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. 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. The demise of Cyprus Airways recently is a case in point. One asks what socio-economic benefits resulted from it at European or island level. The same applies to the case of Air Malta and to the sea connections between Malta and the island of Gozo. 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. Yet, the volume of Air Malta’s business is in no way significant compared to EU air traffic in the Mediterranean. Gozo suffers from a double insularity, with huge diseconomies of scale when maintaining its communications infrastructure. Subjecting sea transport between Malta and Gozo to overall competition rules amounts to nonsense.

Maltese Version

Ir-regoli dwar għajnuniet tal-istat skont il-politika tal-Unjoni Ewropea dwar kompetizzjoni qed jitħaddmu b’mod estrem fir-rigward tas-sistemi ta’ transport li jistgħu jinqdew bihom komunitajiet li jgħixu fi gżejjer periferali.
Meta ssir insistenza li dawn il-konnessjonijiet għandhon jinżammu għaddejja skond ir-regoli tat-talba u l-provista fis-suq ħieles f’rispett tar-regoli dwar għajnuniet tal-istat, jisfa mherri l-benesseri tal-komunitajiet involuti.
Servizzi siewja ta’ transport lil dawn il-komunitajiet, anke meta jkunu qed jiġu sussidjati b’mod xieraq, ma jista’ jkollhom l-ebda impatt fuq l-ambjent kompetittiv tal-Unjoni Ewropea kollha kemm hi.
It-tmiem ta’ Cyprus Airways dan l-aħħar hu eżempju ta’ hekk. Wieħed jistaqsi x’benefiċċji soċjo-ekonomiċi irriżultaw minn dil-ġrajja f’livell Ewropew u fil-livell tal-gżira ta’ Ċipru.
L-istess argument japplika għall-każ tal-Air Malta u tar-rabtiet bil-baħar bejn Malta u l-gżira ta’ Għawdex.
Air Malta kien jeħtiġilha u għadu jeħtiġilha ddaħħal riformi.
Imma meta tfassalhom skont il-qafas riġidu tal-politika dwar kompetizzjoni tal-Unjoni Ewropea tkun qed tgħawweġ u xi kultant timblokka t-triq lejn il-fejqan.
Madankollu, il-volum ta’ xogħol li ttella’ l-Air Malta bl-ebda mod ma hu sinjifikanti meta tqabblu mat-traffiku bl-ajru tal-Unjoni Ewropea fil-Mediterran.
Għawdex ibati minn insularità doppja, u biex isostni l-infrastruttura tiegħu ta’ kumnikazzjoni, jkollu jġorr piżijiet ekonomiċi żejda li jirriżultaw mill-istess ċokon tiegħu.
Xejn ma jagħmel sens għalhekk li tissottometti it-trasport bil-baħar bejn Malta u Għawdex għar-regoli ġenerali (Ewropej) dwar kompetizzjoni.