Air transport. The European Union and Ukraine signed the Common Aviation Area Agreement

On 12 October 2021, the European Union (EU) and Ukraine signed the Common Aviation Area Agreement, a comprehensive air transport agreement that will establish a common aviation area between the EU and Ukraine. 

The agreement still needs to be ratified by the contracting parties, before formally entering into force, but it already started to apply from its date of signature. The Agreement will replace the bilateral aviation agreements that the member states of the European Union currently have in force with Ukraine. 

For the first time, the agreement will provide for a single set of rules for air transport services between the EU and Ukraine, based on respect for common high standards in the territories of the contracting parties. The agreement aims to gradually open the aviation markets of the contracting parties, progressively integrating Ukraine into the wider European Common Aviation Area. To this end, Ukraine is required to implement over time virtually all EU aviation rules and standards in multiple areas, such as aviation safety, security, air traffic management, the environment, economic regulation, competition, consumer protection and social aspects. The harmonization of Ukrainian legislation with EU aviation rules and standards is to be completed gradually, through two transitional periods. During the first transitional period, Ukraine shall implement the fundamental aviation-related legislation, while the second transitional period will be dedicated to the implementation of the remaining legal acts. The European Commission will continuously carry out technical assessments to monitor compliance by Ukraine with the relevant EU requirements and standards, while the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will conduct compliance inspections for aviation safety.   

From the date of signature of the agreement, the EU and Ukraine are immediately able to exercise their so-called ‘third and fourth freedom traffic rights’. In particular, such rights entail that airlines from Ukraine and the EU can provide an unlimited number of direct services between any point in Ukraine and any point in the EU, and vice versa. Ukraine will consequently acquire the so-called ‘fifth freedom traffic rights’ once it has complied with all the relevant EU requirements and standards, enabling Ukrainian carriers to operate flights between the EU Member States under the condition that the operation also serves a point in Ukraine. EU carriers will also be granted this right, being enabled to provide services within the Ukrainian territory, as well as to operate flights to Ukraine and to continue to any country beyond. 

The agreement is a significant step forward for the relations between the EU and Ukraine, and will be a valuable instrument for the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

Andrea Palumbo