STAFF REPORTER
MADRID

THE Spanish Senate has approved a motion which urges Central Government to allow management restructuring of airports in the Balearic and Canary Islands before the end of the year. The motion also proposes measures to lower tariffs and improve the frequency of Balearic inter-island air and maritime links as well as its connections with the mainland.

Apart from proposing that Balearic airports be jointly managed by regional and central governments, the Senate is also asking that the Public Maritime Transport Service which has been earmarked for the Balearics next year should include the movement of merchandise and materials categorised as “hazardous.” Central Government's commitment to a Public Air Transport Service in the Balearics will guarantee a minimum number of flights connecting Minorca and Ibiza with Majorca and the mainland at prices equivalent to those charged for similar distances between mainland destinations.

The motion approved by the Senate yesterday has been pushed forward by Pere Sampol, member for the Balearic “Bloc” party. His proposals were accepted despite opposition from Socialist (PSOE) senators who wanted a number of modifications made. These apparently included one which wanted Sampol to scrap the demand for the management restructuring to be made before the end of the year.

Sampol, responding to the PSOE request for modifications, thanked the senators for their consideration but that unless the motion was put forward to Central Government in its complete form, there would be “no guarantees of a solution.” The original proposal, said Sampol, would mean that Spain's Minister for Public Works, José Blanco, would be forced to “take the issue seriously.” Sampol said that there was a need for what he described as a “grave situation” to be resolved urgently for the good of the Balearic economy and society as a whole.

He reminded the Senate that the Minister for Public Works had earlier this year accused residents in the Balearics of misusing the 50 percent discount on regional air travel and connections with the mainland to which they were entitled, but had then promptly accused the air companies servicing the routes of charging exorbitent prices knowing that Central Government was subsidising them.

Sampol claimed that it wasn't just a question of providing affordable prices for residents. He said that tourists to the islands who were an important source of income for the region would also benefit.

Changing tack, Sampol said that he was “concerned” over what he saw as the “privatisation process” which the Spanish Airports Authority was being subjected to without it having been discussed in any way with authorities in the Balearic Islands.

But PSOE senator Juan Luis Perez Gordo said that the new airport management restructuring aimed to improve the efficiency of the Airports Authority and was designed to contribute to the competitivity of Balearic airports.

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