Brussels Airlines: Belgium’s finance minister blames Lufthansa for lack of progress
Thursday, 16 July 2020
Belgian Finance Minister Alexander De Croo attributes the lack of a deal for Brussels Airlines entirely to Lufthansa, its parent company.
Brussels Airlines requested €290 million in state aid on 17 March.
Since that day, the Belgian government has spared no effort, according to De Croo. There have been 24 video conferences, three letters to the Prime Minister, and six versions of a draft agreement, he told the House Finance Commission.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa offered no counter-proposition between 11 May and 11 June, according to De Croo, and the German company “very often backed out on points that were important for our country.”
Belgium has also been in contact with the German authorities, since the German state became Lufthansa’s largest shareholder following a grant of state aid. “In Berlin, I hear people say that it is necessary to reach a reasonable agreement with our country. I therefore hope that the same attitude will soon be adopted at company level,” De Croo said.
Belgium’s efforts focussed mainly on Brussels Airlines’ business plan. A first version ended in 2023 and only took restructuring into account. Belgian authorities eventually made sure a growth component was added and that the plan for the period from 2023 to 2026 would be sufficiently detailed, as “otherwise, we would have been asked to finance a restructuring plan,” which is out of the question for De Croo.
According to De Croo, the Germans only wanted a grant that would not have to be repaid, but the Belgian government wanted to invest capital, making the country a shareholder, which Lufthansa refused.
Last week, Brussels Airlines CEO Dieter Vranckx called for “flexibility on both sides of the table, so that we can conclude the talks this week,” although he acknowledged on Wednesday that “the discussions with the Belgian state, although they are still ongoing, are very complex, and have not yet yielded a final result.”
Meanwhile, Lufthansa is adding pressure. Brussels Airlines intended to increase its capacity from August, yet now the airline will only fly 23 aircraft for the time being, something De Croo calls “a slap in the face for the workers who are doing their utmost.”