EU ‘open’ to talks on airlines tax, but won’t change law


BRUSSELS — EU officials said Sunday they will negotiate with international partners angry at what they see as a climate tax on airlines, but refused to change hotly disputed legislation despite fears in Germany. “We have always been open to continuing discussions on the possibility of equivalent measures” outside Europe, Isaac Valero, spokesman for European Union climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard, told AFP. “This way we hope to reach a global agreement,” he said, referring to a longstanding failure to bring industrialized and emerging powers onto the same page over environmental objectives for big industry. “But awaiting this global agreement, we are not going to change our legislation,” he underlined. Hedegaard has insisted that equivalent measures by other countries would lead to tit-for-tat exemptions from the annual tax bill.

The charges imposed on airlines taking off or landing in Europe entered into force on Jan. 1 with the aim to help the EU achieve its goal of cutting emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Airlines backed by overseas governments have challenged the scheme’s legality in court, but for the first time Germany has expressed concerns mainly over Chinese threats that it could cancel orders for EU-built Airbus planes. The growing tensions, with airlines having long warned of an inevitable protectionist backlash from Asia and the Americas in particular, will be debated when EU environment ministers meet on Friday in Brussels.