Air France-KLM secures virus bailout, green conditions still pending – EURACTIV.com

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Air France-KLM will benefit from a government-backed bailout of around € 10 billion in loans and guarantees. But the lack of strict conditions in the aid packages announced on Friday 24 April by the French and Dutch governments has already drawn criticism.

The French government was the first to show its hand on Friday afternoon, when Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire unveiled a 7 billion euro program for the carrier, which includes a 4 billion euro bank loan supported by the State and a direct loan of 3 billion euros.

The Mayor said the package is an example of “historic support” to the French national airline, aimed at saving the 350,000 jobs supported by the company, but warned that it was “not a blank check ”.

The details remain to be worked out and the government insists that profitability and more sustainable policies be linked to the 7 billion euros.

Sarah Fayolle of Greenpeace said that “we want to know exactly how Air France will make its green transition when there are absolutely no constraints, no sanctions and no ambitions mentioned. “

The Dutch government – which is also a shareholder in the group – will also draw from its pockets. CFO Wopke Hoekstra said the company will get 2-4 billion euros to help it weather the huge drop in air travel demand caused by the coronavirus epidemic.

“We have always said that we will do whatever it takes to help Air France-KLM cross crisis. Schiphol Airport and its main user KLM are vital to the Dutch economy and thdeployment, “said Hoekstra at a press conference.

Talks are also continuing on the Dutch side, but the agreement already stipulates that there should be no dividend payments and that the top earners should receive a pay cut. The government also says night flights should be cut as part of a new sustainability campaign.

Dutch Greens MEP Eickhout told EURACTIV that he expects the European Commission to evaluate the bailout with his Green Deal policies firmly in mind and that his national colleagues will hold the government to account.

The Netherlands ready to tax air travel

The Dutch government will introduce a € 7 levy per air passenger in 2021 if the EU fails to introduce a pan-European tax, as momentum builds up behind calls to quell aviation’s environmental impact.

Other green lawmakers in the European Parliament’s transport committee have asked for this in a letter to Ursula von der Leyen and Margrethe Vestager, executive president and EU competition chief respectively.

The letter said state aid should only be approved if the airlines present credible emission reduction plans, commit to paying a fuel tax and phasing out short-haul flights where trains can rather do the job realistically.

“If taxpayers want to bail out airlines, there has to be a counterpart – this industry must help secure our future in the face of an ongoing climate emergency,” the letter concluded.

Austria is one of the few governments to suggest tying green chains to aid, but Commission members have so far sent mixed messages on climate conditioning.

Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans told MEPs last week that every euro we invest must go to a new economy rather than old structures, “and urged member states to put the bloc’s flagship environmental policy at the heart of all its decisions.

Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean told EURACTIV in an interview, however, that she would not prioritize or support the definition of such green criteria at this stage, insisting that the rescue of airlines and the management of the recovery period should be at the center of concerns.

The aeronautics industry is not unified in its support for bailouts. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has threatened to take legal action if the EU gives the green light to aid that “selectively donates billions of euros to ineffective flagships”.

In his own letter to Vestager earlier this month, the frank boss of the low-cost flyer said the support programs should be open to all airlines and be commensurate with each company’s traffic share.

Ryanair is the most affected of all European airlines in terms of number. More than 300 of its devices have been immobilized by anti-virus locking measures.

It is doubtful, however, that the Commission, which has already considerably relaxed its state aid rules during the crisis, will insist on additional criteria when assessing the rescue plans.

One of the few stipulations it has made to date is that airlines must abide by the EU Passenger Bill of Rights and offer passengers a full refund rather than just vouchers as part of the refund measures. canceled flights.

More rescue announcements are expected soon. Lufthansa on track to get 10 billion euro package from German government this week, though politicians did not agree Sunday, April 26, on whether the state should play a role in management of the standard bearer.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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