BRUSSELS, June 24 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) and the United States signed a second-stage agreement on Thursday to further open up the transatlantic aviation market by paving the way for majority control of each other's airlines.
"This is a significant step forward in our mutually beneficial aviation relationship with the U.S." Siim Kallas, European Commission vice president responsible for transport, said after signing the agreement in Luxembourg.
"It is extremely good news for passengers, cargo shippers, airports and airlines, who will all benefit from the additional commercial opportunities and strengthened regulatory framework provided by this agreement," he said.
The second stage agreement builds on the benefits of the groundbreaking aviation agreement signed by the EU and the U.S. in 2007. The negotiations started in May 2008 with a view to further regulatory cooperation and additional market opportunities.
As an essential element, the new agreement laid down reciprocal liberalization of airline ownership and control. Currently, foreign ownership in U.S. airlines is limited to 25 percent of voting rights. Upon legislative change in the U.S., the EU will reciprocally allow majority ownership of EU airlines by U.S. nationals.
EU airlines will gain additional rights to fly between the U.S. and a number of non-European countries. Furthermore, a number of obstacles for EU investment in third country-airlines will be removed. Similar rights will be available for U.S. airlines when the U.S. laws allow EU majority ownership of U.S. airlines.
The agreement will also strengthen cooperation on environmental matters. For the first time in aviation history, the agreement includes a dedicated article on the social dimension of EU-U.S. aviation relations, which will ensure the implementation of the agreement will contribute to high labor standards.
It was estimated full implementation of the first and second-stage agreements would provide a 12-billion-euro (14.7-billion-dollar) economic boost and create up to 80,000 new jobs.