Air Transport World

EC blocs and other barriers to a single internal market. (European Community, air-travel market unification) (part 1)

European Community (EC) transport ministers are feverishly at work, trying to meet a July, 1992 deadline for approving a liberalization of EC airline rules while retaining a blase facade. The key items of that liberalization were not even on the official agenda of a December meeting of the ministers.

It's not that the ministers have bigger fish to fry. It's just that the liberalization proposals are so controversial that top level EC transport officials don't feel ready to confront them in such a public manner. Between now and july, however, lots of behind-the-scenes maneuvering will be taking place in efforts to come up with a package that is palatable to all.

In july, the ministers will be expected to approve terms for a single internal market for air travel. They will be called upon to complete and vote on the so-called Third Package of proposals of the Van Miert Commission that, in the current draft, involve radical changes for rules on access to markets, airline licensing, charters, cabotage, fifth-freedoms and tariffs.

Associated with the Third Package is an equally radical proposal that would regulate slot allocation at EC airports by imposing frequency caps, obliging incumbent carriers to give up slots in favor of new arrivals.

The proposals have to go through several stages before becoming law. The European Parliament in Strasbourg must give an opinion on them. Then, they go back to the EC Commission work committees, which consider possible changes. Finally, if all the deadlines are met, they will be voted on by the Council of European Transport Ministers at their July parlay.

But how many of the current proposals in the Third Package can we expect to see put into practice?

"There is a neat division between northern airlines such as British Airways, which favor more liberalization, and southern ones-notably Iberia and Alitalia-that seek to limit it," said Alisdair Geater, a lawyer and airline-industry consultant in Brussels. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.