Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2012-05-09-Speech-3-265-000"

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"Mr President, I welcome Mr Bradbourn’s report on the future of regional airports and air services in the EU. It complements the Commission’s airport package initiative presented in December last year very well. This aims at ensuring that airports do not become the bottleneck in the success story that is the Single European Sky. Passengers, airlines and also European regions have benefited considerably from the single market in aviation, thanks to which the number of inter-EU routes has doubled over 20 years. Airports are fed with traffic from the regional airports, connecting our citizens with the world. Point-to-point carriers have changed the landscape of regional airports. Charter airlines are linked with major tourist destinations. Business aviation is the centre of our business connectivity in Europe. We have a vibrant aviation sector which provides growth for the whole continent, including the regions. I will now comment on the main policy areas highlighted in the Bradbourn Report. The relevant Commission DGs are currently looking at the revision of State-aid guidelines on the financing of regional airports and start-up aid to airlines. The role of regional airports in territorial cohesion and in interconnecting EU regions and countries must remain a guiding principle of the review of the compatibility conditions, but we cannot ignore the fact that unlawful public subsidies distort competition at several levels between airlines and between airports. We need to agree on common and simple rules on a matter that affects the sustainability of the EU aviation market. Your report will certainly be taken into account in the ongoing review. Some airlines restrict the number of pieces of hand luggage carried on board by imposing the so-called ‘one bag’ rule on passengers. Passengers seem to be confused by varying strictness in the application of such policies by ground staff. The Commission will study luggage allowances in the context of the ongoing impact assessment on revision of the Air Passenger Rights Regulation No 261/2004. The Commission has launched a public consultation which provides an opportunity for interested parties to contribute. Regarding the impact on retail sales in airports, this is mainly a question of business-to-business relations between airlines, airports and retailers. If there are competition issues, these should be addressed, but not via legislation designed to protect passengers. The report expresses concerns regarding the proposed revision of the Slot Regulation. I want to reassure you, on behalf of Commissioner Kallas, that the objective is certainly not to price regional air services out of the market but to ensure more efficient use of existing airport capacity. In preparing the legislation, the Commission has discounted options such as slot confiscation and slot auctioning precisely because of their negative impact on regional air services. Discussions on this proposal are now ongoing in the Council and in Parliament. Intermodality is at the heart of our transport policy. The report calls for regional airports to be taken into account in the future trans-European transport network policy. Ensuring these airports are properly connected to the whole transport network is at the heart of the TEN-T policy, but we need to go beyond infrastructure. We need the technology and innovative services and we will continue working on integrated ticketing, the concept of a pan-European multi-modal planning, ticketing and billing system for passenger transport. I thank Parliament for its continued interest and support. The Commission is aware of the practice of certain airlines of adding a number of charges onto the headline price of air tickets. The report mentions charges for the use of debit or credit cards, which are now widely applied. The Commission will shortly publish a study on air ticket price transparency provisions in EU law. Some airlines impose fees which vary by payment type. Although, in all cases, a free means of payment is offered, this may not be readily available to the majority of customers. We will have to discuss this issue with Member State authorities to see what can or cannot be allowed under existing legislation. Airports are important as our gates to Europe and to the world and they are also important growth engines. We all come from different regions of Europe and we all know how important airports can be for the connectivity of a remote region. They are essential for European connectivity. Let me conclude by thanking you for an interesting debate on this very important topic. The Commission is looking forward to further follow-up in the context of the discussions on the airport package."@en1

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