EU-US 'open skies' agreement to be signed Thursday: Spain
The EU and the United States will sign a permanent "open skies" agreement on Thursday, opening the way for foreign ownership of their airlines, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Wednesday.
"I can announce that tomorrow, June 24, the agreement over airline services between the United States and the European Union, known as the 'open skies' agreement, will be signed," Zapatero, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told parliament.
"This agreement represents the creation of a common transatlantic zone that is responsible for 60 percent of global passenger traffic and which will have a positive impact on routes, ticket prices and the reduction of pollution emissions."
A 2007 "open skies" deal, which took four years to thrash out and went into effect early 2008, eliminated air service restrictions between the United States and Europe, allowing airlines to fly for the first time between any EU city and any US city.
The new accord will allow European airlines to take majority stakes in US companies, and eventually, US firms would be able to reciprocate.
EU companies currently can hold no more than a 25 percent stake in US counterparts.
US operators on the other hand are already allowed to control 49 percent of European carriers, a difference which has long rankled with Virgin Atlantic and others.
The new deal also harmonizes environmental rules on aircraft emissions, fuel and noise and will for the first time allow European planes to fly in and out of the United States without landing or taking off in the EU.
A full EU-US Open Aviation Area has been estimated to be worth up to 12 billion euros in economic benefits and up to 80,000 new jobs.
© 2010 AFP