Full text of the opinion at the bottom of the page
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 Further referred as Aviation Guidelines).
Since 2005 Member States have refrained from notifying the Commission of many instances in which airports or local communities did grant subsidies.
The EESC shares the view of major stakeholders, that review of the current Aviation Guidelines is absolutely necessary and in order to create a proper level playing field it has to be done without any delay. Development of regional airports is important for economic growth and territorial cohesion and requires clear rules governing state aid.
The EESC is of the opinion, that it is necessary to prepare a study, which will present the current state of state aid and similar practises as far as implementation of Aviation Guidelines is concerned. The study (apart from analysis of current practices in this field) should also provide information on the amount and type of aid granted, their impact on real economic development and their quantitative and qualitative impact on employment.
In the EECS’ recommendations concerning revised Aviation Guidelines presented in para. 5 of this opinion the Committee:
- advocates the need for a standardised EU legal framework for the entire aviation sector, which prevents uncontrolled subsidy practices and ensures a level-playing field for all market participants also at the local level,
- agrees, that a general principle, that private investment cannot be considered as State aid. At the same time, a public operator can act as a private investor if the investment is commercially justifiable
- recommends, that state aid for investments in airport infrastructure and start-up aid for airlines should only be possible in strictly defined cases, and be limited according to the period of time and intensity,
- endorses need for full disclosure of the aid available to airports and carriers and the conditions under which aid could have been paid,
- calls upon further stimulation of the social dialog and avoidance of social dumping in the sector,
- underlines importance of proper implementation of Guidelines; enforcement is of outmost value,
- calls for a long-term policy as far as development or regional airports are concerned. Aviation guidelines can be enforced successfully only as far as clear policy priorities of regional airports development are agreed.