External aviation policy I EU signs agreement boosting air services with Japan

With a view to enhancing air services with Japan, the Swedish presidency of the Council today signed on behalf of the EU an aviation agreement with one of the Union’s most important partners in Asia. The agreement will give all EU air carriers non-discriminatory access to routes between the EU and Japan, thereby promoting open and fair competition.

The agreement will create a level playing field for EU carriers and a sound legal basis for further development of air services with Japan. Moreover, together with the EU-Japan aviation safety agreement that entered into force in 2021, this agreement will further strengthen bilateral cooperation between the parties in the field of aviation.

Andreas Carlson, Swedish minister for infrastructure and housing

Today we have set another milestone in the EU’s external aviation policy. This agreement will allow all EU air carriers to benefit from the right of establishment when providing air services to Japan, thus bringing existing bilateral agreements of our member states in line with Union law. This will further develop EU’s cooperation with one of our key partners in the region.

Andreas Carlson, Swedish minister for infrastructure and housing

Following the judgements of the Court of Justice in the so-called “Open Skies” cases, on 5 June 2003, the Council had authorised the Commission to open negotiations with third countries on the replacement of certain provisions in existing bilateral air services agreements with an agreement at Union level (the “horizontal authorisation”).

In accordance with the mechanisms and directives of this “horizontal authorisation”, the Commission negotiated an agreement with Japan that supersedes certain provisions in the existing bilateral air services agreements between member states and Japan. Article 2 of the agreement replaces the traditional designation clauses with an EU designation clause, thus permitting all EU carriers to benefit from the right of establishment.

The provisions of this agreement therefore supersede the corresponding existing provisions in 13 bilateral air services agreements between member states and Japan serving a fundamental objective of the external aviation policy of the Union by bringing existing bilateral air services agreements in line with Union law.

Background and next steps

International aviation relations between member states and third countries have traditionally been governed by bilateral air services agreements between member states and third countries, the annexes to such agreements and other related bilateral or multilateral arrangements.

However, traditional designation clauses in member states’ bilateral air services agreements infringe Union law. They allow a third country to reject, withdraw or suspend the permissions or authorisations of an air carrier that has been designated by a member state but that is not substantially owned and effectively controlled by that member state or its nationals.

The agreement with Japan will hence serve a fundamental objective of the external aviation policy of the Union by bringing existing bilateral air services agreements in line with Union law.

Following today’s signature, the agreement will be sent to the European Parliament for its consent before coming back to the Council for its conclusion. The EU and Japan will send to the other party through diplomatic channels the notification confirming that their internal procedures necessary for the entry into force of this agreement have been completed. The agreement will enter into force on the first day of the next month following the date of receipt of the latter notification.

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