Associated Press
EU gets power review alliances of European and non-European airlines

Thursday February 26, 9:24 am ET

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- European Union governments gave their antitrust authority the power Thursday to review alliances between European and non-European airlines that stop short of full mergers.
The new rules come into force May 1 and close a gap in the authority of the EU executive Commission: Until now it could scrutinize airline mergers regardless of the carriers' country of origin, but only alliances that involved solely European airlines.

The regulations were approved by the 15 EU governments.

They also grant the Commission enforcement powers to preserve competition when reviewing the looser cooperation agreements.

Unlike its U.S. counterpart, the Commission currently can only make recommendations to national governments in such cases rather than issue a binding ruling.

"This is good for the airlines concerned as there will be a clear and coherent regulatory framework," said EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti.

The Commission is still continuing its scrutiny of the Sky Team alliance which comprises Aeromexico, Air France, Alitalia SpA, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc. and Korean Air Lines Co.

The Commission has been analyzing the alliance's potential competitive impact since its inception in July 2000.

In recent months the case has taken on a new dimension after Air France Group merged with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. KLM is also allied with Northwest Airlines Corp. and has a codeshare with Continental Airlines.