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Tuesday, 13 March 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition

EU-USA Air Services Agreement (debate)

  Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I should like to apologise for being a little late and I appreciate your tolerance. I was having difficulty with the lifts.

Transatlantic tourism is of vital importance to Ireland, and there is much room for expansion. Of the nearly seven million people who visited Ireland in 2005, over half a million of them came from across the Atlantic, contributing over EUR 500 million to the Irish economy. It has been estimated that these numbers could triple if the open skies agreement is ratified, and generate an extra EUR 1 billion for the Irish economy. With the advent of open skies, we can continue to benefit from the goodwill we have received from hosting events such as the Tour de France, the Special Olympics and the Ryder Cup. If a small country like Ireland can benefit in that way, what potential is there for the continent of Europe?

Of course we should be concerned about climate change, but the answer is to find new fuels for air transport and make more efficient use of existing fuels. Protectionism does not benefit the consumer or our economies. A clear open skies policy not only encourages individuals to travel to Europe but also helps to promote European goods in North America. Open skies opens up more of the American market to European consumers and business people. Our ability to travel and trade with more cities can only help to boost our economies and allow us additional access to the strong US economy, especially now, given the current strength of the euro against the dollar. This bodes well for European business.

In conclusion, the economic and cultural exchanges that will be made possible by this agreement will ensure that the United States and Europe maintain a healthy relationship for years to come, and I urge the Commission and the Council to resist protectionism and self-interest in this matter.

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