Nov 30, 2009

Strengthening our transport ties with the European Union

Today in Rome I will be meeting with Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transport, to progress an ‘open skies’ agreement with the European Union (EU) as well as a global framework for managing the aviation sector’s carbon emissions.

Since June, Australian and European officials have been negotiating what would be a historic open skies agreement.

Achieving such an outcome would remove many of the existing regulatory limitations on Australian and European airlines operating between our two continents, allowing them to offer more flights and a wider range of services at the most competitive prices.

The benefits would be shared by Australian airlines, businesses and travellers.

Currently, flights from Australia to Europe are subject to constraints contained in bilateral agreements. For example, our carriers are only allowed to offer three flights per week to Paris.

In addition to access and capacity rights, the agreement we’re seeking would provide a basis for enhanced cooperation in the areas of aviation safety and security, competition law and environmental protection.

The EU is one of Australia’s largest aviation markets. Last year, 4.6 million passengers flew between Australia and EU countries at an average of 44,000 each way per week.

Vice President Tajani and I will also discuss ways Australia and the EU can work together to advance global efforts to manage the carbon emissions from international aviation ahead of this month’s climate change conference in Copenhagen.

A Program of Action to address emissions was endorsed by a high level meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in October 2009. However, governments and the aviation industry will need to do more.

The upcoming Copenhagen conference will consider how aviation will assist in reducing global emissions and provide guidance for the future work of ICAO.