The European Economic and Social Committee organized a hearing on the currently ongoing revision of aviation guidelines. This was the only public hearing organized in the context of this revision, it brought together very important stakeholders and enjoys strong support by the European Commission.
The European Commission envisages reviewing the 1994 Guidelines on the application of articles 92 and 93 of the EC Treaty to state aids in the aviation sector, on the one hand, and the 2005 EU Guidelines on financing of airports and start-up aid to airlines departing from regional airports, on the other hand.
In 1994, in the context of the liberalisation of the market for air transport services, the Commission adopted the first EU Aviation Guidelines, which contain provisions for assessing social and restructuring aid to airlines in order to provide a level playing field for air carriers. They were completed, in 2005, by guidelines on the public financing of airports and on the start up of airline services from regional airports. Since the entry into force of the 2005 Guidelines, the Commission has adopted more than 60 decisions concerning the financing of airports, airlines and start-up aid for the financing of new routes.
The air transport market has evolved dramatically in recent years: low-cost carriers have developed new and comprehensive business models linked to regional airports and have gained substantial market shares. At the same time, the former national carriers have almost all completed their restructuring process, consolidating their presence in Europe. In a recent landmark ruling, the General Court has confirmed that the construction of airport infrastructure is part of the economic activity of operating an airport and that State financing towards it is State aid except for what concerns infrastructure used to perform public interest tasks. The Commission has a significant number of complaints in the sector from the former flag carriers against the low-cost airlines, on the one hand, and from the latter against the former, on the other hand.
The Commission decided to revise the current rules and will come forward with a proposal for revised Aviation Guidelines by spring 2012.