The European Commission (EC) has signed an aviation agreement with the State of Qatar to facilitate further market opening and improve connectivity.

The agreement marks the first such agreement between the European Union (EU) and a Gulf nation.

Under the terms of the agreement, the parties aim to revamp the rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU.

The new deal also seeks to incorporate new clauses pertaining to the establishment of fair competition mechanisms, and social or environmental matters.

“This is a major upgrade compared to the existing framework, and our joint contribution to making aviation more sustainable.”

EC Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said: “We delivered! Qatar was the first partner with whom we launched negotiations following our adoption of the Aviation Strategy for Europe – now it is also the first one to cross the finish line! More than that – the agreement sets out ambitious standards for fair competition, transparency or social issues.

“It will provide a level playing field and raise the bar globally for air transport agreements. This is a major upgrade compared to the existing framework, and our joint contribution to making aviation more sustainable!”

The EC and Qatar have also agreed to create a single set of rules, high standards and a platform for future cooperation on aviation issues ranging from safety and security to air traffic management.

Another key area of the agreement is the improvement of social and labour policies.

For Qatar, the deal will provide direct access to 28 EU countries, 500 million customers and a large cargo market.

It involves a gradual market opening over a five-year period to Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands.

The proposed enforcement mechanisms for fair competition will focus on preventing competition abuses.

The agreement will also remove the existing rules requiring EU airlines to work through a local sponsor.

An independent economic study commissioned by the EC has found that the agreement has the potential to generate benefits of around €3bn over the period between this year and 2025 and create 2,000 new jobs by 2025.

Meanwhile, the European Cockpit Association (ECA) stated that the agreement would not fetch any significant benefits to EU airlines and that it is tilted heavily in favour of Qatar.

ECA president Jon Horne said: “Without wishing to downplay Qatar’s role as a global aviation player, it is only one country in a sparsely populated area and which hardly matches the opportunities provided by the access to the huge EU market. This prompts the question – why is the EU so eager to cut deals that undervalue its own aviation market?”