EU external aviation policy

Briefing 11-05-2016

The 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation ('Chicago Convention') is the chief regulatory framework for international civil aviation, but also the most important primary source of public international aviation law and the umbrella under which bilateral air service agreements have been developed. While in the early days bilateral air service agreements between states were quite restrictive, having been written with the intention of protecting their respective flag carriers, in the early 1990s the United States proposed a more flexible model of bilateral air services agreements, the so-called 'Open Skies' agreements. Challenged on the grounds that some of their provisions were not in conformity with Community law, these agreements led in 2002 to the European Court of Justice's 'Open Skies' judgments. These judgments triggered the development of an EU external aviation policy, which has led to the conclusion of over 50 horizontal agreements as well as to the negotiation and conclusion of comprehensive EU agreements with some neighboring countries and key trading partners. To tackle the challenges currently facing international air transport and, in particular, the increased competition from third countries, the Commission adopted in December 2015 a new aviation strategy for Europe that places great emphasis on the external dimension. The European Parliament is now examining this strategy.