Ukraine and EU sign Open Skies Agreement
Ukraine and the European Union during the summit in Kiev signed an agreement "On a Single Aviation Area", which is also called "aviation visa-free" or "open skies" with the EU.
The Open Skies Agreement stipulates that European companies will be able to fly to any airport in Ukraine without restrictions, and Ukrainian airlines will be able to fly to any airport in the EU. At the same time, Ukraine undertakes to comply with European aviation safety standards.
The document has to be ratified by all EU member states, but the Ministry of Infrastructure stated that the agreement will be in force until all ratification procedures are completed.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also confirmed after the signing that the agreement will take effect immediately.
Even before the signing of the agreement, European low-cost companies announced their intention to significantly expand into Ukraine and start working in almost half of the regional centers.
Instead, Ukrainian airlines believe the deal will hurt domestic carriers.
A long way to the common sky
The process of unification of Ukrainian aviation space with the EU has been going on since the presidency of Leonid Kuchma, since 1999.
In December 2006, the EU Council authorized the European Commission to start negotiations with Ukraine on a common airspace.
In October 2013, the parties agreed on the text of the agreement, but the signing was blocked due to the conflict between the United Kingdom and Spain over the territorial status of Gibraltar and its airport. Official Madrid blocked the deal because Kyiv recognized the airport as British.
With the entry into force of Ukraine's visa-free regime with the EU in 2017, Kyiv was also expecting an "aviation visa-free regime", which was to lead to a travel boom. The signing of the agreement was expected in the near future, but the case was delayed.
After the final withdrawal of Great Britain from the EU, the obstacles to signing the agreement disappeared.
In June 2021, the EU Council agreed to sign an agreement with Ukraine, as well as with Armenia, Tunisia and Qatar.
Should we expect an air boom in Ukraine?
Today, there are bilateral air services agreements with each EU country. And, according to these agreements, restrictions are set on the number of carriers and weekly flights.
This made it difficult for new carriers to enter popular flights.
The new agreement with the EU stipulates that restrictions on the number of carriers and flights will be lifted.
"For example, there is a permit for 14 flights a week to Amsterdam for one carrier on each side. The new agreement removes such restrictions. That is, it means that any European carriers can fly to Kiev," said aviation law lawyer Andriy Huk. in an interview with BBC News Ukraine.
The agreement applies not only to passenger traffic, but also to freight and mail.
Andriy Huk adds that the agreement will be used primarily by airlines that offer low ticket prices and minimal service.
In particular, Europe's largest low-cost carrier Ryanair recently announced that it plans to "aggressively expand" the Ukrainian aviation market after Ukraine joins the agreement on a single airspace with the EU.
"The only market I would pay attention to is Ukraine. I think we will become the main investor in Ukraine when it joins the European open skies," Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary was quoted as saying by Reuters.
He stated that the company is considering working in 12 cities of Ukraine at once. Now they fly from five.
The company is even considering starting domestic shipments.
Wizzair, Europe's other largest low-cost carrier, also operates in five Ukrainian cities.
What are the advantages
First of all, it's about the benefits for passengers, experts say. Because for them, this agreement is a greater choice, and therefore more opportunities for travel.
"The greater the competition, the lower the price of tickets and the more passengers will be transferred from trains to planes," said lawyer Andriy Huk.
The second beneficiary of this agreement is the airports of Ukraine, which will receive more aircraft and receive more passenger traffic. Therefore, regional airports will have a chance to attract investment and development.
However, the coronavirus pandemic may make adjustments to the forecasts for the rapid development of the aviation market in Ukraine.
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