(Adds European Commission comment in letter seen by Reuters)
By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Brazil’s civil aviation regulator ANAC intends to close the negotiation of an Open Skies treaty with the European Union after eight years without reaching agreement, a senior ANAC official said.
The stumbling block has been the EU’s refusal to grant Brazil the so-called fifth freedom traffic rights, which would allow Brazilian airlines to pick up passengers in EU countries when they continue to destinations outside the bloc, he said.
“Unfortunately, we are considering ending the negotiations because they are not going anywhere,” ANAC Director Juliano Noman said in an interview on Wednesday. “The EU does not want to give us fifth freedom. We do not think that is reasonable.”
The European Commission said it regretted Brazil was no longer interested in concluding the air transport negotiation.
Its mobility and transport director-general, Henrik Hololei, said in a letter sent to the Brazilian government on Thursday and seen by Reuters that it was “a real missed opportunity.” He asked for confirmation of Brazil’s decision to take the necessary steps to formally end the talks.
Stops to refuel in Europe and take on passengers would enable flights from Brazil to Asia. No Brazilian airline now flies there, but ANAC wants to prepare for expansion to a region where Brazil’s business ties have grown since China became its No.1 trade partner.
Brazil’s lower house of Congress on Tuesday approved an Open Skies agreement with the United States that includes the fifth liberty. That would allow Brazilian airlines to reach Asia via the U.S. West Coast.
Noman said Brazil saw no future in seeking an EU-wide Open Skies accord and wants to update bilateral agreements with a dozen European countries that have not been changed in the eight years of talks with the European Commission in Brussels.
The ANAC has been resorting to provisional authorizations for airlines that have hit their limit on flights to Brazil.
They include TAP Portugal, which flies to 10 Brazilian cities, and KLM, which is building a hub in the northeastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza with partner Air France.
LATAM Airlines Group SA and Azul Linhas Aéreas , the only two local carriers that fly to the EU, are currently using less than their quota.
More Brazilians were flying to Europe as Brazil pulls out of its worst recession on record and growing demand would push up fare prices if more flights are not added, Noman said. (Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Edmund Blair and Lisa Shumaker)