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EU Welcomes Air Traffic Agreements Ruling With US - 2002-11-05

The European Union's highest court has ruled that aviation agreements between eight EU nations and the United States go against EU law. The decision is expected to help reduce the cost of air travel to and from Europe, as well as inside it.

The European Commission brought the case against the countries four years ago after EU governments blocked the commission's request to negotiate an EU-wide pact on transatlantic air traffic rights with the United States.

In its ruling, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg said that while EU law does not necessarily give the Executive Commission the right to negotiate air deals, some provisions of the bilateral deals, including fares and computerized reservation systems, are contrary to the laws of the European Community.

The court also said bilateral agreements discriminate against airlines in EU countries that do not have such deals with the United States.

Open skies pacts allow airlines based in one country to fly to another country without regulatory approval on fares, schedules or routes.

The agreements just ruled illegal allowed U.S. carriers to fly into EU countries from anywhere in the United States, but European carriers could only fly to the United States from their home bases.

The European Commission says the separate agreements keep the EU airline market inefficient and allow the United States to play one European nation off against another.

The commission says if it can negotiate for all 15 EU nations this will increase competition in the lucrative trans-Atlantic routes, bring down fares and make it easier for European airlines to merge.

The European Commission brought the case against Sweden, Luxembourg, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Britain.