Recorded at CAPA Airline Leader Summit, 17-18 May 2018

European Commission Update: It Is All About Open Skies

European Commission director general for mobility and transport Henrik Hololei provides an update on the ongoing discussions over a new aviation agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom after Brexit and warns of the real threat of no flights operating on day one. He highlights the progress of discussions on the EU-ASEAN open skies agreement and optimism an agreement could emerge before the end of 2018, while also highlighting the conclusion of agreements with Armenia and Tunisia; proposed agreements with Qatar, Turkey and Azerbaijan; and new mandates to negotiate with Mexico and Oman.


Henrik HololeiWell, I don't think that we are actually at this moment much further than we were about a year ago. Unfortunately, the clock continues to tick very fast. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that at this stage we don't know what is going to be the aviation relationship between the EU and the UK on the 30th of March 2019.

Whether there will be flights, or whether we will face a situation where at least on the day one we will not see any flights taking off or landing, at least not legally. But of course, what we have built here, the European aviation single market has been a huge success. And the UK has been an integral part of that, so one of those who has been spearheaded forward. It's a great shame that now they're going to exit that market and now have to find a way how to be in the future, part of it.

But as you know, these discussions, these negotiations between the UN/UK, they are first and foremost concerning the big political building blocks. I mean we talk about the Irish border. We talk about the citizens. We talk about the Trade Agreement. Unless we know what's going to be the general framework, what's going to be the future relationship, we cannot really carve out anything specific for the sectors. Like, transport or more specifically, aviation.

Of course, we would like to see people more moving from one side to the other. And that, that it would be as little disruption as possible. But of course, for that something has to happen. We need to have the green light to move ahead, and we are not there yet.

For us, the Open Skies concept has been working very well. Europe has been also a great contributor, but also a great beneficiary from the Open Skies policies. I mean the EU, US, of course is a landmark agreement, and we all benefit significantly. But, we are now also taking steps in creating another very important landmark agreement, namely between the EU and ASEAN. Which, means 1.1 billion people market there.

The 10 very fast growing Southeast Asian states teaming up and negotiating with EU. We are very optimistic that by the end of this year we could see an agreement emerging. Which, would then be, I would say, the second most important agreement that the EU has had. We are also progressing very well in our negotiations with Qatar. Which, is also interesting and important because it will be the first Middle Eastern country with whom we would a predictable legal framework in the form of the comprehensive Air Transport Agreement.

Again, I'm optimistic seeing the progress that has happened during the last week. So that we will make significant advancement this year, and maybe even come to an agreement. We are also negotiating currently, with Turkey. That might take a little bit longer. We are asking for new mandates to negotiate with Mexico and Oman. We have just concluded the agreements with Tunisia, Armenia. We are very close also with Azerbaijan.

So there is quite a lot of things happening in this front. I think that the best thing really is to create predictable legal frameworks to create the real aviation partnerships between EU and its important third countries.

I'll say that protectionism and nationalism is not an option. Open Skies is something which creates the opportunities to connect people and businesses. Create new opportunities and open up the world, so let's keep it like that.

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