*Deal likely to take effect before end-2019
Qatar and the European Union have “concluded negotiations” for a landmark Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, which may take effect before the year-end.
The announcement on the conclusion of negotiations was announced by European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, Violeta Bulc, on the sidelines of the CAPA Aeropolitical and Regulatory Affairs Summit at the Sheraton Doha on Tuesday.
The “historic agreement” will be the first of its kind ever between the EU and a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) member state, providing a “significant competitive edge” to air carriers of both sides and a sustainable framework for future operations.
As a result, all air carriers from the 28 European Union member states and Qatar now have “unlimited and unrestricted access” to their respective territories.
As part of this agreement, Qatar and the EU have taken bold steps by agreeing to articles on: fair competition, environment, consumer protection, social aspects and transparency, as well as the inclusion of a doing-business provision, which exempts EU carriers from the obligation to hire a local General Sales Agent (GSA) in Qatar.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker said: “Through these negotiations, both sides have demonstrated that positive engagement can build trust among nations, so they can embrace the benefits of competition. Our hope is that the success of these negotiations will encourage other trading blocs and significant aviation markets to join in achieving a liberalised global aviation regime for future generations.
“The agreement will offer a common platform for airlines in Europe and Qatar to understand each other better, creating new opportunities for collaboration and co-operation.
“We approach the principle of fair competition very simply: fair access to markets, competing for market share based on products and services of what the customer wants and is willing to purchase.”
European Commission director general (Mobility and Transport) Henrik Hololei said: “We are very pleased to have concluded our negotiations with the State of Qatar here in Doha today. Thanks to the strong commitment of all parties, we have managed to reconcile our differences and found common ground through honest engagement and open dialogue.”
“Intense discussions were held as part of the negotiations, which will be the basis for a holistic future-oriented aviation partnership covering not only the issues relating to market but also issues such as safety, security, environment and social affairs. When the agreement is reached, it will be a milestone as it will be the first of its kind in the GCC.
“As a result of this agreement, we will have predictable legal framework between the two parties. It will form the basis for future co-operation and solidify our co-operation,” he said at a press conference.
“Yes, we will be able to come to a conclusion on the agreement this year,” Hololei told Gulf Times.
Through the “historic” agreement, Qatar has demonstrated once again that despite the “ongoing intra-regional geopolitical tensions due to the illegal blockade” imposed on the nation it remains a leader on the global stage.
On Qatar and the EU concluding negotiations for a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, IATA director general and CEO Alexandre De Juniac said: “Open skies between two regions often produce more traffic”.
“Certainly, it is not bad news for the industry. For people in Qatar, it will multiply the possibilities to go to Europe either through the national carrier Qatar Airways or through the European carriers, which now have the right to land openly in Qatar. You will have more choices and possibilities to go to Europe. This means, more competition and hence more freedom for passengers and generally lower fares,” De Juniac told Gulf Times.