Irish low-cost airline Ryanair is “very much interested” in launching flights to Georgia starting from next summer, Vera Kobalia, the Georgian economy minister, said on August 30.
Kobalia, who according to the Economy Ministry was in Ireland on August 26-28 meeting with Ryanair executives, said that Georgia should at first upgrade an airport in its second largest city of Kutaisi and to sign a common aviation agreement with EU. Meeting these conditions would pave the way for Ryanair’s entry into Georgia, she said.
She, however, also said that for signing a comprehensive air services agreement with EU, Georgia needs to harmonize its “liberal safety standards” with those of EU.
Kobalia was speaking at a meeting with President Saakashvili, who was discussing Georgia’s tourism infrastructure development with a group of senior officials in Black Sea resort of Batumi.
President Saakashvili said, that although the country in general had liberal economic course, “liberalization” in issues related with safety “is unacceptable and a mistake.”
He said that the government should submit to the Parliament relevant legislation “to make all the aviation safety norms strict.”
Georgia and EU finalized air services agreement in March, 2010. The agreement, however, has yet to be signed. The agreement aims to integrate Georgia into a wider European Common Aviation Area. Under the agreement, Georgia will have to harmonize its legislation with European standards and implement EU aviation rules in areas such as aviation safety, security, environment, consumer protection, air traffic management, economic regulation and competition issues.
Passenger traffic between the EU and Georgia has increased by an average of 10% per year over the past five years whereas cargo traffic in the same period has increased by an annual average of no less than 26% over the past five years.