ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss parliament has backed the government’s request for nearly 1.9 billion Swiss francs ($1.97 billion) in aid for the struggling aviation sector crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, but said carriers must meet environmental targets.
The package includes 1.275 billion francs in loan guarantees for Lufthansa-owned LHAG.DE Swiss and Edelweiss and 600 million francs for companies that provide services including Swissport International, Gategroup and SR Technics.
The lower house on Monday linked approval of the package to assurances that the carriers would adhere to future government climate targets but rejected even tougher conditions sought by MPs sceptical about state aid to airlines in general.
The upper house approved the package on Tuesday with some minor differences that need to be worked out, but this was seen as a formality.
Meeting in special session after weeks of being suspended amid the pandemic, parliament is signing off on around 57 billion Swiss francs in emergency measures proposed by the government to get the economy back on its feet.
This includes loan guarantees for business, support for short-time work regimes and payments for entrepreneurs sidelined by restrictions on public life.
Finance Minister Ueli Maurer has forecast a federal budget deficit of up to 50 billion francs and new borrowing of 30-50 billion this year.
Aviation bailout funds are to be used only for Swiss infrastructure. The government forbade dividends or other payments by carriers until the assistance has been repaid.
It provided no special help to EasyJet's EZJ.L Swiss unit, whose parent was expected to cover its liquidity needs.
Switzerland is not seeking ownership stakes in the airlines helped by the aid package, although state-backed loans from banks would be secured by shares in Swiss and Edelweiss.
Governments across the world are intervening to prop up airlines as estimated revenue losses from the coronavirus pandemic have climbed to $314 billion, the International Air Transport Association said last month, with more than of the world’s airplanes in storage.
Lufthansa, Europe’s biggest carrier by revenue, is in talks with the German government about a rescue plan.
Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Kirsten Donovan
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