Source Pravda.Ru

European Union: All Animals Are Equal, but...

Airlines of the USA and eight European countries don't want fair competition
It's probably too early for the champions of free and fair competition (including those in the PRAVDA.Ru editorial office) to be happy. Certainly, the European Commission and the European Court have the right to declare the bilateral “open skies” agreement between the USA and eight European countries illegal. The latter, in their turn, aren’t going to give up the advantages of unfair competition. Isn’t the European justice in the know when it concerns big money?

Yesterday, America’s Wall Street Journal commented upon the European Court decision to declare the “open skies” agreements illegal rather skeptically. To all appearances, there are enough reasons for this. The newspaper quotes European Commission press-secretary Gilles Gentelet as saying that it may take from two months or five years to implement the decisions of the supreme court body of the European Union. And it is not ruled out that it may take even longer. Within this whole period, the US air carriers will be enjoying an advantage over the airlines of the eight European partners in the “open skies” agreement. The latter in their turn will have considerable advantages over the rest European Union members and the rest of the world concerning air transportation to the USA.

It was the European Commission that was the first to draw the attention of the European Court to the fact that the bilateral exclusive transport agreements of eight EU members hampered free market competition on the US market. This happened in 1998. However, the European Court passed its decision only now. European justice is obviously makes no haste about such problems at all.

Meanwhile, the European Court passed a decision saying that the airlines of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxemburg, Sweden, and Great Britain infringed upon the EU regulations. First, they established noncompetitive tariffs for flights inside the European Union; second, they deliberately infringed upon the airlines based outside their homelands for the sake of their own advantage.

The European Court decreed that none of the EU members can conclude agreements with the USA that infringe upon the rights of airlines located in other EU countries. European lawyers think that such agreements can be concluded only on behalf of the whole of the European Union and in favor of all EU members only.

According to Wall Street Journal, EU Transport Commissioner Loyala de Palacio thinks this court decision is a historic step toward uniting the European government in Brussels and supposes that it will affect a dozen European airlines. British member of the European Parliament Brian Simpson supports this opinion and adds that the European unified market should provide conditions for fair competition. Sounds rather nice, gentlemen.

However, words are one thing and real mechanisms for the realization of court decisions are quite another. EU press-secretary Gilles Gentelet is sure that it may take several years to change the transatlantic air routes. A final decision on the problem depends upon all EU members. The European Commission will certainly insist that EU members should authorize it to negotiate the problem with the USA on behalf of the European Commission. However, according to the European laws in force, the European Commission doesn’t have such rights. To tell the truth, it may turn out that more influential EU members who currently have an obviously advantages with regard to air transportation in the USA, won’t let the European Commission interfere with their transport relations with the USA. As the saying goes, a united Europe is good, but money in your own pocket is even better.

On the whole, there is nothing that may hamper the EU countries to independently review their “open skies” agreements with the USA in the light of the European Court’s recent decisions. However, they will probably find other convenient ways to infringe upon the rights of other members of the air traffic market. This is because it was obvious from the very beginning that the airlines of the USA and the eight mentioned EU members weren’t going, and won’t in the future as well, to compete with other airlines of the EU and of the world on equal terms. They still want to be, as Orwell said right to the point, “more equal than other animals.” And the European Court with its turtle slowness and years of bureaucracy is no serious hindrance to it at all.

In the light of the above-mentioned facts, it sounds really very naive when Russia’s top officials demand that Russia should be incorporated into the WTO on “equal” terms. And subsequent complaints of Russian negotiators about the double standards and insincerity of WTO’s European members are silly. It’s very likely that no general rules for everyone exist at all. Evidently, the developed countries of the West are still colonizers deep inside, even despite their present-day humanitarian and politically correct appearances. And they believe that they “were and always will be more equal than the other animals.”

Kira Poznakhirko PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://economics.pravda.ru/economics/2002/7/21/62/2572_openskyes.html

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