Riccardo Illy, President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER), meeting today with the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, welcomed the new EU guidelines on aviation and regional airports, as well as the Commission initiative to launch a consultation before adopting a final regulation. ‘The AER, who called for the publication of EC guidelines in order to remove the legal uncertainty created as a result of the EC decision in the Ryanair/Charleroi case, recognises that the new guidelines adopt a flexible approach, acknowledging the vital role of regional airports for citizens’ mobility and the economic development of many regions of Europe’ he said. ‘More specifically, they clarify the role of national, regional and local authorities in the provision of key infrastructure and offer an improved set of conditions for public funding to assist the development of regional airports and interregional air connections’ he highlighted.
However, Riccardo Illy pointed out that ‘small airports, e.g. up to one million passengers a year, should have the choice to decide which measures they want to take to attract airlines. A European guideline should not reduce their bargaining power when negotiating with airlines. This may also create a legal problem for existing agreements, in larger airports, usually concluded for an average duration of 10 years’.
On behalf of the AER and the European Forum of Regional Airports (FARE), who share the same position, Riccardo Illy called upon the Commission President to ensure that such obstacles for the future development of regional airports and the obligation of prior notification of start-up aids, especially for small regional airports, are removed from the final regulation.
The exponential development of low-cost carriers in Europe has significantly contributed to the development of regional airports and of a network of interregional air connections, supporting citizens’ mobility, regional economic growth and job creation, as well as increasing the accessibility of peripheral regions in Europe. The new EU guidelines, currently under consultation, must aim at creating a favorable climate for further development of regional airports. To do so, they should not impose rigid rules regulating a market which is constantly evolving, but help to clarify the legal provisions regarding state aid in this field and reconcile the Market Economy Investor Principle with the need for the regions to secure their own development.
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