The Malta Independent 11 August 2022, Thursday

Air travel: Agius calls out government for its ‘failure to protect national interest in Europe’

Wednesday, 29 June 2022, 10:24 Last update: about 2 months ago

EU expert and PN spokesperson Peter Agius has called out the Labour Party for its failure to protect the national interest in Europe when it comes to the new air travel rules, arguing that Malta will face significantly higher costs in air travel if these new rules are adopted.

This comes after the European Parliament Transport Committee voted for new air travel rules.

"As an island, Malta already suffers transport and logistical difficulties as it is. The proposed rules on aviation fuel and consequent higher costs will compound our disadvantages to access the European single market and penalise Malta’s tourism industry. This is a blow to Malta’s competitiveness,” Aguis said.

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Agius expressed dismay how the new rules bind Malta with significantly higher costs in air travel while making exemptions for competing islands and smaller airports across Europe.

MEPs from other countries ensured that the new rules exempt airports with less than 2 million passengers per year and all the airports in the so called ‘Outermost regions’ of the EU which does not include Malta.

Malta on the other hand failed to secure amendments to cater for our particular situation as an island member state,” he said.  

Agius added that “we are caught in a bureaucratic game of definitions which will end up dealing a significant blow to our competitiveness.

He explained that “98% of incoming tourists to Malta reach the islands by air transport while contrary to mainland European countries we have no rail or road transport. Our economy depends almost exclusively on air transport.

EU rules should take stock of this reality by including specific provisions for island territories. This is another case where Brussels is proposing one size fits all legislation and the Maltese government is failing to make Malta’s case for policies that cater to this country’s specific situation. With the rules as proposed, Malta’s economy will see the costs of insularity rise further,Agius said.

Labour MEP Josianne Cutajar proposed amendments in the Transport Committee to cater for Malta’s specific situation. These amendments were not however supported by MEPs in the Committee vote.

The vote in the European Parliament comes after the vote of the Council of Ministers in Brussels where Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia voted in favour of a compromise text by Ministers which while acknowledging the impact of the rules on islands, postpone any impact assessment of such rules to five years after their entry into force.

"The compromise signed by Minister Farrugia adds insult to injury for while they recognise the additional impact on islands, they fail to take any action or include any corrective mechanism, leaving the matter to a report to be done in five years' time. It will be too late to avert impact in 2027. We need to include safeguards to the Maltese economy before we adopt EU rules not after their adoption," highlighted Agius.

Agius also added that this goes to show that his earlier proposal to the Conference on the Future of Europe, for the Commission to conduct impact assessments on the cost of insularity prior of proposing transport legislation is vital for Malta.

 

 

 

 

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