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Sat, Oct 22, 2005

So, How Did It Go In Talks Between US, EU?

Transatlantic Talks Wrap Up After A Week

The already strained relationship between the US and the European Union is being put to the test this week, as trade negotiators work to replace the myriad of aviation agreements between the continents with a single, unified open skies pact. There's money on the line here -- industry executives figure a unified deal will mean about $5 billion more air travel business every year.

Right now, there are 25 different aviation agreements between the US and various EU member countries. Three years ago, the EU high court ruled those agreements are now illegal, saying the EU as a whole must negotiate a deal with the US. Forty million passengers fly from European countries to the United States every year. But under existing rules, airlines arriving in the US must arrive from their home countries -- a restriction the EU aims to lift. That would add another 17 million passengers a year.

As talks continue, aimed at an agreement by November -- if one can be reached -- the EU is urging member governments to renege on their open skies agreements with the US, hoping to pressure Washington into making a deal. There are teeth behind that smile in Brussels, as EU officials threaten to sue member countries that don't comply. So far, 20 countries have been threatened with EU lawsuits or have been brought to court by the collective government.

FMI: www.europa.eu.int

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