To ask the Minister for Transport if a special case is being put forward by the Government for Shannon Airport in view of the commencement of the EU/US negotiations on open skies; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Pat Breen.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 7th October, 2003.
Ref No: 21965/03
Answered by the Minister for Transport
Following unanimous agreement by the Council of Transport Ministers on 5 June, to give the European Commission a mandate to negotiate an Open Aviation Area (OAA) agreement with the United States, the first round of formal detailed negotiations commenced in Washington last week. A second round of negotiations is due to take place in Brussels in December. During these negotiations, a Special Committee made up of all Member States will assist the Commission. Ireland is represented on this Committee by a senior official from my Department.
As I indicated in answer to questions earlier this year, the objective of the EU-US negotiations is to create a situation in which European and US airlines are not constrained as to the destinations to which they fly, just as they are not so constrained within Europe today. It is unclear how long these negotiations will take.
In dealing with this issue, I must take account of wider considerations, especially the opportunities for new business for Ireland currently not being exploited due to the limitation on the number of US destinations open to Irish airlines.
Last weeks report of the Tourism Policy Review Group to the Minister of Arts, Sport and Tourism recommends that my Department should immediately renegotiate the Ireland/US international air agreement in advance of an EU/US agreement in order to remove the present US gateways restriction.
Inevitably, there will be change. This change must be introduced on a phased basis and must run in tandem with the putting in place of a package of measures that will be equally beneficial for Shannon.
It is my intention to authorise my officials to engage in bilateral negotiations with their US counterparts, once I have completed the necessary consultations with all the appropriate interests including the new board-designate for Shannon airport, so as to shape the best overall package for Shannon airport going forward.