AMSTERDAM – Europeans for Fair Competition (E4FC), a broad-based coalition of labour unions, consumers, and companies, concerned about “fair and equal” competition in European markets, commends the recent mandates granted to the Commission by the Transport Council of the European Union to negotiate comprehensive aviation Agreements with specific third countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and State of Qatar. This is much needed, since air transport liberalization has thus far been taking place on a bilateral basis. We particularly welcome these mandates as we trust such negotiations and Agreements have the potential to stop protectionist actions and require state-owned and subsidised carriers to compete on a commercial basis as private investors would.
The more than 39 billion euros (between 2004-2014 alone) in government subsidies and benefits injected into the state-owned airlines of EU third country partners, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have been used to develop services and massive capacity between Europe and Asia via their hubs and as well as engage in a number of strategic investments in European airlines to feed their own operations, capture, and shift market access. As such, immediate action is necessary to ensure a level playing field for EU commercial aviation and we are calling on the General Directorate of Transport to exercise its explicit oversight authority over all airlines competing in EU markets and establish rules that uphold and enforce our market standards and fair competition.
It is vital that the EU continues to pursue a comprehensive policy that strengthens the accessibility of European hubs to safeguard connectivity and consumer choice long term. Without these policies, such accessibility and connectivity would soon be a matter for state-sponsored/owned non-EU- carriers to provide at their discretion and interest. Therefore, E4FC asks the Commission to ensure that the voices of all relevant stakeholders are heard all along the negotiating process, and that the aviation industry is invited to take part in ad hoc coordination meetings that will be organised between the Commission and the Member States (in addition to the usual and much appreciated institutional dialogue already in place within the Consultative Forum).
European airlines and their employees can compete with any airline, however, it is an entirely different matter for them to compete with Middle Eastern governments that heavily subsidise their state-owned airlines in violation of international agreements and to the detriment of the European economy and European workers.