Sunday

24th Mar 2019

German flights row highlights EU-Russia trade tensions

German-Russian relations have come under pressure following a dispute over cargo overflight rights, in a situation seen as reminiscent of recent bilateral trade spats between Moscow and other EU capitals.

The row concerns the right of Lufthansa Cargo, Germany's main freight carrier, to fly over Russian territory on routes from Europe to South East Asia. Russian authorities last week blocked Lufthansa Cargo's overflight rights saying German planes should make stopovers at Russian airports instead of at Astana in Kazakhstan.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Aeroflot plane - the Russian carrier was briefly banned from flying cargo to Frankfurt (Photo: wikipedia)

The issue appeared to be settled late last week with German and Russian authorities agreeing that Lufthansa Cargo relocate its hub from Kazakhstan to Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.

"Discussions with the Russian transport ministry continue. At this time, it is above all a question of a timetable for the transfer of Lufthansa Cargo towards the Russian airport of Krasnoyarsk," German transport minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said in a statement on Friday (2 November), according to AFP.

But the agreement was reached at the cost of considerable political fall-out between Berlin and Moscow.

Germany last week itself briefly banned cargo flights by the Russian airline Aeroflot from Frankfurt airport, with the Russian transport ministry accusing Germany of "having started a press campaign in which we are being accused of blackmail," AFP reports.

Lufthansa meanwhile refuses to accept the deal. "It is a strange move, apparently trying to force us to move our Asian hub from Astana to Siberia by withdrawing our overflight rights," Lufthansa Cargo boss Carsten Spohr told Welt am Sonntag saying he does not accept such a "link" as a matter of "principle."

German parliamentarians of the ruling Christian Democrats called for tougher counter-measures against Russia, such as the blocking of Russian accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Christian Democrat MP Guenther Krichbaum, who chairs the German parliament's European affairs committee, said: "Whoever uses such instruments in trade and economic policy is not suitable for WTO accession, neither in the short term nor in the mid-term," according to ZDF television.

Mr Krichbaum said Germany should take the matter to the EU level, comparing the conflict with an ongoing row between the Kremlin and Poland over meat exports.

He said that through its embargo on Polish meat imports, Russia is trying to sow divisions within the EU, with Russia's Lufthansa ban showing "the same pattern."

Poland has since 2005 blocked talks for a new EU partnership agreement over the meat conflict, and has also threatened to veto Moscow's WTO membership saying the meat ban is politically motivated.

Meanwhile, Lithuania has been facing a reduction of oil transit across its territory, while Finland is irked by Russian plans to impose new export tariffs on raw timber.

Agenda

Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK

The UK parliament will likely hold a third vote on the Brexit withdrawal deal next week, determining the UK's departure from the bloc. In the meantime, the controversial copyright reform will be on the EU parliament's agenda.

EUobserved

Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

EU commissioners campaigning for a national post have to take a leave of absence - while those running for an EU job do not. This distinction undermines the effort to close the gap between EU and national politics.

Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election

Smer, Slovakia's ruling party, wants the country's media to give politicians a right-of-reply, or face stiff fines. Advocates of a free press are alarmed, and it poses a problem for the European Commission, whose vice-president is a Smer presidential candidate.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Agenda

Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK

The UK parliament will likely hold a third vote on the Brexit withdrawal deal next week, determining the UK's departure from the bloc. In the meantime, the controversial copyright reform will be on the EU parliament's agenda.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us