Paris 2019: ‘Game-changing’ EU-ASEAN open skies deal nears

A long-awaited open skies deal between the European Union and ten countries in Southeast Asia is almost finalised.

Speaking to Routesonline at the Paris Air Show 2019, the European Commission’s director general for mobility and transport Henrik Hololei (pictured right) confirmed that 37 of the 38 EU and ASEAN countries involved are already in agreement. He said that an open skies deal was now a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

“We hoped that we would have already initialled the agreement by now, but we will get there sooner rather than later,” Hololei said.

“There is just one country not on board. But there are no more negotiations, just some clarifications which we need to complete. I am very hopeful because it will be a game-changer. It will be very beneficial for both of the regions.”

Proposals for an open skies deal between the EU and ASEAN were first announced in February 2014. The agreement would go beyond traffic rights to encourage cooperation on safety, security and air traffic management. An EU report released in 2016 estimated it could generate economic benefits of €7.9bn during the first seven years.

Once implemented, Hololei said it would become the first block-to-block accord. He added: “ASEAN is the fastest-growing aviation market in the world and we want to make sure we can open up the market so that it will benefit people and businesses.”

When pushed for a timescale, Hololei said he hoped it would be in place before the end of the year at the latest.

The impending deal with ASEAN comes just weeks after the European Commission initialled an aviation pact with Qatar, the first such agreement between the EU and country in the Gulf region. The deal, which includes provisions on fair competition, is expected to be concluded later this year.

However, Hololei confirmed that there are currently no plans to start negotiations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Planned talks over an open skies deal were scrapped earlier this year.

“For the time being negotiations with the UAE are not happening,” he said. Asked whether they would come back on the table Hololei added: “I sincerely hope so. But they need to find out themselves what kind of relationship they want with Europe.

“We are not only talking about traffic rights, we are talking about a much wider holistic aviation relationship and we are open to that. I hope that they will also see the benefits of further cooperation in areas of safety, security, air traffic management and beyond.”

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.