“Future revisions to EU guidelines on state aid for regional airports must not block economic development,” Assembly of European Regions’ (AER) secretary general Klaus Klipp said today at an AER conference hosted by the Valencia (E) representation office in Brussels.
“A region’s economic competitiveness improves with its greater accessibility, which is why airports are important regional assets. The European Commission must ensure that its revisions to the guidelines support, rather than hinder, the development of such assets with a minimum of administrative burdens,” Mr. Klipp added.
AER’s conference examined the implications for regional airports, low fare airlines and regional authorities of upcoming revisions to the EU’s “Community guidelines on financing of airports and start-up aid to airlines departing from regional airports”. Regional airports from across Europe presented their experiences of the current guidelines (adopted in 2005), including examples of good practices and ongoing challenges.
One of the speakers at the conference and minister of transport for the region of Flevoland (NL), Harry Dijksma, drew attention to the importance of the EU regulations in the long term: “By 2020 more than half of all passengers travelling in Europe will be using low-cost airlines, so regional authorities and airports having to adjust to these developments will require EU regulations that strike a balance between market protection and market freedom.”
Juan Manuel Revuelta, director general of the Valencian regional office in Brussels, stressed the “paramount importance that the debate on regional airports and state aids mean to the Valencian region”. The Valencian region, which already receives more than 15 million arrivals yearly through the airports of Valencia and Alicante, has planned a new airport in the province of Castellón to channel important passengers and freight flows in the area.
The conclusions of AER’s conference will be included in a position paper to be published ahead of the EC’s revisions to the state aid guidelines.
In the so-called “Charleroi case” of 2004, the European Commission found that Brussels South Airport and the Wallonie region had received state aid to attract the low-cost airline Ryanair. As a result, in the following year the EU adopted its “Community guidelines on financing of airports and start-up aid to airlines departing from regional airports”. The guidelines will be revised in 2010.
AER began working with regional airports in 2003, at a time when the growth of low-cost carriers were paving the way for the expansion of regional airports across Europe. AER conferences held in 2006 and 2007 focused on the economic importance of regional airports and called for greater EU support for their development.
In 2008, AER set up a working group on regional airports to facilitate good practice exchange among regions and to formulate positions on the relevant EU policies. An upcoming position paper will focus on next year’s revisions to the EU’s “Community guidelines on financing of airports and start-up aid to airlines departing from regional airports”.
The regional airports working group is coordinated by AER Committee 1 (Economy and Regional Development).
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The Assembly of European Regions (AER) is the largest independent network of regions in wider Europe. Bringing together more than 270 regions from 33 countries and 16 interregional organisations, AER is the political voice of its members and a forum for interregional co-operation.