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Published on Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Flights to Asia threatened by Russia



 


Russia has threatened to cap flights over Siberia by airlines from the European Union, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.


Russia's deputy transport minister Valery Okulov said he was looking at limiting EU airlines' use of the routes over Siberia and giving preference instead to carriers from Japan, China and other Asian nations.


This could limit the number of new flights from the UK and elsewhere in Europe to Asia and Australia because, if Russia carries out its threat, it would force airlines to take a longer and more costly route.


The step by Russia is part of measures approved by 23 countries in retaliation for the EU's decision to start charging airlines for their carbon emissions on flights to and from Europe from January 1.


"We are calling on the European Union to do whatever it takes to prevent a trade war," he said. "We intend to get EU’s carbon trading measures either cancelled or postponed."


Moscow is also considering a law banning Russian airlines from taking part in the EU scheme. Beijing has already told Chinese airlines to ignore the EU’s measure and a similar step is before the US Congress.


Other retaliatory steps include imposing new taxes on EU airlines, and suspending talks about giving European carriers more flying rights outside the bloc.


But the alliance of opponents, which includes the US, China and Japan, backed away from some of the more extreme steps they had been discussing ahead of a two-day meeting in Moscow that ended on Wednesday, such as reopening existing EU trade deals to pressure European industries.


The Moscow meeting also revealed the make-up of the countries fighting Brussels has changed since their efforts kicked off in India in September.


The US, China, Brazil, India, Japan and Russia have stayed steady opponents since then. But several others involved in earlier protests did not sign the Moscow declaration, including Canada, Egypt and Qatar.


The number of Moscow signatories would have been smaller but for the presence of newer opponents, such as the former Soviet states of Armenia and Belarus.


And although officials from 23 countries signed a declaration listing eight measures they might adopt, they said they would only "consider" such actions.


The alliance of opponents aims to stop the bloc’s imposition of charges on carriers for their carbon pollution.


The retaliatory steps include imposing new taxes on EU airlines, and suspending talks about giving European carriers more flying rights outside the bloc.


But the alliance of opponents, which includes the US, China and Japan, backed away from some of the more extreme steps they had been discussing ahead of a two-day meeting in Moscow, such as reopening existing EU trade deals to pressure European industries.


And although officials from 23 countries signed a declaration listing eight measures they might adopt, they said they would only "consider" such actions.


Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate commissioner, has repeatedly insisted Brussels will not back down to opponents of its Emissions Trading Scheme.


The officials gathered in Moscow will meet again in Saudi Arabia in the summer.

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