Air transport. European Union and Qatar reach a landmark agreement

On 18 October 2021, the European Union and the State of Qatar signed a landmark air transport agreement which, for the first time, will put in place a single set of rules for transport services between the parties. Despite, indeed, almost all Member States have bilateral aviation agreements with Qatar, which is an increasingly important partner for the Union, none of them cover aspects such as fair competition, financial transparency, the environment and social issues.

More particularly, the agreement will allow parties to exercise so-called third and fourth freedom traffic rights for both passenger and cargo flights between any airport in the Union and Qatar and vice versa, which are already unlimited for most Member States and will entail a gradual market opening for Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands. Furthermore, European and Qatari airlines will be entitled to enjoy, within certain limits, fifth freedom traffic rights for all-cargo services between Member States and Qatar.

Finally, the agreement will include provisions which, amongst other things, i) ensure fair and transparent market conditions, based on a clear regulatory framework, ii) facilitate business by removing obligations for European airlines to work through a local sponsor in Qatar, iii) create a forum to address and solve potential disputes, iv) ensure financial transparency to avoid distortions of competition and abuse, and v) improve connectivity and provide more options at competitive prices for passengers.

Marco Stillo