Brussels, 12th December 2006
The EU Presidency, Vice-President Jacques Barrot and Karim Ghellab, the Moroccan Minister of Transport, have signed a new type of aviation agreement between the European Union and Morocco. This innovative agreement replaces all the bilateral aviation agreements between the Member States and Morocco. It is original in that it not only opens up markets but is also designed to approximate the legislation of the two parties. The agreement will stimulate the growth of traffic to Morocco, and new, additional and more varied scheduled services have already been announced.
Jacques Barrot, the European Commission Vice-President with special responsibility for transport, said that "the agreement between Europe and Morocco opens up new development prospects for Moroccan and European companies. We now have an innovative text which is far superior to the conventional open-skies agreements. This agreement will bring the respective countries closer together, and shows us what can be achieved in the context of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership".
The aim of the agreement is to open up the markets gradually and to approximate the legislation of the two parties. It goes beyond the conventional American concept of "open skies", since it comprises a number of fundamental market regulation objectives: flight safety and security will be enhanced, and the competition, state-aid and consumer protection rules will be harmonised. Cross-investment between European and Moroccan companies will be possible, which is not the case under conventional aviation agreements. The agreement also contains several important provisions concerning environmental protection. Lastly, the agreement provides for streamlining administrative procedures.
Passengers will also benefit from new routes, thus avoiding many of the connecting flights now needed. In Morocco, new companies have already been set up, and secondary airports (at present essentially dedicated to regional traffic) will receive international flights. All this will contribute to Morocco's objective of attracting 10 million tourists by 2010.
The removal of all capacity restrictions between the EU and Morocco is already attracting new market entrants. Carriers have announced new services from Frankfurt, Marseille, the UK and Spain to Marrakesh, Fez and Oujda.
The agreement also breaks new ground in that it is the first time in its history that the European Community, acting as a regional group, has signed a complete aviation agreement with a non-European country. On the European side, the Finnish Presidency and representatives of the 25 Member States have signed the agreement.
The EU-Morocco agreement precedes by a few months another Community agreement that is in the pipeline with the USA. It replaces all the existing aviation agreements between the Member States and Morocco, some of which date back to the 1950s.
The text can serve as reference for any other neighbouring country which might wish to promote economic interdependence with Europe, since the Community wishes to create a common aviation area with all its neighbours by 2010. Contacts have already been established with a view to starting talks with other Mediterranean countries and Ukraine.
The agreement covers the populations of Morocco and the EU, representing 31 million and 450 million inhabitants respectively. The market is growing rapidly, by around 10 % per annum and more for some Member States.