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Olaf Scholz wants to participate in airports

Berlin Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) only wants to help distressed airports if he receives shares in the airports in return: As the Handelsblatt learned from government circles, the Vice Chancellor is relying on state participation if the federal government should jump to the airports that are in dire straits due to the corona crisis.

A pure “subsidy” was “not appropriate”, the minister had his State Secretary Werner Gatzer explain in an internal federal-state round at the beginning of February. Without something in return, no money will flow. Rather, the ministry is thinking “in the direction of the federal government’s equity stake in the larger airports, which are systemically relevant from a federal point of view,” quotes participants in the Gatzer round.

Airports and airport policy, like local transport, are a matter for the federal states: In the corona crisis, however, the federal government should step in at the urging of the states. In local transport, 2.5 billion euros have already flowed from each side. Not so at the airports, even if Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) would be willing to do so. It was only on Tuesday that he repeatedly stated: “My aim is to maintain the infrastructure. And airports are also part of the infrastructure. “

Most recently, Scheuer had made such a statement in November and at the air traffic summit he convened, he promised the federal states’ airports, which had come under pressure from the crisis, a billion euros in federal funds. However, there is still no binding commitment from his cabinet colleague. On the contrary: Treasurer Scholz demands consideration for the taxpayers’ money.

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The situation at the airports is serious: after Paderborn Airport, Lake Constance Airport in Friedrichshafen filed for bankruptcy last week. In addition, it is said in coalition circles in Berlin: “It is not in sight that it will be possible to fly again anytime soon.” It is therefore important that the federal and state governments finally agree on a rescue package.

Airports are a matter of the country

But it doesn’t look like that: In November, SPD Chancellor candidate Scholz insisted that the federal and state governments share the burden: Before that there would be no promise of possible federal aid. Only at the end of January did the finance ministers of the federal states grudgingly approve the proposal. However, they rely on simple grants. But Scholz rejects this just as vehemently.

Rather, the SPD politician refers to the regulations that were made with other companies in the corona crisis. Lufthansa, Condor and Tui, for example, have applied for help from the Economic Stabilization Fund. However, this point of contact is not available to companies that are at least partially publicly owned. So there has to be a separate solution.

For Scholz, this is the direct involvement of the federal government. A Canadian investor is involved in Düsseldorf, for example. Scholz is not ready to unconditionally help private individuals with taxpayers’ money, it said. “I would rather buy the airports,” he is quoted as saying.

EU rules provide for grants, loans and guarantees

However, this is not mentioned in the EU Commission’s state aid rules, but rather grants, loans, guarantees and repayable grants. The Airport Association ADV considers a state entry in airports to be disproportionate and rejects it.

The federal government currently holds shares in the airports in Berlin, Cologne / Bonn and Munich. The federal government has already provided hundreds of millions of euros in aid for them in the 2020 and 2021 budget. The money flows – provided that the other shareholders also step in according to their shares.

If Scholz has his way, then in the future the airports in Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Hanover, Leipzig and Stuttgart could possibly also be looked after by the officials in the Ministry of Finance’s participation department. With its 500 million euros, the federal government is to participate in the larger airports, while the federal states support the smaller airports with their money, then also with the lost grants they prefer.

“It’s about six or seven airports”

This Wednesday, Gatzer will once again meet State Secretary Tamara Zieschang for transport and the coalition’s budget and transport politicians. The budget and finance politicians in particular sympathize with Scholz’s stance. There is also agreement among economic politicians: “It’s about six or seven airports nationwide,” it says in the government’s internal negotiating group.

A compromise is also being discussed: For example, the costs arising from the politically imposed operating obligation could initially be covered with tax revenue from the federal and state governments. According to ADV, the holding costs amount to 740 million euros, which arose between March and June 2020 when air traffic almost came to a standstill for the first time due to the corona.

The majority of the funds are allocated to Frankfurt Airport (around 160 million), in which the federal government was involved until 2005. This is followed by Berlin (around 140 million), Munich (130), Düsseldorf (100), Hamburg (50) and Stuttgart, Cologne / Bonn, Hanover, Leipzig, Nuremberg and Bremen (30 to ten million).

If an airport also requests help that the shareholders do not want to raise, then federal participation would be an option.

The round with the parliamentary group politicians is supposed to work out a result “promptly”, with which the federal government then approaches the states. After that, a final solution should be found. One thing is certain: there shouldn’t be any help for small airports.

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