By Nafeesa Syeed
The United Arab Emirates will oppose any efforts to limit airline services, the country’s economy minister said, after the European Union warned it may take action against Gulf carriers that receive billions in state subsidies.
U.A.E. Minister of Economy Sultan Al Mansoori said so-called open skies treaties should be kept on course, while governments and the airline industry should be focused on supporting more openness, and not imposing more limits. Passenger and cargo demand should drive the market, he said.
“The U.A.E. government will oppose any attempts to restrict, limit, or control air services,” Al Mansoori said in Dubai on Sunday. “It’s time to encourage and facilitate more competition and more consumer choice.”
His comments came after European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said Friday that she intends to start fighting subsidies to airlines based in the Persian Gulf, in a bid to create a “level playing field” for their European competitors. Bulc said she hopes EU governments will give her an “open and flexible” mandate by April to negotiate an aviation agreement with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
On Monday, Bulc met Anwar Gargash, U.A.E. minister of state for foreign affairs, in the Gulf nation’s capital Abu Dhabi, the state-run Wam news agency reported. U.S. carriers said in January that Dubai-based Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways PJSC of Abu Dhabi have received a collective $42 billion in government support over the past decade.
Mansoori said the expansion of Emirates and Etihad into the U.S. and Europe is a “direct response” to the growth in demand from consumers in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The U.A.E. has met all its obligations under open skies agreements and is ready to join with the U.S. and EU and to “help lead a new effort toward even greater liberalization in international air transport,” he said.