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European Airlines Denounce Belgian Plans For Passenger Tax

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

16 October 2008

The Association of European Airlines (AEA) has challenged the Belgian government to "come clean" on its proposal to charge a tax on passengers using Belgian airports, and admit that it is a "purely money-grabbing exercise" which will have no discernible effect on the environment, contrary to Government claims.

The tax proposal, to charge passengers per flight, was announced on Tuesday in the Prime Minister’s budget speech. However, the AEA has taken issue with the government's claim that the tax is intended as an environmental measure, noting how it intends to collect EUR132 million annually as a result of the measure.

Said AEA Secretary General Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus: “There is a perverted logic here: either the treasury benefits from passengers paying the tax, or the environment – supposedly – benefits from passengers not flying. You can’t have it both ways”.

Aviation, he said, contributed just 2% to global carbon dioxide worldwide, and Belgian aviation a tiny fraction of that. Moreover, he argued, aviation was engaged in a concerted initiative to contain its emissions through a comprehensive programme of technical and operational measures, backed up by its proposed incorporation into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

“I have news for the Belgian Government,” he continued. "Aviation is already pursuing far greater environmental gains than this tax could possibly deliver. If it really wants to help the environment, it should throw its political weight behind the creation of a Single European Sky so we can begin to save some of the 16 million tonnes of CO2 emitted needlessly each year through airspace inefficiencies."

“Let us be absolutely clear," Schulte-Strathaus added. "This is another burden on the Belgian taxpayer and Belgian business. EUR132 million does not just materialise, it comes out of the pockets of people who already pay Europe’s highest taxes – people who are worried about the security of their savings and investments, and the increasing prices they are having to pay for energy, food and fuel."

"Travel is a quality-of-life amenity which, in difficult times, takes an extra significance in personal spending decisions. It would be a very unfriendly act indeed to extract still more tax revenue when consumer and business confidence – in Belgium and worldwide – is at such a low ebb," he concluded.

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