Diplomat: U.S. bill risks Open Skies pact

May 27, 2009 at 10:46 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. House has passed legislation that would negate the U.S.-European open skies agreement, the European Union ambassador to the United States says.

Ambassador John Bruton said Europe wasn't recognizing the importance of Congress in the U.S. decision- and law-making process, EUobserver reported Wednesday.

Last week, the House passed a bill containing "language which would negate the Open Skies agreement," Bruton said. The Open Skies agreement allows any European or American airline to fly between any point in the European Union and any point in the United States.

The provision seen as a threat to the agreement was part of a budget reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration that would require FAA inspections of European maintenance facilities handling U.S. airliners.

Bill sponsor Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., said the inspections would "ensure that foreign entities conducting repair work on U.S. aircraft adhere to U.S. safety standards and regulations." The bill was sent to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

Since the House passed the bill, the European Union froze enactment of an EU-U.S. air safety accord, warning that if tit-for-tat European inspections of U.S. maintenance facilities for European airliners were performed, it would cost millions of dollars for each side, the EUobserver said..

About 400 European facilities maintain U.S. planes, while more than 1,200 facilities in the United States service foreign airlines, including European companies.

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