(12 February 2014) – A group of MEPs has called on the European Commission to raise the state aid threshold for regional airports. But green campaigners disagree entirely and back what they describe as a “balanced” set of rules.
French MEP Franck Proust (European People’s Party) has taken the lead of a group of 53 European Parliament lawmakers opposed to the Commission’s proposed reform of state aid rules for regional airports.
The French EU lawmaker calls for more flexibility on the part of the EU executive on operating aid for regional airports, which were prohibited under the existing state aid guidelines. Some airports are barely ten kilometers away from each other, environmental groups say, but local politicians argue they are “vital” to the local economy, creating “thousands of direct and indirect jobs”. Avoiding the “duplication of unprofitable airports” is also a concern at the heart of Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia’s proposals.
The NGO network Transport and Environment (T&E) is not opposed to subsidies for airports that have a real public mission, citing those situated in isolated areas where they support tourism and the economy, but it says the Commission should be careful about state aid for others.
An obvious example is that of the “small regional” airport of Charleroi in Belgium, which has grown into an international hub attracting over 6 million passengers a year thanks to state aid and tax breaks which allowed low-cost carrier Ryanair to settle in.(With EurActiv)