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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU: Flight Fees Could Affect WTO Entry

The European Union has warned Russia to end fees on EU airlines that fly over Siberia or risk forfeiting entry into the World Trade Organization.

EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said Russia should produce a timetable by the end of the year for phasing out Siberian-overflight charges that cost European carriers such as Air France-KLM and Lufthansa hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

"The charges are absolutely not in conformity with international rules," Barrot told reporters Monday in Brussels, where transport ministers from the 25-nation EU authorized him to negotiate with Russia over the matter. "The fees are exorbitant."

Russia is the only country in the world to charge for overflights, and the fees, which affect EU flights to Asia, cost European airlines 330 million euros ($397 million) in 2004.

The policy is a byproduct of the Cold War, when Russian airspace was out of bounds and Russia excluded Siberia in return for a charge. Russia pledged to end the fees after 2013 and reduce them in the meantime as part of a 2004 political agreement with the EU on WTO membership. The government has yet to follow through with detailed plans, according to the European Commission.

Barrot said the EU might delay signing the WTO entry accord with Russia in the event it refused to produce a detailed timetable for ending the charges.