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Brussels, 29th April 2008

European Community strengthens aviation relations with Australia

Today, the European Union and Australia signed an aviation agreement which allows European airlines to fly between any EU Member State and Australia. “I welcome this important step in the EU's air transport relations with Australia,” said Jacques Barrot, Vice-President in charge of transport. "This will pave the way for a comprehensive aviation agreement involving cooperation in key aviation areas such as competition, safety and the environment."

The horizontal agreement signed today removes nationality restrictions in the bilateral air services agreements between EU Member States and Australia and therefore allows any EU airline to operate flights between any EU Member State where it is established and Australia. This agreement acknowledges the existence of the European single market for air transport in the relations between the EU and Australia. It demonstrates that there is an external dimension of the single market for air transport. The agreement recognises that airlines in the EU are not any longer national airlines but Community airlines.

The “horizontal” aviation agreement signed today does not replace the bilateral agreements in place between the EU Member States and Australia, but brings them in line with EU law, by removing the nationality restrictions contained in bilateral air services agreements. Horizontal agreements have been negotiated with over 30 countries worldwide. More than 650 air services agreements have already been modified by the joint efforts of the European Commission and Member States to replace nationality rules with the principle of EU airline designation. With more than 4 million annual passengers travelling between the EU and Australia, air transport relations with Australia are of major economic importance for the EU.

The "horizontal" agreement is considered an important first step in the aviation relations between the EU and Australia. Air transport is crucial for the relations between the two regions, linking people, cultures and businesses. The European Commission proposed already in September 2005 to open broader aviation negotiations with Australia. This proposal is currently under discussion in the Council.

Such broader negotiations would aim at an innovative aviation agreement, based on two inseparable aims: opening the markets in order to increase market opportunities for the EU industry and ensure regulatory convergence and co-operation in fields such as aviation security, environmental protection, aviation safety, and competition rules.

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