Over the last 30 years, the European Union has created the world's largest and most successful example of regional market integration and liberalisation in air transport. The single EU aviation market has been developed through dramatic changes in the economic and regulatory landscape of air transport in Europe. All players in the air transport sector (customers, airlines, airports and employees) have benefited from new routes and business opportunities, lower prices and better overall quality of service.
However, airlines still have limited market access when flying to countries outside the EU, and passengers therefore have less choice. International aviation has traditionally been governed by bilateral agreements between individual countries which have typically restricted the number of airlines and routes concerned as well as the number of flights and the possible destinations.
To overcome these limitations, since 2005, the EU has been extending its aviation policy beyond its borders. This policy is based on three pillars. First, the bilateral agreements that are not in line with EU law, most importantly, the freedom of establishment which derives from the EU Treaties need to be amended to ensure legal certainty and to put all EU airlines on an equal footing for flights to countries outside the EU. Second, the EU is working to develop a Common Aviation Area with neighbouring countries to the South, South-East and East of the EU. Third, the EU is negotiating comprehensive agreements to integrate the EU aviation market with those of its key international partners.
Closer international relations will not only open markets, but also allow the EU to ensure high standards of safety and security in international air transport as well as to work with others more effectively to address the impact of aviation on the environment.