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Emirates airline objects to planned European aviation strategy

Existing agreements and regulations should be enough to protect a fair and liberal transport policy, without the need for new policies, Emirates Airline said in response to EU plans for new competition measures.08 Dec 2015

The European Commission announced a new aviation strategy this week, to "boost Europe's economy, strengthen its industrial base and reinforce its global leadership position". The strategy includes plans to ease requirements on foreign ownership for European airlines, but also brings in stricter rules on state subsidies for airlines.

The Commission will launch negotiations "in the major regions of the world", to open up markets and ensure fair competition, "while at the same time helping to reform international civil aviation and promoting European regulations and industry", it said.

Last month Reuters reported that the Commission was working on new regulations to tackle unfair competition from some carriers in the Middle East who are believed to benefit from unfair subsidies from their governments.

Emirates said that it "welcomes any reasonable and sensible definition of the rules that drive fair competition, and we look forward to seeing how such a policy would be drafted and applied". However, it said, "we look forward to seeing how such a policy would be drafted and applied to the diverse countries which the Commission proposes to cover under its mandate".

"We note with interest, the absence of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the list of nations with which the Commission wishes to have negotiations. Airlines of these countries are state-owned and funded, and operate to and from the EU," Emirates said.

"We would also be interested to see what such a policy would mean for state-supported airlines in Europe, as well as existing anti-trust immunised joint ventures between European and non-European carriers and other 'protected' commercial arrangements of this nature," the airline said.

Emirates said the European Commission has "historically championed liberalisation of air access" and said that  "other consumer-centric policies" should remain the Commission's "continued focus".

Some organisations disagree on the need for legislation. Airports Council International (ACI) Europe and the European Travel Commission issued a joint statement in June which said: "Europe’s airports and tourism organisations do not regard the public financing of airport infrastructure, start-up aid for airlines and more favourable fiscal regimes as necessarily involving unfair competition – but rather as legitimate economic development policy choices, made by the Gulf States."

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