MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher has met with the EU Competition Commissioner over concerns about proposals to reduce aid for regional airports including City of Derry and Ireland West Airport Knock.
Pat the Cope met with Joaquín Almunia, the Vice President of the European Commission and EU Commissioner for Competition to express their concerns about draft proposals on state aid guidelines to airports and airlines.
The draft guidelines by the European Commission will change the rules that permit EU Member States through national, regional and local authorities to invest in airport infrastructure, to provide operating aid to airports and to provide start up aid to airlines in order to launch a new air route. The European Commission are expected to approve the new rules by the beginning of 2014
Pat the Cope Gallagher MEP said “In early November, I along with over 45 MEPs from across the EU wrote an open letter to President Barroso, as we were extremely concerned with the proposal by the Commission to phase out operating aid for regional airports with over 200,000 passengers per year, after a 10 year transitional period.”
“As a follow up to this initiative, I requested a meeting with Vice President Almunia, the Competition Commissioner to discuss directly with him the implications for Ireland West Airport in Knock, as passenger numbers per year are in excess of 700,000 and to outline similar concerns expressed by the City of Derry Airport.”
Vice President confirmed today that he was willing to change his proposals to increase the minimum threshold from 200,000 to 500,000 passengers per year.
He also confirmed that the proposals will undergo a comprehensive mid-term review in 5 years’ time before they are introduced in 10 years’ time, thus providing regional airports such as Knock and Derry with a window of opportunity.
Mr Gallagher concluded “I believe that a much fairer and better solution would be to increase the minimum threshold to 1 million passengers per year. That said, I am pleased that the Vice President has shown a degree of flexibility by increasing the threshold to 500,000 passengers per year and by also including a mid-term review.
“While the process will shortly conclude, I shall still continue to make the case for regional airports such as Knock and Derry, which contribute so positively to the economic well-being of the West and North West of Ireland.”
Finally, Mr Gallagher stated that the decision to increase the minimum threshold to 500,000 will provide Carrickfinn airport in Donegal with ample opportunity to develop in the future.