LONDON – The European Commission and the State of Qatar have initialled an aviation agreement.

This is the first such agreement between the EU and a Gulf state, which will “upgrade the rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU, and will set a new global benchmark by committing to strong, fair competition mechanisms, and including provisions not normally covered by bilateral air transport agreements, such as social or environmental matters”.

Photo: Clement Alloing

Commenting on this deal was the Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc who emphasised how much of a level playing field the market will be.

“We delivered! Qatar was the first partner with whom we launched negotiations following our adoption of the Aviation Strategy for Europe – now it is also the first one to cross the finish line!”

“More than that – the agreement sets out ambitious standards for fair competition, transparency or social issues. It will provide a level playing field and raise the bar globally for air transport agreements. This is a major upgrade compared to the existing framework, and our joint contribution to making aviation more sustainable!”

The deal includes the following important elements, which will signal a change in operations between the two sides.

  • A gradual market opening over a period of five years to those EU Member States which have not yet fully liberalised direct connections for passengers: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands.
  • Provisions on fair competition with strong enforcement mechanisms to avoid distortions of competition and abuses negatively affecting the operations of EU airlines in the EU or in third countries.
  • Transparency provisions in line with international reporting and accounting standards to ensure obligations are fully respected.
  • Provisions on social matters committing the Parties to improve social and labour policies.
  • A forum for meetings addressing all issues, and any potential differences at an early stage, plus mechanisms to quickly resolve any disputes.
  • Provisions facilitating business transactions, including the removal of existing obligations for EU airlines to work through a local sponsor.

It is also understood that through independent studies, there will be economic benefits of nearly three billion Euros between the two sides across the 2019-2025 period, with 2,000 jobs created by 2025 also.

This has been in the negotiation process for the last three years where five formal rounds of negotiation took place.

Picture from Airbus.

Whilst this may not seem so significant, this is to ensure that the European Commission gains more economic benefit from either the Fifth Freedom Flights but also the increased presence of the ME3 in Europe.

It will now be down to the Europeans to sign similar deals with the United Arab Emirates for Emirates and Etihad.

In-all, this is another step taken to protect what is the volatile aviation industry, especially in Europe so then other carriers competing have a fair fight.