Europe's global aviation relations: beware a protectionist slide

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CAPA’s Qatar Aviation Aeropolitical and Regulatory Summit in Doha on 5-6 February 2019 will include a discussion on Europe's aviation relations with the world.

The European Union has played a vital leadership role in aviation in Europe, on the North Atlantic and globally. Its single aviation market is its greatest achievement, but it has also signed agreements liberalising market access with the US and a number of other countries around the world.

However, the EU may be losing momentum as a liberalising force in areas such as ownership and control rules. Moreover, it now faces a future without the liberalising voice of the UK – one of the main architects of the single market and an advocate of increased access between the EU and intercontinental markets. In addition, a steady murmur of anti-Gulf rhetoric from some in Europe appears to have given the fuzzy concept of 'fair competition' greater prominence in the EU's aviation strategy.

After the open skies agreements with the US and Canada, signed in the 2000s, the most important comprehensive air transport agreements to be negotiated by the EU are with the Gulf states of Qatar and the UAE. The Commission's instincts remain liberal, but protectionist forces may now be sensing their opportunity.

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