EU interferes in aviation Feb04


Last week, the European Commission ruled that state subsidies, obtained by Ryanair from the Belgian authorities to use Brussels Charleroi airport, were illegal. Under EU Competition rules, the local government-owned Charleroi, cannot subsidise private companies in a selective manner.


The Commission's ruling could affect around 24 state-owned airports throughout Europe, used by Ryanair and other low cost carriers. It will require Ryanair to pay around 3m in fines and refunds to the owners of Charleroi Airport and could force Ryanair to discontinue its flights from Stansted to Charleroi, affecting the 2 million passengers who fly this route very year. Last year, a similar decision forced Ryanair to discontinue its flights from Stansted to Strasbourg.


 Who are these faceless bureaucrats in Brussels who dictate to European citizens about where they fly to and at what cost? The EU is supposed to facilitate co-operation between Member States and make life easier and more comfortable for its citizens. Competition should be about choice and lower prices. Why should privately owned airports be allowed to subsidise selectively anyone they like whilst those owned by governments (i.e. citizens) cannot? Why do the governments of France, Italy and Spain subsidise their national carriers without any objection or fines from the EU?


Ryanair, like other low cost airlines, has offered substantial business to East Anglia's premier airport Stansted. They have invested in facilities there, employed many people directly and indirectly in related services and given the opportunity to our people to fly to many destinations on the continent at affordable prices. They have offered the possibility of many who have invested in second homes on the continent and who have, by their investment in Europe, stimulated the economies of small continental towns that many of us had not even heard of.


Around 70 million EU citizens travel on low cost airlines ever year. The existence of low cost airlines in Europe is vital for providing consumer choice, competition and cheaper travel. If low cost airlines pull out of small regional airports, local economies and tourism will suffer as a result.


The European Union should be about co-operation between Members States in order to improve the welfare and lifestyle of its citizens. Any policy, rule or legislation that does not meet such a criterion should be challenged and rejected. How dare an incompetent collection of bureaucrats entrenched in overpaid jobs for life dictate to European citizens what is clearly an anti-competitive and commercially unsound proposal? How dare they threaten jobs at Stansted and in East Anglia, convenience and savings to millions of passengers in both directions and the livelihood of citizens of rural France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia and Austria to which these low cost airlines fly.


I urge European national leaders and the European Parliament to instruct the EU Commission to withdraw its silly ruling on low cost airlines flying to regional airports. Furthermore, it is time for the EU to ensure that the new Treaty reduces the excessive powers of the Commission and assigns it the function of a civil service as we have in Britain - a service that implements legislation not initiates it!