Montenegro accuses Pedro Nuno Santos of failing to resolve the issue of flights to the Azores

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PSD leader Luís Montenegro today accused PS secretary-general Pedro Nuno Santos of failing to resolve the issue of public service obligations (PSOs) in air transport in the Azores while he was minister.

“It’s one of the issues that was on the desk of the current secretary-general of the Socialist Party and that hasn’t been resolved,” Luís Montenegro told reporters on the boat that was connecting Madalena, on the island of Pico, and Horta, in Faial, as part of the “Feel Portugal” initiative.

Adding that there is currently a “liberalized market for travel between the mainland” and the islands of São Miguel and Terceira, the PSD president considered it “important to ensure a public service for Faial, Pico and Santa Maria.

“And the truth is that time goes by, promises are made and if it weren’t for the goodwill of SATA [the Azorean airline], this service would be jeopardized,” he said, expressing his willingness to “resolve this matter immediately when the new government takes office” if the Democratic Alliance (PSD/CDS-PP/PPM) has the chance, but it would be important if it weren’t necessary for this matter to be resolved.”

On the voyage, with some swell, when asked if the Azorean sea is only for the strong, Montenegro replied that it is “for people who have, on the one hand, courage, a sense of taking risks, but on the other hand, they also have to be competent, they have to have the ingenuity to face adversity”.

“It’s an expression of being Portuguese that we want to reinvent and recreate at every moment, and that’s what we also want to do from March 10 onwards,” he said.

The PSD president drew parallels with the role of prime minister, who needs to have courage and “a lot of will to face risks, to decide, to be resistant, resilient, but also inspiring”.

Before going to Pico, the highest mountain in Portugal at 2,351 meters, where the last stage of the “Feeling Portugal” program began, Luís Montenegro was, among other initiatives, in the municipality of Madalena, where he was able to admire the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture, a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization since 2004.

“What we want is to reach the peak of our performance, precisely on election day, which is the day that counts, which is the day when the Portuguese will have the opportunity to change the course of the country,” he said, noting that already on February 4, the date of the early regional elections in the Azores, the Azoreans will have the opportunity “to give conditions of governance, stability,” to the current majority, PSD/CDS-PP/PPM.

In February 2022, the President of the Regional Government of the Azores (PSD/CDS-PP/PPM), José Manuel Bolieiro, sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking for a solution to the problem of the non-liberalized routes (Faial, Pico and Santa Maria) between the mainland and the Azores, which have been provided since 2015, without financial compensation, by the Azorean public company Azores Airlines.

The head of the Azorean executive recalled that, according to EU requirements, the Azorean carrier would have to stop operating on loss-making routes.

A month later, in response, the office of the Prime Minister (PS), António Costa, said that the Government of the Republic was “preparing the steps to open an international public tender for scheduled air services on non-liberalized routes between the mainland and the Autonomous Region of the Azores and between the latter and the Autonomous Region of Madeira”.

The State Budget for 2023 included a sum of nine million euros for the launch of the public tender, but it wasn’t until October 2023 that the Council of Ministers authorized the expenditure of 45 million euros for the provision of this service between 2024 and 2029.

At a hearing in the Portuguese Parliament in November, the then Minister for Infrastructure, João Galamba, said that the government was “prevented” from compensating SATA for operating the public service routes, because the airline had sent a letter showing its willingness to provide those routes “without any compensation until March 2024”.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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