Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, has today marked a world first by becoming the first airline leader outside of the European Union to personally address the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN).
This honour provided Al Baker with the opportunity to update the European Parliament and the TRAN committee, including its current Chair, Madame Karima Delli MEP, about the ongoing blockade against the State of Qatar by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt.
Al Baker addressed the audience and distinguished members of the committee, providing a first-hand account of the challenges that have been faced since the start of the coordinated blockade, while highlighting how, against a campaign of isolation, the State of Qatar and Qatar Airways have strengthened their resolve in the face of adversity.
For the first time, Al Baker gave behind the scenes details on the shock blockade imposed on the State of Qatar. The year 2017 marked a turning point for the State of Qatar, as the country became subject to a ruthless campaign of isolation. Explaining that he was at the IATA (International Air Transport Association) AGM in Cancun when the event’s unfolded, a 22 hour return journey ensued to see Qatar Airways GCEO return home to guide his airline in response to this unprecedented act of war. The extreme violations were carried out without provocation and without a mandate from the UN Security Council or any other international body.
The clear intention of the blockading states was to endanger the economy of the State of Qatar by threatening the livelihood of residents, but the State of Qatar and Qatar Airways responded to protect the nation, the people, the economy and the airline’s customers.
With 18 air corridors immediately reduced to just two corridors elaborate measures were necessary to assure safe operations in to and out of Qatar. In the middle of the holy month of Ramadan, the normal flow of goods and basic supplies such as medicine, food and water, was dangerously interrupted.
Qatar Airways offices were closed by force and without prior notice by local authorities in the blockade states. These actions, perpetrated without warning and justification, imposed significant human hardship on the families separated as a result. H.E. Mr. Al Baker drew a poignant and stark contrast between the sense of isolation felt by Qatar residents as a result of the blockade and other dark moments in history such as the erection of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War.
During the impassioned speech Al Baker condemned ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) for what he called a “timid and disappointing” response, at the same time he called on the world to condemn such “reckless political manoeuvres that violate fundamental norms of international aviation”. As the country approaches the end of one year under the imposed blockade, Qatar Airways has become a strategic pillar to ensure food security in our country.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, said: “I am honoured to have had the opportunity to address the European Parliament today, an occasion that demonstrates Qatar Airways’ growing relationship with the European Union. This is a friendship that will only continue to grow, alongside mutual cooperation, to restore a fair and open aviation regime, supported by good governance and a collaborative rule of law around the world.
“I would also like to personally thank the members of the European Union for their support amidst the extraordinary illegal blockade against my home country, with notable thanks to MEP Ismail Ertug, who made today’s event in Brussels possible.”
The TRAN Committee is the leading legislative Committee of the European Parliament responsible for air transport, rail, road and inland waterways, alongside the development of trans-European networks in the areas of transport infrastructure.
Qatar Airways has a strong economic footprint in the European Union and provides direct employment to 1,100 residents, while contracts with manufacturer Airbus are valued at almost 27 billion Euros. The airline currently flies to 31 destinations across 21 member countries of the European Union, connecting passengers to its network of more than 150 global gateways.
Last month, the European Union and the State of Qatar concluded the fourth successful round of negotiations for a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, with both sides reaching agreement on 70 per cent of the provisions, including those on safety, security and air traffic management. This follows a 2017 Memorandum of Understanding, signed between the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority and the European Safety Agency, with a view to creating a joint framework on regulatory and aviation safety issues.