Etihad Airways has acquired an almost 3% stake in Aer Lingus. Etihad’s latest move to buy into the financially weak European carrier follows the 29% stake that the Abu Dahbi-based airline took in Air Berlin.

In its announcement about its 2.987% share in Aer Lingus, the airline stated, “Etihad Airways believes a possible partnership could produce significant commercial benefits for both airlines.”

Aer Lingus had no immediate comment. Etihad does not appear to plan further expanding its holding in Aer Lingus in the short term, although the Irish government, which controls 25% of the carrier, has expressed interest in selling its share. Ryanair has a 29.8% shareholding in Aer Lingus.

“Etihad’s acquisition of this stake in [Aer Lingus] emphasizes its ambitions to continue to expand its European footprint through partnerships,” Credit Suisse analysts note. They state that the strengthening of Etihad’s involvement in the European airline sector, which could continue, would likely add pressure on network carriers Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and British Airways/Iberia parent International Airlines Group.

Etihad and Aer Lingus have begun talks about code-sharing. The United Arab Emirates airline already heavily serves the Irish market, with 10 flights per week between Abu Dhabi and Dublin.

Etihad also is believed to have shown interest in Virgin Atlantic, which is re-evaluating its strategic future. However, Europe’s airline ownership rules restrict foreign shareholdings to below 50%.