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Airports, Bird Flu, Cartels and Football

  • January 28th, 2007
  • Posted by EUA Editor

eu-flag-reduced-larger.pngEuropean administrators have moved to keep their bursting airports up to standard for the coming decades; they have been fining huge companies involved in a cartel, slaughtering geese, and protecting the business freedoms of the football industry.

An outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza has been reported (25.1.07) in the South-east of Hungary. Diagnostic tests were made when high levels of mortality were observed in a flock of over 3000 geese, and these indentified the H5 strain. Further tests were ordered to see if it was H5N1, considered a source of potential danger to humans. The affected flock has been culled and a protection zone set up within a three-kilometre radius, with special regulations for poultry farming.


Europe has imposed its biggest-ever single corporate fine, EU 750-million (A$1.205-billion; Dcerates), against a group of leading engineering companies, for forming a cartel in the electricity industry.

Investigators with the European Commission announced the list of companies (24.1.07), suppliers of gas insulated switchgear used in power houses or substations: ABB, Alstrom, Areva, Fuji, Hitachi, Japan AE Power Systems, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Schneider, Siemens, Toshiba and VA Tech.
ABB was the only one not fined, because it had broken ranks and informed on the others. The principal offender had been Siemens, which was fined EU 396.56-million (A$ 635.52-million). The EC said managers at some of the companies had used encrypted telephone and email messages to cover their activities. Company representatives have contested the findings against them and are working on possible appeals.


With Europe’s leading football clubs’ continuing expansion into new fields of business, the European Commission has helped out by defending their rights to be listed on stock exchanges. The market leader, Manchester United, has set the scene this year, posting another handy annual profit at 49-million pounds (A$ 201.2-million; Dcerates), as the Commission wrapped up an action to help clubs be listed on the exchange in France.

The French government was legislating to prohibit listing by corporate football concerns; the EC started an internal procedure against the legislation, saying it would break European law on free movement of capital; and this week (24.1.07) it announced it was now able to close that action, as France had agreed to “satisfactorily amend” its legislation.


An “airport package” has been published in Brussels to advance guarantees of efficient movement through European airports in the coming years. Europe has received a big share of expanding air travel worldwide, responding to overall growth and the booming cheap flights phenomenon, with a tripling of the number of intra-European routes in recent years.

The package on airports includes an action plan from the European Commission, which proclaims that liberalisation of air transport has been successful, with the expansion of business, but is facing a “capacity crunch” , due to an ever-increasing gap between capacity and demand.

It states: “If current capacity levels are not drastically increased … over 60 European airports will be heavily congested and the top 20 airports will be saturated at least 8-10 hours per day by 2025. Such congestioin is likely to have a severe impact on airlines’ ability to maintain their schedules … and will therefore result in a less efficient European air industry. Congestion will also result in environmental and safety costs …”

It recommends actions such as developing procedures for more efficient use of runways, and new infrastructure; and integrating more regional airports into the Europe-wide system.

Five “key actions”: Make better use of existing airport capacity; consistent air safety operations at aerodromes; promote “co-modality” (integration and collaboration of different modes of transport); improved environmental capacity of airports and planned frameworks for new airport infrastructure; development of cost effective technological solutions.

The airports package also includes a report on the implementation of legislation a decade ago, setting standards for passenger and freight groundhandling, with the aim of helping to open groundshandling markets to competition. The report says there were 95 airports with more than two million passenger movements p.a. or 50 000 tonnes of freight, and a further 49 airports with more than half those levels.
It found legislation by most member states to implement the new standards on groundhandling had been a fairly smooth process though some had been too slow with it.

A final part oif the package is a propoisal for new European Union legislatioin to regulate airport charges, which account for 4-8% of operational costs to major EU air carriers. Once implemented this would set standards of non-discrimination, transparency of accounts and regular consultatioin with airport users.


An action plan for airport capacity, efficiency and safety in Europe: Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions; European Commission, Brussels; COM(2006)

Report from the Commission on the application of Council Directive 96/67/EC of 15 October 1996; European Commission, Brussels; COM(2007)

Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on Airport charges, (presented by the Commission); European Commission, Brussels; (COM 2007)