The EU has taken a hardline stance on carbon emissions, issuing an ultimatum to the American government and throwing the second stage of the Open Skies agreement into jeopardy.
EU transport commissioner Jacques Barrot has demanded that the American carriers join the EU emissions trading scheme or an equivalent, while dismissing the case for details on European passengers overflying the US being submitted to Washington.
Reiterating the importance of emissions trading schemes in order to limit the aviation industry’s carbon footprint, Barrot said: "It’s always possible to imagine reducing the number of flights or suspending certain rights."
Referring to a source within the US Congress environment committee, he added: "He told me that attitudes are changing. Particularly with Bush and Cheney gone, there is a real hope of things moving on."
The new EU-US Open Skies agreement is set to come into effect at the end of March, permitting airlines to fly any routes between the two zones, but the European Commission’s (EC) stance suggests it is fully willing to withhold the privilege from American transatlantic carriers should Washington fail to cooperate over emissions.
Barrot’s stance may aggravate existing friction between the US and Europe over visa regulations, with the EC recently criticising the American government for courting the Czech Republic in a bid to secure a first bilateral agreement.