Former Prime Minister Alfred Sant told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that subjecting AIRMALTA and sea transport between Malta and Gozo to EU overall competition rules amounts to nonsense. Dr. Sant said that 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. This 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. Sant said that the volume of Air Malta’s business is in no way significant compared to EU air traffic in the Mediterranean. Sant said that Gozo suffers from a double insularity, with huge diseconomies of scale when maintaining its communications infrastructure.

Alfred Sant said that the demise of Cyprus Airways recently is a case in point and asked what socio-economic benefits resulted from it at European or island level. Dr Sant said that 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.

Earlier this year on 30 January Dr. Sant asked the EC whether it should consider the adoption of more flexible methods when evaluating state aid and support to air and sea transport links comparable to those of Cyprus Airlines, in the interests of ensuring that ongoing economic activity in peripheral island markets is maintained and enhanced. The EC has still to provide a reply to Dr. Sant’s query.

Maltese Version

‘MA JAGHMILX SENS LI L-AIRMALTA U T-TRASPORT BEJN MALTA U GHAWDEX IKOLLHOM L-ISTESS REGOLI EWROPEJ DWAR IL-KOMPETIZZJONI’

Alfred Sant qal lill-Parlament Ewropew fi Strasburgu li ma jagħmilx sens li l-Air Malta u l-mezzi tat-trasport bejn Malta u Għawdex ikollhom l-istess regoli ġenerali ewropej dwar il-kompetizzjoni. Alfred Sant qal li l-Unjoni Ewropea qed tieħu fl-estrem ir-regoli dwar l-għajnuna finanzjarja tal-istat lill-kumpaniji pubbliċi. Dawn ir-regolamenti qed jiġġebbdu wisq fis-settur tat-trasport li hu użat minn komunitajiet li jgħixu fi gżejjer periferali. Dr Sant qal li l-Air Malta kellha u għad għandha bżonn ddaħħal ċertu riformi. Imma meta dawn jitfasslu skont il-qafas riġidu tal-UE dwar il-kompetizzjoni, jitgħawġu u xi kultant jimblokkaw it-triq lejn il-fejqan finanzjarju. Sant qal li l-volum ta’ xogħol li għandha l-Air Malta huwa ċkejken ħafna meta mqabbel mat-traffiku tal-ajru li l-Unjoni Ewropea tagħmel fil-Mediterran. Sant qal ukoll li Għawdex ibati minn insularita` doppja u biex isostni l-infrastruttura tiegħu ta’ kumunikazzjoni, ikollu jġorr piżijiet ekonomiċi żejda sforz l-istess ċokon tiegħu.

Alfred Sant qal li t-tmiem ta’ Cyprus Airways jirrifletti dan l-argument u staqsa x’benefiċċji soċjo-ekonomiċi irriżultaw minn dil-ġrajja f’livell Ewropew u fil-livell tal-gżira Ċiprijotta. Dr Sant qal li meta ssir insistenza li s-servizzi ta’ trasport ta’ gżejjer periferali għandhom jimxu skond ir-regoli tas-suq ħieles u tal-għajnuniet tal-istat tal-UE, il-ġid tal-komunita` involuta jisfa mherri. Servizzi siewja ta’ trasport lil dawn il-komunitajiet, anke meta jkunu sussidjati b’mod xieraq, ma jista’ jkollhom l-ebda impatt fuq l-ambjent kompetittiv tal-Unjoni Ewropea.

Fit-30 ta’ Jannar 2015, l-Ewroparlamentari Malti staqsa lil Kummissjoni Ewropea hux xieraq li tadotta metodi aktar flessibbli meta tkun qed teżamina l-għajnuniet tal-istat lil mezzi ta’ trasport li għandhom suq żgħir, bħal dak li kellu Cyprus Airlines. Dan fl-interess tal-attivita’ ekonomika fis-swieq tal-gżejjer periferali. Il-Kummissjoni għadha trid twieġeb għall-interpellanza ta’ Dr Sant.