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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Brussels Seeks to Open Skies Over Russia to EU Airlines

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission stepped up efforts to pry open the Russian airline market on Monday, asking that the region's 25 member states give it the power to negotiate new aviation deals.

The commission is taking advantage of a 2002 court ruling that gave it more power to negotiate pan-European aviation accords on behalf of European Union member states.

So-called "open skies" agreements generally allow carriers to fly more freely between countries, with fewer restrictions on access to national airports.

Barrot is hoping for a swift mandate from the 25 bloc members to start talks over Russia, and hopes the first round can take place in 2005.

The Russian market holds huge potential. In 2002 alone, some 4.3 million passengers traveled between Russia and Western Europe.

About three-quarters of all Russian passenger traffic is targeted at Europe. Barrot said an open skies pact with Russia could be worth 180 million euros ($241.8 million) per year for both sides, but said the problem posed by a Siberian overflight charge was acute.

The EU wants to phase out the Siberian charge levied by Moscow on EU carriers by 2013, he said.

But if negotiations fail, EU carriers can refuse to pay the charge under international agreements or levy a similar fee on Russian carriers in the EU, Barrot said.

"We're not there yet, but the Russians must know we cannot indefinitely accept a situation that is unacceptable in the light of international aviation law," said Barrot.

The EU is also striving to open China's aviation market and to gain access to U.S. domestic routes.

(Reuters, AP, MT)