EU rejects U.S. open-skies pact

EU rejects U.S. open-skies pact

European Union transport ministers on Friday rejected a U.S. offer to open up trans-Atlantic passenger and cargo routes that fell short of their goals for greater access to the American market.

"We are going to continue negotiations to try and improve the current situation," Loyola de Palacio, the European transport commissioner said after a meeting in Luxembourg.

The ministers bowed to pressure from European carriers who argued Washington's offer was one-sided and would give fail to substantially improve access to the U.S. market, the world's largest.

The majority of EU states backed their carriers and pressed the EU executive to seek an improved offer.

"The offer on the table is unacceptable, " said Alastair Darling, Britain's transport secretary." It does nothing to promote open skies and the liberalization of trans-Atlantic flights." London feared the commission would surrender the EU's most important bargaining chip -- improved access for United States carriers at London Heathrow airport -- without improved access to the U.S. domestic market.

The commission, which is negotiating on behalf of its 25 member states, favored an interim agreement linked to a commitment from the U.S. on more substantial concessions in later talks.

In a bid to end the stalemate, Washington would allow European carriers to charter U.S. aircraft or space on U.S. aircraft for domestic flights, provided the flight was ultimately operated by the U.S. carrier. The EU rejected the offer because it fell far short of their demand for cargo and passenger airlines to operate freely within the U.S.