The agreement, the first of its kind between the EU and a member state of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), allows open airspace between Qatar and all EU member states with unlimited access to their respective territories, as well as daily transport flights between the two sides. Another important element of the agreement is the “fair competition clause,” which is particularly comprehensive and ambitious and includes not only subsidies but also discriminatory practices. “You will hear a lot of praise today for fair competition and social clauses. But we remain convinced that they will make a real difference in practice,” said Philip von Schoppenthau, Secretary General of the ECA. We know from experience that even the best clauses, so-called watertight, mean nothing without the political will and political commitment of the EU to impose them. We hope that this element incorporates real life into the agreement and that the opening of our doors does not harm our airlines and the quality of employment they offer in Europe. The agreement refers to “fair competition provisions”: what are they and how can we ensure that Qatar/Qatar Airways does not take an unfair position, as many have seen in the EU aviation industry? “Fair competition” is often mentioned in state aid. What has been agreed on this, again, one of the main topics, such as Qatar Airways? This is one of the concerns of most of the EU`s ongoing negotiations with third countries. These countries can benefit from access to the EU aggregate market without this market being recognised as the only economic entity in reality. The Madrid-Helsinki flight is not considered a “cabotage”, that is, the right of foreign air carriers to operate on the national territory. Under these large-scale agreements, the parties will benefit from great flexibility in the delivery of their transport to each other`s territory.
The flexibility of co-terminalisation, the overlapping of stopovers and a network of several “national” routes allow third country carriers to compete directly with EU carriers on the EU network, without being subject to the same rules. The different levels of worker social protection for workers in the EU and Qatar are a striking example. “This agreement, which reflects the EU`s confidence in Qatar`s potential, will allow the liberalisation of basic mobility rights between Qatar and THE EU markets – one of the oldest and most important in the world in the field of air transport,” said the Minister. EurECCA is also concerned about radically different approaches to social protection, workers` rights and workers` conditions between the EU and Qatar. While we recognise that the EU is negotiating a social clause as a fundamental element of the agreement, it should be used to ensure respect for workers` rights and not be used to penalise European airlines competing with lower social standards for Qatari airlines. “We are divided in terms of workers` rights and conditions of employment,” said Jon Horne, president of the Court of Human Rights. “Qatar has a reputation for ignoring workers` fundamental rights, for not recognizing trade unions or collective bargaining. It is unlikely that a “social clause” – even if it contains iron social guarantees – could create such important differences. However, we welcome the social clause negotiated by the EU as an important and urgent part of the agreement.