The European Commission negotiated the agreement on behalf of European Member States as part of its Aviation for Europe strategy, a landmark initiative to give European aviation a new impetus and create business opportunities. The negotiations were successfully concluded on February 5, 2019. Overall, this is a further step towards protecting the volatile aviation industry, particularly in Europe, so that other competing airlines are engaged in a fair fight. In 2016, the Council authorised the European Commission to negotiate an EU-wide air transport agreement with Qatar to further improve the already close air transport relationship as proposed in the ambitious 2015 aviation foreign policy. Negotiations ended in February 2018 and the draft comprehensive agreement on ue-Qatar air services will be signed and submitted to the Council. “At the end of the five-year transitional period, direct transport of passengers and freight (so-called 3rd and 4th freedoms) will be fully open. The agreement does not grant the 5th freedom for passenger transport services. It will grant very limited traffic rights to the 5th freedom for all-cargo services, with certain geographical limitations.¬†LONDON – The European Commission and the State of Qatar have signed an agreement on air transport. Another important element of the agreement is the “fair competition clause,” which is particularly comprehensive and ambitious and includes not only subsidies but also discriminatory practices. “You will hear a lot of praise today for fair competition and social clauses. But we remain convinced that they will make a real difference in practice,” said Philip von Schoppenthau, Secretary General of the ECA.¬†We know from experience that even the best clauses, so-called watertight, mean nothing without the political will and political commitment of the EU to impose them. We hope that this element incorporates real life into the agreement and that the opening of our doors does not harm our airlines and the quality of employment they offer in Europe. Qatar is an air transport partner close to the European Union with more than 7 million passengers travelling each year between the EU and Qatar under the 27 existing bilateral agreements with EU member states.

Although direct flights between most EU Member States and Qatar have already been liberalised by these bilateral agreements, none of them contains fair competition provisions and other elements, such as social issues, which the Commission considers essential elements of a modern aviation agreement. In 2016, the European Commission was therefore authorised by the Council to negotiate an EU-wide air transport agreement with Qatar. Since September 2016, negotiators have met for five rounds of formal negotiations in the presence of observers from EU member states and stakeholders. This agreement is part of the EU`s concerted efforts to ensure open and fair competition and high standards for global air transport, in line with the ambitious agenda of the European Foreign Policy Strategy. Parallel negotiations with aSEAN are at an advanced stage and negotiations are also under way with Turkey. The Commission also has a mandate to negotiate air agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Oman.