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Europe

European Press Review: EU vs Ryanair and Juppé

European newspapers on Wednesday looked at the EU’s judgement against the low-cost airline Ryanair and the political fallout in France over the corruption scandal surrounding former Prime Minister Alain Juppe.

The French paper Les Echos was critical of the EU's ruling to ban airport subsidies in the form of cheap landing charges and ground handling fees granted to the no-frills carrier Ryanair at Charleroi airport. "Thanks to their flexibility," wrote the paper, "Ryanair and other low cost airlines have done more for small cities and regions than the bigger national carriers ever did and at such a ridiculously low price." It said Brussels' decision is multi-layered and contradicts itself. The EU now plans to release a list of permitted and forbidden subsidies but meanwhile, commented the paper, small airports like Charleroi will be waiting impatiently.

While the EU Trade Commissioner likes to remind critics that at the end of the day it's the taxpayer who pays for Ryanair's cheap tickets observed Austria's Der Standard – the paper pointed out that the discovery of small airports by the cheap carriers has brought economic and political advantages to some of the most depressed regions of Europe. And the paper reminded readers that it's the national carriers that became fat from yearly doses of subsidies and they are the ones who feel most threatened by their no frill competitors.

"What if Ryanair ups joysticks and moves on?" asked London paper, The Guardian and added, "Even though it's not obvious where it can move to if other local airports have already tied up similar sweetheart deals with rival airlines such as EasyJet." The paper suggested a solution may be to continue to allow above board subsidies – while removing the factor that enables cut price airlines to establish near monopolies. "Cut price airlines have been a force for good," argued the paper, "and it would be crazy if the EU became the midwife of their decline."

Commenting on the decision by the leader of Jacque Chirac's UMP party, Alain Juppé, to defiantly stay on in politics despite being convicted for corruption the Swiss paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung said it's a blow to the French President's leadership. "Juppé will go even if it's step by step. Chirac will stay but the moral authority of the French President has been shaken," opined the paper. The question now, pondered the paper is how much momentum does Chirac have to push through his planned reforms or has he become a lame duck?"

According to Rome's La Repubblica, Jacques Chirac convinced Alain Juppé to stay. The paper said and he will stay until the centre-right Union for a Popular Majority or UMP party elects a new president in November. "But what then? Asked the paper. "Will he stay and run as a candidate for the new presidency, as a possible successor to Chirac?" The paper believes it's too early too tell, but warned that the consequences of this drama for Juppé are great and his future has become even more uncertain.

"It's unbelievable!" bemoaned the French daily Le Monde that after the corruption verdict most of the politicians rallied behind Juppé. The paper said even Chirac didn't hesitate in praising the party leader's unique qualities and honesty. However the paper said the truth is somewhat different: for years taxpayers in Paris, without knowing it, were paying the members of Chirac's party to the tune of some €1.2 million. These are the facts that should reflect on Juppé and the other leading members of the party argued the paper.