Berlin The federal government wants to support the federal states in saving their airports with half a billion euros. Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) and Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) have agreed on this. The finance minister’s prerequisite is that the federal states participate in the same amount and also make a binding commitment.
“This clarifies the question of whether”, it was said from the negotiating circles of the federal and state governments. In addition, there should be help for German air traffic control and another loan for the capital’s airport. All in all, according to information from the Handelsblatt, around one billion euros are under discussion.
At the beginning of the month, Transport Minister Scheuer invited the aviation industry and representatives of the federal states to a summit and promised help. An agreement was not reached because of fundamental concerns of the Ministry of Finance.
The states are originally responsible for air traffic. “We support the customers of the airports, that is Lufthansa and Condor”, it was said to clarify. “In addition, we are responsible for the German air traffic control and the three airports in which we are involved.” Nevertheless, the federal government is ready to “provide one-off help to ensure that infrastructures are not destroyed due to the pandemic”.
The countries reacted mostly in the affirmative, as it was said. However, they are calling for aid that has already been announced to be included. The state of Bremen, for example, helped out its airport with a loan of over 28 million euros. North Rhine-Westphalia supports Düsseldorf Airport with around 250 million euros. In addition, there are shareholder loans of 100 million euros.
Thus, the 500 million euros of the federal government could be used up quickly. The federal and state governments are currently negotiating possible solutions in detail. On Friday there was a meeting between Federal Minister Scheuer and his country colleagues.
The federal government will definitely support the Berlin-Brandenburg, Cologne / Bonn and Munich airports because it is involved in them. However, the rule also applies here that every cent has to be borne proportionally by the other shareholders. “It stays that way,” it said.
BER needs 171.6 million from the federal government
The involvement in the capital city BER will be particularly expensive. According to information from the Handelsblatt, the federal government will have to give the Berlin-Brandenburg airport company another loan in the coming year: After 300 million euros this year, the airport says it needs another 660 million euros.
The federal government has to transfer its share of 26 percent, i.e. 171.6 million euros. A “conversion of the loan into equity capital is intended in order to further stabilize the company’s financial situation,” explained Finance State Secretary Bettina Hagedorn (SPD) in a letter to the budget committee that was available to the Handelsblatt.
For Cologne / Bonn Airport, in which the federal government has a stake of almost 31 percent, the budget proposal includes 23 million euros as a capital injection. The federal government has reserved 65 million euros in the budget for Munich Airport. The sum is released if the other shareholders participate within the scope of their shares. An airport spokesman explained whether and how the airport could avail itself of assistance, “has not yet been determined”.
At all other airports, states, municipalities and companies or chambers are usually involved. Accordingly, the countries should decide which airports to support or whether to discontinue flight operations at locations that were already in economic difficulties before the corona crisis.
According to the European requirements, the state is only allowed to compensate for the corona-related failures of the airports through grants. The airports themselves are obliged to take all possible measures to keep the damage as low as possible. That is why a number of airports have launched extensive restructuring programs. Liquidity assistance may at best be granted in the form of a loan, guarantee or tax rebate.
Accordingly, the federal and state governments are still discussing how. While the airports are demanding non-repayable subsidies, the federal government is relying on loans or convertible bonds analogous to the government’s economic and stability fund, which was used to rescue Lufthansa. In the case of airports in which private investors are involved, however, this would dilute their shares. Other airports, such as Stuttgart, are currently financed by their own admission on the capital market. “Our current loan line is also sufficient for the coming year,” it said there.
Air traffic control receives three-digit million amount
The federally owned German Air Traffic Control System (DFS) is to receive a grant of 300 million euros, as can be seen from the federal government’s adjustment bill for the federal budget. The budget will be finally discussed in the Bundestag next week. “The federal government stands by its commitment to the DFS,” it said in government circles. The federal government also wants to relieve smaller airports of direct payments to air traffic control, which amounts to an average of one to two million euros. For this purpose, 20 million euros should initially be made available in the coming budget.
The smaller airports welcome one-time assistance and permanently lower air traffic control fees. “If these measures are implemented, we will not need any financial support to finance airport operations in the foreseeable future,” said Manfred Jung, Managing Director of Karlsruhe / Baden-Baden Airport.
New strategy should ensure Easter business
In addition to the aid, the federal government wants to work with the federal states and the aviation associations to develop a strategy with which air traffic can recover. The aim is to define so-called “safe corridors” with other countries to enable long-haul flights again and to lift entry restrictions.
The quarantine rules are also to be replaced in favor of test concepts. A first meeting should take place in early December. The aim is for the industry to earn money again with the Easter business. Before that, a revival of air traffic is not expected.
The FDP parliamentary group introduced similar demands in the Bundestag on Friday. One motion said, among other things, that the government should reduce travel restrictions in order to encourage the collapsed passenger traffic.
Risk areas abroad should be defined in more detail, “comparable to the level of the rural districts in Germany”. Blanket quarantine rules should not apply when traveling with special precautionary measures, for example for business or package travelers. The government should also work to ensure that important partner countries simplify entry for business travelers, for example.
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