensified over the past 18 months. On the liberal approach, Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways Group says: “We have nothing to hide. Even with setbacks, we stick to our word and honour our agreements… The intention is very good. They are sincere and we are sincere… We have taken bold steps by agreeing to articles on fair competition, social aspects, business practices, and transparency.”

Confirmation that an agreement in principle had been reached was revealed last month while the industry congregated in Doha for the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Qatar Aviation Aeropolitical & Regulatory Summit. The Blue Swan Daily spoke to European Commission director general mobility and transport Henrik Hololei minutes after an impromptu press conference detailed the progress of the agreement.

Mr Hololei described this first deal with a Gulf nation as “a landmark agreement” that has already helped “inspire” Oman to begin their own discussions with the European Commission from this month.

LEARN MORE insights into European transport policy in this exclusive CAPA TV interview filmed on the sidelines of the CAPA Qatar Aviation Aeropolitical & Regulatory Summit in Doha in Feb-2019. Henrik Hololei, the European Commission’s director general mobility and transport, discusses the Qatar comprehensive agreement, progress of negotiations between the European Union and the ASEAN nations and Turkey, the opening of talks with Oman, as well as providing an update on Brexit operational implications.

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