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Brussels, 23 April 2007

Commission authorises, subject to conditions, public service obligations on air routes to Sardinia

Today the Commission has decided to authorise Italy's introduction of public service obligations (PSOs) on 16 routes linking Sardinia's three airports to the principal airports on the Italian mainland, but subject to conditions in order to avoid restrictions on the launch of new air services. The Commission considers that it is for Italy to assess Sardinian residents' mobility needs, taking into account Sardinia's island nature and economic situation, and that PSOs may prove necessary. Nevertheless, the Commission points out that any restriction on the freedom to provide services must be duly justified and be in proportion to real needs. It has therefore asked Italy to amend several aspects of the current PSOs and has drawn attention to the principles which Member States must follow when applying them.

"Public service obligations can guarantee mobility for inhabitants of outlying regions, and particularly islands, if the market is unable by itself to provide the frequency and capacity deemed necessary", Jacques Barrot, Commission Vice-President responsible for transport, explained. "But those obligations must not improperly close off a viable market from competition: it is very important that the obligations allow maximum scope for airlines to operate and residents to benefit from the best possible services at the lowest cost".

On 1 August 2006[1] the Commission initiated a formal investigation into the PSOs imposed by Italy on several routes between the mainland and Sardinia[2]. The Commission has decided not to call into question the principle of PSOs on the routes examined, but it is authorising their application only if several conditions imposed by the decrees governing them are revoked or amended.

In particular, the Commission has drawn attention to the following points:

  • the first stage of the PSOs must remain open to any operator which complies with them;
  • the period chosen to ensure continuity of services must be reasonable and should not exceed one year;
  • the authorities must not prevent air carriers from providing services on the routes concerned which go beyond minimum requirements;
  • the authorities cannot make air carriers' right to provide services on one route between two cities conditional upon the obligation to operate on another route between two cities;
  • the need to maintain PSOs on each route, and the extent of those obligations, should be reassessed at least once a year and each time a new carrier starts operating or notifies its intention to operate on that route.

The Commission decision applies directly to Italy, which must notify the measures taken in order to implement the decision by 1 August 2007 at the latest.

[1] Commission Decision of 1.8.2006 (OJ L 215, 5.8.2006).

[2] PSOs published in OJ C 72 of 24.3.2006 and OJ C 93 of 21.4.2006, concerning the following routes: Alghero/Rome and Rome/Alghero; Alghero/Milan and Milan/Alghero; Cagliari/Rome and Rome/Cagliari; Cagliari/Milan and Milan/Cagliari; Olbia/Rome and Rome/Olbia; Olbia/Milan and Milan/Olbia; Alghero/Bologna and Bologna/Alghero; Alghero/Turin and Turin/Alghero; Cagliari/Bologna and Bologna/Cagliari; Cagliari/Turin and Turin/Cagliari; Cagliari/Verona and Verona/Cagliari; Cagliari/Naples and Naples/Cagliari; Cagliari/Palermo and Palermo/Cagliari; Olbia/Verona and Verona/Olbia; Cagliari/Florence and Florence/Cagliari; Olbia/Bologna and Bologna/Olbia.

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