Restrictions on national ownership and control, access, capacity, frequency, and pricing diminish the contribution of aviation to trade, tourism, job creation and economic growth. Although some Arab governments have unilaterally adopted open skies policies, the relations between Arab states is still mostly bound by bilateral agreements mainly covering 3rd and 4th freedoms of traffic, while there’s a small number of 5th freedom rights granted.
AACO has always been an advocate of liberalization in terms of market access and ownership and control of airlines. In the region, AACO participated in the formation of the Damascus Convention with the Arab Civil Aviation Commission since 2004 and urged states throughout the years to adopt the convention in their bilateral relations with other Arab countries due to the benefits it would bring to the consumer travelling in the region.
Liberalization of market access in between Arab states and investments by other Arab states in Arab airlines is still restricted although a starting tool has been developed for such liberalization i.e. the Damascus Convention.
The Damascus Convention is the multilateral agreement for the liberalization of air transport between Arab countries. It was adopted by the Council of Arab Transport Ministers in 2004 where 13 Arab states signed the Convention and entered into force in 2007 after being ratified by 8 states: Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, and the UAE.
It covers fundamental principles of liberalization that include market access, ownership and control of airlines, and fair competition. In particular, the Convention covers the following major issues, in addition to others:
- Market Access: Liberalized within first five Freedoms
- Fair Competition:
- States to ensure their policies, practices & laws conform to international agreements
- Seeks to harmonize competition provisions at multilateral level
- Non-Discrimination between air carriers
- Anti-Dumping Policies
- Anti-Trust Rules
- Ownership & Control of Carriers: Airlines to be owned by state or nationals or a number of states party to the agreement.
Link to the Text of the Damascus Convention
Link to Resolutions of the Council of Arab Transport Ministers relevant to the Damascus Convention
ICAO Long Term Vision for International AIr Transport Liberalization
In 2015, ICAO has adopted the long-term vision for international air transport liberalization which
states: We, the Member States of the International Civil Aviation Organization, resolve to actively pursue the continuous liberalization of international air transport to the benefit of all stakeholders and the economy at large. We will be guided by the need to ensure respect for the highest levels of safety and security and the principle of fair and equal opportunity for all States and their stakeholders;
ICAO 39th Assembly
The 2016 Assembly adopted the following with respect to liberalization:
1. Urged all Member States to give regard to, and apply, the ICAO long-term vision for international air transport liberalization in policy-making and regulatory practices;
2. Encouraged Member States to pursue liberalization of market access at a pace and in a manner appropriate to needs and circumstances, giving due regard to the interests of all stakeholders, the changing business environment and infrastructure requirements, as well as to the principles pertaining to safeguard measures designed to ensure the sustained and effective participation of all States, including the principle of giving special consideration to the interests and needs of developing countries;
3. Urged Member States to keep the Council fully informed of serious problems arising from the application of air services agreements or arrangements and of any significant developments in the liberalization process;
4. Requested the Council to complete the examination of an international agreement by which States could liberalize market access, and continue the development of an international agreement to liberalize air carrier ownership and control and a specific international agreement to facilitate further liberalization of air cargo services, taking into account the goals of the ICAO long-term vision for international air transport liberalization, and the past experience and achievements of States, including existing market access liberalization agreements concluded at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, as well as the various proposals presented during the Sixth Worldwide Air Transport Conference (ATConf/6);
Last updated on 20 April 2017