The European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (members: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) signed a comprehensive air transport agreement that will open up more air transport opportunities and enhance direct connectivity between the two regions, while upgrading rules and standards for concerned flights. The agreement will apply immediately. By setting global benchmarks that commit all 37 countries in the two regions to fair competition and to improving social and environmental conditions, it is the latest example of a new generation of international air transport agreements. The signing means new opportunities for consumers, airlines and airports both in Europe and in ASEAN countries.
Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “This first-ever ‘bloc-to-bloc’ air transport agreement brings the EU–ASEAN aviation partnership to a new level. It will support the aviation sector’s recovery after COVID-19 and restore much-needed connectivity to the benefit of some 1.1 billion people, enabling greater business, trade, tourism and people-to-people exchanges. It replaces more than 140 bilateral air services agreements, providing a single set of rules and reducing red tape. It also gives us a new platform to work jointly towards our shared commitment to economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aviation.”
Stronger connectivity and level playing field
ASEAN is a global economic powerhouse with a fast-growing aviation market. In 2019, it was the EU’s 9th largest market for freight and the 16th largest for passengers with more than 8 million travellers. Introducing a modern framework for air services between Europe and Asia, which opens up opportunities while ensuring high standards is therefore an investment in the future.
Today’s agreement provides for a level playing field and is expected to bring about new air transport opportunities and economic benefits for both sides:
- It replaces more than 140 bilateral air services agreements, thereby providing a single set of rules and reducing red tape. EU Members States without any bilateral agreements with ASEAN States are now also covered by a modern legal framework.
- All EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights from any airport in the EU to all airports in ASEAN States, and vice versa for ASEAN airlines. This will help EU and ASEAN airlines to compete with competitors targeting the lucrative EU-ASEAN market.
- Airlines will be able to fly up to 14 weekly passenger services to or from each EU Member State, and any number of cargo services via and beyond the two regions, to any third country (‘fifth freedom traffic rights’).
- The agreement includes modern and fair competition provisions to address market distortions.
Both parties also recognised the importance of environmental and social matters, agreed to cooperate on them and to improve their respective social and labour laws and policies.
In 2016, the European Commission obtained authorisation from the Council to negotiate an EU-level aviation agreement with ASEAN. Negotiations were finalised in June 2021.
Similar EU comprehensive air transport agreements have been signed with other partner countries, namely the United States, Canada, Qatar, the Western Balkans, Morocco, Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, Israel, Ukraine and Armenia.
The agreement starts to apply from today’s signature. As a next step, the parties will launch the ratification process in line with their respective procedures to bring the agreement in force.