The Qatari government concluded an open skies agreement with the European Union on Wednesday. The agreement entails a harmonisation protocol between Qatar and the E.U. on important aviation issues, including among others the presence of fair competition rules in the airline carriers market, environmental protection and safety standards, and consumer rights. The open skies agreement acknowledges the unrestricted access of air carriers from both parts of the world to each other’s territories and airspace.
The European Commission’s Director General for Mobility and Transport, Henrik Hololei, praised the agreement and called for hosting a follow-up summit in Doha to iron out operational issues of the agreement. The agreement stipulates the progressive abolition of the Qatari rule that European airline carriers were obliged to establishes sales representative offices in Doha to access local airports. The European Commissioner also stressed that Europe’s open sky deliberations with Oman follow a similar trajectory while negotiations with UAE have reached an impasse for the time being.
The open skies agreement with EU is a follow-up action of the Qatari authorities’ efforts to rebuff international criticism that Doha’s open sky agreements violate fair competition rules in the aviation industry. Critics of Qatar Airways contended that open skies agreements facilitate the airline’s entry to new markets but at the same time severely undermines domestic competition given that Qatar Airways receives covert subsidies by the government. To rebuke these allegations, Qatari aviation authorities allowed last year their U.S counterparts to investigate the capital structure of Qatar Airways, and produce a transparency report on the company’s financial makeup.