Spain calls for European response to airlines’ coronavirus crisis

FILE PHOTO: Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister and Economic Affairs Minister Nadia Calvino arrives to attend the first cabinet meeting at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, January 14, 2020. REUTERS/Susana Vera

(Reuters) – Spain wants a joint European response to the crisis at airlines caused by travel restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic, economy minister Nadia Calvino said on Monday.

“We are strongly supporting that there is a European response,” Calvino said in an interview with Bloomberg TV, adding any responses by individual countries should not distort competition.

“All these large carriers are not one nationality or another, they are European carriers,” she said.

European Union member states should ensure a “level playing field” for airlines, and countries with the deepest pockets should not be able to give more aid to their own airlines to the detriment of those from other countries, she said.

Major European airlines, including Germany’s Lufthansa LGAG.DE, are negotiating government aid deals as they grapple with the global air travel shutdown and deep uncertainty over prospects for recovery once the pandemic eases.

“I think the European Commission is keeping a very close eye to make sure there is no breach of the competition rules,” Calvino said.

Aid pledged so far has varied widely from one country to another.

While Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) has received 7 billion euros ($7.6 billion) in French-backed aid and Dutch pledges for a further 2-4 billion euros, International Consolidated Airlines (ICAG.L), which owns British Airways and Spain’s Iberia, has only got a 1 billion euro loan guarantee from Spain.

Calvino also reiterated Spain’s position supporting the creation of a common EU recovery fund that would be funded jointly by member states.

Reporting by Inti Landauro, editing by Andrei Khalip and Mark Potter

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