Air Transport World

Neil Kinnock: EU Transport Commissioner discusses the implications of U.S. open-skies maneuvering.(Interview)

EU Transport Commissioner discusses the implications of U.S. open-skies maneuvering

BRUSSELS--When Neff Kinnock arrived here as EU Transport Commissioner in January, 1995, he discovered that during the hiatus of the changeover, U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena had signed up six of the 15 EU member states with open-skies bilateral agreements.

Kinnock, former leader of the U.K. opposition Labour Party, takes the U.S. move seriously, for one of his major tasks is to gain a mandate to negotiate an open-skies accord with the U.S. on behalf of all 15 EU members. The six defectors--Austria, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Belgium--are being taken to court for contravention of EU law.

"Pena is on the record as saying his approach to the smaller countries is deliberately designed to bring competitive pressure to bear on the bigger member states such as Germany and France," Kinnock told ATW in an interview at EU headquarters here. "Europe must and can compete with the U.S., but in this case, the U.S. is unilaterally proposing the blueprint for future air relations with Europe.

"The cumulative effect of this series of deals would endanger tile whole process of deregulation in Europe. We in the EU are in favor of open skies to all who provide safe, solvent, responsible and reasonably priced services on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. But we have to secure competition on equal terms."

Much more will be heard of this dispute in the months ahead. But in the meantime, non-EU members Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are being courted for Washington's bilaterals club. EU is trying to sign up Switzerland and Central and East Europeans, and the U.K. has stated the equivalent of "over my dead body," to the idea that its bilateral negotiations with the U.S., which remain bogged down, should be taken over by EU.

Kinnock stressed that the EU mandate would set the framework for a relationship with the U.S., and that member states would continue to take their own day-to-day operational decisions within it. …

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