Air connections with European centers are vital for regions on the periphery of core Europe and therefore a certain amount of state aid to such connections should be permitted, the chairman of the Estonian parliament's European Affairs Committee says.
Estonian parlt panel: EU should allow state aid to certain air connections
"In this regard consideration has to be given to cases where a country is connected with other European centers only through one international airport and connection cannot be secured by using other modes of transport," committee head Arto Aas said.
In his words, a principal shortcoming of the European Union's current state aid guidelines is that they do not take into account specifics of Europe's isolated regions including Estonia where air transport is the sole possibility for economic and social connection with the rest of Europe. The way Aas sees it, state aid to air transport should not be massive and given over a long period of time but giving it in special cases should be allowed.
Modernization of state aid rules will come under discussion at the Feb. 18-19 meeting of the Competition Council. The European Affairs Committee decided at its Friday meeting to support special interests pertaining to Estonian aviation.
"According to new guidelines the amount of investment aid related to infrastructure and installation construction will depend on the size of an airport's passenger flows. Due to the smallness of the Tallinn airport this would significantly reduce the amount of permissible state aid to it," the lawmaker observed adding that new rules of start-up aid for the development of new routes are not favorable to Estonia either.
Aas said modernization of state aid rules is vital because the situation in aviation has dramatically changed and there are not a few borderline cases where states are looking for concealed ways to assist their airlines and airports.
"Our position is that state aid rules for regional airports and carriers operating out of those airports should be clear and sufficiently flexible to ensure the competitiveness of airports on the periphery of the European Union and those regions' connection with the rest of Europe," Aas said.