| BRUSSELS, June 8
BRUSSELS, June 8 The European Union proposed new
rules on Thursday to tackle alleged unfair competitive practices
from foreign airlines as it seeks to ensure European carriers
can fend off fierce competition from abroad.
The move comes after repeated complaints from some European
airlines, notably Air France KLM and Lufthansa
, about Gulf carriers receiving illegal government
subsidies, charges Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad all deny.
The proposal, which needs to be approved by the European
Parliament and EU member states before becoming law, would allow
governments and airlines to submit complaints about
discriminatory practices to the European Commission.
Should the Commission find that the practices of a third
country or airline are causing injury, or threat of injury, to
European airlines it will be able to impose financial duties or
suspend services and rights of the overseas airline.
"We want to ensure that Europe remains a leader in
international aviation, well connected to fast-growing markets,
with efficient European skies," EU Transport Commissioner
Violeta Bulc said in a statement.
The proposal does not envisage the suspension of traffic
rights, however, and will not interfere with bilateral air
services agreements between countries.
Several EU member states had been staunchly opposed to the
new rules on the grounds they could harm bilateral deals and
reduce connectivity in Europe. Many also saw it as a
protectionist move to shield uncompetitive European carriers,
something the Commission denies.
"In aviation there is never going to be a level playing
field," an EU official said. "We're not here to protect those
airlines if they have not put in place a good business model."
The Commission also published guidelines clarifying the
application of EU ownership and control rules that limit non-EU
investors' stakes in European airlines to 49 percent.
Investments by foreign airlines in recent years, such as
Etihad's 29 percent stake in Air Berlin, have triggered
suspicions that the control is actually being exercised by
(Editing by David Clarke)