Friday, October 29, 2010

Commission Contra the Member States on Russia

The European Commission announced yesterday that it has launched an investigation into provisions of Russia's bilateral air services agreements with France, Germany, Austria, and Finland which may violate EU law.  From the press release:

The European Commission has today launched infringement procedures against France, Germany, Austria and Finland over their bilateral air service agreements with Russia, which inter alia include provisions concerning Siberian overflights. The decision was taken on the initiative of European Commission Vice President Siim Kallas Responsible for Transport. The Commission has concerns over two main issues. First, the agreements in question do not contain a clause recognising that the terms apply equally to all EU carriers, despite the "Open Skies" case-law of the EU's Court of Justice. This can create serious practical problems - for example, if an airline is taken over by an airline from another Member State it stands to lose all its traffic route rights. Second, the bi-lateral air service agreements between the four Member States and Russia contain specific provisions on the setting of traffic rights as well as on the modalities for fixing the charges that EU-designated carriers must pay to Aeroflot in order to fly over Siberia on their way to Asia. The Commission is concerned that such provisions may be in breach of EU antitrust rules and could lead to competition distortions to the disadvantage of both EU airlines and consumers. The Commission is actively assessing the compliance with EU law of the twenty three other Member States' bilateral air service agreements with Russia.

See Press Release, Eur. Comm'n, Air Transport: Commission Launches Infringement Procedures Against France, Germany, Austria and Finland Over Agreements with Russia on Siberian Overflights, IP/10/1425 (Oct. 28, 2010) (available here).

EU/Russian aeropolitical relations have long been cool, though a 2007 agreement between the parties is supposed to abolish the Siberian overflight payments by 2013.  For further information on the EU's air transport policy toward Russia, see A Framework for Developing Relations with the Russian Federation in the Field of Air Transport, COM (2005) 77 final (Mar. 14, 2005) (available here).

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