UK Gets Tough On Open Skies Talks

July 5, 2007

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British transport minister Ruth Kelly told the United States on Thursday that Europe would press for further liberalization of transatlantic air traffic.

"The government with our European counterparts will be strongly pressing the case for further liberalization in Washington," Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly told reporters.

"It is neither in America's nor Europe's interests for the restrictions to continue," she said.

In March, EU transport ministers gave unanimous support to an "open skies" deal which will allow EU airlines to fly from any city in the 27-nation bloc to any city in the United States and vice versa, replacing restrictive bilateral arrangements that date back to World War Two.

EU states can withdraw benefits of the agreement from US airlines if Washington does not agree by 2010 to a second phase allowing foreign airlines to buy more voting rights in US carriers and permitting them to run domestic US services.

Looking to other markets, Kelly said: "We will continue to press forward with liberalizing air transport markets, sweeping away outdated restrictions on routes, schedules and fares which still hold back development of our links with key economies, for example in Africa and Asia."

Kelly called for both industry and the public to increase vigilance and preparation in order to avoid airport chaos this summer amid recently tightened security.

Security measures have been ramped up after two men rammed a burning car into Glasgow airport on Saturday, a strike linked to two car bombs in London that police defused.

Kelly also said the government was planning a summit on transport security later this month.

(Reuters)