Being the first European country to go to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic, the election campaign in the Netherlands was mostly centred around the virus. But we have to look forward as well. That is why we took a look at the manifestos to see what the parties thoughts were on aviation and what the outcome of the elections means for the future of Dutch aviation.
Before we do so, it is good to look at what the previous government’s perspective was on the industry. The main aviation related focus of the Rutte III cabinet was growth without increasing hinder, meaning that noise hinder was the number one factor for determining the growth. This was laid out in the aviation bill, the so-called Luchtvaartnota, the national perspective on the aviation industry for the coming 30 years, among which the PBN Roadmap. One topic focussed on the opening of Lelystad Airport as an overflow airport for Schiphol. Another topic was the introduction of an aviation tax on short-haul flights. After the initial resistance of the industry – the fear was that it would break the level-playing field with other countries that were not introducing similar taxes. It seems, however, that the industry is willing to accept it this time, providing that the revenue will be used for investing in innovations to make the industry more sustainable.
Room for growth
Under normal circumstances, aviation is always a major topic in elections, due to the fact that it has a lot of implications on the economy and environment. But these elections, there was not that much attention for the industry in general. Some parties did mention plans in their manifestos, but for obvious reasons the focus was mostly on the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic effects it will cause in the coming years. Going through the different manifestos, it seemed that most parties would want to continue on the path we are already on, with Forum for Democracy and newcomer JA21 openly arguing for more growth as part of the transport and logistics industry as a whole. They look at growth from an economical point of view, rather than an environmental one. They argue that ‘we should not fix the environmental issues, but rather adept to them and still maintain a focus on growth’.
On the other side of the spectrum we saw the ‘environmental parties’ arguing the complete opposite. The Animal Welfare Party said it would fight to bring down the total amount of flight movements in the Netherlands back to 300,000 per year in 2030. That would mean a significant reduction, since Schiphol Airport alone had 500,000 flight movements annually pre-COVID. The Green Left party went even further. Their plans not only entail not opening Lelystad Airport for commercial flights, they stated that they will close Groningen Airport Eelde and Rotterdam The Hague Airport, to allow for more sustainable living conditions around those locations.
What is next?
With the official results of the elections published and the start of forming a coalition, we have to wait what will happen next for the aviation industry. Looking at the numbers, a continuation of the former coalition (in some form) seems the most viable outcome. That probably means a continuation of the existing policies. Should they opt to add a fourth, more right-wing party, chances are that growth of the aviation industry is possible. However, if they choose to ‘go over the left side’, there is no telling yet what – if any – changes that will bring. A major question in all of this is which party will provide the new minister for Infrastructure and Water Management. If it is going to be the Democrats 66, chances are there will be a more environmental focus on the policies within this department.
Even though formation talks are in the early stages, it seems that continuation of the previous policies are in the cards. One thing is for sure; the aviation industry cannot sit back. It needs to think about innovation to become more sustainable. Especially in this time of uncertainty with COVID-19 and the possibility of years of recovery ahead.
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