Croatian aviation set to benefit from EU membershipCroatia is set to join the European Union in July of 2013, a move which will impact both its national airline Croatia Airlines and its aviation industry in general.
As a result of European Union accession, Croatia Airlines will have more freedom to operate within different EU markets. According to legislation, all EU airlines may operate air services on any route within the EU. Adria Airways exercises this right on flights from Vienna to Frankfurt. However, this move is often too costly for legacy carriers to undertake. It is this legislation that could also harm Croatia Airlines. Low cost airlines registered in EU member states will be able to easily set up bases in the country. Furthermore, airlines will receive permits to fly to Croatia much more easily. Croatia Airlines already experiences strong competition at its coastal bases throughout the summer but has a relatively strong hold over the country’s busiest airport, Zagreb. It has already complained to authorities that other, primarily low cost airlines, are receiving special treatment at Pleso.
The European Commission strongly sanctions state aid to national airlines meaning that the Croatian flag carrier will have to take more responsibility for its own finances. However, exceptions can be made. The European Commission is currently debating whether to allow the Slovenian government to provide 50 million Euros in aid to Adria.
Croatian airports will be the big winners from the country’s European Union membership. EU accession naturally brings with it more investment, tourism and business. In January 2007 Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union thanks to which the airports in Sofia and Bucharest flourished. In 2006, Sofia Airport handled 2.2 million passengers. This number jumped to 2.7 million in 2007, an increase of 24%. Wizz Air created its Wizz Air Bulgaria subsidiary in 2006, a year before the country joined the EU. At Bucharest’s Henri Coanda Airport, the EU impact was even greater with numbers jumping from 3.5 million in 2006 to 4.9 in 2007, a 40% increase.