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Developing the agenda for the Community's external aviation policy

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Developing the agenda for the Community's external aviation policy

Following the "open skies" judgments, Member States cannot act in isolation when negotiating international air service agreements. These services must now be treated as a subject of Community interest. By developing an external aviation policy, the European Union (EU) can take steps towards reforming civil aviation and opening up markets to fair competition.


Communication from the Commission of 11 March 2005 - Developing the agenda for the Community’s external aviation policy [COM(2005) 79 – not published in the Official Journal].


The so-called "open skies" judgments of 5 November 2002 of the Court of Justice of the European Communities marked the start of a Community external aviation policy which this communication is seeking to develop in terms of the economic issues at stake for European industry.

This case law testifies to the Community's powers in the field of international air services, whereas traditionally these services had always been governed by bilateral agreements between States.

The "open skies" judgments identify three areas coming under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Community: computerised reservation systems, intra-Community tariffs and time slots, each of which is governed entirely by Community legislation.

Bilateral negotiation by a Member State, as covered by Regulation (EC) No 847/2004, means that existing agreements can be brought into line in the context of the regular ongoing contacts between Member States and their partners. Bilateral negotiation at Community level in the framework of the so-called "horizontal mandate" which, on the basis of an agreement negotiated by the Commission, permits the insertion of the necessary standard clauses in the whole range of agreements concluded between the Member States and a given third country. By virtue of requiring just one single round of negotiations, an agreement of this kind has the advantage of enabling a third country to cut down on a series of individual negotiations with the Member States with which it is linked.

The roadmap for implementing the Community’s external aviation policy incorporates two complementary objectives:

  • creating a Common Aviation Area by 2010 which will comprise the European Community and all its partners located along its southern and eastern borders, with a view to achieving a high degree of economic and regulatory integration of aviation markets in this area. The various parties would share the same market operation rules, not only from an economic point of view but also with regard to air traffic, security and air safety.
  • launching, in the short term, targeted negotiations on global agreements in the major regions of the world, with the aim of strengthening the prospects for promoting European industry and ensuring fair competition in the most dynamic world markets, while at the same time helping to reform international civil aviation.

A first group would include the countries engaged in pan-European cooperation with a view to accession. While negotiations to this end have already resumed with Romania, Bulgaria and the Western Balkans, steps should be taken to ensure that Turkey is also included.

A second group is made up of the countries bordering the Mediterranean whose key objectives are to open up markets, create fair operating conditions but also to boost security, safety and environmentally-friendly behaviour.

Russia is a priority, on both an economic and political level. Given the extent of its traffic to the outside (75% of which is directed towards the Community in the case of passenger traffic), it should be offered a wide-ranging agreement encompassing several specific strands and seeking to promote both economic openness and cooperation as a means of bringing markets together and developing industrial potential.

China and India are target countries for Community policy due to their huge populations and rapidly growing economies. Similarly, Japan and South Korea, both with prosperous markets, should also be considered as desirable partners.

Lastly, aviation negotiations with other third countries, such the United States, Canada, Chile and Mexico could create economic as well as political advantages.


Communication from the Commission of 1 October 2008 called “Common aviation area with the Neighbouring Countries by 2010: progress report” [COM(2008) 596 Final – Not published in the Official Journal].

The creation of a planned common aviation area (CAA) with the EU’s eastern and southern neighbours should lead to the creation of new market opportunities and the introduction of a harmonised regulatory environment. This initiative complements the objectives of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the Union for the Mediterranean.

The approach adopted takes into account the situation of each country and its capacity to integrate progressively into the CAA. The Commission supports this integration and in particular:

The development of the CAA and the harmonised implementation of the existing aviation acquis should help to ensure:

The Commission proposes to accelerate the negotiation process and the ratification of bilateral agreements. However, it is unlikely that the objective of an enlarged CAA will be achieved before 2010. In 2007, more than 120 million passengers travelled between the EU and its neighbouring countries.

Communication from the Commission of 12 September 2005 - Developing a Community civil aviation policy towards New Zealand [COM(2005) 407 – not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 5 September 2005 – Strengthening aviation relations with Chile [COM(2005) 406 – not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 14 March 2005 - Developing a Community civil aviation policy towards the People’s Republic of China – strengthening cooperation and opening markets [COM(2005) 78 – not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 14 March 2005 - A Framework for Developing Relations with the Russian Federation in the Field of Air Transport [COM(2005) 77 – not published in the Official Journal].

Regulation (EC) No 847/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the negotiation and implementation of air service agreements between Member States and third countries [OJ L 157 of 30.04.2004].

Communication from the Commission on relations between the Community and third countries in the field of air transport [COM(2003) 94 final – not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission on the consequences of the Court judgments of 5 November 2002 for European air transport policy [COM(2002) 649 final – not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 16.12.2008