On 2 June 2021, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union and its member States have reached a comprehensive air transport agreement to enhance connectivity and economic development among the 37 ASEAN member states and the EU.
The agreement - the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement - covers bloc-to-bloc air transport, and will provide greater opportunities for ASEAN and EU airlines to operate passenger and cargo services between the two regions and beyond. For instance, airlines will be able to operate unlimited number of services between the two regions.
This agreement in principle provides for closer cooperation between ASEAN and the EU in areas such as aviation safety, air traffic management, consumer protection, and environmental and social issues. This deeper cooperation builds on existing initiatives including (i) the ARISE Plus (Enhanced ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU) programme on technical assistance and capacity building; (ii) the EU-SEA CCCA CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), which supports the implementation of CORSIA, and (iii) the EU-SEA Aviation Partnership Project (EU-SEA APP).
It is part of the EU Aviation Strategy presented by the European Commission in 2015, which aims to ensure that the EU aviation sector remains globally competitive and contributes to the growth of the European economy.
The strategy has four main priorities, namely:
To establish the EU as a major player in global aviation while ensuring a level playing field for all EU companies;
To tackle the limits of airline capacity, both in the air and on the ground;
To maintain high European standards (safety, security, environment, etc.);
To make progress on innovation, new technologies and investments.
These negotiations were concluded in a difficult context linked to the COVID-19 health crisis which is seriously affecting the air transport sector. This agreement in principle opens up new growth prospects for the aviation industry in these two regions.
The agreement will now undergo a legal scrub in preparation for signature at a date yet to be determined.