Trans06-07Press Notice23

PRESS NOTICE

OPEN SKIES: THE DRAFT EU-US AIR TRANSPORT AGREEMENT

New Inquiry and Evidence Session

The Transport Committee has agreed to hold an inquiry into the above subject. On 2 March 2007 the European Union and the United States of America agreed the text of a first-stage air transport agreement. This agreement, if endorsed by Member States and signed, will replace the long-standing bilateral agreements that exist between individual Member States and the USA.

The Secretary of State for Transport is meeting European counterparts on 22 March to discuss the agreement. If it receives approval it is expected that the agreement will be signed at the EU-US summit on 30 April 2007. The agreement would be provisionally applied from 28 October 2007.

Background

Negotiations on an EU-US air agreement (commonly referred to as 'Open Skies') began in 2003 following a judgement by the European Court of Justice in November 2002 that eight Member States were in breach of the Treaty of Rome in their bilateral agreements with the USA which, the Court found, discriminated on grounds of nationality. The judgments placed an obligation on the Member States in question to bring their bilateral agreements into line with Community law.

On 5 June 2003, the Council of Ministers granted the European Commission two mandates. Firstly, a negotiation mandate with the United States, and secondly, a negotiation mandate with all third countries for the revision of clauses relating to the ownership and control of airline companies and all matters coming under the 'exclusive external competence of the Community'. These mandates, in effect, enabled the Commission to negotiate with the USA and the rest of the world on the basis of the Community's economic and political priorities.

Since then the European Commission and the United States Department of Transportation have been involved in several rounds of negotiation on the agreement.

An oral evidence session has been arranged for Tuesday 13 March, details overleaf

Oral evidence session: Tuesday 13 March 2007

4.00 pm British Airways
Virgin Atlantic

4.45 pm BMI
FedEx
Silverjet
BAR-UK

5.30 pm Rt Hon Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for Transport

Please note that the witnesses and times given above are provisional and subject to change. The evidence session will take place in public. Because committee rooms sometimes change at short notice, those wishing to attend are advised to check the venue by contacting the Committee Office Information Line on 020 7219 2033.

The Membership of the Transport Committee is as follows:

Member

Constituency

Party

Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody (Chairman)

Crewe and Nantwich

Labour

Mr David Clelland

Tyne Bridge

Labour

Mr Jeffrey M Donaldson

Lagan Valley

Democratic Unionist

Clive Efford

Eltham

Labour

Mrs Louise Ellman

Liverpool Riverside

Labour

Philip Hollobone

Kettering

Conservative

Mr John Leech

Manchester Withington

Liberal Democrats

Mr Eric Martlew

Carlisle

Labour

Mr Lee Scott

Ilford North

Conservative

Mr Graham Stringer

Manchester

Labour

Mr David Wilshire

Spelthorne

Conservative

Press Notices 23/2006/07 8 March 2007