Friday, November 18, 2011
EU carriers that have long complained about the charges levied on their routes overflying Russian territory may soon have reason to celebrate. The Russian government has pledged to end the charges, assuming Russia's admission to the WTO next month proceeds as planned. See Daniel Michaels, Russia Seen Close to Ending Air Tax, Wall St. J., Nov. 15, 2011 (available here). The Siberian overflight charges, as they are called, are far higher than standard air service charges and significant portions of the charges are used to subsidize Russian carrier Aeroflot. For those reasons, the charges clearly violate Article 15 of the Chicago Convention. The EU obtained an agreement from Russia to end the practice in 2006, but the Russian government backed out of implementing the agreement. The EU's recent efforts to tie Russian admission to the WTO to elimination of these charges appears to have produced the desired result as Russia will begin implementing a modified version of the earlier agreement January 1, with plans to have the charges completely eliminated by 2014. Of course this is an issue where follow up will be crucial.