EU state aid rules for Air Malta & Malta/Gozo sea connections is nonsense – Sant
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MEP Alfred Sant has told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that “subjecting Air Malta and sea transport between Malta and Gozo to EU overall competition rules amounts to nonsense.”
Dr. Sant said that state aid rules under the EU’s competition policies are being taken to extremes in the case of transport systems available to communities living in peripheral islands.
“This applies to the case of Air Malta and to the sea connections between Malta and the island of Gozo.” Sant added, “Air Malta needed and still needs to implement reforms. But making these fit the strait jacket of EU competition policy is distorting and sometimes blocking the path to recovery.”
He also said that Gozo suffers from a double insularity, “with huge diseconomies of scale when maintaining its communications infrastructure.”
Sant said that the volume of Air Malta’s business is in no way significant compared to EU air traffic in the Mediterranean.
Alfred Sant said that the demise of Cyprus Airways recently is a case in point and asked what socio- economic benefits resulted from it at European or island level.
Dr Sant said that insisting that such connections should survive on the basis of supply and demand in compliance with state aid rules undermines the welfare of communities. “Relevant transport services to such communities, even when subsidised appropriately, have no impact on the competitive environment of the EU as a whole.”
Earlier this year on 30 January Dr. Sant asked the EC whether it should consider the adoption of more flexible methods when evaluating state aid and support to air and sea transport links comparable to those of Cyprus Airlines, in the interests of ensuring that ongoing economic activity in peripheral island markets is maintained and enhanced. Dr Sant said that the EC has still to provide a reply to the query.