Georgia to become part of EU air space by year-end
21 October, 2010
Georgia to become part of  EU air space by year-end

Common Aviation Area Agreement between the EU and Georgia is supposed to be signed by the end of this year despite the fact that Georgia still has some drawbacks in standards.

EU allows Georgia to streamline the full range of standards with the EU demands till 2015.

 

Georgia will be the first country among the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) that will join the EU common aviation space. The corresponding agreement with the EU is supposed to be signed till the end

of this year and Georgia will become a part of EU community from the viewpoint of civil aviation, Irakli Davitadze, Head of the United Transport Administration of Georgia (UTA), told Georgian Journal.  This agreement bespeaks of special interest of the EU in Georgia for EUconcludes agreements on common civil aviation space only with EU countries and Morocco exclusively. Another exception will be Georgia.  That singles out Georgia in the region, Georgian government believes, and adds more lure to the liberal civil-aviation sector of Georgia.

 


Georgia already practices an open sky regime as of 2005, and has bilateral agreements with 26 countries. However these agreements are subject to overview [the flight frequencies, conditions of entrance of air companies at each other’s market, etc] and can be changed. However, after joining the EU common air space Georgia will enjoy strictly established standards that are not subject to changes. Georgia is a part of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) but EU common aviation standards are much higher, Davitadze assures and therefore integration within EU civil aviation zone is a great opportunity and challenge at the same time for Georgian air-companies. 
“When we become an EU member from civil air space point of view, we undertake responsibilities that all standards will meet EU standards and our companies can have opportunities to enter any EU country if they meet required standards. However, these standards are much higher than ICAO’s.  ICAO standards sometimes have the character of recommendations and we can discuss and propose alternative standards, but EU standards are fixed and strict; you cannot divert from them. You are not supposed to have any indentation to divert since they provide with huge opportunities of development,” Davitadze explained.


However, focus on liberalization of Georgian air market laid ground to somewhat excessive deregulation due to which registration of aircraft at Georgian registry and their supervisory tools became much easier than the EU regulations demand. As a result some air-planes registered in Georgia at the moment do not meet EU demands and Georgia ought to retrieve all blemishes till 2015 and put all air-crafts registered at Georgian market in line with the EU standards till December 31, of 2015. Georgia has already addressed to tackling this problem and EU experts help it to achieve the goal. They have already held workshops in this October to Georgian colleges and plan to arrive again soon. But Georgia would like to invite a permanent resident representative of EU so as to help Georgian aviation-sector to adopt all those regulations that are well-practiced in EU but  still absent in Georgia.  UTA has already developed a plan aimed to streamline Georgian standards with the EU ones as soon as possible. The plan is already agreed with the President of Georgia and government.
First of all the plan proposes to establish a very strong, more independent and effective aviation-authority likewise all EU countries able to make independent decisions. The currently active UTA does not respond EU demands, Davitadze stressed.
“We plan to set up a legal law entity of Civil Aviation Administration able to make more flexible decisions, it will be under state control [either the President, ministry or some governmental body] but it will be empowered to have independent decision based on normative acts, this is what EU and even ICAO demands of us,” Davitadze elaborated.


ICAO administration has already approved the plan during the recent visit of Georgian government at ICAO head-office early in this October. The agreement with the EU common air-space will be signed this year irrespective the current defects in standards. Davitadze hopes to sign it even in the coming month as far as everything is prepared for the deal endorsement.
Government hopes the upcoming common air-space deal will promote Tbilisi into a regional hub to EU.  The sector pundits say Georgia can attract low-cost air-carriers [that still shun Georgia due to low flight frequency and passenger turnover figures] only after Tbilisi becomes the regional hub and the passenger turnover will increase. Passenger turnover of Tbilisi International Airport was affected by the August war in 2008 and still lags behind million. But after integration with the EU air-space new air-companies [including low-cost carriers] are supposed to enter Georgian market pushing the passenger turnover up and ticket prices down thanks to increased competition.  For example as soon as Morocco joined this here EU common air-space agreement, passenger’s turnover increased and ticket prices slumped significantly.


Giorgi Lipartiani, Director General of Lot representation in Georgia, the Polish-based air-company having entered Georgian market in mid-September of 2010 by much lower prices [starting from EUR 175 on one-way tickets toward EU against the EUR300 at average fixed at Georgian market for many years], swears the interest is quite high toward Tbilisi direction. According to him, after Lot started Tbilisi flights on September 15, 2010, the passenger turnover exceeded all expectations and the Tbilisi direction showed the highest figure among all other directions by a monthly data.
“Unfortunately, Tbilisi is not a regional hub today, but the agreement with EU on common space can accelerate the process of moving the [regional] hub from central Asia to Tbilisi and to EU. None of our neighbors have even an open sky regime. Georgian market is liberal and very interesting, I take flights quite often and airplanes are always full of passenger that bespeaks of the interest in our country,” Davitadze said.

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