A strategically important sector that makes a vital contribution to the EU's overall economy and employment, aviation supports 5.1 million jobs and contributes €365 billion, or 2.4% to European GDP. Despite the current economic crisis, global air transport over the long term is expected to grow by around 5% annually until 2030.
Since 2001, the Assembly of European Regions has committed itself to defend and promote the role of regional airports as a tool for regional economic development and citizen mobility. To this aim, the AER is closely followed the European Commission's decisions regarding Regional Airports and state aid in 2013-2014.
Why is State aid to airports a Regional issue?
The stricter rules within the revised guidelines will affect Regional Airports in particular. Following a 10 year transitional period, Regional Airports will no longer be able to receive public operating aid. Should the guidelines be published according to the European Commission’s initial proposal, the new rules would seriously infringe the ability of Europe’s regions to organise their transport services and therefore define coherent territorial development strategies.
1/ Recognition of the key role regional airports play within the development of coherent territorial development strategies
2/ Increased flexibility with regards to operating aid:
EC reconsidered its proposal to curb operating aid for all airports with more than 200,000 passengers per annum (ppa) after a 10 year transitional period
A special regime has been set up for airports with up to 700,000 ppa, however, the EC intends to reassess this stop-gap measure in 4 years’ time.
Operating aid for smaller airports remains the most consequential element of the Guidelines, with grave repercussions for regional economies, if the wrong choices are made.
“The Commission’s initial proposal has evolved and the new Guidelines being released better reflect the economic realities of operating a small airport. They also recognise – at least for the time being – that closing down these airports would damage connectivity and kill regional communities across Europe, in particular in peripheral and remote areas. Regions must remain vigilant and speak up to protect our regional airports and the communities they serve." Jan OWE-LARSSON, President East-Sweden (SE), Chairman of the AER Working Group on Transport and Regional airports.
The working group is the main body supporting the implementation of the AER activities in the field of Regional airports.
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