EU and Russia agree on phasing out fees for trans-Siberian flights

The Council today1 endorsed a political arrangement with Russia on the use of trans-
Siberian routes by EU air carriers, which will improve the competitiveness of EU carriers
on routes to destinations in Asia. The arrangement abolishes the obligation for EU carriers
to enter into commercial agreements with, and pay fees to, Russian air carriers for the use
of those routes as from 1 January 2014 at the latest, thereby settling a long-standing point
of contention between the Union and Russia in the field of aviation. Any charges to be paid
to the Russian authorities will have to be cost-related and transparent and must not lead to
discrimination between foreign airlines.
The arrangement, called “agreed principles” and confirmed by an exchange of letters
between both sides, will enter into force on the first day of the month following the date on
which the decision on the accession of Russia to the World Trade Organisation is taken,
which is expected to be in December this year. As from that day – that is, most likely from
1 January 2012 – newly operated overflight frequencies will not require prior conclusion of
commercial agreements and corresponding payments, while payments resulting from
existing overflight arrangements may not exceed the amount paid in 2006. In addition, six
months after the entry into force, bilateral arrangements between EU member states and
Russia are to be modified so as to ensure that no special commercial agreement or payment
is needed for code sharing by EU carriers and for their right not to stop in Russian territory
on trans-Siberian routes.
Whilst the agreed principles were already initialled by the EU and Russia in 2006 and
endorsed by the Council in 2007, Russia has only now agreed to commit itself to
implementing them.
The arrangement with Russia will be accompanied by an equalisation mechanism set up by
the EU member states, aimed at avoiding competitive distortions. Under that mechanism,
EU carriers operating new frequencies free of payment will contribute to a fund to be
redistributed among the EU carriers that still have to make payments under existing
commercial agreements during the transitional period until 1 January 2014. This
mechanism will be approved by the Council at a later stage.

1 The decision was taken without discussion at a meeting of the Transport,
Telecommunications and Energy Council.
source: EU commission