STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
SPAIN'S prime minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said yesterday that once the partial privatisation of the Spanish Airports Authority (AENA) is complete in just over two years time, he is in agreement with the Balearics taking part in the control and management of Palma, Ibiza and Mahon airports
Zapatero had already alluded to the transfer of airport powers following his meeting on Friday with King Juan Carlos at the Marivent Palace in Palma, although he insisted that the “estimated” threshold of 30 million passengers per annum - seven (million) more than the figure which Palma's Son Sant Juan airport currently handles - will remain as the volume set by the central government Ministry of Public Works as the key to allow the process of regional airport management to begin.

Balearic President Francesc Antich made it clear to the prime minister yesterday that under no circumstances would he “tolerate” the Balearics being left out of the government's regional airport management plan. Antich warned that if the Balearics were excluded, it would become an issue of “controversy.” To press the point, Antich said after yesterday's 45-minute meeting with Zapatero in Palma's government offices at the Consulat del Mar that he does not accept central government's recent decision to make 30 million passengers the decisive factor in regional airport control following the privatisation of the National Airports Authority.

Antich insisted that the central government benchmark could not be imposed on the Balearics given the strategic importance of Palma airport for the rest of the region. It was vital, said the Balearic president that citizens right across the region had good inter-island transport and reasonably priced connections with the mainland. “We can't wait until Palma reaches the government-set threshold,” said Antich. “If necessary, we will put up a fight to ensure the Balearics is included in the plan for the transfer of airport management to the regions, as envisaged in our Statutes.” He pointed out that the Islands were the first to put the issue of local airport management on the agenda of central government, before even Catalonia. “The principal source of income for the Balearics, tourists, enter and leave through our airport. It is a matter to be addressed now, not later.”

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