RECOMMENDATION on the draft decision of the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States of the European Union, meeting within the Council on the conclusion of the Protocol to Amend the Air Transport Agreement between the United States of America, of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part

2.3.2011 - (15381/2010 – C7‑0385/2010 – 2010/0112(NLE)) - ***

Committee on Transport and Tourism
Rapporteur: Artur Zasada

Procedure : 2010/0112(NLE)
Document stages in plenary
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on the draft decision of the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States of the European Union, meeting within the Council on the conclusion of the Protocol to Amend the Air Transport Agreement between the United States of America, of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part

(15381/2010 – C7‑0385/2010 – 2010/0112(NLE))


The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the draft decision of the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States of the European Union, meeting within the Council (15381/2010),

–   having regard to the draft protocol amending the 2007 agreement between the European Community and United States of America on Air Transport (09913/2010),

–   having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 100(2), Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v) and Article 218(8) first subparagraph of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C7-0385/2010),

–   having regard to its resolution of 17 June 2010 on the EU-US air agreement[1],

–   having regard to Rules 81 and 90(8) of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Transport and Tourism (A7-0046/2011),

1.  Consents to conclusion of the agreement;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and to the US Congress.



The Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, extended the circumstances in which Parliament’s consent was required for the conclusion of an international agreement. Air agreements now fall within this category because they cover a field to which the ordinary legislative procedure applies[1]. Previously Parliament had only been consulted on such agreements. As a result, this Protocol to amend the Air Transport Agreement is subject to Parliament's consent, whereas the initial Agreement was concluded after consultation of Parliament.

The EU-US aviation markets, taken together, account for about 60% of world air traffic. Opening the market to EU and US airlines on a non-discriminatory basis would offer passengers and freight operators improved services, in terms of both variety and cost, provide substantial economic benefits and create jobs. In addition, regulatory convergence could do much to promote fair competition, particularly with regard to State subsidies, social and environmental standards.

History of Negotiations

Until the first-stage Agreement was provisionally applied in March 2008, air services between the EU and US operated on the basis of bilateral agreements between individual Member States and the US. In November 2002, the European Court of Justice ruled that certain provisions in these bilateral agreements were incompatible with Community law.

The Council therefore gave the Commission a mandate, in June 2003, which set the objective of establishing an Open Aviation Area between the EU and US, creating a single market for air transport in which investment could flow freely and in which European and US airlines would be able to provide air services without any restriction, including in the domestic markets of both parties. However it was recognised that this would require significant legislative changes in the United States, in particular to remove the existing legal restrictions on foreign ownership and control of US airlines and on cabotage. A staged approach was therefore considered acceptable, provided that guarantees for progression to subsequent stages were ensured.

The first-stage Agreement enabled European airlines to fly from any point in the EU to any point in the US. This led to an increase in services. The agreement also established closer cooperation between the EU and the US to tackle new challenges, such as security and the environment. It also committed both sides to further negotiations to open access to markets and to maximising benefits for consumers, airlines, labour and communities, and to address issues such as the facilitation of investment. Importantly, the first-stage Agreement contained a suspension clause that could be triggered if there was no second-stage Agreement by November 2010.

Following eight rounds of talks, negotiators initialled the second-stage Agreement on 25 March 2010. This Agreement has opened the way to future opportunities in terms of additional investment and market access as well as strengthening cooperation in regulatory areas such as safety, security and, in particular, the environment, where both sides agreed a dedicated Joint Statement on the Environment.

Content of second-stage Agreement

Although the second-stage Agreement does not achieve the ultimate objective of a complete opening of the market without restrictions on either side, it contains out a number of incentives to encourage reform. In particular, when the US changes its legislation to allow EU investors majority ownership of US airlines, the EU will reciprocally allow majority ownership of EU airlines by US investors and US airlines will benefit from additional market access rights to and from the EU.

The Agreement will also strengthen cooperation on environmental matters by requiring the compatibility and interaction of market-based measures (such as emission trading schemes) to avoid duplication and by enhancing green technologies, fuels and air traffic management. For the first time there is a dedicated article on the social dimension of EU-US aviation relations. This will ensure that airline employees' existing legal rights are preserved. In addition, the Agreement will raise the level of cooperation on security so as to better allocate resources by promoting mutual reliance on each other's security measures as well as swift and coordinated responses to new threats.

The Agreement further extends the role of the EU-US Joint Committee, the body that monitors the implementation of the Agreement and coordinates the various work streams of regulatory cooperation. The Joint Committee will therefore be able to enhance cooperation by promoting new initiatives. The new rules will reduce red tape, including by mutual recognition of each other's regulatory decisions, and avoid the wasteful duplication of resources (e.g. joint safety initiatives, one-stop security, and facilitation of passengers' travel).

Market access will be further opened with EU carriers gaining improved access to US Government-financed traffic. Subject to certain changes to the legal framework for noise-based airport restrictions, EU airlines will, in future, gain new commercial opportunities to fly between the US and non-EU countries.


While the incentives to further market opening are welcome, the absence of substantive progress in removing outdated regulatory constraints in the area of foreign investment is disappointing as this will maintain the current unbalanced restrictions on foreign ownership and control in the United States. In addition, EU carriers will only gain limited access to US Government-financed traffic. This again represents the continuation of an unbalanced situation given that EU national governments do not impose similar restrictions.

The agreement to work together, in the framework of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and exchange best practice on noise reduction represents an important step forward. However it should not be forgotten that various aspects of aviation regulation, including noise restrictions and night flight limitations, should be determined at local level, in full compliance with the principle of subsidiarity. It is therefore important that, when coordinating these issues at European level, the Commission takes full account of the national legislation of Member States.

The recognition of the importance of the social dimension and the responsibility given to the Joint Committee to monitor the social effects of the Agreement and develop appropriate responses as necessary is an important innovation contained in the second-stage Agreement. In this context, the Commission should use the Agreement to promote compliance with relevant international legislation on social rights, in particular the labour standards embodied in the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO 1930-1999), the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (1976, revised 2000) and the Rome Convention on the Law Applicable to Contractual Obligations of 1980.

Increased consultation and cooperation on security is necessary, particularly in the light of the current international situation. However this must not lead to excessive or uncoordinated measures that lack a proper risk assessment. Those measures must indicate evident benefits, which would counterbalance significant burdens for the travellers and their carriers. It would therefore be desirable that the Commission and the US review the efficiency of the additional security measures adopted since 2001 so as to eliminate overlapping and weak links in the security chain. In this context, the objective should be "one-stop security", rather than rechecking passengers and luggage at every transfer.

It is essential that the privacy of European and US citizens be respected when personal passenger data are exchanged between the EU and the US, in accordance with the criteria called for by the European Parliament in its resolution of 5 May 2010. In particular, all transfers of personal data for security purposes should be accompanied by safeguards for EU citizens, respect procedural guarantees and defence rights, and comply with data-protection legislation at the national and European level. In addition, worldwide standards on data protection and privacy need to be established urgently.

Increased cooperation between the EU and US authorities responsible for the field of aviation safety at all levels is no less welcome. In this context, it is important to underline the importance of the European blacklist of substandard carriers and the US system for monitoring carrier standards. Both parties should share information on this topic so as to ensure that standards are raised internationally.

Next Steps

While the second-stage Agreement represents a significant step forward, it is important that it not be regarded as the end of the process of establishing a transatlantic aviation market. The enhanced role of the Joint Committee will mean that there is scope for continued progress in regulatory cooperation and harmonisation. In particular, this committee should be encouraged to develop additional proposals for the mutual recognition of regulatory decisions in line with the principles of better regulation. It could also contribute to enhanced cooperation on the development of the European and US air traffic management systems ("SESAR" and "Next Gen") with a view to achieving interoperability and compatibility, as well as helping to reduce environmental impacts.

The Commission should also ensure that Parliament is kept fully informed and consulted about the work of the Joint Committee given the significance of its work for European citizens and companies.

At the same time, we should recognise that a number of issues remain outside the scope of the Agreement as amended by the new Protocol. For this reason, the Commission needs to look forward towards negotiating another stage of this Agreement covering issues including:

· further liberalisation of traffic rights;

· additional foreign investment opportunities;

· the effect of environmental measures and infrastructure constraints on the exercise of traffic rights;

· better coordination of passenger rights policies in order to ensure the highest possible level of protection for passengers;

Consistent standards of passenger rights, including those for people of reduced mobility, are of particular importance so as to avoid travellers facing inconsistent treatment during what they would see a single trip but which involves segments that are currently subject to different rules. It would also resolve the question of who is responsible should there be problems during a trip which involved changing planes at one or more hub airports.

More systematic dialogue and information exchanges between Parliament and the US Congress to discuss all relevant issues concerning EU-US aviation policy might well make a significant contribution to facilitating further negotiations.


While your Rapporteur certainly does not regard this second-stage Agreement as perfect, it includes important elements of progress. It also avoids the risk that, in the absence of such an Agreement, someone might trigger the suspension clause. Suspension could lead to European passengers and airlines losing the significant gains that have been enjoyed since March 2008. For these reasons, the Rapporteur's recommendation is that Parliament consent to the Protocol amending the EU-US Air Transport Agreement.

  • [1]               Article 218(6)(a)(v) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union


Date adopted





Result of final vote







Members present for the final vote

Georges Bach, Antonio Cancian, Saïd El Khadraoui, Carlo Fidanza, Knut Fleckenstein, Jacqueline Foster, Mathieu Grosch, Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, Georgios Koumoutsakos, Eva Lichtenberger, Hella Ranner, Olga Sehnalová, Brian Simpson, Dirk Sterckx, Keith Taylor, Giommaria Uggias, Thomas Ulmer, Peter van Dalen, Artur Zasada, Roberts Zīle

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Philip Bradbourn, Frieda Brepoels, Spyros Danellis, Ádám Kósa, Janusz Władysław Zemke

Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote

Karin Kadenbach