PALMA.—Two years ago, the Balearic Minister for Transport and Environment, Gabriel Vicens, told the Bulletin that one of his primary objectives was to create an air rotes commission in order to give the local authorities a greater role in expanding flight connections between the Balearics and the rest of Europe or even further afield.

Yesterday, after a running battle with Spanish airport authority AENA and central government, the Balearic air routes commission was finally created when the Minister for Public Works, Jose Blanco, came to Palma to give central government's official stamp to the new body.

With Madrid currently selling off 49 percent of AENA to the private sector to help raise much needed funds to ease the country's deficit, AENA appears to have lost not only its monopoly, but also some of its power to grant or deny new air routes.

From now on, however, the Balearic authorities will be able to decide and this has been welcomed by the tourist industry and the business sector.
Open up
The Minister for Tourism, Joana Barcelo, confirmed yesterday that as of today, the chambers of commerce and the local administrations will be able to directly participate in the development of the islands' airports.

Blanco came to Palma yesterday accompanied by the President of AENA, Juan Ignacio Lema to sign the three agreements which will be the pillars of the new air routes commission.

Barcelo explained that not only will the Balearics be able to open up new air routes for both the tourism and business sectors, the commission will also be able to introduce new schemes to improve how the region's three airports operate.

Obviously, the local airports will continue to be managed by AENA, but the commission opens the door to the Balearic authorities having an important say in how the airports are run, an objective governments on both sides of the fence have been pushing Madrid for for many years.

But, with the AENA sell off, the Balearic government and the business community is worried that international private investors with no knowledge of the needs and requirements of the Balearics' airports could purchase the 49 percent stake.

The local authorities are strongly opposed to the model of the sell off and have made their position clear to central government.
Only last month, the President of the Majorcan Chamber of Commerce, Joan Gual, addressed the Senate in Madrid on what the Balearics want and that is a recognised stake and voice in the running of Palma, if not all the region's airports.

Gual told senators that the Balearics has different needs to the rest of Spain's airports and therefore, the people who know best about making the airports meet the region's needs are the local authorities and business and tourism sectors.