EU Troubled Over US Open Skies Response

Media reports noted the absence of Sir Richard Branson during the launch of Virgin America. The US start-up airline was allowed to proceed after an open skies agreement reached between the US and European Union was concluded in April. That agreement gave very little on the US side relative to restrictions the government places on foreign airline involvement, control, or ownership of a US airline. Branson's absence was clearly intended to reflect that attitude.

Europeans, particularly the UK, expressed some concern when the deal was announced, saying they had gotten very little in exchange for opening EU markets to more US flights. While US carriers gained the right to fly between EU member states, EU carriers do not receive the reciprocal right to cabotage in the US.

The pact is barely begun and already government officials on both sides are expressing concerns. US Representative James Oberstar (D-MN) is challenging some of the long-term goals of the agreement and has said he will closely monitor the implementation of the agreement. The US balked when the EU tried to subject US and other international airlines into carbon emissions trading.

EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot, reportedly expressed concerns directly to Oberstar and to Mary Peters, Secretary of US Department of Transportation, saying the US should not prevent implementation of the deal.

The Financial Times reported that EU approval of the agreement hinged on expectations of what would come in the next round of talks and the EU's Barrot could be pressed to withdraw benefits granted to the US if a protectionist attitude in the US prevails.

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