EU ruling on the Ryanair/Charleroi Airport case
Brussels, 12 February 2004
The regional representatives, meeting in Brussels today in the aftermath of the Commission’s Ryanair/Charleroi decision, have agreed on the following conclusions:
1. Regional airports cannot be submitted to the same uniform conditions, due to their great diversity. Therefore, there can be no definition of what constitutes “normal operating conditions”.
2. Commercial principles, in particular relating to free competition in air transport, must be counter-balanced with consideration for the regional and interregional dimension. Special emphasis must be placed on the aspect of sustainable regional development. In a number cases long-term public funding may be required, and such funding should be justified as support for the provision of a public service.
3. The Trans-European Networks policy should take account of the interregional dimension.
4. The Regions would accept the formulation of European guidelines, if these take full account of the complexity and the regional dimension of the issue and are not limited purely to economic aspects.
5. The regions ask the European Transport Council, which will meet on 8th March 2004, to address this issue. The AER will formulate and present a preliminary political position to the Ministers.
6. The AER « Regional Aviation » working group will meet on 25th March 2004 in Exeter (UK) to formulate concrete proposals on how to expressly acknowledge and include the regional dimension in the area of competition in air transport.
7. The regions will work together in solidarity and the Regional Ministers and Executives for Transport will present a co-ordinated position to the European level. “Interregional flight connections are as indispensable for economic growth and citizen mobility as railways, roads or waterways.
They present a central feature to achieve full accessibility of the regions in a new Europe. And scientific analysis shows clearly that possessing an airport is a must and essential for every region in order to be player in the globalized world. This implies that the Commission’s approach is too narrow when regarding the matter only from the aspect of distortion of the common market.
Subsidies for regional airports and interregional flight connections must, in many cases, be regarded as public services” stated Onno Hoes, Chairman of the Working Group ‘Regional Aviation’ of the Assembly of European Regions.
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