Tuesday is the day I get to check out Maltatoday. Unfortunately the new paper in Maltese called Illum! does not seem to have its own website yet so we have to make do with what Hogan's Heroes give us in their English travails. My pick of the day is Anna Mallia's rant about the red carpet treatment given to Ryanair for its maiden voyage to Malta. The Madam is right when she disapproves of the song and dance being made as though we had never seen a plane before. She is also right to criticise the MIA and Government for their part in this charade. Definitely not something to make us proud... especially since we are still at the stage that the cheapest flights are still on the wrong side of €70 taxes included.
But here is the part where I find Madame's logic slightly weak:
And speaking of subsidies I cannot understand how Ryanair is operating without the official permit from Brussels. This is because if the government is subsidising Ryanair, it had to apply for permission from Brussels and I am informed that such permission has not been granted yet. The confusion that exists regarding enforcement of EU regulations is baffling and it seems that rules in the EU are there for the weak and not for the strong as otherwise how can one explain how this airline can get subsidy from the government without the government having the authorisation to do from Brussels? And how much money from our taxes are we giving Ryanair or is this too much to ask?
Where do I begin? (as Andy Williams/ Shirley Bassey would sing). Ok. Let's go for the paternalistic runthrough. Back to front helps for greater clarity.
Our Money to Ryanair?
Not really. We are not giving them anything. At least not you and me. Directly. That's because the subsidy comes in the form of a discount on taxes. The discount is the discount you and me enjoy (there's more of you and less of me in that sentence). So you see, we do not give. We actually give less (taxes). What Anna must mean is how much of the unjust tax are we not paying to the Government so that Ryanair can come to Malta. Which is not really something to gripe about. Is it?
Confusion in the EU: David & Goliath
The law on State & Aid and Subsidies is actually quite objective. It has absolutely nowt to do with the Big, the Small or the Ugly. The fact that a government (like Malta) creates beneficial incentives in order to attract airlines to serve "underserved routes" is all fair game. Once the government can prove that this is done in the "general economic interest" and for the "public good" there is no problem. Really Anna. Cross my heart. It is useless to come up with Labourite class conspiracy theories about some non-existent European barons who would have some huge pile of money coming to them through the profits of a Malta - Pisa route! If you want to really pick on logic please ask the guys that count why Air Malta is still protected on other routes that are underserved and why the same that applies for Luton and Pisa does not apply for Metz, Frankfurt-Hahn and Dublin.
Another myth. The Commission does not have a form called "Application for Permission to Subsidise Underserved Routes through Tax Incentives". Nor any other form of similar nomenclature. The truth is that countries are free to do what they please so long as they do not violate EU law. EU law allows subsidies in situations roughly described above. What the Commission will verify is that the right conditions allowing for such subsidies to be in place subsist. Substantially. That is different from "obtaining permission". Essentially it is assumed that whenever going about their governing, states will act within the limits of EU law. If they do not they can accept an Action before the Court (that's where I work guys!) by the Commission asking for them to desist from the illegal situation. Basically government is hoping that all its act is in order and that the Commission finds no flaw in its subsidy system because it is conform to all EU requirements.
Now we all know that low cost airlines are very much top of the agenda of this blog. I am surprised that the bigger picture is not being seen so clearly by so many. It is not a matter of facilitating Ryanair. It is a matter of obtaining a level playing field at reasonably competitive prices in order to attract as many airlines as possible to the different routes available to Malta. In most cases the main problem will be the frequency of flights per destination. I would expect certain "holiday" destinations not to have more than two/three times weekly flights. On the other hand - Brussels, Strasbourg, Luxembourg, London, Rome, Paris, Frankfurt should all have more regular flights. I do not have the statistics to prove why... it is just a hunch. But then the statistics do not seem to exist anywhere - not even those that determine the importance of Pisa and Luton. So let's begin by asking what the Maltese Islands need as air links. Then we create the proper package that would attract the right role players. I think that would create a good enough basis for a proper plan fro Tourism (and travel outwards).
Why not Anna?
How long does it last?
Can love be measured by the hours in a day?
I have no answers now but this much I can say
I know Ill need her till the stars all burn away
And she'll be there