The FINANCIAL — Georgia and the European Union initialled, on 5 March in Tbilisi, a comprehensive air services agreement that will open and integrate their respective aviation markets, Europolitics reported.
A common aviation area will gradually be put in place by the two parties, which implies bringing Georgia’s legislation into line with EU standards, particularly on aviation safety and security, the environment, consumer protection, traffic management and competition.
Georgia was one of the first non-EU countries to sign, in 2006, a horizontal aviation agreement that brought into line with EU law all the bilateral aviation agreements between this country and member states (14 member states are concerned). The horizontal agreement entered into force in 2008 but has had little impact on opening of the respective markets. The bilateral agreements with Georgia are generally quite restrictive and give airlines little opportunity to penetrate this market. This new comprehensive agreement is expected to change things, however, and to generate opportunities for additional traffic between the two parties. It will enable all EU airlines to operate direct flights to Georgia from anywhere in the Union and vice versa for Georgian carriers. The agreement will remove all restrictions on prices and on the number of weekly flights between Georgia and the EU.
Passenger and freight traffic between Georgia and the EU is relatively modest (210,000 passengers in 2007, according to the Commission) but has been rising steadily for several years. Over the last five years, passenger traffic increased by an average of 10% a year and freight traffic by 26%. Today, there are direct flight connections between Georgia and nine EU member states (Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Poland), but the biggest European markets are Germany, Austria, Latvia and the Netherlands. The main European airlines operating on these routes are Lufthansa, Czech Airlines, Air Baltic and Austrian Airlines.
The agreement, initialled on 5 March, will be transmitted to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. This marks a change in the decision making process: with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, Parliament now has a right of veto (assent) over international aviation agreements, whereas it used to be involved through the consultation procedure.
The EU is negotiating agreements of this type with Ukraine, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Tunisia and Algeria. It has already concluded similar agreements with the Western Balkan countries and Morocco.
It will enable all EU airlines to operate direct flights to Georgia from anywhere in the Union and vice versa for Georgian carriers.