Regions fear Ryanair Charleroi ruling

30th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

30 January 2004, BRUSSELS – Some of Europe's most disadvantaged regions would suffer considerably if the European Commission punishes cut-price airline Ryanair over its use of Belgium's Charleroi airport, regional politicians have warned.

30 January 2004

BRUSSELS – Some of Europe's most disadvantaged regions would suffer considerably if the European Commission punishes cut-price airline Ryanair over its use of Belgium's Charleroi airport, regional politicians have warned.

The Strasbourg-based Assembly of European Regions (AER) said that many economically depressed regions have benefited greatly from companies like Ryanair using local airports to bring in large numbers of tourists.

If the European Commission rules that Ryanair must pay back some of the money it received from Belgium's Walloon authorities to encourage it to use Charleroi, the decision could have a knock-on effect across the continent, the AER said.

“The decision of the Commission could lead again to the abandonment of regional airports with an enormous impact on our regional development plans, for example for the development of small business and tourism,” warned Onno Hoes, a politician from Belgium's Noord-Brabant and Coordinator of AER's working group on regional aviation.

“The public will be astonished when they see how many regions, in particular in the periphery and in rural areas of Europe, are profiting from the concept of low cost-cost carriers by joining underused regional airports and providing not expensive travel,” he added.

Ryanair has been accused of benefiting from illegal state aid at Charleroi. The company now uses the south Belgian town as one of its main European hubs.

But Ryanair's competitors say one of the reasons for this is that the Walloon authorities gave the Irish firm EUR 3.8 million of taxpayers' money to encourage it to expand its Charleroi operations.

Ryanair spent most of the cash on advertising.

The Commission is set to rule on the case on 3 February.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Belgian news

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