EU-ASEAN aviation summit proposes open skies agreement

SINGAPORE, Feb. 12 (PNA/Bernama) — The European Union (EU) and ASEAN have proposed to take their aviation cooperation to a new level by negotiating a comprehensive air transport agreement.

This was stated in a joint declaration adopted Wednesday in Singapore at the end of a successful two-day EU-ASEAN Aviation Summit.

The summit brought together some 300 political and business leaders including a number of transport ministers from the EU and ASEAN.

The summit discussed the rich opportunities in the EU and ASEAN aviation markets and the benefits both stand to achieve from greater market access and integration in air services and the aviation industry, cooperation to enhance the efficiency of air traffic management and harmonization of safety and security standards, among others.

In particular, the summit noted that these and more potential benefits that the people and companies of both regions could enjoy from a comprehensive air transport agreement between the EU and ASEAN.

European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, who is in charge of Transport, announced that he would propose to the European Commission to seek authorisation from the Council of the EU at the earliest possible to start negotiations on an EU-ASEAN comprehensive air transport agreement.

This announcement was welcomed by the ASEAN Transport Ministers.

Kallas said, “If Europe works together with ASEAN to the fullest extent, we can extend the proven benefits of our respective single aviation markets to a much larger inter-regional one.”

“The summit has created much new momentum for closer cooperation and made a convincing case for embarking on what could be a first aviation agreement in the world between two important blocs of countries like the EU and ASEAN,” he said.

The current chairman of the ASEAN Transport Ministers, Sommad Pholsena, Minister of Public Works and Transport of Lao PDR, meanwhile said: “While ASEAN and the EU already have much in common in aviation, including their commitment to establishing single aviation markets in their respective regions, both sides stand to benefit significantly from even closer cooperation.”

Apart from allowing both sides to better capitalize on the opportunities in and the capabilities of each other, a bloc-to-bloc agreement would also facilitate further intra-ASEAN integration by allowing ASEAN to learn from the EU’s experience in developing a single aviation market since the 1990s.

In order to be in a position to negotiate an agreement with ASEAN, the Commission will need a negotiating mandate from the Council of Transport Ministers of the 28 EU Member.

ASEAN’s first air transport agreement as a bloc was with the People’s Republic of China. The agreement entered into force in 2011.

ASEAN has also initiated discussions with Japan and the Republic of Korea with a view to concluding similar air transport agreements.

The EU has negotiated comprehensive air transport agreements with the United States, Canada, Morocco, the Western Balkan countries, Jordan, Georgia, Moldova and Israel and an agreement is expected to be signed in March 2014 with Ukraine.

Negotiations are expected to be completed with Brazil in the near future and negotiations are on-going with Azerbaijan, Tunisia and Lebanon.

Air traffic between the EU and ASEAN has been growing steadily in recent years and has nearly doubled over the last 15 years to reach more than 10 million passengers in 2012.

With a combined population of 1.1 billion, the EU-ASEAN air transport market is of increasing strategic importance to both sides with an expected average growth rate of 5.0 percent per year over the next 20 years. (PNA/Bernama)