The European Commission on Thursday took the first step in pursuit of an infringement procedure against Romania on its bilateral air services agreement with Russia, by sending Bucharest an official notification.
The EU executive body is concerned that the agreement could impinge on the equal treatment of airlines operating in the EU and on competition among European air carriers.
Bilateral agreements on air services between a EU member state and a third country must include a ‘EU designation clause’ stating that the terms of the respective agreement equally apply to all EU airlines, not just to the member state concerned. This obligation represents an essential element of the European common market of air services, created in the early ’90s, which guarantees all airlines the right to operate anywhere under the same conditions as in the European Union.
The requirement on introducing the ‘EU designation clause’ was confirmed in 2002 by the ‘open skies’ rulings of the EU Court of Justice (ECJ). The ECJ ruled that the provisions of air service agreements conferring benefits only on the airlines of the respective member state run counter to EU regulations on the freedom of establishment (currently referred to in Article 49 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).