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Cities and regions want more support for regional airports struggling from the pandemic  

Regional airports are vital for territorial cohesion and essential for many local economies

With many regional airports struggling to recover from the economic hardship caused by the pandemic, members of the European Committee of the Regions adopted an opinion on 1 July, which calls on the European Commission to develop more flexible and more effective public aid rules that enable Member States to provide regional airports with financial assistance. In the opinion , which was drafted by Władysław Ortyl (PL/ECR), the CoR also emphasized that financial support must be invested in making airports more sustainable in order to help achieve the objectives set out in the European Green Deal.

Regional airports have found themselves in serious economic difficulties due to the pandemic. Intra-European air traffic was down by 54% in 2020 compared to 2019 and even as travel restrictions are being loosened this summer, traffic is still far from pre-pandemic levels . In October 2020, nearly 200 airports in Europe were facing insolvency . Their bankruptcy would have a dramatic impact on employment and the economies of the regions where they are located and would also be a major blow for the connectivity of many regions, especially outermost or less developed regions where alternative forms of transport are not available.

Władysław Ortyl (PL/ECR), rapporteur of the opinion and President of the Podkarpackie region, said: " Regional airports play a crucial role for the territorial and economic cohesion of the EU – they provide connectivity for the regions they serve and are vital for economic growth. Without their presence, many companies would not invest in non-capital regions. The tourism sector also depends heavily on them. We need a more flexible state aid system to support the recovery of regional airports during and after the pandemic. In the opinion I prepared I also underline that the majority of European regional airports require assistance to be able to survive in the light of the current crisis."

In its opinion, the CoR calls on the European Commission to help alleviate the financial hardship faced by regional airports and to develop more flexible and more effective public aid rules that enable Member States to provide financial assistance to regional airports located in less developed and outermost regions where more efficient and sustainable alternatives do not exist. Financial assistance should be in line with the conditions set up in the European Regional Development Fund and the EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility . Members States, in cooperation with the European Commission, should also carefully assess the extent of possible support for regional airports under the national recovery and resilience plans.

At the same time, the CoR acknowledges the need to make airports and aviation more sustainable, and therefore urges the European Commission to allocate adequate European funds to the digitalisation of airports and the development of innovative technologies. The CoR also insists that a condition for public investments in regional airports should be that they comply with the objectives of the European Green Deal and the principle of "no harm for the environment".

Background information

Smaller regional airports have recorded the greatest decline in direct flight connections due to the pandemic, particularly in passenger flights. According to an Airport Industry Connectivity Report , for example, Treviso (Italy) lost 95% of its connections, Vaasa (Finland) 91%, Quimper (France) 87%, and Burgas (Bulgaria) 82%, however, Europe's major cargo airports, e.g. Liège (Belgium) saw an increase in cargo flights of 10.7%.

On 30 June, members of the CoR adopted an opinion on the smart and sustainable mobility strategy. The mobility strategy was presented by the European Commission at the end of last year and aims to reshape the European transport sector, cutting its emissions by 90% by 2050. Find the CoR press release on the opinion here .

Contact:

Tobias Kolonko

Tel. +32 22822003

tobias.kolonko@ext.cor.europa.eu