|Kosovo confident in favourable outcome against Macedonian airline subsidies|
Kosovo is awaiting the outcome of a European Commission investigation into a complaint it lodged late last year over subsidies provided by the Macedonian government to low cost airlines, primarily Wizz Air, at Skopje Alexander the Great Airport. The Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority says the incentives have created unfair competition in the region. The CEO of Limak Kosovo Airport, the operator of Pristina Airport, Haldun Fırat Kokturk, says, “We as an airport operator can compete with another airport operator - competition is normal, it is good. But we cannot compete with a government. If the European Commission tells the Macedonian government that these incentives are permitted then we will approach the Kosovo government to say, if the Macedonian government is doing this - can we do the same”? Pristina Airport itself is offering a range of subsidies to stimulate traffic and passenger numbers, however, these are being offered by the airport’s operator, rather than the government, as is the case in Macedonia.
The Macedonian Ministry for Transport and Communication says its incentives policy has been carefully analysed and is in accordance with EU rules and regulations. It adds that in 2012 the Kosovan Ministry for Infrastructure was sent additional information on the subsidy policy which, it says, respects all international legal procedures. The Macedonian government launched a three-year subsidy scheme in 2012. It has proved successful with Wizz Air opening a base at Skopje Airport, which has in turn led to significant passenger and traffic growth. The government has offered fresh subsidies this year which has led to Wizz Air’s decision to base a third aircraft in the Macedonian capital, launch a handful of new routes and introduce services from Ohrid as well.
Earlier this year, Wizz Air said that the subsidies it receives from the Macedonian government are in line with EU regulations. “Financial support is provided on a transparent basis through public tenders. We are fine and we have no issues with Brussels”, Wizz Air’s CEO, Jozsef Varadi, said. However, the head of Pristina Airport insists, “In this competitive environment we cannot catch significant growth without the support of the government. We can do our best with incentives, but in the end the government has to support it”. The Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority is basing its complaint against Macedonia on the Common Aviation Area Agreement, which the European Union has signed with countries in the Western Balkans. According to the Agreement, “This aviation area implies the adoption of the part of the Acquis containing the European aviation rules … The processes of market opening and regulatory convergence take place in parallel in order to promote fair competition and the implementation of common high safety, security, environmental and other standards”.